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Game of Thrones - Historical Fiction?


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I am approaching this topic more regarding the show rather than the novels.

The show has a low fantasy approach comparatively speaking to other fantasy stories. This is honestly something I enjoy immensely. I don't hate magic in fantasy, but I love that low-fantasy got a chance to shine. While we have dragons, ice zombies, and shadow babies - the magic appears much more subtle in comparison to something like Warcraft or Dragon Age. There are Warlocks but they are not central in the story and even their magic appears conditional. We don't really see the magic of the "witch" in the village as she "heals" Khal Drogo with magic. We don't have direct intervention from gods but rather through their intermediaries. The visions from the "Lord of Light" are subject to interpretation of the viewer. The only magic fully explained in the show are the Wight Walkers and the Night King - a massive disappointment (another topic for another time).

I say all this because I sometimes wonder if the show would have been as successful if the show omitted all of the fantasy elements and simply stood as an alternate history show. They can keep the fake kingdoms, fake continents, fake types of armor and weapons. Even keep unique landmarks like The Wall or the Titan in Braavos. They can still claim a mysterious calamity befell Old Valyria but never explain what it was. Hell, they could even keep some of the mega fauna like Dire Wolves and Mammoths - since those did exist. They can keep their strange long seasons (but I'm not sure how relevant that would be without the threat of the Long Night).

My point is they would just focus much more heavily on the political side of things.

  • Melisandre/Red Priests - They are just a cult spreading quickly across both continents. They claim to speak for their god and sees "visions" but we never see any of it. There is no demon baby. She is unable to control fire or bring back the dead. Rather, it is up to the viewer if she is a charlatan or truly a prophetess. 
  • Daenerys - Never gets dragons. Instead, maybe she gets petrified eggs that she claims are dragon eggs and sees it as a "sign" that her House is destined to rise again. It's never explained what animal laid those eggs or if they are even real. Her plot line leans less on the return of the dragons, and more on the political journey of trying to raise an army and take back the Seven Kingdoms. The focus is about her realizing that ending ancient practices (as horrible as they can be) is not as simple as riding in a savior.
  • Jon/Beyond the Wall - No giants and no White Walkers and no Night King. His story focuses on the Nightswatch and the Wildlings marching South. Eventually, the big reveal about his true heritage. Instead of the ice zombies, there could be a plague beyond the wall they are trying to escape or Mance simply galvanizes them to unite and stop living as wild tribes.
  • Bran - This would be the most difficult one. I'm honestly not sure what his story would be without the Three Eyed Raven or the Children of the Forest or the White Walkers. The only thing I can of is Bran's sole role is to be pushed from the tower by Jaimie and dies. This would still set off Catelyn's investigation since Bran did not really offer any information about what happened in the original story, anyways.

I honestly found the political scheming and the character journey's way more compelling than the supernatural stuff. While I did enjoy the concept of the futility in fighting for the Iron Throne with this much greater threat looming above them - I no longer care knowing that...it ends that way. 

I really feel that GoT could stand on its own if it was just dynastic wars against houses for power. I loved the alliance making, the alliance breaking, the backstabbing, the realization on how difficult it is to lead, how impossible it is to be chivalrous, navigating this brutal world, reexamining your morals when a dilemma occurs, etc.

The Dragons, of course, were great but ... In light of the reveal about the Night King and his true motivations (just some Joker variation of wanting to see the world burn (er...freeze?)) and the "Long Night" being a brief evening - what would GoT look like with the supernatural elements removed? Would you all still be interested in it at all?

What do you all think?

To the Mods: I apologize if this is in the wrong forum. It is my first time posting here and I did not see a topic like this.

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Game of Thrones, with the supernatural elements removed?  Well, it would be a very different story to the one that Martin wants to tell, but let's run with it.

In the right hands, it could be very compelling.  Guy Gavriel Kaye writes some brilliant novels, with very little magic in them, set in alternate versions of Europe and China.  

The problem with the two D's was going for shock, and working on the basis that universal ruthless treachery is the norm in a medieval world - and that you can be ruthless and treacherous towards everyone without suffering consequences.

Cersei and Littlefinger were openly and blatantly untrustworthy.  Yet, they flourished, most unrealistically, almost to the end.  Cersei ought to have been overthrown when she massacred half the nobility and the equivalent of the Pope and the College of Cardinals.  She doesn't try to disguise her involvement in it.  Even Hot Pie, hundreds of miles from Kings Landing, knows that she did it.  A better-written story would have had Cersei's agents spreading the word in Kings Landing that actually, Daenerys' agents had blown up the Great Sept, murdering their beloved Queen and driving their beloved King to suicide.  Cersei would have been shown publicly mourning them, and proclaiming her determination to exact vengeance on the Targaryen Whore. Instead, everyone knows that she is a murderer, traitor, regicide, and usurper, yet still Lord Tarly and others rally to her because they don't like foreigners.  In medieval societies, no one cared if their rulers were foreign.  Realms and lordships passed between families due to marriage and conquest.  Many English monarchs didn't even speak English.

