Ah, the Lannisters: the family we love to hate and hate to love. Set up at the very beginning of the series as antagonists to the Stark family, the ensuing four books and five seasons have demonstrated that the Lannisters are more complex than we originally believed. Tyrion, everyone’s favorite master of sass, is not as innocent as we’d like him to be. Conversely, despite pushing a little boy out of a window, Jaime really does have a heart. Even the Machiavellian Cersei has human motives behind her inhuman acts of cruelty.
The Lannisters have unofficially ruled the seven kingdoms for years; whether they were Hands, Kings, Queens, or even Masters of Coin, the lions of Casterly Rock have been determined to stay on top of fortune’s wheel no matter what. But as fans who saw the season 6 finale will know, the Lannisters have reached the highest rung on the ladder–but at a heavy price. With most of their family dead or dying, it doesn’t strain credulity to posit that the Lannisters may very well end up like their old rivals, the Reynes of Castamere.
Unfortunately, as well as we’ve gotten to know Westeros’s richest family, there are still so many things the series hasn’t been able to cover. Take, for instance, the Lannister war against the Iron Islands, or the catalyst for Lord Reyne’s rebellion against his liege lord. While we’re waiting for The Winds of Winter and season 7, let’s take a look at some of these little-known pieces of Lannister trivia. Major book and show spoilers ahead, so take necessary precautions!
15. Casterly Rock
The ancestral home of the Lannisters is Casterly Rock, an ancient stronghold located in Lannisport in the westerlands. Often referred to simply as the Rock, the stronghold was originally built as a ringfort; over the years, the ringfort expanded until it became an impregnable fortress. As of Game of Thrones, Casterly Rock is roughly two leagues in length and three times the height of the Wall. In addition to the watchtowers from its historic days, full of tunnels, dungeons, storerooms, barracks, halls, stables, courtyards, gardens, prison cells, and rooms that once housed lions. The Rock even has a seaport to the Sunset Sea. The sea comes in below the rock, creating a thunder-like noise, and deep in the bowels of the stronghold are the famed gold mines.
With such a home, it’s no wonder the Lannisters are as proud as they are. But the Rock didn’t always belong to the Lannisters. The Rock was originally built by a family called the Casterlys, from whom it gets its name. So what happened to them?
14. Lann the Clever
During the Age of Heroes, the Casterlys ruled the westerlands. Legend claims that Corlos Casterly, a skilled hunter, slew a lioness but spared her cubs. Pleased by this, the gods showed him where to find a gold mine. The Casterly family built their home on top of the mine and expanded into a stronghold so that no one could steal their wealth.
The histories are not clear about what happened, but the Lannister family claims that their ancestor, a golden-haired rogue from the east named Lann the Clever, tricked the Casterlys out of their home. There are several versions of the story; in one, he stole gold from one brother and put it in the room of another, creating so much strife that eventually the Casterlys destroyed themselves. In another, he made noises in the night so that the Casterlys believed their home was haunted and abandoned it. In another, he slipped vermin into the Rock, and the Casterlys left because their home was overrun with rats. In yet another, he snuck a pride of lions into the Rock, and the Casterlys were devoured. The tale the archmaesters agree is the most likely, however, is that Lann impregnated Lord Casterly’s daughter (or daughters), forcing Lord Casterly to make him his son-in-law for honor’s sake. It is likely that Lord Casterly had no sons (or they died before leaving heirs of their own), leaving Casterly Rock to Lann upon his death. Thus, the Casterlys died out and were replaced by the Lannisters.
Many of the great houses of Westeros have an ancestral Valyrian steel sword, such as House Stark’s sword Ice or House Tarly’s sword Heartsbane. Before the Doom of Valyria, many such swords were made and owned by noble families in Westeros. House Lannister once had a Valyrian steel sword called Brightroar, an obvious nod to both the Lannister gold and their lion sigil. It is said that the gold they spent on the sword was enough to raise an army. Almost a century after Brightroar came into the family’s possession it was lost. When King of the Rock Tommen Lannister II sailed to the ruins of Valyria to see what could be salvaged, he brought Brightroar with him. Tommen and his fleet never returned to Westeros, and as such, neither did the sword Brightroar.
