Sunday, August 3, 2014

ASoIaF: An Aside about Typology (Probably Spoilers)

An Aside about Typology
Following on a comment from a friend about how I am observant in interpreting the myths and songs as about the current story:
Yeah, Ygritte's storytelling was clearly just about setting up "types" for the current generation to fulfill. [explain.] There is this whole genre of bible study, "typology." It's all about interpreting Old Testament stories and prophecies as prefiguring Christ. [Various examples given, use your Googles. Isaac overthrowing the older brother Ishmael is a "type" for Christ overthrowing the Old Covenant. It's relatively out-of-fashion these days, partly because it lacks deep engagement with what the texts actually say in favor of forced parallels to a particular theology, but it's profoundly influential on Christian theology and Biblical interpretation as a whole, even when you'd rather ignore it.]
Anyway, whenever people in fantasy books tell old stories and legends it is almost always for the sole purpose of doing typology (or giving an unfulfilled prophecy for someone to fulfill). See, for example, all the prefaces in The Belgariad. Tolkein and CS Lewis were both SUPER-typological in their understanding of the Gospels, and they both wrote fantasy epics with the Gospels in mind. Both of them used past history in their epics to prefigure the heroism of the hero. Presumably that's how fantasy turns typology into such a trope, above and beyond the part where you don't tell past stories unless they're relevant to your present novel. Someone should pull a thesis or two out of this: Do the typological tendencies of SFF enter the genre primarily via imitation of Tolkein and Lewis, or are there other vectors? Is SFF in other western languages as fully typological as in English?

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