The fantasy world created by George R. R. Martin in his hugely popular book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, created quite a following even prior to being made into a television series by HBO. While there have been a number of books that have been made into film adaptations or television series, few have reached the same height of fame or accolades as HBO’s Game of Thrones.
With a series that continues to bring in millions of viewers with each new episode, the intrigue surrounding the show doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. On top of breaking records for the sheer amount of viewership through HBO, Game of Thrones has also taken home the title of being the most pirated TV show for four years in a row. It seems that people can’t get enough of the series, and there is a never-ending conversation regarding what will happen next to the favorite characters in the Seven Kingdoms.
Showrunners have already declared that the series will end at Season seven or eight, even if the books aren’t finished yet. While much of the television show is spot-on with the book series, George R. R. Martin only writes one episode of each season. The show has six writers, which is quite small compared to the 20 writers with The Walking Dead. It took George R. R. Martin 15 years to write the first five books in A Song of Ice and Fire, and he has acknowledged the fact that HBO may not be able to wait for him to finish the book series. Reportedly he revealed the ending of the story to the producers of the HBO series, in the event of his death. While fans may not be privy to this information, there are some facts that have come to light about the series. Check out our list of the 20 craziest facts you didn’t know about HBO’s Game of Thrones, and bide your time until the start of Season seven.
20. Sansa And Lady Are Alive And Well
The direwolves on Game of Thrones are characters in and of themselves, since audiences were introduced to them in the very first season. Taking on the personality characteristics of the Stark children, fans feel attached to each direwolf as if they are an extension of House Stark. The death of Lady, Sansa’s direwolf, was just another senseless death related to House Stark and had fans feeling yet another heartbreak coming out of Winterfell. Sophie Turner, the actress that plays Sansa Stark, gave an interview with The Coventry Telegraph and spoke about what happened to Lady after leaving the show. She said, “Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one. We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set. We knew Lady died, and they wanted to re-home her. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her.” It is somewhat comforting to know that Lady didn’t die needlessly at the behest of Cersei, but rather she’s alive and well and frolicking at Sophie Turner’s house.
19. Get Your Own Direwolf
Like many elements of Game of Thrones that are based on historical facts, the Direwolves on the show have roots from the prehistoric North American carnivore, dire wolf, that is the Canis dirus extinct species. In order to recreate the animal, the show uses Mahlek Northern Inuit Dogs that are enlarged by special effects. For those in search of a Direwolf for themselves, the National American Alsation Breeder’s Association has successfully created a similar Direwolf breed. It is a wolf-like, 130 pound American Alsatian that they have dubbed a “Direwolf.” They cost $3,000 each, and have become a favorite for dog enthusiasts and Game of Thrones enthusiasts alike. Coming in a variety of different fur tones, breeders are able to simulate your very own Nymeria or Ghost of your very own. While it may not have the hyper-intelligence of the Direwolves from the world of Game of Thrones, they will have the size and look of the Direwolves from the show.
18. Weapons Have Their Own Story
The weapons and armory in Game of Thrones have their very own storyline, including swords with names and specialty steel that can cut through other swords during battle. Valyrian steel hails from Valyria, which was destroyed, and thus there is a limited number of Valyrian steel weapons in circulation and very few that can forge Valyrian steel weaponry. This is reminiscent of Damascus steel, which was originally made in India and the Middle East. They are similar to one another due to the rippling effect that is visible in the steel, and the fact that it is a lost art. The art of forging Damascus steel was lost in the 18th century, and no one has been able to recreate this process in current times. Yet Valyrian steel has the unique ability to kill White Walkers with a single swipe, so it is definitely the superior metal in comparison to its real life counterpart.
17. Tywin Lannister Based On Edward I
Tywin Lannister has many similarities to Edward Longshanks, who was King of England from 1272 to 1307. While Tywin never became King, he was basically ruling Westeros even though he wasn’t technically sitting on the Iron Throne. Edward I was known for his military expertise, and was often referred to as the Hammer of the Scots. He was successful in conquering Wales and bringing them under English rule, and spent the majority of his reign dealing with disputes and rebellions with military power. At the time of his death in 1307, he left his son to deal with the ongoing war with Scotland as well as dire financial and political problems. This is similar to Tywin’s military intellect, and the fact that his death left the Crown to deal with the ongoing remnants of the War of the Five Kings. There’s no doubt that King’s Landing wouldn’t have gone through the headache involving the Faith Militant if Tywin were still alive, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Crown would fall apart with Cersei in charge.
