A song of ice and fire Greek and Norse mythology parallels

I only really started learning about mythology by reading Greek myths and retellings last year, and one of the things I love to think about are parallels, particularly parallels between mythology and A Song of Ice and Fire. I LOVE asoiaf and game of thrones, reading the books in 2013 (I think I’ve read them two of three times since). I’m going off of memory and my still fairly limited knowledge of mythology- how can some of you retain so much information haha?- but I thought this would be a fun little place to ramble my thoughts about the (true or false) parallels I’ve observed. Please let me know of any you’ve thought of, this is honestly my favourite way to spend my time. I’ll also mention here, I know most about Greek mythology and a little about Norse but I haven’t spent time reading other world mythologies yet.

Greek Mythology

Trojan War/Roberts rebellion:

I’ve always had a basic knowledge of the trojan war (I think it’s just one of these things we all know about without knowing why), and when I read asoiaf the parallels between Roberts rebellion and the Trojan War struck me. I guess the rough similarities/roles would be Robert as Menelaus, Rhaegar as Paris, Lyanna as Helen, Ned as Odysseus and Catelyn as Penelope? I wondered about Agamemnon; Tywin strikes as a similar character with a similar part to play, but also has an Odysseus-like cunning and a sly part to play in the eventual ending of the War.  Rhaeger also reminds me a little bit of both Apollo and Achilles in personality depending on the depiction I’ve read 😊 The same variations of the story and perceptions of Helen/Paris and Rhaeger/Lyanna’s relationships are left to the reader and characters to perceive as they will.  I also love the cyclical nature of stories and the world that George R. R. Martin enjoys creating, interlinked with Greek and Norse stories. (I would like to say here, I believe GRRM to be a time traveling wizard, there is no other explanation for this masterpiece).

I’ve enjoyed thinking about the general parallels between the Targaryen’s and the recurring themes within Greek mythology- blood lust/madness, incest and the flip of the coin that seems almost fated from birth within the Targaryen blood lines. Daenerys also gives me a few little Helen vibes every now and again. I’ve also read theories linking Daenerys to Aeneas- I haven’t read the Aeneid yet but I’m really interested to look out for these themes when I do!

Again, I hadn’t yet noticed the parallels between Perspehone/Haydes and Sansa/Littlefinger, but since being pointed out it definitely makes lots of sense and I’ll be looking further into it 😊

When reading Song of Achilles, I thought about the character and role of Chiron and the maesters in Westeros- they play a very similar role for the ‘important’ characters, with traits of wisdom and knowledge of medicine, maintaining the knowledge, history and magic/myths of the worlds (particularly Chiron and Maester Aemon, I love both of their characters). The part that they play in almost keeping the balance of the worlds and guiding the characters reminded me of the elements of prophecy/sacrifice and ‘chosen one tropes’- I’m unsure if Jon’s life and ‘destiny’ are intentionally similar to Achilles in a number of ways? Ned hiding Jon’s identity for his safety, Thetis asking Achilles to hide among the daughters of Lycomedes and the eventuality of their essential part to play- and sacrifice of their own free will- in the Wars to save the world. I’m definitely going to look into this a lot more because I haven’t given it too much thought, but it really interests me. There are also lots of more general mini tropes like the depiction of Achilles/Patroclus as romantic couple (which I feel there’s lots of evidence for, I like this depiction), and the relationship between Renly and Loras (I watched two seasons of games of thrones before reading the books, I always wonder if I I would have known they were a couple in the books). Also, now I think about it Jon Connington’s feelings towards Rhaeger are quite similar to Patroclus and Achilles too.

