Jon Snow is a key leader

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If you look at the HBO series “Game of Thrones” only from the perspective of migration pressure, it falls like scales from your eyes: That's us, that's our crisis, which is portrayed here. Fifth episode in the series “Serial Understanders”.


© dpa, HBOEr turns the wild people into refugees and is the real puller in the HBO series “Game of Thrones”: the night king of the white hikers

In spite of all the nudity, sadists and rolling heads that permanently cross the picture in the medieval fantasy series "Game of Thrones": the intrigues between the numerous aspirants to the throne, their right hands and changing liaisons are in the HBO series, which is showered with awards not the really worrying thing. Compared to the central plot node, they are just entertaining banter, which, however, fulfills the law of each series particularly skillfully, namely to keep things going as far as possible without offending the patience and intelligence of the viewer.

“Your roof, your rules”: Lord Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) of the Night's Watch is forced to make a deal with the Wildling Patriarch Craster

But what is the central theme in "Game of Thrones"? To answer that, it is enough to take Lord Mormont's statement at his word in a final scene of the first season. Here the massive commander of the night watch asks his chamberlain Jon Schnee, whose brother Robb has just been crowned king by the inhabitants of the north and is now fighting his rivals: “Do you think your brother's war is more important than ours? When dead people and hideous things haunt us at night, do you mean that it still matters who sits on the Iron Throne? ”Based on the film, this question can be answered with“ no ”. What takes place north of the protective wall called the “wall” - a migration movement that is due to a persistently severe winter and the white hikers chasing after potential revenants - significantly exceeds the schemes in the south, even when dragons and “sea fires” are used there .

A threatening crowd

And there is one more point that indicates that the threat on the other side of the wall is the crucial theme of "Game of Thrones". If you take a closer look at the storyline in the area north of the protective wall, you will notice that it is mostly used at dramaturgically important points: right in the opening scene of the series, at the beginning of the third season, at the end of the first, second and fifth, there mostly with cliffhanger function. In a purely formal sense, the viewer is given the impression: Even if the action to the south of the wall continues to level off with changing power relations and results in a new placeholder for the Iron Throne - the real conflict is the explosive power of the enormous flight from poverty and climate not even touched.

© dpa, HBO “I told them that we would all die if we didn't get south”: The leader of the wildlings, Manke Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), explains to Jon Schnee (Kit Harington) how he managed to destroy the tribes north of the wall to one.

At its core, "Game of Thrones" is a refugee epic - and not one in which, as in the "Odyssey", a cunning hero gets around quite a bit, that would only affect the, so to speak, "unaccompanied children" Refugees ”to the Stark family (especially Arya), but rather a refugee drama in which most of those affected represent a threatening crowd over long distances despite persecution - although the series, you have to take this into account, has few really positive characters to offer.

No welcoming culture

Even if individual wildlings like Goldy, Osha and - with some reservations - Ygritte and Tormund are portrayed as people like you and me, the ogre-eaters (Styr and the like), child molesters (Craster) and barbarians are in the majority among the wildlings . Even a well-read voice of reason in the ranks of the Night Watch, like Samwell Tarly, who argues, “We haven't built a 800-kilometer-long and 200-meter-high wall to shut out our own kind. Night is falling, ... it is getting closer for all of us ”(episode III, 10), will leave no doubt in the fourth season that the wildlings pressing on the wall can only be admitted according to the strictest criteria.

© HBON Nobody will welcome him: The wildling Tormund climbs the wall

And also Jon Schnee, who is elected Commander of the Night's Watch in the fifth season - even though the election campaign had previously been focused on the alternative by his opponents: "Do you want someone who has fought against the wildlings all his life ( Warrior Alliser Thorne) or someone who goes to bed with them (John Schnee - he had a love affair with the Wildling woman Ygritte)? - even he speaks out at the end of the fifth season for an alliance with the Wildlings on the grounds that this is the only way, if at all, to achieve a victory over the White Walkers.

