Game of Thrones may be best known for its surprise beheadings and near omnipresent nudity, but there’s much more to it than this. Next to the naked dragon queens and stinging betrayals, its deeper morals often fall to the wayside— but they’re there, hiding behind every boob and barbarian.
Here are 5 life lessons to be learnt from Game of Thrones:
1. Life isn’t perfect
Many fantasy tales focus heavily on the “happily ever after,” but this is not so with Game of Thrones. Martin tells a story that is epic, exciting, but most importantly, realistic. No, I’m not talking about the dragons and whitewalkers. I mean the storyline— the way things unfold. Martin forgoes the idealism of happy endings and how things ought to be. In real life, you never know what’s going to happen, and this sentiment is portrayed perfectly in Game of Thrones. The good guys aren’t guaranteed to win and the bad guys won’t necessarily die a slow and painful death. In fact, in Game of Thrones, the bad guys often triumph and the good guys often die. Life is full of twists and turns, and more often than not, things don’t turn out as expected. Game of Thrones is perfectly unidealized, renouncing the monotony and predictability of the stereotypical hero’s journey and telling a tale based more so in realism.
2. It’s all in where you’re standing
Game of Thrones tells a single story through the eyes of many characters. This allows for an exploration of different perspectives, revealing the impact that culture and upbringing can have on a person’s worldview. Like a city looks different from certain vantage points, a single event can have a totally different appearance to different people. To us, Eddard Stark is the honourable hero that dies in vain, but to Daenerys Targaryen, he’s the cold warrior that slew her family. The Wildlings may be viewed as savages by most of Westeros, but to Mance Rayder and Jon Snow, they’re simply a spirited people in love with freedom. To the lords of Westeros, the Seven Kingdoms are everything, yet to the merchants of Qarth who care only for trade and money, they are nothing. Depending on the person, one thing can have entirely different meanings, some as different from each other as ice and fire— but all are valid. There is great wisdom to be had from considering all perspectives and their origins. Expanding your own point of view will help you to see the world more objectively and become more understanding of others.
3. What people think about you doesn’t matter
Game of Thrones is filled with characters who are seen as inferior for some reason or another. Tyrion the dwarf, Jon the bastard, Bran the Broken, Davos the Onion Knight, Brienne the Beauty, and the list goes on. Despite the labels stuck to these characters, though, none of them are held back. They wear their so called weaknesses as a badge of pride, finding beauty in their uniqueness. Bran embraces his strengths as a warg, Brienne devotes herself to the art of combat, and Tyrion… well, everyone knows how awesome Tyrion is. As he says, “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
4. Understand and have compassion towards others
It’s easy to make snap judgements about people. When someone acts in an irritating way or says something offensive, we tend to attribute this behavior to bad character rather than trying to understand it. In Game of Thrones, multiple characters make poor decisions on a regular basis, yet we can empathize with them because we know why they acted as they did. Throughout daily life, it’s this why that’s often missing. Why did your friend say that to you? Why did that car cut you off? When we don’t know the why, we have a habit of creating one, and it typically takes on some form of they’re a bad person. Through George R. R. Martin, we see the world of Game of Thrones from multiple perspectives, which helps us to understand why certain characters act the way they do. Although explanations don’t excuse cruelty or carelessness, they can certainly help to build empathy, creating a more constructive mindset less concerned with judgement and more so with understanding and problem solving. From afar, Theon may seem cruel and ungrateful, but Martin encourages the audience to consider the events that brought him to that place— he became a hostage at ten, went unloved by the Starks, and when he finally did return home, it was to a family nearly indifferent to his existence. With that knowledge, his actions are more understandable— although not excusable. In a similar way, Cersei’s behaviour can be explained through her love of her children, the Kingslayer’s through his love of Cersei, and Stannis’s through his unhappy childhood. This unabridged view into the lives of these characters allows for more compassion towards those who might otherwise be labelled the ‘bad guys.’ Martin perfectly demonstrates the impact that upbringing and circumstances can have on a person’s behavior, helping to build his audience’s empathy, both within the story and without.
5. Make every moment count
Valar morghulis. All men must die. Many of us view death as a distant stranger that we’ll likely never know. Game of Thrones demonstrates that death comes for everyone, from noble lords to innocent children. Being an upstanding citizen doesn’t make you immune to speeding cars or diseases. Each one of us is as vulnerable to death as the next, and eventually, it will come for us all, whether as an accidental misstep on a roof or an overly aged body. It could be tomorrow, or it could be in ninety years, but all men must die, so while alive, make every moment count. Do what you love, spend time with loved ones and be grateful, because, as Martin relentlessly shows, any moment could be your last.
Featured photo credit: FAN-SNE via fan-sne.deviantart.com