George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, takes place in one of the deepest, richest fictional worlds ever built. Westeros is a fully-realized fantasy realm, packed full of details that render it almost life-like.
But that kind of density can sometimes alienate a casual reader. After all, how can a humble fan keep track of a series that even the creator seems to find unwieldy? Add in an endless stream of novellas, companion books, and maps released each year, and reading through the entire canon can prove absolutely daunting.
That’s why we can all be glad the equally amazing HBO adaption, Game of Thrones brought the saga to an even larger audience. Already the series has won millions of hearts around the globe… and then proceeded to pierce those hearts like a dagger at the Red Wedding. Still, though Game of Thrones has been an emotional roller-coaster for many of its loyal fans, we always seem to keep coming back for more.
So while the next season may seem a winter away, we’re here to tide you over with dreams of spring. Here are some awesome GoT facts:
1. The beginning
Martin has a love/hate thing with TV. Before Game of Thrones, he’d spent years writing scripts for the small screen… and complained often about the limitations of standard broadcasting.
A Song of Ice and Fire, meanwhile, was long considered too intricate and complicated a story to be adapted for the short format of television. But after the The Lord Of The Rings adaptions achieved critical success and (perhaps more importantly) box office dominance, Martin met with a host of producers eager to adapt his books for the screen. And since we’ve entered a Golden Age of Television, the time was ripe for Game of Thrones to conquer the ratings like Aegon himself conquered Westeros.
2. An audience of commoners
Up-and-coming authors are warned often ( and loudly) not to use similar-sounding names for different characters.
But George R.R. Martin has never shied from breaking the rules. The character names in A Song of Ice and Fire would put an elephant’s memory to test. Was there any other way, though? With as many as 2000 named characters in the series, things were always bound to get a little messy.
So to avoid confusion, HBO insisted on renaming some characters in the adaption. For example, Yara Greyjoy is originally named Asha in the books, but was renamed to avoid conflation with Osha, the woman who accompanies Bran. Similarly, Lysa Arryn’s child Robin is called Robert in the books, but producers felt he might be mistaken for Robert Baratheon.
3. A Storm of Jons
Speaking of unconventional naming decisions in fiction, the Song of Ice and Fire series holds an interesting distinction: the most characters named Jon (or John, for that matter) in a single work of fiction. How many? According to Reddit user Mynotaur there’s at least 22 mentioned in the first 4 books.
4. Drag-bat? Cat-agon?
The dragons are some of the most loved characters/creatures in Game of Thrones. That’s at least partly credible to the gorgeous (and expensive) CGI used to bring them to life. How did they do it? Well with a serious lack of dragon motion-capture-actors in Hollywood, the creatures’ movements are actually inspired by the motion of some more familiar animals: the production team used cats, geese, and even bats to mimic the look of a dragon on-screen.
Imagine a goose dressed up in a green motion capture suit, pretending to be a dragon. You’re now halfway to making an episode of Game of Thrones.
5. By the numbers
There are over 300 noble houses in Westeros, but only nine “Great Houses”. Characters will sometimes call these, “Great families”, or “Those rich basterds”.
The other 299+ are called “vassal” or “lesser” noble houses. Each lesser family serves a greater house.
6. Sometimes lesser is greater
Although the title might not be as impressive, a few of the lesser families in A Song of Ice and Fire actually have more riches, might, or political power some Great Houses. For example, House Hightower controls Oldtown, the second largest city in Westeros, and is able to field enormous armies. The house is so wealthy, it even maintains its own fleet of ships.
7. What kind of dog is that?
A Direwolf is an essential companion for any aspiring Stark— but for us poor commoners on regular ol’ Earth, getting our hands on such an illustrious pet feels like utter fantasy.
But it turns out the Direwolf is not entirely fiction. The real world dire wolf was related to a species to the modern grey wolf that went extinct around 10,000 years ago. Now people today are actively trying to bring them back. The Dire Wolf Project is an international effort to breed a dog roughly the same size as the symbolic creatures. The American Alsatian is the result. While you may not be able to find your own pup in the woods of the North, an Alsatian is the next best thing.
8. Crouching Starks, Hidden Dragon?
So if Direwolves exist, what about Dragons? Could a modern lizard be the tiny descendant of some massive, scaly ancestors?
Welllllllll… no. BUT while there are zero dragons in our reality, there could be more in the series than immediately meets the eye. And if so, they might just be waiting under Winterfell…
This is only a fan theory, but damn if it isn’t cool. The primary evidence comes Winterfell’s convenient location— built on top of some supposedly natural hot springs, which provide the castle warmth in midwinter. But could there be a more lizard-y explanation? Some fans think a secret fourth dragon sits beneath Winterfell and fuels the springs… like using a nuclear reactor as a boiler. It would explain the many allusions in the source material to a hidden dragon—though most believe these hints refer to Jon Snow’s true heritage as a Targaryen.
9. How bad do you have to be?
If you’re a woman in Game of Thrones and you want to survive, you’re going to have to be tough. 64% of the female characters who’ve appeared in the series so far are now dead, and there have been over 50 acts of sexual assault or attempted assault. In the books, that number climbs to at least 214.
In the TV adaption, Daenerys Targaryen is famous for her long, gorgeous, silver hair. For much of the books she’s as bald as a mole rat. Her hair was burnt off (along with her clothes) when she walked into Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre.
11. Can’t touch this
In the sexually charged world of Thrones, most characters have found themselves defiled in some way… or have been the cause of someone’s else shame.
