So I don't know if you've heard of this little TV program,
but it seems like it's maybe back one final season of ice dragons, incest, and hot people talking quietly to each other about Game of Thrones, fantasy politics. TV fans are planning elaborate watch parties and debating fan theories. Book fans are trying their best not to be salty that they are still waiting on the release of The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. But all GoT fans can agree on one thing: we have no freaking idea what happened at the beginning of this big messy story.
I mean, sure, maybe you've been a good and responsible fan and rewatched season one or reread all the books in anticipation of finishing off the TV series... but chances are good that you, like most of us, have only the haziest memory of what happened in the novel
A Game of Thrones. Did Bran get pushed out a window? Did Dany marry some hunky horse enthusiast? Was Ned Stark the actual main character? Who knows! But here are a few things that you probably missed (or at the very least, forgot) from way back in book one:
The first direwolf was killed by a stag
OK, so when we first meet the Starks they are on a very fun family outing to watch Ned behead a deserter of the Night's Watch. On their way home, Ned and his sons come across the body of a recently deceased direwolf, surrounded by six wolf pups — one for each of the Stark kids. The mother wolf has a stag's antler stuck in her neck, suggesting that she was gored to death. And of course,
the direwolf is the sigil of house Stark, and the stag is the sigil of house Baratheon, giving us some pretty heavy handed foreshadowing that a Stark parent is going to be killed by Baratheons, leaving behind his six orphan pups.
The song lyrics hidden in some of the best house words
The first ASOIAF book features a
lot of background info about the different houses of Westeros and their sigils and mottos and favorite past times. There's so much, in fact, that you might have missed the reference to the 1970's feminist anthem, "I Am Woman." The first line, "I am woman, hear me roar," becomes the Lannisters' "Hear Me Roar." In verse two, "You can bend but never break me," has been adapted to the Martells' "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken." And in verse three, "I am woman, watch me grow," becomes the Tyrells' "Growing Strong." It's no mistake that all three houses have especially fierce female leaders.
Blonde hair is a recessive trait
Remember when the crux of the plot was all about genetically recessive hair colors? No? Well, Ned realizes that Cersei's kids can't possibly be Robert's after reading a book on genetics, which explains that kids with one blonde parent and one dark haired parent usually end up with dark hair — but Robert and
Cersei's three kids are all blonde, like their mom (and her twin brother). However, this plot point is also a secret clue about Jon's actual parentage: if one of his folks was a platinum blonde (like, say, a towheaded Targaryen), he would still turn out with the dark hair of house Stark, effectively masking his royal parentage.
Speaking of Jon's mysterious parentage, Ned remarks early on that Arya Stark looks like her aunt Lyanna. This might seem like an innocuous comment, meant to cheer Arya up when everybody keeps insisting that she's an awkward-looking wild child. But the books also specify that Jon Snow and Arya look a lot alike, which means that
Jon must also look like the late Lyanna — who is his secret real mom. Well played, George, well played.
Raise your hand, book fans, if you were annoyed for that entire year that all of the TV fans exclusively referred to Daenerys as Khaleesi. Khaleesi is her
title, not her name. And if you missed it, Dany's chapters only ever refer to her as "Dany" in the narration, setting up a disconnect between the frightened young woman and her many fancy titles. While characters like Arya and Sansa will sometimes go by different names for different POV chapters, Dany is only ever Dany, even when she's swanning about on dragons or hooking up with various relatives.
I have, on more the one occasion, mentioned
Robert Baratheon to a fellow Game of Thrones fan, only to be hit by a blank stare of boredom and confusion. Barely anyone seems to remember this guy! But he was the king! He's the whole reason that the Iron Throne is empty! C'mon people! He also wears an antlered helmet, in honor of his stag sigil — but wearing horns or antlers on your head was an old school symbol of being a cuckold. In other words, if you have horns, your wife is cheating on you. And we all know that Cersei wasn't exactly a model of fidelity.
Dragons come from the moon
When Dany asks her Dothraki gal pals about the
origin of dragons, they claim that there was once a second moon in the sky of Essos, which cracked open and poured forth dragons across the land. Dany seems a bit skeptical of this whole story. But Khal Drogo repeatedly calls her the "moon of his life," and she does indeed crack and bring dragons back into the world after many years of extinction.
Uh… why did Illyrio have those dragon eggs?
Right? The first time I read
A Game of Thrones, I didn't really clock dragon eggs as a weird wedding gift in a fantasy world. Reader learn later, however, that dragon eggs are ultra mega rare in this universe. So Illyrio might very possibly have a Targaryen or Blackfyre connection that landed him with the eggs, and he most certainly had an ulterior motive in giving them to Dany (a motive that she royally screwed up by going rogue and refusing to marry her fake nephew Aegon).
Prophecies don’t always come true
for fans to obsess over. But the first book provides us with a very crucial point: Game of Thrones is stuffed to the gills with all sorts of fun prophecies prophecies don't always come true. Dany is supposed to give birth to a magical super baby who is going to become the "stallion that mounts the world" and start a huge global Dothraki empire a la Genghis Khan. However, because of her fun fun blood magic hijinks, Dany's baby is stillborn, and the prophecy doesn't come to pass. So just keep that in mind the next time you're stressing about Cersei's fated demise at the hand of her brother, or all of Bran's weird blazed out nonsense.
There are lessons to learn from the dead
very beginning of the very very first book of A Song of Ice and Fire features a rather creepy prologue. Some Night's Watch brothers are bumbling around in the forest, when they're set upon by ice zombies. There's a whole lot of foreshadowing here, mostly about the coming cold and the dangers of the walking dead, but there are also two key lines in there that set up some major themes of the book: "Nothing burns like the cold" and "There are things to be learnt even from the dead." Apparently George R. R. Martin wants us to remember that the dead don't always stay dead in this world, and that the dead (or undead) might very well have some key info for the living.
“The lone wolf dies but the pack survives”
At the end of the day, A Song of Ice and Fire is really just a story about family (and dragons). Ned sets up one of the most important arcs when he reminds his kids that "the lone wolf dies but the pack survives." If the wolfy Stark children are going to make it through this fantastical nightmare world alive, they're going to need to find each other again. And if loners with crap families like Dany and Tyrion have any hope of nabbing that special metal chair, they'll need to find some kind of a pack of their own.