by Stephanie Hanson
Unless you have been hiding under the proverbial rock, you have heard of the television series Game of Thrones. Known for its high body count and fantasy setting, the series is widely popular.
But did you know that Game of Thrones is based on the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R.R. Martin? And, did you know that Martin was inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (Hmm… check out those middle initials!) and the War of the Roses, as well as other historic events.
Want to have a little fun?!!!
Let’s take Game of Thrones and find its location in history. The War of the Seven Kings is based on the English War of the Roses, another war of succession between noble families.
!!! Spoiler Alert: This post discusses the entire plot of Game of Thrones as we know it.
First, there is Henry VI.
Henry VI, like Aerys Targaryen, was mentally unstable. He did not light his enemies on fire, but he did not do the best job ruling either. He died without an heir, possibly murdered.
Next, there is Edward IV.
Edward IV was young and handsome, just like a young Robert Baratheon. However, like Baratheon, he became stout and inactive in his middle age. Some say he was poisoned, others that he was simply in poor health. He left behind a wife (Elizabeth Woodville, unpopular because of her swift rise to power through marriage) and children, including his heir, Edward V. He also had two brothers. Of the two, one was amiable, but not particularly sharp. The other was highly focused and would do anything – even murder children – to seize the throne.
With me so far? Guess who became king…
The ruthless sibling ascended to become Richard III.
And, to eliminate any challengers to the throne, Edward’s sons mysteriously disappeared, allegedly murdered in the Tower of London by the orders of their uncle. That sounds a bit familiar–Robert Baratheon’s brothers both made plays for the throne, one affable and shallow and the other ruthless. Neither set of children came out alive. And of course, no one has much love for Robert’s widow, the ever ambitious Cersei.
Can we spot any other historical inspiration?
- Martin has said that the Iron Islands are based on the marauding Vikings, while the Mongols might be the inspiration for the Dothraki.
- How about some of the epic battles? The fictional Battle of Blackwater Bay bears a close resemblance to the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople. In that siege, the Byzantines used Greek Fire to repel the invaders.
- Greek Fire was a substance that burst into flame upon contact with water, perhaps a mixture of naptha and quicklime. It sounds an awful lot like the wildfire used by Tyrion.
- The Byzantines also used a barrier chain, much like the ones used against Stannis’ navy. But surely, there was no real wall to keep barbaric races away from civilization. Actually, there was. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall in northern England to keep out the Picts and other ancient Britons.
- The bloody Battle of the Bastards even has its roots in reality. The pincer movement of Bolton’s army is a Macedonian Phalanx, based on tactics used by Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great. The actual battle was based on an ancient battle between Hannibal’s Carthaginians and the Roman Empire’s army.
How did the Wars of the Roses end? Finally, a Lancaster ruler came from over the sea where he had lived in exile. His emblem? The dragon. Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII, defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field, and married Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth. This marriage united the Lancaster and Tudor houses, ending decades of civil war.
So how does the body count in Game of Thrones stack up to reality? About 1 in 4 noble Englishmen died violently in the 15th century. That sounds about right.
And to think, there are those who think history is dull!