We’re all eagerly awaiting the next episode of HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones,” but with a full week elapsing between episodes it’s enough to drive someone crazy: heck, I already started worshipping the Lord of Light. The best approach I have found to making time go a little bit faster is to look behind, rather than look ahead, and discover new and fascinating things about the show I already love; the creators of “Game of Thrones,” are truly talented artists, and they’ve meticulously hidden some incredible Easter eggs for fans to find, making it all the more fun to go back and re-watch our favorite episodes.
But which moments are you sure to have completely passed over without a second look? We’ve scoured the first five seasons to bring you 16 “Game of Thrones” Easter eggs that are sure to make you scratch your heads, and to give you something smug to talk about with your co-workers at the water cooler. Now this is a big warning before you read any further into this list: this article contains some serious “Game of Thrones” spoilers for both past and future seasons, so tread carefully, reader… for the night is dark and full of terrors.
#16 – A Trip to Middle Earth
Each of us may love “Game of Thrones,” but before “A Song of Ice and Fire” was even a thought inside of a young George R. R. Martin’s mind, the most influential fantasy writer of all time was putting his pen to paper; J.R.R. Tolkien, the genius behind “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “The Silmarillion,” is responsible for creating more fantasy fans than other writer in history, and one of his biggest fans was a young George R. R. Martin, who was inspired by his idol to become an author himself.
“Game of Thrones” is filled with so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of them all: the book series even has a trio of knights named after the three stooges; so with so many characters to name, it’s only natural for Martin to pay homage to the fantasy icon, by naming two of his most noble characters after Tolkien’s. Samwell and Pypar, brothers of the Night’s Watch, the fellowship sworn to protect the seven kingdoms from the horrors beyond the wall, are named after Samwise Gamgee and Peregrin Took (Pippin): two hobbits that belonged to a fellowship of their own.
#15 – A Famous Dragon
“Game of Thrones” is full of characters that we grow to hate, and Viserys Targaryen was one of the first characters we were introduced to who immediately earned our scorn: his abuse of his sister Daenerys, coupled with his pompous and entitled attitude, had us convinced that he was being set up as a long running villain; we were more than a little surprised when who we thought would be a major villain was quickly eliminated via a molten golden crown. Even so who could be better to deliver a dragon based Easter egg than the man who is known as “The Dragon?”
While Viserys is in the bath house of the Dothraki tribe, he is questioned by his sister’s handmaiden, Doreah, who questions him about the extinction of the dragons; in order to entice and seduce her, Viserys tells her stories about some of the greatest dragons, while simultaneously stroking his own Targaryen ego. One of the dragons that Viserys speaks about is called “Vermithrax,” which is named after “Vermithrax Pejorative,” the dragon from the 1981 fantasy film “Dragonslayer,” which also happens to be George R. R. Martin’s favorite dragon.
#14 – A New York Giant
One of the most enthralling aspects of “Game of Thrones” is the fantastic creatures that populate Westeros, and one of the most frightening beings to grace our T.V. sets is Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, the wildling giant. More affectionately known as “Wun Wun,” this twelve foot behemoth showed us just how terrifying the wildling army could be: wielding the strength of twelve men, and a longbow the size of a tree trunk; but it turns out that the origin of Wun Wun might be a little more humorous than frightening.
George R. R. Martin loves many things, but perhaps nothing more fondly than American football, and his favorite team is none other than The New York Giants. George has let his love for his favorite team shine through on two occasions: the first is by naming his biggest character after the team’s star quarterback, Phil Simms, who wears jersey number eleven, or more specifically… one one. The second instance of The New York Giants making an appearance is within the novels only, when undefeated fighter Triarch Belicho is torn apart by giants: a reference to Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, who lost their winning streak to the New York Giants in 2007.
#13 – A Few Recognizable Props
The iron throne is supposed to be made out of a thousand unique swords, which were surrendered to Aegon Targaryen during the war of conquest as a sign of loyalty to the new crown; while the actual “Game of Thrones” replica has less than a few dozen swords, there was still plenty of space to fit an Easter egg or two, and If you’re designing a prop as iconic as the iron throne, then it’s only natural to include a few references to other fantasy films.
