George RR Martin – The Author

Born on the 20th of September 1948 in Bayonne, New Jersey, George R.R. Martinis an American author best known for his fantasy, horror and science fiction novels. Recently, he has been named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2011, primarily for his epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire. Often compared to another great literary giant, J.R.R. Tolkien, Martin has become the modern master of weaving fantastic tales with strong, distinct, and memorable characters that are sure to become literary classics.


George R.R. Martin came from a working class American family. His father was a longshoreman in New Jersey and they lived near the docks in Bayonne. His early education was from a Marist High School where according to him, he first developed his interest and eventual love for the literary genre he is now famous for. He started his award winning career early as he was only in his teens when he won the Alley Award for his work Powerman vs. The Blue Barrier. He then proceeded to obtain his Bachelor’s degree and eventual Master’s degree from Northwestern University graduating summa cum laude in 1970 and 1971, respectively.

In the 70s, George R.R. Martin began to write more science fiction material which eventually got him nominated for a Hugo and Nebula award with his work With Morning Comes Mistfall. Although he was not fortunate enough to win that year, it proved to be the start of his glorious writing career. In the 1980s, Martin started to write for television, participating in such projects as the remake of the Twilight Zone and cult classics such as the Beauty and the Beast series starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Pearlman.

In 1991, George R.R. Martin went back to writing novels. It was during this time that he would create what is to date his most celebrated work, A Song of Ice and Fire. This saga, which was supposedly inspired by Wars of the Roses and Ivanhoe, chronicles the politics and power struggles by the prominent families in a fictional land called Westeros. Beautiful characterization, coupled with simultaneous plot developments, give this series a unique and exciting pace that leave its readers in breathless anticipation on what is to happen next.

A Song of Ice and Fire is intended to be a seven part series, of which only five is currently available. A Game of Thrones, the first book in the saga, has just recently been turned into a mini series by HBO with HBO Productions buying the rights to all of the seven books.  The fifth and latest of the books to be published, A Dance with Dragons, has just recently been released last July 12, 2011. This highly anticipated installment comes as a blessing for the fans of the series who have eagerly waited for the next chapter in the saga starring the characters they have come to love as the book prior to this, A Feast for Crows, was still published way back in 2005.


The North and The Northmen

The Island Kingdom of Westeros is divided into many fiefdoms controlled by many different houses, great and small. At the very top level of the hierarchy is “The North” and “The South” divided by The Neck, which is also a fief of The North. The overlords of The North are House Stark who rule from Winterfell and oversee all the lands between Brandon’s Gift, The New Gift (100 miles of sovereign lands granted to The Night’s Watch to help maintain The Wall) and The Neck.

The North covers an area almost as large as the remaining Six Kingdoms combined. However the majority of this vast kingdom is sparsely populated with large tracts of wilderness, windswept plains, hills and snow capped mountains covered with pines.

To the south there are the largely impassable bogs and marshes of the Neck. The only viable way through the Neck is the causeway controlled by Moat Cailin, a mighty fortress which stands mostly in ruins now but is still of vital strategic importance as a choke point to hold off invasion from the south.


There are several islands off the north west coast of the peninsular. Bear Island being the only one of any political importance, even then only really brought to attention through the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Lord Mormont, referred to as “The Old Bear” and his exile son, Jorah Mormont who attends Daenerys Targaryen as her most trusted adviser.

Off the western coast of the peninsular are the Islands of Skane, Skagos to the north and the Three Sisters to the south in the bay called “The Bite”

The Principle Houses of The North

House Stark

The principle holdings of House Stark are Winterfell, Moat Calin and Skane Island.  They have the largest holdings in the north and dominion over all over lords of the north.  Whilst part of the Seven Kingdoms the Lord of Winterfell and the Starks is named Warden of The North.  After the death of King Robert Baratheon the lords of the north declared themselves an independent kingdom and Robb Stark the “King Of The North”

The words or motto of House Stark are “Winter Is Coming”   and the current ruling Lord of house Stark is Robb Stark son of Ned Stark.  Below are the sworn banner men of House Stark.



House Umber

Holdings: Last Hearth

House Words: “Ours is the Fury”

Ruling Lord: Jon Umber “The GreatJon”


House Karstark

Holdings: Karhold

House Words: “The Sun of Winter”

Ruling Lord: Harrion Karstark


House Bolton

Holdings: The Dreadfort

House Words: “Our Blades Are Sharp”

Ruling Lord: Roose Bolton


House Glover

Holdings: Deepwood Motte

House Words: “Power in Wrath”

Ruling Lord: Robert Glover


House Cerwyn

Holdings: Castle Cerwin

House Words: “Honed and Ready”

Ruling Lord: Jonella Cerwyn


House Mormont

Holdings: Bear Island

House Words: “Here We Stand”

