Unity and nihilism in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire

JonSansa

As of the end of season 6, Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) have truly gone their separate ways. Plot lines and character arcs have taken drastically different trajectories, and, as the two series continue to diverge, the points of comparison between them become more prominent, not only in terms of story but also in terms of theme and character development.

One point of comparison I find particularly interesting is Game of Thrones and ASOIAF’s contrasting approach to interpersonal relationships and, by extension, nihilism, largely because (spoiler alert) … I think the show handles it better.

**Analysis includes references to Theon’s The Winds of Winter sample chapter below. Proceed at your own discretion**

It’s already been discussed at length but one of the factors that truly sets ASOIAF and Game of Thrones apart from other works of fantasy – indeed, from other works of fiction – is its readiness to subvert expectations, to kill off main characters and let the baddies win. In many ways, both series purport an existentially nihilistic worldview: that life is meaningless and, therefore, effort is futile. Though I wouldn’t quite rank them on level with Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus,” both series frequently remind us that Valar Morghulis and that having the best of intentions does not guarantee success.

In such a narrative, the line between cynicism and outright pessimism is thin and (unfortunately, for the purposes of this essay) highly subjective. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that we all have our limits; we all need the negativity tempered with some positivity to remain invested.

For me, this need manifests as a preoccupation with the interpersonal relationships between the characters, something the books and the show have chosen to handle in increasingly different ways.

On several occasions, now, Game of Thrones has opted to maintain or emphasize the unity between characters who, in the books, are, at best, isolated from one another and, at worst, antagonistic. Personally, this is one of the advantages the show has over the books because, for me, nihilism works better on a narrative level than an interpersonal one.

For example, I appreciate the irony and futility behind the War of the 5 Kings: a civil war that tears the country apart to decide who sits on an iron chair that Robert Baratheon established in book and season 1 is both figuratively and literally uncomfortable. I like how the best-laid plans of dragons and direwolves often go awry, from King Aegon “Egg” Targaryen’s policies to help the peasantry to Daenerys’ abolitionist mission in Essos to Ned Stark’s decision to offer Cersei a chance to escape Robert’s wrath. However, when such an outlook is applied repeatedly to the relationships between characters, my investment begins to slip.

Granted, many of the relational changes are products of plot divergences and, until both series are finished, there’s only so much one can analyze about incomplete character arcs. Young Griff’s omission frees Varys and Tyrion up to share a sincere and fairly uncomplicated friendship and, without Lady Stoneheart’s involvement, Brienne and Jaime are able to part ways in the Riverlands with a poignant hand wave. I look forward to comparing and contrasting these storylines with their literary counterparts one day but until season 8 airs and A Dream of Spring is released … there’s not much I have to say.

However, in cases in which the nature of the relationship has no bearing on the plot, ASOIAF’s tendency to withhold tenderness between characters feels excessive whereas the show’s added emotional beats, not only temper the pessimism (without compromising the brutality and high stakes of the narrative) and actually aid character development.

One of the earliest examples of this is Tyrion and Sansa’s spousal relationship. Structurally, the two storylines are more or less identical in the show and books. Tyrion and Sansa are married against their will, Tyrion resolves not to consummate their union until Sansa consents and then they’re separated after Joffrey’s assassination. However, their dynamic is significantly chillier in ASOIAF.

Sansa’s misery was deepening every day. Tyrion would glady have broken through her courtesy to give her what solace he might, but it was no good. No words would ever make him fair in her eyes. Or any less a Lannister. This was the wife they had given him, for all the rest of his life. And she hated him … His wife was too well-trained to say an unkind word but the revulsion in her eyes whenever she looked at his body was more than he could bear” – A Storm of Swords

In the show, by contrast, we get to see Sansa and Tyrion bonding over their shared outcast status as “the disgraced daughter and the demon monkey.” He later claims that his “wife hates [him]” after the news of the Robb and Catelyn’s deaths reaches King’s Landing, but they still share some tender moments at the Purple Wedding.

Tyrion reaches out and takes Sansa’s hand when Joffrey’s dwarfish reenactment of the War of the 5 Kings reaches Robb’s beheading and Sansa spares him the shame of crawling under the table to retrieve Joffrey’s goblet by picking it up herself and handing it to him. In A Storm of Swords, Sansa spends the wedding dinner in grief-stricken stupor and Tyrion suffers through the degrading dwarf tourney alone.

Usually, adaptations compromise the depth of the source material when they opt for the “nicer” route (please see 1995’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter and the 1999 live-action version of Animal Farm as evidence) but, here, it’s frankly more interesting when these characters get along.

Having Tyrion and Sansa’s marriage stalemate until they’re separated develops neither of their characters. Sansa’s dreams of marrying a handsome lord or prince continue to be dashed and Tyrion’s resentment towards the world, which finally breaks him at the end of A Storm of Swords, gets more fodder but it’s nothing that isn’t communicated through other plot lines.

However, watching two such diametrically opposite characters find common ground and help each other reveals a different side to both of them, namely Sansa’s capacity to grow beyond her childhood notions of worthy men and Tyrion’s ability to successfully interact with someone outside his usual context of sex and politics.

An example that cropped up more recently is the contrast between Theon and Jeyne’s relationship and Theon and Sansa’s. To be fair, their storylines differ significantly more than Tyrion and Sansa’s. Since Sansa is a main character and Jeyne only a tertiary one, it makes sense for the development of Sansa and Theon’s relationship to factor more prominently into the plot than Theon and Jeyne’s.

However, both storylines reach similar climaxes, with both couples escaping into the northern wilderness, risking death in one direction and recapture in the other.

Yet, in Theon’s sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, we get very little warmth between him and Jeyne. Theon pities her and “[means] no hurt to her” and she acknowledges him as her hero while he’s carrying her through the snow but there’s little in the way of personal connection. By the time they’re captured by Stannis, Theon seems more irritated with her than anything. He silently curses her for struggling to remember Mikken’s name to prove her identity as Arya Stark and later reflects how he “hate[s] women weeping“ after listening to Jeyne cry all the way from Winterfell to Stannis’ encampment.

Granted, his annoyance is borne of desperation and exhaustion (and, yes, I realize that trauma does not make you a nicer person) but after everything they’ve been through together, for Theon to think of her with such annoyance veers into defeatist territory. What truly is the point in investing emotionally, as a reader, when these relationships amount to so little?

The show used more or less the same set up for a different purpose. While huddled under a fallen tree after running all night and wading through frigid water, Theon hugs Sansa to keep her warm and for a few seconds, both characters enjoy a respite from the horrors around them.

It demonstrates how Theon and Sansa have grown as characters. It showcases Sansa’s capacity for forgiveness, considering she refused to take his arm before her wedding, and it demonstrates Theon’s ability to care for others, to sacrifice his own welfare for someone else when he caused so much destruction for his self-aggrandizement in season 2.

TheonSansatree

So … where does this leave us?

Comparing the books to the show is a divisive topic to say the least. Both series have their strengths and weaknesses. I suppose what it boils down to is which approach strikes the deepest chord in the individual, which represents the human reaction to adversity most meaningfully.

In some respects, the interpersonal relationships between characters have no bearing on the nihilistic outlook of either series. Westeros continues to be a treacherous world in which giving one’s life for what’s right may leave no lasting impact and even the gentlest souls must make moral compromises to survive.

In other respects, though, the relationships make all the difference in the world. Though I can understand why many prefer ASOIAF’s exploration of human brokenness and its emphasis on internal struggle, for me, seeing characters in such an unforgiving world find a way to think outside of themselves and forge sincere emotional bonds with others, however briefly, is what keeps the narrative from slipping entirely into pessimism.

132 responses

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    1. Damn good article.

      Edit: You (Petra) were the author of the article last year talking about exploring Theon’s PTSD right? That was you? Well, now that the season is over, what did you think of how it was handled (in both Sansa and Theon’s cases)?

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    2. I really enjoyed this article. WOTW definitely helps me get through the “long night” of waiting for the next season:)
      Thank you all, for all you do!

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    3. Damn this was great.

      Completely agree. This is exactly why I enjoyed the show much more then the books, to be completely honest, I almost always enjoy the movie/TV show better then the books..

      I’m just a more visual person. The music in EP10 gave me more enjoyment then all of the last 2 books.

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    4. Wonderful article.I agree with pretty much everything.I know what ASOIAF and GOT are but too much doom and gloom sucks the joy out of watching or reading anything at least for me.And one of the things I enjoy most is the relationship between characters.Appart from the things you mentioned I loved the interactions between Arya and Lady Crane.Loved the fact that Gilly was happy and full wonder and not crying the whole voyage.Also I love the relationships that Jon has with Davos,Tormund and Edd.In ADwD he literally has no friends left.I know kill the boy and all that but damn my man took it to a whole other level lol.

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    5. So, I agree that the show spends more time developing relationships between the various dyads of characters that it sets up, but I disagree that the show is less nihilistic as a result, because the show pretty repeatedly has extremely nihilistic takes on broader social points, even as it works to humanize the relationships between individual pairings of characters.

      I would look at this season’s Northern plot as an example of that. The broader social environment of the North in the books is broadly idealistic. The various Northern lords take on a great deal of personal risk to work toward the restoration of their ideal of what the North should be through the Starks. Their show counterparts, on the other hand, are governed much more by a sort of realpolitik. Fear cows Lords Manderly and Cerwyn into accepting that their North is lost and into acknowledging Bolton rule after both are traumatized by the loss of family at Frey/Bolton hands. Some are petty, with Lord Glover, rather than seeing any sort of Northern unity and any sense that they were all betrayed together, instead blaming Robb for leading his brother to his death. They are a people who have lost hope to fear and bitterness, rather than fighting on for some ideal.

      I think there was something similar in the Night’s Watxh story last season. The book Watch reluctantly accepts Jon’s plans for the Wildlings, though they make their discomfort with them known. They only turn on Jon when it becomes clear that his plans against the Boltons put the Watch as an institution at risk. Their book counterparts, however, are just inveterate racists who will never accept the wildlings. Jon does nothing to trigger their attack accept for refusing to abandon the wildlings to die.

