Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Dragon's Madness

The Dragon Banner
The Coat of Arms of
House Targaryen of Dragonstone
While reading Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time I am struck at times by interesting similarities between it and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I have already stated in my Rumors of the Wheel page that before the Game of Thrones was played in Westeros the Game of Houses (also called "The Great Game," translated as "Daes Dae'mar" in the Old Tongue) was played in the Westlands and are every bit as devious as those GRRM spins. In fact, I think the Cairhienin contending for the Sun Throne could teach the Westerosi a few things in their endless wars for the Iron. More to the point, in reading the Knife of Dreams I recently came across a quote of Lews Therin Telamon, called "the Dragon" in his day and after that rang a distant bell in my brain. Then while aimless surfing the web I found myself on a wiki page dedicated to one Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen.

"A man who trusts everyone is a fool and a man who trusts no one is a fool. We are all fools if we live long enough." - Lews Therin Telamon

"It seems to me that a queen who trusts no one is as foolish as a queen who trusts everyone." - Daenerys Targaryen

Aerys II Targaryen, also called the Mad King,
and the father of Daenerys
Lews Therin Kinslayer
Quite the similarity there, beyond question. And as to the question of whether this is a coincidence, well, while I cannot read the mind of the GRRM, I can point out other marked similarities between the Stormborn and the First Among Servants (another of Lews Therin's titles). Beginning with their last names, as Telamon and Targaryen are not exactly worlds apart linguistically. Yet it goes well beyond that. Lews Therin is named the Dragon and was key to defeating the Shadow in the long-ago War of Power as per the prophecies of the day. Daenerys Targaryen is named the Mother of Dragons and is descended from Aegon the Dragon whose conquests she seeks to emulate but, more importantly, she appears to be the princess that was promised and, per the prophecy of Azor Ahai, is destined to save the world from darkness. Is there an echo in here? Yes, and in continues into madness. Literally, for as Barristan the Bold once noted, "Every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness." Indeed, Dany's father and several ancestors killed countless and died themselves of it. Just like Lews Therin Telamon, who went horribly mad, was renamed Lews Therin Kinslayer, and whose fate makes the strong tremble three millennia after his death.

The Dragon Reborn
The princess that was promised
Do the above quotes combined with the all rest heavily suggest that GRRM's Daenerys Targaryen was at least partly inspired by Robert Jordan's Lews Therin Telamon? At face value perhaps, yet it is more accurate to say that the Dragon was the inspiration behind House Targaryen. Which brings up other similarities. The Targaryens, under the Aegon the Dragon, united Westeros under their banner in the War of Conquest, just as Lews Therin united and led the forces of the Light under his during the War of Power. It has already been mention that both Telamon and House Targaryen fell to madness that decimated their families made people curse their names. Yet in both cases, in both book series, this is the stuff of history. Was the Stormborn based off the First Among Servants? Not quite. Rather she is based off Rand al'Thor the Dragon Reborn. Remember that Dany is descended from, seeks to emulate, and is effectively called Aegon the Dragon come again in female form by Tyrion Lannister. Well, Rand is literally Lews Therin the Dragon come again (hence his title the Dragon Reborn). Remember that Dany appears to be the princess that was promised and, per the prophecy of Azor Ahai, is destined to save the world from darkness: "When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone." Well, Rand is the subject of the Prophecies of the Dragon (also called the Karaethon Cycle) and is destined to save the world from the Shadow. In fact, the two prophecies mirror each other almost exactly; just looked at the wording: "Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone." Not a far cry from the Dragon Reborn, whose coming will be largely identified by his taking the Stone of Tear. "The Stone of Tear will never fall, till Callandor is wielded by the Dragon’s hand. The Stone of Tear will never fall, till the People of the Dragon come." In short, both Dany and Rand are both ancient saviors come again, and there is a good argument that GRRM based the prophecy of Azor Ahai off of the Karaethon Cycle. Azor Ahai was called Shadowchaser. Rand is called by wolves Shadowkiller. Azor Ahai helped end the Long Night and their is a possible connection between him and the Battle for the Dawn in which the Others were driven back beyond the Wall in Westeros. Well, Lews Therin was named the Lord of the Morning and the Prince of the Dawn and was key in sealing the Dark One away which ended the War of Shadow (another name for the War of Power) in what is now named the Westlands.

Winter's Heart
Demons made of snow and ice and cold.
The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters.
Furthermore, do not try telling me that GRRM is utterly unique is using the seasons as he does in relation to the Azor Ahai prophecy, for here is a section of the Karaethon Cycle that would sound perfectly appropriate coming from the lips of Melisandre or any servant of R'hllor: "The Seals that hold back the night shall weaken, and in the heart of winter shall winter’s heart be born, amid the wailings of lamentation and the gnashing of teeth, for winter’s heart shall ride a black horse, and the name of it is Death." I am not saying that GRRM did a bad job, and indeed I have said in the past that he is an absolutely brilliant storyteller and at making winter and night a thing to fear; indeed, the Others are trully chilling enemies. "Winter is coming." "The night is dark and full of terrors." Yet reading The Wheel of Time showed me that A Song of Ice and Fire was and is not as unique as I first thought for by all appearances GRRM drew heavy inspiration from Robert Jordan. Nor am I the only person to notice this.

