It’s a problem faced by fans of any long-running fantasy franchise. From Middle-Earth to the Federation to a galaxy far, far away, these worlds are just so heavily populated with so many unique characters, keeping track of all of the names is a daunting task for anyone looking to get immersed in the world.
The lands of Westeros and beyond are no exception, and might even have it worse thanks to the extra layer of political intrigue behind it all. If you’re having trouble remembering who married, fathered and/or stabbed who, or exactly which member of the Frey family you’re talking about, then read on for a breakdown of the critical tips and available resources to help you out.
Tips for Remembering Characters
All In The Name
Despite Westeros and the far-away lands around it being a fantasy world, much inspiration has been taken from the real world and Europe in particular. Like Europe, certain names seem to have attachments to certain areas, and while these names do spread around, certain monikers are a dead giveaway to someone’s lineage.
This is crystal clear with the Targaryens from across the sea, thanks to their remarkable dedication to putting ‘ae’ in their names. Between Aegon, Rhaegar and Daenerys, and going back in history with House of the Dragon, it’s an easy pattern to spot. Similar are the Dothraki, who are based on the real-life Huns and use plenty of ‘q’s, ‘g’s and ‘o’s throughout their names; Drogo, Cohollo and Jhaqo are prime examples.
This tip works much better with the nations outside of Westeros than those inside, as those within are a lot more muddled. As a rule of thumb, characters from the northern regions, like the Starks, tend to have shorter, harsher-sounding names like Jon, Robb, and Edd. More southern characters like the Lannisters or Martells have softer, often Latin-sounding names such as Cersei, Oberyn, or Ellaria.
Learn Your Real History
Learning a fun fact about a historical figure is one of the best ways to remember them, such as learning that Henry VIII of England was so fat that it’s believed he killed his horse with his weight. While characters in Game of Thrones have their own distinct activities, it may surprise some to know that many of the series’ events are based on real historical events.
We already mentioned above how the Dothraki are almost an exact copy of the Hunnic hordes that ravaged Europe back in the day, but there are plenty of specific character parallels too. Mad King Aerys closely connects to France’s King Charles VI. The French king was known to have intense paranoia and would fly into rages seemingly out of nowhere, making rash and violent decisions as a ruler in the process. He was also eventually defeated in battle although made it out alive, with his heirs eventually winning the war.
Similarly, Joffrey Baratheon is a close match to Edward of Lancaster, a supposedly illicit child born of the then-current queen of England but not the king. He was an equally stroppy and petty teenager who meted out cruel and violent punishments, and who also didn’t make it out of being a teenager. In fact, the entire Stark and Lannister conflict is a replica of the real War of the Roses between York and Lancaster, which seems more obvious when you look at the names again. Stark and York have a very similar feeling when said out loud, while Lancaster and Lannister could easily be just the same name if said with a cold.
Resources You Can Use
Family Trees and Wikis
There are some resources that sit in the middle between the series’ guide and complete fan creations. They are usually well-researched and go into much greater detail than official sources do. On the one hand, you have sites like ExpressVPN that provide their customers with specialist guides on specific topics, like a full Targaryen family tree across both series for those fans who are currently bridging the gap between both series. On the other side, there are the wiki pages, which go into more detail than most people could absorb although can be a bit overwhelming, and be careful to get the right one. Both the series and the novels each have their own wiki, due to the stories diverging so dramatically.
The Official Resources
Luckily, the series’ creators know exactly how confusing their own works are, so there is a range of official guides out there that cover the key information. A good starting point is to use the official site and guide as it has the most easily accessible official information, however, it really should just be used as a starting point.
For a more detailed official guide on the world as a whole, The World of Fire & Ice is a much more detailed publication, going into much of the history of the series that the show doesn’t have space to depict. However, it also gives little information on the small details that can be hard to find.
The Fan Creations
Fan resources have to be taken with a huge grain of salt and, with the exception of large, semi-official projects like the Compendium, most shouldn’t be trusted for correct information without a lot of evidence and support behind them.
The big issue here is that fans may often either create their own characters entirely or add a lot of history and details to established characters who were never properly fleshed out. At that point, separating the official from the creations becomes tricky. As a rule, if a character only has one mention after searching, it’s probably not anything canon.
Between all of the above, finding all the connections you need and every detail to put things together yourself should be possible. You can make your own guide for reference while you’re at it.