Winter is Coming

The book The Game of Thrones, first in the fantasy series The Song of Fire and Ice, being made into a TV series on HBO. It’s probably the best long fantasy series I’ve ever read, though the ending hasn’t been written yet and, like many long fantasy series, its getting bogged down by too many characters. It’s still nowhere near the Wheel of Time which requires a dictionary of characters in the back. The draw of the Game of Thrones is the endless tragedy, the traditional sense. Characters are constantly being built up and full of hope, and then utterly destroyed. Reading it is like playing risk, but much better.

I mention it because there is a Mongolia analog in the Game of Thrones, a group of people called the Dothraki. They are obviously based on Mongolians and obviously very different. They are nomadic and herd horses, but no other animals. They live in what is described as a sea of grass, apparently much more fertile than the steppe of Mongolia. They take archery very seriously and often raid various nearby civilizations. Their leaders are called Khal, an obvious reference to the word Khan.

The Dothraki are an example of essentialization. Ignoring the obvious additions, they are what many civilizations have stereotyped Central Asian Nomads as, brutal violent guys on horses. It’s interesting to see how ideas like this stick around and are used in various ways. I’m not saying that George R. R. Martin is in anyway wrong to do this, he’s only getting some ideas from history and using characters and ideas that people will recognize.

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