A beginner’s guide to Game of Thrones

26 March 2019

A beginner’s guide to Game of Thrones

***Update: The entire boxset of Game of Thrones S1 to S8 is now available to binge-watch on Showmax.***

This April, we’re going to see the beginning of the end of one of the greatest sagas in all of fantasy. Armies of the Seven Kingdoms will battle, the White Walkers will seek to blanket Westeros in an infinite blizzard, and treachery will consume anyone who dares to sit upon the Iron Throne.

Sound unfamiliar to you? Well, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you might have missed out on the hit adaptation that is Game of Thrones. Born of the George RR Martin books that detail a song of fire and ice, Game of Thrones is a masterpiece of storytelling and medieval warfare, all wrapped up in a tale of fantasy and regular backstabbing.

Brutal, intriguing and always exciting, there’s no time like the present to get caught up on the series that has redefined pop culture for so many years now. Here’s your chance to delve into the mythology with this handy dandy primer that’ll have you bending your knee to the genius series in no time! (Trust us – even if you’ve watched every episode, there are some insights that probably went way over your head the first time round.)

The land of Game of Thrones

The Known World. Home to beauty, mystery and dark horrors that wait for you beyond the vast wall that keeps their threat at bay… for now. Within The Known World lie two continents where the majority of Game of Thrones is set.

Essos is an eastern land inhabited by the nomadic warrior-tribe known as the Dothraki as well as the Unsullied, mighty warriors trained to fight beyond pain and treat it as an afterthought.

Warm and drenched in sunlight, Essos is a jewel of untamed beauty, separated from its more distant continental twin, the land of Westeros, by a stretch of water known as the Narrow Sea.

Unlike Essos, Westeros is inhabited by warring factions who make up the Seven Kingdoms, a collection of nations who only respect one authority (and barely, sometimes): The King or Queen who sits upon the Iron Throne.

The Iron Throne

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It’s the ultimate symbol of rule, and to sit upon the Iron Throne is to know the burden that comes with absolute power. Forged from a thousand blades of conquered enemies by King Aegon of House Targaryen, the throne is jagged metal and pain made manifest. Constructed in a manner that makes comfort an afterthought, no king or queen can ever sit easy upon it.

The game

A literal pain in the ass maybe, but anybody who’s anybody within the ruling noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms wants to sit on the Iron Throne and they’ll do anything to take that position. Anything. The titular Game of Thrones is a saga of deceit, treachery and literal backstabbing as the various houses of Westeros all scheme to take control of the throne and the authority it represents.

House Targaryen, in particular, are completely consumed by their drive to reclaim the throne after their monarch, Aerys II AKA The Mad King, was overthrown by Robert Baratheon. To that end, Viserys Targaryen sets in motion a chain of events that begins the saga of The Game of Thrones and involves a wide cast of characters from the numerous houses:

The Starks

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From Winterfell in the north of Westeros, the Starks are led by Ned Stark and his wife Lady Catelyn. The rest of the Stark family is made up of Ned’s heir Robb, bastard son Jon Snow, eldest daughter Sansa, tomboy Arya, the supernaturally-gifted Bran and young Rickon. Don’t get too attached to any of these characters. Some of them may not be long for this world.

The Lannisters

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A family of blue blood and heated infighting, the Lannisters are made up primarily of Jaime Lannister and his sister Cersei, who have an unusually close relationship. Cersei’s son Joffrey is a wickedly awful excuse for a human being, while their younger brother Tyrion may just be the sole redeeming Lannister but finds himself an exile within his own family due to his smaller physical presence.

Tywin Lannister rounds out the family, a patriarch with an agenda of his own and the indomitable will to see it through.

The Targaryens

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Exiled to Essos and plotting their revenge, House Targaryen consists of the aforementioned Viserys Targaryen and his sister Daenerys, who is married off to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki in a bid to form an alliance with the warrior-tribe.

While Viserys is as vile as he is ambitious, Daenerys’s role in the Game of Thrones is greater than she realises as she eventually becomes a figurehead for the Dothraki and the fabled Mother of Dragons as the story begins to heat up.

The Wall

Impossibly long and reaching into the very heavens itself, The Wall is a marvel of magic and engineering. Constructed from ice and brick, The Wall is a fortification that keeps bestial horrors at bay from the Seven Kingdoms and is guarded by the Night’s Watch. Once an organisation whose name was synonymous with honour and pride, the Night’s Watch is a shadow of its former self, understaffed and low on morale. A pity, because beyond the wall lies a threat greater than Wildlings…

The White Walkers

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The White Walkers, thought to be an ancient myth, may just be the greatest danger to ever face Westeros. Able to easily overpower a regular human and to freeze your face off thanks to the ice that runs through their veins, the White Walkers on their own are bad enough, but that’s not even half of the danger they represent.

By raising the dead and bending them to their will, the White Walkers are assembling a zombie army of brutes made up of the slaughtered Wildling tribes from beyond the wall, and they’re finally ready to march on Westeros after spending thousands of years in hibernation. Their goal? Nothing less than global extinction and an endless winter.

Speaking the language

While you won’t need a degree in linguistics to understand what everyone in Westeros is saying, it does help to have an idea of what some common phrases mean. Here’s a quick breakdown for you:

  • Winter is coming – It may have given birth to a thousand memes, but in a land whose various seasons are unfathomably long, the approaching winter season is no joke. It looks set to be a frigid age of snow and ice that’ll last for many years before spring finally arrives.
  • Long Night – The reason why Westeros is wary of winter, the original Long Night was an ice age that lasted for an entire generation and saw the first invasion of the White Walkers, before the dreaded nightmares were finally driven back into the dark.
  • Hand of the King – The right-hand man of the King who sits on the Iron Throne, the Hand of the King is an advisor and the only other individual allowed to sit upon the legendary symbol of power when the King is absent.
  • Warg – A rare gift that allows individuals to peer into the minds of beasts and form a connection so they can see what animals see. It’s a way for those with the gift to go anywhere, and everywhere, without physically moving a muscle.
  • Bend the knee – A pledge of allegiance, and the ultimate sign of fealty in Westeros.
  • Maester – Scholars of the land, walking encyclopaedias of knowledge whose insight is prized and valued.

And there you go! A brief but hopefully helpful guide to get you ready for a binge of Game of Thrones. There’s no time like the present to get caught up in the intrigue and the battles in the world of Westeros.

All seven seasons are available to stream on Showmax, with brand-new episodes of Season 8 landing every week at the same time as the DStv broadcast from 15 April.

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