16. Remnants Of Historical Women In Cersei Lannister
There are a number of women in history that have traits and specific events that can be related to the Cersei Lannister character in Game of Thrones. The biggest historical comparison can be made with Margaret of Anjou, also known as the “She-wolf of France.” She was married to King Henry VI of England, and at times ruled in his stead. Her decision to exclude the Yorkist faction in the Great Council in May 1455 has been thought of by historians as the first spark in the civil conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. This is similar to Cersei’s power lust in ruling the Seven Kingdoms, and also illuminates the part she played in her husband’s death that led to the War of the Five Kings. Another historical character comparison is Jane Shore, the mistress of King Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses. She was accused of sorcery and witchcraft and was forced into a public penance of walking barefoot through ogling crowds, wearing only a kirtle (which is essentially just her underclothes). Sound familiar?
15. King Joffrey Compared To Richard II
Joffrey Baratheon has quite a lot of comparisons to King Richard II, who ruled from 1377 to 1399. Both of them were young when they inherited the throne, and both were raised without a strong father figure in their lives. Richard’s father died before his grandfather, and that is the reason why he became king. He wasn’t raised with his father around, which is similar to Joffrey and his lacking relationship with his own father due to his whoring, hunting, and drinking. Both Joffrey and King Richard II were known for being spiteful towards perceived enemies, and for being drunk with their newfound power and majesty during their reign. Neither were considered intelligent in military situations, yet there was extreme confidence by both over their military prowess. This made Game of Thrones viewers hate Joffrey that much more, since he seemed so sure of himself even though he had no real experience on the battle field or in combat– unless you count the time Arya and Nymeria kicked his ass!
14. Tyrion Lannister Based On Richard III
Richard III has been a popular character to depict throughout history, and was even the subject of the historical play by William Shakespeare, entitled Richard III. He was the real life King of England until 1485, but was deposed by the Tudors and killed in battle. Tudor historians sought to defame his legacy, and often described him as a kin-slaying and child-killing monster. Shakespeare described him as monstrously “deformed, ugly, hunchback, and cannot strut before a wanton ambling nymph.” Similarly, Tyrion Lannister has suffered the same sort of defamation in Game of Thrones. The medieval mindset of the characters have referred to his dwarf state as the result of the hatred from the Gods, and so they set out to twist his physical appearance. Public opinion sets out to correlate his physical unpleasantness as a direct link to a lack of moral character. Both of these characters have been thought of as “crippled” in their physical form, yet the truth of it seems lost in how they are portrayed.
13. King Robert Compared To King Edward IV and Henry VIII
While many of George R. R. Martin’s characters from Game of Thrones have historically significant characteristics, it’s King Robert Baratheon that has the most similarities to real-life figures in history. King Edward IV became King of England after deposing the Mad King of their time, Henry VI. Both were known for being great warriors in their youth, but began to decline after the fight was over. Both were known for whoring, drinking, and eating to excess; which led to both dying before their time. Baratheon is also compared to Henry VIII because of the existence of a well-known mistress, Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, and their bastard offspring, Henry Fitzroy. King Robert Baratheon was known for his many bastards, and he even mentioned a mistress named Bessie during the first season of the series. Enroute to King’s Landing with Ned Stark, King Robert said, “Bessie! Thank the Gods for Bessie!” Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17-years-old, and some speculated he was poisoned because the people didn’t want a bastard ruling the country.
12. Ned Stark Compared To William Hastings
Eddard Stark is one of the most complex characters in the Game of Thrones series, and draws on a number of different figures throughout history. Since the Starks are comparable to the Yorks, one of the comparisons would be Richard, Duke of York. This draws a parallel in that Ned Stark was the patriarch of House Stark. Yet, Ned Stark has a lot in common with William Hastings, since both had a very close relationship with the king. The closeness that Ned Stark shared with King Robert Baratheon was a huge factor in what brought the Seven Kingdoms together. This is similar to William Lord Hastings chummy relationship with Edward IV. Both Hastings and Stark were beheaded due to an accusation of treason, even though they were both loyal friends of the king. Stark also has parallels to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Both had to fill the shoes of their older brothers, and both were reluctant to take their place governing the state. Humphrey became Regent and Protector to King Henry VI, and Ned had to be asked repeatedly to govern as Hand of the King. Both were betrayed and murdered at the behest of a boy king.
