Game of Thrones is one of the most popular television shows of all time. The HBO smash hit is based on A Song of Ice and Fire, a beloved fantasy series by author George R.R. Martin. While fans of the books and show alike are highly devoted to this fantastical drama, they are maybe even more passionate about one other thing: trivia.
Are you new to the phenomenon, or do you already consider yourself to be a Game of Thrones expert? In either case, we bet these facts about the show will give you at least one new surprise to share with your friends or — if your social group is anything like Westeros — your enemies.
1. In 2015, Game of Thrones won a total of 12 Emmy awards. This was, at the time, the most awarded single season of any TV show ever…until 2016 came around and the show took home a record-breaking 38 awards, making it the most awarded show of all time.
2. Before writing A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin had a very negative experience writing for TV. He wrote these books thinking that they would be impossible to turn into a TV series.
3. Executive producers originally promised that the show would contain no dreams or flashbacks. This promise didn’t last very long, as the character Bran dreams about a three-eyed raven as early as season one.
4. The primary war in the show is known as The War of Five Kings. A big history buff, George R.R. Martin was inspired by real events to create his own version. In the 15th century, two rivaling families in England fought for the throne in a conflict called the War of the Roses.
5. The TV show changed a few names from the books to avoid confusion. Yara Greyjoy is named Asha in the books, and Lysa Arryn’s son Robin was originally Robert. Writers altered the names because Asha sounded too much like Osha, while Robert could have been mistaken for Robert Baratheon.
6. When George R.R. Martin started writing these books, he took quite a bit of inspiration from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Martin, in turn, has now inspired a new generation of fantasy writers.
7. Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster was nearly 13 years older than his character Jojen Reed. The actor, who is most famous for his role in the romantic comedy Love Actually, was tapped to play the young Jojen Reed due to the simple fact that he looked rather young.
8. Daenerys Targaryen’s beautiful silver hair is achieved using wigs and makeup. The actress who plays the role (Emilia Clarke) is a natural brunette, and the show’s producers wanted to be sure they did not damage Clarke’s natural hair.
9. During the first six seasons of the show, 45 main characters died. In addition, nearly every episode is filled with death, even if it’s just a nameless foot soldier or peasant. There have only been two episodes of the Game of Thrones series where no one met their demise.
10. In the world of Westeros, Valaryian steel is a highly prized metal. To own a sword made of the stuff means that it is as strong and powerful as it is light to carry. While this type of steel is fictional, Martin based it on Damascus steel, which shares some of those properties.
11. Fans of the show have really come to love the dragons that are featured. How did the production team make them look so appealing? They modeled them after cats, bats, and even geese! Who knew that would be such a compelling combination?
12. Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays Daenerys Targaryen, was supposed to wear purple contact lenses to accurately portray her character’s violet colored eyes. Ultimately, they proved to be too uncomfortable and production decided to let her go without them.
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13. SPOILER ALERT: The show has killed off many characters who, in fact, are still alive and well (relatively speaking) in the books themselves. These characters include Stannis Baratheon, Hodor, Barristan Selmy, and Ramsay Bolton.
14. Actress Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, developed a close bond with the Northern Inuit dog who played her direwolf, Lady. Later on, when the show killed Lady off, Turner adopted her.
15. Producers hired linguist David J. Peterson to create a Dothraki language for the show. While only a handful of Dothraki words appear in Martin’s books, Peterson has written a full-language with thousands of words. There is even a dictionary available.
16. Game of Thrones is very expensive to make. A huge part of that expense comes from shooting in isolated areas that are hard to travel to, and many of these spots are hundreds of miles apart. The show has filmed in Ireland, Iceland, Croatia, Malta, and America.
17. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, shared that very often fans will approach her asking that she include their name in her infamous list of those she plans to kill. Some viewers can be a little intense, don’t you think?
18. You might notice that two of the show’s biggest stars, Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) and Jerome Flynn (Bronn), never appear on screen at the same time. That is because they dated and had a nasty breakup prior to being cast on the show. They avoid each other at all costs.