Because Valyrian steel swords were a point of pride, and because no more could be made after the Doom of Valyria, the Lannisters became eager to replace Brightroar. Tywin Lannister attempted to buy one from other noble houses several times but was always refused. His younger brother, Gerion, attempted to search for the original Brightroar, but like his ancestor Tommen, he never returned. Tywin eventually took Ned Stark’s sword Ice, melted it down, and reforged it into two swords–one for Joffrey, which he called Widow’s Wail, and one for Jaime, who in turn gave it to Brienne, who named it Oathkeeper.
12. War Against The Iron Islands
Once, long before A Game of Thrones takes place, the Iron Islands were respected and not looked down upon by the other kingdoms as they are today. The heir to the Seastone Chair, Harmund Hoare II–also known as Harmund the Haggler–spent much of his youth as a ward to the Lannisters, where he presumably fell in love with Princess Lelia Lannister. When Harmund’s father died and he ascended to the Seastone Chair, he wed Lelia and made her Queen of the Iron Islands. Because he had been raised in the mainland, Harmund had taken many mainland ideals for his own and rejected the ironborn way of life. He was against reaving, raping, and the taking of salt wives, and he believed in eight gods–a combination of the Faith of the Seven and the Drowned God.
Many of the ironborn resented Harmund and his mainland queen, and when Harmund died, rather than see his son (also named Harmund) rule the ironborn under his mother’s guidance, they crowned Harmund II’s younger brother, Hagon, King of the Iron Islands. Lelia and her son, Harmund, were mutilated. Their lips, ears, eyelids, and tongues were removed and they were sent back to Casterly Rock. Lelia’s nephew, King of the Rock, was outraged and declared war on the ironborn. For seven years, the westernlands and Iron Islands fought; because the Iron Islands relied heavily on the mainlands, especially the westernlands, for resources, they became practically destitute. Finally, Ser Aubrey Crakehall, a knight sworn to the kings of the rock, defeated Hagon and was given charge of the Iron Islands. This only lasted for a few months, however, before the ironborn drowned him as a sacrifice to the Drowned God and restored House Hoare to the Seastone Chair.
11. Rohanne Webber
Rohanne Webber is a character who doesn’t appear in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels–fans are unlikely to know much about Rohanne if they haven’t read The World of Ice and Fire and/or The Mystery Knight. Rohanne was married to six men in her life. First married at the age of ten, Rohanne’s first five husbands and her children by them all died. Calling her the Red Widow, the commonfolk believed she was a witch who killed her husbands and sacrificed her newborn babies to the Lord of the Seven Hells.
In the Dunk and Egg stories, Rohanne and Duncan shared some sexual tension, but when he was lying unconscious from injuries, Rohanne married another man.
Rohanne’s sixth husband was Gerold Lannister, the lord of Casterly Rock. They had four sons: Tywald, Tion, Tytos, and Jason. Their third son, Tytos, was the father of Tywin, making Rohanne Tywin’s grandmother and Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion’s great-great grandmother. She never got to meet any of them, however; Rohanne mysteriously disappeared less than a year after giving birth to Jason. What happened to her is unclear, but fans believe it will be revealed in the next installment of Dunk and Egg.
