WARNING – CONTAINS SPOILERS THROUGH SEASON 6 OF GAME OF THRONES
Greatness is defined in many ways, and as Christians, we know that God has a sort of counter-intuitive view of greatness. To be great, one must serve (Matthew 20:26).The meek will inherit the Earth, the poor in spirit will have heaven (Matthew 5:5,3).
In the show Game of Thrones, the opposite couldn’t be truer.
It is a show based in a world consumed by the evil in mankind, where whichever character is a combination of wealthier, more cunning, more heartless, and/or more powerful wins the day in spite of true justice. (As a disclaimer, this show is not for everyone – it is full of violence, sex, and depravity.) But, despite its many spiritual vices, it can actually serve as an interesting look into the soul of man, because, while I would choose to believe our world isn’t that broken (and maybe that makes me naive), the show can reveal truths in our own lives.
And this brings me to Hodor. Hodor was born a poor stable boy who had a massive seizure in his youth that rendered him mute except for the ability to to say the word, “Hodor.” He is a gentle giant who has served the Starks, a royal family, his entire life, and the Starks have treated him well, though he is considered and treated as low born and dumb. When Bran, the second youngest Stark, became paralyzed, amongst other duties, Hodor became Bran’s personal attendant, who would carry him wherever he wanted to go. This happened to be to a frozen land farther north than any civilized people lived, which was surrounded by zombies called “White Walkers,” so that Bran could meet a tutor to develop his ability to “warg” or travel through time with his mind and/or take possession of weak-minded creatures, such as animals, and as it happens, Hodor. Only if Bran can hone this ability can the human race be saved from the frozen zombies that will soon invade civilization.
I imagine at this point, if you don’t watch the show, you’re completely lost, but here’s where I think it’s relevant to everyone. In this episode, the cause of both Hodor’s childhood seizure and name is finally revealed. As Bran, Hodor and Meera, another companion, run from the “wights,” or zombies, Bran mind-travels to the time Hodor was a mentally fully-functioning boy, but hearing the present day cries of Meera, Bran wargs into Hodor’s mind to save them. As they escape out a huge door in the tree cave where they had been hiding, Hodor (controlled by Bran) slams it shut on the wights, and hearing Meera’s shouts to “hold the door,” stays behind while Meera drags Bran to safety. Instantly, Bran, still conscious in Hodor’s time as a boy, witnesses Hodor’s massive, life-changing seizure, as he writhes on the ground and shouts, “hold the door” until the words blur into simply “Hodor,” the only word he would say the rest of his life. So, from the time he was a boy, Hodor knew he would die horrifically being torn apart by wights, but when asked to serve his master, he marched with him into his own certain death anyway.
The parallels to Jesus’s teaching should seem pretty obvious at this point, and the image of the man being sacrificed against a tree drives the point home. John 15:13 states, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” To love is Jesus’s greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), and so Hodor is a noble servant (which makes him great) with the greatest love Jesus describes. Who in this fallen, twisted world could be greater?
And yet, it is still difficult to view Hodor as “great.” Noble, heroic, brave, tragic, loved, and loving all fit, but so does simple-minded, scared, and passive, and those certainly don’t ring of greatness. He showed no interest in changing the world, only in loving and serving his master, and shouldn’t the great ones change the world, or at least try?
Too often I think we judge greatness as the world of Game of Thrones does … or as our world does. To quote John Burke in Imagine Heaven, “Everybody wants to change the world; nobody wants to love their neighbor!” We must remember that, “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7) and “God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). As Christians, we should love above all else, fight to value the qualities that Jesus told us were great, and also fight against the inherent urge to chase the treasures of this fallen world.
Here’s to a character that is pure of heart in a world of darkness and who reminds us of the greatness in God’s teaching. Thank you to all the many people involved in the book and show who were responsible for this story coming across so beautifully on screen.