Drogon and Cadwaladr dragon

6 Crazy Things in ‘Game of Thrones’ That Actually Happened

It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve heard people accidentally say “back in those days” when talking about George R. R. Martin’s (GRRM) A Song of Ice and Fire. If I was mean (I’m not), I’d give them a hard time. “It’s obviously fake. There are dragons,” a mean person would say. But not me since I am nice. I say, “You are wrong, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Even I occasionally make mistakes.”


But mistaking Martin’s fantasy world for historical fiction should be quickly forgiven because some of the weirdest parts of the series actually happened. Whether it’s an odd character, a quirky culture, or a horribly tragic death, here are six bizarre things from A Song of Ice and Fire that actually happened.


1. The Red Wedding, so sad, sort of happened…


Game of Thrones:


When the Starks go to Walder Frey’s house for a wedding, Frey puts on display how bad he is as a host. Sure, he’ll give his guests plenty of food, but then he’ll cut their stomachs open. And, yes, he did get live music, but all the musicians ended up being murderers. Major party foul.


In reality:


The Red Wedding has a few possible inspirations, but the one that seems most on point is the Massacre of Glencoe. On February 13th, 1692, just after William III of England usurped the English throne from King James II (eventually leading to the passing of England’s Bill of Rights), thirty-eight MacDonalds from Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed in their own homes by their invited guests. Apparently Clan MacDonald had not accepted William III’s rule quickly enough.


The major difference between the Red Wedding and the Massacre of Glencoe is that George R. R. Martin’s spin makes the hosts the murderers. In reality, the guests were the wicked ones. Either way, though, this is why I don’t invite people to my house.




2. King Joffrey was based on an actual royal brat (and his death was real too)


Game of Thrones:


Thank the Lord of Light that we have neither seen nor heard a thing of Joffrey in years. He is the most putrid soul conceivable, and a thousand curses upon GRRM for inventing such a monster. Except, GRRM didn’t really invent Joff. He was already real.


In reality:


Edward of Lancaster was supposedly the son of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou…except it was rumored Ed was not really Henry’s son, but the son of one of Margaret’s lovers. Also, he was allegedly nuts. The Ambassador of Milan said Ed “already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne.” He never became king, luckily. He was also married off young for political reasons, and was murdered young too.


Joffrey’s death has a close historical parallel as well. In 1153, Prince Eustace of Boulogne died at a feast. He was likely poisoned, considering his death was essentially celebrated. The Peterborough Chronicle wrote of Eustace: “He was an evil man and did more harm than good wherever he went.”


3. The Night’s Watch has a lot in common with the Knights Templar


Game of Thrones:


The men of the Night’s Watch wear black coats, have their sins forgiven, and swear off sex. They also protect their people from outsiders. People like this actually existed, yay!


In reality:


There are a few possible historical parallels for the Night’s Watch (the French Foreign Legion being one), but the Knights Templar might be the closest to Jon Snow’s posse. Among their many jobs, the Knights Templar protected the people of Jerusalem, their sins were forgiven by the Pope, and they wore a white uniform (with a nifty red cross).


The Night’s Watch might also be based off the Roman legions who manned Hadrian’s Wall, which, now that I mention it…


4. The Wall was Hadrian’s Wall


Game of Thrones:


Ah, the Wall. How many scenes there have been set on the white-dusted ledges of the Wall, with a brooding Jon Snow staring off into Wildling land. It’s a place of solitude and political mischief. It’s also a gargantuan monument to anti-immigration.


In reality:


Hadrian's Wall

Image Via English Heritage


Well, there may be some other walls in history (and, um, in the present) built to keep the neighbors away, but the Roman emperor Hadrian’s northernmost wall in Britannia is probably the one that inspired GRRM. Hadrian’s Wall was built on the Roman Empire’s northernmost border, beyond which lay the land of the Britons. Also, Hadrian’s Wall was actually manned, though not at the same level as the Night’s Watch. Those Night’s Watch boys really have their act together.


5. The Red Faith = Zoroastrianism


Melisandre is our clearest window into the Red Faith. She’s always going on about R’hllor and the Lord of Light’s will. Though some in Westeros may be skeptics of the Red Faith, it actually is real…


In reality:


Or, at least, it has actual parallels in the real world. Zoroastrianism was a faith practiced in ancient Persia. Zoroastrianists saw a spiritual side to fire, usually incorporating burning, smoldering, or general flaming into their ceremonies or prayers. Ahura Mazda, the creator of Zoroastrianism, was allegedly the father or order, truth, and justice, as opposed to falsehood and deceit. Meaning he was all things good, and hadn’t a bit of bad in him. The Red Faith followers have a similar affection for their Lord of Light.


6. Daenerys Targaryen is Henry Tudor


Game of Thrones:


Daenerys fled from Westeros as one of the few living Targaryens. Soon, she was the very last of her family (sorry, Viserys). She lived across the Narrow Sea in Essos…and she has dragons. Dragons, reality? Where are you going with this, Bookstr?


In reality:


Daenerys shares some key similarities with Henry Tudor in the Wars of the Roses. Henry had a legitimate claim to the throne as the last surviving member of the Lancastrian family, but was forced to flee to Brittany when Edward IV took back the throne in 1472. He was also known for his banner, which was a DRAGON! Yes, it’s been noted that Henry frequently flew the red dragon of Cadwaladr (a legendary British king) as his banner.


Red dragon of Cadawaldr

Red dragon of Cadwaladr | Image Via Wikipedia


Last potential similarity with Daenerys Targaryen? Henry Tudor ended the Wars of the Roses, became King Henry VII of England, and was the last English king to win the throne in battle. Sorry, maybe I should have marked that as spoilers. GRRM does like his Wars of the Roses, and if Dany is Henry Tudor, then we can probably guess who’ll be sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the day.




Feature Images Via HBO and Wikipedia