What Game of Thrones Owes to J.R.R. Tolkien and Norse Mythology

Posted March 23, 2018 in More

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If it’s true that good artists borrow and great artists steal, then the man behind the novels Game of Thrones is based on could be said to rank among the world’s truly great artists. A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin expertly integrates such material as Byzantium history, Mongolian legends, and War of the Roses. His main ingredient, however, is undoubtedly Viking stories. As Martin clearly discovered, while it’s never really read today, to ensure that a story becomes a huge success, it’s never a bad idea to borrow from The Volsunga Saga.

The Volsunga Saga

The Saga is the story of Sigmund and his son Sigurd and tells a tale of passion and violence. Any stories with evil dragons, proud female warriors, gold hoards, and magic swords owe a lot to the legends found in The Volsunga Saga. Some of the more familiar moments include Sugurd promising to marry with Brunhild after he rescues her from a ring of fire, and Sigurd fighting a dragon, who is protecting gold that belongs to dwarves.


The great interpreter

Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien is perhaps the greatest contemporary interpreter of Norse material. Gathering and fusing stories from Nordic sources, the most important element in his works was The Volsunga Saga, along with related work The Elder Edda. Tolkien could even understand Old Norse literature and borrowed some of the more important names directly from The Volsunga Saga.


A familiar tale

The Volsunga Saga’s influence is widespread, and that isn’t limited to fantasy fiction. World of Warcraft, the biggest online multiplayer role-playing game in the world, would be instantly recognisable to the Germanic people of a millennium ago. Sometimes, we see fiction and gameplay come together, with games such as The Lord of Rings: War of the North and Game of Thrones slot. The latter, available to play on JohnSlots, offers a 75,000 kronor bonus and 125 free spins to keep those busy who wish to immerse themselves in Martin’s world. That’s, of course, when they’re not watching the show itself or reading the original novels.


From one generation to the next

The continued success of the stories is remarkable when you take into account the fact that those fans who follow one strain don’t always follow the rest. Game of Thrones viewers, for example, are not all the same as those who would go and see Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen, in spite of the fact that both are essentially elaborations of those legends originally discovered in the very same source material.


Game of Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow Quotes o” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by DigitalMajority

Nobody other than specialists, however, are aware of the actual story of The Volsunga Saga. If they wished to learn it, they could simply watch Game of Thrones, as Martin has included everything they would want to know, anyway. Martin’s gift, however, isn’t simply adapting the various sources he’s borrowed from – it’s how he converts those ancient tales into an organic story structure and causes millions of viewers all over the world to become addicted to them. Part of that ability, of course, is knowing what tales people have always wanted told to them in the first place.

Howard Pyle – The Awakening of Brunhild by Howard Pyle (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License) (Main Photo)



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