Game of Thrones facts you didn’t know
If the ever-expanding storylines of HBO's Game of Thrones - and the George RR Martin book series that inspired it - isn't enough to keep you titillated, you might just benefit from this heavily-researched list of Game of Thrones facts most people don't know (even nothing-knower Jon Snow.)
To be honest, this is the kind of information your Game of Thrones pub quiz team has long been waiting for.
From how to get your own Direwolf, to the intriguing inspiration behind the dragons, here are 61 surprising facts about the world of Westeros … and beyond, ahead of season 8.
1. IT'S BEEN BANNED BY THE TURKISH MILITARY
In November 2014, it was reported that a number of television programs, including Game of Thrones, had been banned in military schools belonging to the Turkish army, in order to protect young people from: "sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment and all negative behaviours" (dragons weren't mentioned). According to a report in the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, this isn't the first time that Game of Thrones has caused trouble within the country's army. In 2012, officers were kicked out of a military academy in Istanbul for allowing cadets to watch the show.
2. SOMEONE MADE A GAME OF THRONES TUBE MAP
Still struggle with the confusing bits of the Piccadilly line? Try planning a journey through Westeros, Essos and The North with the help of graphic designer Michael Tyznik, who has made his own TFL-style train maps to accurately reflect the geography of George RR Martin's world.
According to his beautifully detailed plans, you can catch the Ocean line from Lannisport to High Garden, hop on the aptly named Gold line to travel from Casterly Rock to King's Landing, or take a trip on the Essos-based Demon line all the way to Vaes Dothrak. Eagle-eyed viewers will also be able to spot plenty of clever nods to events from the books and show.
For example, the map warns travellers that dust can be expected at Harrentown station, thanks to the ongoing "restoration of Harrenhal" - a castle that, in the Game of Thrones world, was famously destroyed by dragon fire 300 years before the books and series begin. On the Wall line, meanwhile, which is naturally situated in the far North, the names of abandoned stations correspond to the names of the ruined castles of the Night's Watch. You can see the full map in all its glory here.
3. THERE'S A REAL-LIFE EQUIVALENT TO VALYRIAN STEEL
There's a real-life equivalent to Valyrian steel
There's a real-life equivalent to Valyrian steel CREDIT: HBO
On Game of Thrones, the very best blades are forged from a super-strong yet incredibly light substance known as Valyrian steel. But creating the metal itself, which can be identified by its distinctive rippled surface, is a lost art: Valyrian blades can be passed down through families, but no new items can be made without melting down the originals (most memorably, in the case of Eddard Stark's great sword Ice, which was turned into Widow's Wail and Oathkeeper). Intriguingly, it seems that Game of Thrones author George RR Martin based Valyrian steel on a real life alloy known as Damascus steel.
Developed in India and the Middle East, Damascus steel was known for its super-strong, super-sharp qualities, and for its distinctive rippled surface (although we're not sure how effective it was against White Walkers). But the specific temperature and techniques needed to make it were lost at some point in the 18th century. Various attempts have since been made to replicate it, but the exact formula remains an enduring mystery.
4. THE NIGHT KING OF THE SHOW AND THE NIGHT'S KING OF THE BOOKS ARE NOT THE SAME
In George RR Martin's books, the Night King is a legendary figure from long, long ago. Once the commander of the Night's Watch, he ended up falling in love with a mysterious woman "with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars". Under her influence, he then declared himself king and instigated a 13-year long rule of terror, before finally being defeated and, presumably, killed. Intriguingly, it's implied that the Night's King may have been a member of the Stark family: Old Nan, who tells the legend to Bran, certainly thinks so. But who is the Game of Thrones Night King … and does this mean that the show's ultimate "Big Bad" could be a Stark?
Sadly, this probably isn't the case. In the comments section of his blog, in response to a fan query back in 2015, Martin made it clear that the book and show versions of the character are two very different entities, writing: "As for the Night's King, in the books he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have". Furthermore, season six of the show showed us how the Night King and the Walkers were originally created by the Children of the Forest - confirming that the character has little to do with the book's Night King.
5. IN 2013, HBO AND FIREBOX TEAMED UP TO SELL LIFE-SIZE REPLICAS OF THE IRON THRONE
Made of fibreglass and resin, the 159kg replicas were 7 feet, 2 inches tall, 5 feet 11 inches deep, and 5 feet 5 inches wide - and were priced at £20,000 in the UK. They are, alas, no longer available.
"We don't sell the Game of Thrones Replica Iron Throne anymore, sorry!" reads a message on the Firebox website. "We did once and we had fun. But we've moved on. These things happen. We've suggested some alternatives below you might like".
The alternatives on offer, at the time of writing, include a BBQ branding iron that can write "Meat is Murder" on your steak, a Pac-Man lamp, and some cuddly, larger than life "pet Microbes". Has anyone told Daenerys?
6. THE IRON THRONE IS SUPPOSED TO BE (MUCH, MUCH) BIGGER THAN IT IS IN THE SHOW
For his book The World of Ice & Fire, which chronicles the history of Westeros and its warring elite, Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin worked closely with artist Marc Simonetti to capture the towering Iron Throne as he originally envisioned it - and it's apparently a lot, lot bigger than it is in the show. "This Iron Throne is massive", said Martin on his blog. "Ugly. Asymmetric. It's a throne made by blacksmiths hammering together half-melted, broken, twisted swords, wrenched from the hands of dead men or yielded up by defeated foes. And there are thousands of swords in it, not just a few".
