I Wrote a Fairy-Story

Some thoughts on the process of writing in one of the genriest of genres.

I’ve wanted to write a work of fantasy since I started writing[1]. And in fact I began my career (in 2nd Grade) with a story called Sorfanzorck where different types of monsters do battle in a world called Sorfanzorck. I tried a few times as I got older to write a bigger and better one (including Sorfanzorck 2), but I always gave up. As I got older and started writing more fiction, I thought up plenty of ideas for novels (fantasy and otherwise), but I didn’t write a complete draft of one until I was *checks notes* 22 years old[2]. It was a family drama, which is a far cry from high fantasy. The next novel I wrote was a fairly subdued literary fiction type deal, and while the supernatural crept into the novella I wrote after that, it was still about a young boy in 1960’s rural Wisconsin.

But, in the meantime, I was delving more and more into fantasy storytelling, as much of my last year or so has been devoted to the Tolkien legendarium and A Song of Ice and Fire + Game of Thrones. In so doing, I found myself thinking up my own fantasy stories, or bits and pieces of them, but I was hesitant to try to put them together into a full story. It felt pointless to do so when there are so many towering achievements in the genre, as well as myriad lesser imitations that have still managed to get published. It was the wrong way to think, but I was feeling like my fantasy world needed to do or say something in a distinct voice.

The push I needed to start writing turned out to be the final season of Thrones, not because it was good, but because it wasn’t[3]. In my frustration with the ways the storytelling faltered, especially in comparison to all of the thoughtful fan theories that had been going around for years, I thought it was time to go for it, even though at that point all I really had were a few general characters, scenes, and concepts to work with. Many people, including the incomparable Dr. Ed Risden, say to write what you want to read, rather than just wishing that story had been written by someone else. Writing a fantasy of my own was a way to engage with my love of and disappointment in Game of Thrones.

My endeavor[4] reinforced the fact that writing fantasy is really challenging, but it also made it clear to me that it is doable and that so many of the mistakes made by certain Emmy-nominated writers are inexcusable. Here are some things I learned in the experience of writing a fantasy novel:

It’s harder than writing other fiction. This is another reason why I was hesitant to start writing; writing a novel is hard enough without having to account for all the world building that goes into writing fantasy. What does this world look like? Who lives there? What technology exists? Are there non-human creatures? Is there magic, and, if so, how does it work? These questions (and many more) have to be answered in order to make the world feel real, and the rules of the world have to be consistent. A strong sense of place is necessary in all fiction, but it’s easier to guide the reader through 2000’s rural Wisconsin than it is to bring them into an imagined world, even if the reader is familiar with some standard fantasy conventions and tropes.

It’s also easier than writing other fiction. Turns out, being able to make things up is easier than following the rules. As I just said, writing fantasy requires the author to establish and follow in-universe rules, but that can be easier than abiding by the rules of this universe. Writing a period piece requires looking up things like what year Ben E. King released “Stand By Me” and what kind of trucks people drove in the 50’s and 60’s. Writing contemporary literary fiction requires a realistic imitation of the world that all your readers are familiar with. But in a fantasy world, I get to decide how the government works, how far it is between here and there, what kind of weapons people use, and how the class system makes people feel. I have to be consistent with those made up things, and consider how the imagined rules impact the characters, but there are times when that can be easier than trying to imitate what the real world is like.

Names, maps, and languages are not just bells and whistles. This is both a routine annoyance and a fundamental part of building a world. What to name your characters and your places, and why? Names and the sounds of names mean something. The language people use changes how they relate to each other and understand their world. It isn’t necessary to invent a language before writing a fantasy novel, but at the same time Tolkien’s approach to world-building is not just an extra move by a gifted philologist. A working system of words help breathe a world into existence. Rather than try to make up names, I used a name generator (which is itself an impressive work – follow that link and check out Emily’s project). Even doing that was not mindless or random. In the future, I’m sure I will change many of the names to increase the consistency, and while doing it this way worked fine, it revealed how a world can be enriched by a good system of language and naming.

So too with places – the actual shape and topography of the world. I haven’t created a map yet, but I will have to at some point. It gets tricky, because things need to happen in specific places, and those places need to be the right distance from each other, and what is next to what will affect what happens where. Again, Tolkien established his maps early, and while “Of Beleriand and Its Realms” is rightly considered the driest chapter of The Silmarillion, it’s still part of an important task in building the world[5].

