Recently I’ve been reading a book for my English class, A Dirty Job, and I figured I could talk about it. Although the book was assigned by my teacher, I am thoroughly enjoying it.
A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore, is a book whose main topic is death and most of the times when death, the biggest taboo in our society, is mentioned it is with no figurative mean. At a first glance, this book may seem a simple one, one which does not bother with allusions and references, and focuses only on the story itself. However, when one goes deep into it, he/she can see the innumerous allusions, direct references, and metaphors brilliantly hidden by the author. Allusions tend to be the best way to make a reference, because it is made in such a simple but effective way, but also is not as clear as a simple reference, because one needs to look into it.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an allusion is something that is said or written that is intended to make you think of a particular thing or person; brief or indirect reference.
The main allusions present in the book are:
The Hellhounds: The hellhounds Mohammed and Alvin are introduced in the chapter 13, when they save baby Sophie from the attack of one of the harpies. Hellhounds are folklore creatures that are similar to dogs, but fiercer, stronger, and bigger, and most famous for their role in the Greek Mythology. Hellhounds are considered bearers of death, because they were supposedly created by ancient demons to serve as heralds of death, and one can die by simply looking at them. It is not surprising that on A Dirty Job there would be such allusion.
The Morrigan: The Morrigan has often been likened to the Valkyries of Norse mythology and Norns (female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men) of Germanic mythology, and therefore is also associated with fate and destiny of men in various ways. In the book however, it is introduced in the last couple of pages of the Part One. The role it plays on it is somewhat related to these ideas of fate and destiny, as they try to fulfill a supposed fate and bring the dark world to rule over our world. As I have not yet finished the book, it is hard to know completely how this allusion will turn out to be in the end, but I can predict that the Morrigans will play an important role in the Part Three of the book.
The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Epic of Gilgamesh, is a well-known epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, dating around 2100 BC, which is regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature. This epic is a very long and complex one, but we are interested in only half of it. The second half of the epic is about Gilgamesh undertaking a long and perilous journey
to discover the secret of eternal life. As its main topic is death and eternal life, it does certainly relate to the book. In fact, A Dirty Job begins with a poem of such epic when it tries to show us, the readers, what the book will be about and how the tone of it will be. But the references and allusions continue to appear throughout the whole book. In my opinion, Charlie’s journey can be compared to Gilgamesh’s, what makes it the biggest allusion, as Charlie is the main character.
Now you must be wondering: “Okay, but what about the A Song of Ice and Fire?”, and I understand, as this blog is about it. However, I wanted to share my experience with this other book I’m reading, which is incredibly good, I must say, even though I believe the book series by George R.R. Martin are of a level that few can reach. So, let’s do it, let’s talk about A Song of Ice and Fire.
All the five books are packed with allusions, some very clear and some not so much, but if there is one thing this series does not lack is of allusions. The main allusions in the series are, in my opinion, the ones that relate to either real life history, other books, or religions. My favorite allusion in the book series is, by far, is between of the great houses of Westeros (Greyjoy) to Cthulhu, who is a fictional cosmic entity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft and first introduced in the short story The Call of Cthulhu. Cthulhu is often related to this idea of destruction, plumbing, and killing which is exactly what the Greyjoys are known for in the book series. And it is no coincidence that the Greyjoy’s symbol is a kraken (Cthulhu is described as a monster with a face that resembles an octopus).
There also many allusions made by other literary works and popular television programs to A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series, and A Game of Thrones, the TV series, as both have become extremely popular. The series are known for killing main characters and for its innumerous bloodbaths, so many times when a different series does something similar, it is seem as an allusion or a reference. There have been references and allusions to the series in many other media, such as The Simpsons when there was a couch gag about game of thrones, South Park when a character, who is a teacher explained correctly the political history of Westeros, Parks & Recreation many times because two characters are big fans of it, and Family Guy where there was an allusion to Cersei’s walk of shame. This list goes on and on, it would be impossible to have every single time when allusions or references were made to the series, but these are examples of famous shows that have made allusions to the series.
Allusions are, therefore, a big part of the Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin actually said many times before in interviews how he was inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien, who is arguably the greatest fantasy author of all time, and how his own books are full of references and allusions to Tolkien’s work. And it is beyond doubt that Martin has inspired other authors the same way Tolkien inspired him, and therefore many other literary works are full of references and allusions to the ASOIAF.