10. Lady Ellyn Reyne
The Reyne family was proud, ambitious, and considered themselves equals to their Lannister liege lords. Lord Robert Reyne had no trouble convincing Lord Gerold Lannister to arrange a match between his daughter, Ellyn, and Gerold’s son and heir, Tywald. Unfortunately, Tywald and Robert were both killed before the wedding could take place. Loath to return to Castamere and find another, less desirable match, Ellyn seduced Gerold’s second son and new heir, Tion, even though he was betrothed to another and his father disapproved of the match. Nevertheless, Tion married Ellyn and, because his own mother had disappeared, Ellyn became the acting Lady of Castamere. She held balls and tourneys and hosted musicians and mummers from all over the world. Most notoriously, she filled Casterly Rock’s court with members of her own family, causing Gerold’s fool to remark, “Lady Ellyn must surely be a sorceress, for she has made it rain inside the Rock all year.”
Tion died in the fourth Blackfyre Rebellion and left Ellyn a childless widow. Tytos became the new heir of the Rock, and as such, his wife Jeyne Marbrand became the new Lady of the Rock. Ellyn, terrified at the idea of losing her status, attempted to seduce Tytos and convince him to leave his wife and marry her instead. This did not go well–Tytos, then a meek boy of nineteen, ran and told his wife and father. Gerold was incensed that Ellyn had tried to worm her way into yet another son’s bed, so he hastily arranged a marriage for her to Lord Walderan Tarbeck. Ellyn became the new Lady Tarbeck and would bear Walderan several children, but the Lannisters were far from rid of her.
9. Tytos Lannister
The third son of Gerold and Rohanne, no one ever expected Tytos to become the Lord of Casterly Rock, and in many ways, this made him ill-prepared for such a title.
Often referred to as the Laughing Lion, Tytos was amiable and eager to please, to the point where it became his downfall. Tytos wanted so badly to be liked and to get along with everyone that his subjects could not take him seriously; many of them laughed at him, sometimes to his face, and Tytos would only laugh in response, giving him the nickname the Laughing Lion.
Because of his eagerness to please, his subjects were able to take advantage of him–most notoriously, Ellyn Tarbeck. She borrowed large sums of money to make Castamere an impenetrable and lavish castle and refused to pay any of the money back.
8. The Rains of Castamere
Tywin returned from war battle-hardened and determined to restore House Lannister to its former glory. Speaking for his father, Tywin demanded that his father’s bannermen repay the exorbitant debts they owed, and if they could not repay, they must send a hostage. Ser Harys Swyft surrendered his daughter, Dorna, as a hostage, but Lord Roger Reyne–Ellyn’s brother–laughed when he read Tywin’s demands and told his friends to do nothing. Walderan Tarbeck went so far as to ride to Casterly Rock and try to speak with Tytos. Tytos was conveniently not there when Walderan came calling, and instead he had to contend with Tywin, who had him imprisoned for disloyalty.
In retaliation, Ellyn seized three Lannisters and told Tywin she would not release them until he released her husband. Terrified, Tytos sent Walderan back home and forgave the Tarbeck debt. Less than a year later, Tywin sent ravens to Castamere and Tarbeck Hall and demanded that Roger and Reynard Reyne and Ellyn and Walderan Tarbeck answer for their crimes. They refused, as Tywin knew they would, and declared rebellion.
Without asking for his father’s permission, Tywin led a force of of 3,500 men. When Lord Tarbeck rode to meet them, he had only brought his household knights, and so it was no surprise when Tywin’s men quickly defeated them. Tywin put all of their heads on spears and marched on Tarbeck Hall. Ellyn closed her gates and sent ravens to warn her brothers, asking for help. She believed that Tarbeck Hall was impenetrable, but it only took one stone from a siege machine to kill Ellyn and her son Tion. Tarbeck Hall opened its gates to the Lannister forces, who put the castle to the torch.
Tywin then turned his attention to the Reynes of Castamere. Like Casterly Rock, Castamere was built on mines, and when Roger and Reynard saw Lannister forces coming, they ordered their households down into the mines. Reynard sent a messenger to Tywin and offered to make terms, but Tywin had run out of patience. He sealed off the mines, dammed the stream that carried water to the keep, and diverted the water to the mine. Over three hundred men, women, and children had gone down into the mines, but not a single one of them survived. When the screams stopped, Tywin torched the keep but made no move to reopen the mines–a reminder of what happens to those who defy lions.