The sword on the right is Gandalf’s sword from “The Lord of the Rings,” and is prominently featured in the center of the throne (right where the camera will be pointed!). The sword on the left belongs to Balian de Ibelin, Orlando Bloom’s character in the 2005 film “Kingdom of Heaven.” Another weapon that is claimed to have been found is Sir Robin of Lockley’s sword, however the alleged prop only shares one commonality, and was simply one of the few sword molds that were lying around during the throne’s construction. Have you discovered another famous sword hidden among the rest? Let us know!
#12 – The Show’s Direction Is All Mapped Out
If you’re like me and you have a habit of skipping all the intros to your favorite shows, then you’re about to feel a little bit guilty about doing that for “Game of Thrones.” You’ll definitely be familiar with that neat little map at the start of each show, which features a steam punk design and automatons that shoot up like a pop-up book, but did you know that the introduction actually changes each week? That’s right, you have actually been skipping the biggest recurring Easter egg in the entire show!
The Game of Throne’s map changes to reflect where the characters had traveled in the previous episode, which is why future seasons have changed to show locations like Braavos and Dorne. Originally the Game of Thrones map was constructed to serve as a segue between characters, but test audiences found the entire process distracting, and the idea was scrapped; since show runners hate to see their resources go to waste, they pooled their heads together to find a way to use all of that footage, and the result was the evolving introduction that most of us missed anyways. Doh!
#11 – The Champion of Meereen Uses a Classic Insult
When Daenerys Targaryen first arrives at the city of Meereen, her “greeting” left a little to be desired: she was berated from the city walls by both the royals and slaves of the city, and a champion fighter emerged from the city gates to issue a violent challenge. Some of the Meereen champion’s vulgar words were interpreted for the mother of dragons to hear (and we certainly didn’t need a translator to understand what the guy meant by pissing on the ground), but a majority of his comments were left to our active imagination.
By like J.R.R. Tolkien, George Martin isn’t the kind of writer to just use a bunch of senseless words, and so he went through the trouble of creating his own original fantasy languages (just like his literary idol). So what does the champion of Meereen say when no one else is listening? “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries,” the classic verbal jab from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The writers of “Game of Thrones” love Monty Python enough to have included a second reference to the film: when Davos Seaworth is learning to read he accidentally pronounces “knight” as “ka-niggit!”
#10 – George Bush Has a Head for Cameos
Back in his presidency there were certainly a lot of people who would have loved to see George Bush’s head on a pike, but who would have imagined that their fantasies would actually become true? During the show’s first season, after Eddard Stark is beheaded, Sansa Stark is treated to the sight of the grim aftermath: the heads of the recently executed, placed on a row of spikes like trophies; among the long line of corpses is none other than George W. Bush, although it’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking.
The first season of Game of Thrones didn’t have the best of budgets, so when they needed a bunch of heads to use as props they grabbed whatever they had on hand; choosing to use the George Bush head wasn’t intended to be malicious in any way: the prop guys saw it as a mildly humorous coincidence, and nothing more than a budgeting necessity. Still, when HBO discovered what the Game of Thrones creators had done, they forced the special effects team to change the severed head on future showings, and issued a public apology to its viewers… how about you just apologize for the sand snakes and we’ll call it even?
#9 – A Little Help from H.P. Lovecraft
I probably won’t be blowing any minds with this Easter egg, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with H.P. Lovecraft this will serve as an interesting literary tie in. Lovecraft is the mind behind the most terrifying sea creatures in all of fantasy, as well as “The Necronomicon,” and a bunch of other horrific stuff. Westeros is full of interesting and unusual characters, and each of them happens to follow their own weird faith: the old gods, the lord of light, the many faced god, and countless others, including (and this is no coincidence at all) the drowned god.
The drowned god is a sea faring god that is worshipped by the Greyjoy faction, a culture of people notorious for their piracy, which bear the sigil of a kraken. The tribute to Lovecraft’s work is endless – reusing names and referencing locations: The City of K’Dath, the name Dagon Greyjoy, the island of Leng, and numerous mentions of “the old ones,” and “the deep ones.” George R.R. Martin even went far enough as to reference the literature that inspired Lovecraft by adding the City of Carcosa, a reference to Robert Chambers work “An Inhabitant of Carcosa.”
