George R.R. Martin has built one of the most complex and tightly plotted fantasy worlds in literature with his epic A Song Of Ice And Fire. With a cast of hundreds, numerous interlinked noble families and a history stretching back 12,000 years to the arrival of the First Men in Westeros, it’s surely impossible to keep everything straight without a reliable wiki or at least some seriously detailed note-taking.
It might have been years or even decades since you read the 1996 book that started it all, the award-winning A Game Of Thrones. With the release of The Folio Society’s gorgeous new collector’s edition, we’re taking a look back at some of the intriguing details you may have forgotten from the original novel.
King Robert wanted to abdicate… but knew he couldn’t
After all the chaos and death caused by Robert’s Rebellion and the eventual ousting of the Targaryens, you might think that the first Baratheon king would be more grateful for all he had – namely, the crown of the Seven Kingdoms. But over the years he discovered that he didn’t want the responsibility, and would rather spend his time drinking and whoring (which, to be fair, he still managed to do extensively, as evidenced by the trail of illegitimate children he left in his wake).
He confessed to his old friend Ned Stark that he dreamed of abdicating, but imagining his hateful, malicious ‘son’ Joffrey on the throne – with Cersei whispering in the young man’s ear – was enough to stop him.
Robert said that he would rather be a sellsword in the Free Cities, but we think the ageing, unhealthy king might have missed the boat on that particular life goal even before he went toe-to-toe with the boar that ended his life.
Littlefinger framed Tyrion for attempted murder
“I did warn you not to trust me, you know,” Petyr Baelish famously reminded Ned Stark moments after betraying him to the Lannisters. It’s worth remembering that basically nothing he says should be taken at face value.
Take the distinctive Valyrian steel dagger that was used during the attempted assassination of Bran Stark at Winterfell while the boy was in a coma after his fall. Littlefinger told Catelyn Stark that the dagger had been his, but he lost it in a wager with Tyrion Lannister, indicating that Tyrion was the person who sent the assassin. This led to Catelyn kidnapping Tyrion and aggravating the tensions between the houses of Stark and Lannister which eventually broke out into open war.
We learn later in the series that it was Robert Baratheon who won the dagger after some gambling during a tourney, and that Joffrey was probably behind the assassination attempt on Bran. It’s not entirely clear why Littlefinger chose to lie about this particular incident, but it certainly helped spread more chaos and confusion, which is the Baelish M.O. through and through.
Cersei isn’t quite as bloodthirsty as we thought
There’s no arguing that Queen Cersei has a bad reputation. Whether she’s conspiring to murder her husband or sleeping with various members of her family, she’s not an example of a faithful wife and hereditary overlord by any measure. But maybe she’s not all bad…
Firstly, she protested Jaime’s decision to push Bran off the tower after he found the siblings engaged in the latest round of their incestuous affair during their visit to Winterfell. She pointed out that they could have intimidated the child – who didn’t understand what he’d seen anyway – into silence, rather than trying to kill him. This came all too late for Bran, but shows that Cersei isn’t quite a total monster.
Secondly, she was opposed to the execution of Ned Stark, and advocated that he be sent to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch rather than chopping off his head and throwing the kingdom into further chaos. She wasn’t pleased when Joffrey had him killed anyway.
Margaery Tyrell was originally intended to marry Robert
You can barely turn a corner in Westeros without tripping over the corpse of a king that Queen Margaery has been married to. In her short life she has already tied the knot with Renly, Joffrey and Tommen, but originally another Baratheon was on her radar.
Renly and his secret boyfriend, Margaery’s brother Loras, initially planned to convince Robert to ditch Cersei and marry the much younger Margaery. Renly was disappointed to learn that, contrary to rumour, Margaery didn’t look much like Robert’s one true love, Lyanna Stark, but seemed willing to push ahead with the scheme anyway.
Presumably, they hoped to control the king and the kingdom through his new wife, but unfortunately Robert kicked the bucket before Margaery had a chance to exercise her legendary monarch-wooing skills on him.
Tyrion made it possible for Bran to ride again
Poor Tyrion. While Littlefinger was busy pointing the finger of blame for the attempt on Bran’s life at the youngest Lannister sibling, he was actually trying to help the boy.
