I’ve been on a Game of Thrones kick, lately. I apologize. Can’t help myself. With the arrival of Season 5 of the series, and the appearance on the desk of all the currently available volumes, they’re just sitting there, mocking me. Add in extra time, a general malaise plaguing the ability to write, and something in me rebelling against booting up the Kindle app and going through all the books I’ve bought for that and haven’t gotten to, well… I find myself in Westeros a lot more than I’d like of late.
But something amusing occurred to me earlier. “Westeros is hell,” I’ve said before. Mockingly. In that I find it hellish to be exposed to much of it, and not in the good way. I’ve mentioned why in a few other posts – along with the few things I actually can stand about the series and the note that I find the show a lot more tolerable, so before you whip out your dragonsteel and hurl me over the Wall to be eaten by wights or their infernal masters, chill – but that isn’t the point now.
What if Westeros was, quite literally, Hell?
Think about it. Characters are often put through tortuous decisions and circumstances, often intricately tied to their pasts. They commit the same crimes and mistakes, time and time again. Many of them suffer intense mental and emotional torture over those situations and the things that result from them. Being evil seems to keep you alive – though, given the environment, history and apparent cultural norms, “evil” is perhaps not the right word – while trying to do the right thing, uphold honor and valor or keep your word seems the one sure way to get out of there… in a pine box.
Maybe “dying” in Westeros is actually escaping the Hell these characters have made for themselves. Note that more characters who are either background, unimportant and thus unknown or who are trying to do right in a world full of wrong get ganked than actively malicious psychopaths. (Well. Except for Joffrey and Viserys, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) Perhaps their deaths are actually a reward, of sorts. They’re getting out of there. Maybe to the land of eternal Summer, maybe just to a slightly less hellish place, but either way, they don’t have to stick around in the muck and mire any more.
Consider that a lot of individuals who fit the “asshat” category start turning up as wights. Again, consider it a promotion… of sorts. They’ve proven they’re adept manipulators, torturers and otherwise unpleasant people. They die sometimes, too. But a lot of them come back as monstrous, flesh-eating zombie vampire things. To torture the other characters. Note also that the place where one is most likely to encounter the wights and their inhuman masters also seems to have a higher-than-normal percentage of people who actually want to do good; Winterfell – and the north in general – seem to inspire heroism, honor and “do the right thing” attitudes a bit more than places like Casterly Rock. Note also that the death toll up north seems a lot higher. Hmmmmmmmm.
And then there’s the real nuts. “But they don’t come back as wights, and they aren’t ‘good’ guys, so they’re not dying to escape Westeros!” you say. Of course not.
But somewhere out there I picture one of the Others wearing a fused helmet of solid gold, and another rabidly choking while trying to claim supremacy among his weird fairy-monster kin. Snarks and grumpkins, indeed. The truly vile and repugnant, those with no desire nor possibility for redemption… they’re the enemy. They build their forces as the wheel of time marches on, adding to the ranks of the Others, until such time as they are numerous enough to spread over Westeros. Then they invade, riding their crystal spiders and cleansing the earth of those icky folks with a shred of decency. Until some of those folks fight back – typically dying in the process – and stabilize things again. There’s a period of summer, of hope, of rebirth, of belief in heroes and good deeds again. But that fades. Back to the dimness of history. The old machinations start again. Greed, sex, power, hate. The Others start rebuilding. Rinse. Repeat.
For the record, I don’t necessarily believe this. But I think somebody with more willingness to dig deep into all the cast-off words buried in those overlong descriptions, all the hints at Westeros’ history and the cycle they live in should contemplate writing a thesis about it. I think it could do well.