Okay. I admit it. I’m thoroughly hooked. Earlier this year John and I watched the first season of the new HBO series Game of Thrones. It is an exciting and engrossing mix of family saga, political intrigue and war, spiced with a bit of fantasy and a distinctly medieval flavor. There are ladies and lords, knights and kings galore, and even a dragon or three. We ate it up. This summer just past John found and ordered the boxed set of the four existing volume in this series, and read them voraciously as he waited for the fifth volume which was published this fall. He’s since loaded that one onto his Kindle reader and polished it off as well. I, meanwhile, have made my way to the middle of volume three. The story is so intriguing and well written that I can hardly wait until the end of the day when I can read a few more chapters.
One of the things that so captivates and amazes me is the richness of the characters and the intricacy of the imaginary world the author has created. Part of what contributes to the medieval flavor is his use of a sort of Middle English/Celtic spelling for the names of people and places and the highly structured society in which they exist. As you might imagine, royalty sits at the top of the heap undergirded by the nobility and the educated class who act as their advisors. There are also craftsmen of various kinds who occupy a particular niche in the culture. And finally, at the very bottom of the heap and corresponding to the serfs of real medieval society is a group that the author refers to as the “smallfolk”.
As we celebrate the feast of All Saints in early November, I find the concept of “smallfolk” striking a chord in me. Over time, our practice has evolved to merge the celebration of All Saints with the observance of All Souls…or the “Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed” as the Prayer Book terms it. What that means is that with all those people throughout history who have been granted the title of Saint with a capital “S”, we also recall the millions, or more probably billions we remember as saints with a lower case “s”. It occurs to me that all the little “s” saints who are dear to each of us are the “small folk” who have served God here on earth and are now at rest in God’s unending joy. The names of small folk, unlike the names of Saints and many a king, are never known to the vast majority of people, and are eventually lost to human memory. But their lives form a vast part of the fabric of Christian life and experience and witness. And as we try to live faithfully in the life God has given us, we ourselves are gradually being woven into that divine and eternal fabric as well.
The imaginary smallfolk in the Game of Thrones are a lot like human beings in every time and place. Sometimes they prosper and sometimes they starve. Sometimes they are valued and other times they are expendable. They may live long and happy lives or they may be cut off in the midst of their lives by disease or violence or tragedy of another sort. They can be brave and faithful and true or fearful and self-serving and treacherous. They make choices about their lives, and their fate is cast by the decisions and actions of others.
These are the realities of life. What God desires is that saints like you and me live as fully and faithfully and joyfully as we can, drawing strength from being created in the Divine image and trusting God for all that is beyond our strength.