On A Song of Ice and Fire

Of Direwolves and Gods

By Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Evidence from neurology suggests that our brains are wired to believe things even without any evidence. The dominant explanation is that it’s a better survival mechanism to believe a sound or a flicker of motion has meaning than to ignore it. In a world where a hungry lion (and not the Lannister type) might be lying in wait behind any given bush, this hardwired tendency to assume significance offers a slight advantage in seeing the next sunrise.

Unfortunately, this same wiring kicks in even when there isn’t a lion, a Lannister, or even a sound to trigger it. Our brains naturally assume that perceived patterns have meaning, even if there’s no proof that they do. This inherent search for meaning is the psychological and neurological basis for much human superstition.

I’ve always been pleased to find that meaning made manifest within fantasy literature. Through fantasy, I escape to worlds that conform to these intuitions about how things should be. These imaginary worlds often contain greater meaning, expressed by strong, tangible forces of good and evil. Wishes can come true. Magic works. Gods even manifest their wonders in the world for all to see. The first chapters of A Game of Thrones promise an escape to just such a realm.

It turns out, though, that the people of the Seven Kingdoms really don’t inhabit this sort of fantasy world at all. Much like us, they have no regular or direct interactive access to their deities. Theirs is a world of neither the mythical philandering,  …

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