Moving away now from prophecies but continuing with the comparison, Remember that Dany and others worry about the madness in her blood and if/when she will succumb to it. Well, the same is true of Rand albeit that the madness comes from a different source which I cannot say for fear of spoilers. Finally, both struggle with the burdens of leadership and whom they can trust, which ties into the initially given quotes of Lews Therin Telamon, which Rand heeds, and Daenerys Targaryen.

In ending, I feel inclined to mention that I am not criticizing George R.R. Martin for drawing such inspiration from Robert Jordan. Anything but, as to do so would be hypocritical in the extreme given how the entire Fantasy genre draws heavily from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Jordan is as guilty of that as any; perhaps more so. Not much difference between Ogier and Ents, right down to their long lives, love of trees, and "do not be hasty" motto. And just as the White Tower on Tar Valon stands guard against the Dark One Shai'tan, so too did the White Tower of Minas Tirith guard against the Dark Lord Sauron. To say nothing of Pit of Doom beyond the Mountains of Dhoom, which could not be a clearer tribute to the Cracks of Doom on Mount Doom. At the day's end, all roads lead back to Middle-earth.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The quotes of good friends

One does not need to be a famous (or Fantasy) author or a celebrity to say things that are worthy of being quoted. Indeed, I have always found the best quotes come from the part of us that is most connected to the human spirit, when we are thinking about the world and what it is to be human, for that is when Fantasy, the Spirit of Tolkien, links with each and every one of us. Why? Because while escapism may be the beating heart of the Fantastic, humanity, an examination of what it means to be human through adventure, are the lungs. Here are a series of quotes from personal friends of mine, posted by them on Facebook and then saved by me. (Naturally I have omitted their last names.)

"Humans are good. Some people are evil, and because of that we are forced to feel pain and anger and sadness. Some people will hurt us, try to break us and destroy us from the inside out. But that will never happen, because some people are not all people. Our humanness, the part of us that loves and feels and cares and defends, cannot be broken. That part of us is the human, and that part will always be good." - Sierra

"Tell people you love them as often as you can whenever you genuinely feel it." - Ali

"It's a great feeling when your favorite books touch places that you know, but we need to think about what these and other stories are teaching us with their silence. The stories we tell, fictional and non-fictional, curate the ways we imagine. Since history is at its heart story-telling, the limits of our imagination become the limits of our historical curiosity and compassion." - Sophie

"The point of the hero defeating the dragon isn't that dragons exist, it's that the dragon can be defeated." - Ag 

"It's okay if your best is 80% one day, and 40% the next. It's okay to waver. If we performed our best every day, there would be no room for growth, or observation, or pauses in the interim of, simply, living. We wouldn't be able to stop and remember to love what is around us." -Ali

"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations." - Rachel

"The march of all of human history has no brakes, especially not for people trying to throw it into reverse." - Ben

"Don't worry about how your writing turns out, you will have all the time in the world to fail, fail again, fail harder, and learn to become better. Enjoy the transformation." - Lindsay

Patience does not always mean the waiting is meaningless. Patience is learning that the waiting actually has purpose." - Ali

"If you are feeling discouraged, distraught, confused, concerned about humanity, go spend some time talking to kids. You will see that hatred is a learned trait. Take control of that learning, because these kind and strange little geniuses are everything." - Violet 

"Respect is not handed to you just because you are older or more experienced. Respect is earned. The only thing I'll give you for free is the benefit of the doubt." - Eli

The left is a quote from my friend Maggie, and the right one was my reply.
This was, like the others, was part of a facebook conversation,
one I liked it so much I made this image out of it.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

I have just started the Towers of Midnight

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started the Towers of Midnight, Volume #13 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and completed posthumously by Brandon Sanderson).
The world has been saved from the Dragon Reborn yet, while the Pattern screams in agony at the Dark One's touch, it is revealed that the Lady of Pleasure yet lives albeit at a fair price. So it is that even when tortured the Age Lace weaves the threads of its salvation, for the Golden Crane rides for Tarwin's Gap and not alone even as the Children of the Light struggle to finally earn their name or be crushed by the relentless turning of the Wheel. So it is that the Prince of the Ravens must face the snakes and foxes, while the sons of Morgase must confront their mistakes as the world prepares for Tarmon Gai'don. The whole world, for the Towers of Midnight are far away indeed.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, June 19, 2020

