Real Events

Haunted: Harrenhal & Shakespeare’s Bloody Pomfret

What do Shakespeare and George RR Martin have in common? Apart from seeking inspiration from history, both writers may have immortalized Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, England. George RR Martin may have found inspiration in the dark legend of Pontefract when he created “grim, unlucky” “cursed” Harrenhal. Pontefract Castle has been engulfed in so much ill luck, death, torture and destruction that, in its time, contemporaries feared it. To add to its cursed reputation, Pontefract’s first owner built it on a Anglo-Saxon…

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The Defence of a Dynasty or the Wrath of a Mad King?

I am not so blind that I cannot see the shadow of the axe when it is hanging over my own neck. – Robert Baratheon to Ned Stark (Game of Thrones Chapter 33) Ned Stark baulked at the idea of assassinating a pregnant young girl. But then it was Ned’s political naivete coupled with his sense of honour that brought about his downfall. Daenerys Targaryen was a true threat to Robert’s throne, and Daenerys with an heir, especially a son, even more so….

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Winter is Coming: The Long Winter in Westeros

The dog days are over and before winter arrives here in the northern hemisphere, in one of the last summer weekends—when we might still be hot enough to appreciate stories of cold weather—I thought it might be fun to look at the origins of the legends of the long winter in Westeros and the threat “winter is coming.” (My apologies to everyone in the southern hemisphere who is currently in winter!) This is the first of a two-part post. As…

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“Burn them! Burn them all!”

Before Game of Thrones begins, Robert’s Rebellion sends King’s Landing into chaos. While Lannister soldiers sack King’s Landing, the Mad King (Aerys Targaryen) sits on the Iron Throne ordering “Burn them! Burn them all!” over and over again. Finally, Jaime stops the cruelty by slaughtering the king he swore to protect – and permanently earning himself the epithet “the Kingslayer.”  (Somehow I picture the Mad King burning men in the throne room, but I could be wrong about this.) Given…

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Was Sansa’s Marriage to Tyrion Inspired by a Tale of Incest?

Sansa Stark’s marriage to Tyrion curiously mirrors Elizabeth of York’s near marriage to her own uncle, Richard III. When the Tyrells provide military support to the Lannisters, Tywin Lannister agrees Joffrey will marry Margaery Tyrell. The result is Sansa’s betrothal to Joffrey is called off. Tywin, however, realizes that with Robb Stark gone, Sansa is the heir to Winterfell and makes Tyrion marry her. Although Sansa never married Joffrey, she was informally betrothed to him. In some respects, this would…

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Origins of the Iron Throne?

Recently, George RR Martin wrote that few artists render the iron throne the way he imagined it. In fact, on his blog, he provides a picture of Marc Simonetti’s depiction of the iron throne – an enormous monstrosity so large you have to mount it by climbing steps. Today, while reading J.R. Lander’s Wars of the Roses, I stumbled across a picture that made me wonder if it planted a seed for the iron throne in GRRM’s mind a long time…

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The Unsullied and the Battle of Thermopylae

Recently, somebody posted a compelling comment that maybe the Unsullied weren’t based on the Spartans but were based on the Mamluks.  He wrote: I enjoy reading your posts. I’m not sure that I agree with you that the Unsullied are based on the Spartans. Would a better comparison perhaps be the Mamluks, the great medieval slave army that defeated the Mongols and the Crusaders? It would seem to make more sense, especially as the Spartans took great pride in themselves…

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The Red Wedding and Heworth Moor

Episode: Season 3, Episode 9 “Rains of Castamere” While we’re all still reeling from the Red Wedding last weekend, I thought I’d follow up with the second half of the blog post I promised when I first wrote about the Red Wedding. Admittedly, I’ve been umming and ahhing about writing this post because I’m not 100% sure if I’m right. But, this blog isn’t meant to provide a “secret-decoder ring” for the history George RR Martin borrows. Admittedly, I’m only making…

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Red Weddings and Black Dinners

Season 2, Episode 6 “Old Gods and the New” Season 3, Episode 9 “The Rains of Castamere” Dark portents aligned to make Catelyn, Robb, and Edmure’s trip to the Frey’s castle ominous, including the endless rain and Robb’s direwolf’s jumping in his cage. Catelyn Stark mistrusts Lord Frey and frets he is leading them to a trap. But, did historical events inspire George RR Martin when he envisioned the Red Wedding? To pen the Red Wedding Martin takes a page…

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Hidden as a Scullion Maid

Episode 3, Season 2 “What is Dead May Never Die” at 19:41 “Every man who has ever tasted my cooking tells me what a good whore I am.” – Shae In the Game of Thrones, when Tyrion wants to hide Shae, his <ahem> courtesan, to protect her from Cersei, Shae refuses, stating flatly, “I am not a kitchen wench.” Tyrion rethinks and arranges for her to become Sansa’s handmaiden instead. However, in the past, lords have hidden women far higher born than…

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