By Jackson Somes
The greatest stories of our culture are recognized and revered by everyone. They have evolved past just mere stories and have become pop culture phenomenon. Of the many stories told by our culture Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings have clearly emerged as not only the largest and most popular stories, but some of the best stories ever told.
Each of these stories created entire worlds for the audience to fall into. Audience members lose themselves in foreign schools, far away galaxies and fantastical medieval worlds where the unimaginable becomes possible and there is a constant struggle between good and evil.
All three of these stories finds the protagonist thrown into a world they don’t fully understand and must immerse themselves with this unfamiliar setting. Only by overcoming all odds the hero, the embodiment of good, is able to champion evil and restore peace to their respective worlds.
Whether it’s Harry Potter, the unfortunate child who lives in a cupboard under the stairs thrown into the world of wizards and magic, or Luke Skywalker, the fatherless child raised on the moisture farm on the desert planet of Tatooine discovering his Jedi potential, or simple Frodo Baggins of the Shire, swept from his home and rushed into a world he does not know and a journey he doesn’t fully understand, the narrative is consistent. From the most unlikely beginnings a hero will rise to the challenge to, almost single-handedly, champion evil.
One of the aspects that makes these stories great is that they are familiar. We know the hero is going to defeat the evil forces but we continue to cheer them on despite this and maybe we shed a tear when it appears as though there is no hope remaining.
However, in recent years a newcomer has entered the arena to battle for the title of ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told.’ George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, or perhaps more commonly referred to as ‘Game of Thrones,’ has received a dramatic rise in popularity easily trumps all of the previously mentioned stories.
The book series is currently five books long and still far from over. The author is currently in the process of writing a sixth book with plans for a seventh to follow that. In 2011, HBO adapted the unfinished book series into a television series which not only garnered critical acclaim, but a boost in popularity for the series.
A Song of Ice and Fire is similar to The Lord of the Rings, in that it takes place in a mythical medieval world. On the continent of Westeros, rival royal families compete for a control of the realm through political deception and military tactics.
One of the reasons this series bests the others is because of the immersive world created by the author. Martin didn’t just create a school or a continent, he created an entire world in which the audience becomes a part of. The audience isn’t left with glimpses this expansive world, but an intimate connection to the political field. The series is riddled with betrayals, backstabbing and political intrigue to keep the reader in a constant state of bewilderment. The text is littered with foreshadowing and prophecies that offer just a sliver of insight as to what events could happen next and forces to the reader to constantly try to determine what the future could hold for the any favorite characters.
A Song of Ice and Fire also breaks the predictable mold that Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings all follow. In the world of Martin, there is no distinct good or evil. Each character is driven by their own motivation and there simply is no concrete, ‘evil’ villain. There are villains alright, but the motivation for their actions are always clearly displayed and are all within a justifiable range of human actions. Some of the characters you learn to hate early on develop into characters that you come to cheer for. The absence of any traditional storytelling pattern genuinely leaves the reader with the question of ‘how will this story end?’
The world of A Song of Ice and Fire needs to be experienced to fully appreciate. To boil the story down to families competing for control of a continent is doing it a serious injustice. Before you go rushing off to your local bookstore however, a warning is required. In the event you do choose to become involved with this story, you will develop an obsession. I would know, I am speaking from experience.