Based on the George R. R. Martin book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, the HBO Game of Thrones adaptation has become one of the most popular and celebrated shows on television. The series garnered an instant fan base because of the wide range of themes, all intertwined into one great show. The black magic and dragons lean toward the fantasy genre, but the swordplay and highborn families cater to those looking for more of a medieval storyline. Just when it seems like the series has everything anyone could ever ask for on television, the characters have a depth and complexity that utterly draw in viewers.
While the show has done an amazing job bringing the characters to life on the small screen, showrunners weren’t able to depict each and every character from the book series. Martin’s ability as a writer created such a diverse history of the Seven Kingdoms, and it simply couldn’t be combined to fit into one series. A Song of Ice and Fire offered a detailed account of the histories of the Seven Kingdoms, with stories ranging back since the time of the First Men. Yet, the showrunners didn’t start the series from the very beginning. Instead, the first season came at the early sparks that started the chain reaction leading to the War of the Five Kings. Check out our list of the 15 crucial Game of Thrones characters who died before the show began, and see that the first season didn’t start by telling the whole story.
15. Lyanna Stark
Lyanna Stark is the sister of Eddard Stark and was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. King Robert Baratheon was shown as a whoring drunk during his reign, but it was clear that he truly did love Lyanna long after her death. Her presence was always in Game of Thrones because his love for her was the reason why he was so cold towards Cersei Lannister. Her death was a loss that was felt by many characters in the series and was a huge part of the storyline regarding Jon Snow. While he was under the impression that he was the bastard son of Eddard Stark, he was actually the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. The Game of Thrones series did show Lyanna on a few occasions during the show but only through flashback sequences.
14. Rickard Stark
While everyone knew of Tywin Lannister as one of the most powerful Lords in the Seven Kingdoms, he wasn’t the only great leaders. Rickard Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and father to Eddard, Lyanna, Brandon, and Benjen. He was the one that coordinated the marriages for his children, except for Benjen since he joined the Night’s Watch. His plans to combine House Baratheon with House Stark was made through Lyanna’s betrothal to Robert Baratheon, and he also brought House Tully into the fold with a betrothal of his son, Brandon, to Catelyn Tully. Yet, all of his plans were dashed when Lyanna Stark was absconded by Rhaegar Targaryen. King Aerys Targaryen called for Rickard Stark and his eldest son to travel south, but the result was the Mad King killing them both. This event caused Eddard Stark to become the new Lord of Winterfell, which ultimately led to Robert’s Rebellion against the Crown.
13. Elia Martell
When Oberyn Martell came to King’s Landing for the wedding of King Joffrey Baratheon, he wasn’t there just to pay respects to the royal couple. He was on a mission to seek out vengeance for the death of his sister, Elia Martell. While it was common knowledge that The Mountain killed Elia and her children, Oberyn wanted acknowledgment that it was Tywin Lannister that gave the order. There was a huge amount of anger over the death of his sister, which was later transferred to the Sand Snakes after the death of Oberyn. While Doran Martell was willing to keep the peace, there were others in Dorne that were out for blood. Elia Martell was once the catalyst of maintaining an alliance between the Targaryens and the Martells, but her death helped to create a huge conflict with the Lannisters.
12. The Mad King
While the Game of Thrones series started with Robert Baratheon being the King of the Seven Kingdoms, there was actually a huge storyline that came before he ever sat on the Iron Throne. The Targaryens ruled for centuries, but the death of King Aerys II Targaryen was the catalyst to putting Robert Baratheon on the throne. He was commonly known as “The Mad King,” which hinted at their tendency of wedding brother and sister to maintain pure bloodlines. His death was necessary for putting the usurper on the Iron Throne, and it also created a huge stain on the reputation of Jaime Lannister. He became known as “Kingslayer” after killing King Aerys on the day Tywin Lannister sacked King’s Landing. The title has caused people to think of Ser Jaime Lannister as a man without honor, which ultimately caused him to want to prove himself in the series.
