10 Things We Learned About ‘Game of Thrones’ From the ‘World of Ice and Fire’ Companion Book
With season five of 'Game of Thrones' still months away and the sixth book in George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' still a big question mark, fans of Westeros and its merry cast of murderers, assassins, knights, kings and wildlings are probably hoping for something (anything!) to occupy their time.
Enter 'A World of Ice and Fire,' one of the coolest companion books you will ever see.
Written as an in-world history tome by one Maester Yandel, the book is actually a comprehensive history of Westeros, the seven kingdoms and all of the major families within. Combining information from both Martin's novels and new, never-before-seen details, this handsome hardcover is vital reading for anyone hoping to unlock the secrets of this universe or to delve into the history of their favorite Houses. 'A World of Ice and Fire' is rich and deep and complex, offering a truly comprehensive and lavishly illustrated history of a fictional world. Martin and co-authors Elio M. Garcia and Linda Antonsson have created the must-buy item for any 'Game of Thrones' fanatic in your life.
With thousands of years of fake history, 'A World of Ice and Fire' has plenty to offer both hardcore and casual fans. So as we run down 10 of our favorite revelations, details and facts from the book's in-depth historical accounts, know that there are literally hundreds of things just as cool awaiting you if you pick it up for yourself. And you should.
Dragons Get Much, Much Bigger Than You Think
Although the bulk of the new information about the 'Game of Thrones' universe comes in text form, some of the most telling details are communicated through the book's many pieces of original art. Case in point: the first major painting you see accompanies the book's title page and it depicts Aegon the Conqueror astride his dragon, Balerion the Black Dread. The novels and the show have told us of Aegon's conquest of the seven kingdoms countless times. We've heard about his dragons ... but now that we see one, we get it. This was a huge deal.
At this point in the series, Daenerys's dragons have gotten too big to control, but they have nothing on a full-grown Balerion. Aegon looks like a mouse riding a horse, a tiny speck on a massive winged reptile. It's difficult to comprehend how a single person can control a beast this large and it spells out a pretty doomed future for a lot of people if Dany's children are allowed to get this big.
The Houses Were All Best Buds at One Point or Another
For all kinds of complicated reasons, King Jaeharerys Targaryen II found himself at war with the "Ninepenny Kings," a band of pirates, sellsword captains and exiled knights who were ransacking the Free Cities of Essos and were poised to take on Westeros. Naturally, the conflict was bloody and terrible (as are all wars in Martin's world), but a few familiar names pop up in the narrative.
Imagine, if you will, an extremely young Tywin Lannister marching off to to the "War of the Ninepenny Kings." Now, imagine him meeting and befriending another young man from another noble house and them becoming buddies, forming a friendship that would last almost a lifetime. The name of that second boy? Aerys Targaryen. You know, the Mad King whose execution of a few vital characters led to Robert's Rebellion decades later. Of course, Lord Tywin was Aerys' Hand for many years until he betrayed him and sacked King's Landing to win Robert's favor. And to think, it all started because two kids got friendly on the battlefield...
'A World of Ice and Fire' is full of little details like this. To read the book in from cover to cover is to watch friendships form, wither and die over the course of centuries. Houses who are at odds with one another in one century are friendly in the next. It puts the ever-shifting loyalties of the current characters into sobering perspective.
Casterly Rock is the Most Badass Keep in All of Westeros
During the course of 'Game of Thrones' and 'A Song of Ice and Fire,' we've visited a lot of cool castles. We've seen the Red Keep, the home of the King and the Iron Throne. We've stopped by the seemingly impregnable Eyrie. We watched characters barely surivve the nightmarish Harrenhal. We cried as Winterfell was burnt to the ground. However, we've yet to personally visit Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister and, from the sound of things, the most badass fortress in the seven kingdoms.
Casterly Rock isn't a castle on a massive cliff overlooking the city of Lannisport -- it is a castle literally carved into the a massive cliff overlooking the city of Lanniport. Westeros' wealthiest family literally lives inside the peak of the mountain, their home carved into its dug-out interior. The castle continues deep into the mountain, eventually reaching mines filled with precious gold and even a cavernous port, which allows goods to be offloaded straight into the keep's network of unseen tunnels.
If you think this sounds like a pretty safe place to survive a war, you'd be right. Visenya Targaryen later commented that she was thankful that her family never had to fight the Lannisters at their home base, saying that even her dragonfire couldn't have taken Casterly Rock down.
Suddenly, Robb Stark's season three plan to siege the place sounds so foolhardy.
The Pact of Ice and Fire: The Targaryens and the Starks Almost Wed
An extremely popular fan theory suggests that the series will conclude with Jon Snow wedding Daenerys, unifying the seven kingdoms under Stark and Targaryen rule. However, it turns out that this almost happened once upon a time.
Ages before the series or the books began, the Targaryens and the Starks made a pact to unite their houses, marrying off family members and forging a lasting alliance. However, this plan fell apart for reasons that are pretty surprising. And by surprising, we mean not bloody and deceitful and horrible. It was a simple matter of one side having too many princes and the other having too few princesses. The pact dissolved on its own.
As with so much of 'A World of Ice and Fire,' we have to wonder if this is foreshadowing for an inevitable ending or a way of Martin and his collaborators saying "It didn't happen before and it won't happen again."
The Hour of the Wolf Gives Everyone a Reason to Fear the Starks
When 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and 'Game of Thrones' begin, we are placed firmly on the sides of the noble, straightforward Starks. We love the ill-fated Eddard, cheer for Robb's rebellion and hope for Arya to one day find her family and/or get her vengeance. However, if there's one thing you can count in in Westeros, it's that shades of grey exist under every facade.
If you look at the Starks from the perspective of a Westerosi Lord or Lady with a proper education, the Northern Lords can seem downright terrifying. Take Cregan Stark, who marched south with his men to escape a brutal winter (less mouths to feed!) and assist the young Aegon Targaryen III in his Civil War against Aegon Targaryen II. However, Cregan arrived too late and discovered that Aegon II had been poisoned by his supposed allies. And then Cregan did the Stark-iest thing a Stark could ever do: he finagled his way into becoming Hand of the King for Aegon III, rounded up all of the conspirators who assassinated Aegon II and offered them death or a march to The Wall. After all, it's one thing to kill a king in battle, but it's another thing to poison him and betray him. Yes, Cregan executed men for murdering the man he came south to help kill because he thought they were cowards.
When his dirty work was done, Cregan resigned as Hand of the King and marched home, having been second-in-command of the entire kingdom for only 24 hours. This day became known as The Hour of the Wolf. Ah, now we understand why the Lannisters may have balked at a Stark sitting right next to the king...
There May be Dragon Eggs Hidden at Winterfell
It's one of the wackier fan theories that's ever been concocted: at some point during the Targaryen conquest of Westeros, a dragon laid eggs up north and those eggs still reside under Winterfell to this day. It's a theory built on a pile of cards and fueled by blind speculation. It's what fans call a "tinfoil" theory.
Well, at least it used to be, because Maester Yandel directly references this crackpot tale and swears up and down that it's only a legend that there's no way it's true. Which, of course, means that it's probably completely true and dragons are going to emerge from under the Stark homeland by book seven or season eight! After all, we know from book and show experience that the Maesters are secretive lot who aren't afraid of lying if it suits the Citadel's needs.
Or it could be the book's actual authors throwing a bone to the fans and winking at a theory so hilariously preposterous that they couldn't ignore it.
Melisandre is From the Very Edge of the World
The final chapters in 'A World of Ice and Fire' deal with the lands beyond the Free Cities of Essos. These are the places that are only referenced in passing and that few living people have managed to visit and return alive. Little is actually known about some of these locations (and some sound downright nightmarish), but one area exists on the fringes of the known world and it just so happens to be the homeland of a major character.
Everyone knows that the Red Witch Melisandre hails from Asshai, but what kind of place calls a woman who gives birth to shadow demons home? It turns out that Asshai is a massive and ancient city, so big that you can fit several of of Westeros' largest settlements within its walls and still have room. However, it has a tiny population and the streets are always empty, even during the day. No one knows who built the city (it's constructed entirely of black stone), but it's become the number one destination for warlocks, witches and anyone else looking to get into demonic business.
Oh, and there are no livestock to be found in the vicinity. Or children.
So the next time you wonder why Melisandre can be so cold and why she started practicing blood magic and worshipping a "one true God" with mysterious powers, just remember that she hails from a place where the economy is literally driven by a lack or regulations for wizardry.
Westeros is Full of In-Jokes
'Game of Thrones' can be so dramatic and serious that it can be easy to get lost in the fiction and start to take it a little too seriously. So it's actually kind of a relief to see that George R.R. Martin himself likes to sneak jokes, both obvious and subtle, into the world.
Are we ever actually going to meet Ser Elmo and Ser Kermit, who are mentioned in passing and are made out of felt for all we know? Probably not, but it's the kind of inclusion that reminds you that this world is entirely made up of stuff that Martin pulled out of his imagination. He's having fun and you should, too. Other jokes, like references to J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft, aren't as obvious, but fans from all corners of popular culture will find details to appreciate in between all of the battle and betrayals.
A Ton of "Kings Beyond the Wall" Have Invaded Westeros
In season four of 'Game of Thrones,' Mance Rayder's wildling army is defeated by the forces of Stannis Baratheon, ending the attempted invasion of Westeros. Everyone sighs with relief and everyone is very glad to have avoided such a calamity.
And everyone acts like this isn't something that has happened before. In fact, there's a long history of wilding kings with crazy plans to attack Westeros.
The first King Beyond the Wall on record is Joramun, who claimed to have a magical horn that could wake giants, who would then tear the Wall down. There were also the brothers Gendel and Gorne, who ruled together and attacked Westeros by navigating their armies through a series of caverns under the Wall. Although they managed to kill the current Stark King (this was before the Targaryens arrived), their plan ultimately failed. Then there was the Horned Lord, who used sorcery to bypass the Wall and Bael the Bard, whose either didn't exist or angered the Starks so much with his constant vicious attacks that the House scrubbed his name from all records.
The most successful of the bunch was Raymun Redbeard, who actually managed to get his army of thousands up over the wall and deep into northern territory ... only to get slaughtered by the Starks and their allies.
There is Always Someone Else to Blame
This is less of a singular fact and more of a slow realization that keeps coming up again and again as you read 'A World of Ice and Fire': you can't lay the blame for anything on anyone.
Fans have debated the catalyst for the actual events in 'Game of Thrones' for years. Some will say that everything happened because Joffrey had Ned Stark executed. Others will counter, saying that Catelyn really started the war when she abducted Tyrion Lannister. But that's not taking into account the attempted murder of Bran Stark or the successful murder of Jon Arryn, both of which also set events in motion. And if we're going to blame them, we might as well blame Robert Baratheon for marching off to war or the Mad King for burning Ned's family alive.
You get the point. This book will only keep fans debating more as they continue to trace history backwards as they attempt to discover the root of everything. Assassinations are prevented, marriages arranged and wars are won on seemingly every page, with every event creating a new cog in this fictional history. The biggest takeaway from 'A World of Ice and Fire' is that Martin's made-up fantasy world is more like our own than we ever realized. History is a thousand shades of grey and while everyone speaks of good and evil and heroes and villains, they don't really exist.