by Spencer Stevens
This coming Sunday, the TV series and cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones, based on the incomplete book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, comes to an end. Martin drew inspiration from real world history (mainly English history) to create his characters, places, and events. Here are a few books available at our library that reveal the reality behind the fantasy.
The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir – One of the show’s main plotlines, the tension and ultimate war between the Lannisters and the Starks, is inspired directly by the 30-year series of English civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. Two rival Houses, the Lancasters (represented by a red rose) and the Yorks (represented by a white rose), vied for control over the English throne. The events of this War influenced the power struggle between the Starks and Lannisters and the War of the Five Kings.
Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn – You’ve probably heard of Genghis Khan and the Mongols, the nomadic horse-riding people of the Eurasian Steppe who created the largest land empire in world history while instilling fear in anyone who fought against them. These fierce horse warriors likely inspired the Dothraki, the nomadic horse lords of the eastern continent of Essos. Khal Drogo’s character and personality draw from the exploits of Genghis Khan and his descendants.
The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris – Aegon the Conqueror is never shown onscreen, but everyone in Westeros knows his story. Three hundred years before the start of the show, Aegon, his Targeryen army, and his dragons came to Westeros from his homeland of Valyria and forced the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms to bend the knee. This conquest of multiple kingdoms by a foreigner is not unlike the invasion of William the Conqueror and the installation of Norman French rule over England in the 11th century.
Northmen: The Viking Saga, 793-1241 by John Haywood – The people of the Iron Islands, like Theon Greyjoy and his sister Yara (Asha in the books), are reminiscent of the seafaring Norsemen (Vikings) of Northern Europe. For centuries, the Viking fleets raided villages and eventually established settlements in modern-day England. The Ironborn in Game of Thrones are similar in their fierce, stubborn personalities and coastal raids.
Venice: A History of the Floating City by Joanne Marie Ferraro – The city of Braavos resembles the city of Venice in Italy at the height of its power as an independent maritime republic in the 7th-18th centuries. Braavos was built on a lagoon and has canals and bridges, like Venice. Braavos’ other features include a colossus, a large treasury, a dominant trade network, and mercenary armies, which further its similarities to a Mediterranean city-state like Venice.