An Open Access Review Journal Encouraging Critical Engagement with the Continuing Process of Inventing the Middle Ages

March 12, 2016

Attar and Shutters, eds.: Teaching Medieval and Early Modern Cross-Cultural Encounters

Karina F. Attar and Lynn Shutters, eds. Teaching Medieval and Early Modern Cross-Cultural Encounters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Reviewed by Patricia Taylor (

Editors Karina F. Attar and Lynn Shutters have created an excellent collection on teaching cross-cultural encounters in courses focused on medieval and early modern culture. As the editors note in the introduction, the humanities are under suspicion from some critics for their relevancy to modern society at precisely the same time that businesses and politicians proclaim the importance of having workers that have cross-cultural and global acumen.  Attar and Shutter present a convincing case—or, more accurately, a series of convincing cases—that teaching the cross-cultural and global natures of the medieval and early modern world provide ample training ground for students to practice the specific forms of critical thinking, self-awareness, and flexibility that are required to move across and between cultures in the modern world. Attar, Shutters, and their contributors thus speak to the institutional relevance of teaching medieval and early modern cultures, as well as the humanities more broadly.

The book offers twelve essays by scholars and faculty in a wide range of disciplines, including art history, theater, Italian, French, English, and Latin and Iberian Studies. Each essay articulates a theoretical and pedagogical basis for addressing the stakes and difficulties of teaching cross-cultural encounters in a particular discipline, and then proceeds from the underlying theory to examples of syllabi, pedagogical approaches, class discussions, and specific assignments. The courses described are both undergraduate and graduate, and from a wide range of institutions with a variety of student demographics.

The central conceit of the book is that cross-cultural encounters are not simply synchronic, but also diachronic, and that historical distance can be a feature, not a bug, when teaching cross-cultural encounters. The book is broken into three major sections: the first six essays describe how the authors teach examples of synchronic cultural encounters, while the next five describe how faculty link synchronic encounters to diachronic ones. The final two essays focus primarily on diachronic encounters. While breaking the essays into these groups is appealing on the surface, when reading the volume, it became increasingly clear that it was not nearly as necessary or accurate as it appears: every essay in the opening section offers reflections on the diachronic cross-cultural encounters between students and texts, and often other diachronic encounters as well. Elizabeth Pentland’s essay, “Teaching English Travel Writing from 1500 to the Present” describes a course that explicitly sets up comparisons between modern and early modern travel literature, and Seth Kimmel explains in “Andalusian Iberias: from Spanish to Iberian Literature” how his course takes advantage of the fact that “especially since September 11, 2001, students come to classes on the history and representation of pre-modern Christians, Muslims, and Jews aware that contemporary politics of religion shape interpretations of the past” (22).  
While every essay offers something of import to teachers in particular disciplines, what is perhaps most encouraging about the book as a whole is the way it reminds us that both our students’ and our own discomfort can be productive in the classroom. The theme of comfort and discomfort appears over and over in the collection. Most obvious and useful are the numerous essays that offer different ways to help address students’ discomforts when encountering texts from different cultures. Julie Scheck’s essay, “Stranger than Fiction: Early Modern Travel Narratives and the Antiracist Classroom,” describes how the distancing effect of teaching early modern literature is an important first step in helping students become comfortable and more productive when discussing race, but she also rightly insists that the historical distance of early modern texts can accidentally perpetuate racism if faculty do not resist the potential “minimizing” effect by connecting early modern texts to contemporary parallels (97). Other essays, such as Ambereen Dadabhoy’s “The Moor of America,” productively follow this line of thought by describing how faculty can avoid such minimizing. Dadabhoy’s essay describes how she paired Othello with a discussion of the discourse surrounding President Barak Obama. 
The collection repeatedly reminds faculty that their own discomfort can be equally as important as student discomfort, and that teaching to our own discomforts can increase student learning. For example, in “A Journey through the Silk Road in a Cosmopolitan Classroom,” Kyunghee Pyun writes that “I was always more comfortable staying away from current political issues,” but that the course’s content pushed class discussion into productive, useful, and even “sensitive” explorations of “humanitarian causes and the difficulty of maintaining a delicate balance of power in the post-9/11 era” (66). Other essays highlight how an instructor’s own discomfort stepping outside a traditional area of expertise can actually produce the opportunity for students to bring their own expertise—as immigrants, as speakers of other languages, as coming from a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds—to create a more cross-cultural classroom. As our classrooms become sites of increasing diversity, teaching even where we lack authority and expertise can create the conditions for a truly student-centered cross-cultural experience.