      There’s a similar shift in Dany’s plot where the book version goes to great lengths to set up that the slavers, for all their violence and cruelty, are rational people who will accept compromises with Dany. It’s Dany’s own inability to understand the interests that govern the various Ghiscari factions that ultimately dooms her peace. In the show version, however, Tyrion negotiates a very favorable peace for the slavers, which they then break because they’re just inherently shifty and wicked. There is no peace to be had with them save through absolute force.

      So yeah, the books often deal with characters in isolation, and often allow characters to remain distant from each other emotionally even when the plot brings them together, but they always work hard to make sure that they are not endorsing a nihilistic worldview, even as their characters may come to hold that view themselves. In the show, characters will cling to whomever happens to be next to them with a sort of desperate humanity, but to a certain degree it’s because the world around them is so cold and hopeless, so full of other people who are just irredeemably evil or are good people who have nevertheless been completely broken and stripped of any drive to fight back.

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    6. Excellent article. It is very interesting to compare and contrast ASOIAF and GoT, because (as you say) they both have their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst there are clear similarities between the two there are also some salient differences.

      It is a real shame that George will never finish ASOIAF, because a complete in-depth comparison of the two at the end would have been fantastic to read, but I’m sure there will still be a lot more words written on the subject in the future anyway, and, if they are as good as this analysis, I look forward to reading them.

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    7. Speaking of nihilism: I am deeply despaired by no longer seeing a countdown clock of anything in the header of the WotW pages. Makes me realize just how very long our wait will be. And then to compound it, I get an email from Amazon telling me of an upcoming release from GRRM. Hopes dashed to discover it is (only!) a 20-year anniversary re-release of GoT. Sigh. Going to pull my blankie of depression back around my shoulders and crawl back under my rock. (But hell yes I pre-ordered a copy of the book!)

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    8. An excellent article! Very thought-provoking.
      The books and the show are two different mediums and should be both respected and appreciated.

      I read somewhere that the French Amazon has a WoW release date: March 9,2017. Don’t know if it’s legit.

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    9. Rhaenys Stark: I read somewhere that the French Amazon has a WoW release date: March 9,2017. Don’t know if it’s legit.

      It’s not. Amazon has a habit of throwing release dates up, probably just to fill a blank spot. But when the TWOW release date is set, we’ll hear it first from George RR Martin.

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    10. Do post people here prefer the show to the books? I only found out about the books after watching season 1, so I love the show of course. But the books offer so much more of the world, that I can’t see experiencing both and liking the show more.

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    11. Young Dragon,

      Shhhhh, that is a false flag attack by Dany’s supporters, who miraculously knew Belwas would eat it all.

      I swear to god, sometimes theories are born from a desire to make something needlessly complex and convulated, when the answer is obvious and direct…..

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    12. WallyFrench,

      Right now, I prefer the books to the show, but that will change if the series isn’t finished. After all, a story without an ending isn’t a story.

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    13. RosanaZugey:
      Damn good article.

      Edit: You (Petra) were the author of the article last year talking about exploring Theon’s PTSD right? That was you? Well, now that the season is over, what did you think of how it was handled (in both Sansa and Theon’s cases)?

      Good question; yes, I believe it was Petra.
      And my personal view on the subject is that it was handled quite well in both cases. Theon maybe a little better. What do you think?

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    14. WallyFrench,

      I do.

      I do not like the filler masked us a training arc and immense and pointless world-building and the dozens of new pointless characters, not to mention some story arcs that ruined couple of characters for me. This is why I like the last couple of seasons more then the last 2 books.
      It simply gave me everything I wanted and removed everything I disliked.

      I also like the first couple of seasons more then the first 3 books, but this time it isn’t writing related, well except for 2-3 moments, but rather directorial and acting ones.

      I am simply a visual person. I liked Neds execution in the books. I loved it in the show.

      Ned seeing Arya, screaming ”Bealor!” to Yoren, his final look to see if Arya is still watching, the sound dropping, him whispering….etc.
      Same with the RW and most moments in the first 3 seasons and even 4.

      I simply enjoy the TV medium, much, much more.

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    15. WallyFrench: Do post people here prefer the show to the books? I only found out about the books after watching season 1, so I love the show of course. But the books offer so much more of the world, that I can’t see experiencing both and liking the show more

      That isn’t what this article is about, though. It’s addressing one specific area.

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    16. Fienix:
      Speaking of nihilism:I am deeply despaired by no longer seeing a countdown clock of anything in the header of the WotW pages.Makes me realize just how very long our wait will be.And then to compound it, I get an email from Amazon telling me of an upcoming release from GRRM.Hopes dashed to discover it is (only!) a 20-year anniversary re-release of GoT.Sigh.Going to pull my blankie of depression back around my shoulders and crawl back under my rock.(But hell yes I pre-ordered a copy of the book!)

      Well, they can’t start a count-down clock until they know exactly when season 7 is going to begin. Also, they usually make their wallpaper up on the top as a scene from the upcoming season. I am sure once the first good promo photos are released and a set date and time for the start of season 7 is announced, then the site will update and change the header here. (I asked this same question as you last year and was given the information I am passing along to you)

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    17. WallyFrench,

      My edit ran out but I really wanted to say this, because you mention it.

      ”It offers so much more of the world” is exactly why like the show more. I do not want Vale politics, nor do I want a in-depth view of the giscari culture, I do not want to see Jon counting cheese and negotiating with the Iron Bank, I do not want to read about Lady Dustin, Lord Maryweather, Lord Gilbert, Yezhen mo…..etc. You get my point.

      I thought the world-building in the first 3 books way very balanced and good. But the last 2 simply go overboard. Same with the countless, and frankly pointless new characters, each more ridiculous then the other, to top that they are pointless and serve little to no purpose.

      It is meant to try and convince us that this is a real world, but I believe it fails miserably, it is simply unable to give a fraction of the substance the first 3 books had in 1-2 chapters, in 10 or more.(same with character development, what used to take 3 chapters now takes 7-9.)

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    18. WallyFrench,

      It’s hard to say because they are very different mediums each with its strengths that are different to the other.One thing that is a plus in the books is that it offers an insight into the mind of our main characters,something obviously the Tv show can’t do.I enjoy the POV structure at least in the first three books.The books also have more space to explore its various themes and the dilemmas of the characters in a way that the show can not.Not to mention that this is all thanks to George and all merit should go to him for creating the world and a complex story that is so compelling to us all.But using the word prefer loosely I do prefer the show.

      This is an anomaly for me because almost always I prefer the book version and not the adaption of something.The first four seasons are neck and neck with the books and I do like Clash better then season 2 but I must admit that I have enjoyed the last two seasons more than books four and five.Maybe it’s because I have not missed the things that they have cut or because reading the last two books made me struggle to connect even with my favourite characters but this is how I feel.

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    19. RosanaZugey,

      Thank you so much. Yeah, that was my article. I really like how both Theon and Sansa’s traumas were handled. I think Sansa’s confrontation with Littlefinger in ep. 5 was very powerful, particularly her telling him that she can still physically feel what Ramsay did to her. Though the psychological impact of rape wasn’t addressed, the show still made clear that her abuse has had long term consequences. As for Theon, I love that he still exhibits some of the mannerisms he had as Reek. He didn’t “snap out” of his brainwashing and become a humbler version of his season 2 self. Though I wish his scene with Yara in Volantis had been built up to differently, I didn’t mind her harshness. To me, it didn’t trivialize his PTSD. It was just a sister trying to help her brother in the only way she knew how. How did you find it?

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    20. I’ve always thought that the books put an emphasis on futility of human efforts, which can be QUITE frustrating for readers but is in fact a strong medieval theme (if I remember correctly…) There is this popular classic “O Fortuna” with medieval lyrics that are all about futility and the mercilessness of fortune, and the related medieval painting of the wheel of fortune alternately favouring and throwing down rulers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortuna#/media/File:CarminaBurana_wheel.jpg
      Have a look the English translation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Fortuna, it even has a line about “the game” 🙂

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    21. This article is premised on the idea that ASOIAF is nihilistic, which George R. R. Martin has vehemently denied at length. His protagonists are regularly faced with how to uphold ideals in a world where, unlike in some other stories, such intentions are not automatically rewarded, is a regular theme. But that’s not nihilism. You can see an example of this as early as the prologue to A Game of Thrones, where Will marvels that Waymar Royce, who was rather callow and arrogant, shows genuine bravery and looks a real man of the Night’s Watch when he faces essentially certain defeat at the hands of the Others.

      The debate about wanting to be a “true knight” is another example of this theme. Brienne’s whole character, and particularly her plot in AFFC, shows her constant resolve to stay true to her ideals even in the hellish landscape of the wartorn Riverlands. Around the same time, Jaime’s plot since ASOS is driven by his rediscovery of his desire to be a proper Kingsguard. The Hound retreated into comfortable nihilism after his brother Gregor’s childhood assault, but is shaken out of this.

      Usually, adaptations compromise the depth of the source material when they opt for the “nicer” route (please see 1995’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter and the 1999 live-action version of Animal Farm as evidence) but, here, it’s frankly more interesting when these characters get along.

      Having Tyrion and Sansa’s marriage stalemate until they’re separated develops neither of their characters. Sansa’s dreams of marrying a handsome lord or prince continue to be dashed and Tyrion’s resentment towards the world, which finally breaks him at the end of A Storm of Swords, gets more fodder but it’s nothing that isn’t communicated through other plot lines.

      However, watching two such diametrically opposite characters find common ground and help each other reveals a different side to both of them, namely Sansa’s capacity to grow beyond her childhood notions of worthy men and Tyrion’s ability to successfully interact with someone outside his usual context of sex and politics.

      This is absolutely another instance where making things “nicer” compromises the depth of the source material. Tyrion and Sansa’s marriage in the books does develop both their characters: it’s part of their downward psychological spirals in both books.

