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Game of Thrones as English Eerie - Printable Version

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Game of Thrones as English Eerie - Mediums Now - 17-06-2019 11:47 AM

I won’t be joining in with the prevailing criticism of Series 8 of Game of Thrones. It’s not that the criticisms (to do with rushed narrative and unconvincing character motivation) are necessarily wrong, but that for me the series ran out of steam a few years ago. There were really two things that made Game of Thrones stand out as a superior work of TV art. The first was the brilliant portrayal of the power struggles that play out behind the scenes of geopolitical upheavals. The second was the powerfully plausible depiction of the ethos and Weltanschauung of a pre-modern society. The former became weighed down by its own intricacies. The latter continues to impress. So it is the latter element that manages to hold my interest, and that element really boils down to the atmosphere of the show.

This atmosphere strikes me as being completely at one with the world of the Hyborian Age as created by Robert E. Howard in his sequence of Conan stories. Howard was a Texan, but his longing for a mythic European past was absolutely evident in all of his work. There is a Welsh word, hiraeth, that means homesickness, but it also expresses a deeper set of meanings that encompass a deep sense of nostalgia or longing, often for an ancestral home. In this latter sense it can denote a powerful longing for a home that you never had. Howard’s sense of almost metaphysical belonging to this prehistorical world seems to fit that description perfectly.

The world that Howard created is one in which life and death are matters not for contemplation or theological speculation but are instead part of a wager which is won or lost quickly and decisively. This sense of ur-pagan pathos hangs over all of Howard’s work throughout the Conan stories and is manifested particularly in the extraordinary paintings of Frank Frazetta. Frazetta created the visual template for Conan that will never be superseded. His paintings, despite the often lurid content, boil down to the fight for survival; there will be a winner and there will be a loser, and he captures that sense of life and fate hanging in the balance, poised on the arc of a sword swung true.