George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is currently longer than the Bible and all three Lord of the Rings novels put together. And he's only written five out of seven books so far. That's a lot of words, a lot of names, and a whole lot of sneaky little Easter Eggs that George slipped by you when you weren't looking. I'm not just talking about all those prophecies and secret identities and moments of foreshadowing, either. I mean references to other books and TV shows, clever word play, and homages that GRRM slipped in along with all those dragons and snow zombies. Here are just a few of the Easter Eggs you might have missed while reading A Song of Ice and Fire.
What's the point of creating your own fastidiously detailed fantasy world, after all, if you can't sneak in a reference to your favorite football team? Or create a religion based on your favorite musician? Or drop in a solid Sesame Street reference? GRRM has spent years creating elaborate backstories and family trees for the good people of Westeros, but that doesn't mean he didn't have fun with it. Here are a few of the smart, silly references in ASOIAF that might have flown straight over your head:
1Ser Monty Python
In A Dance with Dragons, it is said that Dany's Unsullied warriors "don't break and run when someone farts in their general direction." This is a reference to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is also full of (much sillier) medieval nonsense. GRRM is a big Monty Python fan, and the TV show Game of Thrones actually uses the "Castle Anthrax" from Holy Grail as the first Winterfell location.
2GRRM is a big Giants fan
In A Dance With Dragons, we hear about "the fourth and final volume of The Life of the Triarch Belicho, a famous Volantene patriot whose unbroken succession of conquests and triumphs ended rather abruptly when he was eaten by giants." This is a reference to the New York Giants defeating the previously undefeated Patriots (headed by coach Bill Belichick) at the Superbowl. The giant Wun Wun is also named after former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, whose jersey number was "11."
3The Three (Westerosi) Stooges
Catelyn Stark arrests Tyrion in the first book, A Game of Thrones, under the mistaken impression that he tried to kill her son. She's aided by three knights from House Bracken: Lharys, Mohor, and Kurleket. Or, as you might know them: Larry, Moe, and Curly.
4Cthulhu might be lurking in the Sunset Sea
The Ironborn of the Iron Islands worship a mysterious sea creature known as the Drowned God. Their creepy Seastone Chair is shaped like a "kraken," or giant squid, and their catchphrase is "What is dead may never die!" This is a catchier version the quote, “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die,” written by H.P. Lovecraft in reference to his giant, unimaginably evil squid monster, Cthulhu. Martin is a longtime Lovecraft fan, so that's probably not a coincidence. So...maybe the Ironborn are just going to summon Cthulhu and that'll take care of all those pesky dragons and ice zombies?
5The Old Gods listen to the Grateful Dead
In Old English, "weir" comes from a word meaning to "dam up" or "cover." But...that's not where Martin got his Weirwood Trees. GRRM has gone on record saying that the mystical trees are named after Bob Weir, guitarist and singer for the Grateful Dead (an appropriate band name for trees that are super into human sacrifice).
6Howl has a moving castle
Howland Reed, a friend of Ned Stark and the father of Jojen and Meera, is the lord of Greywater Watch, a hidden castle built on a floating island in the swamps of the Neck. Greywater Watch is impossible to find, because it's always moving. Of course, Howl's Moving Castle is also a children's book by Diana Wynne Jones, later adapted into a film by Hayao Miyazaki.
7Hobbits in Westeros?
You can't write a Euro-centric, high fantasy series without at least one homage to J.R.R. Tolkien. As many fans have pointed out, Jon Snow's friend Sam is an awful lot like Frodo's friend Sam from The Lord of the Rings. Jon also has a friend named Pyp (but no Merry so far), and Dany's first husband, Drogo, shares a name with Frodo Baggin's father. Although...the Dothraki Khal doesn't really seem like a fun-loving, "second breakfast" kind of guy.
8The Riverlords are descended from Muppets
During the Westerosi civil war, the Dance of the Dragons, the lords of House Tully were named Grover, Elmo, and Kermit. Those names are just a bit too muppety to be a coincidence. And of course, the Tully's castle is named Riverrun, as a reference to the first word of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. So...kind of a weird pairing of references, but still pretty cool?
9The Valyrians are from the '80s
The 1981 Disney movie Dragonslayer is one of GRRM's favorite fantasy films. It just so happens that the lead would-be dragonslayer is named Valerian, and one of the (human) antagonists is named Tyrian. Both names appear in real medieval history as well, but it does seem like GRRM borrowed from an 80's classic to name his mighty dragonlords, as well as everyone's favorite Lannister.
10Is there a Bat-Cave under Harrenhal?
Comic book fan GRRM has managed to sneak a couple of superhero references onto the shields of some Westerosi knights: among the numerous sigils he describes are a black hood (the superhero Black Hood), a blue beetle (Blue Beetle), a green arrow (Green Arrow), and a black bat on a yellow background (Batman himself). The common Westerosi idiom “as useless as nipples on a breastplate” might also be a dig at the film Batman and Robin, which is famous for the bat-nipples on George Clooney's costume.
11Shout out to the 'Wheel of Time' fans
A Song of Ice and Fire is riddled with references to the names of Martin's friends and favorite writers. Just one example is Lord Trebor of House Jordayne of the Tor, briefly mentioned by Tyrion. "Trebor" is just "Robert" backwards, and Robert Jordan's famous Wheel of Time series was published by Tor. We also hear about an “Archmaester Rigney” who once, “wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging.” Sounds like a Wheel Of Time reference to me, especially since "Rigney" was Robert Jordan's real name.
12"I am Woman, Hear Me Roar"
Notice something funny about the mottos of the major houses in Westeros? The three houses with the most powerful female leaders are all quoting the 1970's anthem, "I am Woman." In verse one, "I am woman, hear me roar," becomes the Lannisters' "Hear Me Roar." In verse two, "You can bend but never break me," becomes the Martells' "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken." And in verse three, "I am woman, watch me grow," becomes the Tyrells' "Growing Strong." Clearly, Martin knew from the start that Cersei, Arianne, the Sand Snakes, and Margaery were going to be the major powerhouses in their families.
13Brienne gave Harry that scar on his forehead
GRRM has praised J.K. Rowling for widening the appeal of the fantasy genre. But in A Clash of Kings, when Brienne of Tarth fights her mock-suitors at the Bitterbridge Melee, she defeats both Harry Sawyer and Robin Potter, giving Harry a nasty scar on his forehead.