Game of Thrones: A Character Guide to the HBO Show Seasons 1-3
Game of Thrones is based upon the best selling series "A Song of Fire and Ice" by George R.R. Martin. There are many characters of many different houses and parts of the world that the author has created. It can be difficult to keep all the characters straight with who is who, who is related to who and who is allies with who. This guide is organized by season and house. Season 4 premiers April 6, 2014 and will be added as the season progresses.
George R. R. Martin's series is set in a fantasy world full of intrigue, romance, conspiracies and plenty of action. This series began to be published in 1996 and has become extremely popular. HBO decided to take this series and bring it to television. They have done a stellar job adapting the book to the screen, but regardless of whether you read the book or watch the show, there seems to be a never ending cast of characters that can be difficult of which to keep track. Each season, the world expands and characters are added into the plot.
When the series begins, Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne and rules over the Seven Kingdoms. At his side is his wife, Cersei and his son Joffrey of the House of Lannister. Robert became king when he overthrew the Targaryen rule and all but exterminated the Targaryen line. When this event occurred, the Seven Worlds not only lost a prominent royal family, but also all the dragons and magic of the Targaryens.
Baratheon's rule continues until he dies very early in the season. It is here the story truly begins. Robert's son, Joffrey, is crowned king in his stead. Many are not pleased with this outcome and oppose Joffrey's reign. The peace that had been thrown into an upheaval as all the prominent families begin vying for the thrown. Thus the Game of Thrones begins.
Players continue to emerge as the series progresses. Each is out for the benefit of their house and a lust for power. Motives vary,but ultimately Joffrey is an evil king that no one wishes to see on the Iron Thrown.
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The Starks are key players in the fight for the Iron Thrones. Their house symbol is a direwolf and they live at Winterfell in the North. Lord Eddard Stark is the lord in the North and lord of Winterfell. Winterfell has been in the Stark family for many generations and is very near the Wall and Castle Black which divides the Seven Kingdoms from the home of the Wildlings and dominion of the White Walkers. The Stark house saying is "Winter is coming."
Eddard (Ned) Stark
Eddard Stark, played by the fabulous Sean Bean, is one of the most pure hearts in the Seven Kingdoms. He only wishes for peace and to protect his family. He had three siblings, but only one still lives and is on the Watch at the Wall. He married Catherine Tully when his brother, Brandon, was murdered. Brandon was betrothed to Catherine, but upon his death, as tradition dictated, is was Eddard's duty to step in and wed his brother's intended. Though this was not his first choice, he comes to love Catherine and relies on her a great deal for wisdom and strength.
In Season One, Robert Baratheon visits and appoints Ned as the Hand of the King. This position is second only to the king, but is very stressful and full of spies and political games. Ned wants no part of this world, but has received word that the prior Hand Jon Arryn may have been murdered by the queen. Because Arryn was Catherine's brother in law, Ned agrees to travel to King's Landing to attempt to uncover the truth.
Upon his arrival he is faced with many difficult truths and longs for the halls of Winterfell.
Catelyn Stark (Tully)
Catelyn Stark was born Catelyn Tully, daughter of the lord of Riverrun. She was the eldest of three children and became betrothed to Brandon Stark. Upon his death, she wed Eddard Stark and became the mother of their five children. She refused to claim Jon Snow, Eddard's bastard child and caused issues between the family. She and Eddard also look after Theon Greyjoy, Eddard's ward.
Catelyn is key in the ruling of Winterfell and helping her eldest, Robb, keep Winterfell in Eddard's absence. She is extremely well respected by both Eddard and her father's allies and becomes an integral part of the coming war. Unlike some of the royal houses, she is very discreet in her inquiries and attempts to go unnoticed in her travels.
Eldest of Eddard and Catelyn's sons, Robb is left as lord of Winterfell upon his father's departure to King's Landing. He is only 14 in the series, but is portrayed in his early to mid 20s in the show. He takes his role as lord very seriously. Later he steps up and with his mother's help, becomes a key player in the bid for the Iron Throne. He is the owner of a direwolf that he named Grey Wind. and eventually forms an additional alliance by marrying a lord's daughter.
