Quick facts about A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones
We felt it was high time we gathered together the five best facts we’ve uncovered about the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, and the books on which the series is based, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy cycle, A Song of Ice and Fire.
1. George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire was inspired by the pet turtles he had as a child. Martin would invent stories involving the turtles … but, because the turtles kept dying, the young Martin imagined that they must be hatching ‘sinister plots’ to kill each other off. One wonders if there was a Joffrey turtle, a Littlefinger turtle, and a Cersei turtle! As he explained in 2012, ‘I had an entire toy castle filled with dime-store turtles. I gave them all names, and since they were living in a toy castle, I decided they were all knights and kings … and I made up stories about how they killed each other and betrayed each other and fought for the kingdom. So, Game of Thrones actually began with turtles.’
2. In the US in 2012, 146 babies were named ‘Khaleesi’ in reference to Game of Thrones. Although ‘Khaleesi’ is merely the title held by Daenerys Targaryen in the books and TV series, it is this ‘name’ which has caught on among American parents (‘Daenerys’ has had fewer adopters, by all accounts).
3. The castle of Riverrun in the series shares its name with the first word of a James Joyce novel. The very first word of Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake (1939), is ‘riverrun’ (the novel opens mid-sentence, so no capital). Whether Martin’s use of the word is a subtle nod to Joyce’s work, or whether he hit upon the name independently, we cannot be sure; but we like the ‘coincidence’ (if that is all it is).
4. The title of Martin’s series of novels was partly inspired by a Robert Frost poem. Frost’s short 1920 poem ‘Fire and Ice‘ has been named by Martin as part of the inspiration behind the title A Song of Ice and Fire – though in fact, as is so often the case with literary influence, there were other factors involved in the creation of the series title, and the fire/ice contrast also encapsulates the different worlds, creatures, and character temperaments found in the series.
5. Harry Lloyd, the actor who played Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, is the great-great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens. Daenerys’ brother, who came to a sticky end in the first season of the TV series, was played by one of Dickens’s direct descendants. And that’s not the only descendant of a famous writer the series has played host to: Oona Chaplin, who played Talisa, is the great granddaughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill! As her name might already have suggested, she is also the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin. This is because Charlie Chaplin married Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona (after whom actress Oona Chaplin was, of course, named). This Oona – Oona senior, we mean – once dated J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, before marrying silent movie legend Chaplin. There are as many illustrious literary dynasties among the cast of Game of Thrones, it would seem, as there are royal dynasties in the series itself…
More fantasy facts can be found in our collection of Harry Potter trivia.
Image (top): Photograph of original UK book cover designs for A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords). Image (bottom): The cast of Game of Thrones at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California; author: Gage Skidmore; share-alike licence.