Introduction to the special issue
Melissa de Zwart
Engagement, authenticity and resistance: Using Game of Thrones in teaching law
Mary Heath and Sal Humphreys
It is clear that law, like many other disciplines taught at tertiary level, includes material that can be challenging to teach and to learn. Student engagement, and thus learning, is at risk when students become bored or distressed. Conventional pedagogical theory suggests that the use of authentic or ‘real world’ examples is often an aid in engaging students, but in this paper we have explored the ways in which sometimes this is not the case. A fictional example such as Game of Thrones has much to offer in providing a pathway to engagement. This paper explores various barriers to student engagement and how particular scenes from Game of Thrones have been used to overcome them.
This article focuses upon characters and plotlines in the Game of Thrones series to shed light upon the legal and regulatory environment relating to human augmentation technology. It places the debate within its historical context, before examining the manner in which information technology can enhance people’s lives. National and international provisions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are drawn upon to predict how the law is developing to take account of the changing nature of what it is to be human..
‘Nothing burns like the cold’ — except for wildfire: How patents could win the game of thrones
Catherine Bond and Stephanie Crosbie
While wars and revolutions have advanced those in power in George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series and Game of Thrones television series, there has been little accompanying progress in the dissemination of knowledge or the development of technology. Although military conflict is often a driver for innovation, the dominance of natural and mystical elements during war and peacetime have fostered an environment where new invention does not appear to be a priority in Westeros. This article proposes that the introduction of a simple patent law would play a major role in deciding who would win the game of thrones, through an examination of the development of the modern patent system and the dual roles of secrecy and patent rights in military conflicts.
And the gods will judge: Trial by combat in Game of Thrones
John G Browning and Amanda C Brown
This article examines the concept of trial by combat as a legal remedy/defence in George R R Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ universe. Using examples from the television series as well as Martin’s popular books, this article analyses not only the practice itself in its various fictional incarnations but also its inspiration in medieval European history, taking care to note significant differences and similarities between trial by combat in Westeros versus its real world historical counterpart. The article also looks at the religious underpinnings of trial by combat and how, for those who do not place their entire trust in the laws of man (as administered at the whim of a monarch), faith in the gods remains a viable yet desperate option. Finally, the article also examines the enduring fascination with the notion of trial by combat in modern times, including recent attempts to invoke the ancient practice in an age where our hired champions now wield laptops instead of swords.
Arbitration by combat
Michael Smith and Raj Shah
Trial by combat is a popular method of dispute resolution in the Game of Thrones universe. While modern legal systems reject trial by combat as an unjust and barbaric practice, this article examines whether trial by combat may be employed as a means of private dispute resolution in the United States. This article evaluates whether ‘arbitration by combat’ provisions based on Game of Thrones and various historical approaches to trial by combat would be upheld by state laws and protected under the United States’ Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). This article concludes that while Game of Thrones-style arbitration by combat may violate state contract and criminal laws, arbitration by combat that conforms to less-violent historic practices may survive state law challenges and may even fall under the protection of the FAA.
This article examines George R R Martin’s imaginative historical narrative in his book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book of the series (A Game of Thrones) is highlighted and discussed from the points of view of legal history and applied legal theory. The article concentrates on the legal mentality of one of the noble Houses in A Game of Thrones and discusses Martin’s rich narrative in its relation to the real feudal legal history and jurisprudential frameworks it displays. Analysis focuses on the rules of succession. It will be argued that even though the House Stark’s attitude and mentality can be labelled as legalistic and surprisingly modern it can be seen as a natural part of the imaginative feudal world of A Game of Thrones. The article concludes that, by studying the legalistic attitude and mentality of the House Stark, we can also learn about the legal theoretical nature of modern legalism. Paradoxically, it is also suggested that the study of imaginative legal history deepens our understanding of ‘real’ legal history. Moreover, the author argues that analysis of imaginative legal history expands our legal mind and immerses us in alternative horizons of law.
‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die’: Concepts of justice in George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire
Alyce McGovern, Jenny Wise and Nathan Wise
In George R R Martin’s fictional realm of Westeros, there are three key concepts of justice conveyed to the audience: legal justice, divine justice, and poetic justice. Legal justice is determined through trial by the King (or an appropriate substitute judge), divine justice is determined by trial by combat/battle, while poetic justice is a central theme in the lives of characters throughout the narrative. In the case of legal justice, power lies largely in the hands of authority figures, who can manage the circumstances surrounding the trial to ensure their desired outcome. This article argues that this portrayal of legal justice provides a mirror for the audience, allowing them to reflect on many of the problems faced by defendants in Australia’s legal system. In the fantasy series, where the legal process is perceived as unjust by the accused, they can, mid-trial, request a trial by combat where power shifts to the accused and, partially, to ‘the Gods’ who, through divine intervention, purportedly guide the innocent to victory in one-on-one armed combat. When either of these avenues fail, Martin often draws upon elements of poetic justice to either save or punish particular characters for their pattern of just or unjust behaviour. As this paper will demonstrate, throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and the corresponding Game of Thrones television series, Martin utilises these formal and informal systems to connect readers with the thought processes of the key characters as they also wrestle, within their fictional world, with the concept of justice. As such, both the books and television series provide the audience with a way to examine and reflect upon their own understandings and concepts of justice.