Meta Textuality in ASOIAF

The hidden message within the message found all throughout the story



Art by Magali Villeneuve

“We should start back”


Throughout George’s books, he uses different literary techniques that operate like literary devices to engage the readers and control the flow of the narrative. Everyone uses literary devices: Juxtaposition, hyperbole, metaphors… But very few writers use meta-techniques like George R.R. Martin – not once, but throughout a whole series of books – Meta-text is when a message hides inside a main story. When a Game of Thrones starts, right from the prologue, George talks to the readers as if telling us what to expect. He uses meta-text several times throughout the books, more in some chapters than others, and then again in the Hedge Knight and even a World of Ice and Fire.


A Game of Thrones prologue has such detailed meta-text, it even gives the reader a foreshadow of the characters for the upcoming chapters in order of appearance.

The first sentence in the book is: “We should start back” – a message about Bran – the first POV character - and his unique upcoming capacity to show us the whole story through his “memories”. George purposefully used flashbacks rather than using a continuous time line as another of his literary devices. We should go back (in time) to be able to understand how things got to be as they are.


On the very next paragraph, he throws us another one: “Do the dead frighten you?" Reading that line it feels that George is asking the reader - as a warning that dead things will be coming up, as a "brace yourselves" sort of warning, but the answer would be: No, not the Others or the wights. Do you know who frightens me to answer the question of the second meta-text? The second POV character, Lady Stoneheart to be. Later on, when she is seen, she is frightening.


Before the page is over, he throws us the third meta-text for Daenerys, who has the third chapter POV. “We have a long ride before us”. Yes, she does. And it also almost sounds like George is talking to us rather than just telling us a story. It reads a little like this: “hey, reader, we have a long way to go before these books are done” (we have a long ride before us). “You should reread these books to understand my message” (we should start back, which also plays a parallel with “To go forward, you must go back, the prophecy entirely written in meta-text). He is telling us something. Are you paying attention?


The chapter continues with incredible references about ice and fire. Maintaining George R.R. Martin's sense of consistency, the title of the series is repeated throughout the prologue and offering the reader valuable contrasts that will follow the story as the books develop, but the first clear detail of Ice and Fire, is the song itself: "snow's the best we can hope for", Capitalize that "s" and read it again, then follow the story with all information that is available and the rich contrast of ice and fire: "Everyone talks about snows forty foot deep, and how the ice wind comes howling out of the north, but the real enemy is the cold. It steals up on you quieter than Will, and at first you shiver and your teeth chatter and you stamp your feet and dream of mulled wine and nice hot fires. It burns, it does. Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don't have the strength to fight it." The words Ice, Icy, Freeze and Frozen come up ten times in the prologue. The word Fire does too. And interestingly enough, the sacred number three that is so closely related to the Targaryens is the exact number of times that Waymar says no to fire.


Will started the chapter saying "My mother told me that dead men sing no songs" and Royce replied "never believe anything you hear at a woman's tit". Before the chapter is over, however, Will is up on the tree and the text reads "The Others made no sound".


"There are things to be learned even from the dead". What will be learned from the dead? George has never made it secret that he was a conscientious objector of war. The Others arriving seem to bring a clear idea that a war is about to come, but wouldn't that be inconsistent with George's belief? If anything, the reader can be certain that consistency has always been the chosen weapon for the series. Doesn't that seem far more logical to argue that the dead have lessons to teach?


Meta-text – a separate message within our message that the author is telling us. The entire prologue is filled with those details. It is used to give us a warning of what will happen to Gared - “Gared did not rise to the bait” because as it was Ned who shortened him by a head and Gared did not rise afterwards. If only Will had been so lucky.


The messages were hidden for us to find. “His voice was like the crackling of ice on a winter lake”. Not all have come forth as of yet, but we can expect that they will, because the time he takes when writing these stories is most definitely justified by the wealth of the material and if we put it all together, fire and ice, who will end victorious? "There's some enemies a fire will keep away".


#IceandFire #aGameOfThrones #Prologue #MetaText



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