The diversity of disciplines and approaches represented in the collection also proves a great boon for the reader. For example, as an English literature specialist, I found the approaches to teaching cross-cultural encounters through the materiality of different disciplines particularly useful in two essays: Pyun’s essay which discusses cross-cultural encounters through art history, and Jenna Soleo-Shanks’s “Resurrecting Callimachus: Pop Music, Puppets, and the Necessity of Performance in Teaching Medieval Drama,” which describes a performance-based pedagogy for teaching medieval Italian drama. The editors state in the introduction that they hope to “encourage interdisciplinary conversation, itself a vital, if sometimes lacking, form of cross-cultural encounter within academia” (9). I believe they have succeeded on this point, and I hope others will take up their call as well. Teaching Medieval and Early Modern Cross Cultural Encounters offers much that can encourage both faculty and students to understand their classrooms as sites of cross-cultural encounters with the medieval and early modern past. It is a much-needed resource, though as the editors themselves point out, it only scratches the surface of what is possible and needed.

Patricia Taylor
Georgia Institute of Technology

February 18, 2016

Salda: Arthurian Animation

Michael N. Salda, Arthurian Animation: A Study of Cartoon Camelots on Film and Television. Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland & Company, 2013. 

Reviewed by Christopher Berard (

Arthurian animation (“Arthurianimation”), as defined by Michael N. Salda, is not limited to animated productions that feature King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, but includes productions with Arthurian themes and motifs as well. According to this expansive definition, the earliest known example of Arthurianimation is Warner Brothers’ 1933 cartoon short Bosko’s Knight-Mare, but here King Arthur is, as it were, ‘Sir Not-appearing-in-this-film’. In fact, Arthur does not seem to have made his animated film debut until Knighty Knight Bugs, another Warner Bros. film, which premiered on 23 August 1958 and garnered that year’s Oscar for Best Animated Short. Salda’s Arthurian Animation: A Study of Cartoon Camelots on Film and Television, which takes Bosko’s Knight-Mare as a starting point, is thus far-reaching in scope. It spans seventy-five years of film history, and it contextualizes and describes more than one hundred seventy separate works. The monograph is largely diachronic in structure and can best be described as a comprehensive compendium of Arthurianimation. Each of the book’s ten chapters begins with an overview of the cultural and commercial climate behind the film(s) under consideration.

In the introduction, Salda makes three cogent statements about Arthurianimation that set the tone for the work as a whole. First, he observes that Arthurianimation is by-and-large a commercial cash-in phenomenon. Second, he comments that it typically draws its inspiration from recent, popular retellings and re-imaginings of Arthurian tales (rather than directly from medieval source material). Third, he notes that although the commercially driven and derivative characteristics of Arthurianimation are seldom a recipe for high art, they make Arthurianimation an ideal specimen for the study of the reception of Arthurian legend. Arthurian animated projects tend to be produced when animation studios believe that the Matter of Britain is a lucrative commodity. Arthurianimation thus serves as an indicator of the actual or perceived popularity of Arthuriana. The presentation of Arthurian content in Arthurianimation is shaped by a combination of the creative team’s own understanding of the material and their sense of their audience’s understanding of the material. Thus Arthurianimation tells us when Arthurian legend is “in the air” and furnishes us with a snapshot of contemporary perceptions of Arthuriana (3).

Salda’s claims about the derivative and commercial elements of Arthurianimation are amply corroborated by the great mass of films he examines. And the exceptions prove the rule. One such inspired exception is Jane Yolen’s Merlin and the Dragons (Shanghai Animation Film Studio/Lightyear Entertainment, 1990), a twenty-four minute entry in PBS’ acclaimed animated anthology series Long Ago and Far Away. In this episode, we are introduced to a King Arthur who has only just drawn the sword from the stone. His new kingly responsibilities weigh heavily upon him. In the middle of one sleepless night Arthur goes to consult Merlin, who is dwelling in the same castle. The seer-advisor tells the young king the story of a certain “Emerys”, who, like Arthur, did not know his father and faced tremendous adversity as a young man. The villainous King Vortigern was intent on killing Emerys unless this fatherless boy could explain to him why his new stronghold kept collapsing. Emerys survives the king’s machinations, and his example proves inspirational to Arthur, especially once Merlin reveals that he is none other than Emerys himself. As Salda notes, Yolen drew upon medieval source material for this embedded narrative (122). But I would add that Yolen’s choice of narrative frame, Arthur’s court shortly after the Sword-in-the-Stone episode, is an even more inspired choice. It is a fine interlacement, or in the words of Chrétien de Troyes, une molt bele conjointure, of parallel facets from the lives of Arthur and Merlin. Both characters experience uncertainty and anxiety about their respective identities and abilities as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. Yolen’s creative presentation of Arthur’s angst and Merlin’s avuncular quality make the characters appealing and relatable to a wide spectrum of audiences. Salda is right to recognize Merlin and the Dragons as a highpoint in the Arthurian animation tradition (122–4).