      Sansa has already been demonstrating the capacity to grow beyond childhood notions of worthy men in the story. Indeed, she recognizes that Tyrion is kinder than the other Lannisters. But that doesn’t mean she has or should have any interest in being married to him. Tyrion, meanwhile, has huge psychological issues with women, which the marriage exacerbates. He’s not supposed to be demonstrating the ability “to successfully interact with someone outside his usual context of sex and politics.” Having him do that is completely soft-pedaling his character arc.

      The idea of them having a “shared outcast status” is a fantasy for people who just want all the “good” characters to get along, when ASOIAF is about how making you sympathize with people on different sides with diametrically opposed interests. Tyrion is the Lannister finance minister; he is working to bring down Sansa’s family. They are not on the same side, which is something GRRM never forgets, and Tyrion being polite on a personal level does not alter this. The whole marriage is a plot to usurp the Starks’ lands and titles for Tywin’s purposes.

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    22. Guest,
      The Carmina Burana are full of positive songs, too, though. ‘In taverna quando sumus….’

      I have said it time and again, but I think that the primary type of relationships enhanced by the show wrt the the books are the male-female ones. Apart from the Sansa-Tyrion and Theon-Jeyne/Sansa mentioned in this text, I think that the show improves greatly:
      – Cersei/Jaime and Cersei/Tyrion. In the books, Jaime abandons Cersei – and their children – because she slept around. Not because she killed, or tortured. Because she slept around. Cersei/Tyrion are also more friendly in the show. They grudgingly respect each other.
      – Dany/Daario. Just what the hell is book Dany/Daario, I don’t even.
      – Dany/Jorah. He’s less of a perv.
      – Tyrion/Shae. She’s actually fond of him!

      Also, I don’t think the books have even ONE example of a man and a woman being friendly and respectful of each other without being romantic. At least I’m striving to think of one and failing.

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    23. Yaga:
      Also, I don’t think the books have even ONE example of a man and a woman being friendly and respectful of each other without being romantic. At least I’m striving to think of one and failing.

      There are many. Dany and most of her advisors other than Jorah (she is friendly to him, whereas he’s a possessive would-be suitor) would be an obvious nexus; but Catelyn has friendly interactions with men on Robb’s side; Sansa manages to acquire some once she leaves KL (e.g., Lothor Brune); Arya has a variety of male friends (for instance, Hot Pie; and Gendry is, as yet, just a friend, though you can read potential romantic subtext in their interactions); and so on.

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    24. Yaga,

      “Cersei/Tyrion. In the books, Jaime abandons Cersei – and their children – because she slept around. Not because she killed, or tortured. Because she slept around.”

      What’s the point of repeating that Jaime left her because she slept around? Is that not a reasonable reason to do so by Jaime who has remained faithful to her his whole life despite women throwing themselves at him?

      Also I’ll disagree that the changes you mentioned are better in the show. The books are great for those complicated and dark relationships rather than those made for tv consumption.

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    25. Yaga,

      Completely agree. They are much better.

      Sansa/Tyrion relationship in the show is what made me start liking Sansa as a character. While I was really annoyed by it in the books. Now she is in my top 3, while in the books I can hardly care for her.

      Tyrion/Shae, It was simply better. As Shae herself was a better character, something Martin himself admited. And it made Tyrion himself better for me.

      Dany/Jorah and Dany/Daario aren’t even worth mentioning, they are both ridiculously bad. The writing improved both of them but Ian Glenn’s acting improved theirs the most.

      Cersei/Jaime is the relationship I like the most. Because it simply believable as Cersei is a human being, thanks to Lena, and not a Disney villain.

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    26. Sean C.,
      Those aren’t relationships between main characters, though? And Arya is a prepubescent tomboy, not a grown-up woman.

      Zeus,
      No, I don’t think ‘sleeping around’ is a good reason to abandon someone *when you excuse their murdering and torture* (important part!). If cheating is all you are angry about in this particular situation, then you are a very selfish person.

      I would probably excuse my SO cheating on me, especially if they were in a vulnerable emotional state. But torture? Never.

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    27. Yaga,

      I’m intrigued by the show’s emphasis on sibling relationships, particularly between brothers and sisters. Scenes like Lyanna & Ned’s reunion at the ToJ, Sansa and Jon’s reunion at the Wall and Yara and Theon’s conversation in Volantis are afforded the sort of editing and emotional scoring usually reserved for romantic couples. As someone who’s borderline aromantic, it’s much appreciated.

      As for your point about ASOIAF, I think Brienne’s relationships with Pod and Jaime are quite mutually respectful. I know many consider Jaime and Brienne’s dynamic to be a romantic one, but, personally, I’ve always seen it as platonic.

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    28. Excellent article and I have to agree with it more than SeanC at this point.

      Because while Martin *says* the books aren’t nihilistic and perhaps that wasn’t his original intention, they certainly tend to *read* as such. Now as the article’s author notes, its possible Martin has a master plan and the ending of the series might completely change the tone so far….but well we haven’t seen the ending yet and its nowhere in sight. So yeah, maybe I’d feel differently if/when I ever got to read ADOS but going on what I see NOW, ASOIAF is *very* nihilistic.

      And a huge part of that comes from the isolation of all the characters as the author notes; which again I think colors some of the show’s decisions not just regarding Theon/Sansa but almost perhaps most notably this season with the Sansa/Jon reunion as well, which viewers consistently found to be one of the few hope spots in the darkness. This is also why we got Theon/Yara’s newly reconstructed bond as well.

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    29. Mihnea:
      WallyFrench,

      and negotiating with the Iron Bank,

      There are certain aspects like Iron Bank loan or manning castles that would be boring for the show. He mentioned Greyguard so he had a plan in the show. I wish we can see how Jon is able to establish alliance through marriage as he did in the books between Alys and Sigorn. We might see some version of it in next season as wildlings needs to be established south of the Wall and marriage is the best way to do it.

      Simply Jon being more than just a action hero, swordfighting and being naive. Now want to see him as a proper King, dealing with things as one because so far for me he wouldn’t make a good King but let’s see after next season. Kit works good in fights and Iam not gonna criticize them for it. I enjoy his battles but let’s hope for a bit of politics. In the books he understood Northern politics and helped Stannis with his campaign.

      Want to see him being a bit more intelligent, less naive and not saying he wasn’t in the books but also a lot younger.

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    30. In my opinion the books aren’t nihilistic at all. Decisions and actions just lead to logical conclusions. It doesn’t matter what the intentions or ideology behind the actions are.

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    31. Petra,
      I find it interesting that you note that you are to an extent aromantic, and that made you interested in the sibling relationships. I’m myself mostly an ace, which made me interested in the friendships. 🙂

      I’ll take your point about Brienne and Pod, although, eh, those two aren’t friends, either, are they? More like a teacher and student.

      When I think about male-female vs. male-male friendships, it’s just… Somehow, I have trouble seeing a scene similar to the Dany-Tyrion one where they are standing nearly level with each other and she makes him her Hand, and you just wish them to hug, in ASOIAF. (There would be a cynical running commentary from Tyrion all the way, undermining it completely.) But those Jon-Davos or Davos-Tormund bro-ing scenes? Easily.

      Could be, obviously, just me.

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    32. Yaga:
      Those aren’t relationships between main characters, though? And Arya is a prepubescent tomboy, not a grown-up woman.

      If by “main character” you mean “POV characters”, well, the POVs don’t tend to interact for extended periods, at least since the first book. Jon and Sam are both POVs, but they are seldom in the same place since Sam became a POV; the bulk of their friendship occurred solely in Jon’s chapters in AGOT and ACOK.

      Dany and Barristan would still meet your criterion, to name one.

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    33. WallyFrench,

      I don’t like the last two books and I don’t think that GRRM is able to finish this story, so I think that investment in the books is just pointless.

      There are parts even in the last two books where some scenes or plots are better than the show, but I just don’t care, becasuse I don’t trust GRRM. I think he improvises too much, he doesn’t have detailed plan for the plot and he lost control of his own story.

      It is a shame really.

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    34. WallyFrench:
      Do post people here prefer the show to the books?

      I think you’ll find a variety of people here: those who prefer the books, those who prefer the show, and those who can find admiration and enjoyment in both venues.

      Personally, I prefer the show, mainly for the reason this article hints at: the ‘improved’ relationships. And not only the improved relationships, but also for what I perceive to be the improvement of a majority of characters. For instance, I am an uber Sansa fan. She is my number one and I will defend her to the death. Book Sansa, on the other hand, I don’t really care for. Similarly, I don’t care for Book Tyrion, while Show Tyrion I like a lot. Brienne is another that I didn’t really think about in the books, but Show Brienne….I love her. Honestly, I can say the same about Margaery (although, Loras was a pale comparison to his book counterpart), Cersei, Catelyn, Shireen, Podrick, Bronn, Gilly, etc. I feel like the show fleshes these characters out more, and they do so through strength of these relationships and how they present them.

      Now, I know that a lot of book readers think the show has “WHITEWASHED!” every character (i.e. taken out the negative aspects of who they are and either replaced them with positive ones, or just ignored the ‘bad’ altogether), and by and large, I think they have a point. But for me, I prefer this version. I feel like the story itself is bleak enough without the added ‘bonus’ of having main characters you can’t even root for.

