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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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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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  • 5

    Balon Greyjoy Conducted A Rebellion

    Photo: HBO

    After all the upheaval of Robert's Rebellion, the seafaring Iron Islanders couldn't sit back and let the realm enjoy a little peace. Balon Greyjoy declared himself king and started attacking the mainland. The insurrection was smashed by Robert's forces, which is why his son, Theon, was raised as a hostage/ward of Winterfell.

    The Siege of Pyke that ended the rebellion is where Jorah Mormont earned his knighthood. It's also why Balon has so few heirs left. His brothers Aeron, Euron, and Victarion, however, were away from home.   

    Euron showed up and pulled a kingsmoot, supplanting his nephew and niece Yara and Theon. He's headed for a clash with Dany as his kin have aligned themselves with the Targaryen of many titles and would-be ruler of Westeros.  

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  • 6

    Robert Baratheon Had Multiple Bastards

    Photo: HBO

    If you've watched Season One of Game of Thrones, you know that Robert Baratheon loved sex. It didn't matter if he was married or unmarried, king or not king, Robert was an expert at making babies... especially bastards (exclusively, in fact). While the show focuses on one bastard, Gendry, and treats him like the last and only surviving Baratheon bastard, the books have a few more and they're not unimportant characters. Mya Stone is in charge of transportation in and out of the Aerie. Edric Storm is hidden in Essos but would make an excellent figurehead for an invasion of Westeros. 

    All the scenes in Game of Thrones where Gendry interacts with Stannis, Melisandre, and Davos are actually scenes that happened to Edric in the books.

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  • 7

    The Dance Of Dragons Was Danced

    Photo: HBO

    Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones (the first book in the ASoIAF series)King Viserys I Targaryen fathered children with two different queens. That's pretty much asking for civil war.

    His daughter and chosen heir, Rhaenyra, expected to be queen, but was opposed by his second wife, Alicent, and sexist precedents. This was mirrored by the later conflict between Cersei Lannister and Margaery Tyrell, except this conflict had armies and real live dragons.

    It was a near-fatal blow to the dragon population, and demonstrated how fragile and confusing the Targaryen bloodline could get. Several civil wars followed, as did the near-extinction of dragons.

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  • 8

    Essos Became An Important Continent

    Photo: HBO

    When you first get deep into Game of Thrones, you might feel like the entire story-world is comprised of Westeros, but Essos is actually the larger continent, with a less brutal climate and an older, more sophisticated culture. 

    It's nearly too much to summarize, but to very broadly break down the contrast in attitudes, Westeros is a lot like Camelot, with its knights, courts, and noble houses. Essos has more of a Conan the Barbarian situation going on, with its nomadic cultures, bustling slave trade, and a larger population spread over a much bigger surface area. 

    Not much is known about the Shadow Lands, the region beyond Asshai where Dany's dragon eggs came from. 


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