The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by the onetime American Professor of Literature, Joseph Campbell, is successful for its development of a general point to point narrative plot of how heroes, across history, are being created, nurtured to discovering a fresh and unique idea or practical perspectives about ways humanity should go about the business of living. The plot gives detailed description of how heroes successfully mobilise people to their newly found ideas; how they get rejected by their communities; how they then exile to a distance location away from their communities of origin; how they gather strength, followership and come back to a triumphant entry to their original communities. Campbell proposed that this plot is still being intuitively obeyed by any would be hero despite changes in social structures from culture to culture and from one historical epoch to another.
His theorisations prove invaluable for students, appreciating historical trends or drawing up patterns of social substance in and from the early Sumerian civilization, ancient Egypt, the old Persia, Greek, Roma, Arab to the present times, especially if we are to agree with those – in all ordinariness – who opine that, ” the history of the world is the story of its great people”.
As I reflect on the recurring universal pattern of the development of a hero, I began to think – though without the benefit of expertise or certificate in social or cultural anthropology – as to whether nations and empires too have a universal plot; their compositions, numbers, structures, characters and patterns that lead to their rise and fall, which are also determined reflexively by some natural design. I say this having the historical fantasy drama television series, Game of Thrones (GoT), in mind. GoT is said to have been an adaptation of the novel, A Song of Ice and Fire, by the American novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin.
Popular reviews observed that the plot line of the stories are inspired by the 15th century English, Wars of the Roses, between houses of York and Lancaster (Starks and Lannisters); the devious Queen Ceisei tells most about the 13th century French Queen Isabella and her family; the Dothraki hordes reflects the behaviours of the famous Mongols raiders of the 13th century. There is also the mirroring of 14-15th century, The Hundred Years’ War, fought between two mighty European nations of France and England, including all the relevant ruling schemes and political intrigues.
However my diffident reflection, in line with assumed universal empire plot, sees more the story of the Hausa states of the African pre-colonial northern Nigeria in the overall plot lines of GoT. The Seven Kingdoms are the Seven Hausa States (Hausa Bakwai); the free people are the seven states of Banza Bakwai (Bogus states) forming the seven tribes who are beyond the wall. Interestingly, the Banza Bakwai towns in our history had no walls; they are also south of the Hausa Bakwai states. Captivatingly Zazzau is the Southernmost of the Hausa states and closest to the free people region of influence as depicted in GoT. The Winterfell castle is the equivalent of Zaria walled city. Kajuru, Kauru or Gayan Gwari which were among old fortressed towns in southern Zaria (southern Kaduna) can be said to be Castle Black housing the venerable brotherhood of the Nights Watch.
The stories in the GoT are believed to be composed of three arcs. The first arc is about the intrigues and power play between houses ruling in the seven kingdoms after an overthrow of the mythically invincible House of Targaryans. This is similar to what ensued among Jamaar Shehu (Sokoto Jihadists) after the overthrow of Habe rulers and the rebellions that followed after the Shehu crowned his son, Muhammadu Bello, to the throne. There was much discontent that Abdussalami had to pick up arms against Shehu. Also Muhammad Tukur had to write Gangar Waazu, a poem or song of lamentation, believing the Shehu had derailed from the objectives of the Jihaad, set upon a Hijra before he was contained in Adamawa. The Kano civil war at the later years; The Kwasau of Zazzau revolt against Sokoto; the Kontagora conducting frequent raids on Zazzau on the instruction of Sokoto and many more sub wars, schemes and intrigues. All these happened, ‘before the winter and the Night King, the white walker and his army of the dead came’. Our records have it that the colonialists, when they came, used to appropriate conquered Africans to fight other Africans for them. This was what the Night King does in GoT. He appropriates the military arsenal and the souls of the fallen human soldiers into his service.
The second story arc is about the surviving child daughter of the Targaryen. Daenerys caricatures every symbol of the fallen Habe dynasty and the grudges they maintained for a period, with the new order; the various schemes and political intrigues they championed within the new order; especially in Kano and Zazzau, with the hope of reclaiming the throne of their ancestors. It can be said also Daenerys, the character used to tell the Habe versus Jamaar Shehu power struggle, went back to pre-jihad history of the 15th century Hausa setting and picked Queen Amina of Zazzau, detailing her various exploits.
According to our historical records the real Amina is said to have carried her military exploits to communities around river Niger to Kwara and present Taraba where she conquered some people of Yoruba, Jukuns and Tiv ethnicities. Records have it that it was such exploits that introduced kolanut to the Hausa states from across river Niger. She later came back to conquer Kano and Katsina and the remaining Hausa Bakwai city states. This looks like Daenerys of GoT. In his humorous fantasy novel, Elf Saga: Doomsday, Joseph Robert Lewis, portrayed one of his super amazon characters, Amina Zarinde, which admittedly, was inspired by queen Amina of Zazzau as a kind and compassionate but fiercely engaging pirate and with scores of victories battling dragons.
Elf Saga made its debut in 2014 whereas GoT, 2011, otherwise, we would have concluded, on some fair postulation, that Daenarys Targaryen was inspired by Queen Amina or, at least, her characterisation in Elf Saga. The dragons, romantic exploits, love for freedom and compassionate disposition. Nevertheless all things add up in GoT having Queen Amina in real history as the right figure to have inspired the characterisation of Daenerys, save for the dragons, as a very similar super woman character.
The third arc of the story in GoT is about a certain age-old brotherhood of the Nights Watch charged with the defence of the realms against the threat of legendary creatures far north; at an approaching winter that threatens the realm. In the accounts of pre-colonial, pre-jihad seven Hausa states comes across on an othering narrative of the Hausa Bakwai and their rival states, Banza Bakwai, which creates an air of solidarity and shared overarching vision among the Hausa Bakwai. It presupposes the existence of certain ideological canons necessary for Hausa Bakwai to agree to contribute intellectually and militarily to preserve. More so in a world riddled with mythical conceptions, the possibility of anticipating apocalyptical threats from spectral creatures could not be emphasized. In fact by the account of ordinary people, the white colonialist who arrived in Hausa states at the late 19th century represent such wraithlike characters akin to GoT’s white walkers with capabilities of bringing eternal doom to the states.
It is therefore instructive to note that if these stories of early Hausa states can fit into the plot of GoT even without the primary source of the stories, George R. R. Martin, having, possibly, had prior insights into the history of Hausa states, then the possibility of the universal plot of empires and kingdoms from ancient time through to the middle ages, in both western and eastern tradition, can be real. To my mind, the lesson in all these for a Nigerian system thinker is to understand, for future decision making and policy recommendation, that if the Hausa states, structurally and administratively, took an outlook similar to the city states of the ancient Greece to the medieval England, then for the present Northern Nigeria to be most viable and productive, it should take the form, pattern and substance of contemporary democracies, that evolved from empires and kingdoms it once shared narrative plots with, across history.