Valar Morghulis:Ten Lessons From Game Of Thrones

I apologise in advance if I am about to confuse people who have no idea what Game of Thrones is. Just think about how some of us have no clue when you go on about your favourite football team. A few months ago, I was having a conversation with the son of a good friend of mine. He was telling me about how he is a big fan of the American TV series Game of Thrones and I said, ‘me too’. He almost screamed in shock. By the time we finished our discussion, my young friend was so impressed that he declared me the hippest Auntie ever. Game of Thrones is based on the series of books known as ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (ASOIAF) by George R.R. Martin. The books of ASOIAF are pretty dense, complicated and can be convoluted (an average of 700 pages each) but they tell a story of power, leadership, gender, love, sex, magic, religion, diversity, betrayal, family, loyalty, the list goes on. In essence, even though the story is based on events in an ancient, mythical land, it is a story for today.

The television series started in 2011 and has not only generated an ardent following around the world, it has also inspired academic research and enquiry. Educators around the world are increasingly turning to popular culture to get their book-shy students to read more or understand complex concepts. According to a recent article in Vanity Fair, at least 12 Universities in the US, Canada and the Philippines are running short to full semester courses on Game of Thrones. Harvard University has started a Medieval Studies class using Game of Thrones as a roadmap for the students and recently I took part in a survey of Game of Thrones fans which aims to assess the relevance of Game of Thrones to contemporary society. I will not attempt any detailed description of the show here. I will just give a very brief summary and go into lessons that I feel are worth mentioning. There are 8 major families in the mythical world of Westeros, all fighting to occupy what is called the Iron Throne. The occupant of the throne rules all the ‘Seven Kingdoms’ in Westeros. Over time, the fortunes of the families change as the struggle for the throne intensifies, with one of them almost wiped out, one literally blown away and the others plotting and scheming to hang on to power. There have been six seasons so far, with two more to go before the series wraps up in 2018. The viewers do not know who will survive to occupy the throne and this has spawned an industry of predictions and speculation. Now, some lessons from this beloved series.

 1. Appearances Can Be Deceptive.

We go through life passing silent judgement on people we don’t know well or are meeting for the first time. Tyrion Lannister is an ugly dwarf, always drinking and joking and loves the ladies. He is also the son of Lord Tywin Lannister, one of the most ruthless men in Westeros and head of the dreaded Lannister family. Yet Tyrion is one of the most brilliant strategists in Westeros, well read, with a mind like an encyclopedia. He is also one of the most honourable and courageous men in the Kingdom.

  2.  There Is Usually More Than One Narrative

One of the most popular characters in the series is Jamie Lannister, older brother of Tyrion Lannister. Jamie is known as ‘The King Slayer’ because he killed King Aerys Targaryen, a.k.a. The Mad King. Jamie was the trusted head of the King’s Guard, and for him to be the one to strike the blow to kill the King he had sworn to protect was the height of dishonor. This treasonable act followed him throughout his life and stigmatised him wherever he went. However, when he had the opportunity to tell his own side of the story, it revealed that the Mad King had discovered something called ‘Wild Fire’ which was the modern equivalent of a nuclear weapon. He had given orders for the Wild Fire to be unleashed on the city, and it would have killed thousands of innocent citizens. Jamie prevented that from happening. Before we jump to judgement on hearing half of the story, let us get the full picture.

3.  Visionaries Have Always Paid A Price

Throughout the ages, there have been people who held strong convictions and died for them. Lord Eddard Stark of House Stark died in the very first season and we could not believe they would kill off the ‘Hero’. Jon Snow was killed off too, but was brought back to life. Visionary, honest, outspoken men and women of conscience still get killed for their beliefs either literally or metaphorically.

4.  You Reap What You Sow

If you are not one to listen to the religious instruction of turning the other cheek, or leaving vengeance to God, then Game of Thrones is for you. Lord Tywin Lannister caused untold suffering by ordering the deaths of many innocent people. He was killed by his own son. Lord Roose Bolton betrayed Lord Ned Stark’s family in the worst possible way. He was killed by his own heir. Lord Walder Frey proved to be the worst host in history by slaughtering his party guests. His sons were baked into a pie and given to him to eat before his throat was slit by Arya Stark who avenged her family’s massacre. The biggest baddie of them all was Ramsey Bolton. For four seasons fans watched him torture, butcher, rape and murder. He left his dogs to starve for one week so that they would be hungry enough to eat his enemies. He was the one fed to them. Simple lesson here – you can’t plant yams and harvest cassava.