      Conversely, the only time I think these characters suffer in the show is when they’re subject to bad writing (the Sand Snakes) or inconsistent writing (Sansa) for the sake of ‘advancing’ the overall narrative. A poster on Tumblr (“ApprenticeMockingbird”, although I’m sure she reblogged this from someone else) once said that D&D, “…make the mistake of thinking people care more about the story then they do about the characters which is why they so easily combine characters, or make them act “out of character”, or change their motivations, or omit them altogether.” I completely agree with that statement. The strength of D&D’s version (in my opinion) is in these relationships and these characters, and when they stop focusing on them, and start focusing on the “story”, I think the characters suffer. Matter of fact, now that I think about it, I’m willing to bet that the majority of complaints that have come out of book readers have been for this very reason: the sacrifice each character’s ‘dignity’ for the sake of the larger narrative. We need Sansa married to Ramsay, so we’ll sacrifice LF’s intelligence to make that happen. We need to be rid of House Baratheon this season, so we’ll have him sacrifice his daughter, and then be killed by Brienne (because she’s conveniently in the North and not the Riverlands dealing with her own story). We’ll just replace a tertiary character (Jeyne) with a main character (Sansa) because it gets us closer to the endgame (*I cringe so hard*)

      …While I understand every single reason for why they made the changes they did, I think by doing some of the things they’ve done, it oftentimes weakens what is their greatest strengths: the relationships, and the characters. If they continue to write characters in a manner that makes sense, then yeah, I’ll totally stand with “the show is better” crowd. But if they, once again, start sacrificing everyone’s dignity on the altar of expediency, then the show will suffer (in my opinion).

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    35. Zeus,

      It is reasonable reason for Jaime, but it is reason for soap operas. The reason from the show is much stronger and it is connected deeply with Jaime’s past.

        Quote  Reply

    36. Great article. Having read almost everything GRRM has ever published besides Wild Cards, I do think he tends toward pessimism and it shows. It can work better in smaller stories/smaller doses than it does in a fantasy series thousands of pages long.

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    37. Sean C.,

      Tyrion is in general more likeable in the show than in the books. He didn’t consummate the marriage in the books but he was going for it … but Sansa was crying … in the show he didn’t even touch her. Tyrion lost his nose in the books and in the show Peter maintains his face complete with only a scar… I don’t doubt he believes in Danny in the show and he doesn’t like to watch people die. Will it happen like that in the books??? … Why did he send Young Griff to Westeros before meeting Danny???
      Also, Varys is much more likeable in the show. He didn’t make the little birds kill anyone and apparently he is really trying to help Danny because it’s the best for the kingdom.
      Regarding Theon, he is totally broken in the books … I love how Bran tried to communicate with him. That chapter is very sweet. Theon believes the trees know his name. That means Bran kind of forgave him for what he did, which is more powerful than Sansa forgiving him, IMO.
      I also want to know how the relationship between Sansa and Jon is going to be handle in the books. I suppose they are going to be the first Starks to meet in the books too. Because of what happened to Sansa in season 5, she is totally different.
      The good thing about the changes of the show is that I still want to read the books. I’m starting to look them as different stories at this point.

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    38. RosanaZugey,

      I don’t think there is a reason for “sacrifice” any more. They made some becasuse they were forced to make a coherent story from GRRM’s mess in the last two books. Not everything can fit together perfectly under those circumstances.

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    39. To anyone wondering if GRRM is pessimistic about male/female relationships, just check out Meathouse Man (if you have the stomach for it. Disturbing story but very well done for what it is).

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    40. Yaga,

      You’re applying your logic and morality to a person who is in a queen in a medevil time period. Torture and violence were par for the course for most monarchs. However Jaime was entirely faithful to Cersei his whole life. Not only that but the multiple acts of infidelity showed Jaime how selfish Cersei was.

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    41. I can’t with people criticizing George RR Martin work, the man is a genius, his work is a master piece, there is no other fantasy story which can be compared with A Song of Ice and Fire in terms of quality and complexity sice LotR, so at least you are Tolkien, shut up and enjoy the books, or don’t read them if you dislike them so much, but don’t criticize his work because the man is a friking genius. Reading is not for everyone, specially nowadays, I get that, but just because some people don’t have the ability to appreciate the books does not mean the books are bad or lack quality. I feel the same way when people criticize Dan and Dave because they didnt satisfy their personal demands; they are giving us the best show on television! People are so petty sometimes.

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    42. Petra:
      RosanaZugey,

      Thank you so much. Yeah, that was my article. I really like how both Theon and Sansa’s traumas were handled. I think Sansa’s confrontation with Littlefinger in ep. 5 was very powerful, particularly her telling him that she can still physically feel what Ramsay did to her. Though the psychological impact of rape wasn’t addressed, the show still made clear that her abuse has had long term consequences. As for Theon, I love that he still exhibits some of the mannerisms he had as Reek. He didn’t “snap out” of his brainwashing and become a humbler version of his season 2 self. Though I wish his scene with Yara in Volantis had been built up to differently, I didn’t mind her harshness. To me, it didn’t trivialize his PTSD. It was just a sister trying to help her brother in the only way she knew how. How did you find it?

      I was incredibly surprised at how well they handled both of their traumas. Matter of fact I’m grateful that they dealt with it as extensively as they did (especially in Sansa’s case). Granted, I did not think they were just going to sweep her rape under the rug (a la Jaime/Cersei), but I also did not think that it would it feature so predominantly in all of her motivations and interactions. It is a core part of her ethos now, and I think we haven’t seen the complete ‘aftershock’ of it all. There are still tremors going on and I think all of those tremors are and will be psychological.

      I mean, you have a girl who–5 seasons ago–watched in absolute horror as Ser Hugh of the Vale was killed at the Hand’s Tourney. Now, this woman is watching–unflinchingly–as her husband is mauled to death by dogs. She even throws in a smile for good measure.

      You have a girl who has spent the majority of her life believing in heroes and knights and always hoping someone would come and save/protect her (Robb, Stannis, LF, etc.,) to a woman who rebuffs Jon’s promise of protection by saying, “No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone.” And that disillusion extends even to the gods, when she tell LF (in the godswood, ironically enough), that she does’t pray or do any of that stuff anymore. Because post season 5 Sansa is no longer waiting, wanting, or expecting anyone to save her, not even the gods.

      Mentally, she knows she should trust Jon (“Jon is Jon. He’s my brother. I trust him.”) but emotionally, she doesn’t (which causes her to withhold information from him). I can almost HEAR season 6 Sansa saying Book Sansa’s, “she had once loved…and admired…she would not make that mistake again.”

      I mean, it’s fascinating to watch. Because even though you know she was already trending towards distrust and disillusion, I think her rape/abuse sealed the deal and added in heartlessness (towards her enemies) as an added bonus. I did see the psychological impact and I think her character will manifest those qualities for the foreseeable future.

      All of this makes wonder: what happens to her in the books that makes her this way? If Ramsay raping and abusing her finally broke her, what breaks her in the books? It’s obviously not going to be Ramsay, so…who/what?

      Anywho, I’m impressed. I’m grateful. I’m sincerely pleased that they dealt with her PTSD and Theon’s as well. I’m glad that it was realistic (in both their cases) and I’m glad that they’re continuing to present these character as people who are actively living in the reality of brokenness.

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    43. RosanaZugey:
      All of this makes wonder: what happens to her in the books that makes her this way?

      That presumes she’s going to end up in a similar headspace in the books, which there’s no particular reason to think is the case. Book Sansa’s emotional arc has been very different from Show Sansa’s, even before the divergence in Season 5. That’s true for other characters as well.

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    44. Thank you for this article. I enjoyed it greatly. I’d perhaps argue that Camus’ existential absurdism is a better fit to this world than a nihilistic one or Beckett’s bleaker theatricalisation of the absurd. Camus’ absurd hero has much in common with Jon Snow in particular in that he struggles again and again to achieve his goals and has them and the joys of life taken from him just as he has seemed to succeed. Or again when he is faced with an impossible choice that will leaves him damaged or in pain – betraying his wildling love to fulfill his vows to his NW brothers who in the end betray him. Sisyphus’ is struggle to repeat his ongoing task is also made manifest in Thorne’s last words condemning Jon to a never ending battles, death and rebirth, just as the Greek gods conemned Sysiphus for seeking eternal life. This journey however is not as you point out without redemption, or rather warmth, Jon like Camus takes solace in the relationships at hand, in the momentary joys of nature (hottubbing and finding with Egritte where it was not expected). Again when he is reborn he tells us he wants to go somewhere sunny and to forget the troubles of the world just as Camus took pleasure in the sun and sea of an Algerian coast line despite the disease, war and death that surrounded him. And just like Jon, Camus chose to fight for what was right even when the left, his brothers had turned on him for his critique of their unwavering support of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Again Jon mirrors Sysiphus because he chooses not to run, to escape the turmoil, partly by persuasion but also because he knows in his heart he cannot escape and the thing he wishes to put aside will eventually find him. Jon in essence owns the thing, his rock, his duty and would like Sysiphus do it all again. And perhaps when Winterfell is no more and the wall is gone he will be allowed to smile seeing life as an absurd thing filled with joy and pain and knowing that these things are his to own.

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    45. mau:
      RosanaZugey,

      I don’t think there is a reason for “sacrifice” any more. They made some becasuse they were forced to make a coherent story from GRRM’s mess in the last two books. Not everything can fit together perfectly under those circumstances.

      I can agree with this. Especially since I think we’re at the point where everyone will be at in TWOW. I think the characters we get from here on out will be how they’ll be in the books, and the story that comes from it will be the same.

      Btw, I agree with you that the show’s motivation for a Jaime/Cersei falling out and eventual confrontation is better than the book. I feel like it gets to the very heart of both of these characters to make their discord with each other about life and death/honor and dishonor more than who she slept with.

      Edit: Good grief. What is with my little icon? It either doesn’t appear, or it appears as something different. I’m confused. Can we just start registering accounts? 😀 Please?

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    46. Excellent post Patra. I love these kinds of comparisions because they are an example of what each medium is does best, or at least hat each medium focuses on for the reader/watcher

      However, in cases in which the nature of the relationship has no bearing on the plot, ASOIAF’s tendency to withhold tenderness between characters feels excessive whereas the show’s added emotional beats, not only temper the pessimism (without compromising the brutality and high stakes of the narrative) and actually aid character development.

      There were several times in the books where I had to stop and catch my breath. It was all so relentless, the writing so good and descriptive, that I found myself needing some air Perhap it was that very tenderness, the emotional beats that the story gives, that I was missing. There were many moments like this where a picture is worth a thousand words, and a simple touch of hands (like Tyrion for Sansa) or a look (when Jon and Sansa are talking about snow and remembering their father) does indeed aid character development and relationship development.

