For the past few months, I’ve been reading the sprawling epic which is A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin. More recently, that reading has been accompanied by watching early seasons of the hit-TV series based on the novels, Game of Thrones. I’m not by nature a fantasy literature fan, but there has been something compelling about the characters and the sheer brilliance of Martin’s creation of a whole imaginary world around the kingdom of Westeros. At the end of each novel is a cast of characters: by the end of the 5th book, the number of pages it takes is huge.
As I’ve read this marathon (still to be finished by Martin), I’ve nevertheless found myself becoming disturbed by the world he creates: a world of profound cruelty and violence, of the sexual and physical degradation of people (especially women) and the cynical, dark view he has of human nature. It is a deeply morally ambiguous world. That it is such a good read at the same time, only serves to underline the darkeness.
We live in such a world, of course. We know our politicians and rulers are as flawed as we are; we know that violence within relationships is a common experience; we know that war is prosecuted for economic and personal agendas as much as for “Queen and Country” (a timely reminder as Remembrance Sunday approaches). In these darkening days of autumn, we would be foolish to imagine that the world is not dark, dangerous and destructive.
And yet, as the nights draw in, it is precisely at this time that the Church celebrates the light of Christ in people. All Saints’ Day (1st November) draws us to the possibility of holiness, of becoming, like the countless saints before us, flooded with the light and love of Jesus Christ.
This is why that great writer of fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, could fill his fantasy world with implicit Christian hope and why, in contrast to the dark and (so far) ever-darkening world of Game of Thrones, he could write these words filled with the promise of light:From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king
Your brother and priest.