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Archetypes of Dark Fantasy and Darker Reality in the Novel and the HBO Game of Thrones Series

Updated on July 13, 2018
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The Characters from the Novel and the Game of Thrones HBO Series Offer a Troubling Reflection of Reality

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire is one of those rare literary creations. The first book in the series written by George R.R. Martin, is a sweeping epic with wonderfully vivid and fleshed out characters. What makes the work even more interesting is that is television adaptation on HBO captures the spirit of the novel. The HBO Game of Thrones series does not merely take the premise of the novel and make it more palatable for audiences. Rather, the themes of the work are retained and effectively presented.

Even the very dark material.

While there is much to rejoice about the spirit of the novel, there is also a lot of darkness found within the work. The world of the story found in A Game of Thrones may be one rooted in pure fantasy, but it is a dark edge of reality to it. In many ways, the fantasy world is an all too real depressing one. The novel and the series have been criticized in certain circles due to the edge of the themes. There is little whimsy in the work and it often veers into the realm of the downbeat.

The Characters of A Game of Thrones and their Troubles

There really is not way to escape the darkness of the first book/first season of A Game of Thrones. The characters will agree.

  • Tyrion Lannister, a man of great integrity, consistently faces cruel bigotry and vicious taunting.
  • Jon Snow is constantly degraded as a bastard even though he is a man of honor and great courage
  • The Hound is constantly dehumanized as a human animal even though his loyalty is above reproach.


Realism is at the Root of the Cynicism and the Characters in A Game of Thrones Book

There might be an unfortunate sense of cynicism in Game of Thrones. The unfortunate component to the cynicism is that George R.R. Martin does tap into the reality many have experienced. That is to say, the cynical outlook on the world is one based on man's inhumanity to man.

George RR Martin Game of Thrones is one of those unique works in the sense it is both character and action driven. Weaker works of fantasy has very thin characters and allow the action and straight forward plot carry the work forward. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it is not one excellent novels are prone to embody.

Many of these fleshed out characters are actually reflective archetypes that symbolize many troubled (and troubling) souls we are likely to meet in our real world travels. They do not just exist in the book or HBO Game of Thrones series.

Prince Joffery: The Elitist Everyman Readers and Viewers are Prone to Despise

Prince (and soon to be King) Joffery is typical of an archetype in fantasy works. He is spoiled rotten to the core, is the cause of great misery, never faces any retribution for his acts and is rewarded for his actions. His reward is not less than the throne that rules seven kingdoms. Once he attains the throne, he becomes the most vicious possible tyrant he could ever aspire to be.

While history is certainly filled with such evil characters with similar biographies at points in history where life had little value in class systems, Joffery is not a character designed to reflect on evil Gods and Kings throughout human history. Rather, he is a character designed to shed light on common characters we all have to deal with in daily life.

The Prince as the Dreaded Nepotist Savant in A Game of Thrones Book

Allegorically, the Prince is the son of the boss.

Imagine yourself in this scenario: No matter how hard you work in your corporate environment, the office version of Joffrey is the one that gets the promotion because his father calls the shots. An undeserving no talent finds himself placed in a better job that, ironically, he cannot do well.

While lamentable, such a situation often becomes part of life.

This is not to suggest the world is purely one disillusionment. While such situations do exist in the working world, so does the option of walking away. If a corporation does not respect your talents, you can always walk away and find another job. Well, you can when you have the experience to be independent. For a young person just starting his/her career, it might not be so easy to navigate such a situation. As we age, these problems may be forgotten, at least on the surface of our consciousness.

The Prince reflects that troubling scenario of not having anywhere to go. Even if you are 50 years old, this character may resonate with you because you may have had to deal with such elitists at one point in your early career. Maybe you have forgotten about such instances. Martin, through the character of Prince Joffery, helps remind you.

Being Socially Awkward and Dealing with the Bully in the World of George RR Martin Game of Thrones and Ours

There are two stereotypes that seemingly are each other's Yin and Yang: The Affable-But-Socially Awkward Person and the Bully. We can see their relationship fleshed out in the Game of Thrones TV series and books.

There is also the dark cloud of bully archetypes are ever present in A Game of Thrones. Joffery, The Mountain, and King Robert are all examples of bullies. And yes, they are based on very real people with legitimate personality defects.


The socially awkward with a love for fantasy, science-fiction, comics, and the like have always been considered easy targets for those that like to bully them. In here excellent work, Julie Smith in an excellent column in the New Orleans Beat notes that many a fantasy and science-fiction geeks will dream of far off worlds where they can invent kinship they are not able to find in the real world.

Escapism will only carry someone so far.

On planet earth, those with awkward social skills become a magnet for the beta types that wish to build up their self-confidence by attacking and dragging down others. The term fool's errand has never been more aptly applied than to the stereotypical bully he haunts a playground or in a supervisory position at a place of employment. Bullies are what they are because of their inadequacies and making life miserable for others will never change that. However, they are good at zeroing in on those they can pick on and many of them do so. For the person being picked on, all of these incoming missiles create a skewed version of reality. In other words, belittled socially awkward persons often see far too much of the more depraved segments of humanity.

This rather grim reality is allegorically recreated in A Game of Thrones and is typified with many of the more villainous characters in the series.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Actually, it just....is. That is the way life works sometimes. Most ironically, this dark edge of reality is most vividly found in a work of pure fantasy.

Consider that the real magic of the Game of Thrones TV show and book series.


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    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan 

      4 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I am so glad I was able to finally watch this show. It is amazing and a show I truly recommend to many others to watch. Season three and six where so amazing and some of the most epic battle scenes that left me breathless. And I also have a new found love for dragons. Just typing this makes me want to rewatch the show in order to prepare for the new season coming out.

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