11. Joanna Lannister
It’s hard to imagine Tywin Lannister as a devoted and loving husband, especially since the series has shown his deplorable acts as a parent. While he did seem to have something against Tyrion partaking in whores, there was that questionable moment when Shae was found in his bed. Yet, all of that talk about the importance of family and legacy may have given a little bit of insight into what his relationship was like with his wife, Joanna Lannister. Although she died in childbirth with her last child, Tyrion, her character was referenced many times in the series. Cersei held it against Tyrion that the mother died giving birth to him, and the hatred for him was shown at a very young age. Oberyn Martell told a story to Tyrion while he was imprisoned for Joffrey’s death, and it was clear that Cersei’s hate for him was immediate.
10. Rhaegar Targaryen
While the character of “The Mad King” has been revealed in distinct detail, the characterization of his eldest son is a bit foggy. As the eldest son and heir of the reigning King Aerys Targaryen, he was a prize for any Lord trying to further their House. It was said that he was betrothed to Cersei Lannister, but it was Elia Martell that ultimately married him. The details surrounding his infatuation with Lyanna Stark are hazy since some say that he kidnapped her and kept her hostage, which is what sparked the rebellion. Yet, it was later discovered that he had fathered a child with her, which Lyanna later bestowed to her brother, Eddard Stark. The world may never know the truth behind the relationship between her and Rhaegar Targaryen, but the truth of the matter is that without his death, the Targaryen dynasty would have continued without Robert Baratheon ever taking the throne.
9. Brandon Stark
As the eldest son of Rickard Stark, Brandon Stark was a force to be reckoned with. All of the accounts of his stature and bravery depict him as a formidable opponent and ally. When he traveled south to speak to the Mad King about what was to be done about Lyanna being absconded by Rhaegar Targaryen, he was more than just the dutiful son going with his father. He was the heir to Winterfell and would have undoubtedly fought to avenge his father after the Mad King burned him alive. Brandon was ultimately strangled after he watched his father burn. His death led to Eddard Stark becoming the new heir to Winterfell, and it also extinguished his betrothal to Catelyn Tully. Catelyn went on to marry his brother, Ned Stark.
8. Brandon The Builder
One of the factors that make House Stark so proud is the fact that they can trace back their lineage to the First Men. Brandon Stark, also known as Bran the Builder, was one of the First Men and was the founder of House Stark. It’s interesting that the North wasn’t always held by House Stark. It was Brandon Stark that was able to get the other northern Houses to follow him as the Warden of the North. This was attributed to his strength and ingenuity, but his feats became legendary. Brandon Stark was the one to construct Winterfell, and he was also the one to construct The Wall. The portion of the north named “The Gift” was actually given to the men of the Night’s Watch in order to help provide sustenance for them.
7. Ser Gerold Hightower
During the time of the Mad King’s reign, Ser Gerold Hightower was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. There were several mentions of him throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, and he was briefly shown in the HBO series in a flashback sequence. He was the brother of Ser Arthur Dayne and was thought of as an impeccable swordsman. The books differ a bit in what really happened when he fought Ned Stark and Howland Reed, but the result was the same. While standing guard outside the tower that housed Lyanna Stark, Ser Gerold Hightower was one of the guards that fell at the hands of Ned Stark. In the series, it was Ser Gerold Hightower that proclaimed Robert Baratheon as a usurper and claimed that he would never have won the battle at the Trident if he had been there.
6. Ser Arthur Dayne
There are some characters in the world of Game of Thrones that have become legendary for their bravery and swordsmanship. Ser Arthur Dayne was a knight in the Kingsguard that was thought of as one of the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Yet, he was killed at the hands of Eddard Stark, which was a story that was told repeatedly by all. One of the jaw-dropping moments in the sixth season of the series was the fact that the fight between Ned Stark and Ser Arthur Dayne didn’t exactly go the same way as the story was told. With the nickname, “Sword of the Morning,” it was well known that he was an expert swordsman. During the altercation between him and Ned Stark, it was plain to see that he was besting Ned. Yet, before Ser Arthur Dayne could kill Ned, he was stabbed in the back by Howland Reed. If it weren’t for Reed helping during the fight, Ned would have died right there outside of the tower.