Brienne of Tarth, on the other hand, is a rare virgin.
Because of this distinction, her fellow guardsmen in Renly’s army had a standing wager regarding who would be the first to take her virginity. It was an ugly gam to play, but there is some good news: so far, nobody has won.
12. Swords and awards
In 2015 Game of Thrones made its artistic presence felt, taking home a total of 12 awards at the Emmy’s, and becoming the most awarded single season of any TV show ever. And just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, they did it again in 2016. That brought their total number of Emmys to 38, making it the most awarded TV show ever.
13. Dreams? What dreams?
When the show first started, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss promised that there would never be dream or flashback scenes. After all, this was supposed to be a different kind of fantasy.
In the end though, much like the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister himself, the producers have clearly broken their oath: In recent seasons we’ve seen Bran do some Weirwood-related psychic time-travel, and even had a glimpse of Cersei’s childhood encounter with Maggie the Frog.
14. The silver hair of a Targaryen
The beautiful blond hair of character Daenerys Targaryen was created using wigs and sophisticated hair makeup artists. Targaryen’s actor, Emilia Clarke, is a natural brunette and the use of wigs ensured she did not have to change or damage her hair for the show.
Maybe it would have been easier to keep her bald?
15. Passing the torch
George R.R. Martin was hugely influenced and inspired by the Lord of the Rings when he started writing the A Song of Ice and Fire series. In the past he’s said, “I revere Lord of the Rings, I reread it every few years, it had an enormous effect on me as a kid. In some sense, when I started this saga I was replying to Tolkien, but even more to his modern imitators.”
Which is not to say that he hasn’t been a little bit critical of the older series. Once, when asked about the differences in his novels when compared to Tolkien’s work, he gave the late-author’s novels a bit of a critique: “This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with,” said Martin, “Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy?
Which is fair enough point.
In any case, like LOTR once influenced him, George now inspires the next generation of fantasy writers: you can even see his influence on recent trends in popular literature—there’s been more than a few recent fantasy books structured using Martin’s distinctive POV chapter framework.
16. Things change
Many of the characters that appear in the Game of Thrones adaption on HBO have been “aged-up”—made older, in order to make the audience more comfortable with some of the grisly and ghastly experiences they are put through. After all, many of Martin’s book characters are still in their early tweens, and made to survive the kind of extreme circumstances you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Which, for the most part, is hardly acceptable on television.
Here’s an example: when Thomas Brodie-Sangster was casted to be part of the series, he was almost ten years older than the 13 year-old Jojen Reed whose character he was set to play.
17. Men first… mostly
Male primogeniture dictates inheritance for most of the noble houses, which means that firstborn sons are the heirs. Women mostly act as regents for young sons.
Not that this is true in all cases: In Dorne (home of House Martell and the Sandsnakes) men and women have equal inheritance status. It’s a more progressive, open society.
18. Valyrian steel is a thing
The best swords are Valyrian steel. Everyone and his basterd knows that. Sadly, though, there’s no such thing in the real world…
On the other hand, it’s possible George R.R. Martin based this incredible metal on a real world material: Indian Damascus steel. Both alloys have similar qualities: strong material but light weight. And neither can be made anew; like Valyrian steel, the recipe for Damascus steel is lost to the sands of time.
19. Just like the real thing
Like many before him, Martin got some inspiration for his characters from real people. The Stark and Lannister feud is similar to the historical War of the Roses, a famous conflict between two very real noble families, the Yorks and the Lancasters. Certain characters like Joffrey, Sansa, Cersei, and Robb have similar characteristics to children from both of these families and share similar stories.
And Martin may have gotten some thematic inspiration too: The War of the Roses is one of the most horrific conflicts in British history. The 1461 Battle of Townton, for instance, may be the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil.
20. Those lyin’ eyes
For the sake of a faithful adaption, Emilia Clarke was prepared to wear colored contacts to fit the part of Dany, who has violet eyes in the book. It was an admirable thought, but it didn’t work out. The lenses were scrapped early on, after Emilia complained they were uncomfortable, and limited her acting.
But imagine the cosplays they could’ve inspired!
21. Burn them all
As the show moves past the story set out so far in Martin’s books, a few characters have been killed off on-screen despite surviving on the page. This includes everyone killed in the Sept of Baelor by wildfire, Stannis Baratheon, Shireen Florent (Baratheon in the show), and Ramsay Bolton.
22. Lady’s redemption
Sansa and her dire wolf Lady had an extremely close bond. Behind the camera, Sophie Turner and the Northern Inuit dog Zunni, who played the two characters, had a similar relationship. The bond between them grew so strong that after Lady was killed off in the show, Turner and her family adopted Zunni for real.
23. Anha vazhak yeraan thirat
George R.R. Martin only created a few words of both Dothraki and Valyrian for the books, which was enough to flesh out the story. But once producers began to adapt the story for treatment on-screen, it was quickly decided that both languages would need a more complete vocabulary. Enter linguist David J. Peterson, who created two new languages specifically for the show. Each is now a fully functional language, with real grammar and words.
And since you were wondering: Yes, there’s even a published Dothraki dictionary. It’s 4000 words long.
24. Ballin on a budget – a big one.
Game of Thrones has enormous budgets for every episode. Average production cost for all episodes until season six has been $6 million… while the season 6 budget actually ballooned to about $10 million per episode.
