The Dark Ages: George RR Martin Reveals Origin of Hospitality Laws

Episode: Season 3, Episode 9 “The Rains of Castamere”


A depiction of the Black Dinner, an inspiration for the Red Wedding

It sounds like a lot of people are still reeling from the Red Wedding and understandably so. Admittedly, I read A Storm of Swords a couple of years ago, so The Rains of Castamere was not shocking to me. But, when I figured out it would probably be Sunday, I was dreading seeing it. I really liked Catelyn and Robb.

George RR Martin has been making the rounds of newspapers and talk shows, which is great! He’s even appeared on Conan. I wish he’d talk about the historical origins of his work more often. But, most authors don’t like to explain the deeper meaning in their work. Who knows? Maybe Martin worries that if he spoke about the history it would make him seem less creative.

Anyway, this week, George RR Martin has said in interviews that the Black Dinner inspired the Red Wedding and the Glencoe Massacre .

Martin summarizes the Glencoe Massacre nicely: “Clan MacDonald let the Campbell clan stay overnight and the laws of hospitality supposedly applied. But the Campbells arose and started butchering every MacDonald they could get their hands on.”

Interestingly enough, in his Entertainment Weekly interview, George RR Martin also reveals the origin of the hospitality laws (the salt and bread custom) that appear in the Red Wedding in the novel. (In A Storm of Swords, Catelyn insists Lord Frey bring them salt and bread and warns Robb to eat it since she mistrusts Lord Frey.)

According to Martin, the salt and bread custom “was stolen from history. Hospitality laws were real in Dark Ages society. A host and guest were not allowed to harm each other even if they were enemies. By violating that law, the phrase is, they “condemn themselves for all time.””

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."


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