Circe/Cersei:

Whilst reading Circe, I began to wonder if GRRM was intentionally inspired by Circe and took influence when visualising Cersei’s appearance and character. The depiction of Circe as the daughter of the God of son with a complicated father/daughter relationship and submission to the wishes of her domineering father is very similar to Cersei’s relationship to Tywin. Little things such as affinity to lions and the themes of gold/the sun can be seen. I’m taking everything I’ve read from the book ‘Circe’, but it appears that Circe was a loving, compassionate character who longed to be loved- the change in character of tendency for revenge occurred when this love was not returned- Glaucus chose Scylla and Circe became disillusioned and hardened. This is similar to Cersei’s account in her memories and depiction of her enthusiasm to marry Rhaegar. She instead spent years married to Robert who loved Lyanna. Both Circe and Cersei were raped, experiencing further horror, isolation and loneliness, driving the characters to their mistrust of men: in Circe’s case changing men to animals and in Cersei’s having Robert killed with poison (nice little Boar parallel thrown in). The exceptions to this hatred are Odysseus and Jaime, who both characters love and trust to an extent, becoming the father’s to Circe and Cersei’s children. Both characters refer to these children as the joy in their lives and become fiercely overprotective and wary. Circe becomes increasingly terrified that Athena will kill Telegonus whilst Cersei lives in constant fear of the valonqar prophecy resulting in the death of her children (didn’t actually realise how many parallels I noticed until writing this, very interested in other’s perspectives now). In a sense, Sansa’s characterisation and story is also very similar to Circe’s but this is to be expected as her story mirrors Cersei’s. Cersei also reminds me of Hera in a number of ways, with Robert portraying Zeus.

Norse mythology

I’m very new to learning about Norse Mythology and the vast majority of what I’m basing my knowledge on comes from Neil Gaiman’s book, but I was instantly struck by the Norse mythology universe and North of the wall.  The initial beginning of the world entirely mirrors Norse mythology- Odin defeating the frost giants to create a peaceful world with the knowledge that the world will one day end when they awaken is in complete synchrony with the long night and the building of the wall. Gjallarhorn or the ‘yelling horn’ are mirrored by the horn of Joramun and the inevitability that this story is going to be repeated. The wall was built to separate humans from north of the wall in the same way that the giant builder built the wall of Asgard. The long summers and Winters are very similar in both sources.

The happy, friendly and brave yet stoic individuals in the north- personified by Ned- display the same acceptance yet dread for the inevitable end to come with the words ‘Winter is coming’. The Norse Gods await the inevitable Ragnarok. I know that the mythical creatures from the dawn of time are also very similar with similar histories but I can’t remember enough to go into this, and I definitely need to look back at the history of Westeros (if you know what I’m rambling on about please feel free to enlighten me haha). I also wish I knew more about Odin, but I definitely see some parallels and characters with Ned and those beyond the wall from what I have read on Norse mythology. I enjoy thinking about the differences between the North and South of Westeros, with the dark harshness of the North and the beliefs that stem from the beginning of time- the Weirwood trees and the old Gods. Ned and Catelyn think about the difference between these Gods and the softer, ‘prettier’ and more decorative southern Gods- The North equates to ice and the South fire, both in Norse mythology and asoiaf. I like that these differences feel to me like the difference in tone between Norse mythology and Greek/Roman myths.

I’m very interested in the cyclical nature and patterns within the stories. In Norse mythology the the inevitable cycle of the world equates the Gods and humanity to chess pieces in a game- also prevalent themes in asoiaf.

‘That is how the worlds will end, in ash and flood, in darkness and in ice. That is the final destiny of the gods’.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

This quote sums up far more eloquently that I could the intense similarity in themes that are paralleled in asoiaf. There are also a whole lot of exciting parallels between Odin and the runes/tree of Yggdrasil and Bran/three eyed raven and the weirwoods/children of the forest that I am not very good at explaining but I will give it a go: Both Odin and Bran undertook a physical sacrifice to gain the knowledge required for their important roles in the ‘end of the world’- Odin sacrificing his eye and Bran losing his ability to walk. Odin can shapeshift into animals, and travel within his own and other memories, in the ways that Bran can similarly warg and is learning the depth of his powers and time dynamics at the end of his story in the books (so far). I feel that I need to understand Norse mythology to a far greater extent and reread asoiaf to make more sense of the parallels, but this was fun to think about (and I hope it was a little bit interesting to read haha). I’m also really excited to see where GRRM takes the story and Brans role as I feel there are many more exciting parallels to be seen (I refuse to believe that the final books will never be out, I need to know what happens and delete season 8 of game of thrones from my brain).

