The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

Historical Influences

Firstly I'd like to apologize for wasting your time, reading this email; and I often think that you must be St. Job reborn... Where do you find the patience to read and answer to all your fans?

Patience is not the problem. There's just too few hours in the day. Try as I might, I do find myself falling further and further behind. I still have letters in my box from 1998. Sigh. But I plug away when I can...

[Edited for clarity after this point. Ser Loras's question concerning whether GRRM borrows from history, particularly Spanish history, received the reply below.]

Well, yes and no. I have drawn on a great many influences for these books. I do use incidents from history, yes, although I try not to do a straight one-for-one transposition of fact into fiction. I prefer to mix and match, and to add in some imaginative elements as well.

Most of my borrowings, however, come from English and French medieval history, simply because I am more familiar with those than with the heroes, legends, and traditions of other countries. The Wars of the Roses, the Crusades, and the Hundred Years War have been my biggest influences... oh, and some Scottish history as well, such as the infamous Black Dinner that inspired my own Red Wedding. This isn't a matter of choice so much as it is one of necessity. I don't have any other language besides English, and there's a paucity of good popular English language histories about medieval Spain, medieval Germany, and the like. I was in Germany last fall, and looked everywhere for good reference books about the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which would be treasure trove, I suspect. There are a ton of them that looked likely... but all in German.

And in about a week I will be travelling to Spain, coincidentally enough, where I plan to search for some good popular histories as well. Whether I will find any I can read, however... well, it's doubtful.

As to your specific question, I have seen the film version of EL CID, of course, and the Osprey book about the Reconquest is on my sheld. Good, but not nearly detailed enough.

Also, the fight between the Baratheon brothers for the throne is similar to the one held by the Trastamaras: Pedro el Cruel (Peter the Cruel), King of Castile and León and his brother Enrique (Henry). Again, am I close?

I know a little more about that one since it impinged on the Hundred Years War, and there are plenty of references for that in English. As a matter of fact, I collect miniature lead and pewter knights in 54mm scale, and I have figures of both Pedro the Cruel and Enrique the Bastard in my collection.

More... I see a lot of Henry IV of Castile in Robert Baratheon, if I am right, you will now what I mean...

Sorry, Henry IV is not a fellow I know much about. If Robert is modelled on anyone, it is more Edward IV of England... though as usual, I rang in some changes.

Also, could Don Beltrán de la Cueva be similar to Ser Loras Tyrell. I mean, their histories do not fit perfectly but Don Beltrán (First Duke of Alburquerque) was reputed to be the best knight of Castile by then, and his sexuality raised many questions.

Again, don't know him. Wish I did. If I could find a good book...

and lastly, there could be a parallelism between Aegon the Conqueror, and the spanish "conquistadores". Let me explain: Hernán Cortés for example, with less than a hundred men conquered the Aztec Empire... (Dragons=gunpowder?)

I know about Cortez, but Aegon the Conquerer derives more from William the Conquerer.

I would love to become more familiar with Spanish history. Can you recommend any good English language popular histories? I stress "popular." I am not looking for academic tomes about changing patterns of land use, but anecdotal history rich in details of battles, betrayals, love affairs, murders, and similar juicy stuff.

Thank you very much for your time, and I await with illusion for a reply.

I hope you didn't wait too long. Here 'tis.

Keep reading.