#8 – Some Subtle Nods to the Book Readers
No book adaptation is absolutely perfect, but the writers behind the “Game of Thrones” show make an active effort to entertain fans of “A Song of Ice and Fire” by referencing some notable changes. The iron throne was meant to be a massive construction that featured a thousand unique swords, but budgeting concerns ultimately gave way to an iron throne with a whole lot less iron; when Varys comments on the throne’s history, Lord Baelish sly retorts “there aren’t a thousand blades. There aren’t even two hundred. I’ve counted.”
In the novels, during the Battle of the Blackwater, Tyrion suffers a wound that leaves him with a scar on his face, but in the books his wound was much more severe: it left him with a missing nose. Since the cost to CGI Tyrion’s nose in every scene was an unnecessary expense, they decided to tone down the injury; when Tyrion sees his sister Cersei for the first time after the battle, she remarks that she had heard his entire nose had been cut off. The last nod to book readers was when Arya Stark adopted the persona of Lana, which (in the books) was called the “Cat of the Canals;” when she is traveling to sell her clams and cockles, she is traveling to the canals, when she happens to (very deliberately) cross paths with a cat.
#7 – The Writers Really Love Their Foreshadowing
Nothing makes me happier in a show than when things come around full circle, and the writers of “Game of Thrones” certainly love to pay off their viewers with foreshadowing. After Jaime Lannister fatefully has his dominant hand removed for being smarmy and pompous, he tries to bribe his ex-captors to try and save Brienne of Tarth’s life, who tell him to go buy a golden hand and to screw himself with it… it seems that Jaime fulfilled half of that request at least.
Another piece of Jaime related foreshadowing is when he meets Jory Cassel, one of Eddard Stark’s men, who is trying to carry a message to Robert Baratheon; Jaime doesn’t remember him, but Jory tells a story of how they fought alongside one another at the Battle of Pike, where a Greyjoy soldier almost took out his eye, and left him with a horrid scar… later, when Jory fights Jaime, Jaime ends his life with a swift stab through the eye. Ser Jorah Mormont’s fate is also heavily foreshadowed: while he and Daenerys are residing in Qarth in season 2, he is told by a masked woman named Quaithe to never sail past old Valyria without protective paint, but Jorah swats her aside – contracting grayscale later on when he doesn’t follow her advice.
#6 – A Handful of Musical Cameos
Pretty much every celebrity wants to make a cameo appearance on “Game of Thrones,” but unfortunately most of them would stick out like a sore thumb: we can’t exactly let it slide when Miley Cyrus shows up in Westeros, can we? Still, “Game of Thrones” has had its fair share of guest appearances, and almost all of them have been in the form of musicians. The band Coldplay worked out an arrangement where they would work with HBO on a musical comedy skit, on the condition that one of their members got to make an appearance; so you can now see the band’s Will Champion playing the role of a percussionist during the infamous Red Wedding scene.
Gary Lightbody from the band Snow Patrol didn’t make the same kind of deal Coldplay did, but the show was in need of a vocalist for an acoustic performance of the song “The Bear and the Maiden.” If you look (or listen) carefully, you can spot the singer as he rides with Locke’s men, singing the ominous shanty that foreshadows Brienne of Tarth’s future fight in the arena.
#5 – And Even More…
Of course when bands started seeing the cameos everyone else wanted in, and even more musical guests started showing up during critical scenes; the band Mastodon were cast as wildling extras during the white walker battle at Hardhome, but it probably helped that the musicians themselves naturally look like wildling warriors… the power of metal I assume. You can catch the Mastadon members on screen for only a brief moment, just after the white walker freezes the water: they are (unfortunately) already quite zombified.
The last major band cameo included every member of the musical trio Sigur Rose, who got to perform their version of “The Rains of Castamere” at the Purple Wedding; their performance was insulted by the king, and they barraged with coins that they had to pick up off the ground like peasants, but they got the most screen time out of all the show’s cameo appearances. A lot of people would have payed good money to be on the set during Joffrey’s death (I know I would have), but apparently all you needed was to be capable of making beautiful music, and willing to be pelted by coins.
