Game Of Thrones is a show about horrible things happening to good people (and sometimes also their dogs). But here's the thing: Even at its throat-gushing, skin-flaying, so-much-raping worst, Game Of Thrones can't hold a candle to the true events it borrows from. Because what's actually dark and full of terrors is the average history book. As evidenced by ...
5The Red Wedding Really Happened (Twice)
This whole article is going to be full of spoilers for both Game Of Thrones and people who haven't yet taken History 101. The third season climaxes with the infamous Red Wedding (aka HBO's Sudden Casting Budget Reduction): Robb and Catelyn Stark journey to the Twins for the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. This marriage is a bit of a sore point for the Freys, as Edmure is a human participation ribbon being awarded to Roslin after Robb reneged on his promise to marry her. As payback for this insult, host Walder Frey violates the sacred tradition of guest right and murders the Starks under his own roof to the catchy tune of "The Rains of Castamere," which can apparently be played on the strings of crossbows.
Not that it would be especially zippy no matter what you played it on.
Two historical events were fodder for the Red Wedding. The first took place in 15th-Century Scotland, when two opposing factions sought to control the not-yet-of-age King James II. In 1440, William Crichton and Alexander Livingston invited the rival Douglas family to Edinburgh Castle for dinner and, as described by author George R. R. Martin, "at the end of the feast, [the hosts] started pounding on a single drum. They brought out a covered plate and put it in front of the Earl [of Douglas] and revealed it was the head of a black boar -- the symbol of death. And as soon as he saw it, he knew what it meant. They dragged them out and put them to death in the courtyard." The incident became known as "The Black Dinner," and while Martin has it mostly right, most historians agree that it was a bull's head, not a boar's. Shh, nobody tell Martin -- we can't risk him disappearing down a Wikipedia hole when he should be writing.
Via Entertainment Weekly
"Shit, it is was a bull. Well, looks like I'll need to rewrite book three."
The second inspiration for the Red Wedding was Scotland's 1692 Glencoe Massacre. Soldiers from Clan Campbell sought shelter from a blizzard, and, honoring the code of hospitality, the MacDonalds took them in. In this case, it was the guests -- not the hosts -- who broke bad. The Campbell soldiers slaughtered the MacDonalds as they slept, killing 38 and forcing the others -- mostly women and children -- out into the blizzard to freeze to death. As Martin put it, "No matter how much I make up, there's stuff in history that's just as bad, or worse."
Yeah, seriously. Stupid history keeps killing off our favorite characters.
4At Least The Mountain Kept It Above The Belt
In the show's fourth season, Tyrion Lannister stands accused of poisoning his nephew, King Joffrey -- an act which inexplicably has him facing the death penalty rather than being awarded a largish cake. Realizing that he won't get a fair shake in court, Tyrion demands trial by combat and enlists Oberyn Martell (the "Red Viper" of Dorne) to act as his champion against Gregor Clegane (the "Mountain"). In the ensuing one-on-one battle, Oberyn easily brings Clegane down and begins taunting him while standing, in retrospect, way too close. In what is objectively the grossest scene in Game Of Thrones, the only-mostly-dead Mountain rallies his strength to grab the Viper's foot, topple him to the ground, punch his teeth out, and then use his head like a watermelon in a Gallagher routine.
Somehow, the lesson "Never underestimate an eight-foot-tall man" didn't make it into knight school.
But hey, at least the Mountain left Oberyn's balls alone. That's more than can be said for poor Guy of Steenvoorde, who died during a similar trial by combat in Belgium way back in the year of our lord 1127. Guy stood accused of being one of the conspirators in the murder of Charles, Count of Flanders. Guy submitted to single combat against Herman the Iron -- which, incidentally, is what we just renamed our cat. Much like Oberyn, the fight began in Guy's favor. Being equally matched swordsmen, the two resorted to a full-on armored WWE grudge match which saw Guy sitting atop Herman, bashing his face in with his iron gauntlets. Oh, but Herman thrived on face punches: He reached under Guy's mail coat, locked onto his balls, and with his free hand, threw Guy across the arena, "breaking open all the lower parts of his body." The newly neutered Guy screeched that "he was defeated and was going to die," which may very well go down as history's most monumental understatement.