Building the world helps tell the story. In describing the interior of a palace-type building, I referred to how the art and architecture represented the historical time period when those parts of the palace were constructed, giving my world history. One of my characters is a high-ranking official, and in her first chapter she brushes off the supplications of a low-level official, and then I thought hey, I want to know what’s up with that guy, so I made him another point of view character. A valuable metal is crucial to life in my world, but in order to make it more than a McGuffin, I considered how its value would impact society, and what would happen if one of the characters discovered it in their lands. World building is hard and takes times, but through it the story reveals itself.

Chekhov’s lore is useful and a ton of fun. Sometimes worldbuilding involves referring in passing to a person place or thing, and the first time its mentioned I might not really know much about that person place or thing. But then, later on, an opportunity will arise to mention that person place or thing again, and this time it feels much more real and much less like a place-holder. It’s important in storytelling to set things up ahead of time, and sometimes this can be done by just referring back to something mentioned earlier. This is also a way that symbols and themes can emerge in telling a story. I didn’t know that fire would be an important symbol in my story, but it just sort of arose naturally as a recurring thing.

It’s surprisingly easy to insert social commentary, but a little subtlety is important. One of the (many) reasons it is ridiculous to deride fantasy as escapist is because so often it reflects or comments on our own lived reality. We can see this in the psychology of characters, but also in their sociological conditions. I found, in constructing a society, that it was a natural thing to invoke our own social issues, both intentionally and without thinking about it. Either way, I found that the more overt it was, it was more likely to jar a reader out of the world and not match with the tone of the story. I also found that it was useful to have multiple characters give a perspective on an issue.

It’s important to consider how to go about making intentional references to social issues, but I also found how easy it is invoke various issues unintentionally. Race and gender are tricky in fantasy, and I’m not going to try to give this a full discussion in one small post right now, but suffice to say that as a white American male it is too easy to fall into the familiar mistakes.

Characters still matter (duh). A fantasy story has the inherent advantages of constructing a captivating world full of intriguing creatures and powers, but I found myself still most drawn to making great characters and having them interact with one another. I wrote my most favorite character ever in this story, and, for the first time, I got a little bit emotional when I killed a character off. It’s easy when writing genre fiction to rely on tropes and archetypes – I don’t have to do as much work to acquaint you with the wise old man as with some rando guy in rural Wisconsin – and it’s okay to use tropes and archetypes to some extent, but it’s even better to write in relation to those existing conventions. It’s become exhausting to mention “subverting expectations” in relation to Thrones, but what made Jaime arguably the best character in the books and in the show (until they made a mess of it) was the way his character subverted the idea of the knight in shining armor.

World building is crucial to fantasy storytelling, but the story becomes something special when compelling characters act within that world and interact with each other.

There’s no internet. It’s fun to write about a world where people hear things via word of mouth. I love the the way this works in ASoIaF + Thrones, and actually the video game Skyrim uses it to nice effect, too. People hear about things going on in the world days after they happen, and probably with some healthy embellishment, and they talk about them with each other (“did you hear,” “they say,” “then I took an arrow in the knee”). It’s a lot more interesting to have your characters talk about something you wrote a few chapters earlier than it is to describe a scene of a bunch of people staring at their phones (if you’re reading this on your phone please finish reading, share a link to my blog, and then put your phone away).

Earned epic moments are fun to write, not just to read. I don’t mind reading and writing little scenes. I enjoy writing dialogue. Many of my favorite things to read are not necessarily plot-driven, and my own longer works often lack drama. But oh man is it fun to write an epic banger of a chapter. We love these moments in fantasy stories that give us chills[6]. I can now confirm they are fun to write, not just read. However, I was reminded of how important it is for these moments to be earned. In this most recent work, one of the first ideas I had was for this dramatic moment in a battle, but it didn’t end up happening until one of the last chapters. So much of the the story went into setting it up, and I had to be patient even though I wanted so much to write it. The moment did not disappoint, and I love what I came up with, and I love the way the rest of the story built towards it.

