The Shigir Idol
Many in-depth comparisons have been made between G.R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" and "The War of the Roses," even by Martin himself. A bit lesser known are the parallels with Norse mythology, but a near comprehensive analogy has been created by Dorian the Historian at gameofthronesandnorsemythology.blogspot.com.
Esquire also pointed out some of the main similarities:
It is also evident that Martin has drawn inspiration from Greek Mythology, Arthurian Legend, and many other historic and folkloric sources.
What I haven't seen much of, on the other hand, are discussions about the similarities between the series and the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, some 10,000 years ago. This was a time of intense climate change when many "Ice Age" animals and peoples went extinct, when wars were fought and cultures fell that modern man knows very little about.
In the opening of "Suppressed Transmition: the Second Broadcast," a book in the G.U.R.P.S. game-world, the setting of a quickly coming Ice Age is proposed. It claims that at the last glacial maximum, virtually the entire northern hemisphere went from forest to ice and tundra in less that 100 years. It suggests that this scenario could be sped up a bit for drama in an RPG campaign.
The essay suggests religious struggles, with a political faction bringing on an Ice Age using powerful magic...in order to stop the spread of religion.
The only deity mentioned in the article is the Norse god "Hoder," as an example of an ice god. Norse/ ASoIaF theorist have long noted the similarities between the name of this Norse god and the name of the gentle giant "Hodr" in Martin's series.
Martin is an avid G.U.R.P.S. player. Either one drew inspiration from the other, or the authors of the G.U.R.P.S. book and Martin were independently inspired by the Norse "Ragnarok" and its similarities with the end of the last "Ice Age." After all, these similarities inspire many like-minded people (such as myself). "Suppressed Transmition: the Second Broadcast" is copyright 2000, but the articles originally appeared in Pyramid magazine
But Suppressed Transmitions is a book created to inspire artists and writers, so whether one begat the other is irrelevant. Let us instead consider the Ice Age setting for the purposes of Prehistoric Literary Criticism.
There are continent-sized places on Earth that don't really have much of a change of season, such as the Yunnan-Ghizou plateau and large parts of Australia and Africa- it's just autumn there all year round. Some researchers have suggested that at certain times during our recent prehistory, it may have been this way nearly the world over.
Best-selling author Herbie Brennan has compiled evidence in several of his non-fiction books tha during a period prior to 10,600 years ago, there was no real change of seasons. A planetary impact 10,600 years ago ended this period of climate stability. This falls perfectly in line with the more well-known and peer-reviewed Clovis Impact Theory, whose adherents have not yet fully considered the effects of their North American Impact on the rest of the planet.
Whether these somewhat controversial ideas turn out to be realities is irrelevant when considering how theories influence fiction.
Prehistoric Literary Criticism supposes that many "fantasy" worlds have been built as an excercise of the human mind to "fill the gaps" of prehistory and answer the burning questions that mainstream science seems loath to address or sometimes even to acknowledge.
Martin's Maesters might think that their Winters are a cycle, and might therefore call "Ice-Ages" seasons, but they can't predict those cycles. This is very similar to our own interpretation of the past few Glacial Maximums- modern scientists still debate what the various causes of these Glacial Maximums were, and whether or not they were cyclical.
Comparisons can also be drawn between the depiction of Climate Change in Martin's World, the modern real world, and our own world during relatively brief but intensely cold periods between 11,000 B.C., 8,600 B.C., and 3,500 B.C.
The G.U.R.P.S. book suggests, "Perhaps a winter God like Hoder, or a circle of sorcerous frost giants, casts a powerful spell to bring about the Ice Age specifically to stop the spread of monotheism."
Yes... or maybe some religious zealot just believes that someone has summoned a god to make it cold, and therefore wages a brutal war in response?
The only monotheism in Game of Thrones is the religion of Melisandre and Thoros. The parallels between R'hollor and Zoroastrian are many, and have been noted by numerous fan theorists, but this brings me to my next point.
Though early Zoroastrianism may seem primitive and 'pagan" to modern sensibilities, it has also been considered as a huge impetus for the advancement of civilization at the end of the Neolithic period of Asia and the Middle East. Some have seen it as the origin of all of the world's monotheistic religions, even (if more tentatively) the fire religion of the Cherokee Native Americans.
The idea of the Christian church "covering up" evidence of the older "heathen" religions has been documented by historians, explored by various fantasy authors, and compared to Martin's "Faith of the Seven" in contrast to his "Gods of the First Men."
However, I think Martin is actually touching on an earlier period of "idol burning" and religious "cover-ups."
This is a subject much explored by the visionary theorist Stan Gooch, who was a neanderthal hybrid when Neanderthal hybrids weren't cool. He proposed that the religion of the Neanderthals and archaic humans, and by extension most hunter communities of the Neolithic, was based on the number "thriteen" with the Moon as the chief diety of a divine pantheon. The religion of the agriculturalists who subdued this religion, on the other hand, was based on the number "seven" and considered the Sun to be the supreme god.
As a prehistoric fiction author, the fact that Martin is also aware of this has proven to be a vexing problem.
Almost every time I want to use historic evidences of the 'Seven vs. Thirteen" motif in my depiction of the real world circa 10,600 years ago...I find that Martin has already borrowed that instance for his fantasy world!
To bring this point home, I present the Shigir Idol.
It is the most ancient wooden sculpture in the world, and possibly man's oldest surviving monument. Originally standing two stories high, the idol was originally discovered in the Ural Mountains, submerged in a peat bog, but it didn't reach national attention until 2015 when scientists re-dated it to 11,000 years. It depicts a god with seven faces along with pictographs and "tally marks" that may be the earliest examples of "proto-writing" anywhere. Multiple faces are characteristic for the Slavic god of fire, “Ogni,” as well as the Vedic god “Agni.” The worship of the Vedic gods was supplanted by Zoroastrianism in many places during the Neolithic period of Asia.
So here are my questions:
*Did Martin know about the Shigir idol before it made headlines in 2015, or did he reconstruct a Neolithic proto-religion based on the known religions that branched out from it in historic times?
*Or was he being influenced by the Universal Mind and/or Rupert Sheldrake's Morphic Field?
*Has Martin done DMT at a Dead concert and obtained information about our past from the Machine Elves?
*Did a time traveler go back to ancient Russia and leave a copy of Game of Thrones, therefore sparking a Neolithic religion?
*Will the researchers trying to decipher the Shigir idol uncover the text to "Winds of Winter" before it's even been published?
*And perhaps more importantly, should my Neolithic Slavs worship a seven-faced god or will they say I've copied Martin rather than actual history?
Joe Lyon Layden is a prehistoric fiction author and primitive musician. To receive a free copy of this entire novella "The Man from Parkho Khatune Bears Favor," as well as three free songs and monthly updates, freebies, and discounts on Joe's ongoing work, please sign up for the newsletter below.