Jon Snow (Eddard's bastard)
Jon Snow grew up in the Stark household as Eddard's bastard. He never shakes this title no matter where he travels. He also is the proud owner of an albino direwolf named Ghost. Jon is the same age as Robb and has been trained in the same manner as Robb in combat. He makes the request to travel with his uncle, Benjen, to the Wall and become a member of the Night's Watch. This means taking an oath that he will be only loyal to the watch. He will never marry or even be in the presence of a female again and to desert is death. Jon is very close with Arya, his younger half sister and before he leaves, he presents her with a secret gift.
At the Wall, Jon is disliked by the training maester and is singled out often. When a new boy joins the Watch and is tormented upon his arrival, Jon steps in, befriends the boy and includes him in the brotherhood to which he swore an oath.
Eventually Jon will venture beyond the Wall and it is there that his story truly begins.
Sansa is the eldest girl in the Stark line. She is everything that a woman should be according to custom. She dreams of wedding a lord or prince and living a fine life in splendor. When her father is appointed Hand, he betroths her to Robert's son, Joffrey. Sansa could not be happier. She would wed a prince who would become a king.
When she arrives at King's Landing she is extremely taken with Joffrey. She creates a lie for Joffrey that ends up getting someone very dear to her killed by the queen and Joffrey. Still, she does not blame her beloved, she has only anger for the queen.
As her time at King's Landing continues, she is held as a hostage when the war for the throne begins. Eventually Joffry and the queen decide that Sansa is no longer a fitting bride for him. She is disgraced and alone, until the unthinkable occurs. She is forced to marry.
By this time, Sansa's eyes have been opened and she no longer sees King's Landing as she did. Her eyes have been opened to what it truly is and she is desperate for escape. All hope of returning to Winterfell comes crashing down when she becomes a wife.
Youngest of the Stark ladies, Arya is strong willed and anything but a lady. She longs to have training for war and for rule as her brothers were given. But all is for naught as it is attempted to turn her into an acceptable lady of the court. She makes a grave mistake and even the truth cannot save her from punishment.
Her father begins to realize that his daughter is not wanting to be a lady in the court or the lady of a house. He arranges 'dancing lessons' for Arya with a maester of the art. In truth, she is learning swordplay. When Jon departed, he secretly gave her her own sword that she named Needle.
Arya manages to escape King's Landing and continues on the run in the disguise of a boy. She meets very surprising people on her journey, one in particular that is a fierce enemy, but who saves her life several times.
Brandon (Bran) Stark
Bran in the novels is a feisty, adventurous seven year old. In the show he is more around the age of ten. Bran loves to spend his time climbing the walls and rooftops of Winterfell terrifying Catelyn to no end. When Eddard is appointed Hand of the King, he promises to let Bran accompany him to King's Landing and ride on his own horse. Bran is thrilled. He goes climbing one last time before he departs and sees something that no one was supposed to see. He is pushed and falls from his perch, fracturing his spine and legs. He remains in a coma for a long time, but has a vision which forces him awake. His direwolf, Summer, is very protective of her young maester.
When Robb finds himself drawn away from Winterfell, Bran is the lord of the manor. However, one day when Robb is gone, Bran is forced to flee.He lives on the run and continues to have strange visions and dreams that he cannot comprehend.
The youngest in the Stark line, Rickon is the proud owner of his own direwolf who he named Shaggydog. When Bran if forced to flee, Rickon flees with him. Bran insists on going north, but refuses to allow his brother to follow. He is taken to Castle Black in the hopes of finding Jon Snow.
Theon Greyjoy was taken by Eddard Stark and his raiding party during the last war as a final blow to his father. He feels that he has never fit in and longs for a home of which he knows nothing. When he does finally meet his father,he is not what Theon expected. He was cold and wanted nothing to do with Theon. His sister felt differently, but after a quarrel, Theon left and committed and unforgivable crime in his father's eyes. He blacks out and is taken to a room where he is tortured. He does not know by whom or why. When his sister receives this news, she decides that it is her duty to find and save her brother.