19. While the TV series Game of Thrones only began to air in 2011, the books have been around for a lot longer than that. In fact, the show began airing on the 15th anniversary of the first book, which has been thrilling readers since 1996.
20. While he has not approved of every single liberty the show has taken with his works, George R.R. Martin has said that the show improves on some characters from the books. In particular, he loves the work of Sibel Kekilli as Shae.
21. Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Jason Momoa as her husband Khal Drogo shared some raw and upsetting sex scenes on the show. Both Clarke and Momoa have vocalized how essential it was to communicate with each other before, during and after each scene.
22. George R.R. Martin is now in his 70s and has a reputation as a writer who takes his time. In the event that he passes before finishing the series, he has shared his planned ending with producers so that they can continue telling the story on his behalf.
23. Game of Thrones, in addition to being very popular on HBO, is also the most popular show… to download illegally! More than 15 million people have illegally downloaded the show to date. What show is in second place? The Walking Dead with 7 million hits.
24. The House of Lannister is often associated with the motto ‘A Lannister always pays his debts.’ However, the actual motto of the house is ‘Hear me roar.’ The unofficial motto hints at the notoriously sinister Lannisters’ penchant for exacting revenge.
25. Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Richard Madden (Rob Stark), and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) all appeared shirtless in the premiere of the show looking unusually muscular. All three later admitted to doing push-ups and lifting weights prior to the scene to appear even more in shape.
26. Game of Thrones has one of the highest budgets of any TV show. In fact, it costs about $10 million just to make one episode! The more extravagant episodes, usually ones with big battles, have the budget of modest-sized movies!
27. George R.R. Martin admitted a fan theory about the show is correct. The most popular one, ‘R+L = J,’ postulates that Jon Snow’s real parents are Lyana Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Now that the show has more or less confirmed it, this makes Jon a powerful contender for the throne.
28. In the books, King Renly Baratheon’s calls his knights ‘Rainbow Guards,’ a quiet nod to Renly’s homosexuality. This was changed in the series since there was nothing quiet about Renly’s sexual orientation as portrayed on the show.
29. Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, was approached by a stranger in a bar who said he looked just like Jon Snow. When Harrington explained his identity, the stranger did not believe him. He claimed that Kit, who stands at 5’8″, was too short!
30. Locked out of his home, Kit Harington broke his leg in 2012 trying to scale his apartment wall and get inside his apartment. The crew was forced to shoot around the injury, often hiring stand-ins to wear Jon Snow wigs for scenes shot at a distance.
31. There are a few characters in the show who are all rolled up to create one more major character on the show. One of the most notable composite characters is the prostitute Ros, who is based on the prostitutes Alayaya, Chataya, and Kyra, who also appear in the books.
32. All of the women featured on the show typically wear some sort of jewelry that represents their house’s sigil. For Cersei, this is a massive lion-headed collar. Similarly, it’s fairly common to see a Stark wearing something with a direwolf on it.
33. The map shown during the opening credits features places that will be important in any given episode. So don’t skip the credits! It’s a fun way to keep up with where the characters are headed, especially since many names are hard to catch in the dialogue.
34. Jason Momoa knew that he needed to make it clear to executives just how passionate he was about the role of Khal Drogo during auditions. So, how did he make a big first impression? He ripped off his shirt and did a Samoan haka dance for the casting director.
35. The primary religion in Westeros is the Faith of The Seven. You might be surprised to learn that this fictional form of worship is actually based on Catholicism. The big difference is that the show’s faith is polytheistic, meaning that characters pray to multiple gods.
36. Emilia Clarke refused to do any nude scenes after season one. However, she changed her mind once she read the script for an episode where she emerges naked and unscathed from a fire. ‘It was just a wonderful, strong moment I wanted to own, a really empowering, girl-power wow scene,’ she explained.
37. Game of Thrones features a hugely international cast. There are only two American actors, and the rest of the cast speaks in their natural accents. These little touches really enrich the world of Game of Thrones.