7. Joanna Lannister
Joanna was the daughter of Jason Lannister, Tytos’s younger brother. It is not clear when her marriage to Tywin was arranged, or who arranged it at all, but first cousin marriages are not unusual in Westerosi society–and after all, this is the Lannister family we’re talking about.
Joanna was brought to court shortly before her marriage to Tywin, and Prince Aerys Targaryen was so taken with her that many believed he meant to bed her. It is unlikely he ever did, but he did take certain “unwonted liberties” during the disrobing on her wedding night. Joanna would later serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Rhaella, where she befriended the Princess of Dorne. Rhaella, however, believed that Joanna was having an affair with Aerys and dismissed Joanna from her court.
Not long after returning to Casterly Rock, Joanna gave birth to Jaime and Cersei. She presented them to Aerys when they were six, at which point he asked her if her breasts had gotten saggy from nursing. Tywin was so infuriated that he tried to resign as Hand, but Aerys refused to release him–something Tywin would not forget years later.
Joanna and the Princess of Dorne had planned to wed their children to one another–Jaime to Elia and Cersei to Oberyn–but when the Martells came to visit Casterly Rock, it was to find that Joanna had died giving birth to her youngest son, Tyrion. Tywin had loved her deeply, and many said that he was never the same man after her passing.
6. Kevan Lannister
Kevan is the second son of Tytos Lannister and Tywin’s reliable younger brother. He has always served his brother, recognizing that Tywin is a great leader.
When Harys Swyft sent his daughter Dorna to Casterly Rock as a hostage, Kevan fell in love with her and wed her. Together, they had four children; Lancel, Martyn, Willem, and Janei. Lancel is a familiar character to show fans, but Martyn and Willem may be a little more difficult to place. The two boys briefly appear in season 3 when they are Robb Stark’s hostages, later killed in a vengeful ambush by the Karstarks.
Kevan’s line is unlikely to continue; though Lancel’s book counterpart has taken a wife, he refuses to bed her and instead prefers to devote himself to prayer. With Maryn and Willem dead, this leaves only Kevan’s daughter Janei, a character we have not yet met in the books or the show and may never meet.
In the books, Kevan is killed by Varys’s little birds; though it is never explicitly stated in the show, it’s safe to assume he was at the Sept of Baelor at Loras’s trial and therefore blew up with much of the rest of the court.
5. Genna Lannister
Genna is the third child and only daughter of Tytos Lannister. When Genna was seven, Walder Frey took advantage of Tytos’s kindness to suggest a match between Genna and Lord Frey’s second son, Emmon. Genna was of a higher status than Emmon and should have married someone equal to her rank, but Tytos was eager to please Lord Frey. When Tytos made the announcement at a feast attended by half of his vassals, Ellyn Reyne laughed. Tywin, though little more than a child himself, spoke out against it, and Genna said that she always loved her brother for being the only one to stand up for her. Nevertheless, Genna did marry Emmon Frey and gave him four sons: Cleos, Lyonel, Tion, and Walder. She became a large woman after becoming a mother and a force to be reckoned with–no one, not even her husband, dares stand up to her.
After Joanna died, Genna became the closest thing to a mother Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion had. She actually believes that Tyrion is more like Tywin than Jaime, something that angered Tywin so much he refused to speak to her for six months.
4. Tygett Lannister
Tygett was the fourth child of Tytos and another younger brother of Tywin. Though Tygett helped Tywin raze Tarbeck Hall and Castamere, Tywin’s strength and success cast a large shadow over him. As a result, Tygett became bitter and his relationship with Tywin suffered. Tywin did try to have Tygett appointed as the master-at-arms of the Red Keep, but Aerys hated Tywin so much by that point that he refused the appointment, which only further drove a wedge between the two brothers. Tygett later married Darlessa Marbrand–probably one of his cousins on his mother’s side. They had one son named Tyrek before Tygett died of pox.