      Thats not to say there isn’t any of this in the books, of course there is, but its a different way of expressing it.

      I suppose what it boils down to is which approach strikes the deepest chord in the individual, which represents the human reaction to adversity most meaningfully.

      If you don’t mind I’d like to use this quote every time there is another flame war of the book versus show. That is just as perfect as you can get. It matters only how you react to each one, really.

      Though I can understand why many prefer ASOIAF’s exploration of human brokenness and its emphasis on internal struggle, for me, seeing characters in such an unforgiving world find a way to think outside of themselves and forge sincere emotional bonds with others, however briefly, is what keeps the narrative from slipping entirely into pessimism.

      Its no fantasy – we do live in an unforgiving world, with many of us in various stages of brokeness. It is the emotional bonds we have that keep us present, that keeps us from considering jumping through that window into oblivion. So too in the story, or any story, which is why I always appreciate that bonding, showing life at its best.

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    47. Sean C.: That presumes she’s going to end up in a similar headspace in the books, which there’s no particular reason to think is the case.Book Sansa’s emotional arc has been very different from Show Sansa’s, even before the divergence in Season 5.That’s true for other characters as well.

      This is very true. You have a point.

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    48. Sam,

      You realize this sites only been around for two years, right? 🙂

      Knight of the Walkers,

      I

      t is a real shame that George will never finish ASOIAF, because a complete in-depth comparison of the two at the end would have been fantastic to read, but I’m sure there will still be a lot more words written on the subject in the future anyway, and, if they are as good as this analysis, I look forward to reading them.

      Yeah I don’t hold out much hope for the. It would have been wonderful to read, and compare as this post does. Hope I am wrong but suspect Im right

      Mihnea,

      Ned seeing Arya, screaming ”Bealor!” to Yoren, his final look to see if Arya is still watching, the sound dropping, him whispering….etc.

      Im a visual person also, and when I read I basically have a film projector in my head showing me the images as I read (some people can ‘hear’ a narrative as they read; I don’t but see images instead ) This scene was just as powerful to me in the book as it was in the show. I don’t think Patra is saying the book has none of this – it does in spades, but sometimes the details get in the way.

      RosanaZugey,

      …While I understand every single reason for why they made the changes they did, I think by doing some of the things they’ve done, it oftentimes weakens what is their greatest strengths: the relationships, and the characters. If they continue to write characters in a manner that makes sense, then yeah, I’ll totally stand with “the show is better” crowd. But if they, once again, start sacrificing everyone’s dignity on the altar of expediency, then the show will suffer (in my opinion).

      Certainly have seen that; sometimes it works but many times I scratch my head wondering just what they were doing. I worry,down the road, if the writing will continue in this mode, or rise above it.

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    49. Starktree,

      but don’t criticize his work because the man is a friking geniu

      s

      There are many writers out there who are called geniuses but if the writing doesn’t work for me, well they much not have been smart enough to capture me (tho I do admit I loved Martins writing – I just could have done without the filler that the show thankfully has cut way back. ) And just because I do happen to like a book, a movie or a sho, I still have the right to criticize when I think its nec. Thats why I am here – to discuss ideas, opinions, options, possibilties. If not, why are we here?

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    50. Yaga:
      In the books, Jaime abandons Cersei – and their children – because she slept around. Not because she killed, or tortured. Because she slept around.

      First of all, Jaime didn’t abandon Tommen. In his last AFFC chapter, he plans on going to King’s Landing, take Tommen away from Cersei and replace her entire Small Council.
      As for the murders and tortures, Cersei keeps most of her shady dealings secret. And since Jaime is the one who pushed Bran out the window and offered to kill Robert on many occasions, leaving Cersei because she killed a few nobodies would be quite hypocritical.

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    51. Simon,

      Should have done a piper edit.

      That’s meant to be “finding love with Egritte”

      And “Sysiphus’ struggles” without the “is”

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    52. ash,

      I like your reply. Nice to have someone responding to a philosophical exploration of themes with out getting into the old boring arguments about whether the books or the show are better. Simply put this argument is absurd.

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    53. No.

      None of the relationships you cited which were “changed” in the TV series were better for it.

      You haven’t really addressed the wider picture of just how little TV-Sansa’s storyarc makes sense. Yes, there are pleasant little “moments” between characters, but do they add up to a coherent whole?

      In other cases you cite, the TV series didn’t do something “better” but simply different. I.e. you say that the TV show was free to display Tyrion and Varys as true friends; this isn’t something hidden in the books it had more freedom to reveal, it was simply a total change. And yes, good material. But how is this “improved” when it didn’t exist in the original? Even if you prefer it?

      The only thing the TV show sort of did better was side characters who weren’t in focus in the novels, i.e. what the Tyrells were doing “off screen” or the Grey Worm/Missandei relationship.

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    54. Sean C.,

      “His protagonists are regularly faced with how to uphold ideals in a world where, unlike in some other stories, such intentions are not automatically rewarded, is a regular theme. But that’s not nihilism.”

      Thanks for saving me a long rant. I also reject the OP’s base premise that the books’ worldview constitutes nihilism.

      We all live in a world like Planetos where the relationship between what people deserve and what they get is tenuous at best. Randomness happens, all the time, and that makes most people so uncomfortable that they go around making up religions and stuff as a security blanket. We’d like it to be different, for justice always to prevail, but the fact that it doesn’t is just realism.

      In no way does that state of affairs negate the need for people to make ethical choices or tarnish the efforts of those who try to do the right thing. Nowhere do I see the author suggesting that people shouldn’t do their best with the hand they’re dealt, or should cease to look for small beauties and kindnesses in the everyday – the things that make life worth living even in terrible times. I actually find GRRM a deeply humanistic writer!

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    55. Yaga,

      If you’re going to dismiss the counterexamples as “not main characters”, you should at least state who you consider “main characters”. In a cast as big as ASOIAF’s, that is a relevant question.

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    56. RosanaZugey,

      It’s based on the email address you input when you comment. Are you changing the email(s) when you comment? Gravatar provides the image based on the email you input. The image being tied to your gravatar acct. Hope that helps.

        Quote  Reply

    57. Cersei’s Brain:
      It’s easy to see who grew up reading Harry Potter vs Lord of the Ringsin these posts. 🙂

      These Harry Potter kids don’t get the bleakness of life. Like most participation trophy winners

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    58. Tycho Nestoris:
      RosanaZugey,

      It’s based on the email address you input when you comment. Are you changing the email(s) when you comment? Gravatar provides the image based on the email you input. The image being tied to your gravatar acct. Hope that helps.

      I’ve used the one I always have, but the image doesn’t show. Then I switched it for a post thinking maybe THAT was the address I use, and it put up a different avatar then what I had. *Shrugs* I don’t know. Oh!!! Maybe its the gmail address. I’ve been using hotmail. Perhaps its gmail. *Goes to try it out*

      Edit: Woot, woot!! Thanks.

        Quote  Reply

    59. Simon,

      blush thanks. I like getting into these kinds of discussions where the focus is a bit philosophical (tho I am an amatuer in the subject) or at least psycological, considering a work in relation to human nature. I don’t always get it right but when it works such discussions are really meaningful to me and help me better enjoy both media.

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    60. Firannion

      In no way does that state of affairs negate the need for people to make ethical choices or tarnish the efforts of those who try to do the right thing. Nowhere do I see the author suggesting that people shouldn’t do their best with the hand they’re dealt, or should cease to look for small beauties and kindnesses in the everyday – the things that make life worth living even in terrible times. I actually find GRRM a deeply humanistic writer!

      For some reason this all is reminding me of one of my favorite portions from the Talmud

      Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it

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    61. ash:

      For some reason this all is reminding me of one of my favorite portions from the Talmud

      Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it

      What a beautiful passage!

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    62. Simon,

      I was going to correct Petra’s assertion of Camus’ nihilism, so I am glad to see that you already handled that. Camus called nihilism the greatest DANGER facing the authentic existentialist, and much of his literary corpus consists of attempts to overcome nihilism through the Absurd, through engagement with the world, and so on. “The Myth of Sisyphus” is one obvious example–in the end, Camus asserts that S. can create meaning through having a task, a purpose, a project. He concludes, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

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    63. A Man Grown,

      Might you be suffering from genre confusion? GRRM’s HORROR short fiction generally ends in a dark place (“Sandkings,” for example), but that’s a genre result. Exempting ASOIAF and related works and Wild Cards, the longer SF/F works absolutely show a pattern of “bittersweet” endings that leave us with hope even in bad places:

      Non-Nihilistic
      Fevre Dream
      Armageddon Rag
      Windhaven (co-author)
      Tuf Voyaging
      Hunter’s Run
      (co-author)

      Possibly Nihilistic, Possibly Not
      Dying of the Light

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    64. Show Nihilism:

      Agree with Sean C. that the North is MUCH less nihilistic in the books, but only need one word to illustrate show nihilism:

      DORNE!!

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    65. Firannion,

      I admit that ASOIAF can’t be conclusively described as nihilistic until the series is completed- nihilism is all about how things end, after all, isn’t it?

      However, I do want to stress that my criticism of ASOIAF isn’t that justice doesn’t always prevail or that people don’t always get what they deserve. I love the poignancy of Aegon “Egg” Targaryen’s story, for example. My criticism of ASOIAF is focused on the way GRRM develops the relationships between characters, not the relentlessness of the world in which the characters live.

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    66. ash,

      I wasn’t actually talking about Petra’s article here, but responding to a person who asked how someone can like the show more, and I gave a example as to why I like it more.

        Quote  Reply

    67. Starktree,

      But Starktree, there can be constructive criticism as well as destructive criticism. Now I have no idea what Mr Martin’s IQ is, so I don’t know whether he is a genius or not. He is very creative and can spin an intriguing yarn (and I sincerely hope he will prove that he can end the said yarn). I can’t see anything in Petra’s article that is derogatory of Mr Martin’s writing – what Petra did was express a preference for the show regarding one aspect of the story. If people convey an opinion on the books then it follows they have read them (or listened to the audio books) and have a knowledge of the written work. Surely as thinking people it is a good thing if we indicate our views and possibly engage in intelligent debate whether it be of the show or the books with the proviso that we stay courteous.

