What does a medieval literature scholar read into ‘Game of Thrones?’

BY Victoria Fleischer  April 3, 2014 at 5:22 PM EDT


In the video above, Brantley Bryant, associate professor of medieval literature at Sonoma State University, shares what he and others in his field see of the Canterbury Tales, Le Morte d’Arthur and Beowulf in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the first three seasons, you will learn what happens to certain characters.

The land of Westeros may seem far off for fans of “Game of Thrones,” but as season four of HBO’s successful show is gearing up to start on Sunday, Art Beat learned it may not be as distant as one might think.

According to Brantley Bryant, an associate professor of medieval literature at Sonoma State University, George R.R. Martin, the author of the fantasy series that inspired the HBO show, “has read deeply into medieval history.”

“Sometimes people who haven’t had a chance to read a lot of medieval literature have this idea that it’s a kind of fairy tale world, that medieval literature is this kind of thing where everyone is always very chaste and everyone is very pure and nice,” said Bryant, who specializes in Chaucer.

“Some of the most sensational, violent aspects of ‘Game of Thrones’ are actually also present in medieval literature.”

From Ned Stark to Jaime Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, the violence, the conceptions of justice and the use of monsters and mythical creatures hark back to the worlds of Geoffrey Chaucer and Sir Thomas Malory.

Are Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre a new version of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay? How are the characters of Beowulf and Jon Snow similar?

Justin Scuiletti contributed to this report. This post has been updated to correct the spelling of the Jon Snow.