The successful show Game of Thrones has been the topic of conversation amongst all different types of people. Through close analysis of the content of the show, there are parallels that can be made to the Puritan culture. In Game of Thrones, the Lord of Light, also known as R’hllor, and its followers resemble the Puritan beliefs and customs such as living a life in covenant with God in purity. Of course, one can’t forget to add the but only those who are predestined clause. A thorough look into Melisandre who claims to be R’hllor’s priestess and the other followers, reveals that there are similarities in how the Puritans and those associated with R’hllor respond to women specifically regarding childbirth, sacrifice for the sake of purification, and affect (or lack thereof).
Melisandre, also known as The Red Woman, is ironically known as the one who knows the R’hllor and performs miracles. In the show, Melisandre gave birth to a creature that was the very embodiment of sin. The demon baby, named Shadow, was born to commit murder and later assinates the brother of Stannis Baratheon, the King in this particular kingdom, in order to clear the way for Stannis to claim the Iron Throne for himself. This situation resembles a core belief that the Puritans lived by. Puritanism has seven main beliefs. From these seven, there is one that states that all “[c]hildren are born with and imbued with this original sin” and Melisandre’s baby proved just that. Although her role in the religion provided a good service to the people which were “prophecies” from their Lord, Stannis Baratheon ironically states in Season 2 Episode 4 that “A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad the good”. This solidifies the comparison between the Puritans and the followers of R’hllor. Behaviors cannot undo the human condition only a higher calling like predestination can.
Sacrifice is also addressed in both the Puritan culture and Game of Thrones. The sacrifice of Shireen, Stannis the King’s daughter, in Season 5 Episode 9, is gruesome and shamefully familiar. The Puritans sacrificed “unclean” people or labeled them as “witches” to justify the sacrifice in order to cleanse the townspeople of unrighteousness by their standards. Shireen was blemished — symbolically in her physical features and literally in that her deformity comes from a curse that was cast on her bloodline. She needed to be sacrificed in order to get the bad blood out of the royal line. This sacrifice to R’hllor would ensure more success in the wars to come. The Puritans also made sacrifices of accused witches and other “blemished” members of society so that they could receive blessings from God being that the blemishes or the sins of the people were taken care of.
A similarity between the Puritans and R’hllor’s followers is their portrayal of affect. In the Puritan religion, it is seen as a sin to take part in any kind of dancing, laughing or smiling. During the witch trials, these acts were a symbol of witchcraft and/or demon possession. An example of this behavior, exhibited by the Puritans, is found in Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Within the footnotes of this piece it states, “…we are told that Edwards read his sermon in a level voice…in spite of his calm, ‘there was such a breathing of distress, and weeping, that the preacher was obliged to speak to the people and desire silence, that he might be heard.’” His sermon triggered his audience to begin bawling and with little emotion which was eerie. This can be related to the Game of Thrones series because the Red Woman, who has a great amount of control over the king, convinces him to violently sacrifice Shireen. While this sacrifice is underway, the mother is clearly distressed, but the Red Woman shows no emotion while she lights Shireen on fire. Lack of affect in times of distress is found amongst Puritans and the R’hllor’s followers.
Perhaps the characterization of R’hllor and its followers was based on Puritanism. There are striking resemblances than cannot be ignored. Another reason why Game of Thrones is so captivating.