Successful leaders are planners more than they are plotters.  Kaye's leaders like Valerius, Alixana, Shirvan, Hang Dejin devise strategies that take years to play out.  They can be utterly ruthless, but long term success matters for more to them than short term gain, achieved by stabbing an ally or subordinate in the back. 

Logistics matter.  They matter in fantasy with supernatural elements, IMHO, but they matter even more in non-magical fantasy.  Armies don't live off air, and they can't teleport.  It's stupid to expect Daenerys' army to bring sufficient food to feed itself at Winterfell.  It should take about three months to march from the coastlands opposite Dragonstone to Winterfell.  Assuming that thousands of wagons could be gathered to transport food, it would have spoiled long before they reached Winterfell.

Strategy matters.  Tyrion spent Seasons 7 and 8 devising moronic military strategies, which got thousands of soldiers killed, and designed to stop Daenerys doing the sensible thing that would have won the war against Cersei in an afternoon - torching the Red Keep.  Tactics matter.  The tactics used in the fight against the Dead were equally moronic, whether sending light cavalry to charge them, positioning artillery outside the walls, or gathering civilians within the crypts.  If you don't know much about medieval strategies and tactics, read some books about them, or hire people like Bernard Cornwell who've done the research, and who can write credible battle scenes. 

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8 hours ago, SeanF said:

If you don't know much about medieval strategies and tactics, read some books about them, or hire people like Bernard Cornwell who've done the research, and who can write credible battle scenes. 

Or head to Unmitigated Pedantry....it's free, after all. And Wikipedia. 

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On 4/24/2022 at 5:16 AM, SeanF said:

Game of Thrones, with the supernatural elements removed?  Well, it would be a very different story to the one that Martin wants to tell, but let's run with it.

In the right hands, it could be very compelling.  Guy Gavriel Kaye writes some brilliant novels, with very little magic in them, set in alternate versions of Europe and China.  

Very true. I guess for me - with what we know about the Long Night and the Night King - it all felt like it didn't really lead up to anything. I think it made me realize that what I really loved about GoT was the politics and the few instances of magic early on felt mysterious and frightening.

I will definitely have to check out that author. I don't hate magic-based or magic-heavy stories. Far from it, but thanks to GoT - I have a newfound appreciation for low-magic fantasy stories.

On 4/24/2022 at 5:16 AM, SeanF said:

The problem with the two D's was going for shock, and working on the basis that universal ruthless treachery is the norm in a medieval world - and that you can be ruthless and treacherous towards everyone without suffering consequences.

Cersei and Littlefinger were openly and blatantly untrustworthy.  Yet, they flourished, most unrealistically, almost to the end.  Cersei ought to have been overthrown when she massacred half the nobility and the equivalent of the Pope and the College of Cardinals.  She doesn't try to disguise her involvement in it.  Even Hot Pie, hundreds of miles from Kings Landing, knows that she did it.  A better-written story would have had Cersei's agents spreading the word in Kings Landing that actually, Daenerys' agents had blown up the Great Sept, murdering their beloved Queen and driving their beloved King to suicide.  Cersei would have been shown publicly mourning them, and proclaiming her determination to exact vengeance on the Targaryen Whore. Instead, everyone knows that she is a murderer, traitor, regicide, and usurper, yet still Lord Tarly and others rally to her because they don't like foreigners.  In medieval societies, no one cared if their rulers were foreign.  Realms and lordships passed between families due to marriage and conquest.  Many English monarchs didn't even speak English.

Yep, good point. By that point in the story, the careful navigation of difficult politics were thrown to the wayside for CGI battles. There were no repercussions at all. Same for Jon Snow leaving the Night's Watch and no one in the North seemed to want to ask him what the 7 hells he is doing back at Winterfell. Something like the Red Wedding was scandalous but the show repeated over and over that Roose Bolton and Walder Frey had Tywin Lannister's backing - giving them protection from the natural fall out of their actions. Theon suffered immensely for his sacking of Winterfell.

On 4/24/2022 at 5:16 AM, SeanF said:

Logistics matter.  They matter in fantasy with supernatural elements, IMHO, but they matter even more in non-magical fantasy.  Armies don't live off air, and they can't teleport.  It's stupid to expect Daenerys' army to bring sufficient food to feed itself at Winterfell.  It should take about three months to march from the coastlands opposite Dragonstone to Winterfell.  Assuming that thousands of wagons could be gathered to transport food, it would have spoiled long before they reached Winterfell.

I imagine the North helped them with food supplies. However, I do agree that none of that was even mentioned at all. The earlier seasons talked about military logistics and feeding armies, etc. Even Stannis' army at the Wall - Jon did mention that he wouldn't be able to feed them forever.

