Hardcore Game of Thrones fans know that George R.R. Martin has drawn inspiration for his beloved A Song of Ice and Fire series from actual historical events such as the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years War.
But Martin doesn't rely only on grand-scale events as fodder for his novels, he also pays tribute to more isolated, less-well-known figures and events of the past.
For reasons that continue to baffle scientists and historians to this day, Western Europe enjoyed several years of high temperatures and dry weather toward the end of the 13th Century. This "Medieval Warm Period" concluded around 1300 and when the cold weather came, it brought storms and starvation with it, in an era now known as The Little Ice Age. Fortunately, the Starks were well prepared.
Martin has stated that he based the infamous Red Wedding on two actual events from Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Asked about these events and their connection with the Red Wedding, Martin remarked, "No matter how much I make up, there's stuff in history that's just as bad or worse."
Vlad the Impaler already inspired Bram Stoker to create one of literatureâs most famous monsters. Some GoT fans believe mad Vlad also served as the basis for one of GRRMâs most terrifying creations: Ramsey Snow. Both characters shared an enthusiastic love for torture and psychological torment.
Legendarily brutal ruler Attila the Hun dropped dead during his own wedding feast. Some say he choked, others say he was poisoned by someone with connections to his new wife. Certainly brings to mind the demise of a sadistic little monster we all grew to know and hate.
The two Robbs on GoT may seem to have little in common, but many believe Martin based the characters on different periods in the lives of the same king. Edward IV is said to have had a childhood similar to Robb Stark's and later ruled in the style of Robert Baratheon.
The Wall that prevents the Wildlings and White Walkers from making their way south is based on two real-world fortifications. Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall may not have been quite as big and they were made of boring old stone instead of ice, but the latter is said to have housed 19 fortresses!
A real-life clash of kings, the War of the Roses was a decades-long struggle for power that pitted the Yorks vs. the Lancasters in a battle for the British throne. We feel like we've heard those warring house names somewhere before...
While large portions of Westerosi lore may be based upon British medieval history, It's Martin's ability to draw from different eras and varying parts of the world to select the most fascinating (and horrifying) tidbits that have helped make GoT such a consistently engrossing smash hit.
Some have even gone so far as to suggest that if we pay close enough attention to the history-based clues Martin's sprinkled throughout his epic-length tale, we might be able to figure out which character will eventually triumph in the the battle for the Iron Throne.
Hint: it's not Theon Greyjoy...Sorry, Reek.
Warning: possible spoilers lie ahead, so if you're not caught up on the show and/or don't want to be exposed to speculation on how the series might end, we suggest you stop reading here and refrain from checking out the gallery above. (Even though you know you want to!)
First, a little background on medieval British politics to bring you up to speed. (Don't worry we'll get to the blood and boobs stuff soon enough.)
The War of the Roses refers to a series of battles fought for control of the British crown in the 15th Century. The principal claimants to the throne were the houses of York and Lancaster (Sound familiar?) and combat raged on and off for almost 32 years (about how long it takes to read a George R.R. Martin book).
Martin has stated in interviews that his research on the War of the Roses has profoundly influenced the ASOIAF series and allusions to that bloody period in history make countless appearances in both the books and the television series they inspired.
While the connection may not be as readily apparent as some of the more obvious parallels, some observant GoT fans have noticed a lot of similarities between Daenerys Targaryen and War of the Roses victor Henry VII.
Like the Khaleesi, Henry lived much of his life in exile on the far side of the English Channel (a sort of "narrow sea," if you will), where he used his charisma and claims of being the rightful heir to the throne to help him raise a foreign army, crush his opposition, and declare himself king.
Granted Henry wasn't quite so badass as to ride a dragon into battle, but he did have a fire-breathing beast on his coat of arms:
Some have suggested that all those similarities are Martin's way of hinting that Daenerys will emerge victorious when she eventually swoops into Westeros on the winged back of one of her "children."
Others have astutely pointed out that there are few things GRRM enjoys more than shocking his audience, and it seems unlikely that he would foreshadow an ending so clearly, so early on in the tale.