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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

a) “Power lies where people believe it does. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall.” Images and forms of medieval power in Game of Thrones


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1If George R. R. Martin describes his work as “a narrative centered on war and power,” readers and viewers are forced to conclude that the story of Westeros and Essos does in fact present a diffracted image of power. The A Song of Ice and Fire novels and the HBO TV series later developed from them, creating an adjunctive and different story, play with many reinvented facets of politics and medieval government, from the traditional feudal society of the Seven Kingdoms to the Italian-inspired economic organisation of the Free Cities of Braavos; these are only the most obvious examples taken from medieval history and updated to our contemporary values by the author. Fiction mixes historical and literary elements to question the stakes and limits of power. In Game of Thrones, power does not inherently belong to kings, to armies, or to religious dignitaries, as it did during the Middle Ages, even though these groups have an active role to play in the politics of the realms. Does medieval power, as it is conceived in the fictional creation of Westeros, lie in money, in unexpected heroes, in the people, or maybe outside the story, within the fans and viewers? As Lord Varys states, power is barely “a trick, a shadow on the wall.” Following the brilliant work proposed by scholars including Carolyne Larrington and Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, this panel will discuss the representations of power(s), especially those inherited from medieval structures, in Game of Thrones.


2Martin, A Song


3Game of thrones

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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