Game Of Thrones is without a doubt one of the greatest works of imagination ever brought to the screen. But before it was a television show that had millions upon millions of viewers couch-bound weekly, Game Of Thrones was an epically long series of fantasy novels. A Song Of Ice And Fire, as the novels are known, is now five novels long and there are two waiting in the wings.
Each novel is pretty darn long, as fantasy novels tend to be, and chock full of characters so fully imagined that it’s hard to believe they don’t have any basis in reality. People have asked George R.R. Martin where he got the ideas for the characters and plots and he has said that they are based upon his childhood turtles.
Yes, Martin says that when he was a boy he had a tank full of turtles that would end up dead semi-regularly. His childish imagination came up with personalities for each turtle along with plots and intrigues to explain their deaths. These weren’t the common deaths of household pets that just up and croak all the time – nope. They were assassinations, duels, and so on.
Personally, I don’t buy it. As a writer myself I believe that other influences have crept into Martin’s mind to create the characters that people the seven kingdoms. Many of them bare striking resemblance to real life historical figures, as strange as those people might be. Now , I’m not saying that Martin is lying. It’s entirely possible that his penchant for plots was born of turtlish deviltry, but to think that a studious mind such as his ignored the influence of interesting people from history is as unlikely as the wall melting.
I’ll let you make the call. Is art imitating life or is it pure coincidence that these real people have been resurrected in Westeros and across the narrow sea?
Elagabulus – Joffrey Lannister
Elagabulus was a Roman emperor, and may have been the real life Joffrey Baratheon. Let’s examine the facts here.
Elagabulus came to power at the tender young age of 14 years old, just like the boy-king Joffrey. He was murdered at the age of 18, assassinated by a close family member. And just how did he come to power? His Aunt and Grandmother orchestrated his ascension, claiming him to be the son of the previous emperor. That emperor was succeeded by one of his trusted guardsmen, but Elagabulus’ dear auntie was quite the Cersei Lannister and convinced the empire that Elagabulus was the dead emperor’s son, starting a revolution, and planting his tiny butt on the most powerful seat in the ancient world.
Now, Elagabulus was no saint. Like Joffrey he … had his taboos. It’s not claimed that he beat and murdered his lovers, but it is said that he dressed in drag, took five wives, and even prostituted himself. Remember, he was fourteen years old and he died at the age of eighteen. That’s almost two wives a year. Joffrey has a similar record, tossing one fiancee aside for another.
And, just like Joffrey, Elagabulus was universally reviled. Unlike Joffrey, his guards cut off his head and tossed him in the river. I wish I could have seen that happen to Joffrey.
Henry VIII – King Robert Baratheon
Just looking at the first king of Westeros we were introduced to and you can see the resemblance to King Henry VIII. The thing they have most in common is their stature. And by that I mean they were large. Impressive. I mean, seriously fat. They liked hunting and drinking and whoring and had multiple wives.
Just like Robert, Henry started out as a handsome, desirable young man. And, just like Robert, he ended up a big fat drunken whore monger.
Neither of them produced a male heir. That was the reason for Henry’s famously beheading and taking multiple wives. The only difference here is that Henry knew he wasn’t making man-babies, while Robert thought that Joffrey was his child.
Both Robert and Henry were famous warriors, tough guys who took no crap and waged big, expensive wars. Robert and Henry both united their kingdoms through battle and ended up in financial trouble because of it.
When he came to power, Henry was considered to be wise and beautiful and charismatic. When his rule was near its end he was rude and egotistical, lustful and arrogant. Robert and Henry are virtually the same person.
Sir Jeffery Hudson – Tyrion Lannister
Allow me to introduce you to Sir Jeffery Hudson, the real life Tyrion Lannister. This is not a child. This is a dwarf from the 1600s. These days we’d have called him a midget if we weren’t being politically correct, because that means he’s proportionately build just like a regular person, only smaller. But I wouldn’t say that to Jeffery, because that little lord just happened to be an actual badass. And that’s just one thing he shares in common with Tyrion Lannister.
