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.
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When I watched the Word War 1 series “Crimson Field”, in which Oona Chaplin played the part of a nurse, I commented to my family on her likeness to Charlie Chaplin. So now I know!
Thanks for sharing some most fascinating background info about “Game of Thrones” that has to be one of my favourite series ever. I haven’t tried reading the novels for fear of spoilers, but I suppose it’s safe by now to start on the first one.
I didn’t know the turtle thing! That’s adorable! And also slightly worrisome, considering his turtles kept dying off …
Yeah I know, what was he keeping them in? Does make you wonder…
Finally, something about GoT that I hadn’t heard before. Love the turtle story!
Wow, that’s praise indeed! Glad I could bring you something new. I love the turtle origin story too – wonder if anyone’s tried to create Game of Thrones with their pet turtles? If not, it must only be a matter of time…
Fascinating info as always! I’ve read the first two of Martin’s series but not sure if I have the strength for any more.
I haven’t read as much as I should – but yeah, I’ve had many people tell me after the first 2/3 novels the story kind of falls apart and loses its pace. Glad you enjoyed the info here though – thanks!
Wow! I already knew of facts 1-4 and even that Oona Chaplin was related to Charles, but the rest of #5 had me blown away! Harry Lloyd, O’Neil, and JD Salinger? Impressive. Thanks for the info!
Thanks, glad I could share something new for you! You’re obviously a fan and know your stuff, so it’s good to know there was something unexpected in the list :)
I’m pretty sure that’s one of the cutest (though slightly disturbing) origin story for a series I’ve ever heard. And I thought making stories with my Barbie dolls showed a creative spirit. This was a really cool post; I really need to get back to reading this series!
I know, it’s great, isn’t it? I can’t imagine GRRM as anything other than the Santa Claus figure he now is, but it’s nice to know those turtles didn’t die in vain…
Thanks for the great tidbits! Fire and Ice is my favourite Robert Frost poem, it was nice to be reminded of it again. :)
My pleasure, Sue! Thanks – glad you enjoyed it. I love that Frost poem :)
I always misspeak and call it “Song of Fire and Ice” because of the poem!
I had the opposite problem – to my shame I didn’t know Frost’s poem until recently so I kept wanting to write the title as ‘Ice and Fire’!
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My pleasure, and thanks :)
Extremely interesting background material. Thank you for providing it.
Glad you liked it – thanks!
I’m pretty sure that is Robert Frost himself playing Hodor. No? I know nothing.
Haha and does that mean it’s Robert Frost doing the DJing too? http://also.kottke.org/misc/images/dj-hodor.jpg
I like the idea of Robert Frost the DJ…
This is known, that Robert Frost is a great spinner of the tune.