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Wrapping Up The Fantasy – How Will ‘Game Of Thrones’ End?

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By Carolyne Larrington:

The hugely popular TV show “Game Of Thrones” has two seasons to go; already the showrunners, David Benioff and Daniel Weiss, are speeding towards the endgame. But providing a satisfactory conclusion to a show that has multiple, interweaving storylines and which incorporates both realist and high fantasy elements is no easy task.

George R. R. Martin, author of the “A Song Of Ice And Fire” series on which the show is based, is also obliged to invent endings for narratives within an even more complex storyworld. Can Benioff and Weiss – and Martin – wrap things up in a way that will satisfy the fan communities and make narrative sense?

One of the pleasures of both show and books is the multiple genres that they encompass. Detective story, horror, sci-fi have all been invoked: who killed Jon Arryn, and why, was a pressing question in the first and fourth seasons.

Horror tropes are activated when the zombie wight army and the White Walkers loom into view; meanwhile discredited Maester, Qyburn, is reinventing himself as Victor Frankenstein in his laboratory down in the Black Cells. The genres of epic, comedy, myth and tragedy offer different possibilities for closure to the stories of the Targaryens, Starks and Lannisters – and the rest of the Known World.

Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke: will she win the Iron Throne? ©2016 Home Box Office, Inc.

A comic ending – in the sense of Shakespeare’s comedies – is attractive. In this scenario, Daenerys wins the Iron Throne, marries Jon Snow, has lots of children to perpetuate the Targaryen dynasty, and everyone in King’s Landing lives happily ever after.

One of J.R.R. Tolkien’s plots within “The Lord Of The Rings” came to just such a conclusion; Aragorn became king and ruled wisely and well for a hundred years. Martin has expressly criticised the conventional nature of Tolkien’s comic ending though, and this solution would leave a number of questions unanswered, even if the Starks become Wardens of the North once more and Tyrion is Hand of the Queen.

Epic, meanwhile, is a public and political genre, concerned with the rise and fall of empires. An epic scenario would expand on the comic version by offering global solutions to the narratives. In this scenario, I’d expect more focus on the Essos plots, closing down the saga of Slavers’s Bay with the restoration of the slave-trade. The city of Volantis, the regional super-power, would intervene to restore the status quo. Peace would be restored throughout the Seven Kingdoms, thanks to Daenerys and Jon’s combined wisdom and firepower. These turbulent few decades in Westeros and Essos history would come to a satisfying end.

Comic or epic endings don’t solve the North’s most pressing problem however: Winter is coming, but a winter unlike any in living memory. How can the Westerosi combat or call off the implacable White Walkers?

A Heroic Ending?

Now that Benioff and Weiss’s vision has gone beyond the plot material in Martin’s published works, they are free to opt for a heroic-mythic ending. The fan community would certainly like to see a titanic battle between the forces of fire, embodied by the dragons, and the petrifying antithetical figures of the White Walkers/Others, along with their Army of the Dead.

A heroic ending would mesh with the prophecy that the legendary warrior, Azor Ahai, will be reborn in order to overcome the existential threat to the Known World. Jon and Dany (representing Azor Ahai as male and female principles) could sally forth on dragon – back to battle against the blue-eyed ice-demons.

But if they are to save the Seven Kingdoms, their triumph will surely come at a cost. Fans have speculated that, by virtue of his Stark ancestry, Jon could become the new Night’s King, the White Walkers’ leader, and negotiate a peace on their behalf with the southern humans. That would put paid to his chances of sitting on the Iron Throne, but his sacrifice might be worth it.

Could Jon Snow become the White Walkers’ leader? ©2016 Home Box Office, Inc.

An Almighty Annihilation

Finally, there’s the tragic possibility. As those relentless assassins, the Faceless Men frequently remind us: Valar Morghulis “All Men Must Die”. Martin’s title, A Song of Ice and Fire may allude to Robert Frost’s short poem “Fire and Ice in which Frost explicitly figures the world’s end either in fiery conflagration or as a new Ice Age.

Apocalypse may be on the cards, a ragna rök like that described in the Old Norse poem Völuspá (The Seeress’s Prophecy), composed around 1000 CE. In this terrifying vision, flame leaps up and consumes the heavens and the earth sinks into the sea from which it once arose. Humans, gods and giants perish and the great World-Tree shudders.

This eschatology wouldn’t fit with Martin’s hints about a “bitter-sweet” ending, however. The destruction of the Known World would be bitter indeed for fans, and there would be no consoling sweetness to temper the shock.

Benioff and Weiss could be tempted to blow their CGI budget on an almighty annihilation of everyone and everything; the show that staged the Red Wedding and the destruction of the Great Sept might not shrink from such a bold conclusion. In the final verses of Völuspá, a new world arises from the ocean, the eagle hunts fish on the mountainside and a fresh generation of gods and humans appear. So there can be hope on the other side of apocalypse.

Still, Benioff and Weiss have about 14 hours of screen-time in which to finish up and they may not be able to close down every single storyline in a satisfactory way.

George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Fire and Ice: likely to go for a heroic-mythic ending. ©2016 Home Box Office, Inc.

Martin has two more books at least, and although the critic John Mullan has recently suggested that the author has literally lost the plot, Martin has more leeway to dream up multiple endings for his different narrative arcs, just as Tolkien did. Reflection on how medieval and modern genres work would help him in that challenge.

An Educated Guess

My guess is that the show will take the comic option, contenting itself with a marriage between Jon and Daenerys and finding some quick fix for the White Walker problem. The dragons will surely help.

Martin will go for a heroic-mythic ending, fulfilling the messianic prophecies in circulation about Azor Ahai and the even more mysterious Prince That Was Promised. Jon will sacrifice himself, unafraid to die once again, and Daenerys and her human children will rule wisely and well for generations to come. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Carolyne Larrington will talk about watching and writing about HBO’s Game of Thrones as a medieval scholar at the University of Sydney on October 26 and the University of Melbourne on November 7.

The ConversationCarolyne Larrington, Professor and Tutorial Fellow in English, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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