That said, the show itself cleverly addresses the discrepancy, by having Littlefinger declare at one point that the widely-held idea that there are 1000 swords in the Throne is a myth ("There's not even two hundred, I've counted" he says). Littlefinger is making the point that power is a slippery thing, that often relies on shared illusion over tangible fact.
7. THE SHOW HELPED SAVE A FARMER'S RARE PIGS
Smallholders might be struggling to stay afloat in this day and age - but Kenny Gracey, who runs Forthill Farm in County Armagh, says that Game of Thrones's demand for traditional farm breeds, needed to fit in with the Medieval-style setting, has helped his business survive. His farm is located near where filming for the show takes place in Northern Ireland, and breeds Iron Age pigs.
"Farming has taken a downturn. Costs are too high and we're not getting enough for our produce. It's a difficult time. Where I would be today if it hadn't been for the filming I just don't know", Gracey told the Belfast Telegraph.
"This has been a godsend to me. Rare breeds don't fund themselves, they're not profitable and there is an expense with keeping these animals. But this has helped saved them".
8. THE HOUSES HAVE BEEN TURNED INTO "BRANDS"
Ever imagined what it'd be like if Game of Thrones was set in modern day world, and all the warring Westerosi families were big, family-run corporations? If you haven't, then no worries - the folks over at stock photography company Shutterstock have done it for you. In fact, they've taken the idea and run with it, creating "A Game of Brands" (as showcased in this video). Rather fittingly, the dragon-riding Targaryens have now become an airline; the Lannisters, who always pay their debts, are envisaged as an investment company, and the worthy, resilient (but ever so slightly dull) Starks run an outdoor clothing line. You can check out more "brands" on the Shutterstock website: perhaps best of all is events company "Frey Celebrations" (a tongue-in-cheek nod to season three's gory Red Wedding).
9. GREYSCALE IS A LOT LIKE A REAL-LIFE DISEASE
In the world of Game of Thrones, Greyscaleis the one disease you really, really don't want to catch. If you're lucky, it'll just leave you with permanent grey "scales" on your skin (like the late, very-much-lamented Princess Shireen). If you're unlucky, it'll slowly destroy you, transforming your body into a grey stonelike substance, inch by agonising inch, until you end up effectively turning into a sort of living statue (and then, of course, a dead statue).
It's clear that, when he invented Greyscale, author George RR Martin was partly inspired by leprosy: back in the Middle Ages, the disease, which causes painful skin lesions, was regarded by most people with a mixture horror, fear and disgust, and sufferers were frequently forced to live as outcasts (echoing the social stigma associated with Greyscale in Game of Thrones). However, there's also another real-life disease that's a little like Greyscale: namely, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive. The condition, which is incurable and extremely rare, causes damaged soft tissues to be regrown as bone throughout a person's life; as the disease progresses, sufferers are, effectively, "turned to stone".
One of the best known recent cases is that of Harry Eastlack, who died in 1973 at the age of 39; at the time of his death, the ossification process had reached a stage where Eastlack was able to move only his lips. His skeleton (which Eastlack donated to science in the hopes that researchers might be able to find a cure for the condition) is currently on display in the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.
10. CERSEI IS THE WORLD'S WORST PLOT SPOILER
In 2014, Lena Headey, the actress who plays scheming queen Cersei on the show, used her Instagram account to drop a number of hints about upcoming events on Game of Thrones. To be fair to Headey, the hints weren't really spoilers at all - more just subtle clues, that no one would really "get" unless they were in the know already. For example, several months before the carnage of The Mountain and the Viper episode, Headey posted an image of herself pretending to gouge out the eyes of Pedro Pascal, who plays the unfortunate Oberyn. Headey also fuelled fan speculation after she posted an image of a heart, made out of pebbles, labelled "my stone heart" - but this particular "spoiler", believed to be an allusion to the Lady Stoneheart plot of the books, seems to have been a bit of a red herring...
11. TRIAL BY COMBAT MAY BE LEGAL
According to Tyrion Lannister (who has endured not one but two trials of this nature, although he managed to avoid fighting himself in both), "deciding a man's guilt or innocence in the eyes of the gods by having two other men hack each other to pieces tells you something about the gods". Back in the real world, some have argued that, thanks to an obscure loophole in the law, trial by combat may still be legal in the US. The last trial by combat in Britain was in 1818, and the practice became illegal a year later. However, in 2002, 60-year-old Leon Humphreys invoked the ancient right, and challenged the DVLA to provide a champion for a fight to the death, after he received a £25 parking fine.
Rather disappointingly, the DVLA declined his request.
12. NEVER MIND DRAGONS: DAENERYS IS ALSO THE MOTHER OF SEA SLUGS
In 2013, researchers discovered a new species of sea slug off the coast of Brazil. Marine biologists Felipe de Vasconcelos Silva, Victor Manuel De Azevedoa and Helena Matthews-Cascona were struck by the similarity between the creature's pale yellow fronds and the silvery braids of Game of Thrones character Daenerys Targaryen, otherwise known as 'the Khaleesi'. In honour of the warrior queen, played by Emilia Clarke in the show, the team decided to name their new find Tritonia khaleesi. Speaking to the Brazilian website Papelpop, Silva observed that the animal, a member of the Tritoniidae family, has a silver strand on its back that is especially reminiscent of the Khaleesi's hair "in the last episode of the first season of the show".
