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Key Events That Happened Before 'Game of Thrones' Even Started

Updated June 14, 2019 65.3k votes 7.7k voters 4.5m views30 items

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SPOILERS AHEAD!

Unless you've read A Song of Ice and Fire, you probably weren't totally sure what was going on all the time on Game of Thrones, or what in the Seven Hells some of the characters were talking about when discussing historical events. Even if you read the books very carefully, you could still find yourself reeling; Game of Thrones history is just that dense.

For example, did you know that Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark grew up together as wards of Jon Arryn? Do you know why Daenerys named one of her dragons Rhaegal? Do you know who broke up Tyrion's first marriage? And why does Littlefinger seem to hate everybody? All of these tidbits come from events that occurred before the show even starts!

Fear not! This list is here to quickly fill you in on the most important backstories - some recent, some going back 8,000 years - that inform the events of Game of Thrones. Some are very recent, while others go back 8,000 years.

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  • 1

    Azor Ahai Ended The Long Night Once Before

    Photo: HBO

    Ask any follower of R’hllor and you’ll get the lowdown on Azor Ahai. He was the hero that brought about the generation-spanning Long Night, occurring during the Age of Heroes around 8,000 years before Aegon’s Conquest. If you got Old Nan wound up, she’d tell you of the never-ending darkness where the cold killed kings in their castles and mothers killed their children to end their suffering as the Others rode upon their dead horses killing everyone in their frosty wake.   
     
    Wielding his sword Lightbringer (forged through the heart of his beloved wife Nissa Nissa), Azor Ahai lead brave men and women to fight the Others and drive them back to the Land of Always Winter.  A second coming of the Long Night is nigh, so this needs yet another Azor Ahai. Many speculate that the role will fall to Jon Snow with the help of his aunt Daenerys. Others speculate that the hero will be Dany. Aegon Targaryen thought HE was the guy. In any case, a happy ending is not guaranteed as the prophecy states that if the hero fails, the world ends. Womp womp.   
     
    This explains the obsession the followers of the Lord of Light have with finding the one true Azor Ahai. He or she is also known by other names in other cultures such as Yin Tar, Neferion, Eldric Shadowchaser, Hyrkoon the Hero, and Help! Come Save Me! A Wight Is Eating My Face! 

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  • 2

    The Children Of The Forest Created The White Walkers

    Photo: Courtesy of HBO

    The books are getting there, but Game of Thrones revealed that the Children created the White Walkers to fight the First Men by sacrificing a First Man at their ancient weirwood tree beyond what is now the Wall. They ran a dragonglass dagger into his heart and created an unstoppable monster. Well, sh*t.   
     
    Leaf and the Children turned to Bran for help to defeat the nuclear bomb of death they had created in their weirwood lab. He’s going to need all of the able-bodied heroes the world can provide because his rogue warging has already done some damage. The Night King was able to mark him. 

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  • 3

    Jorah Mormont Was Forced To Flee Westeros

    Photo: HBO

    House Mormont of Bear Island has a weird history, and since Ser Jorah has toughed out six seasons (so far), you're going to want to know more about it.

    Lord Jeor Mormont deserves a "#1 Dad" mug, because he left Bear Island to become Lord Commander of the Wall, which is a crappy, crappy job. He did it so his son Jorah could be the Lord of Bear Island. After winning some serious military and tournament acclaim, Jorah married above his station and found himself slaving to pay the bills. When caught, he fled Westeros.

    That's why we find him bouncing around Essos, leaving House Mormont in the hands of his Stannis-sympathizing Aunt Maege (aka the She-Bear). In the show, we learn that Maege is killed fighting for Robb Stark; her oldest daughter Dacey was killed at the Red Wedding. House Mormont rule falls to Maege's youngest daughter, 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont, who despite having lost so much to the Starks, remains loyal to them. She declares Jon Snow the King in the North

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  • 4

    Military Growth Became Incredibly Important

    Photo: HBO

    Whether you're in Essos or Westeros, rich or poor, noble or common, the best way to grab and maintain power is to have an army. But that means two very different things in Westeros and Essos.

    In Westeros, armies are constructed with fealty. The king and his high council rule over all the highest lords who rule over the smaller lords who rule over the itty-bitty lords who rule over their common folk. So depending on geography and history, everybody owes their allegiance up the command tree. In times of instability, people revert to the lord to whom they feel the deepest ties.

    In Essos, things are more economically motivated, but just as violent. You can buy an army, like the highly trained but genitally bereft Unsullied - that's top shelf. You can also rent an army. These are called the Free Companies. They're basically big gangs of unruly dudes with a taste for war who will join up with the highest bidder. Too cheap for that? Slavery is legal in many parts of Essos, so just enslave your populace and make them fight. Need a navy? Sign up some pirates and hope for the best. Then there are hedge knights and sellswords, which are pretty much nice names for "violent, unemployed, solo drifters." If you like high-risk investments, you can try to ally with the Dothraki horselords, a massive nomadic tribe that can conquer continents, but they are very difficult to control. 

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