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    68. Petra:
      Firannion,

      I admit that ASOIAF can’t be conclusively described as nihilistic until the series is completed- nihilism is all about how things end, after all, isn’t it?

      Nihilism isn’t about endings, beginnings or middle-points. It’s general philosophical idea which states that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless. Personally I don’t see this stance manifested in the books.
      Bad things tend to happen if you miscalculate your capabilities in the current surroundings and thus do things that you shouldn’t do. This universal law applies everywhere.
      Of course there is always many random factors in play but you can usually estimate at least the rough magnitude of those and take steps accordingly.

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    69. Nihilists? Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenents of National Socialism, Dude, but at least that’s an ethos.

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    70. Simon,

      I posted a complimentary response to your post last night, but it went off to moderation oblivion and never came back. In case it has vanished forever, I supported your objection to calling Camus and/or his work “nihilism” on the grounds that Camus, like Sartre, considered nihilism as the gravest danger for humanity. Remember that these two fought against the Nazis and certainly wanted to be able to call them immoral monsters. They tried various literary and real-world solutions, and perhaps the most famous is the (contra Petra) NON-nihilistic “Myth of Sisyphus,” where Camus allows Sisyphus’ existence to escape futility because he has his rock, his task, his project, and he can choose to give those meaning. Camus even ends thus: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

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    71. Mihnea,

      There’s definitely book characters I don’t like either. God I can’t stand Penny or much of the secondary book characters surrounding Tyrion at present! I just get into the world building big time and the new ones I do like I enjoy the expanding web. All that you mention you hate, I love. I love Vale politics and Iron Bank negotiations, and food descriptions. Well I did get a little angsty about the food descriptions in the last book as I wanted more resolution before the years long wait.

      Sue the Fury,

      I know this article wasn’t about that. The question came to me when reading it, so I figured there’d be no harm in asking it. My apologies if I broke a rule.

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    72. Afeastfordances,

      Yes, very well said. Also, let´s see the example of brother Ray in the books and in the show. Although we don´t know how Ray´s story will end in the books, in the show he and his whole “congregation” are murdered because he was naive enough to believe in the kindness (or rather the no outright evilness) of strangers. I feel the lesson we get from the show is that any kind of trust in other people is stupid, and the only way to survive is to attack anyone before they attack you.

      Aside from whether the nihilist viewpoint is an accurate represantation of humanity or politics (I believe it is not, but that’s another story), I feel that the TV series is way more nihilistic than the books. People that are shown to be cooperative and compromising always lose and die, while brute force always wins.

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    73. Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy,

      I don’t claim to be some kind of expert on nihilism but Dying of the Light and Tuf Voyaging both had damn dark endings. Fevre Dream and Armageddon Rag may have had less bleak endings but that doesn’t mean they were indicative of a writer with a sunny optimistic worldview.

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    74. Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy: Camus, like Sartre, considered nihilism as the gravest danger for humanity. Remember that these two fought against the Nazis

      I think Existentialism is much misunderstood. I’ve heard people associate its worldview with despair and suicide, which would really be much more akin to Nihilism.

      Sartre put it in a nutshell when he said that humanity is “condemned to be free.” We define ourselves and make meaning in our lives by the choices that we make in each moment, regardless of our circumstances that limit those choices and regardless of whether those choices ultimately pay off the way we intend them to. Life brings with it a heavy burden of responsibility, which can also be regarded as a gift if we choose to see it so.

      In the context of Nazism, the Existentialists were pointing out that people in the war crimes trials who claimed that they had no choice but to collaborate because they’d been threatened with death if they didn’t, actually did always have a choice, even if the only alternative was to choose to die rather than behave in unethical and harmful ways. Ceasing to exist (which we all eventually will do anyway) can sometimes be the most honorable choice. That isn’t Nihilism or despair, even when it requires suicide.

      In fact, I’d say that Existentialism is closely akin to Gandhi and MLK’s approach of making radical social change via nonviolent noncooperation. Rarely do societies evolve in a positive way without many having to sacrifice themselves toward a longer-term goal. But whether or not we live to see the outcomes, we are each inescapably responsible for the choices that we make in our own brief lifetime. There are goals that are bigger than us as individuals (even for atheists), and there’s nothing nihilistic about that view at all.

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    75. Firannion,

      Yes, and this is why I believe that this story is NOT nihilistic at all – on the micro level it may be about individual beliefs/decisions/sacrifice, but the bigger picture is about the greater good. Now, I will say there are nihilistic characters, the Mad King being a prime example. But the arc of the story doesn’t bend toward nihilism –

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    76. I wouldn’t call the books nihilistic at all, they are more about subverting usual fantasy expectations with gritty realism.

      Nihilism is more about a lack of beliefs, and the despair and existential crisis that follows it.

      And while usually the show handles characterization better, if only for those little extra moments in which we see the characters interact, it can also force characters to do things that make no sense just to move the story in some direction.

      About Sansa-Tyrion interactions, well, that’s not the best example, Tyrion was (and as a Lannister forever will be) her enemy. Tyrion is nice to her, yes, but she was forced to marry him to give the Lannisters the control of the North, and he agreed, for the good of his family. He even fought against her family with his mountain clans.

      And yes, the show has whitewashed the most popular characters, because the show is now mainstream and to keep such a big budget you need a very big audience. And regular Joe doesn’t like to see the good guys doing bad stuff.

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    77. Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy,

      where Camus allows Sisyphus’ existence to escape futility because he has his rock, his task, his project, and he can choose to give those meaning. Camus even ends thus: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

      Well, yeah (speaking of rocks, I assume the Lannister cousin smashing beetles was also happy 🙂 ) But if you look at the Greek myth, thats not what was intended.

      Tho I do agree – I have not read Camus (tho am familiar with his name and his anti Nazi work), but I do see what he is saying. We can choose something that gives our life meaning, even if it is uncomprehensible to anyone around us. (btw where might I start reading Camus? This discussion has me intrigued.)

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    78. WallyFrench,

      There’s definitely book characters I don’t like either. God I can’t stand Penny or much of the secondary book characters surrounding Tyrion at present! I just get into the world building big time and the new ones I do like I enjoy the expanding web.

      Oh gawd, I hated the Penny section and was soooo thankful that the show dropped it. And I hated some of the excruciating detail that Mihnea mentions. I suspect if it weren’t for that detail, we’d have two books by now. What amazes me about the show is how well they presented the last two books and got rid of much of the filler (then took the arcs to unknown destinations but still fun)

      Firannion,

      We define ourselves and make meaning in our lives by the choices that we make in each moment, regardless of our circumstances that limit those choices and regardless of whether those choices ultimately pay off the way we intend them to. Life brings with it a heavy burden of responsibility, which can also be regarded as a gift if we choose to see it so.

      Thanks for your very enlightening response. Ive never heard Existentialism explained that way (I do remember my HS World Lit teacher comparing it with Nihilism and responsible for many suicides..if he expanded on it I don’t remember) I can agree that we have a choice in how we react, but there is also much chance involved as well – its not always as cut and dry as the philosophers make it Anyway thank you for that post- based on it I can agree that the book is not Nihilism. Just depressing as hell sometimes when you see the choice characters make.

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    79. Mihnea,

      I love the show and see what you are saying. I was responding to your post that I am also a visual person and so can visualize things in the book almost as if I were watching a show. Which might be why I like both, for very very different reasons

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    80. Yaga: If cheating is all you are angry about in this particular situation, then you are a very selfish person.

      Well, yes. This is Jaime we’re talking about. He may not be as selfish as Cersei, but he’s no hero.

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    81. Jenny,

      Let’s not forget the less-hostile interactions between Arya and the Hound in the show. It’s Arya who gets to hear Sandor’s confession of how he was burned and his family covered it up, not Sansa as in the books. (They both got to hear Littlefinger’s sneering rendition of it back in Season 1.) Arya actually expresses some concern for Sandor’s well-being towards the end, and doesn’t tell him “You don’t deserve mercy” before leaving him to die.

      While the books make it clear what a well-matched pair Arya and Sandor Clegane are, Arya never lets her feelings go beyond hatred for the man. The show allows her more depth. I’m hoping that, should she meet him again in Westeros in Season 7, he remains OFF her kill list.

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    82. ash: where Camus allows Sisyphus’ existence to escape futility because he has his rock, his task, his project, and he can choose to give those meaning. Camus even ends thus: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

      Well, yeah (speaking of rocks, I assume the Lannister cousin smashing beetles was also happy )

      ‘Khung-Ghung-Kghuun!’– the sound of the universe at work..?!

      Likewise, I suppose Ramsay found his ‘meaning in life’ exploring the exquisite heights and depths of his little ‘projects,’ and like Camus made the most of the small moments life presented him, like the odd excursion into nature — nothing like some bracing fresh air, the dappled sunshine bouncing about ones back, and an arrow quivering on the edge of the abyss, to awaken ones zest for life! Incidentally, the particular hook which enabled the actor Iwan Rheon to bring Ramsay to life was realizing how much Ramsay relished his hobbies and simply enjoyed just being himself.

      Your example of cousin Orson is an excellent one (albeit slightly sly), especially considering it’s one of D&D’s specially-crafted scenes which they’ve taken the liberty of adding to the source material, and, as such, could shed light on their particular interpretation of that material. Other such ‘special’ D&D scenes which come to mind in the context of ‘nihilism’ (Latin nihil = ‘nothing’) include Jon’s surprising ‘there’s nothing’ after death (discounting the logical fallacy of how exactly he would have been cognizant of nothing, considering both he and the nothing would at that point have been non-existent); and Arya’s pontifications on ‘nothing is just nothing’ shortly before Sandor interrupts her philosophical digressions and gets to the heart of the matter.

