This Video Explores the Slippery Relationship Between History and Mythology in Game of Thrones

A family at war.
Image: HBO

Why is it called A Song of Ice and Fire, anyway? What makes it a “song”, and what’s the significance of songs in the universe George RR Martin created?

YouTube Just Write tackles that question in an intriguing little video that examines the messy relationship between mythology and history in Westeros. Songs are mythology—stories we tell ourselves about the past, the purview of bards and jesters and, generally, a big deal in Westeros. They’re the way glory is configured and shared. In Martin’s world, songs are a big deal, and they’re more than just nice music. People live and die over who’s going to be writing the epic ballads of today’s history, and what those singers are going to be saying.

Calling the story “a song”, then, is a bit of irony on Martin’s part, a gesture toward the mythologizing that will inevitably occur over the “real” history of Westeros he tells in his novels. Or are his stories already the mythology, and the history is something else altogether?

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Just Write handles the material well, drawing some interesting conclusions about the way Westeros makes sense of itself, and how we need to make sense of it. Before going into the final season of Game of Thrones on April 14th, it’s a nice, thoughtful watch. 

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Julie Muncy

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.