That gives the show some of the highest production costs ever seen on television. Which is hardly surprising, when you take into account the massive battles and fire-breathing dragons that they have to magic into existence. After all, for most shows on T.V. an “expensive special effect” is something like making a character fall out of a window, or faking a single gunshot wound. This is another scale entirely.
25. A pretty penny
And where does all that money go? Well, much of the cost comes from the immense difficulty of filming in such desolate (but scenic) locations. Examples include Ireland, Iceland, Croatia, Malta and America. Tourism officials in some of these locations have even noticed an uptick in visitors after each new season airs, and have likened it to the effect The Lord of the Rings had on tourism in New Zealand.
26. Stick to my girls like glue
Game of Thrones actors have shared many funny behind-the-scenes stories from the sets. One favorite is a story Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) told on Jimmy Kimmel: During the scene where she had to eat a horse’s heart she was completely covered in sticky fake blood. At one point Emilia disappeared from the set and no one could find her. Apparently this was because of the sticky blood, which temporarily glued her to a toilet.
27. Ser Gregor, the Tickler, the Hound, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei
Arya Stark is a strong-minded character with an unusual habit: every night, before sleeping, she chants the names of she means to kill.
Actor Maisie Williams, who plays Arya, tells that fans consistently ask her to act out this scene… and add their name to the list.
Which is an odd request, when you think about it. Why would a person want to be included in a group that already features some of the most despicable (if imaginary) people you could imagine? And then, to top it off, the whole point of the list is that Maisie Williams wants to kill you. Is that a fan’s dream?
A man does not understand.
28. Founding mother
Arya’s Direwolf Nymeria, is not the first of her name. She’s named for a warrior queen who led the Rhoynar refugees and founded one of the seven kingdoms–a unified Dorne.
29. These things never end well
Before the show started actors Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) and Jerome Flynn (Bronn) were in relationship that didn’t end in the best possible way. Which is putting it mildly. The exact details are not public knowledge, but the results sure are: Headey made the producers of the show promise to never put her in a situation where she would be forced to interact with Flynn.
That’s why the duo are always separated on set, and will not appear in same scenes.
30. The show has gone rogue
One would think that the television seasons follow the books but this is not the case. The first two seasons go with the first two books A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings in order. The third season covers the first half of the third book A Storm of Swords. The fourth season starts with the ending of third book and has some chapters from the fourth (A Feast for Crows) and fifth (A Dance with Dragons) books. Finally the fifth season covers the rest of the fourth and fifth books and even some parts of the sixth book The Winds of Winter.
31. Shae is bae
George R.R. revealed that in his opinion, some of the television series’ characters are much better than the ones in his books. He has specially mentioned the roles of Natalia Tena as Osha and Sibel Kekilli as Shae.
32. Khal Drogo is truly a gentleman
Game of Thrones is notorious for its wild, raw, and even cruel sex scenes. Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Jason Momoa as her arranged husband, Khal Drogo, share a few of these notable trysts. Clarke has told interviewers that even if the scenes were quite scary her co-star helped her feel at ease. Momoa, on the other hand, revealed that he frequently apologized to Clarke after filming.
33. Sorry George…
Author George RR Martin is 69 years old, leading some fans to question whether he’ll live long enough to finish the book series. Unsurprisingly, George has on many occasions shown his discontent with questions on this topic (almost as if the man isn’t looking forward to his death).
34. Burn them all!
If a sudden death were to happen—which, if the books have taught us anything, is always possible—Martin has ordered that all of his manuscripts and related notes be destroyed. He has done this in order to prevent anyone else from working on completing the series. No need to worry about the story though… he has given the green light for the show to continue on, and the only other people who know the series’ ending are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
35. In the game of thrones, you watch or you download
Game of Thrones has earned the dubious honor of most illegally downloaded television series in history. For example, in 2015 the show was illegally downloaded approximately 14.4 million times… more than double the next most popular target for pirates, AMC’s The Walking Dead.
36. A Lannister always… roars?
According to the source material, House Lannister’s official motto is “Hear me roar!”. However, this sentence doesn’t come up much in the series. Instead, it’s often replaced by the quotable phrase “A Lannister always pays his debts”. This is an assurance used in the show to convey a promise that the Lannister in question will repay some gold or trinket… but can also serve a darker meaning: A Lannister is always sure to bring revenge on a person that wrongs them.
37. But what sound does a lizard-lion make?
Meera Reed, along with her brother Jojen, carries a house crest that depicts a black lizard-lion on a grey-green background.
38. More Than Just Words
“Winter is coming” isn’t just a weather report, it’s a word to the wise meant as a warning to always prepare for the dark times and to not be so naive. We hear it throughout the entire series, and lo and behold, winter has finally come as of season six and seven. It’s
39. Do you even Winterfel?
Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Richard Madden (Rob Stark) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) are seen in the first episode of the series shirtless getting ready for king Robert’s welcome in Winterfel. They all later admitted to doing push-ups and flexing before such scenes to look more muscular on camera.
George RR Martin has said that some fans of the series have guessed the ending correctly. Although we will have to wait for the last season to be released before witnessing the very end, the show has already confirmed one long standing fan theory: the parentage of Jon Snow.
41. King Renly’s not-so secret
In the books, Renly Baratheon’s Kingsguard is known throughout Westeros as the Rainbow Guard. HBO decided to remove that subtle allusion to the character’s homosexuality, because while the books never confirm Renly’s affairs with Loras (or anyone else), the TV adaption shows this explicitly.
