This book explores many of the theological and religious themes present in the Game of Thrones HBO television series and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Written for academics yet accessible for the layperson, the chapters explore themes of power, religion, and sacred institutions in Westeros; Christian ecclesiology in the Night’s Watch and the religion of the Iron Islands; Augustinian notions of evil in the Night King and anthropology in the Seven; Orientalism, Hinduism, and the many worldviews in the World of Ice and Fire, and the series more controversial and disturbing themes of rape and death. Theology and Game of Thrones will appeal to theology and religious studies scholars and fans alike as it explores these elements in Martin’s complex fantasy epic.
Matthew Brake (M.Div., Regent University) is the series editor for the Theology and Pop Culture series and runs the Popular Culture and Theology blog.
Introduction: Sex, Violence, and Theology in the World of Ice and Fire Matthew Brake
Part I: Power and Sacred Institutions in the Seven Kingdoms
1. Seasons Change and “Winter is Coming”: Patterning in Game of Thrones and the Hebrew Bible Eric X. Jarrard
2. Targaryen Exceptionalism and Politics in the Sacred Structures of Westeros
Mollie Gossage and Edgar Valles
3. Guest Rights and Gods: Historical Hospitium in Game of Thrones Katy Krieger
Part II: Ecclesiology of Thrones
4. What is Dead May Never Die: The Drowned God and Jesus’ Call to Discipleship
Shaun C. Brown
5. Ragamuffins Bound by the Word: The Ecclesiology of the Night’s Watch Drew McIntyre
Part III: Augustine Goes to Westeros
6. Night Kings and Shadow Assassins: Reflections on Death, Evil, and Privation Mark Wiebe
7. The Faith of the Seven and Faith in the Trinity David Mahfood
Part IV: Dispatches from Essos: Pluralism and Orientalism in the World of Ice and Fire
8. Is Hinduism Present in Game of Thrones? Jeffery D. Long
9. “To reach the west you must go east”: The Empty Shadow of Postsecular Orientalism in A Song of Ice and Fire Justin KH Tse
10. Comparative Worldview Studies and A Song of Ice and Fire: World Religions, Comparison, and Fictional Worlds Nathan Frederickson
Part V: The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors: Sexual Violence, Death, and the Real in Game of Thrones
11. Concupiscence, Coercion, and the Communion of Persons: Reading the Rape of Cersei
12. Valar Morghulis: Late-Modern Imaginaries of Death and Nihilism in Game of Thrones
Andrew D. Thrasher
13. Hodor: The Transubstantiation of the word Made Death, The Theological Real in Game of Thrones Loraine Haywood
This is a volume that showcases a number of truly excellent, insightful, and provocative essays (in all the best ways) that explore the theological subtexts and religious themes that have been interwoven throughout George R.R. Martin’s masterful fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, and in the derivative HBO series, Game of Thrones. Popular fiction has always engaged the cultural landscapes familiar to its audience, and the fantasy world by Martin is no exception. In particular, and as revealed in the essays within this volume, the character dramas and social tensions that are set in this world take inspiration from Biblical themes (but not only!) of sin, guilt, damnation, and repentance. Truly, these works are a genre-defining collection of essays, and they should enjoy a wide readership of academics and non-academics alike.
This volume packs a sea of splendid inquiries into George R.R. Martin’s fantasy opus, ranging from a psychoanalytic examination of Hodor and Hindu themes to the myriad worldviews explored in print and the small screen. Theology and Game of Thrones is dense but accessible for students and scholars of religion and pop culture, along with any inquisitive readers hoping to place fictional worlds in a broader context.