Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Captatio Benevolantiae

This is a twin blog of Juego de Tronos y la filosofia. I’m very glad to translate this great blog about Game of Thrones. With this project I want to share with all of you the fantastic research that Bernat Roca has done about George R. R. Martin’s work.
I have learnt a lot of funny things and I hope you will too.

First Post: 24th April 2012

Captatio Benevolantiae

Varys smiled. –Here, then. The power resides where the men believe it resides. No more and no less.
- So power is a mummer’s trick? – Said Tyrion.
- A shadow on the wall, - Varys murmured, - yet shadows can kill. And of times a very small man can cast a very large shadow.
Lord Varys, the Spider. (Clash of Kings)

A thought on power. This is one of the themes in the storyline of Game of Thrones. This blog begins its journey with the intention of sharing with the Internet users (book fans or TV series fans, or neither) the passion for the philosophy and for Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin’s books. But there are elements beyond the power which can explain  Martin’s magnificent work. Some of those elements are the interesting characters, each one with their own nuances of meaning, passions, virtues and faults. Characters who sometimes escape from their archetype to overflow onto the screen or the book pages and penetrate the readers and viewers souls.
The person who wrote these lines was on the point of reading the first book of Game of Thrones in Catalan published by Devir (Cançó de foc i glaç) but I didn’t buy it because I thought “Maybe it is another Dragonlance or similar to The Lord of the rings”. Crass error. Life always gives second opportunities. When the TV series came out I armed myself with patience and waited to watch the complete first season. I didn’t want to fall prey to the fearsome and abundant spoilers. I started to watch the first episode and I wasn’t able to stop.

For the first time I found somebody in the epic fantasy who isn’t frightened to tell the readers the truth. George R. R. Martin says something that John Steinbeck had said about Arthurian cycle by Thomas Malroy: “It did not seem strange to me that Uther Pendragon wanted the wife of his vassal and took her by trickery. I was not frightened to find that there were evil knights, as well as noble ones. In my own town there were men who wore the clothes of virtue whom I knew to be bad. In pain or sorrow or confusion, I went back to my magic book. Children are violent and cruel—and good—and I was all of these—and all of these were in the secret book. If I could not choose my way at the crossroads of love and loyalty, neither could Lancelot. I could understand the darkness of Mordred because he was in me too; and there was some Galahad in me, but perhaps not enough. The Grail feeling was there, however, deep-planted, and perhaps always will be. [The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976) Page 19 – 20]”

There are a few literature excerpts that say so much in so little space and at the same time (with a subtle changes in character’s names and substitutes Grial for the Iron Throne) can represent not only the essence of Martin’s work but also the dark side, or not, of human nature. Who can deny that there is something to admire in Nedd Stark’s noble attitude, in his way of life, in his way of obeying the rules in a Kantian manner and in such a Socratic death? Or Lannister power ambition. The Power has only been described very well by few philosophers such as Hobbes or Maquiavelo or F. Nietzsche. They are reference authors we use not only to understand and see Martin’s work but also admire it. And sex is really cheeky in the TV series. In The Seven Kingdoms nobody knows Christianity religion. Here religion doesn’t restrict the body. The body sometimes is at the service of power; the body shows itself and its joys and suffering. The Seven Kingdoms are a moral world, but a non-Christian morality. And there is no doubt that they have Indo-European roots; it is something like 14th or 15th century transition between Middle and Renaissance ages. Nothing cansymbolize this better than when the two first families in the first part of Martin’s saga: The Stark family, (a feudal family with Scottish influences and antique Gods) who go to war with their loyal vassal’s banners with whom they have renewed vassal ties, whether they like it or not. And the Lannister family (a name with an air of the house of Lancaster from War of the Roses, beautiful and gorgeous, rich, Anglo-Saxon and intriguing) precursors of a Maquiavelian manner of mobilizing money and swords; and not to mention the incestuous strategy they used to give the crown to the cruel and “degenerate” Joffrey Baratheon. And so on.

This blog wants to spread the connections between philosophy and the greatest authors (the ones we studied at college) with popular TV series. I want to link profane things with sacred things, to see beyond what our eyes can see, to “understand with our soul” as Platon said. Maybe discover if we should be able to sit down on The Iron Throne and resist its charm and not to succumb to its curse of power. We need to think about if it would be possible to do Right and if we will be able to state without any doubt that we should be fair kings or queens of The Seven Kingdoms.

Hand of the King

Translator's P.S.: My deepest thanks to Daniel E. Price for his check-up.