And, lastly, I feel more sympathy for George. I have taken a fairly moderate stance towards George R.R. Martin’s lack of progress in finishing The Winds of Winter, let alone A Dream of Spring. I understood why it was taking him so long, and recognized he was carrying quite a burden, but I also couldn’t quite wrap my head around why he wouldn’t just freaking go for it and finish the damn thing. My guess is I would be even more frustrated if I wasn’t such a new reader (there are people who have been waiting 23 years for this saga to end). However, now, after trying in earnest to write some fantasy, I understand just a little better the challenge he is facing. I’m already starting to see how much I have to keep track of while trying to construct a coherent narrative, and my world is 1/100 the size of Martin’s. He has the expectations of millions of readers, so he has to get it right, and, well, knowing what “right” is can be quite challenging. You can do it, George!

That’s all for now. Maybe someday you’ll step into the world I’m working on, but for now I’m glad you took the time to read this. Look for another (quite different) post next week.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

Notes

~click the number to return to the text~

1 Oh goodness me that is a terrible way to start a blog post. But it’s true.
2 And it was baaaaaaaad. But that’s okay! There was some good in there, and writing is like anything else that requires failures to improve.
3 For the most part, I tried to not think about the last two seasons or engage with Thrones-related content for a few months after the finale. It’s only recently I’ve started thinking back on how bad they were. I really, really enjoyed Lindsay Ellis’ two-part breakdown of the problematic writing.
4 I always type this word “endeavour” without thinking and I want to leave it that way but the squiggly red line is just too much for my OCD brain. That’s an Anglicization we need back.
5 Just wanted to take this opportunity to say I love The Silmarillion and also it is better than The Hobbit and we need to stop scaring people away from it by saying it is challenging and/or boring.
6 Speaking of The Silmarillion, sometimes I just think about Fingolfin calling out the most powerful being in Middle-Earth to fight him and I’m just like man. That’s got to be the most epic moment besides Húrin’s last stand.

Abstract and Brief Chronicles of the Time

If Kevin Feige can announce ten Marvel projects over the next three years, I can announce three blog posts over the next three weeks.

Do you ever write a first sentence, or even just a first word, and think about ten (give or take) ways you could go from there? With this post, I got as far as the word “Well,” which I didn’t end up starting this post with, because I’ve realized how often that is how I/we/he/she/me start sentences both written and spoken. Now, to let you behind the curtain, this is most certainly not the way I thought this post was going to start. But, as Sean Connery’s titular character in Finding Forrester argues: “The first key to writing is to write. Not to think.”

Despite the dearth of posts on this blog, I have been writing (and thinking, probably too much) quite a lot. For the last year or so, my work and living situation has given me lots of time to write, and I’m proud to say I have taken advantage of it. I wrote a novel about Wisconsin and death (I only meant it to be about one of those things) which is just now starting to get some eyes on it and we’ll see what becomes of it. I wrote a novella about innocence and Christian mysticism (which happens to take place in Wisconsin), and that’s on the shelf until it isn’t. And now I just finished the first part of a long work of fantasy.

I moved to a new city for a new job about a month ago, and that new job started Friday, and my writing habits are going to have to change. This might be just as well, as I’d like to take a break from writing longer projects and return to focusing my efforts on blog posts. Ideally I’ll be posting one a week going forward. I’ve made similar commitments before…in April 2015 I wrote: “Around this time last year I decided that I was going to try to post something on the blog close to every day. And I failed. Miserably. I wrote consistently for a couple weeks but it didn’t take long for me to give up on the venture.” A key difference this time is that I understand better than ever that a blog takes longer than a day to write, and I now have much more practice with the writing close to every day thing. I’m also not declaring this into the reaches of perpetuity; it’s a temporary goal.

As it happens, I have a plan for the first three posts (the order of two and three could change). First, I’m going to do some metacognition by sharing some of my thoughts on the process of writing fantasy. There will be some inside baseball in that one, but I think it will have broader interest for anyone who likes to think about how we come up with and relate to stories. Next, I’ll have an essay about one of my five favorite writers and one of my five favorite directors, and while proselytizing for both of these remarkable artists (hint: one is Norwegian and the other Japanese) I will discuss some of the things their works have in common which I think are interesting and significant. The third will be an essay about an important theme present in Tolkien’s legendarium, Harry Potter, The Road, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (hint: it starts with an “h” and rhymes with the best Wisconsinism).

And now, mostly unrelated, I just wanted to share Proverbs 20:5 with you. The Bible, the Book of Proverbs included, can feel repetitive sometimes (don’t @ me), but I don’t think there’s anything quite like this proverb, or at least not said quite this way. I find it compelling:

“The intentions of a person’s heart are deep waters, but a discerning person reveals them.”