House Stark Song "Winter is Coming"
Often portrayed as the most evil of houses, the Lannisters are one of the oldest and most powerful houses in the realm. Their emblem is a golden lion; their motto "Hear Me Roar!" This motto is very true of the Lannister clan. They are the wealthiest family and boast many heroes in their lineage. They are in control at the beginning of season one as Cersei Lannister is the queen of the king.
At the head of the Lannisters is Tywin. He is as cunning as he is ruthless and will do anything to protect the honor of his family. However, he is not one to dirty his hands and his crimes cannot be traced back to him. When young Joffrey is crowned king, Tywin moves to King's Landing to become the Hand of the King to take control of his grandson. He knows that the choices being made by the king are suicide and will tear the Seven Kingdoms to dust. As the head of the house, Tywin wishes to protect his wealth, his family and his reputation from public disgrace. He showers his son Jaime with titles and recognition and even readily respects his daughter, the queen. For is other son, Tyrion, he has no love or patience. Tywin often states that he wishes he would have killed Tyrion at birth and the only reason is still lives is because he is a Lannister. Later in the series he is accused of truly heinous crimes, but as always no one can directly connect him.
Known as the 'Kingslayer' Jaime is the eldest son of Tywin, twin to Cersei and brother to Tyrion. He makes a grievous mistake that is seen by Bran Stark and Jaime punishes him by hurling him from the tower. Mid series, Jaime is captured by the Starks and kept as their prisoner. He becomes dirty, unkempt and nothing more than a beggar in rags. His pride is greatly wounded, but his outlook changes when Lady Stark receives news of her daughters. She commits treason for Jaime by releasing him into the charge of her personal female guard who is to take him back to the Lannisters in exchange for her daughters. The road Jaime travels is difficult and he and his guard take great pains not to be seen. Unfortunately, Jaime attempts an escape and both Jaime and the guard are captured by the rebellion from the North. They plan to take him directly back to the Starks. During this time, Jaime is mistreated and maimed by these men and his facade cracks. At the end of season three, he has transformed into a humble, thoughtful man who likely to become a key player in season four.
Cersei is queen of Robert Baratheon and her son Joffrey the heir to the Iron Throne. She is as devious and cunning as the rest of her line. She harbors a dark secret that has begun to spread rumors about her and Jaime, her twin. Should these rumors become fact, Cersei will be instantly put to death. She is anxious to have her son ascend to the throne to better protect her. She feels that he will listen to her and include her in his council, but she is sorely mistaken. She begins to see her son for what he is and begins to have many regrets. She does not get along with her younger brother, Tyrion and tries to trick their father into a deal that will destroy Tyrion. She succeeds, but she also ends up sinking herself into this plot and ruining her life.
A bit of an enigma, Tyrion is known as the 'Imp.' He is a dwarf and considered only half a man, but bears this title proudly. He never hesitates to speak, even if it means his life. He is accused by lady Stark of sending an assassin into her home due to the dagger the assassin carried. Tyrion, while innocent of these crimes, is put on trial by the Lady Lysa, the sister of Catherine Stark. Prior to his father's arrival, Tyrion tries his best to protect his nephew Joffrey. At a battle, he even fiercely ran into a mob of enemies, suffering a grievous wound. He claims to be a man that only cares for women and drink, but under it all he is a mystery. He is always scheming in one way or another, but it is never clear who's side he is on. In later seasons, he falls in love which shows his softer side. After Cersei saddles him with a wife through manipulating her father, his kindness does emerge.
Joffrey is an extremely arrogant character and possibly the most loathed character throughout the series. Upon his father's death, he is crowned and is the king of the Iron Throne. He is young and knows little of the ways of the world. He only cares for his own needs and wants. Joffrey is cruel and begins to slaughter those he deems 'against' him. It could be for any reason and he always needs to remind the court that he is the king which means he makes all the decisions. One of the worst choices in the series, Joffrey sets off a chain reaction that leads to an even more fierce war. He takes delight in torturing those around him physically, mentally and emotionally. He relishes the humiliation of others and is sure to enjoy this often. Engaged to Sansa Stark who is enamored with him, Joffrey tortures her in every way imaginable. When he tires of Sansa, he declares their betrothal void and becomes engaged to Margaery Tyrell. As the story advances, his cruelty and sadism deepens.