      It’s a strange irony that two guys who are so obviously atheistic/agnostic and furthermore grounded in materialism (vs. spirituality of some kind) have landed a show abounding in the supernatural! The way in which they’re reconciled this apparent contradiction is by positioning ‘magic’ and ‘gods’ as fallible, competitive entities which emanate from and within the world; in other words, advanced technologies to which only a select few are privy rather than as some redeeming omniscient presence sent from the transcendent beyond. So, for example, when ‘the Lord of Light’ supposedly ‘brings Jon back,’ that’s presented as a superior form of medical resuscitation; and when Kinvara tells Varys she knows something about him that even Varys does not know, it’s not because she’s necessarily a more advanced spiritual being than Varys, she’s just in possession of more sophisticated spy technologies than him; and the titular ‘Light of the Seven’ of the finale refers not to an aspired state of ‘grace,’ but more literally to the effects of wildfire. By all accounts, it is a rather nihilistic message: Cersei blows the sept sky-high and there is nothing ‘higher’ than the impressive aesthetic display of this luminous green inferno. What’s more, she did so on the first day of the Festival of the Mother, belying the sanctity of her oft-touted saving grace ‘Cersei loves her children’…

      In Tyrion’s scene which you referenced, where he’s despairing before his trial, he collects the beetle between his stubby fingers, then carefully places it back on the ground and sets it free while Jaime watches wordlessly. While his brother may have been small as a beetle in the eyes of men, and worthy of gratuitous crushing, in the eyes of one man ‘there-are-no-other-men-like-me’ Jaime, he was worth saving– you know, ‘the things [he] does for love’… Thus, Jaime set Tyrion free; then Tyrion crawled away and promptly went ‘Khung-Ghung-Kghuun’ to Shae and Tywin, sinking his family and the realm into even greater chaos! I think by now Jaime, like Tyrion, is also contemplating the conundrum of the black beetle and asking himself ‘What’s it all for?’ Jaime threw Bran out a window, ostensibly in order to save Cersei and their children. Now, those children are dead, the last jumped out a window (that cruel irony will not have been lost on him) and Cersei has gone ‘KHUNG-GHUNG-KGHUUUUUUUUN’, eclipsing Aerys (irony upon irony, no wonder he’s such a witty chap)! So, if everything he does is for ‘Love,’ is ‘Love’ really the answer?

      My impression of GRRM is that he’s a romantic cynic or cynical romantic who like Jaime is constantly chipping away at the validity of virtues like ‘love and ‘honor,’ etc., yet cannot quite escape their power. In contrast, D&D do not partake in the subtlety of the oxymoron…Unlike GRRM, they are not romantics– just cynics.

      Queensmoot: Although we don´t know how Ray´s story will end in the books, in the show he and his whole “congregation” are murdered because he was naive enough to believe in the kindness (or rather the no outright evilness) of strangers. I feel the lesson we get from the show is that any kind of trust in other people is stupid, and the only way to survive is to attack anyone before they attack you.

      I can’t argue with this. Furthermore, the show celebrates the behavior of individuals like Cersei and Littlefinger, who have no social conscience weighing them down, as smart and sassy; whereas individuals like Ned and Jon, who try to behave more selflessly ‘for the greater good,’ are shown up as semi-deluded dolts. If the highest value is survival, then indeed the former strategy is not only more effective but more admirable than the latter. If, however, survival in itself is not necessarily the highest value, then one might come to a very different conclusion. The audience is forced to ask themselves the question: Is surviving longer than other people, by any means necessary, enough to ‘win’ the game? Cersei (also not a proponent of the oxymoron) insists there are only two options, ‘You win– or you die.’ Is dying really the opposite of ‘winning’? I would say that Tommen’s final ‘move,’ perhaps the only one he ever initiated himself, might have cast some doubt on her dichotomy. Not to mention ‘Hodor,’ whose first-and-last action was surely not in vain. So, what constitutes ‘winning’? Valar morghulis…all men are condemned to die from the outset; therefore, from a certain perspective no one can really win as long as the game goes on long enough. So, what is the point of living, or dying? Who’s to say?

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    83. zandru,

      Let’s not forget the less-hostile interactions between Arya and the Hound in the show.

      I really loved this. From the moment when he knocked her out at the Red Wedding (and had me screaming till the next scene started), I knew that she was in good hands, even if she did hate him (tho as we see later, she realizes she doesn’t, not really)

      Summer Child,

      it’s one of D&D’s specially-crafted scenes which they’ve taken the liberty of adding to the source material, and, as such, could shed light on their particular interpretation of that material.

      I know this is a much despised scene, but I really liked it I got what it was doing, and thought it was just perfect.

      It’s a strange irony that two guys who are so obviously atheistic/agnostic and furthermore grounded in materialism (vs. spirituality of some kind) have landed a show abounding in the supernatural!

      I know y ou are not saying this, but I always smile at people who assume anyone who is agnostic/atheist is against any sort of spirituality. Like anyone of any faith there are people whose beliefs or non beliefs as you will run the gamut. I like how the link supernatural with magic

      My impression of GRRM is that he’s a romantic cynic or cynical romantic who like Jaime is constantly chipping away at the validity of virtues like ‘love and ‘honor,’ etc., yet cannot quite escape their power. In contrast, D&D do not partake in the subtlety of the oxymoron…Unlike GRRM, they are not romantics– just cynics.

      I dunno I think they are all cynics, and yet deep in their hearts they have a little flame – be it romantic or humanistic, they do have a love for humanity even tho they must needs show the nature of said humans…Or perhaps the flame is simply a desire for humanity to rise above its nature. A wish we all hope for, someday (about the same time that we get the next book perhaps 🙂

      So, what constitutes ‘winning’? Valar morghulis…all men are condemned to die from the outset; therefore, from a certain perspective no one can really win as long as the game goes on long enough. So, what is the point of living, or dying? Who’s to say?

      Im just optimistic enough (barely) to say no one can, but everyone does eventually decide what is the point for them. Which brings up Camus all over again

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    84. ash,

      If you want to start with fiction, I would read The Plague, esp. the conclusion (where the narrator decides there is more admirable than awful about people, even given their behavior during the plague). After that, go with C’s play The Possessed, the amazing-but-little-produced-because it is the ASoIaF of the theater (too long and too expensive to do the whole thing)). I would not read The Stranger unless I first read the Chap. 4 of TMoS, the Sisyphus essay (available free online)–I have used The Stranger in my Philosophy and Lit class, but always make them read S. first because otherwise they get too much existential despair. If you want to explore his philosophy more, The Rebel is more non-fiction that sets out his case for opposing Nazis and Commies as well as the fatcats of the bourgeoisie. (He and Sartre split during the 50s because it took Sartre longer to figure out that the Soviets were not good guys any more than the Nazis were).

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    85. My screen name derives from GRRM’s most clearly philosophical story: “Unsound Variations.” The text contrasts existential despair with free will. In the story, the antagonist has spent many lifetimes (it’s a time travel story) trying to win the chess game referenced in the title, only to finally realize that all of the variations are unsound and the position was never winnable. However, he does not realize that the second part of his scheme–revenge on all of those who wronged him in their connections to that game—is also unwinnable and all variations are unsound because his win conditions demand that the protagonists not only fail but know that he caused their failure. Unfortunately for him, every time he reveals, the other characters realize that they are now free to make what they will of THIS lifetime without his interference. The antagonist then goes back to do it all again for the n-millionth time. Of course, if he would just play a new game or come up with a new way to provide meaning for his life–or even just enjoy the ride itself–he could “win,” but the implication is that, as opposed to the protagonists, he chooses this path again and again through not choosing another (see the excellent discussion of “better dead than being a Nazi” by Firannion above). The protagonists’ lives are all messed up at this moment (no, GRRM is not a “sunny optimist,” but that’s not the only alternative to nihilism), but they can now choose new goals and strive for those.

      Yes, it’s time-traveling Sisyphus!

      BTW, pretty much all of the characters in “Unsound Variations” are based on real people, including Hal Winslow, and I really AM an old buddy of the real-world Hal Winslow.

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    86. simon,

      I just wrote a big post here and then it was gone.

      I referenced The Rebel and The Plague in relation to the end game.

      Will get back to that latter.

      Lots of weird shit happening on this sight at present.

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    87. Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy,

      scribbling titles on my book list Excellent, thanks so much for those! I’d love to take one of your classes. I took a few intro to philosphy in college, really enjoyed them, just didnt have time to delve further. This will be interestin

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    88. simon,

      The point I was trying to make before my comments disappeared – life truly is absurd (that or I pushed the wrong button) – is that Camus’ approach to the absurd at one moment suggest all meaning is absurd that then provides the space for our action to become meaningful (lower case m for meaning) in and of themselves, but only if we are aware of the absurd nature of our whole existence. For Camus absurdity exists in wanting existence to be meaningful and the fact that the universe is silent on this matter. It is our seeking meaning then that is absurd. Once we are dead absurdity is no more. This is reflected in Jon Snow who when brought back from death reveals there is nothing after death. The absurdity of his action then become apparent, and as I have already mentioned are reflected in Thorne’s comment to Jon that he will fight and lose forever. Meaning and hope for Camus are anathema because they imply meaning from above and presuppose a theistic or magical deliverance. As has been said the tasks of life can provide meaning, and interaction with others working for a greater good, like the end of the death penalty, can create a greater meaning and shared experience of meaning amidst an absurd existence – see The Rebel and The Plague. While Jon’s sense of prose has become like that of Sisyphus he is also working for a greater good against an absurd the WW. Together the people of Westerns can come together and seek to resist the coming death from the frozen waits. They may fail but together their actions draw them together when before their lives had been fractured and in conflict.
      It’s also interesting to remember that Camus had strong associations with the Anarchist movement, and in some ways his critique of the USSR were stepped in this tradition. This is why the sparrows had to fail While they wanted to bring social justice to Westerns they brought with it another oppresive master. This I think will play out in Dany’s objective to “smash the wheel” and I think in the end all structure will be destroyed and a new world has the chance to develop out of the ashes of the old and this world will not be one of lords, princes, kings or queens.

