On A Song of Ice and Fire
A Sword Without a Hilt
The Dangers of Magic in (and to) Westeros
By Jesse Scoble
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has been a success, in large part, because it has recaptured fans of the fantasy genre who had grown bored and moved away from the standard fare, and because it has reached a wide audience of those who traditionally do not read or watch fantasy genre entertainment. In an interview with the MTV Movies Blog, HBO Showrunner David Benioff said, “I think some people think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to watch a fantasy show because I’m not that into magic,’ but one of the things that is great about George’s books is that they don’t rely overly much on magic.” Similarly, Tor blogger Leigh Butler expressed the sentiment that Martin seemed almost afraid to commit, in terms of how much magic to put in the series. In her penultimate “A Read of Ice and Fire” post, Leigh’s reaction to the birth of the dragons was: “Daaaamn, y’all. So apparently magic is not so much nonexistent in Martin’s world after all!”
What’s intriguing about this is that Martin’s world of the Seven Kingdoms is steeped in magic. But it is not used in a “traditional fantasy” sense.
By “traditional fantasy,” I’m speaking of the body of tales and entertainments that traces its roots back to Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and which has come to encompass things like Dungeons & Dragons and the predictable, often-clich©d yarns of elves, dwarfs, orcs, and …