One of the persistent themes in Game of Thrones is the chaos of war, which is not a very common occurrence in fantasy literature, at least to my experience.
Take Tolkien, for example, where different factions and armies are relatively homogenous. Elves hang out with elves, dwarves hang out with dwarves, and so on. When an army of elves marches, they don’t pillage the land for supplies. Even the humans, which Tolkien often writes as corruptible, are written like fairly well behaved soldiers.
Historical record really has a completely different track record, where soldiers are concerned. But what we read in LOTR is how we wish soldiers were: disciplined, moral, honourable, motivated, and focused on the task of vanquishing evil and defending the weak.
There’s a quote by Ser Jorah in the GoT show which I don’t recall from the books, but it’s a good one: that there’s a beast in every man that wakes when he puts a sword in his hand.
Real armies, up until the relatively modern period, “lived off the land” which meant that they basically stole from the countryside they were passing through. As they did this, they would rape any women, steal all kinds of other stuff, and generally be a mess.
Old British culture is focused on class hierarchy, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in army ranks. Officers were gentlemen, usually of some degree of nobility, and enlisted men and non-commissioned officers were commoners of low birth. NCOs were the best that common men could aspire to be, and the job of officers, usually, was to be inspiring like real nobles and also enforce discipline on the beastly rank and file, with hangings, floggings, shooting deserters, all that stuff.
The point is that that sort of discipline was seen as necessary, because the common British soldier was a real lowlife that is only held back from brutality by force and discipline.
Watching Game of Thrones reminds us of this fact that without education, without the idea of morals, without so much that the last 200 years have given us, soldiers would still be beastly. The atrocities that we see today are bad, but not only is it amazing that we all agree that they are bad, but they’re also relatively rare. We are surprised when they happen and we don’t tolerate them.
And it just amazes me, sometimes, how we got here.
A boy left his bike chained to a tree when he went away to war in 1914. He never returned, leaving the tree no choice but to grow around the bike.
THIS IS A CHILDS BIKE! THE LITTLE TINY WHEELS GIVE IT AWAY….. 8 YEAR OLD GOES TO WAR AND NEVER COMES HOME!
Daily Pic: It’s that fire-orange light in the doorway at right, and the overcast blue glow outside, that make this photograph stand out. If André Liohn had taken it at any other moment, in any other light, it would be just another banal image of war. That it is not just another shot has now been confirmed, since it just helped Liohn win the Robert Capa Gold Medal of the Overseas Press Club of America. The photo ran in the May 9 issue of Newsweek’s international edition, and is from a portfolio titled “Almost Dawn in Libya,” made up of striking images shot by Liohn in the besieged city of Misrata before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. For me, what matters in this particular image is the very special, very classical beauty of the light in the picture as a whole – and the fact that the fighters in it could never have acknowledged that there was anything but horror around them. The photo’s blues and oranges seem to echo some of the greatest Islamic ceramics. (Their famous blue glaze, at least, is right there in the tiling of the fountain in the shot.) And the siege of Misrata represents an attack on everything such cultural treasures stand for.