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

The Dread Before Debate

This is the unofficial start of a great and terrible journey.

Some things matter even though they’re stupid.

The ACT. 80s action movies. The application form you have to fill out even after uploading your resume. Two-night-20-candidate-primary-debates.

It’s stupid, what NBC is putting on TV Wednesday and Thursday night, because that’s too many people talking at the “same” time for each to give a fair impression of themselves and their ideas, let alone engage with each other in actual debate. It’s also possible that the ability or inability to do well in a debate – however we decide to measure that – is a poor indication of what kind of president a person would make.

But it matters, as primary debates have the power to affect voters’ decisions, especially early and in a crowded field. It matters, because it helps winnow the field and it informs how the media will cover the candidates.

And so, even though it’s stupid, I’m going to watch it. Both nights. Alone. Probably beginning to end. Perhaps I’ll splurge on a cheap bottle of wine.

I called it a clown car when the Republicans did it, and it’s a clown car this time, too, but now it’s my clown car (and these clowns exhibit a general level of competence and decency).

If it was just stupid, I wouldn’t be so worked up about it, because then I could just ignore it if I don’t like it. The stupidity of the Grammys holds the potential to baffle and infuriate, but since they don’t actually matter it’s not the end of the world when Taylor Swift wins Album of the Year for 1989. On the other hand, the stupid Oscars do matter, and so it’s a travesty when Green Book wins Best Picture. This upcoming unwieldy, ungainly, unholy debate with all its pageantry and unrealistic performativity is stupid, but it matters.

Again, it matters because the field of candidates is massive and needs to shrink somehow, and this is the way we’ve decided to do it, because if there’s one thing Americans love in their government and politics, it’s nostalgic outdatedness. One way or another we need to eliminate contestants, and short of a Michael Scott “Beach Games” style competition, this is as good a way as we’ve got. Imperfect as it is, these debates will have an impact on who becomes a serious candidate going forward, and that, obviously, matters.

Rather than tune out the debates and their subsequent coverage, I’ll engage with them because they are important, but by doing so I will be subjecting myself to the beast of political primary season, which, like working with the Flying Dutchman and daytime television, is grueling, mind-numbing, and repetitive. By watching on Wednesday and Thursday, and then, inevitably, following along with the reaction, I will be entering into something that will make me confused, frustrated, and anxious. This first debate will signal the start of my engagement with this process, and, therefore, I’m dreading it.

I’m dreading having to watch as petty attacks and counterattacks unfold, faux pas become national scandal, backlash comes for the backlash, willful misrepresentation runs wild, and Joe Biden inexplicably maintains frontrunner status. I’m also dreading, albeit with a sort of guarded optimism, watching these twenty people perform for me as a yet undecided person. I don’t know now which one of these people I like the most, or who my first and second backups are, but they’re going to come from this field. I’ll be interacting with the one before I know who they are, like the first few weeks of Hogwarts or Christian college. What if I come to love a candidate only to see them fall in the polls? What if I set myself against another and then they emerge as the only viable alternative to one I dislike even more?

There will be more debates, and I’ll do more research and take the isidewith quiz, but this first impression still carries a lot of weight.

But that’s all just the primary – I’m also faced with the reality that one of the people – and it may not be my first, second, or even third choice – will be the Democratic nominee and the person I will support in the general election. This is it; this slate of twenty people holds the name of the nation’s hope for decency, competency, and the fundamentals of our republic, and Larry Bird’s not walking through that door.

Which brings me to what I’m dreading most about this first official step in really getting to know this field of candidates: whatever happens, for better and worse, in this Democratic primary, millions of people, including many of my family and friends, are going to vote for Donald Trump.

It doesn’t really matter who “we” decide on. It doesn’t matter how qualified and civil that person is, how well-reasoned and well-intentioned their policies are, or how patriotic and inspiring they act. We can put all these people under the microscope and suss out the “best” candidate and proudly present them before the world in Milwaukee next summer, and they might just be our sacrificial lamb before the Republican Molech and the devastating weapon of the Electoral College. Even if Trump is defeated, the fact remains that people I know to be thinking, feeling individuals will have decided long before that the candidate representing my views is inferior to that guy. All the discourse, base and elevated alike, put into the Democratic primary will be dross before them. They might have hardly given any thought to the differences between Trump’s potential opponents.

