In the Inferno in Dante's Divine Comedy, sinners are punished by a process that either resembles or contrast with the major sin they committed. For example, the violent are submerged in a river of boiling blood: true tyrants are fully submerged; those who were less violent aren't completely submerged. Usurers crouch on the sand with heavy bags of money around their necks. Those who cause discord are punished by being cut asunder with a great sword, and the process is repeated when they are healed. Gluttons get attacked by a three-headed dog that tears off and parts of their body.

In A Song of Ice and Fire, Bran Stark loves climbing but becomes paralysed after being pushed out of a high window, so he can never climb again. Ned Stark greatly values honour and loyalty but ends up getting executed on a charge to treason. Jaime Lannister self-identifies with his sword-fighting skills; after Locke chops off Jaime's "sword hand", one of Jaime's later comments is that he was that hand.

At the Game of Thrones 2017 conference, Matteo Barbagello presented a paper which

[showed] how the simple assumption that Westeros is in truth the embodiment of Hell relates to Dante Alighier’s depiction of Hell in the Divine Comedy, a place where, according to the law of contrapasso, the punishment fits the crime.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find Barbagello's paper "The One we are Living in: Westeros and the Dantesque Interpretation of Death". However, finding such relationships is one thing; it is something else to claim that George R. R. Martin drew inspiration for this from Dante's Divine Comedy. So my question is, is there any evidence, e.g. from interviews, that the contrapasso from the Divine Comedy inspired George R. R. Martin in this way?

  • Doesn't Dante's depiction of Hell pretty much align, at least in the sense you describe with 'poetic justice' for sinners, with that found in ancient Greek mythology? E.g. Sisyphus and Tantalus, perhaps the most famous of those trapped in Hades in perpetual 'apposite' torment.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 25, 2018 at 11:07
  • Relevant Reddit thread, which (with some more research) could probably be turned into an answer.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 25, 2018 at 12:19
  • @Randal'Thor First, what happens to Ned Stark and Bran isn't poetic justice but its opposite. Second, I'm looking for explicit comments by George R. R. Martin.
    – Tsundoku
    Mar 25, 2018 at 16:50
  • George RR Martin has written a lot of explicit content; which bit would you like? ;-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 25, 2018 at 22:52

1 Answer 1


George has certainly made many references and homages in A Song of Ice and Fire.

However, the only direct mention I can find of Dante by Martin is the following:

Two thousand years after the assassination of Julius Caeser, people are still debating whether or not that was an honorable act. Dante put Brutus and Cassius in the lowest level of hell for what they did, right next to Judas Iscariot, but Shakespeare wrote that Brutus was "the noblest Roman of them all." - So Spake Martin, "Matters of Honor", June 19, 2001

But with such an extensive list where "there are too many to readily list" and over 1,700 fan found references to other works, I would say nothing is out of the realm of possibility!

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