13. AEMON TARGARYEN WAS BLIND IN REAL LIFE
The late Peter Vaughan, who played Maester Aemon Targaryen on the show up until the character's death in 2015, was partially blind. Away from the show, Vaughan's wide-ranging career saw him play a jailbird in the popular BBC prison sitcom Porridge, and earn a BAFTA nomination for his performance as an Alzheimer's sufferer in the 1996 BBC Two drama, Our Friends in the North. Back in 2007, the actor, who was born in 1923, told Shropshire Magazine that he intended to keep acting for as many years as possible: "as long as you're fit and healthy to carry on, and the offers come in, you just keep on going". He was 84 then - and, true to his word, kept acting until 2015, starring as ageing Targaryen and long-serving member of the Night's Watch Aemon when he was 92. Vaughan died in December 2016, at the age of 93.
14. THE SWORDS ALL HAVE 'BLOOD GROOVES'
All of the hand-forged steel blades on the show, made by Game of Thrones "weapons master" Tommy Dunne in his Belfast armoury, are given the same lengthways grooves as real-life swords; the dips are commonly known as "blood grooves" or fullers. According to popular belief, these grooves allowed blood to escape from an enemy's body, making it easier for the sword to be pulled out (it's always awkward when you stab someone and can't extract your weapon afterwards). However, some historians have provided a somewhat more plausible (and much more boring) reason for their presence, suggesting that the innovation was instead simply designed to make the sword lighter, without compromising its strength.
15. GEORGE RR MARTIN PREFERS SEX TO VIOLENCE
Don't we all? George RR Martin, the author behind the Game of Thrones novels, made his position clear when asked - presumably for the thousandth time - why there's so much sex in his books. Speaking to Reuters, Martin said: "I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it's madness. Ultimately, in the history of the world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much".
16. BUT ISN'T TOO KEEN ON HAVING HIS POST STOLEN
Back in 2011, Martin complained on his blog that a postal worker had apparently stolen some Game of Thrones scripts that had been mailed to him. According to the author: "the envelope was torn open at one end, and both scripts were gone... I am convinced the scripts were stolen". Referencing a character from the series, Martin appealed to his readers to look out for copies being sold on eBay: "like Bloodraven, I have a thousand eyes and one. So let's keep 'em all peeled, boys and girls". To date, the stolen scripts - which were for episodes nine and 10 of season one - have never turned up.
17. YES, THE MOUNTAIN REALLY COULD DO THAT TO OBERYN'S HEAD
According to Time magazine, if the fight between The Mountain and The Viper were to play out in real life, chances are, The Mountain really would be strong enough to crush his opponent's head. Basing their assertions on a Slate investigation into a similar scene from Star Trek Into Darkness, Time concluded that, if someone were to exert 520 pounds of force on to a human skull, they would definitely cause it to implode. Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, who plays The Mountain, is the third strongest man in the world, and would most likely be capable of exerting this kind of pressure.
18. THE DRAGONS WERE INSPIRED BY GEESE AND CATS
As anyone who has been attacked by a flock of them can attest, geese can be pretty threatening. But they're not exactly vicious, firebreathing dragons, are they? Not according to Pixomondo, the special effects company that created the CGI versions of Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion for the show. Speaking to Wired about how he created the movement for Daenerys's three dragons, Game of Thrones effects supervisor Sven Martin said: "We looked at big goose animals when they are on the ground, how they play with their wings even though they're not able to fly". To produce an authentic flying motion for the dragons, meanwhile, Martin turned to bats: "We had great footage of bats flying very close on top of a surface, so [we could see] what would they do with their wings". And for the scenes where the giant lizards are more relaxed, Martin explained that he wanted Emilia Clarke's Daenerys to seem almost maternal towards her favourite dragon, Drogon. "When she's stroking him", he said, "he should be a little bit like a cat". Aww.
19. YOU TOO CAN OWN A DIRE WOLF
Game of Thrones fans craving their very own Ghost, Nymeria or Gray Wind may in luck. The Dire Wolf Project, undertaken by the American Alsatian Breeders Association, has succeeded in breeding a number of large, wolf-like, 130 pound American Alsatians that they've dubbed 'dire wolves'. The puppies come with a $3,000 price tag, so you may still be better off putting your spaniel on stilts and training it to look a bit tougher. It's also worth noting that the true dire wolf, Canis dirus, died out about 10,000 years ago: the American Alsatian may look a bit like its wolfy namesake, but there's no significant genetic link between the two. Meanwhile, the show itself represents the Stark wolves by using Northern Inuit Dogs, a crossbreed created in the late Eighties that closely resembles the modern Grey wolf.
20. JON SNOW WOULD NEVER REALLY BE ABLE TO CLIMB THE WALL
Experienced mountaineer and Game of Thrones fan Katie Mills has criticised the poor execution of the scenes in season three, in which Kit Harington's character Jon Snow and a group of Wildlings climb the wall. In an interview with Wired, Mills was particularly unimpressed by the way the climbers yoke themselves together, a technique known as a running belay, that's only really suitable for low angled ice and snow, rather than a completely vertical climb up, say, a 700ft wall. Speaking about the moment where Jon slips and falls, Mills said: "Jon would yank the person above him off, who would in turn yank the next person off, and then the leader off, and they'd all be dangling from the ice hook with the rope taut". The mountaineer added that there would also be a good chance of the rope snapping altogether, due to the fact that the wildlings appear to be using rope without any give.
21. IT'S THE MOST PIRATED SHOW IN THE WORLD
According to the filesharing website TorrentFreak, more people are illegally downloading Game of Thrones than any other show in the world. In 2012, public BitTorrent trackers showed that one episode was illegally downloaded about 4,280,000 times (Salladhor Saan, the pirate lord played in the series by Lucian Msamati, would doubtless approve). In 2015, new studies emerged that suggested that piracy of the show ahead of season five had increased by 45% worldwide, compared to 2014. The online leak of the first four episodes of season five, ahead of their air date, also caused a major headache for HBO.
