Geography in Game of Thrones with Elly Truitt


I have finally done the thing – I’ve had a couple of people ask me about doing something on medievalism (Fantasy…Lord of the Rings…you know, your basic medieval themed pop culture production.)  And in this case, we’re talking about Game of Thrones (yes, that’s Tyrion Lanniser eating Lamprey Pie over there).  There are lots of blogs and podcasts dedicated to this sort of thing, so I’ve always hesitated, but I finally struck on a topic that didn’t seem well represented out there in the interwebs and I found a great accomplice to talk with me and make sure I (an admittedly weak fan of the show) didn’t make any really glaring mistakes.  Elly Truitt is associate professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr college and writes about medievalism among other topics (medieval and modern cultural connections, modernity, etc) on her blog Medieval Robots.  She’s also done a podcast about her book of the same name (from UPenn Press).  She’s also published a couple of cool essays about medieval machines and medieval fantasy, so clearly this was the right person for the job and I’m really happy she agreed to do this.

In the podcast, we talk about the geographic assumptions implicit in the Game of Thrones world: what do the directions of North, South, East, and West mean in the world?  How do they identify people from hot or cold climates?  How do characters in the world deal with “foreign” people and what do they mean by that depending on where they come from?  It’s a good conversation and there’s plenty more to say – if you really disagree (or really agree, hopefully) talk about it in the comments…this is Game of Thrones after all.

This is a photo of your basic fish pie...but it definitely could be eel.

And for a real Game of Thrones dish of food, I appreciated the detail that when Tyrion is berating Cersei about the need for Joffrey to participate in the battle against Stannis late in season 2, he compliments Cersei on the Lamprey Pie (which, apparently, he has a fondness for.)  It’s a great choice since both eel and lamprey were favorites of the European nobility in the late middle ages (The image to the right is a basic fish pie…but it could be eel or lamprey).  It is also a bit of an ominous food as the extremely cold and wet lamprey (according to humoral theory) was dangerous to eat without really dowsing it in strong hot spices (pepper, ginger, etc.) or even killing it by drowning it in wine.  Paul Freedman tells the story of how King Henry I of England, defied his doctors orders to stay away from such fish, ate a large plate of lamprey and died!  If you can get a hold of lamprey or eel (I personally have not had lamprey, but I do actually really like eel…in sushi, smoked, or in pie), you can make yourself a lamprey pie with one of a number of historical recipes.

The clips played in the podcast from the show come from:

Jorah Mormont narrating the “Free Cities” from the history and lore extras, Oberyn Martell talking to Varys in season 4, episode 6, and season 2, episode 7 in Qarth.


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