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    89. Simon, thanks for this discussion. Really fascinating. Funny, I was at a book discussion this eve (reading Americanah) and some of the same ideas came up in regards to world changing, and meaning. You’ve given me much to ponder.

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    90. ash,

      Agreed that the show did well mostly in trimming unnecessary fat and speeding up slow moving book arcs that could never work in TV. I’d say the show did stumble big time in their depiction of Dorne, essentially gutting it totally and making story decisions that I still can’t possible wrap my head around. D&D must have been high when the writers were pitching some of those ideas! It’s too bad I really enjoyed book Dorne and a properly adapted Dorne could have been soooo good in the show. Instead everyone cringes the moment it’s on screen lol.

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    91. WallyFrench,

      The lack of diversity in setting and characters hurt Dorne. I guess they couldn’t film at night (http://watchersonthewall.com/murder-crows-dorne-dilemma/). Plus, almost every scene takes place in the same courtyard. Very little of the desert. I would have loved to see the Dornish desert at night (even with the queenmaker plot cut).

      As for the characters, I am overblowing it I know. It was all Tyene. I wanted her blonde. I like that the sand snakes have different appearances and personalities in Feast and wished that could have been stressed more. Essentially, the show portrayed them all as Oberyn’s daughters without incorporating their mother’s traits imo. I know Tyene is Ellaria’s daughter in show canon but I didn’t like that either.

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    92. Tycho Nestoris,

      I like the that sand snakes have different appearances

      That is basically all their character…… I have nothing against people disliking Dorne but pretending that the SS are some deep and developed characters is simply not true.

      It’s basically this:
      The ugly fighting one.
      The suave one good at politics.
      And the pretty one with poison.

      This is how all characters in Dorne can be defined, from ”I am of the night” to ”stupid princess”

      All their character development is Hotah remembering/saying how big sluts they are.
      Them being Oberyn’s daughters is exactly how they are in the books. Zero character development otherwise.

      If they did Dorne, as in the books, they would need to give it at least 30 minutes of screen-time, even more if they introduced Aegon, who is linked to Dorne deeply,
      They didn’t want to do this, they would never have done it another way, if anything they would have just cut it all together.

      Dorne would have been a failure anyway, half of the fandom would have hated it, no matter what they did. AFFC is the perfect example, with half the fandom considering Dorne and the II complete and utter travesties.

      So they chose not to pretend Dorne is a huge new player, what Martin did and it blew in his face, because now he is forced to write more of it, but rather a 5 minutes side-plot for Jaime, to get him out of KL, but it has a a conclusion, Myrcella’s death.
      And it serves as a background place with the only purpose of allying with Dany.

      They didn’t pretend Dorne was important or complex, because it isn’t, and any attempt to try and mask it so would have just blown in their faces, like it did with Martin, and they were done in under 10 minutes, with it.

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    93. Mihnea,

      The ugly fighting one.
      The suave one good at politics.
      And the pretty one with poison.

      But the show’s version is even shallower with the three being so similar.

      plus there’s a fourth one who is also unique.

      I agree that a strict “Dorne” from the books would have been poorly received as well. I just wanted more diversity in the show version.

      My main point is that even if the snakes aren’t considered “deep” in the text, they are unique from each other while still sharing traits from Oberyn. I mean, in the show verse, why not have just Obara and give her and Ellaria all the screen time? You are all about cutting filler. Why did the show need 3 almost identical characters for a plot so many disliked in the source material?

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    94. Tycho Nestoris,

      Agreed 100%. I just thought the show erred with the whole we will avenge Oberyn by killing the rest of his family. They really should have made Doran the focus and used an abbreviated queen maker plot and have Myrcella die by mistake when Areo Hotah and troops confront conspirators in desert. A stray arrow or errant swing of a sword. That way the whole “we don’t kill little girls in Dorne” still rings true. The show took away all of Dornes moral high ground at being outraged over the death of the children in the royal family. What upset me too was the show Oberyn was such a badass and was better than even what I had imagined from the books…that to go from greatness to “bad pussy” family killing was just horrible for me as a fan. Hopefully Dany does away with Sand Snakes early in season 7 and we can move forward with Dorne in the rear view mirror.

      Mihnea,

      I think show Dorne could have been done well with minimum of screen time. Have Doran and his children be focus with just one son and daughter. Make Ellaria pacifist like in book in background with one Sand Snake. Dorans children and one Sand snake enact abbreviated queen maker plot with typical HBO sexposition scene with Myrcellas kings guard. Jump to scene in desert with Areo catching them and Myrcella accidentally dying. Even have Doran lose son in desert as kingsguard seeing Myrcella dead takes revenge before Areo puts him down. Then just one more scene with Doran explaining how he had planned to wed his daughter and being Targaryean rule back but that some damn horse lord ruined that. Enter snake and grass speech as well, abbreviated of course. Then same scene with Varys, Queen of Thorns, and now Doran at end of this season.

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    95. WallyFrench,

      That would have required far to much screen-time. They simply wouldn’t.

      Same as a marriage with Dany, simply won’t work plot-wise, just because she won’t marry a Martell, that isn’t her story. Without Aegon, Dorne simply loses it’s importance., it exists to give him a fighting chance against Cersei.

      Not to mention they wouldn’t have what to do with Jaime, they clearly wanted the RR story in S6 not 5.

      And if they would have done that, as you say, the fandom would have still raged, just the other half.

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    96. WallyFrench:
      Tycho Nestoris,

      Agreed 100%. I just thought the show erred with the whole we will avenge Oberyn by killing the rest of his family. They really should have made Doran the focus and used an abbreviated queen maker plot and have Myrcella die by mistake when Areo Hotah and troops confront conspirators in desert. A stray arrow or errant swing of a sword. That way the whole “we don’t kill little girls in Dorne” still rings true. The show took away all of Dornes moral high ground at being outraged over the death of the children in the royal family. What upset me too was the show Oberyn was such a badass and was better than even what I had imagined from the books…that to go from greatness to “bad pussy” family killing was just horrible for me as a fan. Hopefully Dany does away with Sand Snakes early in season 7 and we can move forward with Dorne in the rear view mirror.

      Mihnea,

      I think show Dorne could have been done well with minimum of screen time. Have Doran and his children be focus with just one son and daughter. Make Ellaria pacifist like in book in background with one Sand Snake. Dorans children and one Sand snake enact abbreviated queen maker plot with typical HBO sexposition scene with Myrcellas kings guard. Jump to scene in desert with Areo catching them and Myrcella accidentally dying. Even have Doran lose son in desert as kingsguard seeing Myrcella dead takes revenge before Areo puts him down. Then just one more scene with Doran explaining how he had planned to wed his daughter and being Targaryean rule back but that some damn horse lord ruined that. Enter snake and grass speech as well, abbreviated of course. Then same scene with Varys, Queen of Thorns, and now Doran at end of this season.

      Book Sand Snakes’ stupidity was viewing Doran as weak because they didn’t understand his subtlety and experience at playing the long game. HBO accepted the lame ‘Doran is weak’ premise at face value, and yet still had the SS (and Ellaria) come off as stupid and shallow. I like your version of how it could have played out soooo much better!

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    97. WallyFrench,

      If they wanted Ellaria to be a pacifist in the background, they wouldn’t cast such a well known actress as Indira Varma. Actually, I think the role would have been cut completely in that case.

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    98. Mihnea,

      I think they could have managed it, wouldn’t need a ton of buildup. I don’t even think it would require more time than what they gave to Dorne in season 5. You are right that Jamie would be left floating and would have to be reassigned somewhere. He could go find Gendry! Also in my fake story there would be no potential marriage to Dany as Doran’s only son would be dead.

      Firannion,

      Thanks! 🙂

      Lord Parramandas,

      I was talking about a hypothetical scenario where Dorne didn’t suck (to me) that I made up in my head so the good actress can go to play Doran’s daughter who had a bigger role. Also, the show has used very good actors and actresses for small parts.

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    99. Petra,

      Hi Petra
      Your article got a few interesting threads going. I wonder if its worth pursuing and existential absurdist investigation on the sight somewhere. It would be nice =to have a deeper conversation going on beyond the normal lets all put our tinfoil hats on.

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    100. The show and the books are excellent in my eyes, neither is better than the other but they compliment each other. The show has removed some of the poorer elements of the latter books whilst the books allow us to delve into even great depth of the story.

      That’s my opinion at least.

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    101. A Man Grown,

      Forgot to answer your comment about Tuf Voyaging and Dying of the Light. The ending of Tuf Voyaging is mildly dark. There are solutions to anthropogenic ecological issues, but we may not like them–e.g., the S’uthlamese will have to control their population one way or another, whether through war/famine/starvation, rational choice, or the manna plant that Tuf offers. That is nothing like nihilism. One can make an argument either way about Dying of the Light, but perhaps that derives from the differing responses to the inevitability of death. However, as Firannon and Simon noted above, death is part of the human condition (Valar Morghulis, anyone?) and demands Being-Towards-Death as a reaction, so what the characters face in the novel is just what all of us face, only seen in isolation (SF gedankenexperiment).

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    102. Sean C.,

      Finally someone who gets the real deal! I was astonished to see how many people are comfortable with the weakest aspects of the show, which in my opinion is when plotlines become fanfiction and don’t make that much sense anymore. True: Tyrion is a Lannister, the family usurping Stark land and killing Stark family members, he’s uncle to Sansa tormentor; Sansa has grown up, for example she’s helped Lancel, called a maester for him during the Stannis attack, when his family members (Cersei most of all) left him to die. So she’s growing as a caring woman, but it’s unrealistic to think she can forget all the misery to her Lannister are responsible for and get along with Tyrion!
      To me the plot arcs of the characters in the books are deep and make sense, in the show sometimes they don’t. But the fact is that the novels require much more attention, the tv show is surely more satisfactory on a surface level, and it’s cool because it’s a tv show; but on a deeper analysis lacks the logic of the books.
      All of that, obviously, in my humble opinion.

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