Jerry Bleich, the US ambassador to Australia, waded into murky diplomatic waters in 2013 when he criticised Australian viewers for their theft of the US show. In a post on his official Facebook entitled Stopping the Game of Clones, Bleich called upon Australian fans to stop pirating the show, writing: "if the 4 million people who watched Game of Throne legally had been illegal downloaders, the show would be off the air and there would never have been a season three".
22. THERE HAVE BEEN 150,966 ON-SCREEN DEATHS (SO FAR)
Game of Thrones isn't exactly known for being a gentle, violence-free zone - but you might still be surprised at just how many on-screen deaths the hit fantasy show, first broadcast in 2011, has managed to squeeze in across the years.
According to one YouTube video-maker, who has made a 21-minute-long compilation documenting all the carnage, there have been a mind-boggling 150,966 to date.
This includes, we hasten to add, not just all the nameless extras (RIP Lannister soldier #12), but animals too, including thousands of horses, bugs, and even the unfortunate pigeon or two.
You can watch the video here.
23. YOU CAN TAKE A GAME OF THRONES COURSE AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Want to make like Samwell Tarly and immerse yourself in the history of the Seven Kingdoms? You can now study Game of Thrones at Harvard University.
That said, it's worth noting that the introductory course, titled The Real Game of Thrones: From Modern Myths to Medieval Models, is less about immersing yourself in Westerosi lore, and more about using Game of Thrones as a lens to explore the public perception of Medieval history, and the way our own culture frames and colours our understanding of the past.
"When I read medieval verse epics with my students, they'd say, 'Oh, that's like in Game of Thrones.' No, if anything at all, it's the other way around. Isn't it partly our job [as professors] to use that interest and go deeper?" one of the course tutors, Racha Kirakosian, recently explained.
24. IF YOU WANT TO SOUND LIKE A WHITE WALKER, YOU'LL NEED A GLASS BOWL
Ramin Djawadi, the composer for the series, has explained how he developed contrasting musical themes for the various characters and families in the show, such as the Starks and Lannisters. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Djawadi explains that the themes can be altered, depending on whether the family in question is in trouble (most likely the Starks), or up to no good (most likely a Lannister). "We have so many themes established, we can do lighter or darker versions", says Djawadi. And what about the show's more supernatural element? "Sometimes I use these glass bowls for when we're north of the Wall, so it really gives you this weird mood", says Djawadi. "We have this eerie glassy sound - even though you don't see them, you know, 'OK, that's the White Walkers again'."
25. THE CREDITS ARE EVEN MORE COMPLICATED THAN THEY LOOK
The Emmy award-winning Game of Thrones credits, with their unfurling 3D clockwork map, have become so iconic they've even got a nod from The Simpsons, who did their own spoof version back in 2012. But for the man behind the opening sequence - who goes by the rather apt name of Angus Wall - the job of creating the titles is a never-ending task. Wall's The Rock Papers Scissors Production company must update the animation each time a new season begins, incorporating every new location that appears, and marking each city with the occupying royal's coat of arms. In an interview with Forbes, Wall described how the process beings with an artist drawing out each new location as a clockwork model, before the artwork is put on to a computer. One team member is then responsible for finetuning the shadow cast by the building, while another adds the final tint and colour. Creating the credits for each new season takes his team of 10 approximately three months.
26. JON SNOW HAS MET JON SNOW
To clarify, Jon Snow, man of the Night's Watch, risen-from-the-dead hero and defender of the realm, has met Jon Snow, man of … Channel Four. In a video interview, the veteran news anchor dons a cloak and sword and comes face-to-face with Kit Harington, who plays his Game of Thrones namesake. The pair discuss how George RR Martin might have chosen the name Jon Snow: "I don't know … it might very well have come from you, Jon", says Harington. In the past, the Channel Four presenter has jokingly expressed annoyance at being eclipsed by his more famous, albeit fictional, namesake. According to Dan Snow, a fellow TV presenter and Jon's nephew: "It's his worst nightmare. There's now a Jon Snow who is more famous than him. Every time he goes on Twitter, the mentions are all about the Jon in Game of Thrones".
27. ARYA IS QUITE THE MOVER
On the show, Arya Stark's talents include creating lists of people she wants to kill and marking them off one by one, and learning how to swap her face at will (plus let's not forget her deadly pie-making skills). In real life, the actress who plays Arya, Maisie Williams, has some more benign hobbies. "I have always wanted to be a dancer, and I would love to really get to show people what I can do", she previously told Yahoo. "There's nothing like dancing on stage". Williams, who is 20, has attended the Susan Hill School of Dancing since she was 10. Back in 2012, a video of Williams and her dance buddies creating a flash mob in Bath went viral. It's worth watching, if only for the chance to see the formidable Arya Stark busting moves to Beyoncé and LMFAO.
28. WESTEROS HAS A PRETTY IMPRESSIVE WINE LIST
Fancy some wining and dining, Game of Thrones style? After the massacre at the Red Wedding and Joffrey's death by poison, most people's answer would probably be a resounding 'no'. But for braver souls, two blogs offer an insight into how to cook a Westeros-style meal, and what to drink with it. The Inn at the Crossroads details how to cook up Game of Thrones-inspired delights such as "Dothraki goat roasted with sweetgrass, firepods, and honey" and "Tywin's Rack of Venison" ("Theon's sausage" isn't an option). There's even a vegetarian section. Meanwhile, wine blog Vinepair have created a fictional guide to the wines of Westeros, based on facts gleaned from the show and novels. As readers of Martin's novels might already know, the very finest vintages are the Arbor Gold Wines, but the blog also recommends the "tempranillo-driven dry red blends" of Dorne, and the "underappreciated Cabernets" of House Lannister.