What a life I lead, I really got carried away here hahaha, but I honestly have the time of my life thinking about and writing things like this. Please please share any of your perspectives of parallels that you’ve seen, I’m incredibly interested! 😊 I’d also like to think more about parallels between asoiaf and fairy tales in the future (although I know that many fairy tales are derived from mythology) as well as the history of monarchs such as the tudors. I’ve heard that GRRM is very interested in and influenced by Scottish history so I’d love to find out more about that! I hope you’re all doing okay in the crazy times, thank you for reading this!

Books I read in March

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (physical book, new read)

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage.’

In March I began to see this book everywhere, and with an interest in the time period and Tudors I decided to try it- I was panic buying books in Waterstones on my last day out with the idea that lockdown was soon impending. I never purposefully read books based on book prizes such as the man booker, but I watch lots of book videos on youtube and the interesting ones tend to come up a lot until I become curious. I enjoyed this book and the atmosphere, particularly the later sections when Cromwell had more interactions with Anne and Mary, however, it felt too long when I was reading it and at times I lost the thread a little bit. In the past I’ve read about the tudors through the Alison Weir series The Six Tudor Queens and I love these books, but I feel that it would have been beneficial to know more about the time period and Thomas Cromwell before reading this book. This is something I could have researched as I read the book, but as I grew closer to the end I wanted to finish the book. I didn’t feel very connected to Cromwell due to the writing style, and I think I’m more interested in continuing to learn about the six queens. I don’t think I’ll read the rest of the trilogy, but I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the Tudors. P.s I feel like this is a good time to mention that I’m obsessed with a song if ice and fire and always looking at parallels haha, I was interested in the Littlefinger/Cromwell parallels that I noticed 🙂

Favourite/meaningful quote:

I was always desired. But now i am valued. And that is a different thing, i find.’

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara (physical book, new read)

I wrote a whole review/rant about this haha so please go there if you’re interested in my rambling.

Lovely War – Julie Berry (physical book, new read)

‘Thirty years after four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.’

I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it because I love everything to do with Greek mythology and I was interested in the narration. This book felt lighter and cheesier than I expected it to be- although I didn’t know going into it that it was young adult so that’s maybe why- and I didn’t feel strongly connected to the characters, although I liked the secondary love story more so than the main one. I enjoyed the story and the elements of music throughout, but I don’t think it will stick with me and it wasn’t a favourite. The narration style was very cheesy but interesting, the Gods and Goddesses reminded me a bit of the humorous depictions such as in Good Omens and Supernatural. I’d maybe recommend this for people who enjoy young adult historical fiction, but I prefer othr young adult books when depicting mythology.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

If music stops, and art ceases, and beauty fades, what have we then?

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman (physical book, new read)

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.’

This is the first book I’ve read about Norse mythology and I really enjoyed it! This was a good book to start with as it was very easy to read and although I don’t typically like short stories I found the characters and stories interesting- although I need to get used to the names as I doubt I can pronounce any. Being Scottish, I enjoyed learning about Norse mythology as it is probably the mythology most closely related to Scotland- I know they are fictional myths hahaha, I’m very bad at explaining what I mean- and I enjoyed reading about the gruelling hardships faced by the Gods that are very different to Greek and Roman mythology (although Greek is still my favourite). I’m not intrigued to read more about Norse mythology so if you have any recommendations please let me know! 🙂 In terms of ASOIAF parallels, I love the elements of Odin/Ragnarok/symbolism/prophecy that GRRM has been influenced by when writing about the wall/Bran/the three eyed raven/Jon. I’m definitely going to read more about the parallels and influence, these are the things I do at 2am.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.’

