Beautiful and Terrible as an Army with Banners (Waiting for S8E4)

I’m sure I’m not the only one who keeps seeing the parallels between LOTR and GOT (the filmed versions). Episode 3 of the last GOT season, The Long Night, was, for example, heavily inspired by the three major LOTR battles. Aria’s “Not today” had happened long ago, on the eve of the Battle of the Black Gate.

King Aragorn: “A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day…”

The GOT variation:

Melisandre: “What do we say to the God of Death?” Arya: “Not today.”

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

And another memorable exchange from LOTR:

Nazgul: Grabbing Eowyn by the throat and lifting her up. “You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.” Eowyn, the moment before she sticks him with the pointy end, “I am no man!” 

has been reincarnated in GOT:

Missandei: “Valar morgulis.” Daenerys: “Yes, all men must die, but we’re not men.”

These are iconic LOTR quotes, and no matter how well they fit in GOT, they’re unoriginal. You can’t start a novel with, “It is a truth accepted worldwide, that a single man in possession of a good fortune needs a wife”. Oh, well. I loved S8E3, so I can be generous and understanding, and call it “intertextuality” — books talking about other books. Umberto Eco wrote The Name of the Rose on this premise.

Many had a hard time seeing who was who and what they were doing. It was messy and confusing, with an illogical finale. I don’t think the Long Night battle will find its place on my top-ten list.

Like in LOTR — another similarity — the battle wasn’t won on the battlefield. In spite of  fearsome Dothraki, fearless Unsullied, two Boeing-797-sized dragons, and dubious help from the God of Light, the fragile balance between life and death rested in that illogical detail – the pointy end of the girl-assassin’s dagger.

The main and what should’ve been the final battle, the one the whole series has revolved around, happened out of any logical sequence. Given the heavy losses, I hope the prince and the princess who were not promised have enough of their elite soldiers left for the leftovers of the war that still has to be won. Or lost. Or whatever.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Speaking of Daenerys and Jon’s army arrayed for the battle, they indeed looked beautiful and terrible. Until the White Walkers charged, that is. G.R.R. Martin, or better, the creators of the TV series, didn’t need to look far for inspiration for their super troopers, though. For thousands of years states have maintained highly trained troops for the most dangerous and specialized missions. So, who are the greatest ancient and medieval commandos?

Medjay were a sort of Egyptian rangers. They patrolled the distant fringes of the realm, served as paramilitary forces and guarded the royals and their palaces and tombs.

The Immortals, the permanent standing force of the 6th century BC Persia, comprised of 10,000 heavily armed infantrymen. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Immortals were decimated by the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae.

The Praetorians, the early Roman elite warriors. Although not numerous, they possessed significant social power and influence. They overthrew (killed) more than a few emperors, and raised some others to power.

In the 4th century AD, Emperor Constantine established Tagma, the 20,000-man strong professional backbone of the Byzantine army.

The Ottoman Janissaries, the elite infantry units of the Sultan’s personal troops and the first standing army in Europe. They began as devshirme, the blood tax the Christian subjects had to pay to Ottoman rulers. Young boys would be taken from their families and sent to Isanbul to be converted to Islam, educated and trained. Many of them rose to the highest military and civil ranks in the Ottoman Empire.

The Ninja of feudal Japan are probably the best equivalent of present-day special forces. The legendary fighters were masters of covert operations and specialized in infiltration, sabotage, camouflage and assassination.

Knights Templar — fierce warriors, the first bankers, the owners of a fleet of ships and an island (Cyprus), money-lenders to European monarchs and nobles. On October 13, 1307 — it was Friday — scores of French Templars were arrested and tortured, though the persecution in other countries wasn’t nearly as severe as in France. Many believe that they are still around.

About jfkaufmann

Not unlike my characters, I lead a double life: by day I'm a mother, a friend, a colleague, and the queen of my kitchen. When the moon rises, however, I shift into my other self and, as Queen of the Night, I reign the magical world of my imagination.
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