Despite his bitter relationship with Tywin–or perhaps because of it–Tyrion has many fond memories of his uncle Tygett. Tygett was always kind to Tyrion where Tywin was cold, and when Tyrion asked for a dragon for his nameday, Tygett broke the news that all the dragons had died a century ago.
3. Tyrek Lannister
Tygett died around the same time his son was born, possibly while Darlessa was still pregnant. Tyrek likely would have been born at the Rock and spent much of his childhood there. At some point, he and his cousin Lancel became squires for King Robert.
When his cousin Joffrey ascended to the throne, Tyrek, though he is thirteen, is wedded to an infant: Ermesande Hayford, the only remaining member of the Hayford family and ruler of the Hayford estate. Because women cannot inherit in Westerosi society, Ermesande must take a husband. The Lannisters marry her off to Tyrek so that they can absorb the Hayford estate. Such matches are not unheard of in Westeros and indeed happened in medieval Europe–Edward IV’s son Richard of York was wed as a toddler to another toddler named Anne Mowbray, an heiress whose estate the royal family wanted for their own. Both Anne and Richard died as children, and Tyrek and Ermesande’s fate does not seem much better; when the court went to see Myrcella off to Dorne and were attacked by a hungry mob, Tyrek went missing. Tyrion and Tywin both kept up a search for the boy even months after his disappearance, but he was never recovered.
2. Gerion Lannister
Gerion was Tytos Lannister’s youngest child. Like his father, Gerion loved to laugh and loved making others laugh. Gerion’s mother died a month after giving birth to him, so he was mostly raised by his wet nurse. This woman would later become Tytos’s mistress.
Gerion never got along with Tywin; the two brothers were far enough apart in age that they likely spent little time together and did not really know each other. Like Tygett, Gerion felt overshadowed by Tywin. He would often treat it like a game and make jokes, something that only further angered Tywin.
Of all their uncles, Jaime and Tyrion liked Gerion best. He taught Tyrion tumbling tricks and often made him recite the sixteen wonders of the world. Gerion had one daughter himself, a bastard named Joy Hill by a common woman named Briony.
About ten years before Joffrey’s reign, Gerion went on a quest to retrieve the ancestral sword Brightroar. He did not return. Tywin sent men to search for his brother, and they were able to trace his whereabouts as far back as Volantis, where half his crew deserted him.
1. The Valonqar
Show fans will know that when Cersei was young, she and a friend went to visit a woods witch and have their fortunes told. The woods witch, named Maggy the Frog in the books, told Cersei that she would be queen until there came another, younger and more beautiful to cast her down and take all that she held dear. She also promised that Cersei would have three children; gold would be their crowns, and gold their shrouds.
But that wasn’t all of Maggy’s prophecy. In the books, Cersei is accompanied by two friends, Jeyne Heddle and Melara Hetherspoon. Jeyne is frightened and runs off, but Melara stays with Cersei. In addition to predicting Cersei’s status as queen, the deaths of her children, and a younger and more beautiful queen, Maggy also predicted the coming of the valonqar, who would wrap his hands around her throat and choke the life out of her.
Maggy also predicted that Melara would die that night and her death was close. Melara suggested to Cersei that they never speak of the prophecies, and that way they wouldn’t come true; nevertheless, Melara did fall down a well and die, and it is implied that Cersei pushed her.
All of Maggy’s prophecies concerned Cersei, but none more so than the valonqar. The word is High Valyrian for “little brother”, and Cersei believes that the prophecy refers to Tyrion. Some fans believe, however, that Jaime is actually the valonqar. Even though they are twins, Cersei was born first. Some fans believe that the valonqar is not limited to Cersei’s own younger brothers and, indeed, could be any younger brother. Cersei had better look out!