Saturday, November 9, 2013


Fanfare, please...

This is my 100th post. It's been nearly two years since I started this blog, and here I am, still plugging away, still trying to come up with something to write about each week.

It isn't always easy.

This week was particularly difficult. I wanted this post to be special, like the 100th episode of a popular TV show—say, the "My Way Home" episode of Scrubs (a clever homage to The Wizard of Oz), the "Unusual Suspects" episode of The X-Files (in which we learn how Mulder met the Lone Gunmen), or Phoebe giving birth to her brother's triplets in Friends (which was not nearly as wrong as it sounds).

To be honest, I didn't feel like writing anything this week. All I wanted to do was read. I am currently immersed in A Dance with Dragons, book five of George R. R. Martin's sprawling fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis for HBO's sprawling fantasy, Game of Thrones. (I realize the book has been out for over two years. I was waiting for it to go on sale, which usually happens when the next book in the series is released. It finally went on sale last month, although there is still no sign of book six. What's up with that, Mr. Martin?)

I had not read the books when Game of Thrones premiered two years ago. I watched the first episode with Loretta and frankly, I didn't care for it. There were too many characters—none of whom made a favorable first impression. The story was confusing. And where was the fantasy? I had heard that this was a fantasy series, but there were no wizards, no dragons, no heroes—just a lot of brutish, foul-mouthed louts trying to kill each other. I quit watching after the first episode, but it caught Loretta's interest. She was between jobs at the time and watched most of the first season while I was at work.

Then I happened to catch the last scene of the final episode, "Fire and Blood," and what I saw immediately grabbed my attention: a naked young woman emerging from the ashes of a fire with three baby dragons.

Daenerys Targaryen and Friend

Now, I know what you're thinking got my attention: the naked woman, right? Wrong! Naked women are a dime a dozen on HBO. It was the dragons!

I was hooked. I made Loretta sit through the entire first season again with me. As I got into the story, I realized that there actually were a few noble characters. One, in particular, stood out: Eddard "Ned" Stark, reluctant "Hand of the King," played by Sean Bean. Here was an honorable man who, surrounded on all sides by ambitious, deceitful, treacherous people, stood by his principles at all costs. Just in case you haven't read the books or seen the TV series, I shouldn't tell you what happens to Ned, largely due to his cherished principles. I shouldn't, but I will.

He dies.

Lots of people die in George R. R. Martin's world, I discovered as I got deeper into the TV series and books. Fans quickly learn not to get too attached to any character, because there's a very good chance that that character will be killed—most likely in a horrible way. A good many Game of Thrones fans who had not read the books were deeply disturbed this past season by events in the episode titled "The Rains of Castamere." Those of us who had read the books weren't disturbed at all. We knew what was coming. We looked forward to it with an anticipation bordering on glee—which, when you think about it, is a bit disturbing in itself. (A rather cruel video on YouTube features a montage of the horrified reactions of people who did not know what was coming, captured by their friends who did. A second video features George R. R. Martin on Conan O'Brien's show, laughing as he watches the first video.)

One of my favorite characters in the story is Hodor—the sweet, simple-minded hulk who has served as young Brandon Stark's legs since Bran was crippled in a tragic fall in book/season one. "Hodor" is not really his name; he is called "Hodor," because the only thing he ever says is "Hodor"—whatever "Hodor" means. I am hoping that George R. R. Martin will eventually tell us what "Hodor" means, and that he will allow Hodor to survive to the end of the story—if he ever gets to the end of the story. (He'd better get busy. He isn't getting any younger, and neither am I.)

I have reached Chapter 15 of A Dance with Dragons, and so far, I am happy to report that Hodor is still alive. I am hopeful that he will remain so. If you have finished the book and know otherwise, please keep it to yourself.


(By the way, in case you're wondering—at ten episodes a season, with each season roughly equivalent to one book, and with George R. R. Martin promising seven books, Game of Thrones will probably never reach the 100-episode milestone. On the other hand, the story has already turned out to be much longer than he originally anticipated. If there is a 100th episode, I hope it features Hodor.)

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