Game of Thrones is one of most complex stories ever told on television. When the series starts, there are already thousands of years of history that have gone by, creating a backdrop of warring houses all keen for political gain and violent conquest. Or sometimes merely just self-preservation.
George R.R. Martin’s expansive fictional universe of Westeros (and Essos) have way more stories than could ever be told in eight seasons of television. Even the much more detailed novels (if they ever get finished) barely touch on some of the mysteries listed below, although they are sometimes mentioned in passing by other characters. With HBO currently in negotiations to produce a Game of Thrones prequel or spin-off series, these are the biggest mysteries we hope will get some answers.
We’re not saying every single one of these mysteries needs an entire series devoted to it, though. Some could be answered in a single episode, or even a single scene. Others, like the rise and fall of Valyria, might require a couple of seasons worth of explanation.
Game of Thrones has been one of HBO’s biggest hits ever, so here’s hoping that the premium cable channel will keep the stories coming and explain the following Westerosi mysteries.
**SPOILER WARNING: Don’t read on if you’re not completely caught up with all seven seasons of Game of Thrones, for the article is dark and full of spoilers.**
14. The Tournament at Harrenhal
If there is one single event that kicked off the entire conflict in Game of Thrones, it happened at the Tournament of Harrenhal. It was hosted by Lord Walter Whent and offered prizes three-times higher than that of Tywin Lannister, the richest man in the seven kingdoms. That attracted a who’s who of Westerosi lords, including Lord Robert Baratheon, Ser Arthur Dayne, Lord Jon Arryn, Ser Jaime Lannister, Elia and Oberyn Martell, Howland Reed, Ser Barristan Selmy, Eddard and Lyanna Stark, and Prince Rhaehar Targaryen.
Those last two names are notable. Prince Rhaegar was already married to Elia Martell at the time of the tournment. Lyanna Stark was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. When Rhargar won the tournament, he placed a crown of blue roses in Lyanna’s lap, choosing her as the new “queen of love and beauty.” It was considered a scandalous action, and eventually culminated in Lyanna and Rhaegar running off together. Most people assumed (or were told) that Rhaegar forcibly kidnapped her, kicking off Robert’s Rebellion that ultimately ended the Targaryen dynasty. All of the dramatic events of the show can be traced back to a single moment in history, and it’s a shame we’ve never seen it on screen.
13. The Faceless Men of Bravos
Arya Stark spent an entire season of the show training to become No One, but we still don’t really have a clue about the Faceless Men of Braavos. Here are the basics, though: They are a guild of assassins who worship the Many-Faced God of death. They are trained to be excellent fighters, with a magical ability to “wear the face” of dead people in order to deceive their targets. They are also taught to be “no one,” that is, to completely remove all personal feelings from the job in order to serve the God of Death.
In the books, the Faceless Men go back hundreds of years, to before the fall of Valyria. According to Game of Thrones lore, they were founded by slaves who worked the mines of the Fourteen Flames. They originally offered the “gift” of death to other slaves who were suffering horribly in the mines. That slowly evolved into a for-hire assassin team, charging high prices but guaranteeing results. Any spin-off or prequel that focuses on the city of Braavos (or the continent of Essos) should include more backstory about the Faceless Men.
12. Are There Dragons Eggs in Winterfell?
The crypts of Winterfell are a mysterious and mostly unexplored part of the North, as least as far as the show in concerned. However, the books contain rumors that somewhere down in the depths of Winterfell, there is at least one priceless treasure — a real-life dragon egg.
According to a dwarven court-jester named Mushroom, who served the Targaryen’s for many years, a man named Jacaerys Valeryon flew a dragon to Winterfell roughly 200 years before the start of the series in order to negotiate an alliance with the Starks. While he was there, his dragon Vermax may (or may not) have laid an egg or two. The whole thing is a weird mess of dragon biology and whether or not Winterfell was built near a natural hot spring, just hot enough to keep the egg warm in the cold North of Westeros.
Now that Jon Snow’s true Targaryen linage has been revealed (and Dany being down exactly one dragon), perhaps a hidden dragon egg could be very useful. Plus, there is still the prophecy of the three-headed dragon that will go unfulfilled now that Viserion is undead and under the control of the Night King. That third dragon has to come from somewhere!
11. Why Did The Children of the Forrest Create The First White Walker?
Long before humans arrived in Westeros, the lands belonged the Children of the Forrest. They were a mysterious, magical race that were thought to be extinct until they showed up in Season Four to save Bran from a group of wights. Later, in Season Six, they defend Bran again as the Night King attempts to kill him and the original three-eyed raven. But forget all that, we want the history lesson.
Thousands of years ago, the Children of the Forest were at war with the humans who invaded their land and were cutting down their trees in order to build cities. In an attempt to turn the war in their favor, the Children captured one of the First Men and plunged dragonglass into his chest, turning him into the very first White Walker. It was an attempt to defend themselves against the humans, but somehow it backfired (obviously). The Night King now consumes all living things, including any remaining Children of the Forest. But how did that switch happen? Someone explain it, please!