Ruling Lord: Maege Mormont, later on Lyanna Mormont


House Reed

Holdings: Greywater Watch

House Words: Unknown

Ruling Lord: Howland Reed


House Hornwood

Holdings: Hornwood

House Words: “Righteous in Wrath”

Ruling Lord: Halys Hornwood


House Tallhart

Holdings: Torrhen’s Square

House Words: “Proud and Free”

Ruling Lord: Brandon Tallhart


House Flint Of Flint’s Finger

Holdings: Flint’s Finger

House Words: Unknown

Ruling Lord: Lord Flint


House Flint Of Widow’s Watch

Holdings: Widow’s Watch

House Words: “Ever Vigilant”

Ruling Lord: Lady Lyessa Flint


House Manderly

Holdings: White Harbor

House Words: Uknown

Ruling Lord: Wyman Manderly


House Dustin

Holdings: Barrowtown

House Words: Unknown

Ruling Lord: Lady Barbrey Dustin


People from the north are often referred to as “Northmen” by people from the southern kingdoms and even by themselves. They are seen by all the kingdoms to be a hard and resilient race due to their more extreme climate and militant lifestyles.

The armies of the north muster less fighting men than the armies of the south but the northmen are tried and tested warriors used to fighting off raiding parties of wildings from north of the wall. Whereas many of the southern armies have never seen battle outside the jousting arena.

The climate of the north is as in our world much harsher and much more strongly affected by the long Westeros winters. The people of the north remember the winters with respect and dread. It is not unusual for famine and death on a massive scale in the north during a winter due to the extreme cold and the lack of being able to raise crops for years on end.

The Old Gods hold more sway in the north, with most of the major holdings in the north still keeping their weir wood groves and the ancestral trees with the faces of the old gods. The Seven are worshipped but often alongside the Old Gods.


Although when a new brother joins the Night’s Watch all ties with former houses and the kingdoms political games in general are supposed to be forgotten the night’s watch has close ties with the north.

Quite possibly this is because the people of the north treat the Night’s Watch with respect and take the job they do seriously, whilst the people from the south tend to hold the ideals of the black brothers as antiquated and even foolish.

The southerners are far enough removed from the wildings to be able to dismiss them as savages and no threat. Any brother from the south tend to be forced into service from the dungeons of King’s Landing or have taken “the black” to avoid the hangman’s noose. Many of the men from the north are in the same situation, but there is enough respect for the black brothers that many Northmen on the wall are sworn as volunteers.



The Westerlands of Westeros

Westeros is a continent which holds its name due to being the most western continent, as opposed to Essos and Sothoryos. Most of the events in A Song of Ice and Fire take place in Westeros, partly in Essos, and Sothoryos is the unexplored continent of the world in Song of Ice and Fire. As you can see, sides of the world have important role when naming the continents – West for Westeros, East for Essos, and South for Sothoryos.

If you are wondering why all of this is important – well, Westerlands are, believe it or not, the western part of the continent of Westeros.

Not much happens in Westerlands in A Song of Ice and Fire, but they do have an important role in the overall story. One of the major houses that play an important role in the whole story, House Lannister, rules the Westerlands. There are plenty of smaller houses that swear their allegiance to the House Lannister, but more will be said of those later on.


Geography of Westerlands


Westerlands is a seaside region of Westeros. It is surrounded by Riverlands on the eastern side and The Reach to the southern side. Its geography is mostly marked with mountains and hills which make the area not as populated as other parts of the Westeros.

This, however, is not a drawback, since hills and mountains make for a great natural defense of the area. With only one major pass through the mountains in the east of the region, the way of the armies that might march to Westerlands is easily predictable.

When it comes to water borders, Westerlands share one with Iron Islands where House Greyjoy rules. Greyjoys are known to be exceptionally well accustomed to the sea fight, so Lannisters have a fleet that is ready to face them in case of attacks. The fleet has been momentarily destroyed during the short Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion.

The hills and mountains of Westerlands, a reasonably small region of Westeros, are rich with silver and gold. Mining for these precious metals have made the region of Westerlands the richest one in Westeros. It’s not uncommon to hear (read) the saying: “for all the Gold in Casterly Rock.”

Even though Lannisport is the principal city of the Westerlands, the real power lies at Casterly Rock, which is the seat of House Lannister.



The Principle Houses of Westerlands


House Lannister

House Lannister is the principle house of the Westerlands, with many sworn major and minor bannermen houses. Their seat is the Casterly Rock, a fortress carved out of a great stone hill. They also rule the Lannisport, a port city which is the main city of the region of Westerlands.

The ruling lord of Casterly Rock is Tywin Lannister, a skilled politician & general. He has great influence throughout most of the story – he was a Hand of the king Aerys II, the Mad King, and later a Hand of the king Joffrey Baratheon, his grandson.

