Winter is coming

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The US cable channel HBO has acquired a reputation for developing television shows that are both intelligent and compulsive viewing. The best of these programmes, such as The Wire and The Sopranos, were able to shine a light on contemporary society in innovative ways.

So it might seem a bit unusual that the latest in this run of culturally relevant TV shows is based not in the streets of New Jersey or Baltimore, but in the mythical realm of Westeros in which kings and queens vie for power using sword-bearing armies, dragons and magic. Yet Game of Thrones is notable not simply for its echoes of medieval Europe but also for its parallels with the world we live in today.

Tolkien - Middle Earth Meets Middle England

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Fantasy writer China MiƩville looks at the ideas and work of JRR Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.

In 1954 and 1955 a professor of English at Oxford University published a long, rambling fairy story in three hardbacks. And nothing much happened. This was the 1905 of fantastic literature - a dress rehearsal for the revolution. That revolution came in earnest ten years later, when the book, The Lord of the Rings, was published in the US in cheap, pirate paperbacks, along with rapid response authorised versions. And they sold. A generation of students, hippies and potheads found hidden meanings in legends of power, wisdom, magic and secret knowledge.

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