What really sets Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire (the actual name of the book series) apart from other fantasy fiction is its apparent historic realism. It has magical elements, but that tends to be pushed to the fringes of the overall story. And as most great authors often do, they borrow heavily from the real world. As Mark Twain once famously said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” So, George R.R. Martin tap into history as a seemingly endless source of material to draw inspiration from.
This means that many characters, locations, and events in the books have one and possibly even more historical inspirations. And if we come to think about it, even magic was real to the people from our own past, who sometimes believed without a shadow of a doubt that giants, zombies, or even dragons existed. But for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus our attention on proven historical fact. You should be warned that there may be some spoilers here and there. If you’re not caught up with the story, you should tread carefully.
10. The Map and Ancient History of Westeros
If we take a look at a map of Westeros (the fictional continent on which most of the story takes place), we’ll see a striking resemblance to the British Isles. Maybe not at first glance, no, but if we are to take Ireland and move it under England. Then flip it upside-down, expand it, and join them together. Now the two look more or less the same, right? A seemingly obvious reference point would be the southwest of Ireland, which in Westeros is the area known as The Fingers, part of The Vale.
Furthermore, when we take a look at Westeros’ own history, of how people got there in the first place, we can draw some parallels with what happened to England during our own timeline. The first ever modern humans to set foot onto the British Isles were Stone Age people who crossed over, even before the islands became separated from the rest of Europe after the last Ice Age. In GOT, we can consider these people to be the Children of the Forest (a mysterious non-human race that were reportedly the original inhabitants of the continent of Westeros).
Back on Earth around 1200 BC, a new group of peoples, loosely called Celts, began moving onto the British Isles. These people brought with them iron tools and weapons, which weren’t found in England prior to their arrival. In Westeros, these so called Celts are represented by the First Men, who came over from Essos (the Eurasian Continent in real life), 12,000 years before GOT begins. Six thousand years later, a new group of people cross over into Westeros, the Andals, and invade the land, overthrowing the First Men and establishing a sort of coexistence with them.
The Andals are the ones who established the Seven Kingdoms that we know of in the story. In our own timeline, the Angles and Saxons invaded England around 400 AD, and settled much of the island. The area the Anglo-Saxons conquered was divided into seven petty kingdoms, known as the Heptarchy.
Then there are the Vikings who made frequent raids into the British Isles for centuries. For a time, they even ruled over much of them. In GOT, these Norsemen are represented by the Ironborn. Lastly, we have the Targaryens, who invaded atop their dragons and subdued all seven kingdoms under their control, bringing peace to the continent. The Normans are their real-life equivalents, as they are the ones who successfully conquered England and united the island under William the Conqueror in 1066 AD. Aegon the Conqueror is his GOT counterpart.