38. The Wall is a tremendously important location and set piece for the show. While the wall is known to be 700 feet tall, the real wall is only 17 feet tall! The special effects team usually uses CGI to make it appear taller.
39. When actress Emilia Clark first met the actor Jason Momoa, who played her onscreen husband, he apparently ran to her screaming “Wifey!” and tackled her to the ground. Talk about an introduction!
40. Much of season seven took part in Iceland, and the temperatures during filming sometimes dropped to 20 degrees below zero. To combat the frigid temperatures, actor Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund Giantsbane, ensured everyone had specialized warming gear.
41. Even though every character in the show is part of a vital storyline that unfolds throughout each season, Peter Dinklage, the actor who plays Tyrion Lannister, has appeared in more episodes than any other actor.
42. The most grueling scene to film for actress Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, was when she had to fight the character The Hound. She spent two whole months training just to build up the stamina she needed.
43. In 2012, one year after Game of Thrones debuted, nearly 160 girls from all over the United States were named “Khaleesi” after the character Daenerys Targaryen, which means “queen” in the Dothraki language.
44. The character Aemon Targaryen is completely blind in the series, which makes sense considering he’s over 100 years old. The actor who plays him in the show, Peter Vaughan, was actually partially blind when he was cast, which adds to the effect.
45. Fans had the chance to vote for the character they hated most, and Queen Cersei took the cake. Lena Headey, the actress who plays her, said sometimes she’ll be shunned or insulted in real life because of how much people hate the onscreen persona.
46. In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Game of Thrones set in Belfast, Ireland. She was given the opportunity to sit in the Iron Throne but declined because she isn’t supposed to take any throne that isn’t hers, even if it’s fictional.
47. Sansa Stark’s direwolf may have met an untimely demise at the end of season one, but in real life, actress Sophie Turner adopted the dog after filming was over. Of course, the dog wasn’t an actual direwolf; it was a Mahlek Northern Inuit pup.
48. With all the mind-boggling visual effects and the massive amount of background actors, it’s no secret Game of Thrones is expensive to make. The sixth season alone had a budget of over $100 million; that’s over $10 million per episode!
49. Because the budget is so large, literally everything about the show’s set design is a work of art. The dragon eggs from season one were so fancy that one of them was actually given to author George R. R. Martin as a wedding gift.
50. The onscreen relationship between Cersei and Tyrion Lannister is built on disdain and hatred. However, the actors who play the two characters are actually good friends off screen, and they often share apartments and meals together when their shooting schedules line up.
51. The massive actor who plays Cersei’s monster in the show was recast two different times throughout the run: after season one and season two. Icelandic professional strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson took over after that and he’s been the big guy ever since.
52. It’s hard to picture actor Iwan Rheon playing any other character besides the ultra-evil Ramsay Bolton, but when he first started auditioning he was actually in the running for Jon Snow’s character. But, Kit Harington eventually beat him out.
53. Charles Dance, the actor who plays Lord Tywin, felt so bad about his brutal onscreen treatment of Peter Dinklage, who plays his son Tyrion, that he would constantly apologize to him between takes.
54. It’s safe to say that King Joffrey may be one of the most detestable characters of all time. Jack Gleeson, the actor who portrays the loathsome king, said his inspiration came from Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator.
55. Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, and Rose Leslie, who plays the Ygritte, have the same off-screen chemistry as on-screen. The two fell in love on the set of the show and wed on June 23, 2018, in Scotland.
56. The production of the show is such a massive undertaking that it takes an entire year to film just one season. Season five alone was shot on 151 different sets across five countries, and there were 1,000 crew members and over 5,000 extras.
57. Actors Lena Headey and Jerome Flynn were involved romantically prior to being cast in the show, but things ended on terrible terms. It was so bad, in fact, that the actors refuse to be in the same scene together.
58. Throughout the show, most of the knights have a very specific knot tied into the front of their belts. Although it might look strange, many actual knights throughout history wore their belts this way to help fasten their leg armor.