On 4/24/2022 at 5:16 AM, SeanF said:

Strategy matters.  Tyrion spent Seasons 7 and 8 devising moronic military strategies, which got thousands of soldiers killed, and designed to stop Daenerys doing the sensible thing that would have won the war against Cersei in an afternoon - torching the Red Keep.  Tactics matter.  The tactics used in the fight against the Dead were equally moronic, whether sending light cavalry to charge them, positioning artillery outside the walls, or gathering civilians within the crypts.  If you don't know much about medieval strategies and tactics, read some books about them, or hire people like Bernard Cornwell who've done the research, and who can write credible battle scenes. 

The frustrating thing about Tyrion's mental de-evolution is ... I wouldn't have minded it as much if they revealed that he really was protecting Jaimie and Cersei. That no matter how much they've hurt him - he still loves them at some level. Without that component, I'm not really show why Tyrion made the idiotic choices he made. I get him not wanting to murder thousands of innocent people (even though they all disliked him) but attacking the Red Keep was doable.

The last charge of the Dothraki was clearly meant to be visually powerful. A wave of light, as they held their flaming weapons, suddenly go out in the darkness. To really hit home that the final night had arrived. Unfortunately, this visual moment required sacrificing internal logic. Tyrion, Dany, Jon, Jorah, and all the other characters suddenly forgot how to strategize.

I do wonder if the fantasy/magic elements were toned down (even more than it already was) or completely removed - would they have better focused on the things you listed and given them their due. Instead of ice zombies, we'd get the Dorne plot from the books. Instead of Arya becoming a magical assassin, we get the Aegon and Connington plot instead. 

... and hopefully, it would have been done right.

 

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45 minutes ago, And So He Spoke said:

Very true. I guess for me - with what we know about the Long Night and the Night King - it all felt like it didn't really lead up to anything. I think it made me realize that what I really loved about GoT was the politics and the few instances of magic early on felt mysterious and frightening.

I will definitely have to check out that author. I don't hate magic-based or magic-heavy stories. Far from it, but thanks to GoT - I have a newfound appreciation for low-magic fantasy stories.

Yep, good point. By that point in the story, the careful navigation of difficult politics were thrown to the wayside for CGI battles. There were no repercussions at all. Same for Jon Snow leaving the Night's Watch and no one in the North seemed to want to ask him what the 7 hells he is doing back at Winterfell. Something like the Red Wedding was scandalous but the show repeated over and over that Roose Bolton and Walder Frey had Tywin Lannister's backing - giving them protection from the natural fall out of their actions. Theon suffered immensely for his sacking of Winterfell.

I imagine the North helped them with food supplies. However, I do agree that none of that was even mentioned at all. The earlier seasons talked about military logistics and feeding armies, etc. Even Stannis' army at the Wall - Jon did mention that he wouldn't be able to feed them forever.

The frustrating thing about Tyrion's mental de-evolution is ... I wouldn't have minded it as much if they revealed that he really was protecting Jaimie and Cersei. That no matter how much they've hurt him - he still loves them at some level. Without that component, I'm not really show why Tyrion made the idiotic choices he made. I get him not wanting to murder thousands of innocent people (even though they all disliked him) but attacking the Red Keep was doable.

The last charge of the Dothraki was clearly meant to be visually powerful. A wave of light, as they held their flaming weapons, suddenly go out in the darkness. To really hit home that the final night had arrived. Unfortunately, this visual moment required sacrificing internal logic. Tyrion, Dany, Jon, Jorah, and all the other characters suddenly forgot how to strategize.

I do wonder if the fantasy/magic elements were toned down (even more than it already was) or completely removed - would they have better focused on the things you listed and given them their due. Instead of ice zombies, we'd get the Dorne plot from the books. Instead of Arya becoming a magical assassin, we get the Aegon and Connington plot instead. 

... and hopefully, it would have been done right.

 

Tyrion deliberately betraying Daenerys would indeed have been more in character, retaining his intelligence.  But, the show runners wanted him to be St. Tyrion.

So, we got “The eyes are open, the mouth is moving, but Mr. Brain has gone away.”

A show that focused purely on the politics would have to be produced by different people, because the the two D’s don’t understand politics - they’ve read the child’s version of Macchiavelli.

Edited by SeanF
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On 4/24/2022 at 11:19 AM, And So He Spoke said:

I say all this because I sometimes wonder if the show would have been as successful if the show omitted all of the fantasy elements and simply stood as an alternate history show.  

GRRM has talked about this in one of behind the scenes videos for the show. He said that he added magic to the story because "otherwise it would just be historical fiction about history that never happened". Fantasy requires magic.

Edited by Takiedevushkikakzvezdy
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 4/26/2022 at 12:41 PM, Takiedevushkikakzvezdy said:

 

GRRM has talked about this in one of behind the scenes videos for the show. He said that he added magic to the story because "otherwise it would just be historical fiction about history that never happened". Fantasy requires magic.

Yeah it would have just been a fictional War of the Roses.

War of the Roses with dragons and ice demons is more fun to sell.

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