42. Well not exactly…
The actor portraying Jon Snow, Kit Harington, was sitting in a bar, when he was confronted by a strange who told him that he looked exactly like Jon Snow. When Harington then revealed why that was, the stranger called him a liar. Apparently he then told him that he was ” far too short to be the real Jon Snow”.
It’s hard to be the king.
43. Never attempt to climb the wall
During production of Season 3, the crew of Game of Thrones faced an interesting problem when Harrington broke his leg.
The actor was locked out of his own apartment in London, and decided to attempt to climb into it. Predictably, he fell and broke his leg. Afterwards, the crew was forced to invent creative ways to work around the injury. That meant using Jon Snow stand-ins, who wore matching costumes and wigs. Maybe that’s why the fan at the bar was so confused?
44. Keep out!
Speaking of the wall: GRRM has said that Hadrian’s Wall, built in Northern England in the 2nd century to mark the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire, served as inspiration for The Wall in his books.
45. Beric Dondarrion
Beric Dondarrion was the Lord of Blackhaven, and the Lord of Light brought him back to life six times. Dondarrion explains that every time he comes back to life, he becomes less and less human. He loses memories but keeps injuries from past deaths, like losing an eye. The only person who can bring him back to life is the Red Priest, Thoros of Myr.
46. Thoros of Myr
Speaking of Thoros: Thoros is an alcoholic priest who had lost faith in the Lord of Light until he was able to bring Beric Dondarrion back from the dead. Thoros was the one who told The Red Priestess, Melisandre, that it was actually possible to resurrect people from the dead. So in a round about way, Thoros is responsible (at least in the show) for Jon Snow’s being alive.
47. Two – or three – becomes one
There are a few characters in the show that are combinations of lesser book characters. The prostitute Ros is one of the most notable examples. She is based on several named (Alayaya, Chataya, Kyra) and unnamed prostitutes who appear in the books. Additionally, Gendry may be a composite of the young Aegon Tarageyen and Edric Storm (although this is unconfirmed).
48. What does a giant eat?
Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, or as the Free Folk affectionately call him, “Wun Wun,” is one of the last known giants in Westeros. He is 14 feet tall, and possesses the strength of 12 men. In the books, we learn that he is a vegetarian. George R.R. Martin named him after the former New York Giants quarterback, Phil Simms, whose number is 11 (“one one” or “win wun”).
49. Its all in the details
Noble characters are often seen wearing intricately designed clothes with motifs of their house’s sigil. Sometimes these designs are almost impossible for viewers to see. A few examples of these amazing small details are the lion headed jewels Cersei seems to always be wearing and Daenerys’ blue dress that features dragon designs.
50. Lost and found
The long Game of Thrones opening credits feature a little secret that may make you want to stop skipping them. The maps seen in the pre-show credits feature different cities and towns around the GoT world. The cities chosen for the intros are places that are going to be significant in the current episode.
51. A true warrior
Many of the Game of Thrones stars had interesting auditioning situations but Jason Momoa, who plays Khal Drogo, had one of the wildest by far! The audition ended with him performing a Maori haka without a shirt…. because he had ripped off the one he wore earlier. If you are unsure what a haka is, you should watch the New Zealand All Blacks before a rugby match.
52. The Pope of thrones
The main religion of Westeros is the Faith of the Seven. You may be surprised to hear that the religion is based loosely to Catholicism. Both include one god and seven aspects. The High Septons of the Faith are also inspired by historical popes, who in the past have been known to occasionally act with the same ungodly greed and lust shown in the series.
53. Girl power!
Emilia Clarke originally had written into her contract that she wouldn’t do any more nude scenes (following Season 1). So what made her change her mind, and emerge from that flaming hut as naked as the day she was born? Emilia said: “It was just a wonderful, strong moment I wanted to own, a real empowering, girl-power wow scene. I was so thrilled with it. It’s not a sexy scene, she’s not naked for no reason, it’s not gratuitous. She’s naked because she’s just destroyed her enemies in this almighty blaze after they underestimated her – how could I say no?”
54. Real Accents
Game of Thrones is truly international television show and only has two American born actors: Jason Momoa, who plays Khal Drogo, and Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion. A lot of the different accents you hear are because this is how the actors actually speak. The slight difference in accent adds to the depth of the characters from the various regions of the world.
55. We’re gonna need a bigger wall…
One of the show’s most important and impressive structures is the wall. It defends the people of Westeros from the magical dangers of the North. Characters on the show say it’s 700 feet tall… but in reality the wall is mostly CGI. There is a real wall and its height is only 17 feet.
Although she’s rarely had a chance to use her abilities, like all the Stark children, Sansa is Warg.
Ygritte the Wilding is actually supposed to be unconventional-looking in the books: she has crooked teeth, a pug nose, and wide-set eyes. She still snags Jon Snow, who is drawn to her physical appearance.
The actress who plays the prostitute Shae, Sibel Kekilli, got her start as an adult film star. Her name then was Dilara.
59. Three times a Queen
Margaery Tyrell once told Littlefinger that she wanted to be the queen, not just a queen. And she was. Three times in fact. The socially mobile royal became the queen of Kings Renly Baratheon, Joffrey Baratheon, and Tommen Baratheon.
60. Eternal youth
In Season 6 Melisandre takes her necklace off… only to reveal an extremely old woman. This finally confirms a long-standing fan theory: that her ruby necklace is the source of her youth, and likely the source of her power.
