Osprey — a longtime publisher of military related powers, and more recent publisher of games — is offering free ebooks for the Corona Virus lockdowns.
When I first read A Game of Thrones from George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series more than 20 years ago, my initial reaction was “Oh. This is a fantasy version of the Wars of the Roses.” Even with only my basic wargamer’s knowledge of the WotR, I was able to see the parallels (anyone interested in a game of Kingmaker?)
It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had this thought. In The History Behind The Game of Thrones: The North Remembers, David C. Weizczok lays out parallels not only in the Wars of The Roses, but other political and military struggles in Scotland and England, as well as some striking geographical similarities.
The historical Stirling Castle, for example, controls the vital crossing of the River Forth, a strategic situation that closely parallels Westeros’ Moat Cailin and The Twins. The iconic Wall, which separates Westeros from the Wildings of the North, was inspired by Hadrian’s and The Antonine Walls, which separated Roman Britain from the Caledonians. The Iron Islands parallel many locations off the coasts of Britain, notably the Hebrides. Historical Caerlaverock is a nice stand in for Riverrun.
Actual events spanning from Roman times to the Wars of the Roses also are echoed in the Game of Thrones. The futile Wilding assault on the wall, led by their chariots, echoed the equally futile assault of the Caledonians on the Roman Legions anchored on the slopes of Mons Graupius in 83 CE. The Battle of the Bastards looks an awful lot like a merging of Bannockburn and Falkirk. Robert the Bruce’s efforts are reflected in those of Robert Baratheon. Tywin Lannister exhibits many of the characteristics of Edward I.
And then there’s the infamous – and gut wrenching – Red Wedding, which has not one, but THREE parallels in Scottish history: The Black Dinner, James II’s murder of William Douglas and the Massacre of Glencoe. All of these were shocking to contemporaries because of the clear violation of guest-right.
Dragons even have their analog in the castle shattering and fire breathing cannon of the late medieval period.
Weizczok’s book is densely packed with information. Fortunately, it is clearly written and not in the least bit dry for this fan of Game of Thrones and history.
If I have one criticism of the book, it is that the book needs more photos and maps for those of us unfamiliar with English geography. As an American, I can immediately envision maps for the American Revolution and American Civil War. It’s a lot harder for me to envision the geography of the Hebrides , Dumfries and Galloway. There are some maps and photos in the center of the book, but I could have used more. I had to keep my phone handy to keep looking up the locations of places mentioned.
Other than that, I highly recommend this book for anyone who has enjoyed Game of Thrones – either as a book, or in the television format.
Well Told Tales offers audiobooks of pulp fiction stories. From the website:
Every Monday, the Well Told Tales podcast brings you an original short story — either sci-fi, horror or hardboiled. Think of them as audiobooks, only shorter — 15 to 35 minutes, the perfect length for your commute, workout, whatever. And did we mention they’re FREE?
At first I thought that someone had made a mistake with the cover of this translation of the Iliad. But then I realized just how brilliant it is.
By titling his books “The Greatest US Army Stories Ever Told,” and “The Greatest US Navy Stories Ever Told,” Iain C. Martin makes a bold claim, given the services’ long and intersting history. Still, I have to believe that Martin meant it as more than hyperbole, and that he as spent a great deal of time saparating the wheat from the chaff.
So are these the Greatest Army and Navy Stories ever told? I don’t know, but they are certainly very good and have provided me with many good evenings of reading.
Each of the stories is an excerpt from a different period, and are arranged chronologically. Martin has done a good job not only of representing the various wars, but also of offering multiple points of view. In each volume are the writings of commanders, foot soldiers (or sailors), reporters, and historians.
Of the two, I think that I enjoyed the Army stories more (although that could be the result of a relative lack of knowledge of Naval history). Beginning with a recount of Washington’s Crossing by historian David Hackett Fisher, the Army stories include selections from Revoutionary War soldier Joseph Plumb Martin; Mexican American War correspondent George Wilkins Kendall; Civil War nurse and author Louisa May Alcott; Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Ulysses Grant; Chief Red Horse; Spanish American War Correspondent Richard Harding Davis; World War II correspondents Andy Rooney and Ernie Pyle; General Ridgeway’s account of Inchon, Reporter Joe Gallawy on Vietnam; plus pieces on the first and second Gulf Wars, and the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia.
On the Naval Side were John Paul Jones; historian Nathan Miller on the Constellation – L’ Insurgente engagement; Historian James de Kay on Stephen Decatur’s attack on Tripoli; C.s Forester on the Battle of Lake Erie; James Fenimore Cooper on the USS Constitution; Herman Melville on his days as a seaman; reports from the Monitor and Merrimack; Captain H.D. Smith at Mobile Bay; George Dewey; a harrowing account of sub disaster; an excerpt from “At Dawn We Slept”; Commander Walter Winslow’s account of the Java Sea; George Feifer’s history of the Kamikaze; Commander Frances Omori’s account of navy nurses in the Korean War, an account by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew of a Cold War submarine game of cat-and-mouse; and an excerpt from Chuck Pfarrer’s “Warrior Soul” about Navy Seals.
Each selection is put into its proper perspective with a short introduction and postscript by Martin. These are well done, and helped to fill me in on some things I didn’t know or had forgotten.
I have absolutely no quibble with the pieces selected except to say that we perhaps did not need eight pieces on the Second World War in the Army volume (and a similar number in the Navy volume). We may have been better served, perhaps to have selections from some more less-well covered periods. I am sure that there are some great storeis from the Boxer Rebellion, the Moro Wars, (or somesmaller,less known naval escapades) etc. But then, maybe Martin did consider tem and they were judged not to be among the “greatest.”
In the end, I think that these are two teriffic books, and worth adding to your shelves.