Tywin Lannister’s children have high positions as well. Cersei Lannister was wed to King Robert Baratheon. Jaime Lannister is a member of the Kingsguard, elite unit created to protect the king at all times. Tyrion Lannister, in spite of often being mocked for being a dwarf, is a clever man who stood for his father as a Hand of the king for a while.
The House of Lannister is the richest family in the Kingdom of Westeros, which gives them great power. Even though the Westerlands are not much populated, the money allows Lannisters to pay for a great number of soldiers if necessary.

The motto of the House Lannister is “Hear me Roar”, and their sigil is a golden lion on a crimson background.



Other noble houses of Westerlands:


House Banefort

Holdings: Banefort

House words: “”

Ruling lord: Quenten Banefort


House Bettley

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: the only mentioned member of the house is Beardless Jon Bettley


House Brax

Holdings: Hornvale

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Andros Brax


House Broom

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: only known member is a master-at-arms at Casterly Rock Ser Benedict Broom


House Crakehall

Holdings: Crakehall

House words: “None So Fierce”

Ruling lord: Roland Crakehall


House Estren

Holdings: Wyndhall

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Regeneard Estren


House Farman

Holdings: Faircastle

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Sebastian Farman


House Jast

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Antario Jast


House Kenning

Holdings: Kayce

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Terrence Kenning


House Lefford

Holdings: Golden Tooth

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Leo Lefford


House Lydden

Holdings: Deep Den

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Lewis Lydden


House Marbrand

Holdings: Ashemark

House words: “Burning Bright”

Ruling lord: Damon Marbrand


House Moreland

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Robin Moreland


House Payne

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Known members of the House Payne: Ser Ilyn Payne, the King’s Justice; Podric Payne, squire to Tyrion Lannister


House Peckledon

Holdings: unkown

House words: “Unflinching”

Ruling lord: unknown, but the known member of the family is Josmyn Peckledon, a squire to Jaime Lannister


House Plumm

Holdings: unknown

House words:”Come Try Me”

Ruling lord: Phillip Plumm


House Prester

Holdings: Feastfires

House words: “Tireless”

Ruling lord: Garrison Prester


House Sarsfield

Holdings: Sarsfield

House words: “True to the Mark”

Ruling lord: only known member of the House Sarsfield is Ser Melwyn Sarsfield


House Serrett

Holdings: Silverhill

House words: “I Have No Rival”

Ruling lord: unknown


House Spicer

Holdings: Castamere

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Rolph Spicer


House Stackspear

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: Selmond Stackspear


House Swyft

Holdings: Cornfield

House words: “Awake! Awake!”

Ruling lord: Harrys Swyft


House Westerling

Holdings: The Crag

House words: “Honor, Not Honors”

Ruling lord: Gawen Westerling


House Yarwyck

Holdings: unknown

House words: unknown

Ruling lord: only known member of the family is Othell Yarwyck, the 1st Builder of The Night’s Watch


Other noble houses that are mentioned throughout the books are Algood, Doggett, Drox, Falwell, Ferren, Foote, Garner, Hamell, Myatt, and Turnberry. These houses have no known holdings, words, or members.

House Lannister also has a number of landed knights, among which worth of mention are Ser Amory Lorch, brothers Ser Gregor Clegane “The Mountain” and Ser Sandor Clegane “The Hound”.


I hope you liked this overview. Which region of Westeros would you like me to cover next? Let me know in the comments.



The real-world locations of Thrones

Before I go deep into Game of Thrones world, let us start with something lighter: real-life locations in GoT.

SmarterTravel has a nice article about the real world locations used to film Game of Thrones, with quotes from David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and location manager Robert Boake. Journalist Joshua Roberts had a whole bunch of questions about the filming locations that were used for seasons one and two and guys over there were more than happy to answer them.

In the first season of Game of Thrones, the nomadic Dothraki horse riders gather at a city called Vaes Dothrak, which is marked by two gigantic bronze stallions whose hooves meet midair to form an arch above its windswept entryway. The HBO production team “used a place called Sandy Brae in the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland to stand in for Vaes Dothrak,” says Phil Bicking of the popular Game of Thrones website WinterIsComing.Net. Interestingly, the Mourne Mountains were once an inspiration for another famed fantasy epic, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Check out the full article for a good summary of the different locations used. Also worth checking out is Roberts’ interview with George R. R. Martin. Martin talks about what real world locations and events inspired him when writing A Song of Ice and Fire. He also drops some teases about, at the time, the upcoming books, so be wary of spoilers if you haven’t yet read all the books. Here is Martin’s description of wildfire, which featured prominently in season two:

“Wildfire is my magical version of Greek fire—to go back to the Constantinople reference. Wildfire is Greek fire times ten. It’s Greek fire but it’s worse than Greek fire, and it’s got a little magical element to it. It’s really nasty stuff, and it burns with green flames, which is a nice pyrotechnical effect. Not sure we’ll get that into the show, but I’ll look forward to seeing it. I hope they do. “