How will “Game of Thrones” end? “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” tells us…

osten ard t

his month marks the conclusion to HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones, based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels by George R. R. Martin, which themselves take many elements from Tad Williams’ classic fantasy series “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”. “MS&T”, written in the mid-1980s to early 1990s, tells the tale of a fantasy world beset by political intrigue, while in the frozen north, supernatural creatures plot to destroy mankind.

Martin weaves much of his own tale into A Song of Ice and Fire, but many of his story elements are closely based on Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn; particularly the Stark children and their fates.

The following contains spoilers for both series of books.

The characters of Bran Stark and Jon Snow seem to have been based on Simon Snowlock from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: like Bran, Simon spends many hours climbing castle walls, and later, after a devastating injury (Simon’s from being burned by dragon blood, Bran’s from being pushed from a tower), both acquire spooky, prophetic visions. Simon dreams of spinning wheels, of titanic trees, and of birds, while Bran dreams of titanic trees and birds.

Simon and Miriamele gained a throne thirty years ago... How have their experiences changed them over the decades?

“You know nothing, Simon Snow!”

Similarly, Jon Snow shares many plot elements with Simon Snowlock: his parents are dead, and he’s been raised as an orphan, but he secretly (but unwittingly) has a claim to the throne of the realm. Unknowing of his heritage, he journeys to the north to fight against the otherworldly creatures, befriending wolves, facing dragons, and bandying words with a dwarfish companion (in both series, the dwarfish companion is later put on trial and his own lover testifies against him).

Martin’s female characters, Arya and Sansa Stark, seem to have been borrowed from Marya in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Marya is split into two Stark girls: the tomboyish, cross-dressing Arya, and the more regal Sansa. In MS&T, the noble girl Marya disguises herself as a boy, learns to fight with swords and bows, and begins traveling with a wolf companion. One slight difference is that Marya’s uncle’s sword, Needle, in ASOIAF becomes Arya’s sword, also named Needle.

Marya’s adventures are also clearly mirrored by those of Sansa Stark: seduced by a handsome young nobleman, she is raped, and goes from one gilded cage to another: Marya goes from being imprisoned by Count Streawe to being imprisoned by Earl Aspitis Preves. Likewise, Sansa Stark becomes the plaything of Lords Littlefinger and Bolton.

The April 28th episode of Game of Thrones yet again solidified the parallels between the two series; in the episode, Arya kills the supernatural Night King, the leader of the northern creatures, by plunging a sharp object into his chest. This perfectly mirrors MS&T, in which Marya kills the supernatural Storm King, leader of the northern creatures, by plunging a sharp object into his chest. In both series, the single blow is enough to destroy the magicks of the Storm/Night King entirely.

With just two episodes left, it is likely, just like in MS&T, that Jon Snow will take the throne, deposing Cercei Lannister; Cercei (if she follows MS&T’s Duchess Nessalanta), will take poison rather than admit defeat. The hound-helmed Hound (aka Jegger the Queen’s Huntsman) will die, but not before proving himself with one last kill.

In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, prophecies are tricky prospects, and this clearly influenced A Song of Ice and Fire, as described in this video:

Williams’ latest novel, Empire of Grass, was published just this week, to rave reviews. It remains to be seen, however, how much inspiration George R.R. Martin will derive from the new volume. It is clear, though, that Martin owes a great deal of debt to an earlier author.

Tad Williams, George R.R. Martin, Deborah Beale, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, others appear at WorldCon 2018

Today legendary speculative fiction authors Tad Williams (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”), George R. R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire”), Deborah Beale (The Dragons of Ordinary Farm), Nina Kiriki Hoffman (A Fistful of Sky), Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), and many others appeared at WorldCon 2018 in San Jose, California. Here are some photos of the event, some taken at the Tachyon Publications kiosk:

tad williams debroarh beal nina kiriki hoffman

Deborah Beale, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Tad Williams.

 

tad williams and george r r martin

George R. R. Martin, Tad Williams. Photo credit: Deborah Beale.

 

tad williams and peter s beagle

Tad Williams, Peter S. Beagle. Photo credit: Deborah Beale.

Tad Williams completes first draft of “The Witchwood Crown”, new Osten Ard book

Bestselling international fantasy/sci-fi author Tad Williams was set to complete the first draft of The Witchwood Crown on Tuesday, his wife and business partner, Deborah Beale, announced on Twitter on Tuesday morning.

The Witchwood Crown is the first volume of “The Last King of Osten Ard”, a sequel trilogy to the original classic epic fantasy series “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, set thirty years after the original books. Beale and Williams have kept fans up to date on a regular basis (a list of monthly page counts can be found here), with news of progress happening nearly every week.

The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

Cover of The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Reaction to the news of a new Osten Ard series has been very positive, with Daniel Kaszor of The National Post writing, “The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series […] redefined what traditional fantasy could be. Williams took the basics of Tolkien, deconstructed the story and put it back together in his own image, one fit for modern times.” Kaszor also points out the influences that “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” had on “Game of Thrones”. Meanwhile, Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com writes that “it’s great news that Williams is returning to the series that made his name”.

“The Witchwood Crown” is expected to be published in Spring 2016, and will be followed by Empire of Grass and The Navigator’s Children. The books will be illustrated by Michael Whelan, who painted the original covers of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Tad Williams interviews Steven Erikson at Kepler’s Bookstore

Last month Tad Williams interviewed Steven Erikson (“Malazan Book of the Fallen”) at Kepler’s Bookstore in Menlo Park, California. Williams asked Erikson what led him to writing fantasy, what authors inspired him, and why Fantasy readers like big, thick books. They also talked about Stephen R. Donaldson’s early works, including Lord Foul’s Bane.

Below is the first part of the recorded interview:

More parts of the interview, along with musings about the Dothraki language constructed for Game of Thones, can be found at IvyNettle’s “Letters and Leaves” blog.

Twenty-fifth Anniversary of The Dragonbone Chair

This month marks the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tad Williams’ fantasy novel, The Dragonbone Chair, Book One of “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.”  The epic series begins as the story of a simple castle servant named Seoman who stumbles upon treachery as nonagenarian King John lies dying. The book went on to become a nationwide best-seller in the US.

A war fueled by the dark powers of sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard–for Prester John, the High King, slayer of the dread dragon Shurakai, lies dying. And with his death, an ancient evil will at last be unleashed, as the Storm King, undead ruler of the elvishlike Sithi, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Then, driven by spell-inspired jealousy and hate, prince will fight prince, while around them the very land begins to die. Only a small scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger awaiting Osten Ard. And to Simon–a castle scullion unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League–will go the task of spearheading the quest for the solution to a riddle of long-lost swords of power…and a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker’s worst nightmares!

Williams’ series went on to inspire George R. R. Martin to write “A Song of Ice and Fire,” which was adapted for television as Game of Thrones.