11. Joffrey’s Death Had Historical Inspirations
Ever since Ned Stark was beheaded at the end of Season 1 of Game of Thrones, viewers knew not to get too close to any of their favorite characters in the series. Yet King Joffrey was a character who audiences longed to see come to a violent end. While it may not have been as good as if Arya had been able to get at him with a knife, killed on his wedding day was a pretty good second-runner up. Known as the Purple Wedding, George R. R. Martin actually based the death on the real historical death of Eustace IV. Although it wasn’t his actual wedding feast, Eustace died mysteriously at a feast with many speculating whether or not he had been poisoned. Eustace of Boulogne was the heir to the throne under King Stephen of England, and George R. R. Martin stated that he was the only historical figure he knew of that died at a feast and was the inspiration for the mode of Joffrey’s death. Some say he choked on lamprey pie, some say he died of apoplexy, and others say he was poisoned.
10. Robb Stark Was A Real Figure In History
After the death of Ned Stark, Game of Thrones viewers wanted so desperately for his son to triumph in avenging their father. Although Robb Stark seemed little more than a boy at the start of the first season, he grew to be a formidable character in the series. Stark paralleled a number of different historical figures, including Edward IV. After Richard of York was killed (like Ned Stark), his teenage son Edward, led an army to defeat the Lancasters (Lannisters) in battle. At just 19-years-old, Edward was never defeated on the field of battle. Both Edward and Rob married unwisely to women they met while on campaign, which many believe was the downfall of Robb Stark’s strategy in Game of Thrones. Stark also has similarities with Lord Harry Percy, who was also the eldest son of a northern lord. Both held reputations for military strength and courage, and both died violently while fighting their rebellion against the reigning king.
9. The Wall Is Based Off Of A Real Wall
The inspiration for The Wall in Game of Thrones is actually based on Hadrian’s Wall, built as a northern border for the Roman Empire and as a defense against the Scottish. While the Scottish may not be keen to be compared to the Wildlings, during that time, the Romans used Hadrian’s Wall very much as a mark separating civilization from “savagery.” The wall and base were made of stone, and had “mile-castles” with turrets in between every five miles or so. This is similar to the castles manned along The Wall, even though George R. R. Martin’s wall was made of ice and magic. Yet the warrior mentality was very much the same, in that the Men of the Night’s Watch were able to gain great glory based on the power of their swordsmanship. A portion of Hadrian’s Wall still stands in Northern England, despite its having a 122 AD origin.
8. Hierarchy And Family Structure Was Real
In a world filled with democratic elections and overthrown governments, it seems strange to think that the ruling of different kingdoms were once based on genealogical lineage. While the family structure issues in Game of Thrones may seem like just another fantasy aspect in the world created by George R. R. Martin, much of the hierarchy and family issues can be plucked straight out of the Middle Ages. In the first episode of the series, all of the Stark children are made to line up to greet the king. Arya arrived late, and can be seen shoving Brandon out of the line so that she could take her rightful place in line. There were different rankings in high lords and lower lords that was very similar to the smaller houses that would serve as Bannermen in Game of Thrones. Things like this could also be seen in the relationships in history where a lower lord would have to serve their high lords militarily or as support in other matters. Game of Thrones represented this well when Roose Bolton seemed bothered by having to serve under House Stark.
7. Women Seen As Property
The notion of marrying for military and political gain is something that has been around since the Middle Ages and even some ancient cultures. Marriage is a huge source of contention in Game of Thrones, since many of the characters struggle against the marital alliances they were born into. Since women were thought of more as property than a voice within the political system, marriages were thought of more like corporate mergers than having to do with love. Women were often used as pawns or bargaining chips, similarly to Sansa Stark being married off to Tyrion Lannister and Ramsay Bolton. Other women chose to struggle against their destiny, similar to Cersei Lannister refusing to marry Loras Tyrell. There are even historical comparisons to other prominent women, like Joan of Arc. From Brienne of Tarth donning armor as a fierce warrior to Daenerys burned at the pyre, attributes of Joan of Arc can be seen throughout Game of Thrones.
6. Game Of Thrones Is Helping The World
What many people don’t realize is that the entertainment industry actually does a lot to boost the economies of countries all around the world. Game of Thrones is shot on three different continents and in nine different countries, and has helped to boost the overall economy in a variety of ways. One example involves the increase of bookings to Morocco, since it has become the face of Yunkai and Pentos on the show. There has also been an added $100 million boost to the economy of Northern Ireland due to the massive production cost of the show. Irish farmer Kenny Gracey, was drowning in debt when he was contacted by a Game of Thrones props buyer. Not only did the show use the junk-filled barn items he had laying around, but they also helped to save a rare breed of pig. The production required traditional farm animals for the show, and Gracey was quoted by The Daily Mail saying, “I could not afford to keep all the animals I have commercially, so it’s been a godsend. Game of Thrones has put me on the map.”
