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14 things you need to know to make sense of Game of Thrones

A Song of Catch Ups and Short Cuts.

That's Daenerys and Jon Snow. Messing.
That's Daenerys and Jon Snow. Messing.

SEASON FOUR OF Game Of Thrones is almost upon us. The first episode will go out simultaneously on HBO and Sky Atlantic tonight at 2am Irish time.

Maybe you’ve been following like a hawk, drinking in each twist and turn and making sense of the dozens of main characters.

Or maybe you’ve been less invested, aware of the show, perhaps watching the odd episode, but ultimately a bit lost, like this lot.

Who is fighting who? How did your one manage to lose her dragons? What’s the Iron Throne? And why is Boromir from Lord of the Rings always telling you to brace yourself?

We’ve put together a cheat sheet of essentials which answers these questions, and might just set you up in time for season four. And remember this is not a resource for purists, it’s a last minute cramming session.

NOTE: There are unavoidable spoilers here. Nothing too in depth, but there are some notifications about key deaths and plot points. 

If you want to know nothing at all (just like Jon Snow) then don’t scroll past this Lannister height/evil graph.

lannister Source: Imgur

Ready? Let’s go.

So, who are these Lannisters and Starks?

Simply put, the Lannisters and the Starks are two families who hate each other’s guts.

The Starks hail from The North (more on that later) and have their castle at Winterfell. Their motto is ‘winter is coming’.

The Lannisters meanwhile hail from the south and have their castle at Casterly Rock. Their motto is ‘hear me roar’, although they’re also a big fan of ‘a Lannister always pays his debts’.

Over the three seasons of Game of Thrones so far, both families have been through a lot.

As we enter season four three main Stark characters have been killed, Ned, Catelyn and Robb:

starks Source: HBO

Meanwhile The Lannisters have desperately clung onto power after Cersei Lannister’s husband king Robert died (again, we’ll have more on this later):

lan Source: HBO

Of course, there are more families, houses and groups than just the Lannisters and Starks involved; the Baratheons, the Targaryens, the Greyjoys, the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings (or Free Folk).

Give or take a few, they’re all fighting for power, with the Lannisters and the Starks more or less at the centre of it all.

Why are they all fighting?

The majority of the action in Game of Thrones so far is focused on two continents, Westeros and Essos.

Everyone wants to be in control of Westeros, and that’s why they’re all fighting.

Westeros is loosely divided into The North, the bit Beyond The Wall, and the other bits to the south. Different families and houses have strongholds in different parts.

Beyond the Wall is separated from the rest of the continent by – surprise surprise – a wall, which is guarded by the Night’s Watch. There are terrible awful things Beyond the Wall.

Westeros Map Source: HBO

So there are three kingdoms then? Four?

Wrong, there are seven.

Of course there are seven. Go on.

Well actually, there are seven or nine, depending on which way you choose to look at it.

All of Westeros that lies to the south of the wall is divided into seven kingdoms/nine territories. For our purposes you don’t need to worry about them all.

pv6b8 Source: Imgur

The capital of the seven kingdoms is Kings Landing. Whoever sits on the Iron Throne which is situated at Kings Landing is in command of the seven kingdoms of Westeros.

The North (not to be confused with Beyond the Wall) is the largest of the seven kingdoms and is ruled by the Starks. The head of the Stark family is known as The King in the North. Robb Stark was the most recent King in the North… until the Red Wedding that is.

So who’s on the Iron Throne now?

As we enter season 4 Joffrey Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne.

You know him, this creep:

joffrey Source: HBO

His ‘father’ Robert Baratheon sat on the throne before him. However, Robert wasn’t Joffrey’s real father. Good old Joff is actually the product of incest between his mother Cersei (Robert’s widow) and her twin brother Jaime Lannister.

You better bet that there are loads of people who want Joffrey off the throne, not least Stannis Baratheon (Robert’s brother and rightful heir to the throne) and Daenerys Targaryen.

Daenerys TarWHATTIGAN?

Daenerys is the daughter of the guy who was king before Robert. Her father, Aerys, was killed by JaimeLannister, and she wants her throne back.