29. ADULT MOVIE STARS HAVE JOINED THE CAST
For season four of Game of Thrones, the show's producers cast a number of porn actresses including Jessica Jenson and Samantha Bentley, (winner of the Adult Video News award for Best Group Sex Scene), who both played prostitutes on the show. Australian amateur porn actress Aeryn Walker was also cast as one of the loathsome Craster's many wives, and professed herself "really excited" about the role.
30. THERE WERE 70 DIFFERENT WAYS TO SAY 'HODOR'
How many ways must a man "Hodor", before you can call him a... Hodor? Quite a few, as it turns out. According to Kristian Nairn, the 6ft 10in actor (and club DJ) renowned for playing the gentle giant who can only speak his own name, there were in fact about 70 different ways of saying 'Hodor'. In an interview with Vulture, Nairn said: "There's angry Hodor, happy Hodor, sad Hodor, frightened Hodor, curious Hodor, bashful Hodor, sheepish Hodor … and naked Hodor". Naked Hodor? Yes, explains Nairn - Hodor has a special way of 'Hodoring' when he's naked, in case he isn't alone. And for anybody who fancies conversing in Hodor-lese themselves, a special keyboard, available in the Google Play Store, will allow you to Hodor away to your Hodor's content. After the heartbreak of season six episode "The Door", however - which revealed Hodor's tragic backstory before brutally killing him off - we're not sure we can bear to experiment with it...
31. AFTER 'THE DOOR' AIRED, PEOPLE BEGAN MAKING HODOR DOORSTOPS
It was only a matter of time, really. One minute, us Thrones fans were all sobbing our eyes out at Hodor's untimely demise … and the next, we were callously making Hodor doorstops.
In 2016, in the episode The Door, Hodor (Kristian Nairn) was made to hold a door closed, futilely placing all his strength against the Night's King's and his army of the dead … and buying his friends precious time to escape.
Heartbreakingly, his sacrifice was twofold: due to Bran's time travelling, in the past a young Hodor - or Wylis, as he was then known - suffered a seizure and lost the ability to say anything other than "hodor", a mangled echo of "hold the door".
For fans, the next step was obvious - and a host of Hodor doorsteps, some homemade, some a little more elaborate, began cropping up on social media.
32. YOU'RE PROBABLY PRONOUNCING 'KHALEESI' WRONG
According to David J. Peterson, the linguist who created the Dothraki, High Valyrian and Low Valyrian languages for the show, "everyone is pronouncing Khaleesi wrong". In an interview with Vulture, Peterson blamed Iain Glen, who plays Daenerys's faithful Ser Jorah Mormont, for the mistake. Apparently, Jorah's way of saying "ka-LEE-see", with the emphasis on the second syllable, is incorrect. The correct pronunciation is "KHAH-lay-see", with the accent on the first part of the word. All the parents who named their babies Khaleesi back in 2012 needn't panic, however: Peterson has now resigned himself to the error. "The producers decided they liked the other way better", said the linguist. "They probably thought most people were pronouncing it that way anyway, which is true", Peterson, who estimates that he has come up with approximately 4,000 words of dialect for the Game of Thrones languages, also recently revealed that he likes to slip a few in-jokes and references into every language he creates. "My cat's name is Keli", he told HBO's official Making of Game of Thrones website, "and the word for "cat" in High Valyrian is "kēli".
33. MADONNA ONCE STOLE THE KHALEESI'S REAL COSTUME
In March 2014, Madonna decide to dress as Daenerys for Purim, a holiday dubbed the "Jewish Halloween", during which observants traditionally masquerade in costume. Being Madonna, she contacted the show's producers to see if she could borrow the actual Khaleesi costume, rather than having to go to all the trouble of making her own. According to Emilia Clarke, speaking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the producers were more than happy to oblige.
34. THERE'S AN 8-BIT GAME BASED ON THE SHOW - AND IT'S FREE
Ever dreamt of fighting White Walkers, battling Lannisters and climbing the Wall, all in gloriously retro 8-bit? Well, now you can, thanks to engineer and comic book artist Abel Alves, who has designed an 8-bit, early Nineties style multi-level game based on the show - and made it available to download for free. Alves, who was born in Spain but recently moved to Uruguay, created his game using software called Arcade Games Studio, art by the pixel artist Carl Olsson, and 8-bit versions of the Game of Thrones theme tune and The Rains of Castemere already released by the YouTube 8-bit cover artist, Floating Point. Alves, who had no background in computer science prior to making his game, has now announced his intention to recreate other popular franchises as retro computer games, and release them to the public.
35. KIT HARINGTON'S BUTTOCKS ARE FAKE
Remember when the show gave us a glimpse of Jon Snow from behind, back when he and Ygritte were exploring the caves - and, ahem, each other - in season three? Well - that wasn't Kit Harington's real bottom. In an interview with US GQ, Harington revealed "the only time you saw my ass, it wasn't my ass". It wasn't a prosthetic bum either (does such a thing exist?), but a crew member, who gamely stepped in after a broken ankle left Harington unable to film. The unnamed stand in was picked for the role because his height and hair colour were a close (or close enough) match for Harington's. Sadly, however, his very long black hair, of which he was apparently very proud, had to be cut to match the actor's.