5. Women Have Always Had Problems

Game of Thrones has come under heavy criticism for its negative portrayal of women. Even though there are several strong, badass female characters such as Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Brienne of Tarth, Margery Tyrell, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark and the incomparable Lady Olenna Tyrell amongst others, the show has featured a lot of graphic violence against female characters. It has been argued that such was the life of women living in those times. Sounds like things have not changed much.

6. Fairytale Endings Are…….… Fairy Tales.

The wedding between Lord Edmure Tully and Lady Roslyn Frey ended in the slaughter of Lady Catlyn Stark, Lord Rob Stark, and his wife Talisa, plus scores of his ‘banner men’. It is known to Game of Thrones fans as ‘The Red Wedding’ and ties with the execution of Ned Stark as the most shocking episode of the series. Obnoxious King Joffrey Baratheon was poisoned to death at his wedding to Lady Margery Tyrell known as The Purple Wedding. Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark had very unpleasant wedding nights. Lesson – if you play the Game of Thrones, happily ever after is a fairy tale. Life can be nasty, brutish and short.

7.  There Have Always Been Crazy People With Fanatical Religious Beliefs

In the world of Game of Thrones, there are a bunch of people who believe in the ‘Lord of Light’ and in following his ‘signs’ and ‘instructions’. Lord Stannis Baratheon took on the services of one of the ‘Messengers’ of the ‘Lord of Light’, the beautiful and dangerous Melisandre. Long story short, Stannis was asked to sacrifice his only child to the ‘Lord of Light’, with the understanding that her death would clear the path to his victory. His daughter died for nothing. He died like a goat. The ‘High Sparrow’ was a moral purist who forced Queen Cersei to walk naked through the streets in atonement for her sin of adultery. He was blown into a thousand pieces when the Queen got her clothes back. Lesson: This is 2017. Nothing much has changed.

 8. No Condition Is Permanent

Game of Thrones is about a time when only the strong survived and the weak simply perished. Due to the balance of power and forces, the rich stayed strong and unshakeable and the poor remained vulnerable and weak. Yet, stories can change. Daenerys Targaryen was sold to a Dothraki warlord by her brother Viserys in exchange for an army. In Season 1, Daenerys had no money of her own, no army, no power and three useless Dragon Eggs she received as a wedding gift. By the end of Season 6, she had money, an army, power, and three grown, fire-breathing dragons. The lesson here is we can all write another story for ourselves. Mere mortals do not know the ways of God. Things can change. Hopefully, for the better.

9.  Those Who Lust After Power And Glory Usually End Up With Neither

History, ancient and modern, is replete with examples of men who lusted after power all their lives but it proved elusive. Many times, those who did not show much interest in power were the ones favoured. Jon Snow was the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark. He joined the Nights Watch, the GOT equivalent of a military monastic order. He only wanted to serve. He found himself made ‘Lord Commander’ of the Nights Watch by his peers who noted that, ‘He is the one we looked up to when the night was darkest’. At the end of Season Six, without soliciting for it, the ‘bastard’ Jon Snow was declared ‘King of the North’ by popular acclaim. It also turned out that he was not a bastard after all. Stannis Baratheon, King Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsey Bolton and many others died horrible deaths in their ruthless quest for power.

10. Never Lose Sight Of The Real Enemy

Perhaps the most significant lesson that Game of Thrones teaches is that humanity is always locked in battles for foolish reasons and with the wrong adversaries. While all the powerful families of Westeros are playing the Game of Thrones, there is a seemingly indestructible enemy of magical origins known as The Night’s King, threatening their very existence. Many of the players are not even aware of the magnitude of the danger they are going to face. In the trailer for the forthcoming Season 7, the wise Davos Seaworth observes, ‘If we don’t all come together, it won’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne’. In this day and age, as we watch our leaders, both global and local, engage in battles which bring little or no benefit to the person on the street, we need to figure out who and what our real enemies are. Is it exclusion, oppression, racism, sexism, climate change, fundamentalism, disease, corporate greed, selfish politics or all or most of the above? George R.R. Martin obviously has his own views on this and clues can be found in his books and the television series. These issues have been with us since the beginning of time. The difference now is we should have the tools to respond. If we don’t our real enemy will consume us all.

In the world of Game of Thrones, people will greet you with ‘Valar Morghulis’ (All men must die) to which you respond, ‘Valar Dohaeris’ (All men must serve). Even if you never get to watch the series, remember those two phrases. Congratulations to my fellow ‘Gamers’, ‘Winter is Coming’ on July 16th.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

Source: Abovewhispers

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21 Responses to Valar Morghulis:Ten Lessons From Game Of Thrones

  1. Gloria Ogunbadejo July 10, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Hahaha…..Brilliant analysis of an extremely complex storyline but as you have incredibly shown, as relevant today as it was in its time, nuances and all. I wait with waited breath as winter approaches…..I am a gamer!!