House Lannister Song
The oldest of all the houses, the Targaryens are descended from dragons and held the Iron Throne long before any of the other houses. Their symbol is a three headed dragon and their motto "Fire and Blood." In order to keep their line pure, they follow the custom that brother weds sister. The line is known for being exceptionally beautiful with platinum, almost white hair, and lilac eyes. When they were overthrown by the Baratheons, all were killed, save the two youngest, a brother and sister.
Viserys is under the impression that due to his lineage, he is owed the throne. He is overseas with his sister and dreams of assembling an army to retake his family's homeland. There is little let to the Targaryen name, so Viserys makes the decision to sell his sister to the Dothraki, a fierce war tribe, to obtain their resources and their army. He feels his sister owes him anything he asks so that he can conquer the Seven Kingdoms and once again have a Targaryen on the throne.
Upon the introduction to Daenerys, she seems to be the whipping pose for her brother's anger. She does not wish to marry and she does not want an army. After she marriage Drogo, the khal (king), of the Dothraki, she truly blossoms. She commands the respect of those around her as the khaleese of the Drogo. She is given a boost of confidence and stands up to her brother. Daenerys also gains the respect and trust of her husband. After a time, Daenerys becomes pregnant. This happiness is shattered for her when both her baby and husband die. She is left alone with the Dothraki and her guardian in the desert searching for civilization. She begins to use her new found inner strength to gather loyal followers. Her beliefs dictate that anyone who follows her does so of their own free will and that there be no slaves among her people or those with who she does business. As a wedding gift, she was presented with three fossilized dragon eggs. Much to everyone's surprise, Daenerys survives a fire and the eggs have hatched making her the mother of dragons. She began as a shy underdog and has become a key player in the bid for the Iron Throne. she is not acknowledged as a threat by the Seven Kingdoms which will work to her advantage in the coming seasons.
House Targaryen Song
Other Key Players
While there are many houses, some more prominent than others, there are many other key players in the Game of Thrones. Some are loyal to a house, some to themselves and some to whoever pays the most.
Sandor Clegane "The Hound"
The Hound is feared by all and ruthless in battle. He has led a hard life and was almost killed by his older brother when they were young. He does not seem to have a heart and only seems to follow the orders which he is given. As the bid for the throne continues, the Hound changes his loyalties. He saves Sansa while still in the palace and later saves Arya and begins traveling with her to protect her.
Lord Petyr Baelish "Littlefinger"
In his younger years, Petyr was in love with Catherine Tully who was promised to be wed to Brandon Stark. He still harbors resentment for the Starks and is not at all fond of Eddard, however, he does help and support Eddard for Catherine's sake. He is the owner of a brothel in town where various transactions are able to take place without suspicion. He has taken an usual interest in Sansa Stark and his loyalties are only to himself, despite his feelings for Catherine.
Varys is a eunuch in the castle. He is stealthy and has eyes and ears everywhere that report to him. There is little that occurs of which he is not aware. He extends a hand of friendship to Lord Stark as he believes him to be a man of integrity for the realm. Varys also sits in on the small council of the king.
Jorah Mormont, formerly Ser Jorah, fled the Seven Kingsdoms after he sold poachers into slavery. He pledged his loyalty to the Targaryens, but has little use for Viserys. Fiercely loyal to Daenerys, he speaks Dothraki and assists the young khaleese in learning the customs and language of the Dothraki. Daenerys has him as an adviser and relies heavily upon his wisdom.
A stableboy to the Starks, Hodor is a large man with a gentle disposition. After Bran's injury, he becomes his bodyguard and protector. He understands speech, but can only say one word: Hodor.
There of course are many more minor characters and characters that were just introduced in season three. It is not clear what their roles will yet be in the bid for the Iron Throne. Season four premieres April 6 to continue to follow these characters and continue the story.