5. Baelor The Blessed
The Targaryen dynasty featured a long line of kings, with many of them creating their own legacies. Baelor I Targaryen created a huge impact on the world of Westeros because of his devotion to the Faith of the Seven. He is often referred to as “Baelor the Blessed” since he was not only the King but also a Septon. While the Crown has always had a close relationship with the High Septon (until the whole situation with the High Sparrow), Baelor I Targaryen created an intermingling of church and state like none other. The Great Sept of Baelor with his huge statue was seen throughout all six seasons of the Game of Thrones series and had been an active reminder of how important the Faith of the Seven was in King’s Landing. Yet, he was not a very wise King, regardless of his piety. He wound up naming a 6-year-old a High Septon and then starved to death because “food is of this world.”
4. Rhaenyra Targaryen
Long before Daenerys Targaryen began ruling as the Queen of Meereen, there was another Targaryen Queen that was fighting for her birthright. Rhaenyra Targaryen was born to King Viserys I Targaryen and was named his heir after the loss of his wife and infant son. She was beloved by her father, and many Houses swore fealty to her even after his father remarried and had sons with his new wife. Once her half-brothers began to grow, there was a question about who would take over the Iron Throne after the King died. There was a clear line dividing the great Houses, and it ultimately led to a civil war that was referred to as the Dance of the Dragons. While she ultimately won the Iron Throne, her time as Queen was tumultuous, and she wound up being fed to her half-brother’s dragon.
3. Aegon The Conqueror
While the Game of Thrones series started out with King Robert Baratheon seated on the Iron Throne, there was an ever-present Targaryen dynasty that was featured in the show. The Targaryens had ruled the Seven Kingdoms for centuries, and even the thought of Daenerys Targaryen marrying Khal Drogo was enough to warrant worry from the new King. There was always a chance that the old Houses would rally to a Targaryen coming back to claim the Iron Throne because of the strength that came from their dynasty. Aegon I Targaryen was the founder of House Targaryen and was referred to by the name of Aegon the Conqueror. In a conversation between Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark, Aegon was mentioned when he said, “Aegon Targaryen changed the rules. That’s why every child alive still knows his name three hundred years after his death.”
2. Jon Arryn
When the first episode of Season 1 was released, Jon Arryn had already died. House Arryn had a strong alliance with both the Baratheons and the Starks, and at the time of his death, he was acting as Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon. His death seemed to come as a surprise, and it was later discovered that he was poisoned. Yet, it wasn’t until Season 4 that the entire truth came out that it was Littlefinger who had told Jon Arryn’s wife to poison her husband and then send a raven to House Stark, claiming that it was the Lannisters’. Jon Arryn’s final words, “The seed is strong,” helped the new Hand of the King, Eddard Stark, to learn the truth about the fact that none of the King’s children were legitimate. While the death of Jon Arryn should have put all of his snooping to rest, it actually wound up becoming hugely influential in the entire storyline.
1. Maegor The Cruel
Maegor I Targaryen was the third Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne and was often referred to as Maegor the Cruel. He was the son to the first Targaryen king, Aegon the Conqueror, but didn’t become King right away. While the Game of Thrones series often talks about how the Targaryens used to wed brother and sister for centuries, they don’t ever speak about the unrest that their incestuous relationships had between the Crown and the Faith. Aegon married both of his sisters and had children with both, but it was under the guise that future Targaryens would not follow suit. When his successor, Aenys, betrothed his son with his daughter, it caused a huge rift that created the Faith Militant that sought to rise up against the Targaryen dynasty. Yet, that all came to an end when Maegor the Cruel came to power and set out to burn hundreds of the Faith Militant. While his reign definitely had a myriad of horrifying tales, it seems like the biggest one is the fact that he is remembered for being killed by the Iron Throne itself.