In the space that follows my aim is to bring Salda’s findings about the history of Arthurian animation into dialogue with the medieval and post-medieval Arthurian tradition more broadly speaking.  And I wish to begin by calling attention to how the Arthurian tradition, like the messianic figure of Arthur himself, has gone through periods both of intense activity and of hibernation, yet has escaped death. The longevity of the tradition and its cyclical pattern of hope and disappointment spring from the two-fold belief that once upon a time there lived a military leader named Arthur of superlative virtue and accomplishment, and that this Arthur is destined to return to bring succor to his people in their hour of need. Great expectations, equally great disappointments, and counterfactual speculation pervade the tradition.

In the world of politics, reigning monarchs and pretenders to the throne of England have attempted to co-opt the myth of Arthur’s return to their advantage by representing themselves as Arthur returned. These manipulations of the myth have given rise to further Arthurian hopes and disappointments. Disappointed Arthurian hopes and missed opportunities extend beyond the arena of politics and into the realm of literature. In this category we can place Edmund Spenser’s Fairie Queene (1590–6), John Milton’s proposed Arthurian epic (c. 1638–42), John Dryden’s original dramatick opera King Arthur (1684), J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur (developed 1934–7), and John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (developed 1956–9). In each of these cases, the original intention was not achieved and this in turn has led to speculation regarding what might have been.

These examples set the stage for the first great, unfulfilled hope of Arthurian animation: Hugh Harman’s King Arthur’s Knights. Salda devotes the second chapter of his monograph to this, dubbing it (in the chapter heading)  “The Best Arthurian Cartoon Never Made” (16–35). King Arthur’s Knights was under development in 1941 with a proposed budget of $530,000, but the United States’ entrance into the Second World War resulted in the project’s postponement, and financial backing proved to be lacking in the later 1940s and 1950s (31, 35). The architect of this project, Hugh Harman (1903–82), although not a household name, was one of the great animators of the twentieth century: he had, in fact, been one of the original co-producers of Merri Melodies (1931–3). Harman began his career working with Walt Disney and then took on assignments for a variety of other studios. In 1928, Harman, together with his frequent collaborator Rudolf Carl Isling (1903–92), created Bosko. The pair went on to animate the aforementioned “Bosko’s Knight-Mare”. In 1941, Harman, joined by fellow former Disney animator Mel Shaw, established “Hugh Harman Productions”, and Harman was intent on making a feature-length Arthurian film that would rival the success of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Fantasia (1940).

This Arthurian film project first came to scholarly attention in Charles Solomon’s Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation (1994), but Salda has broken new ground. He obtained from Mark Kausler (animator, animation historian, and custodian of Harman’s papers) two story treatments for the proposed film, and he has traced the evolving plans for the film. King Arthur’s Knights was to cover the rise and fall of Arthur, but to center on the exploits of Sir Gareth and Lynette (that is to offer a loose retelling of Malory’s “Tale of Sir Gareth”). Salda’s reconstruction is captivating, and his inclusion of original character sketches is helpful for visualizing what might have been.

This second chapter of Salda’s book calls to mind Christopher Tolkien’s editorial work on the Fall of Arthur (2013) and Chase Horton’s on Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976). The idea of reconstructing, editing and/or discovering a lost Arthurian text has, it should be noted, been a central plot element in at least two contemporary novels, Robertson Davies’ The Lyre of Orpheus (1989) and Arthur Philips’ The Tragedy of Arthur (2011).  And one might also note that since the beginning the thirteenth century writers have been trying to resolve the ending of Chrétien de Troyes’ unfinished masterpiece, Perceval ou le conte du Graal (c. 1190).