36. AND SO ARE THE ACCENTS
Game of Thrones contains quite a mix of British accents, some authentic, some decidedly less so. The Northern tones of Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte, are adopted for the show: in real life, Leslie has a distinctly "upper class" voice. The Irish actor Michael McElhatton hides his real accent and puts on an appropriately sinister, almost RP voice to play Roose Bolton. Carice van Houten, who plays the red Priestess Melisandre, has to hide her native Dutch accent to play the character, while Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, tries his best to sound British in the show, despite the fact that he's actually American. The best accent of all, of course, belongs to Aiden Gillen, who plays Littlefinger. In the first season in particular, it sounds as if he's been told not to use his native Irish accent - but can't stop it creeping back in.
37. EVEN THE COSTUMES TELL A STORY
Next time you watch Game of Thrones, take a closer look at some of the costumes, created by seamstress Michele Carragher and designer Michele Clapton. Sansa's season four wedding dress, for example (from her wedding to Tyrion; not her wedding to Ramsay Bolton) contained an intricate pattern of direwolves and fish, to symbolise her joint Stark and Tully heritage, while a dominant lion at the back of the dress symbolised the way Sansa's life had fallen under the control of the Lannisters. Meanwhile, in an interview with Fansided, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, revealed that even the corset she wears underneath some of the dresses is embroidered with dragonflies, despite the fact that it is never seen on screen.
38. THE PURPLE WEDDING REALLY HAPPENED
Joffrey and Margaery's wedding was one of the highlights of season four, mainly because viewers finally got to watch Joffrey get his comeuppance. However, George RR Martin has revealed that he based the scene on a real historical case: the death of Prince Eustace, the son of England's King Stephen, in 1153. Like Joffrey, Eustace mysteriously died at a feast, most likely from poison, although some people believe he simply choked to death. The Red Wedding, which shocked viewers of season three, is also reportedly based on two particularly unpleasant events from Scottish history: the 1691 Massacre of Glencoe, and the 1440 Black Dinner. On the former occasion, Captain Robert Campbell and his troops sought shelter with the MacDonald clan, waited until their hosts were asleep, and then murdered them. At The Black Dinner, the 16 year old Earl of Douglas and his 10-year-old brother were lured to a feast, before being dragged outside and brutally executed halfway through. The main lessons seem to be: don't sleep, don't eat, and don't trust anyone.
39. YOU CAN BAKE YOUR OWN 'PURPLE WEDDING PIE' (BUT YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T)
Fans might remember the gigantic pie containing live doves served at the Purple Wedding. For the show, a pastry shell two yards wide was created in Belfast and shipped to Croatia, where the wedding was filmed. The shell concealed a large trap door, built by the show's special effects team, which housed the doves, who were then released on cue (and unharmed by their experience). According to Vulture, 30 mini pigeon pies were also created by the bakery, and were eaten by the cast and crew on set. In keeping with the show's medieval vibe, pies containing live birds were actually quite the thing, back in the day. A recipe for a pie containing birds, from The Italian Banquet by Giovanni de Roselli, was first translated into English in 1598. An extract urges experimental 16th century cooks to put "as many small live birds as the empty coffin [pie case] will hold" into their pie, and then unexpectedly release the birds in front of guests, causing widespread "delight and pleasure".
40. FORGET WHITE WALKERS: AT CASTLE BLACK, ROCKS ARE THE REAL DANGER
The men of the Night's Watch might be used to facing frostbite, Wildling attacks - and even the odd giant or two.
But when filming for the forthcoming sixth season of Game of Thrones was taking place, the cast faced another danger altogether - giant falling rocks.
Some of the filming for scenes set at the show's Northern Wall takes place in Northern Ireland's Magheramorne Quarry, where a set representing Castle Black is constructed at the foot of a rockface.
According to PerezHilton.com, during this year's filming heavy rain led to an on-set rockslide - with Alliser Thorne actor Owen Teale claiming at one stage that: "a piece of rock the size of a London townhouse just fell".
Luckily, no one was harmed, thanks to a swift evacuation.
"Once people saw the small pebbles start to come down that turned into slightly larger pebbles, everybody made the group decision to immediately step away from the set", said showrunner Dan Weiss.
Weiss also claimed the unexpected disruption wasn't a complete disaster for the show.
"It actually worked out for the best - some of the stuff we were shooting in that location benefited from the additional prep time the rockslide gave us". he said.
41. THE MOUNTAIN EATS A WHOPPING GREAT 11,489 CALORIES A DAY
The character, who returned to the show last season in super-creepy Frankenmountain form as Cersei's probably not quite-alive protector, is played by Icelandic Hafthór Júlíus Björnsson, who eats almost three dozen eggs, 1.5 kilograms of potatoes and nearly a kilo of beef a day to maintain his 6'9", 17-stone build. His daily menu also includes lots of spinach, plenty of nuts … and 150g of Kellogs Rice Krispies at 2pm (although these are usually incorporated into a smoothie).
42. BUT HE HAS AN UTTERLY ADORABLE DOG
In 2016 Björnsson revealed that he was the owner of a tiny, fluffy Pomeranian called Asterix... and the internet reacted with a suitable lack of restraint.
43. WESTEROS IS A MUST-PLAY GIG
A surprising number of musicians have managed to secure cameo roles in the show. Gary Lightbody, the lead singer from Snow Patrol, can be spotted singing The Bear and the Maiden Fair in season three, as part of the gang that captures Jamie and Brienne. Coldplay drummer Will Champion is among the musicians playing at the Red Wedding - an appropriately depressing gig for a member of Coldplay. And for season four, Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós recorded a particularly creepy cover version of the Lannister anthem, The Rains of Castamere. All three members of the group can be seen performing the song at Joffrey and Margaery's wedding in season four. Joffrey - polite and gracious to the very end - pelts them with coins and tells them to move on.