5. Dothraki Is No Joke
The Dothraki people in Game of Thrones have influences from various warrior tribes throughout the world. Similar to the Mongols in the 13th century, there are interesting similarities between Genghis Khan and Khal Drogo. Khan was known for burning and pillaging everything from Beijing to Baghdad, similar to the Dothraki hoard and their many conquests. There are also similarities to the Huns, since horses were an essential and integral part of their lives. The Dothraki also took particular care of their physical appearance and the appearance of their horses, similar to the Native American Comanche tribe that were known to be an incredibly well-groomed culture. Audiences have had great interest in the Dothraki culture, which includes the language. Different from the Dothraki language spoken in the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, David J. Peterson developed the language used in Game of Thrones through a mixture of Mongolian, American Indian, and Arabic. He released a 128 page language guide for anyone that wants to learn Dothraki for themselves, and The Office released an episode featuring Dwight Schrute giving a tutorial on how the language works. The writers of The Office actually helped define a new grammatical structure.
4. Showrunners Love To Play Tricks
For a series that’s based off a hugely respected book series, that brings in millions of viewers with each new episode, you’d think showrunners would have a seriousness about the part they play in bringing to life the world of the Seven Kingdoms. While they do go out of their way to get period accurate settings in the props and clothing (even aging the costumes for two weeks before tapings), there are a few tricks showrunners like to play during the production of the episodes. Sophie Turner, the actress that plays Sansa Stark, told interviewers that sometimes the writers give fake scripts depicting a character’s death, and later say it was a big joke. Another hiccup involved the series using a likeness of George W. Bush’s head on a spike during Season 1 of the series. In the DVD commentary of the show, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss stated, “George Bush’s head appears in a couple of beheading scenes. It’s not a choice, it’s not a political statement. We just had to use whatever head we had around.”
3. The Actor Connections Are Astounding
When creating a new series, the actor choices are paramount in telling the story. The actual pilot for the HBO series famously bombed, and showrunners had to recast and reshoot the entire thing; which almost stopped the series from ever being created. The actor that played Ramsay Bolton, Iwan Rheon, was actually supposed to play Jon Snow before Kit Harington got the role, and Tamzin Merchant was originally intended to play Daenerys Targaryen instead of Emilia Clarke. Alfie Allen, the actor that plays Theon Greyjoy, is the little brother of Lily Allen. Robb Stark’s pregnant bride was played by the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, and the actor that plays Viserys Targaryen is the great-great grandchild of Charles Dickens. A total of nine different actors in Game of Thrones have appeared in the Harry Potter series, and a number have starred in adult films. Sibel Kekilli, the actress that played Shae, was one of the actresses used by the series who got her start in the adult industry under the name Dilara.
2. The Red Wedding Drew Historical Parallels
There are two particularly gruesome events from Scottish history that have contributed to the infamous Red Wedding in the Game of Thrones series: The Black Dinner of 1440 and the Massacre of Glencoe in 1691. In the case of Glencoe, Captain Robert Campbell and his troops sought shelter with the MacDonald clan, and after being fed and put to bed they murdered their hosts in their sleep. The story was switched in Game of Thrones, so it was the hosts (the Freys) that killed their guests. In the case of The Black Dinner, King James II of Scotland invited high ranking members of the Douglass clan to feast, including the Earl of Douglass (a teenager at the time) and his even younger brother. During the feast, they were dragged outside and brutally beheaded. Legend has it that after the feast, a single drum began to play as if to add to the ominous pending doom. This is similar to when Catelyn Stark heard, “The Rains of Castamere” at the start of all the fighting. Just as this would make anyone leery of accepting a dinner invitation from the Douglass clan, people will probably think twice before attending a Frey wedding.
1. The War Of The Five Kings Parallels The Wars Of Roses
According to George R. R. Martin, the storyline behind the Game of Thrones series was originally inspired by the Wars of the Roses. During the mid 1400’s, there was a contest for the English throne that lasted over several generations. The war was fought between the Yorks and the Lancasters, which is very much like the Starks and the Lannisters. The English King had taken the French crown, and there was an immense amount of pressure in trying to hold onto the French crown. The Wars of the Roses involved a series of factional battles that involved different family loyalties and constant reversals that made it difficult to decide just when the conflict started and who was winning at any given moment. Dan Jones, the author of The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors, was quoted by the documentary film, Game of Thrones: The Real History Behind Game of Thrones. Jones commended George R. R. Martin “for writing a fantastical tribute to the Wars of the Roses. …playing with characters we half recognize, but then setting them off on a path of their own.”