Disappointment results not only from Arthurian projects that fail to materialize, but also from those that prove to be dead on arrival and fail to deliver. The grandeur and magic of the Arthurian tradition moves the casual audience member, not to mention the consummate Arthurian, to expect marvels, and sadly Arthurian cinema often leaves its audience, like the Arthur of romance, hungry and dissatisfied. Many would agree that there has not been a “definitive” cinematic adaptation of the Matter of Britain. The same holds true for Arthurianimation, particularly Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (1963) and Warner Bros.’ lesser known, but much more recent, Quest for Camelot (1998).

Salda critiques the Disney film for having a  “monotonous storyline”, “forgettable tunes”, and for lacking a uniform message (60–62). The Sword in the Stone is, as it were, the modern equivalent of a mirror for princes, but one that cannot make up its mind as to what wisdom to impart. According to Salda, the reception of the film has consistently “lukewarm” (60), but following its Christmas 1963 release, the film was rereleased on 22 December 1972 and 25 March 1983 (64). Salda treats this as evidence of a lack of popular demand for the film, but he offers no basis of comparison with other Disney classics.  Salda traces the limited success of The Sword in the Stone directly back to Walt Disney, who reportedly did not take much interest in the project and assigned the directorship to a competent and dependable, but uninspired, company man (64).

If The Sword in the Stone was a moderate success, Quest for Camelot was an unmitigated disaster. The film cost an estimated $120 million to produce, but in ticket sales it brought back only $23 million domestically and a further $15 million abroad (148). The narrative of Quest for Camelot had great potential. In typical romance fashion it tells of a youth’s quest to become a knight, except this time the fair unknown is female.  The protagonist is Kayley, the ten-year-old daughter of one of Arthur’s knights. Kayley, as the story goes, was born on the very day that Arthur drew the sword from the stone; her mission is to return the now stolen sword (Excalibur) to Arthur. This is an excellent and fitting concept for contemporary Arthuriana: whereas Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec et Enide (c. 1170) and Yvain (c. 1176) have the knightly protagonist confront the competing demands of marital life versus a life of knightly service; Quest for Camelot has its young heroine confront the competing dictates of personal vocation (to the knighthood) and society’s oppressive gender roles. Unfortunately, the filmmakers flinched for fear of being controversial. Over the course of the film, Kayley falls in love with a blind woodsman named Garrett. Together they save Arthur from certain destruction. Arthur shows his gratitude by making Garrett and Kayley, “knight” and “lady” and by giving them seats at the Round Table. As newlyweds, Kayley (in the lead) and Garrett (sitting behind her) ride off into the sunset with a “Just Knighted” sign affixed to their horse (148).  Simply put, the filmmakers do not allow Kayley to succeed in her own right (without the assistance of a man) and the equality of Kayley and Garrett is predicated on the latter’s blindness. Much like The Sword in the Stone, Quest for Camelot is unwilling to commit itself to a progressive stance.

As can be seen from the foregoing discussion, Salda’s Arthurian Animation provides readers with ample food for thought and this volume is very much a detailed introduction to the field and a conversation-starter. Salda impressively covers obscure films from across the globe. One truly esoteric example is “Merlin and the Toothless Knights”, a public service film (co-produced in 1970 by the British General Dental Council and I.D. Television) in which Merlin instructs the Knights of the Round Table in oral hygiene (72–3).  Yet the strengths of scope and variety are something of a liability on two counts. First, extended animated series, such as the thirty-six-episode “Arthur! and the Square Knights of the Round Table” (Air Programs International (Australia), 1966) and the thirty-episode “King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table” (Toei Animation (Japan), 1979–80) receive only slightly more attention from Salda than one-off film shorts. Consequently, the coverage seems somewhat uneven. Second, portions of the book read as a series of reference-like entries of discrete subjects. This tendency perhaps should have been more openly acknowledged and embraced through the inclusion of subheadings naming the examples of Arthurianimation under consideration. Another desideratum is an appendix listing all known examples of Arthurianimation in chronological order. This omission is particularly curious given that Salda has, in fact, compiled such a catalogue, and it appears as part of the Camelot ProjectAdditionally, as noted by Roger Simpson in his review for Arthuriana 23.4 (2013), Salda does not provide a fully developed conclusion that crystallizes his discoveries and suggests areas for further research.  Nevertheless, the strengths of the monograph are many and easily outweigh the few weaknesses.

