The Atlantic

The Authoritarian Heroes of Game of Thrones

As with many epic fantasies, the show’s heroes are framed as liberators and defenders of the common people—despite holding absolute power.
Source: HBO

Imagine a man, one who lives in a stretch of vaguely frightening forest somewhere up north. And imagine that he wants to be your benevolent dictator. His pitch: Remove the current leadership. Destroy a neighboring nation and kill its populace. Then, conquer most of the continent. And somewhere in there, he’d also like to restore traditional values to the country, whatever that means. And he says he gets to do so because, 40 generations ago, some of his ancestors were in charge. His name is Aragorn, and he’s the good guy.

Aragorn, the crown-reclaiming hero of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ringsseries, is the sort of figure who serves as the protagonist in many epic fantasies. He believes in his divine right to rule, in the absolute power of kings, and in unbroken succession as the truest form of governance. In other words, he’s an authoritarian. This Sunday, when kicks off its eighth and final season on HBO, a few more of Aragorn’s ilk will return to the screen. The pyromaniacal monarchist Daenerys Targaryen, the traditionalist lost heir Jon Snow, and their foils will

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