The entertainment industry often draws from history in creating new content for people to enjoy; we saw this with shows such as Roots, North and South, and now Game of Thrones. While the former two were clear depictions of historical events, the historical background to Game of Thrones is less obvious. But with a close analysis, one can see the parallels between early Puritan ideology and the Game of Thrones religion, the Faith of the Seven, such as the notion that all are equal under the respective God(s); that all ideas are created by God(s); and fear as a tool.
Just as the Puritans opposed the royal prerogative and came to power after the First English Civil War, the Sparrows also emerged from small-folk dissatisfied with nobility after the War of the Five Kings in Game of Thrones. Both the Puritans and Sparrows believe in equality among all people under the eyes of the Gods. The Puritan minister John Winthrop states is his “Model of Christian Charity” that, “it appears plainly that no man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy… but for the glory of his Creator and the common good of the creature, man.” He also explains that those who “have” should help those who don’t “have,” without expecting anything in return if they are unable to repay, since everyone is equal under God. In Game of Thrones, the Sparrows also seek equality for the poor and condemn the excesses of the rich. When the Sparrows go to King’s Landing, they spread their message and help the poor Kingslanders, just as the Puritans spread the gospel and helped others.
Another example of the two religion’s similarities is how all ideas, thoughts, and feelings are the work of God(s). In Season 5, Episode 4 “Sons of Harpy”, the faith militant’s power is gaining back the power it had more than two centuries ago. In the episode, the High Sparrow says “All sinners are equal before the Gods”; this can be compared to the Puritan ideology because even while Puritans believe in one God and the Faith of the Seven believed in multiple, both present the idea that a higher being’s judgement is what matters, and they decide what is sinful. Another quote from Season 5, Episode 7 “The Gift”, the High Sparrow states “But I’m telling you a simple truth. I serve the Gods. The Gods demand justice.”, this being similar to Puritan ministers in that that they never saw themselves as better or more than god; they defined themselves as God’s messengers, that God chose them to spread this message so that sinners can see their wrong, and so that those that must be converted go through conversion.
Finally, both the Puritans and the Faith of the Seven maintain their religions through fear. In Game of Thrones, the Faith of the Seven hold public rituals of punishment and shaming called “the walk of atonement”. An example is in Season Five, when Cersei, who has committed adultery, is stripped naked in front of the entire community and forced to walk the streets while others humiliate her. Besides providing humiliation and repentance for the sinner, it also instills fear in the citizens, reminding them to follow the religious doctrine and remain pure. With the Puritans, ministers used fear of punishment from God to keep the congregation morally pure. One example was a minister Jonathan Edwards and his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, written in 1741. He says “There is no Want of Power in God to cast wicked Men into Hell at any; he can most easily do it” and “The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him”. The malevolent and threatening tone perpetuated by Edwards instilled fear of God’s wrath in his congregations, just as the “walk of atonement” established fear in the followers of the Faith of the Seven.
These are but a few parallels between Game of Thrones and the Puritans, but it is clear that history always repeats itself, even in the guise of a television show. History is our greatest storybook.
Written by Brian Blanchard, Kevin Estevez, Danielle Sinclair, and Michelle Zak-Strzalka