Salda’s Arthurian Animation is a pioneering work that explores the intersection of the history of animation and Arthurian Studies.  It is clearly written and accessible to a general audience, but the work is geared primarily toward readers conversant with Arthurian literature from the middle ages and from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Salda provides far more background information about animation history than he does about the Arthurian tradition. This is understandable given that Arthurianimation’s roots in the legend are fairly shallow. Arthurian Animation is recommended reading for scholars interested in the contemporary reception of the Arthurian tradition and/or the place of Arthuriana in popular culture. It is a worthy accompaniment to any bookshelf that contains such McFarland publications as King Arthur in Popular Culture, ed. Elizabeth S. Sklar and Donald L. Hoffman (2002), Cinema Arthuriana: Twenty Essays, ed. Kevin J. Harty, (2002), and Jason Tondro’s Superheroes of the Round Table: Comic Connections to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (2011).

Christopher Berard

February 17, 2016

Larrington: Winter is Coming

Carolyne Larrington, Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016.
Reviewed by Stephen Basdeo (
The book and television series Game of Thrones will likely be familiar to medieval scholars. With another television series planned for this year, and at least two more books from Martin which are due to be published, the Game of Thrones mania is unlikely to fade soon. There have obviously been books published about the show before, but these have mostly been companion pieces to the television series, concerned chiefly with the production of the show. Carolyne Larrington’s Winter is Coming, however, is ‘what happens when a scholar of medieval literature and culture watches the HBO show Game of Thrones and reads George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire’ (p. xiii). The aim of the books is not, however, to ‘chase up Martin’s sources or to spot direct influences on […] the show’ (Ibid). Rather, Larrington uses Game of Thrones as a window through which she teaches the reader about the medieval period, and she does it effectively. As there is currently no work of a similar kind on Martin’s books or the show, Winter is Coming therefore breaks new ground for medievalists.
Larrington bases her work upon both Martin’s books and the television show which, she says, in the terms that medieval scholars use, might now be spoken of as ‘two different recensions’ (Ibid). When Larrington refers to the ‘series’, she is referring to the narrative as manifested across television and print (p. xiv). Following the introduction there are five chapters; chapter one discusses the social customs, manners, and ideology of the people across the ‘known world’. After the introductory chapter Larrington adopts the persona of a travel writer: chapter two discusses the North of Westeros, from Winterfell to the Wall; the third chapter examines King’s Landing and the southern parts of Westeros; in the last two chapters Larrington takes the reader beyond the narrow sea, travelling to places such as the Free City of Braavos and the Dothraki homelands.
The first chapter is an engaging and lively discussion of the social codes which exist in the known world of Game of Thrones, and sets the scene for the discussions of the regions of the known world that follow. Almost beguilingly Larrington moves from discussing the world of Game of Thrones to teaching the reader about actual medieval manners and customs. There is the example in the first chapter of the use of patronymics in the series:
When a man identifies himself as his father’s son he makes clear his lineage and offers one good reason why he should be respected: Shagga of the Stone Crows feels that it’s imperative to make clear on every possible occasion that he is the son of Dolf […] Before the emergence of surnames, and indeed still in modern Iceland, a patronymic was the only way to distinguish someone from others bearing the same given name (pp.14-15).
Larrington then proceeds to discuss examples of patronymics being used in tales such as Beowulf (Ibid). It is brief discussions such as these that the non-specialist reader will find most useful. Usually in academic monographs, it is assumed that the reader has prior knowledge in regard to small details such as these, and it is therefore nice to have these types of things explained.
After discussing the social codes of medieval Europe through the lens of Westeros and Essos, Larrington takes the reader first to the north, beginning at Winterfell, the home of House Stark. Ned Stark’s dominion over Winterfell, she argues, is much more like the dominion that an Anglo-Saxon Earl had over his people, rather than the later medieval models of kingship which prevail in King’s Landing (p.57). Indeed, the cold North is a place for warriors, not knights. It is an austere place, and its inhabitants, such as Ned Stark, disapprove of the pageantry and decadence of those in the southern capital of King’s Landing (Ibid). The contrasts between the ruling powers of the North and South of Westeros thus provide Larrington with an effective entry point for a discussion of the differences in Anglo-Saxon and Norman power structures.
