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Game of Thrones Trivia: 10 Little-Known Facts About the Original Books and Show

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • August 30, 2022

House of the Dragon is HBO's new prequel to Game of Thrones. Based on George R. R. Martin's Fire & Blood, it is set a few hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones and tells the story of House Targaryen. In preparation to watch, we've been reading Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, rewatching HBO's hit GoT series, and combing the internet for information about all of the above. Along the way, we've learned a lot of interesting background info. Here are ten little-known facts we've uncovered.

1. An alternate pilot of GoT was shot, but never saw the light of day

Spotlight director Tom McCarthy was originally hired to direct the pilot for GoT, but his attempt was scrapped when it bombed with test audiences. This version of the pilot featured a cameo by Martin and different actresses playing Catelyn Stark (Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice!) and Daenerys Targaryen (Tamzin Merchant) A new director, Tim Van Patten, along with a few key cast changes (Michelle Fairley and Emilia Clarke), resulted in the fantastic opening episode that we all know and love.

2. The actor who played Joffrey is actually a very nice person.

Jack Gleeson was so convincing as the horrible Joffrey that GoT author Martin reportedly wrote him a letter that said, "Congratulations on your marvellous performance! Everybody hates you now!" Complete strangers have approached and harassed him on the street. In contrast to his character, Gleeson is generally described as warm and friendly. And he was generally well liked by his fellow cast members, including Sophie Turner, whose character, Sansa Stark, is routinely tormented by Joffrey.

3. Rewatching the GoT series, you may see some surprisingly familiar faces in minor characters.

Ted Lasso's Hannah Waddington was eight months pregnant when she auditioned for the role of Septa Unella, aka the "shame nun" who tormented Cersei after she was arrested and imprisoned by the High Sparrow. Some of the other well-known celebrities who made cameos in the show include:

4. The mottos of the different houses of Westeros echo a popular 1970s feminist anthem.

The references are a bit subtle and scattered, but it seems that Martin was inspired by the lyrics of Helen Reddy's 1972 hit, I Am Woman, when creating the mottos for the powerful clans vying for power in Westeros. The song's first line, "I am woman, hear me roar," becomes the Lannisters "Hear me roar." From the Martells,"Unbowed, unbent, unbroken" borrows from "You can bend but never break me" in verse two. And from verse three, "I am woman, watch me grow" gives way to the "Growing strong" of the Tyrells.

5. GoT has a few connections with Monty Python.

Part of the pilot for GoT was filmed in one of the castles used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Several seasons later, a Meereenese warrior taunts Daenerys in Low Valyrian. Those fluent in the language may have recognized comical lines from the film, including: "Your mother was a hamster" and "I blow my nose at you."

6. J. R. R. Tolkien's great-grandson appeared in the show.

Royd Tolkien's brief performance as a wildling in Season Five is probably the closest we'll get to a mashup of the two iconic fantasy franchises. Royd also appeared as a soldier in The Return of the King. He is the author of There's a Hole in My Bucket, a moving memoir about the untimely death of his brother, Mike.

7. Several notable musicians and bands appeared on the show.

Who knew that Westeros was such a happening music scene? Only the most eagle-eyed music fans may have spotted these high-profile performances. In Season Three, Gary Lightbody, the lead singer from Snow Patrol, turned up singing "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." Coldplay drummer Will Champion sat in as one of the musicians during the grisly Red Wedding. Icelandic band Sigur Ros performed in Season Four at Joffrey's wedding to Margaery.

8. And speaking of the Red Wedding, the storyline was based on actual history.

In the shocking Red Wedding, three main characters, Catelyn, Robb, and Talisa Stark, are ambushed and slaughtered, along with most of the Stark army. Though the storyline varies a bit from the books to the show, Martin has said that he based this scenario on two events from Scottish history.

At The Black Dinner in 1440, the 16-year-old Earl of Douglas and his younger brother were invited to dine with young King James II at Edinburgh Castle. Thought to be rivals for the crown the two boys were dragged outside and executed halfway through dinner.

During the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe, one clan sought shelter with another and then massacred them in their sleep. To learn more about Scotland's sometimes bloody history, try A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver.

9. Kit Harington showed up to his audition with a shiner.

The night before his audition for Jon Snow, Harington was at McDonald's grabbing a bite to eat with a woman he was seeing. Unable to find a free table, they asked to sit at a table occupied by another couple. After sitting, the man they joined began making rude comments to Harington's date. It was only after Harrington stood to challenge the man that he realized how tall his would-be opponent was. "I got battered," he said in an interview. But he added, "I think that man who punched me in the face may have helped me get the job, so if you're watching, thank you."

10. Sophie Turner adopted her character's direwolf.

Turner fell in love with Zunni, the Northern Inuit dog who played Lady, her pet direwolf on the series' first season. "Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one." When she learned that Zunni would be leaving the show after Lady's death, she convinced her parents to let her adopt the dog, who was in need of a home. That just goes to show you, a girl and her direwolf can't be parted.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts we learned in our research! It's been so much fun revisiting the show and books with our newfound knowledge and now we're so excited to embark on the new series. Hopefully this has fueled your GoT fire as well!

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