61. Queen of Thorns
Olenna Tyrell can’t tell her twin guardsmen apart. So in order to keep things simple, she calls them “Left” and “Right.” Her own nickname is Queen of Thorns, because of her sharp tongue.
62. Lady Stoneheart
In the books, the dead Catelyn Stark comes back to life back as an vengeful undead spirit. Lady Stoneheart is a fearsome being, who kills anyone associated with the Red Wedding. Even more ominous: Lady Stoneheart is still unable to speak. Her throat is still cut through to the bone—a token left over from her death.
Osha is one of the few characters who is younger in the TV show than she is in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
64. The Serpent’s Whore
Ellaria Sand is one of the most sensual characters in Game of Thrones. In addition to being open to threesomes, she worships a Lysene love goddess.
65. Lend me your ears
A lesser-known character, Chella is a warrior of the Black Ears—one of the many tribes that follows Tyrion into battle as part of the vanguard at the Battle of the Green Fork during the War of the Five Kings. She wears a necklace made of ears, one ear from each of the foes she has slain. Enough said.
66. Cersei’s Game of Thrones
The phrase “game of thrones” is said only once on screen, and the speaker is Cersei Lannister. “When you play the game of thrones,” she says, “you either win or you die.”
Despite her renowned beauty, Cersei Lannister was rejected as a bride for both Rhaegar and Viserys Targaryen. Robert Baratheon didn’t want her at first either, and even accidentally called her Lyanna on their wedding night.
68. Taena Merryweather
In the books, Taena Merryweather was one of Robert Baratheon’s lovers. Cersei found out about their affair and commanded Taena to appear before her. They have a sexual encounter because Cersei wanted to know what it felt like to have the power of a man. This scene was never included in the TV series.
You might remember Unella from Cersei’s walk of shame; she was the one ringing the bell and yelling “Shame!” so she was kind of hard to miss. You might not know, however, that Unella is also a member of the Most Devout, who elect the High Septon.
70. Dangerous Woman
Myranda, Ramsey Bolton’s equally sadistic lover, does not appear in the books. In the TV series it is revealed that she once trained to be a septa, but her overheated sexuality kept her from taking the vows.
71. Kissing Cousins
That infamous, incestuous sex scene with Jon and Dany was difficult to watch, but it was even more awkward to film, as both the actors just recently admitted that the scene was made extra embarrassing because Clarke and Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, had been only filming scenes together for a short time before they had to act out the steamy rendezvous. As Clarke said, “Both of us were going, ‘Ahhh what are you doing on my set!? This is weird!'”
72. Thread the Needle
When her kill count hit 64 by the end of season 7, Arya Stark became one of the deadliest characters in the game. Just like her sword Needle, she’s tiny and lethal.
73. Most fertile
The Freys, a minor family with a huge army, have a name inspired by the Norse God of fertility, Freya. They are also, fittingly, the most populous house in Westeros. A standing joke in the books says that Walder Frey could field an army of just his own relatives, most of which are his direct offspring.
74. Longstanding feud
The Bolton/Stark feud is nothing new—it’s been going on for generations. But it does get worse during the War of the Five Kings. The Boltons not only orchestrated the Red Wedding with the Freys, but also took over Winterfell.
The Boltons are even known to have wore cloaks made from the flayed skin of Ned Stark’s ancestors.
They say a person’s pet can be a reflection of themselves, but a pet predicting your fate is just downright creepy. When the direwolves are introduced in season 1, they’re adorable pups, and each Stark child pairs up with one, as well as Jon Snow. There’s Lady, Nymeria, Grey Wind, Summer, Shaggydog, and Ghost. Only two—Ghost and Nymeria— are left alive today (at least in the show). The others met horrible fates.
Sansa’s direwolf died at the hands of Joffrey. Robb’s died with him at the Red Wedding. White Walkers killed Summer beyond the wall, and in the show, Ramsey Bolton kills Shaggydog… just like he does his companion, Rickon.
76. Starks and the Iron Throne
Throughout the story, several Starks have made a claim to the Iron Throne. But if you only watch the TV show, you might not know the origin of the throne itself. The swords that make up the Iron Throne come from the enemies of Westeros’ very first King, Aegon the Conqueror. Unlike most other Great Houses, there is no Stark sword among them; the Starks chose to bow to aegon, rather than fight and die. Torrhen Stark, who was the head of House Stark at the time, bent the knee rather than forfeit his men’s lives in a fight they could not win. As a reward for this, he was named Warden of the North… and earned a nickname for ever after: The King Who Knelt
Legend says the First Men were the first humans to inhabit Westeros. They fought against the Children of the Forest, those little creatures who look like wood nymphs. As we now know, the Children created the first White Walker as a means to defend themselves from the First Men… before their creations turned on them, like Frankenstein and his monster.
Most of the Northern families, including the Starks, are direct descendants of the First Men. They also kept the same faith and gods as the first men.
78. Owning winter
In present-day Westeros, loyal Northern families have called both Jon Snow and Robb Stark “King in the North”. This title actually goes way back to when the original Bran Stark was called “King of Winter.” Yes, he was an actual King. They held that title for thousands of years before Aegon the Conqueror came, afterwards becoming simply the Wardens of the North.
79. Keeping The Legacy Alive
There’s not a lot of love lost between the Northerners and the Wildlings these days, but without them, House Stark may have ceased to exist.
A King Beyond The Wall is the leader of the Wildlings. In years gone by, one such former ruler, Bael the Bard, actually tricked Brandon Stark into giving him his daughter. He later returned her with a newborn, and because there were no other Stark heirs, the bastard child became Lord Stark. The rest is history.