I have just finished The Gathering Storm

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished The Gathering Storm, Volume #12 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and completed posthumously by Brandon Sanderson).
The storm is coming yet the Light is strong, for though the Pattern trembles at the thunder the Ladies of Pain and Pleasure are ended. The storm is coming yet the Light is strong for, despite Seachan, the White Tower stands united under the True Flame of Tar Valon who now sits truly upon the Amyrlin Seat.
The storm is coming yet the Light is strong, for through the courage of Verin Sedai was poison used to rout the Tower's rot. The storm is coming yet the Light is strong, for sunlight peaks through the clouds as the Dragon Reborn laughs upon the broken slopes of Dragonmount as correctly foretold in the less than trustworthy Essanik Cycle: "At the end of time, when the many become one, the last storm shall gather its angry winds to destroy a land already dying. And its center, the blind man shall stand upon his grave. There he shall see again, and weep for what has been wrought." But the storm is still coming.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

My father and I just finished The Moon and the Face by Patricia A. McKillip

My father and I just finished The Moon and the Face by Patricia A. McKillip, sequel to Moon-Flash.
Leave to McKillip to harmoniously combine sci-fi with shamanism. To write an anthropological book in which, for Kyreol and Terje, the strange becomes the familiar and the familiar strange as two separate worlds come together through dreams that stretch across the cosmos, the innate power of the Riverworld, and love. All via journeys that are at once utterly different and yet parallel each other. Leave it to McKillip to answer the final and greatest question of the book with both a yes and no. As Icrane said, everything is simple. Even when it is complex.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

League of Legends

 "The things we carry should lift us up, not weigh us down.
Memories, love, and hope are the lightest necessities."

"Forgiveness is hard, but so very worth it."

So I finally did what several of my friends have been urging me to do for years, which is give the game League of Legends a try. My thoughts? It is a decent game and each character has solid lore behind them along with an always well-written short narrative featuring said character, good enough to establish an emotional attachment to them – which is of course the mark of excellent writing. My best characters are Kai'Sa the Daughter of the Void (whose image you see here) and Ashe the Frost Archer. My best characters because theirs are the stories that piqued my interest enough to finally give the game a try. While playing I found each character was full of worthy quotes which perfectly matched their personalities and background, so kudos to League of Legends for that; below her picture are two of Kai'Sa's and two of Ashe's are "Do not confuse mercy for weakness" and "Move quickly, position well, and the battle is won before blood is drawn." My verdict on the game beyond the lore? While I can see the appeal of it to many, the lore is really just to add flavor to a battle game without an overarching storyline, in which heroes like Kai'Sa and Ashe – who would never end up fighting each other – cross swords. Frankly I have little taste for senseless violence, though I of course know that such is not the intent behind League of Legends and am not condemning the game with these words. It is simply my own personal opinion. Do not get me wrong: I enjoy playing it. But lacking an true story it does not hold a candle up to other games such as RuneScape. I guess I just need to feel that the fantasy battles I fight mean something for the world they occur in.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Winterkeep, a return to the Graceling Realm Series


Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore has always had a special place a in my heart. Its world is neither the most complex I have ever seen nor is the story the most sophisticated, yet the characters are carve a place into one's heart forever. It was a series I thought I had finished back in 2013 (three years before I began Stars Uncounted), marking it on facebook with the following post:

"I have just finished Bitterblue, third and final book of Kristin Cashore's Seven Kingdoms Trilogy.
I began this series years ago, starting with a girl named Katsa who thought she was Graced with killing, but found love, friendship, and her true Grace. I continued with a girl named Fire, a Monster from the Dells who was hated for what her father was but who, like Katsa, found love and friendship and piece with her powers. And then Bitterblue, a teen Queen of a shattered kingdom and an old friend who endured betrayal, heartache, adventure, and the true meaning of love and friendship; and the importance of learning the Truth and Healing.
Now I am done. Thank you so much for everything Bitterblue, Fire, Katsa, Po, Raffin, Bann, Giddon, Nash, Brigan, Helda, Teddy, Saf, and Hava. I love you all and will see you again someday. I promise."

Since then its name has of course changed from the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy to the Graceling Realm Series, which is just as well because I just learned that come January 19, 2021 it is to be a trilogy no longer. For on that date Kristin Cashore expands the Graceling Realm geographically as well as otherwise with her newest novel Winterkeep, the book being named for a new nation beyond the known world and presumably the Winter Sea. A book in which we will be reunited with dear Bitterblue, brave Queen and now 23-year-old friend as well as Giddon from the Council and good old Hava. And, of course, a new friend named Lovisa Cavenda. 

When I wrote the above facebook post saying that I would see my old friends again someday I meant when I eventually reread the series. Not going to be the case, apparently, and doubly so since Winterkeep will itself have a sequel. Honestly, when I finish The Wheel of Time I will have likely have to wait a whole year before reading anything new on account of the old series' refusing to end. A good problem to have, but still...