Game of Thrones is easily one of the most popular franchises around today. Although most people are familiar with it through the show, the books that inspired it are worth a read (Or a listen to, Audiobooks are great).
Prolific author George R. R. Martin has become somewhat notorious for hiding sneaky references to some of his favourite pieces of culture in the massive novels. From Comic Books to Rock Bands, it's time to unpack some of the elusive references hidden between the saga's 4228 pages.
Beware, this article is dark and full of spoilers.
The most recent book in the Song of Ice and Fire saga has a character named Ser Patrek of King's Mountain.
This character, based on blogger Patrick St. Denis, was placed in the book after George R. R. Martin lost a bet to St. Denis about the year's Football season.
King's Mountain is named after St. Denis' hometown of Montreal, Quebec which translates to 'Royal Mountain' in English.
When Brienne was accompanying Renly Baratheon, many of his knights continually mocked her. The knights jokingly wagered that they could each marry her and she challenged them by saying that whomever bested her in combat would wed her.
Two of the knights that she fought were Harry Sawyer and Robin Potter. She beat both of them and left Harry with a conspicuous scar on his forehead.
Being the Godfather of modern fantasy writing, a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien is inevitable. But, unlike most of these references, the Lord of the Rings references are hardly subtle.
For example: Samwell Tarly is basically the same character as Samwise Gamgee. The loveable, rotund sidekick to our main hero that emotionally grounds them and helps them on their quest.
The Greyjoy Motto: "What is Dead May Never Die", as well as the Drowned God are both references to H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos
The Greyjoy sigil of a Kraken could also be a reference.
Other Sigils have referenced popular culture as well, including that of House Wyl of the Boneway. This northern Dorne house's sigil features a Black Adder biting a human heel.
This is a clear reference to the English show Blackadder, one of the breakout roles for Rowan Atkinson.
In the first novel, Catelyn Stark employs three men-at-arms from House Bracken to help her escort Tyrion to the Veil. Those men-at-arms were named Kurleket, Lharys and Mohar. A not so subtle reference to the Three Stooges Curly Larry and Moe.
Three Lords of House Tully in Dance of Dragons are named Grover, Elmo and Kermit.
Need we say more?
Belchio of Volantis was revered for his undefeated victories until he was torn limb from limb by giants.
While his real life counterpart isn't as gruesome, this is a reference to Bill Belichick who was the coach of the New England Patriots. His team was undefeated for the majority of a season before being defeated by the New York Giants, Martin's favourite team.
While The Song of Ice and Fire may seem like a very serious adult epic, it's clear that Martin is a big fan of comic books from his childhood.
Throughout the series, a number of unnamed houses have their sigils described eerily similar to Comic characters. Blue Beetle, Black Hood and The Green Arrow all make appearances as House Sigils.
Howland Reed's castle, Greywater Watch, is allegedly able to move throughout the swamps. This is a pretty obvious reference to Howl's Moving Castle which, although more famous as the 2004 movie, is a 1986 fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones.
"As useless as nipples on a breastplate" is a common phrase uttered throughout the books. As an established Comic Book fan, Martin clearly uses this as a way to make jabs at the much maligned costume design in 1997's Batman and Robin.
Tormund Giantsbane's origin is an obvious reference to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, with an important part of his story coming from that time that he cut open a Giant and slept inside it. Similar to how Luke survived the cold on Hoth. His remark "the stink near did for me." is similar to Han's "I thought they smelled bad on the outside".
More Tolkien! Kahl Drogo's name is a reference to Frodo's father, Drogo Baggins. (This was very confusing when I thought Bilbo was his father.)
Also, Tyrion is often armed with an axe. Similar to Gimli from
Game of Thrones Lord of the Rings.
Freyr is the Norse God of fertility, who is seemingly referenced in the name of notorious house of Walder Frey. House Frey is famous for its sheer size in comparison to other houses which is mostly made up of Walder Frey's own descendants. The parallel is hard to miss.
After Daenerys frees the Unsullied from Astapor, the city employs a replacement force. This new army is much less formidable and is said to 'Run when you fart in their general direction.'
This is a pretty obvious reference to the iconic French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The singer Marillion, whose tongue was removed on the King's orders, could be a reference to the British Prog Rock band of the same name.
Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper who died at the hands of The Mountain, seems to bear a very close resemblance to Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Oberyn's final words even echo Montoya's iconic line: "My Name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."
Rugen the undergaoler is another apparent reference to The Princess Bride, which features the villain Count Rugen.
One more Tolkien reference! This time it's not a reference to Lord of the Rings.
It's a reference to the Hobbit! HA!
The island and castle Oakenshield are clearly a reference to Thorin Oakenshield from Hobbit fame.
Durran Durrandon was a King near Storm's End who appears in the History Books of Westeros. His name sounds similar to a certain 80s band...
It would be so much cooler if that house's sigil was a wolf.
George R. R. Martin is a MASSIVE fan of the Grateful Dead and like any good fan, his writing is packed with references to their songs.
Just a few examples of songs that have appeared in the Song of Ice and Fire series are: Darkstar, Mountains of the Moon, and the Cassidy.
Martin is also not above referencing his own works. While most people may only be familiar with Game of Thrones, his earlier novels pop up now and then throughout the series.
Bakkalon, the Pale Child is mentioned as a God to some far-off people in Essos, but the name was a main character in Martin's And Seven Times Never Kill Man.
The Fever River is a reference to his own novel Fevre Dream.
Lord Baelor Blacktyde also captures a ship by the name of Nightflyer, which was an award-winning novella by Martin.
Finally, a reference to Moby Dick to send us home. No, we haven't encountered any White Wales (I don't think) in the books. The reference regards the character Patchface, Stannis Baratheon's fool and friend of his daughter Shireen (RIP).
Patchface behaves similarly to Pyp, a boy from Moby Dick who is left at sea and driven mad. Little pearls of wisdom can be heard in his incoherent ramblings, much like the fool of Dragonstone.