The viewer holds to the wall

From a dramaturgical point of view, the viewer in “Game of Thrones” is forced to adopt the attitude: The wildlings should not be let in. The viewer only got to know a dozen of them better. And when the first wildlings, including Tormund and Ygritte, climb the wall with crampons as spies and troublemakers in the fourth season, the viewer cannot help but secretly hope that their company will fail. The viewer holds to the wall, the origins of which the inhabitants of the northern climes have long forgotten. It was not raised to ward off wildlings, but by white hikers. And it is precisely this throwing together of dangerous moments that makes the series, viewed in light, grainy in terms of content.

© A.P.L. Allstar Picture Library, HBO It's all a question of perspective: filming for “Game of Thrones” - and again someone is on the run, this time Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Theon Graufreud (Alfie Allen)

Already in the opening scene there is a horror-like mixture of wildlings and white hikers, which has a long lasting effect. The latter not only staged an archaic blood orgy with all sorts of carcasses, they also send wildlings transformed into zombies into battle against humans. The wildlings are depicted as completely reified; for a long time it remains unclear where exactly the border between them and the white hikers lies. At any rate, together they radiate sheer horror and arouse primal fears, which the Stark family initially thinks they can only counter by executing a messenger of the bad news as a liar and deserter.

From a structural point of view, one can best compare the effect that the White Walkers exude in interaction with the human revenants with the horror that organized terror tries to create. It fits in with the fact that the White Walkers are sometimes portrayed as sleepers; and also their unpredictability, cold inhumanity and the lack of will that they generate among their followers resemble the characteristics and methods of terrorist organizations.

In summary, one can say: The wall horror and intruder horror is primarily used in “Game of Thrones” dramaturgically, as a moment of tension, whereby a disconcerting basic tone is set that sticks, even if the authors keep it with clear good intentions relativize selectively in favor of the wildlings.


Against this background, the commitment of numerous series actors to refugees from Syria is remarkable. In a video they call for solidarity:


(A second video can be found here.)

One might ask why the stars of “Game of Thrones” slipped into this exposed role of prominent refugee helpers? And I have to give the answer: Apart from the fact that you can see a confirmation of our opening thesis, the fact that the villains of the series have the largest proportion of speech in the video, probably also has to do with the fact that there is always a special one It takes effect when cynics and declared xenophobes (qua role) suddenly urgently demand hospitality.

By the way, George RR Martin, the author of the book for “Game of Thrones” (“The Song of Ice and Fire”), called for solidarity with the Syrian refugees on his blog a little more than a year ago and explicitly supported his commitment then already xenophobic Donald Trump deposed.


Only towards the end of the fifth season, after the so-called “Hartheim Massacre”, in which White Walkers massacre thousands of wildlings - ready to flee across the water - in order to subsequently revive them and add them to the ever-growing “Army of the Dead” does it become apparent at least to some extent a turning point in the evaluation of the wildlings. At Jon Schnees order, the night watch lets the survivors of the massacre pass the wall. However, Commander Snow will not survive this revolutionary decision, he is executed by the reactionary wing of his comrades, but is resurrected thanks to a spell.

© dpa, HBO On the run to a better life: A wildling squad led by Jon Schnee is trying to overcome poverty lines.

But despite the increasing differentiation, “Game of Thrones” is (of course) still not a coherent commentary on the world situation, even after the end of the sixth season, but still primarily a highly professional tension machine, something for which in the case of the White Walkers spongy but strong myth is used.

One now has to wait and see in which direction the epic will develop. It can already be foreseen that the plot will result in a more magical solution, in which the “three-eyed raven” Bran Stark could still play an important role, who voluntarily moved to the north to stop the White Walkers. Whereby a magical solution to the refugee crisis in “Game of Thrones” would ultimately confirm its factual difficulty in solving it.

In view of the current situation in Europe, Turkey and Syria, one can learn one lesson from the “Game of Thrones” series: that myths that create artificial fear are not good advice on refugee issues.

Tags: refugee crisis, Game of Thrones, serial understanders (5)
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What does the refugee crisis teach in “Game of Thrones”?

By Uwe Ebbinghaus

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