80. Extended family
The Starks may be the main Northern family featured, but they have a few distant relations, most of whom turned against the central Stark house. We meet the Karstarks on-screen, but the other house, Greystark, did not survive a battle and the last heirs were killed.
81. Rewarding Loyalty
Who could forget pint-sized scene-stealer Lyanna Mormont? In the show we meet her during Season 6, where the Lady of Bear Island showed us just what loyalty is all about. Her family has backed the Starks for generations. The Mormont received their home, Bear Island, from accRodrick Stark, who was King in the North at that time. Legends the Starks and the Ironborn fought over the territory for centuries. King Rodrick decided to end the conflict over it once and for all—with a wrestling match, of all things. He won and gave Bear Island to the Mormonts as a way to honor their loyalty. Not too shabby!
82. DA KING IN THE DA NORTH
There have been many Kings in the North, but they have always been Starks. Bran the Builder was the first one to hold that title, with Torrhen Stark being the last when he bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror. The title was restored and given to Robb during the War of the Five Kings. Now Jon Snow holds the title, and time will tell if he proves to be worthy of the role.
83. Guarding King’s Landing
While they may be more known for being Wardens, Lords and Kings of the Northern part of Westeros have held power in Kings Landing from time to time. Robb Stark, though he failed, was the first Stark to ever go to war to sit on the Iron Throne. King Aegon III made Cragen Stark his hand, since the King was only 11 at the time. Cregan ruled Kings Landing for only six days but accomplished a lot in that short time. He had 22 men arrested—some were sentenced to death, and some chose to live in exile at the wall. After basically cleaning house, he stepped down as Hand and went back to the North. His time ruling went down in history as the Hour of the Wolf.
84. What lies beneath…
The crypts below Winterfell can be creepy, but it’s also a sacred place for the family, as many Starks are buried there. Ned had two statues built and placed in the crypts to honor his sister Lyanna and his brother Brandon. A rumor is that many of the dead Starks will rise from the dead to fight the Night King. And, oh yea, some fans claim there’s dragon eggs down there as well.
85. It’s not a contest. But…
What would a powerful family be without its many bannermen? You’d be pretty powerless, actually. Everybody needs allies, and the Starks have plenty of them, including the houses of Manderly, Tully, Glover, Mormont, as well as others. The total count actually makes them the most popular house in Westeros.
86. Badass sword
Ned Stark’s legendary sword “Ice” seems appropriately named, given where he’s from and which house he belongs to. It’s an ancestral greatsword passed down from generation to generation and was crafted from pure Valyrian steel, which is actually good for killing White Walkers. Unfortunately, Tywin Lannister had it melted down into two swords, one for Joffrey (now called Widow’s Wail) and one for Jamie (Oathkeeper).
87. No Real Marriage
It was awful to watch Sansa be forced to marry Ramsay and endure their wedding night. However, this marriage did not actually happen in the books—it was added into the TV series. In the books, Ramsay marries Jeyne Poole, Sansa’s best friend. Littlefinger passes her off as Arya Stark, and it’s her who is instead abused and tortured by Ramsay. He also forces her to perform sexual acts with Theon and his dogs. Jeyne and Theon’s escape from Ramsey’s Winterfell is the same as Sansa and Theon’s escape, except that Jeyne breaks a few ribs as a result of the fall, and her nose is severely frostbitten.
So despite the brutality of what was done to Sansa on the show, it was actually toned down from what happened in the books. And at least Sansa finally got her revenge.
88. Mudcake surpise
Lysa Arryn and her sister Catelyn Stark used to kiss their father’s ward, Littlefinger, for practice when they were children. They also once made mud cakes for him, and he was sick for a week after eating them.
89. Warging powers
We know one Stark child can Warg, but another far-fetched theory that we wish was true is that Ned Stark is still alive. He is believed by many die-hard fans to have warged into Ilyn Payne right before the axe fell. Could this be true? If so, that would add a whole other layer to the already interesting things we’ve seen throughout the series. Sadly, as this one is maybe the most “out there” of the fan theories, it’s also the most unlikely to be true.
90. The King of Winter? A Stark?
It was revealed in A Storm of Swords that one of the greatest enemies of House Stark actually comes from within the Stark family. Yes, Westeros is full of terrifying and cruel characters, but obviously, no one holds a candle to the Night King. As previously mentioned, the Children of the Forest accidentally unleashed the White Walkers, but the original one, the Night King, was made from a man, and that man may have been a Stark. In the book A Storm of Swords, Old Nan says that the Night King was, according to legend, the brother of the original Bran Stark. To add a touch more irony, he was also the 13th Commander of the Night’s Watch.
91. Fire and Blood
Many fans love the strong-willed and powerful Mother of Dragons, but a darker, more violent side has led George R. R. Martin to hint that she may not actually be a true hero in A Song of Ice and Fire. In fact, she has a lot in common with the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. Dany has shown a capacity to be violent and merciless, especially to those who oppose or defy her. Examples of this include burning the witch named Durr, who had killed Drogo and Dany’s unborn son; crucifying 163 Great masters of Mereen; scorching the khals, who had abused her in Vaes Dothrak; and even threatening to incinerate members of her own council.
If Dany too-closely abides by the creed of “fire and blood,” her character could take a villainous turn. This has led many fans to theorize that Jon Snow, not Daenerys Targaryen, will be the true hero of the series. We’re still rooting for Dany though!
