Monday, April 8, 2019

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

The banner of Brynden Tully the Blackfish
Castle Black and the Wall by Ted Nasmith ©
Given my penchant for (justly) lambasting George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I think it only fair to tell the other side of story, harking back as to why I was once one of GRRM's most avid fans, calling him – as many did and do – the American Tolkien. I have already told this tale in part, mostly about if he had stuck with the Others as his tale's principle foe a opposed to the Lannisters then, instead of birthing the Grimdark – which amounts to a blood and porn with a nihilism overlay approach to Tolkien-style epic Fantasy – George R.R. Martin could have created one of the finest ever of the High Fantasies just as J.K. Rowling was writing Harry Potter. As I have said in the past, I have infinite respect for George R.R. Martin’s skill as a storyteller and worldbuilder; he is truly among the best, comparable to that of Rowling and even Tolkien himself. It is no accident that I quit the series only in the middle of book #5, A Dance with Dragons.

Yet, much as I would wish it otherwise, several of the hooks the series placed in my heart remain. I cannot help but still think about the my friends the Starks of Winterfell, Dany (Daenerys), Brynden the Blackfish, Jon Snow and the men of the Night's Watch, Ser Davos Seaworth, Meera and Jojen Reed, Doran Martell and his family, and many others (yes, even Tyrion Lannister). This is a tribute to them, an acknowledgment of the wise and good characters who kept me hooked until I found myself wading through blood:

"If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you can not do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die." - Ned Stark

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." - Jojen Reed 

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

"Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you." - Tyrion Lannister

"Old stories are like old friends. You have to visit them from time to time." - Bran Stark

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come." - the oath of the Night's Watch 

"Words are like arrows, Arianne. Once loosed, you cannot call them back." - Doran Martell

"Fear cuts deeper than swords." - Syrio Forel

"A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." - Tyrion Lannister

"Why do the gods make kings and queens, if not to protect the ones who can't protect themselves?" - Dany Targaryen

Serve. Obey. Protect. Simple vows for a simple man. - Areo Hotah

"A book can be as dangerous as a sword in the right hands." - Haldon Halfmaester 

"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives." - Ned Stark  

"In the end a gentle heart may be worth more than pride or valor." - Doran Martell

If this does not seem like much out of five books, then know that it was no small job finding quotes which were wise, spoken by friends, and not related to war and shortening foes by a head. Rather telling, eh? As I recall, a certain Sansa Stark once said "There are no heroes ... In life, the monsters win." Which is exactly why I quit. Because I could not bear to see these dear friends put through endless torment, nor judge any possible ending for them happy if it required wading through blood, gore, and porn.

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