44. CERSEI'S WALK OF SHAME IN SEASON FIVE WAS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE HISTORICAL INCIDENT
Many Game of Thrones viewers were shocked by the brutal punishment endured by Cersei (Lena Headey) in the season five finale. Shorn and stripped, the fallen queen was made to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing after confessing to adultery with her cousin Lancel.
But during a 2011 interview, Game of Thrones author George RR Martin revealed that, while the public shaming might seem unusually cruel, the scenes, were in fact inspired by a real-life case from Medieval Britain.
"Jane Shore, mistress of King Edward IV, was punished that way after Edward died", he explained. "It wasn't a punishment ever inflicted on men. It was a punishment directed at women to break their pride. And Cersei is defined by her pride".
Jane Shore herself, it transpires, was in fact named Elizabeth Shore (the name "Jane" appears to be a mistake, passed down through history after it was invented by a playwright in the 17th century).
A notably beautiful woman, according to contemporary accounts, she was mistress to not just the King, but to several other noblemen. But when Edward died, in 1483, he was succeeded by his brother Richard, who initially ruled as Lord Protector but later became Richard III - and who was none too fond of Shore.
Accused by the new monarch of conspiracy and promiscuity, the former king's mistress, who would have been in her late 30s at the time, was forced to carry out a walk of penance through the streets of London, before being sent to Ludgate prison. Unlike her fictional counterpart, however, Shore was at least permitted to wear her undergarments during the walk.
45. RAMSAY'S DEATH WAS ORIGINALLY A LOT MORE GORY
Villain Ramsay Bolton found a fitting comeuppance at the end of season six when he was mauled to death by the hounds he had kept to devour his enemies. The scene played out audibly, rather than visually, with viewers left to listen to the bloodied and trussed-up Ramsay left at the mercy of his pack of hungry dogs, while his abused wife, Sansa Stark, watches on.
The only visual violence that remains in the scene is when a hound lunges at Ramsay's jaw, but previously viewers would have seen it viscerally removed from the villain's face in a scene that would have shared a similar gore-level with Gustavo Fring's explosive nadir in Breaking Bad.
Mat Krentz, from visual Effects company Image Engine, who worked on six of the 72 deaths in season six of Game of Thrones, told Variety that artists had computer-generated a jaw for Bolton that was animated to reveal "the flesh ripping between Ramsay's skin and gums", but this was nixed due to being too gruesome.
"They shot the scene with multiple takes", said Krentz. "They did a pass of the dog on green screen, then Ramsay on green screen, and then we also had a background plate, which we put together".
46. THE UNSULLIED COSTUMES HAD TO BE CHANGED, TO AVOID COMPARISONS WITH THE FIRST WORLD WAR
"The Unsullied costumes were the hardest to make. They were very specific in the book about having a spike on top of the helmet but it looked too German First World War so we had to change it", Game of Thrones costume director Michele Clapton told The Telegraph in 2016. "With a book people have built up an image of how they think characters should look and then I come along and don't make it like it is in their heads".
47. THE ACTORS DO SOMETIMES WEAR REAL FUR ON THE SHOW - BUT ALL OF IT IS VINTAGE
"Certain actors won't wear [fur] and we'll respect that and we'll always try to make it in fake fur instead but when you're depicting the things that we are a lot of the time it doesn't work", costume director Michele Clapton previously explained. The animal rights group Peta has also objected to the use of fur on Game of Thrones - but it's important to point out that no new pieces are commissioned. Instead, all the animal furs worn are always sourced from vintage markets, and reworked into the Medieval-style costumes required.
48. GEORGE RR MARTIN ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO HAVE JON SNOW AND ARYA FALL IN LOVE...
In 2015, some of Martin's original plans for the series, outlined in a 1993 letter to his publisher, were revealed. Anyone who watches the show will likely be feeling quite worried by his original intended romance between Jon Snow and Arya Stark, given both the age difference between the actors playing the characters on the show, and the fact that the pair were raised as brother and sister. Martin originally intended for the half siblings to fall for each other and be "tormented" by their incestuous passion, due to Jon's vows of celibacy to the Night's Watch - before the secret of his true parentage would finally be revealed in the last book, allowing the lovelorn pair to be together at last.
49. AND TYRION WAS GOING TO FALL FOR ARYA TOO...
In Martin's original plans, Arya was also clearly quite the heartbreaker. According to the early 1993 outline, Tyrion ends up aligning himself with the Starks - and falls "helplessly in love with Arya Stark while he's at it", although Arya doesn't return his affection.
50. IN THE ENTIRE BOOK SERIES (SO FAR), THERE ARE 1,842,762 WORDS, ACCORDING TO ONE FAN'S ESTIMATE
That's a hefty one million, 842 thousand, 762 words, by the way... although another source, which may be based on an estimate, claims that the true total is a comparatively paltry 1,770,000.
51. EMILIA CLARKE WASN'T IN THE ORIGINAL SHOW
The original pilot episode of Game of Thrones featured an almost entirely different line up, and was helmed Thomas McCarthy, who has since directed Oscar-winner Spotlight. It received such a poor reception at a private screening, though, that HBO ordered for it to almost totally reshot with some major cast changes.
It's almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Emilia Clarke playing Daenerys Stormborn, but originally Tamzin Merchant was cast in the role. Pride and Prejudice actress Jennifer Ehle played Catelyn Stark in the pilot, but was replaced by Michelle Fairely.