10. The Rise and Fall of the Targaryens
The Targaryen ruling dynasty lasted fifteen different kings and spanned almost 300 years after Aegon and his dragons conquered the Seven Kingdoms (except Dorne). It was such a monumental event that dates in Westerosi history are labelled as BC (Before Aegon’s Conquest) and AC (After Aegon’s Conquest). Before the Conquest, Westeros was just a bunch of Lords ruling over their local lands. Aegon was the first to truly unite the kingdom under one crown (even if he did so by burning his enemies alive with Balerion the Dread).
Aegon was the first to sit on the Iron Throne. In fact, his dragon provided the heat used to weld the swords together. It was a strong start that would eventually be ruined by generations of inbreeding and broken alliances, culminating in Robert’s Rebellion. A prequel series focusing solely on the Targaryens’ rise to power and eventual fall would be captivating.
9. The Raising of the Wall
The Wall is 300 miles long and over 700 tall and made of solid ice. However, no one seems to know how it got there. Passed down legends say that King Brandon Stark aka Bran the Builder was responsible for building it after the Long Night, but no one in Westeros seems to have the technology to built such a massive structure. Add in the fact that The Wall contains magic that prevents the dead from passing through it, and the protective structure of the North gains even more mystery.
The Wall is also home to the Night’s Watch, a once-noble institution that is sworn to protect the realm from wildlings and whatever else might threaten the kingdom. Over several millennia, the Night’s Watch slowly diluted into a band of thieves and rapists, with very few honorable men left serving. Numbers also dwindled, leaving many of the 19 castles along the wall seriously undermanned or abandoned completely. We’d love to get a look at how The Wall was first built, and see the very first members of the Night’s Watch.
8. What’s Going on in Sothoryos?
The TV series has already given us a pretty good look at much of Essos, since Daenerys spent most of the series stranded there as she freed slaves and built an army to conquer the Iron Throne. However, there is one more part of the “Known World” that remains a complete mystery — the unknown continent of Sothoryos. It sits well below Essos, directly South of Slaver’s Bay, and is often left off the map altogether.
Very little is known about the continent, although it does have native humans on it. They are typically portrayed as dark-skinned, in contrast the generally Caucasian majority of Westeros. According to clues from the book, Sothoryos is probably even larger than Westeros — a dragon-rider from Valyria once flew South in an attempt to find the southern most coast of the mysterious land, but returned three years later claiming there was no end in sight. There are also rumors of strange and deadly animals, as well as numerous lethal diseases. So basically, everything in Sothoryos is trying to kill you. Kind of like Australia.
7. The Lord of Light and His Followers
The show gives us glimpses of what the Lord of Light can do, but we’re still hungry for more. Alternately known as R’hllor, the Lord of Light is the God that characters such as Melisendre and Thoros of Myr worship. We know he’s somewhat of the real deal, as his power have resurrected both Jon Snow and Beric Dondarrion from the dead. He also provides those sweet flaming swords that some of the Brotherhood Without Banners wield. Even non-believers like The Hound are affected by R’hllor, when he sees a vision of the White Walkers in the flames of a fire in Season Seven.
Here’s what we do know. The Lord of Light is a widely followed religion in Essos, specifically in the free cities. It’s also the source of the prophecy of “The Prince Who Was Promised,” a person who will be “born amidst smoke and salt” and pull a sword named Lightbringer from the flames to fight off darkness. Some also believe that this person will be Azor Ahai reincarnated, a legendary warrior who is said to have defeated the White Walkers during the last Long Night, over 8,000 years ago.
There’s a much deeper story here, though. Melisandre uses blood magic and the power of R’hllor in an attempt to win the throne for Stannis Baratheon, but fails. Yet, the power of the Lord of the Light is definitely real, since Jon Snow is still alive. We’d love to learn more about R’hllor’s powers, plans, and followers at some point.
6. Where The Hell is Howland Reed?
Howland Reed remains the last surviving person from the showdown at the Tower of Joy (unless you count baby Jon Snow himself, of course). What happened that day is of extreme importance, since it could mean that Jon is the rightful heir to the Targaryen crown (update: he is!). Unfortunately, Howland hasn’t been seen or heard from at all in the show, which begs the question — what the hell has be been up to all these years?
Reed is often regarded as one of the most loyal friends of the Stark family, but he’s been completely absent as Ned, Catelyn, Robb, and countless other Stark soldiers and bannerman have been killed off. George R.R. Martin did once promise that Howland Reed would appear eventually, but surely he wasn’t merely referring to that brief Tower of Joy flashback in Season Six, was he? Now that Bran and Sam have pieced together the clues of Jon’s true parentage, perhaps Howland will still show up in the final season of Game of Thrones. But even if he does, we’d still like to know what he was doing before that.