She owns a trio of dragons, given to her as a wedding present (her husband, the Dothraki horselord Khal Drogo is now dead). As the dragons grow in power she is able to use them to her advantage.

As we enter season 4 she’s trotting around Essos freeing slaves and amassing a huge army.

daenerys-stormborn-dragons Source: Showrenity

Hang on, so she’s the one who’s always looking for her dragons?

Yes, in season 2 Daenerys was tricked and her dragons were nearly taken away from her. She was fairly vocal about it, inspiring several memes and jokes.

where-are-my-dragons Source: Awesomegifs

where_are_my_dragons__by_myraalex-d53ht99

dragons

And why is she sometimes called Khaleesi?

That’s what her late husband used to call her. It means ‘my queen’ in Dothraki.

‘Winter is coming’. What does that even mean?

In between the struggles for power there’s this threat of winter hanging over everyone. 

This stems back to The Long Night a couple of thousand years ago, which was the longest, darkest and coldest winter Westeros had ever seen.

winteriscoming

The Long Night allowed creatures called The White Walkers to move down from most northerly part of the continent to kill most of the people of Westeros. It was only when winter abated that they were defeated,

Already in seasons two and three we’ve seen evidence of White Walkers, and trust us, you’d be worried about winter coming too.

Wha… what’s so scary about them?

They’re essentially zombies. And they look like this.

white_walkers_march_by_mizidora-d53beh3 Source: deviantART

Jon Snow. Where does he come into it?

Jon Snow is the bastard son of Ned Stark. We’re not entirely sure yet who his mother is, but it is said that Snow is The Song of Fire and Ice that the series of books is named for.

jon-snow-1024 Source: HBO

In season one Snow had taken on the noble task of becoming a member of the Nights Watch, which defends The Wall.

Since then he has been taken prisoner by a group of Wildlings/Free Folk who live Beyond The Wall. He manages to escape, but not before falling for Ygritte, one of the Wildlings and violating his Night’s Watch vow of chastity.

Why does Jon Snow “know nothing”

Ygritte told him so.

know

And an internet meme was born:

tumblr_n306sxQAPE1toc9lgo1_1280 Source: Tumblr

snow

What was blazes is the Red Wedding?

In the second last episode of season three, something awful happened.

Ned Stark’s widow Catelyn, her son Robb and Robb’s wife had travelled to Twins, the castle of Lord Walder Frey for a wedding.

Catelyn’s brother Edmure had agreed to marry Frey’s daughter to make up for Robb reneging on his promise to marry her. They wanted the Freys on their side you see.

It all goes belly up though and Robb, his wife, and Catelyn are all murdered. Brutal.

simply

So, who am I supposed to be rooting for?

There are so many characters that we haven’t even mentioned yet, and a lot of them are actually the ones you want to be on board with.

There’s Arya, the youngest daughter of the Starks. She’s plucky and has already gotten herself out of some tricky situations.

arya Source: HBO

Then there’s a real favourite, Tyrion Lannister. He’s the brother of Cersei and the uncle of that cretin Joffrey. He’s been married off to Arya’s sister Sansa, and is probably the cleverest of the bunch. Put it this way.. if anything happens to Tyrion we’re not watching any more.

Tyrion-Lannister Source: HBO

Jaime Lannister is Tyrion’s brother and the one who had it off with his sister Cersei. You don’t start out in season one with any fondness for him, especially when he pushes little Bran Stark out the window, paralysing him. However, throughout the series you gain inexplicable respect for him.

jamie-lannister-1024 Source: HBO

Bran Stark escaped his family home of Winterfell in season 2 and has more or less been on the move ever since. He witnessed Cersei and Jaime going at it and so his life was in danger from that point. Bran has some supernatural gifts which come in very handy at times of peril.

bran-stark-1024

So that’s it. Hopefully things are a bit clearer now. At the end of the day, all you really need to know is that Joffrey is the worst, Tyrion is the best, and you can trust nobody.

If you want a more in depth catch up, visit HBO’s extensive Game of Thrones site, or you can take a look at the Game of Thrones Wikia.

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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