On A Song of Ice and Fire

The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow

Romanticism in A Song of Ice and Fire

By Linda Antonsson, Elio M. Garcia, Jr.

As with all things, the passing of time brings changes. The modern fantasy genre has seen trends come and go in the last fifteen years, but one of the most lasting of the recent trends began with the growing success of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Just as he followed in the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen R. Donaldson, and more contemporary fantasists such as Robert Jordan and Tad Williams, other authors have been influenced in turn by the traits that Martin’s readers associate with his series of novels. Words such as “realistic,” “gritty,” or “brutal” are terms of reference for many readers when discussing the series, and it can’t be denied that these aspects of the story draw a great deal of attention. However, the strength of the novels is not based on literary realism alone. In fact, the realism stands in contrast to another foundational aspect of the narrative: Martin’s romanticism.

For some, romanticism may conjure the spectre of bodice-rippers and Harlequin romances. Our meaning when we discuss romanticism in relation to Martin’s work is quite specific: an emphasis on emotionality and the individual, a gaze aimed firmly at the past, and a belief in the indomitable human spirit. All of these things were traits of the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century, a movement that Martin has identified himself with in the past. Romanticism has a palpable presence in his award-winning short stories, as well as his novel Dying of the Light and especially the antebellum  …

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