After his visit to the Wall, Tyrion stopped in at Winterfell, where Bran had finally emerged from his coma. Though he has some harsh words for the young Stark about the life he would face now that he could no longer walk, he also shared the designs for a special saddle that would allow Bran to ride a horse again. Catelyn would blush if she knew.
Daenerys is 13 years old at the beginning of the series
Emilia Clarke was in her mid-20s when the Game Of Thrones TV series began in 2011, but lest we forget, Daenerys Targaryen was a lot younger at the opening of Martin’s epic. 13 years old, to be precise.
A Game Of Thrones also begins with her engagement to Khal Drogo, shortly followed by her marriage, pregnancy, miscarriage and the death of pretty much everyone close to her. With her youth in mind, we might be more willing to forgive some of her bad decision making as the story progresses…
Sansa betrayed her family to Cersei
One of the characters who goes through the most changes as A Song Of Ice And Fire unwinds is undoubtedly Sansa Stark, who develops from a naïve young girl enchanted by stories of chivalry and romance to a canny political operator who has seen a lot for someone so young.
That early innocence leaves her convinced that she is going to marry Prince Joffrey, and that her best option isn’t to run a mile at the prospect of sharing her life with the little tyrant in training. So, when she discovers that her father is planning to sneak her and her sister Arya out of King’s Landing after Robert’s death, she runs to tell Cersei.
Bad move. This exposes Ned’s desperate plans to his enemies, contributing to his capture and execution, and Sansa’s imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Lannisters. Maybe romance really is dead.
Bronn was originally allied to Catelyn Stark
The wily mercenary Bronn – later Lord Stokeworth – is best known for his alliance with the Lannisters, fighting alongside Tyrion and, later, Jaime, all the while quietly using them to orchestrate his rise from humble sellsword to nobleman. He even saved Tyrion’s life in a trial by combat after he was imprisoned in the Eyrie and accused (wrongfully) of various dastardly deeds.
But he actually started out in the pay of the Lannisters’ sworn enemies, the Starks. He was one of the men who volunteered to help Catelyn arrest Tyrion when she encountered Tywin’s least-favourite son at the inn at the crossroads – although his intentions were motivated less by altruism and more by the potential to profit from the adventure. We would expect nothing less from Bronn.
Tyrion recruited his own private army
The first book in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series kicks off some major changes in Tyrion Lannister’s life, including his first experience of battle when Vale clansmen attacked Catelyn Stark’s retinue while she was taking him to the Eyrie to stand trial.
In typical Tyrion fashion, he managed to turn things around, and after being released from the Eyrie and encountering the clansmen again, offered them weapons and wealth if they would fight for him instead of killing him. Tyrion later led his little army in the battle on the Green Fork, helping to defeat Roose Bolton’s northmen.
Jon started out as Castle Black’s resident bully
We’re inclined to think of Jon Snow as the series’ noble hero, firmly sticking to his principles and fighting to help vulnerable people whatever the cost. So it’s surprising to recall that he wasn’t always such a great guy. Early on in his time in the Night’s Watch, when he complained to Donal Noye that his fellow recruits were horrible to him, the blacksmith pointed out that Jon was a bully who strutted around as though he were better than everybody else.
Fortunately, the news that Bran had awoken from his coma arrived soon afterwards. In a good mood for once, Jon apologised to his fellows and promised to teach them some sword tricks. The newfound respect of his peers was undoubtedly his first step on the way to becoming Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (though the less said about where we left him at the end of A Dance With Dragons the better).
Sansa’s direwolf was killed because of Arya’s
The direwolf pups given to Ned Stark’s children at the beginning of A Game Of Thrones have been almost as unlucky as their human counterparts. Arya’s Nymeria was sent off into the wild, and Grey Wind was murdered and mutilated with Robb at the Red Wedding.
And then there’s Lady, who met an unhappy end in the first book. After Joffrey attacked Arya with a sword and Nymeria leaped in to defend her mistress, the Lannisters were out for blood. But as Arya’s wolf had been driven away, Cersei demands that Sansa’s pet be killed in Nymeria’s place – and was narrowly prevented from turning Lady’s pelt into clothing. You could point the finger of blame at Arya if you want, although, as with most things, it was really Joffrey’s fault.