This is how the rest of the Eastern Conference felt about LeBron all those years, isn’t it?

On a personal, selfish level, I’ll admit I dread the possibility of going all in on a candidate and finding myself in a place where I really believe they are the Prince/Princess Who Was Promised, buying their merch and touting their policies and maybe even doing some actual on the ground work to flip Wisconsin, only to see them lose to a man who I still can’t believe is President even though I actually can believe it because I have studied American history but you know what I mean. But on a greater, existential level, it’s just a real bummer. The most “electable” candidate might get nominated and that soul-selling will be for naught, or the most inspiring might get nominated and that ambition will be punished.

And it’ll make this entire thing, beginning with this ridiculous debate, seem all that more stupid.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

Old Nan Won

In an uneven finale, Game of Thrones made a surprising case for the power of stories.

Game of Thrones is a story and a story about stories. The ending of the story was imperfectly told, but that truism made it through. While the last season has done much to obfuscate tone, messages, and themes, the finale promoted and endorsed the power and importance of stories as they operate in the world of the show as well as in our own consumption of them. It was an imperfect finale, rife with the same sorts of shortcomings in the writing that have plagued the last two seasons, but if nothing else (and there wasn’t nothing else), the final episode was clear that stories matter.

In the third episode of the show, we are introduced to Old Nan, a servant woman in Winterfell, who is best known for her stories. Bran says he hates her old stories, but – unfazed – Nan claps back that she “knows a story about a boy who hated stories,” and then tells him about the terrifying Long Night, once again captivating the boy’s mind, and terrifying this boy with the prospect of seeing pale spiders big as hounds in later episodes (thank the old gods and the new we never faced that). In the books, Nan’s stories are referred to many times, primarily in Bran’s point-of-view chapters.

Seventy episodes later, and Tyrion makes his case for Bran’s kingship on the basis of the power of stories:

“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories…. Who better to lead us into the future?”

Bran as King is a surprising and hastily put together turn in the plot, but Tyrion’s speech builds off of his fireside storytime with Bran in the season’s second episode and builds off of what Sam said of Bran’s importance to the Night King in that same episode: “If we forget where we’ve been, what we’ve done, we’re not men anymore. We’re just animals…. If I wanted to erase the world of men, I’d start with you.”

What the Three-Eyed Raven does and whether or not that actually makes Bran the best choice to be king are two of the many, many questionable aspects of the ending of the show, but this characterization of Bran does build upon an important theme that has been there throughout the series – the power of stories.

“Do you know what the realm is?” Petyr Baelish asks Varys in one of their iconic conversations. “It’s the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies. A story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget that it’s a lie.”

“But what do we have left once we abandon the lie?” replies Varys. “Chaos. A gaping pit waiting to swallow us all.”

In the second season, Varys tells Tyrion that “power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall.” This line is referred to twice in season eight.

The ability to tell the right story in the right way is established as fundamental to power, but storytelling is also a dynamic, world-shaping activity in the books and, to a lesser extent, in the show. Nobles and smallfolk alike are constantly telling stories, sharing news and rumors as well as tales from prior days. Sometimes an accurate version makes it across the realm, but they generally end up twisted or embellished. These stories are part of the breathtaking achievement of Martin’s worldbuilding, and they are also crucial to driving the realm’s politics. The show did well to capture this element for so long, which made it so perplexing when characters seemed to stop hearing rumors or asking questions in the final two seasons (with a notable exception of Hot Pie, who has heard tell of Jon Snow and the Battle of the Bastards, leading to Arya heading North). The absence of this aspect of the show as of late helps underscore how important it was for so long.

The storytelling that led to King Bran the Broken may have been shoddy, but there is no denying the show has long endorsed Tyrion’s lofty appraisal of stories. Whether or not Bran’s coronation makes sense, Game of Thrones has made very clear that stories shape the world and are more than capable of king-making.

The importance of stories continued to develop through the episode, albeit in a more meta and interpretive form. We see Brienne, now Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, fill in Jaime’s pages in the Book of Brothers. Perhaps no character in the show is as shaped by the stories people tell about them as Jaime, but now Ser Brienne, who knows him better than anyone, is able to record the definitive account of his deeds as a member of the Kingsguard. In the Small Council meeting, Sam presents Tyrion with A Song of Ice and Fire, Maester Ebrose’s telling of the events following the death of King Robert Baratheon, hot off the inkwell. The creaking sound you can hear is not the binding of the massive tome, but the imperiled Fourth Wall. It’s a somewhat clumsy nod to the source material and another ode to stories, but perhaps the most compelling bit of this moment is when Sam tells Tyrion that Ebrose has not mentioned Tyrion once in the entire history. It’s a reminder that history and memories are kept alive through their telling, and that telling is flawed and biased and can leave out crucial characters.