Jeffery was involved in his fair share of court intrigues, thanks to the novelty of his small stature, and just like Tyrion he distinguished himself with his wit and courtesy. Just like Tyrion he was also the butt of many a short joke and, just like Tyrion, he took the ribbing well. Until the day that he decided to actually get insulted.
During Jeffery’s tenure at court there just happened to be this little civil war. A war in which Jeffery, a rider and shooter, took part. Yes, like Tyrion, the little man actually became a captain. It’s not known whether or not he fought in any battle – just like Tyrion, who was knocked out during the battle where he was to command the hill peoples.
After being named captain, Jeffery decided he wasn’t going to take any more crap about his height and the next fellow that caught his ire, a Mr. Crofts, ended up getting into a duel with Captain Hudson. They decided on pistols on horseback. Crofts made the fatal error of trying to make one last joke at Jeffery’s expense – he tried to use a water pistol to soak Jeffery’s pistol’s powder. Jeffery avoided the water by commanding his horse and shot that sucker dead. Just like Tyrion, Jeffrey was a killer. Unlike Tyrion, thanks to the miracle of firearms, he fought the duel himself.
And now for my favorite episode in Jeffery’s life. Like Tyrion, he was captured. Not by hill peoples, but by pirates who, I would like to think, likely mistook him for a child. He ended up in slavery for twenty five freaking years until he was ransomed and returned to England where he was back in favor. Then out of favor, and tossed in jail for being a catholic in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, it wasn’t a sky cell. Grow up.
Sir Ulrich Von Lichtenstein – The Knight Of The Flowers
If this name sounds familiar it’s because Ulrich Von Lichtenstein is the name of the main character in A Knight’s Tale, played by Heath Ledger. And, just like Ledger and The Knight of the Flowers, Loras Tyrell, the real Sir Ulrich was known for being pretty. Oh so pretty. Pretty and witty and… well, maybe not gay like Loras up there, but he was a bit effeminate.
Sir Ulrich was a master of a German form of knightly endeavor involving singing and dancing and reciting poetry about amazing exploits. Most of which he claimed for himself. How does this make him like Sir Loras? It actually has nothing to do with dressing fancy and engaging in performing arts. If there’s one thing The Rose Knight is, it’s full of himself. He had to win, he had to look good doing it, and he wanted everyone to know about it.
Just like Loras, Ulrich was a tournament champion. He distinguished himself in front of crowds by pulverizing his opponents and claimed to have broken 307 lances in a single tournament. Now, I’ve never seen a real jousting tournament but that number seems to be pretty high. Also like Loras he had very little influence on politics and didn’t do all that well in real battle. Yup, he was just for show, and show off he did.
Genghis Khan – Khal Drogo
Many people would liken Khal Drogo to a Native American leader, but this wouldn’t be doing him justice. Drogo commanded a horde. Not unlike the Mongol Horde. Yup, my pick for the real life Khal Drogo is Genghis Khan, the man that conquered all of Asia. The only big differences between Drogo and Genghis is that Genghis wasn’t a big fella, he was kinda small. But that’s where the differences end.
Genghis and Drogo both liked a good rape. Genghis loved it so much that he has 16 million direct descendents. If you’re keeping count, that means that 1 in 200 men are his heirs. Just like Drogo, Genghis was a warrior beyond compare, despite being kinda small and funny looking.
Like the Dothraki, the Mongols were horse people. In fact they owed their famous success in battle entirely to their horse warfare tactics. They invented a form of horseback archery that enemies found it impossible to defend against and they exploited that superiority to slaughter anyone who got in their way. Well, that’s not fair. They did go out of their way as well.
Just like the Dothraki, the Mongols were absolute nomads who, despite the ability to plunder untold wealth from anyone they damn well pleased, didn’t own anything they couldn’t just pack up and carry on a moment’s notice. Even their nicest homes were essentially tents.