5. The Tragedy at Summerhall
Unlike most of the castles in Westeros, Summerhall wasn’t made for battle. It was a barely fortified structure in the Stormlands, south of King’s Landing and almost in Dorne. It was built by the rulings Targaryens, basically as a fancy place to vacation. It was a favorite spot of King Aegon V, and he gathered many family members there to celebrate the birth of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Unfortunately, the celebration was tragically cut short when the place burnt to the ground, killing King Aegon V and his heir Prince Duncan.
So what happened?
No one really knows, although there are rumors (and fan theories) out there that suggest that Aegon was obsessed with trying to bring dragons back from extinction. In A Dance With Dragons, Barristan Selmy offers that the fire of Summerhall was a result of “sorcery and fire.” It also possible that it was set by enemies, as King Aegon V allowed all of his sons to marry for love instead of creating strategic marriage alliances with the Tyrells, Baratheons, or the Tullys. Perhaps one of those spurned families set the fire, seeking revenge.
The death of King Aegon V meant that Aerys II “The Mad King” Targaryen took over on the throne, although he would eventually go crazy and be murdered by Jaime Lannister when he attempted to burn down King’s Landing.
4. Robert’s Rebellion
Okay, we admit this isn’t exactly a mystery. We know exactly what happened during Robert’s Rebellion. Lyanna Stark was “kidnapped” by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, and her brother Ned and her betrothed Robert joined forces to start a war against the ruling family. A war that resulted in thousands of deaths and eventually ended up with the Baratheons on the throne. We know the major turning points and the eventual outcome. But we want to actually watch it all happen!
Who wouldn’t want to see the scheming and planning of a year-long war that features Ned Stark, Robert and Stannis Baratheon, Jon Arryn, Tywin Lannister, and Aerys and Rhaegar Targaryen all in their prime? The infamous Battle at the Trident, where Robert struck down Rhaegar in single combat with his mighty warhammer. Or the Sack of King’s Landing, when Tywin Lannister betrayed the Mad King as soon as the Lannister forces were allowed inside the gates, which ended with Jaime Lannister famously earning his “Kingslayer” moniker. We know what happened, but we still want to watch it all play out!
3. How and Why Did Benjen Become Coldhands?
First things first when it comes to Jon Snow’s uncle Benjen — George R.R. Martin has already said that the book version of Coldhands is not Benjen Stark. However, Benjen has definitely taken over the role as Coldhands in the show, showing up in Season Six to save Bran and Meera, and then again in Season Seven to reapply Jon Snow’s ever-present plot armor.
Here’s what he know: Benjen was the First Ranger of the Night’s Watch when he disappeared on a ranging mission beyond the wall. He was presumed dead, and probably part of the Night King’s army. However, he made a surprise appearance to save Bran and Meera from the wights before revealing himself as half human, half white walker. He explained that White Walkers stabbed him with an ice sword before the Children of the Forest saved him from turning into a wight by stabbing dragonglass into the wound. He cannot pass through The Wall, though, as the magic used to build it prevents the dead from crossing. It certainly appears that Benjen has finally been killed off for good, after saving his nephew Jon near the end of Season Seven. However, we would love to know what else he’s been up to for the last six seasons.
2. The Long Night
The original Long Night happened roughly 8,000 years before Aegon’s Conquest, which itself kicked off a 15-generation Targaryen ruling dynasty that was only just ended by Robert’s Rebellion. So, this thing isn’t even a distant memory to people of Westeros — it’s practically a fairytale at this point. But the wisest of men and true historians know that the Long Night really happened, and it was no joke.
Most of the details about the Long Night are nothing more than Westerosi urban legends, but here are the basics. The White Walkers emerged from the Land of Always Winter and walked South, raising an army of the dead along the way. The Children of the Forest and the First Men tried to fight back, but were forced to retreat further South until it was discovered that dragonglass could kill the undead. Almost every culture in the known fictional universe believes that a single hero, sometimes referred to as Azor Ahai, lead the charge to drive the Walkers back into the North with his flaming sword. After that, Bran the Builder (somehow) built The Wall to keep them out. The Night’s Watch was formed and the sun finally returned to the sky after a generation of darkness.
1. What Happened to Valyria?
The Doom of Valyria is easily the biggest mystery in all of Westeros. The ancestral home of the Targaryens was once the greatest civilization had to offer, excelling in math, science, and the arts. It was basically the largest collection of wisdom and knowledge in the known world, famous for developing the method of creating Valyrian Steel. And then, hundreds of years before the events of the books/shows, something terrible happened. Valyria was completely destroyed by something (natural disaster? dragons? some sort of war? sorcery?) and all that remains are smoking ruins, where the Stonemen live out their days before succumbing to grayscale, as seen by Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister.
There are plenty of rumors about what happened, including some sort of attack by the Faceless Men of Braavos. It could have also been that the Valyrians over-mined the surrounding volcanoes, nicknamed the Fourteen Flames. Or some bit of mad science that was used in the hatching and breeding of dragons. Regardless, Daenerys and Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen VI) are the last known descendants of the mysterious Valyria. Maybe they could explore its past in a spin-off or sequel.