Familiar scenes, situations, and aesthetics in the post-Dragonpit part of the episode evoke cycles, looking ahead while calling back. There’s a Small Council meeting, a crowning of a Northern monarch, a new voyage for Arya, and a journey North for Jon, clad in black with Ghost by his side. Westeros has changed, but much has stayed the same, just as the show has changed, even if the final scenes refer back to what has come before. A single green chute grows out of the snow, surely alluding to A Dream of Spring and reminding us of cyclical seasons. The world goes on. The story goes on.

As Jon goes beyond the Wall, he looks back through the closing gate, and it is almost as if he is looking back at us, giving us the power over the story. We have talked and talked about this story, and as he heads out into the wilderness, we will continue to talk about this story, arguing about plot points, devising fan theories, rewriting scenes and characters, putting together endings, imagining origins, rewatching, rereading, and hoping for the next book. There will be prequels and spin-offs, surely, and we will talk about those, too, but this once in a generation story will go on and on because it’s a story we like hearing and one we like telling. And it’s not just stories about Westeros and the world of A Song of Ice and Fire – Jon’s look back at us encourages us to go on telling all stories. Post Thrones, it’s our turn to go on telling great stories the way we want to tell them, sharing them with people who we hope will listen and be filled with wonder, so much so that they might tell someone else about it. Game of Thrones is not the first story to change our lives, and it won’t be the last.

I don’t know how much of this David Benioff and D.B. Weiss intended. It’s possible they made this case largely on accident, or they might have really meant to compose a love letter to stories. It’s also possible that this is a final defense for their handling of the story. It could be their way of saying Look, this is really hard to do. Don’t be so sure you could do better. We’re trying. You’re welcome and fuck off. Or it could be an acknowledgement of their shortcomings and an endorsement of all the fan theories that are, well, better than what they gave us. They’re admitting that they, like Ebrose, have a Tyrion-shaped omission in the narrative, and they’re happy to know that other people who care about the story have put together thoughtful additions and alterations to the tale. Again, I don’t know what their intentions were, but the prominent placement of stories in the finale invites us to consider who the story belongs to and how it will exist in our minds. It also makes these idiots signing a petition to remake the final two seasons look that much more like hive-minded fanboys (and I say this as someone who will, to some extent, see the story (but not the show) as ending at the end of Season 6 until George (hopefully) finishes the books).

The fact that the spirit of Old Nan, your favorite storyteller’s favorite storyteller, prevailed in the finale is an encouraging thing for me. As a student of Foucauldian discourse analysis, I’m fascinated by the considerations of how narrative, discourse, and knowledge determine social and political power. The ideas that would have intrigued any number of chain-smoking French philosophers and over-caffeinated English grad students drove the political intrigue of earlier seasons, and it is gratifying to see them given such prominence in the final chapter. Tyrion’s Dragonpit speech – despite the ridiculous elements of that scene – is worth thinking more about because of what it suggests about the relationship between storytelling and power, and because it validates previous treatments of the subject in the show. But I’m also encouraged and pleased by the echoes of Old Nan as a reader and as a writer, as someone who loves and values history and literature. I love stories, from well-told accounts of the weird things that happen in our daily lives to long tales of romance in 19th Century Russian aristocracy. And I truly believe that storytelling is not mere diversion or escapism, but a virtuous act that improves the self and our communities. Consuming works of art is fun and fulfilling, and to see that idea so clearly preserved in the finale of Game of Thrones does my story-loving heart good.

The last two seasons of Thrones were, in most respects, excellent, when considering the cinematography, score, audio and visual effects, acting, production, and, well, just about everything besides the writing. It was great TV, even if it was often not great storytelling. This makes it all the more satisfying that, after all of the powerful characters were sorted out and written to their ultimate ends, a wizened storyteller’s ethos remains as powerful as anyone else’s.

All hail Old Nan, first of her name. Teller of songs and stories, knitter of tales and fables, and protector of the mythical realm. Long may she reign.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter