The Real Life history behind the Game of Thrones


Hi everyone!!! Excited about the much anticipated release of the Seventh Season of The world-famous Game of Thrones? Well, from “Kings Dying Like Flies” to “Winter has Come”, this TV series has given us a breath-taking portrait of power hungry monarchs grasping for a straw in the “Game” of Thrones, where “You Win or You Die”. We have seen the most gruesome deaths and devious plots, which made us thank God that we are not living in such a cruel world. Well are we not? As it turns out, the underlying Game of Thrones are based on real historical event: “The War of Roses“, which actually engulfed the European lands during the Medieval Century. Also, brutal scenes like the infamous Red Wedding actually appear to have precedents in real life. Let us look into the History for some of the inspirations behind the TV Show based on George R. R. Martin novel.

Geographical Similarities:

The two most glaring similarities are:

  • Map of Westeros and England and Ireland:
    The map of Westeros very closely resembles England, with an upside down Ireland beneath it.
  • The Wall and Hadrian’s Wall:

    Though not even close to the size of the Great Wall described in the Game of Thrones, the geographical location of the Hadrian’s Wall coincides with the location of the wall. Hadrian’s Wall divided the Romans from Scottish Barbarians, just like the Wall divided the south from the Wildlings.George RR Martin visited the site before penning A Game of Thrones, and recalls:

     I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier… to gaze off into the  distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest.

Character Similarities:

Now multitude of characters in Game of Thrones are inspired by real life historical figures. Let us talk about the history of Wars and Roses, so that the context can be created for these similarities.

The Wars of Roses were triggered by the demise of King Edward III in 1377. There can be assumed to be similarities between King Edward III and Aegon V Targaryen. Aegon, like King Edward III, started ruling from avery early age, and ruled for a long period of time. In fact, the reign of King Edward III was the second longest in medieval England. Although challenged by some, many historians including  William Stubbs declared King Edward III as an irresponsible adventurer, which vaguely fits the description of the Aegon, who died trying to bring hatch new dragon eggs using fire and sorcery. Instead, it caused a fire that spread out of control and destroyed the entire palace.

 

King Edward Prince was succeeded by his 10 year old grandson Richard II, whose father “The Black Prince” Edward departed before Edward III’s demise. There can be similarities found between the Mad King Aerys and Richard II, both of whom were coined insane, the latter by some prominent historians. However, The Black Prince had three brothers, all of whom were claimants of the throne, which ultimately resulted in the battle. The brothers comprised of the Lancasters (“Lannisters“) and the Yorks (“Starks“). Finally Richard III was deposed by his cousin Henry IV, or Henry of Bollingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, uncle of Richard II.

There was peace in the region for some time after that, till in 1422 Henry V died in a battle. With a weak willed Henry VI on throne, lawlessness again started thriving.

 

Henry VI married a Margaret of Anjou, for improving French Relations. Margaret, a power hungry and “do-anything-for-power” woman, is largely believed to be the inspiration behind Cersei, her counterpart in Game of Thrones, who didn’t batter an eyelid to destroy numerous people by wildfire, to keep herself in power. Henry Vi had an advisory in the form of Richard of York, who is believed to be hated by Margaret. Conspiring with the King, Margaret was able to banish Richard to Ireland, from where he returned with an army and managed to attain the position of Hand of King. However, his tenure didn’t last long as he was soon decapitated, just like Edward ‘Ned’ Stark in Game of Thrones.

 

However, Richard of York’s son, Edward IV, proved to be an worthy warrior, ousting Henry and Margaret along with their son, Edward of Westminister to hiding. Edward IV is largely believed to be the inspiration behind Robb Stark, mainly because the downfall of Edward IV was also because of a broken vow of marriage, which resulted in Edward losing a trusted compatriot in Earl Of Warwick (who conspired to overthrow him joining hands with the Lancasters, and inspired the TV character Walder Frey.) Meanwhile, Edward of Westminister, is believed to be the inspiration behind Joffrey, both being sadistic rulers from a very young age.

 

The Earl of Warwick turned Edward’s brother George Plantagenet against him, thereby inspiring the tale of Theon Greyjoy. Although George died a quick death, and did not have to bear the torment of Theon.

However, after the death of Edward IV in 1483, his brother Richard of Gloucester declared his two sons illegitimate and locked them away. The two sons were never heard of again. Richard has many similarities with Stannis Baratheon, while the two brothers may be referring to Bran and Rickon, or Tommen and Jeffrey.

 

Now for the final chapter, arrived Henry Tudor, with his vast army which he built during his majority of time in foreign land, the counterpart of Daenerys Taragaryen. He married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, to ensure marital alliance and thereby ended the long era of bloodshed.

Other Historical Links:

  • The Red WeddingThe infamous Red Wedding wasn’t a imaginary event cooked up by George R.R. Martin to enhance the brutality of the TV show. Such incidents actually happened in real life not once, but twice, during The Massacre of Glencoe (1691) and The Black Dinner (November 1440), the latter one even comprising the beheading of little children. You can find more on this topic in this Link. There is another historical context to this event, the Kojiki of Japan, a half-historical, half-mythological text that chronicles the rise of Japan’s first ruler, Emperor Jimmu. The second part of the Kojiki describes how Jimmu consolidated his power: by murdering all of his political rivals at a feast. Like the Red Wedding, the start of the massacre was a song, this one sung by Jimmu himself.
  • The Battle of Blackwater BayThis was inspired by the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople, where Greek Fire was used, just like the all engulfing wildfire in the TV show. Additionally, in the books, Tyrion employed a giant chain to cut through Stannis’ navy, which is clearly inspired by the Great Chain of Constantinople, also used in The Second Arab Siege.
  • The Red Faith is Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism is perhaps the oldest monotheistic religion in the world, and George RR Martin admits that the worship of Ahura Mazda had a very strong influence on the development of R’hllor. Worshippers of both deities hold fire as sacred, and pray in its presence. They use fire as a means of gaining wisdom and spiritual insight.

  • White Walkers (the Others) and Celtic Fairies: The terrifyingly brutal White Walkers are largley based on the Aos Sí, or the Sidhe, a race of fairy-like beings from the Irish Mythological Invasion Cycle. The invasion of the Others seems to follow the same cycle as that of the Celtic fairies, too. 

 

Well, that’s mostly it. Hopefully you will enjoy the Last two season of Game of Thrones. I am also eagerly waiting for the release. Goodbye!!!

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