92. Wild Card
They might be sworn enemies now, but the members of House Stark are part Wilding. Brandon Stark married his daughter to Bael, the King Beyond the Wall, and when the Stark line was about to disappear, she came home with a newborn infant courtesy of her Wilding husband.
93. Democratic elections
House Greyjoy is the only house that elects its ruler. Any Ironborn can go before the Kingsmoot (where the King is chosen) and ask to be made King of the Iron Islands.
94. Extinct Houses
Many former noble houses are now extinct. Houses like House Hoare died out prior to the beginning of the series, but the others such Tyrell (in the show), Bolton, Martell, Reyne, Baratheon (two branches), and Baelish were annihilated in the endless battle for control of the Iron Throne.
95. Secrets of the Red Keep
The Targaryen conqueror Aegon had his son Maegor the Cruel build the Red Keep for House Targaryen. When it was finished, Maegor beheaded everyone who had worked on it so its secrets would never be revealed. I wonder why the called him “the Cruel?”
96. House Baratheon x 3
There are actually three Houses Baratheon. The original was House Baratheon of Storm’s End, but when Robert I Baratheon took the Iron Throne, both House Baratheon of King’s Landing and House Baratheon of Dragonstone were created.
97. Popular Name
11 members of the House Targaryen have been named Aegon. Several had interesting nicknames, such as “the Unworthy” and “the Unlikely.”
The Targaryens are not the only noble family to have the ability to tame and ride dragons. Many Valyrian noble families once held the title “Dragonlord,” but the Targaryens were the only ones to survive the Doom of Valyria.
99. Playing favorites
George R.R. Martins says the character he relates to most is Samwell Tarly.
100. Mature for her age
In the books, Daenerys’s faithful servant Missandei is only 10. Granted, she’s a pretty self-possessed 10-year-old, but she’s 10 nonetheless.
101. Inverted colors
Bastards of the noble houses wear house colors reversed. For example, Jon Snow wears a white wolf on a grey background, while the rest of the Starks wear a grey wolf on a white background.
102. The history book
Grand Maester Malleon wrote a book detailing the histories of all of the great houses called The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms. Eddard Stark finds out the truth about Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen’s parentage by examining the genetic clues this book.
103. Aemon Targaryen
Maester Aemon lived with the Night’s Watch, but he holds a secret: he is actually the oldest living Targaryen, and should be sitting on the Iron Throne. Aemon gave up his rights to the throne when he joined the Night’s Watch, and the crown went to his brother Aegon.
104. Rhaella Targaryen
Rhaella was both the sister and wife of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. She then fled to Dragonstone with her son, Viserys, after the death of her eldest, Rhaegar. The queen died giving birth to Daenerys.
105. Little Brother
The witch Maggy the Frog predicted that Cersei would die at the hands of a valonqar (High Valerian for “little brother”). As a result, Cersei has long believed that Tyrion will kill her. Nonetheless, her twin Jaime is also technically her little brother; he was born after Cersei.
106. Family treasures
House Lanninster once laid claim to one of the most expensive swords in the history of Westeros. The sword, Brightroar, was made of Valyrian steel and it was worth as much as the gold needed to raise an entire army. It has since been lost to the family.
Qyburn is a former Maester who was stripped of his chain for performing horrific experiments on human beings. He is also responsible for reanimating Ser Gregor Clegane, “The Mountain.” He eventually became Cersei Lannister’s Master of Whisperers and Hand of the Queen.
108. Ser Ilyn Payne
Ser Ilyn Payne is the royal executioner. The Mad King Aerys had his tongue cut out, and so he cannot speak. He beheaded Ned Stark, and he is on Arya’s death list. He had his tongue ripped out for suggesting that Tywin Lannister was the true ruler of Westeros, rather than King Aerys II.
109. Humble Beginnings
Martin’s first big publication wasn’t a story of any sort, and came when he was a young teenager. In 1963, Marvel published a fan letter that he addressed to them about an issue of Fantastic Four. In the letter, Martin gushes over the quality of the comic.
110. Symon Silver Tongue
When singer Ed Sheeran made an appearance in Season 7 of the show, he got a mixed reaction from fans. However, his cameo is rooted in the book: the song Sheeran sings, “Hands of Gold,” is written by the minstrel Symon Silvertongue, who uses it to blackmail Tyrion Lannister about his lover Shae.
111. Tycho Nestoris
As an employee of the Iron Bank of Braavos, Tycho Nestoris negotiates loans in the Seven Kingdoms. In the books, he loans Jon Snow money so that Snow can afford to feed the men of Castle Black during the winter. In the TV show, he sides with Cersei Lannister.
112. Building the wall
Winterfell is an impressive fortress, but nothing compares to the Wall. Bran Stark—no, not the Three-Eyed Raven Bran, but the man that he is named for—also known as Bran the Builder, the founder of House Stark, created many of the important landmarks throughout Westeros. He didn’t build the wall alone—magic and the Giants are rumored to have helped. Without the Starks, there would be no Wall or protection from the wildlings, let alone the terrifying White Walkers.
113. Brandon Stark The Elder
Yet another Bran (are you seeing a pattern?) Brandon Stark the Elder was Ned Stark’s brother, and heir to Winterfell. Aerys ordered the killing of Brandon and his father Rickard after they protested Rhaegar’s apparent kidnapping of Lyanna Stark.