#4 – Familiar Faces on the Wall
The Hall of Black and White is perhaps the most interesting part of Bravos, aside from the Iron Bank and the massive statue that is the size of the Eiffel tower; Within its creepy walls, and past the fountain of euthanasia, is the infamous Hall of Faces, a sanctimonious place where the faceless men change their identity before carrying out an assassination. The Hall of Faces is an incredibly iconic set piece for the “Game of Thrones” show, enough that it was used as the primary marketing tool for its sixth season.
Just like the iron throne, the Hall of Faces is a golden opportunity to slip in some Easter eggs unnoticed, and the creators didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity to finally include themselves in the show; among the thousands of identities on the wall, you can find the disembodied faces of co-creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss, but they weren’t satisfied with just that: the face that Arya first touches belongs to the mother of Barry Gower, the prosthetics supervisor who made the entire thing possible. Being able to immortalize your mother’s likeness on the biggest T.V. show in the world has got to feel pretty good, especially when it’s on something that you helped make.
#3 – Some Not So Original Sword Names
Everyone with a fancy sword has an equally fancy name for it… well, everyone except the hound that is (and we all know his stance on that issue). After the dreadful execution of the noble Eddard Stark, his Valyrian steel great sword, Ice, is melted down by Tywin Lannister to create a pair of long swords: one for Jaime Lannister, and one for Joffrey Baratheon. When Joffrey receives his new birthday toy, he swings it around wildly and asks the crowd for their suggestions on a name, which were a little less original than you might have thought.
The first name suggested for Joffrey’s blade is “Stormbringer,” a reference to the works of author Michael Moorcock, whose main character, Elric of Melnibone, wielded a black sword of the same name which was actually a demon in disguise; the weapon would consume the souls of the lives it took, and berated its owner incessantly. The second sword suggestion is “Terminus,” is a reference to the author Gene Wolfe, who’s novel “The Book Of The New Sun” featured an executioner blade filled with mercury called Terminus Ex. Joffrey’s sword is eventually called Widow’s Wail, but it’s interesting to note that his sword is associated with malicious blades.
#2 – Littlefinger Is Quite the Prophet
Littlefinger is quite the schemer, and it seems like he is the master orchestrator behind every major event in Westeros, but did you know that he is also a fortune teller? In season five Littlefinger makes a bold claim: “People die at their dinner tables, they die in their beds, they die squatting over their chamber pots. Everyone dies, sooner or later.” How naïve we were then… completely unaware of just how accurate Littlefinger’s claim was, as it predicted some of the biggest deaths of season five.
Littlefinger’s statement comes true in the form of three deaths: Joffrey’s poisoning at his wedding , Shae’s strangulation while in bed, and Tywin’s death by crossbow while on the toilet (that couldn’t possibly be coincidence). I’d really start to question Littlefinger if he made a claim about people dying from zombies, or people dying from having their head caved in by a massive armored man; it seems like he has access to the script before things happen, which would certainly explain why he is always ten steps of everyone else on the show: I have my eyes on you, Mr. Baelish.
#1 – Jon Snow’s Origin Is Written on the Wall
By this point in time, most hardcore “Game of Thrones” fans have heard about the theory of Jon Snow’s origin, it has been a topic of conversation at every major convention since the most recent book hit the shelves; the theory has simply become abbreviated as “R + L = J,” but supposes that Jon’s parents are actually Rhaegar Targaryen, and Lyanna Stark, making him not only Targaryen blooded, but also the current heir to the iron throne by birth right.
The R + L = J theory, supposes that Jon was adopted by Eddard during Robert’s Rebellion, after Lyanna died in child birth, and that for the sake of the child’s safety… he has kept it a secret all these years. But it seems like Ned might not be the only one aware of Jon’s origins, because someone at the Night’s Watch felt it was important enough to carve it on the wall – potentially a secret message from his uncle Benjen Stark? Speculation was running wild about the theory after this scene was shown, enough that the show’s head wore a R + L + J message on his shirt during an interview; if this theory turns out to be true, this carving will end up as the most well planned Easter egg of television history.