Larrington does not confine herself to simply discussing the various historical sources which undoubtedly gave Martin, and the show’s creators, inspiration in creating their medieval world. She also points out various aspects of the series which have relevance to today, particularly in her discussion of the phrase ‘Winter is Coming’. In Westeros, winters last for years, evoking memories of the Norse fimbulvetr, the mighty winter which is the precursor to ragnarok (p.96). But as Larrington points out, the population shifts which ensue as a result of a coming winter in Game of Thrones – where the wildlings seek refuge behind the wall – are a timely reminder for our own day of the humanitarian crises that will inevitably occur as a result of climate change (p.96). Furthermore, Larrington also points out where the medieval world conjured by Martin and the show’s creators diverges from its source material. This is particularly highlighted by her discussion of the role of religion in the books and the television show. For example, while the Faith of the Seven, with its priests and ceremonies, does bear some relation to medieval Catholicism, the class system of Westeros does not appear to have any theological underpinning (p.18).
While both the books and the television series of Game of Thrones are thought to be ‘medieval’ stories, one of the surprising facts that Larrington brings to light is just how many non-medieval sources the series takes inspiration from. As she points out, Martin bases some characters and some events upon early modern sources. The character of Brienne of Tarth, for instance, is perhaps founded upon two tales of female knights from the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: Bradamante in the two Italian romances Innamorato (1495) and Orlando Furioso (1516), and Britomart from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590s) (p.32). In addition, Margery Tyrell’s plight – a queen having been accused of adultery and imprisoned – is reminiscent of that faced by Anne Boleyn (p.111). The King’s Court at King’s Landing is also more reminiscent of a Tudor Court, with its knights, ladies, king’s guards, and jesters rather than the itinerant court of an earlier medieval monarch (p.103-104). Some events in the series are a fusion of medieval and modern sources. The infamous ‘Red Wedding’, for instance, in which the remaining members of House Stark are massacred by Walder Frey, is based upon both Geoffrey Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale and the Glencoe Massacre of 1692 (pp.36-37). Thus although Larrington does not say, Martin in some instances is following in the footsteps of Georgian and Victorian medievalists in utilising a combination of both medieval and early modern sources.
Indeed, one thing which would have added to Larrington’s discussion would have been a brief discussion of Martin’s works in context with past medievalist writers. Martin is heir to a long and prestigious line of popular authors from Sir Walter Scott who, in the words of John Henry Newman, ‘first turned men’s minds in the direction of the Middle Ages’ with his novel Ivanhoe (1819).[1] Scott’s novel indeed has also been cited by Martin himself as a major inspiration to him.[2] Similarly there is J. R. R. Tolkien who, with his Lord of the Rings (1954-55), has been designated as the ‘father’ of the modern fantasy epic.[3] It is important to note, however, that the absence of such a discussion in no way detracts from Larrington’s work.
Larrington is obviously a fan of the show, and this comes through in her work. It is in the epilogue where she really shows how much of a ‘fan girl’ she is by speculating as to where the series might go next, and how it might end. Will the Iron Throne be occupied by Bran or Rickon (their stories being perhaps reminiscent of Havelock the Dane)? Or will Daenerys Targaryen ‘break the wheel’ by regaining her birthright? Of course, Larrington is not Martin, but she prophesies that Game of Thrones will most likely end like a typical medieval romance. There will be a Targaryen restoration, a wedding to an heir who’s technically a Targaryen, a limited degree of social reform in Westeros, as well as the restitution of Stark lands. Only time will tell if Larrington is correct in this matter.
In conclusion, Larrington’s work takes us on a journey through the known world of Game of Thrones. It is a work which will be of most use to medievalists – those who study later representations of the medieval period. Larrington’s engaging and accessible style, however, means that this book will have a wide appeal, most obviously to members of the general public who are fans of the show. Finally, for those who do not wish to read the book in case they come across any ‘spoilers’, Larrington has marked where spoilers appear in the book by placing the image of a raven in the margin. As a companion to the show and an introduction to medieval history, therefore, Larrington’s work is thoroughly recommended. At a time when humanities scholars are increasingly being asked to further their engagement with the public, Larrington has hit upon a winning formula: she uses popular culture as a window through which she can educate and inform the public about medieval history.
Stephen Basdeo
Leeds Trinity University

[1] John Henry Newman cited in Alice Chandler, ‘Sir Walter Scott and the Medieval Revival’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction 19.4 (1965), 315-332 (315).

[2] Geoffrey McNab, ‘Song of Ice and Fire author George RR Martin on success, chess and the wrath of superfans’ The Independent, 8 August 2014.

[3] Margaret Drabble (ed.) The Oxford companion to English Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.352.