A spot of bother – Mark Haddon (physical book/new read)

At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray.

The family is not pleased, as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has ‘strangler’s hands’. Katie can’t decide if she loves Ray, or loves the way he cares for her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by the way the wedding planning gets in the way of her affair with one of her husband’s former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.

I’m still addicted to buying new books but for the most part I am reading a very random collection of books with the aim of no longer owning at least 50 unread books. I read this book with no real expectations as I knew little about the plot and vaguely remember buying it from a charity shop a long time ago. I really enjoyed this book! I love black humour and sarcasm, and the spiralling turn of events that make the world seem a little bit like an apocalypse really relate to the current state of the world (I will say here, I am taking what’s happening very seriously and understand the severity and tragedy behind it, but on things like social media I try to keep things as normal and light at possible because I think a little bit of humour and joy is helping everyone). I really liked the main character in the story and enjoyed the spiralling of events and pace of the book. I’d recommend if you enjoy sarcastic humour and stories about family 🙂

Favourite/meaningful quote:

The secret of contentment lay in ignoring many things completely.’

The Wouldbegoods – E. Nesbit (audiobook, new read)

‘Sent away to the country after a particularly unruly episode, the well-meaning but wayward Bastable children solemnly vow to reform their behavior. But their grand schemes for great and virtuous deeds lead to just as much mayhem as their ordinary games, and sometimes more.’

I decided to listen to this audiobook in my quest to read the books I’ve owned for a, long long time. I didn’t have a great interest in this book and it hasn’t really stuck with me. I also found some parts to be stereotypical or sexist, I think maybe because this book was written in 1899. I wouldn’t recommend this to children for these reasons, however, I’ll always keep this book and appreciate it due to the sentimental value of being given it by my dad as a wee girl.

When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman (audiobook, new read)

When God Was a Rabbit is the story of a memorable young heroine, Elly, and her loss of innocence; a magical portrait of the pull and power of family ties, of loss and life. From Essex and Cornwall to the streets of New York, from 1968 to the events of 9/11, When God Was a Rabbit follows the evolving bond of love and secrets between Elly and her brother, Joe, and her increasing concern for her best friend, Jenny Penny, who has secrets of her own. Funny, quirky, utterly compelling, and poignant, too, When God Was a Rabbit heralds the start of a remarkable new literary career.

Another book I found at a charity shop a good few years ago, I enjoyed this book and the flow of it and I liked learning more about the characters lives over time, however, this was another book I didn’t really connect with or care deeply about. I like to get extremely invested in a story and it’s characters (I think this is why I love long, character driven stories) so it can feel a bit sad when this doesn’t happen. I will say though, I don’t know if this was due to reading this at a time when I wasn’t really in the mood for it, or listening to the audiobook instead of reading it. I’m not normally so fussy with books but March seemed to be a month where I didn’t find anything I really loved, and maybe this is why I’m often drawn to rereading old books instead of reading new ones. I think this is also because I’ve been trying to read a lot of the books I own already, so I bought them long ago.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Memories no matter how small or inconsequential are the pages that define us.’

Our Stop – Laura Jane Williams (audiobook, new read)

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

I don’t know why I read romance contemporaries because I always end up moaning that I don’t like cheesy books haha- but I do like to have a nice balance, and funny easy to read cheesy books were DEFINITELY needed after A Little Life. This was particularly cheesy and a lil unrealistic even for the genre but I did enjoy listening to it despite this. There were times where the characters would discuss feminism or gender, but these seemed quote random and I felt a little bit like they were in the book just to add depth when they didn’t really seem to fit in. Not a favourite, but still fun to read. I would recommend Beth O’Leary’s books for this genre 🙂

March Favourite

Norse mythology was probably my favourite book in March 🙂 Thank you anyone who has read to this point, I do ramble haha. Please recommend any books you think I might like and let me know if you’ve read any of these