One of the few images released from the pilot shows a very different Illyrio Mopatis (Ian McNeice) sporting a rather avant-garde headpiece. Roger Allam, who took over the role in the re-shoot, sported a more subtle.
George RR Martin also had a cameo in the pilot, playing a nobleman at Daenerys' wedding, but this was sadly cut.
52. WUN WUN THE GIANT, THE MOUNTAIN, AND A WHITE WALKER HAVE ALL BEEN PLAYED BY THE SAME PERSON
Actor Ian Whyte has got a lot of work out of Game of Thrones. The 7ft 5in actor initially played a White Walker, but took on the role of Gregor Clegane in season two when the original actor, Conan Stevens, became unavailable due to scheduling clashes.
HBO Wun Wun
For seasons three and four, Whyte was recast again as a Dongo, a giant who was killed in the Battle of Castle Black.
Most recently, Whyte was called upon to play another giant, Wun Wun, who fought valiantly at the Battle of the Bastards and helped Jon to retake Winterfell before finally succumbing to a hail of arrows.
53. DEAN CHARLES CHAPMAN HAS PLAYED NOT ONE BUT TWO LANNISTERS
Ian Whyte isn't the only actor to play multiple parts on Game of Thrones. Dean Charles Chapman first appeared in season three as Martyn Lannister, the nephew of Tywin Lannister, who was taken prisoner by the Tullys and Starks. This character, as is so often the case in Game of Thrones, was soon killed by a vengeful Rickard Karstark.
By season four, the team were looking for a more experienced, older actor to play Tommen Baratheon and replace original actor Callum Wharry.
54. CHARLES DANCE SKINNED AN ACTUAL STAG ONSCREEN
When viewers were first introduced to Tywin Lannister, he was lecturing son Jaime while skinning a stag (a metaphor for the destruction of House Baratheon, whose sigil was a stag). What many won't have realised is that it was a real dead stag, and actor Charles Dance was actually skinning it.
Dance recounted to Esquire how the producers approached him, asking, "Charles, are you a vegetarian?" I said "No, of course not." So they got this butcher chap to show me how to skin a whole deer and then I did it, and I did it well … I think. I was hoping for a nice haunch of venison from it, but they didn't even let me keep a hoof!"
55. SOPHIE TURNER ADOPTED HER DIREWOLF
We all remember when Lady, Sansa Stark's pet direwolf, was sacrificed to mollify Cersei's anger when Arya's direwolf Nymeria bit Prince Joffrey. This, naturally, left the dog who played Lady out of a job and actress Sophie Turner was only too happy to adopt her. The Mahlek Northern Inuit pup's real name is Zunni.
In a previous interview, Turner told the Coventry Telegraph "Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one. We kind of fell in love with my character's dire wolf, Lady, on set."
"We knew Lady died (onscreen) and they wanted to re-home her. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her."
56. SOPHIE TURNER REALLY BELIEVED JON SNOW HAD BEEN KILLED OFF
Kit Harington had to lie about Jon Snow's fate to the whole cast before filming season six. Some actors weren't sure Jon Snow had actually died, including Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos. However Sophie Turner, his onscreen half-sister, fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Harington told Entertainment Weekly "Sophie Turner, bless her, wrote me a really long letter about how much she loved working with me - and I still got it. That made me chuckle."
57. STATISTICALLY, TYRION LANNISTER IS THE MAIN CHARACTER
Mathematicians calculated that Tyrion interacted with the most characters, and is therefore the main protagonist of the group. The paper, published in MAA's Math Horizons, analysing how different characters connected to each other in George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
This is hardly a surprise, since Tyrion is probably the most well travelled character in the series, journeying from Winterfell to the Wall, to the Eyrie, to King's Landing and finally across the Narrow Sea to Mereen.
58. WHAT DO GEORGE RR MARTIN AND BEYONCE HAVE IN COMMON? THEY BOTH HAVE DRAGON EGGS
When George RR Martin married long-term partner Parris McBride in 2011, prop designer Gemma Jackson gave him one of Daenerys' dragon eggs as a wedding gift.
According to Emilia Clarke, Jay Z bought one of the other dragon eggs for his wife Beyonce.
59. IWAN RHEON NEARLY PLAYED JON SNOW
We know him for playing twisted psychopath Ramsay Bolton, but actor Iwan Rheon came very close to playing Jon Snow.
Rheon auditioned to play the brooding Bastard of Winterfell when the show was first announced, but producers ended up choosing Kit Harington. But Rheon made a lasting impression on showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and was called back to play the sadistic villain.
60. JON SNOW'S FUR COMES FROM IKEA
Game of Thrones may have a budget of around $10 million per episode, but they still rely on that mainstay of frugality, Ikea. Designer Michele Clapton revealed in a 2016 interview at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles that several of the fur capes worn by men of the Night's Watch are actually Ikea rugs.
Following the revelation, Ikea released instructions on how to make your own fur cape for the coming winter.
The team cut and shape the rugs, added leather straps, and weathered them a little to make them look suitably pseudo-medieval. Ikea have since provided instructions on how to make your very own Jon Snow cape to prepare for the coming winter.
61. HOT PIE BECAME A BAKER IN REAL LIFE
In Game of Thrones, Arya's travelling companion Hot Pie found his calling in life when he went to live with an innkeeper as a baker. In real life, Ben Hawkey, the actor who plays Hot Pie, opened his own bakery in July 2017. The name? "You Know Nothing, John Dough".
The idea was that it would sell treats that all had a Game of Thrones twist. These included bread shaped like a direwolf just like the one Hot Pie gave to Arya as a gift in season seven. The venture, opened in conjunction with Deliveroo, lasted barely a month before closing.