Ever since its sixth season ended a little over a year ago, viewers have been sitting at the edge of our couches, remotes in hand, poised to tune into the next season of the astoundingly popular Game of Thrones. Now that season seven is underway, fans like me and the nearly 23 million Americans who reportedly consumed the hit series last year can do just that.
Similarly, each Shabbat, I anxiously await hearing and reading the next episode of another hit series – the Bible – which, according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the bestselling book of all time, with 5 billion copies sold and distributed.
Certainly, it may be ridiculous to compare a fantasy drama with a revered religious text – but despite the innumerable differences, there may be some parallels that are entertaining to consider. Here, five parallels that stand out for me:
- Liberation theme: In Game of Thrones, House Stark is bent on reclaiming its ancestral home, and Jon Snow leads the charge to liberate Winterfell. The Night’s Watch and others know they must defend the Wall and protect Westeros from the coming winter invasion of the zombie-like White Walkers. In the Bible, Moses spars with Pharaoh, and with divine help and guidance, leads the Israelites out of Egypt.
- Heroic leaders: Game of Throne’s Jon Snow is a warrior of noble character, a brave defender of the weak, and a leader of uncertain lineage, raised by a king – who, it turns out, is not his father after all. In the Bible, the incomparable prophet and leader Moses grows up in the home of a monarch, Pharaoh, away from his Israelite kin. Both men exhibit righteousness, loyalty, leadership, a solitary nature, and an occasional stubborn or angry streak.
- Talented beasts: In Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen nurtures three ancient dragon eggs, bringing them to life. The resulting dragon babies are unfailingly loyal and capable of obeying their human mom. In the Bible, a wayward Jonah is swallowed up by a most-hospitable whale who hosts Jonah in his belly for three days and nights. Then there’s the donkey of the Midianite “prophet” Balaam, who proves to be more perceptive than the prophet himself. The beast sees an angel of God and earns its reputation as a miracle of Creation when it opens its mouth to speak. And let’s not forget the masterfully scheming serpent, who manipulates Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.
- Forbidden relationships: In Game of Thrones, the royal Cersei and Jaime Lannister are fraternal twins as well as star-crossed lovers who conceive children to populate the throne at King’s Landing. In the Bible, Lot’s daughters get their father drunk and have intercourse with him to repopulate the line of Lot. And King David cannot stop himself from stealing the wife of a subject, sending the man off to war, and marrying the wife, Bathsheba.
- People of the Book: Game of Throne’s Samwell Tarley, the pensive thinker, finds his way to the ultimate university of Westeros, the Citadel, where he studies to become a master, a supreme scholar. In the Bible, when Moses returns down the mountain with text chiseled on tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, he sets the course for the Israelites to become enamored of the written word.
There may be other parallels, too. Consider the spate of names in both Game of Thrones and the Bible that are impossible to pronounce and even harder to spell! And it would difficult to ignore the violence that crops up often in Game of Thrones, and occasionally in the Bible, too.
Can you think of any other similarities? Happy watching and happy reading!