    Reply
  2. Femi Diipo July 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Awwww… I was having goosebumps just reading this. This is a wonderful analysis of GOT and the lesson drawn are even more fantastic. Ma’am, we gotta sit down together one day and just talk about GOT. Valar morghulis

    Reply
  3. Dom Dom July 10, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Wonderful!!! Ma’am, who would have thought you’re a fan of game of thrones, loud whispers just keep getting exciting and didactic in all ways. This is awesome and the countdown to July 16 is real

    Reply
  4. Bisi Fayemi July 10, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you Gamers! Winter is almost here………….

    Reply
  5. Kes July 10, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Yipppy very correct, winter is very near. Let the countdown begin.

    Reply
  6. Akpes July 10, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    This is a good one ma’am. You are always on point. July 16 is around the corner, I can’t wait.

    Reply
  7. Princess July 10, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Forcing Queen cersie to walk naked for the atonement of her sins wasn’t chilling at all. That is injustice, the Queen was supposed to walk naked with the man she committed adultery with.

    Reply
  8. Julie July 10, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    The movie game of throne is a very ubiquitous one. Anyone who haven’t seen the movie has missed. I must confess is a perfect movie, if you have not seen it please go grab your copy now.

    Reply
  9. Olakunle Olajide July 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Like seriously, see analysis on GOT, WOW!!! I think i would need to break my words on not to watch series again just because of this illustrations. Okay, i am one of the low percentage of people to have not seen GOT, but i will change that soon. Kudos to you ma’am, i never knew you could have time for series movies. So so cool.

    Reply
  10. Oluwatosino July 12, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Waoh….. Incredible….This is Epic… Lovely analysis. Even people like me that haven’t watched GOT will be interested in doing so now. The ten lessons analyzed are just the best for me. Menn, I was just waohed while reading the ten lessons. Abovewhispers.com just keep feeding me with the best everyday.
    God bless you Mrs Bisi Fayemi. I love you ma.
    am so going to start watching GOT asap…… LMAO

    Reply
  11. Toluene July 12, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Nice one ma….. To think that am surrounded with people that watch GOT and are all waiting for July 16. I have all season 1 – 6 on my system, and am yet to even watch it. But with this beautiful breakdown and well analyzed lessons from our dear mother Mrs Bisi Fayemi, I am so joining the *GAMERS* Club…… Lol…..
    The ten lessons analyzed are brilliant. God bless you ma.
    Am joining the GAMERS……….. Yiiiiiipppppiiiieeeee. Lol

    Reply
  12. Olumide July 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my worrrrrrrrrrld!
    Mama is just too dynamic. jeeezzzzzz! I can’t get over this article. Game of thrones for real? woooooooow! I am shocked. I am dazed. Valar Dohaeris! Winter is here!

    Reply
  13. Gloria Olaniyi July 12, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Ah! This is the kinda woman I want to be o. A phenomenal woman. A woman who isn’t restricted in learning. I really wish to meeting you one day. You are my mentor ma, I am becoming better intellectual and morally.
    God bless this platform. You are impacting lives.
    Just imagine my shock when I saw the title and the reading flow was engrossing. I love you ma.

    Reply
  14. Adebukola Daniels July 12, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I am not a fan but I am getting the seasons and watching all of them. I mean, if this great woman can watch this? what’s wrong with my overly fanatic self?

    Reply
  15. Amina Shittu July 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    I have never seen the movie before but the rush in which I am getting started with it ehn, I can’t explain. This is so sweet..I mean, the narrative is just so sweet, applicable and explicit. Phenomenal woman, that’s who you are

    Reply
  16. Bisi Alawode July 12, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I think Abovewhispers should organize an afternoon with Erelu Bisi-Fayemi. Where we can meet with her, ask questions and draw from this well of knowledge. I am really amazed!

    Reply
  17. Bolanle Olatan July 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Just take a look at this! Jeez! Ekiti, smh for your state. What you have lost is deep. Too deep. This is amazing!

    Reply
  18. Akpegbe July 12, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    At Amina shittu you have missed. Well it ain’t too late you can go get the season 1 and start from there, you won’t comprehend it if you skip any season.

    Reply
  19. Branny July 12, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    @ Olumide momma is always on point. #team gamers# on point.

    Reply
  20. Bisi Fayemi July 12, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    @Bisi Alawode, your wonderful suggestion has been noted. The Above Whispers team is planning some offline events before the end of the year. We will keep you posted!

    Reply
  21. DSEED July 12, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Super! Such an incredible analysis. Have not seen the movie before but this has given me the insight of the movie and I have been able to pick one or two things which are helpful.

    Reply

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