A few weeks ago The Guardian published an article by Steve Rose arguing that the board game, “Dungeons and dragons”, had paved the way to Game of Thrones. Apart from using the word “geekdom”, which made me cringe, the article quite surprised me – I am not saying that it is impossible that it was like that for some GoT fans: I am aware the game was hugely popular in the 80’s, a time when fantasy certainly was not.
If you read the reviews of films like Excalibur, Conan the barbarian and Legend you realise that when they were released (respectively 1981, 1982 and 1985) critics treated those films as weird, to say the least. Magic? Monsters? Heroism? Some European (especially Italian) critics deemed heroes (especially northern) suspiciously right-wing, and not only Conan, who appeared on the screen after a quote from Nietsche. Even King Arthur: the only context in which a sword could be drawn from a stone without anyone frowning was a Disney film. Thankfully those days are over, and we can happily choose to read and watch stories of worlds where magic and epic marry happily and produce wonderful offspring. There are those who don’t, of course. I’ll have to go back to this.
I really do not know why the tide changed , but I don’t really think it was the craze for “Dungeons and Dragons”. There were fantasy novels being written , although they were called “sword and sorcery”. I am grateful that it did, and that Peter Jackson had funds enough for his adaptation of The Lord of the rings. After that, anything fantasy could find a way to the screen, large or small, and stories set in the Dark Ages as well, like the recent History Channel series Vikings.
So, going back to Mr Rose (an excellent film critic, by the way), I believe he is a bit pessimistic: and that readers are the core of Game of Thrones fans It is true that when a season is running, videos are posted on Youtube explaining difficult points in each episode, because some American viewers seem to find the plot as difficult as a history class, but with dragons, but readers of A song of Ice and Fire, and of other sagas and novels including, of course, Tolkien’s, are more than he seems to imagine, even though the books are often rather thick.
It may also be that at least some of the many readers and spectators take a further step and get to the original spring from which fantasy originates: epic poetry. It is not so unlikely, just look how much you can find on Youtube on Beowulf, or on pagan elegies.