114. House of Turtle
One inspiration for George R.R. Martin (and his work) were his pet turtles, who would often die in their toy castle, leading him to the only conclusion one can deduce from this: that the turtles were killing each other off in “sinister plots.” Sound familiar?
The Red Priestess Melisandre appears so often in the TV show that she is not exactly lesser-known—but her backstory is. In the books, we learn that she was once a slave girl named Melony. She was sold to the temple of the Lord of the Light when she was very young, but she still barely sleeps because she is haunted by her memories as a slave. She is also centuries old, but her powers keep her looking young.
116. The Baratheon Baby
While it is never really discussed in the TV series, Cersei’s first child was with her former husband, Robert Baratheon. He had black hair, like his father, but died soon after his birth. If he had survived, he would have been the rightful heir to the Iron Throne instead of Joffrey. After that point, Cersei’s children were exclusively fathered by Jaime.
117. Mance Rayder
Mance Rayder was left on the steps of Castle Black as a baby. Thereafter, he was raised by the Night’s Watch. He went beyond the wall in order to help unite the 90 different clans of the North together, but ended up becoming the leader of the Free Folk.
118. Dickon Tarly
Dickon is Samwell Tarly’s younger brother; Randyll Tarly, the boys’ father, heavily favors Dickon and sent Samwell to the Night’s Watch in order to allow Dickon to inherit the estate.
119. The Spice King
The city of Qarth was powerful and profitable, and run essentially by slave labor. The Spice King told Daenerys that his name is too difficult for foreigners to pronounce, so he just goes by “Spice King” because, as you might imagine, he trades spices. He was assassinated by Pyat Pree, the warlock of Qarth, along with 10 of the other 13 ruling council members.
120. Grand Maester Pycelle
Grand Maester Pycelle once stood on the council of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. After Robert’s Rebellion, he switched his loyalty to Robert Baratheon. Once Cersei Lannister became Queen at King’s Landing, he switched loyalties yet again.
121. That’s Martyn Lannister… I mean… Tommen?
Dean-Charles Chapman is the name of the actor who played King Tommen in later seasons of the show. But his first appearance is actually much earlier. In Season 3 he plays Martyn Lannister, one of the young boys killed by Lord Rickard Karstark in “revenge” for Jaime Lannister’s brutal murder of his son, Torrhen Karstark.
122. Get it Right
George R.R. Martin says that the proper pronunciation for Arya’s name is two syllables: “ARE-ya.” However, most people pronounce it with three syllables, like a musical term “Aria.”
123. Mirri Maz Duur
Mirri Maz Duur was a healer for the Dothraki. When Khal Drogo is gravely injured, Duur uses blood magic to heal him. This sets off a dark chain of events: Drogo is never fully himself, and Daenerys births a stillborn child. Duur also foresees that Daenerys will never bear children.
Daenerys Targaryen was supposedly cursed by Mirri Maz Duur, but most fans have no clue that the curse may actually be a prophecy.
Dany asks Mirri, “When will he [Drogo] be as he was?”
“When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” Mirri Maz Duur responds. “The seas go dry and the mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.”
This speech has often been interpreted as Mirri cursing Dany, but several fan theories have theorized that Khal Drogo will actually return to Dany after the prophecy is fulfilled. The sun rising in the west and setting in the east is interpreted as being a reference to Quentyn Martell’s (the symbol of his house is the sun and the spear) journey to Meeren and his death there. The seas going dry supposedly refers to the browning of the Dothraki Sea. The other points are a bit trickier to explain, but rest assured, there’s no shortage of possible explanations (isn’t that always the case with prophecy?).
Will Drogo actually return? It remains to be seen, but it’s also possible that the simplest explanation is correct: Mirri was just talking smack, and this “prophecy” is equivalent to saying “when hell freezes over.”
124. Child Leaders
At least four of the noble houses have been led by children during the series. Joffrey and his brother Tommen are both teenagers when they take the throne, Lyanna Mormont (11) is one of the most formidable leaders in the North, and Robert Arryn is, uh, still breastfeeding when he becomes Lord Arryn.
125. I’m Number One?
Cersei is one of the most hated characters on Game of Thrones. Lena Headey, the actress who plays Cersei, says that the hatred often spills into real life, and fans will call her names and shun her in public. At one autograph session with the rest of the cast, Headey claims she had books snatched out of her hands by fans who didn’t want her touching the tomes.
Pypar is another young member of the Night’s Watch. He used to be professional singer until a lord tried to force him into sexual favors. As punishment, he was sent to Castle Black. He earns the nickname “Pyp” and is trained in sword fighting by Jon Snow. Sadly, Ygritte kills Pyp during a battle with the Wildlings.
127. Illyrio Mopatis
You may not remember Illyrio Mopatis by name, but without him, the Game of Thrones story line wouldn’t be the same. He is a Merchant Prince who cuts a lot of business deals—including the arranged marriage behind Khal Drogo and Daenerys. If it wasn’t for Illyrio’s ruthless deals, Daenerys wouldn’t be a Khaleesi.
128. Movin’ on up
The Tyrells were originally the vassals of House Gardener, who ruled the Reach. When House Gardener fought against Aegon the Conqueror, House Tyrell quietly cooperated and was rewarded with the Reach and the status of a Great House.
129. The House of Learning
The Citadel is a combination of library, hospital, and university, and home to the wise Maesters. In the show we see that it is also home to the spinning astrolabe shown at the end of each credits sequence.
The Citadel was likely created by House Hightower.
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