Grab your dragon glass and Valyrian steel – Winter is Coming! As the battle for the Iron Throne of Westeros wages on, it leaves behind a mountain of bodies and a tangled web of deception and secrets. Amidst the bloody war, ravens have been sent our way, carrying scrolls of these top 10 hidden factoids and fascinating details about our favorite HBO series, Game of Thrones.
Benefiting the North
Game of Thrones has become an incredibly successful production and, thanks to it, many people have prospered. No, we’re not talking specifically about the actors, but rather the country of Northern Ireland, where much of the show had been filmed. Since the airing of the show’s pilot, Northern Ireland has seen an increase in tourism directly related to exploring locations from the show and even the advent of specific Game of Thrones Tours. Since the series started, upwards of 6,600 full and part-time jobs had been created and local businesses, including jewelers and taxidermists, have prospered. Possibly the most important benefit came from an economic boost of over $140 million across the timespan of seasons one to five.
Too Violent for Game of Thrones
You may have never thought you’d hear the phrase “Too Violent for Game of Thrones,” but there is such a thing. The instance in question was during the 8th episode of season 4 when Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane squared off against the quick-footed Oberyn Martel. Seeing just how gruesome Martel’s death was at the hands of the much larger Clegane, one has to wonder how bad the first edit really was. According to Ben Crompton, the actor behind Eddison Tollett, the original scene had Clegane literally pulling Oberyn’s face apart without a cutaway. Showrunners Benioff and Weiss even commented on the cut scene, claiming it was too violent and not terrifying enough.
The Weddings of Game of Thrones
Like Hadrian’s Wall, Joffrey Baratheon’s Purple Wedding and the bloody Red Wedding were actually based off of real pieces of history. The Red Wedding, which saw the death of dozens of characters, including Robb and Catelyn Stark, was based on two Scottish events – The Black Dinner and the Glencoe Massacre. During the Black Dinner, the king of Scotland offered his rival, the Earl of Douglas, safe passage and a feast at Edinburgh Castle. At the end of the feast, the Earl was killed by his enemies. The Glencoe Massacre saw the Campbell Clan butchering the MacDonald Clan in the middle of the night after providing them room and board. Joffrey’s Purple Wedding was based on the death of the son of King Stephen of England, Eustace, who died mysteriously at a feast during a war that spanned generations.
To build such an elaborate and real world, George Martin pulled from historical sources to inspire some of his own creations. One such instance was the Wall that separates the citizens of Westeros from the Wildings and White Walkers in the far north. A simple idea to come up with it may seem, but Martin was inspired by his trip to Hadrian’s Wall, a once-Roman structure built to keep barbarians from invading the land of Britannia to the south - though the wall, which was named after Emperor Hadrian and also known as Picts’ Wall, was far from 800 feet tall. The terrain it was built on, which consisted of high cliffs, help make the 20-foot structure seem far more enormous than it really is.
The Stark Direwolves
Ever since the pilot episode of Game of Thrones, the Direwolves have been a fan favorite. Though budgetary concerns throughout the run of the show made it difficult to consistently put them on screen, the Direwolves garnered much love and attention. Sadly, as of season six, most of them have been killed, but we’re not here to be a big “Debbie Downer.” Though the Direwolves are nearly extinct in the show, their prognosis in real life looks a lot better. Of the pups that appeared on the program, Zunni, the dog who portrayed Lady in her final episode in Season 1 was adopted by Sophie Turner. Want to adopt your own Direwolf? Lois Schwarz of White City, Oregon accidentally started breeding dogs that resembled prehistoric dire wolves. Through her breeding, the National American Alsatian Breeder’s Association started the Dire Wolf Project.
Name of Thrones
When a television show or movie becomes widely popular, it’s only a matter of time before character names start filtering into real world use. Not surprisingly, despite the rather mature nature of the show, Game of Thrones has crept its way into the modern “Baby Name” book. In 2013, 241 babies recorded by the United States Social Security Administration were given the name Khaleesi after the “Mother of Dragons.” On the rise in the same year was Arya, which was given to over 1,100 babies, up from 756 the year before. Though not as popular, Tyrion, Daenerys, and Theon were recorded in as many as 40 instances.
Game of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a popular element in entertainment aimed to warn a character (and the viewer) or give an indication to a future event. Over its six seasons, Game of Thrones has become a major proponent on the act of foreshadowing and probably does it far more often than you think. Looking back, one can say that Petyr Baelish called out the location of Lord Tywin’s death at the hands of his imp son. Speaking to Robin Arryn, he mentions that people can die “squatting over their chamber pots” and just a few episodes later, well, you can probably guess. There was also Joffrey’s death, which may have been foreshadowed during Melisandre’s ritual. As leeches are being thrown into the fire, she calls out three kings that will die – Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy. There are dozens of instances that definitely require an additional viewing of each season to catch.
Game of Porn
Game of Thrones is such a sexed-up production that even non-viewers know just how filthy it can get, but that raunchiness extends beyond just the scenes. Adding authenticity to some of the show’s sexier scenes, the showrunners cast at least six different female porn stars as walk-on and regular roles. The most predominant of them was former adult actress Sibel Kekilli, who portrayed Tyrion Lannister’s lover, Shae. The other five – Samantha Bentley, Aeryn Walker, Maisie Dee, Sahara Knite, and Jessica Jensen – all had small parts and served as walk-on – or should we say “lay down” – roles. Outside of the show itself, there has been a multitude of porn parodies, ranging from This Ain’t Game of Thrones to Game of Bones.
The Unaired Pilot
Just because a show has grown to be revered doesn’t mean it always has been. In fact, before it became a full-scale production picked up by Home Box Office, Game of Thrones was a lowly little pilot that almost didn’t warrant a full series. Screenwriters David Benioff and D. B. Weiss introduced HBO to their creation through a pilot episode that paled in quality compared to what was actually aired. To see what they got wrong, the duo invited over friends to gauge reactions and what they came to find was that vital plot points, such as the relationship between Jaime and Cersei, were unestablished. Regardless of how bad the initial filming of the pilot was, HBO made the wise move to approve the series.
The Dothraki Language
Want to learn a new language but can’t decide amongst the traditional few? Why not go a different route and dive into Dothraki? “But, Mr. Archive, those are fictional languages in the world of Westeros!” you may exclaim in protest, but alas, fair viewer, the mind behind Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, and linguist David J. Peterson developed a complete language for the novels and television show, respectively. As of 2011, the language consisted of 3,163 different words that can be learned through a variety of methods, including the Living Language instruction, a smartphone app, and a CD.