Curious About What Went on in Westeros Before GoT Began? Read This

Here’s a recap of the world of fire and ice & everything that happened before the Game of Thrones TV series began. 

8 min read
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(This article, by science writer and Game of Thrones fanatic Sandhya Ramesh, was first published on Quora. If you’re a fan, this brief summary of the plot of Game of Thrones is bound to serve as a great recap. If you aren’t a fan, then this will help give you some context for when your friends go on and on about the series.)

The world of GoT is divided into four landmasses, but our main focus (as of now) is on two of them – Westeros and Essos. Everybody – and I mean, literally everybody – is fighting everyone else to gain control of the entire landmass of Westeros.

Westeros is about 3,000 miles long starting at the very cold north pole, and stretching all the way down a varied mixture of terrain, and ending at the desert-like south. The land is separated physically into three main parts: the splendidly cold North, the mid-region, and the hot southern desert. It is politically divided into two- the land Beyond the Wall, and the Seven Kingdoms.

Here’s a recap of the world of fire and ice & everything that happened before the Game of Thrones TV series began. 
(Photo Courtesy: Fansided)

Geography and Houses

Starting at the very bottom, we have Dorne. It is separated from the rest of Westeros by Red Hills. The ruling house is House Martell, and bastards born here assume the last name of “Sand”. It is rocky, dry, and hot, and the people are of darker skin.

There is a lot of trade going on here with other islands (especially of spices), and the customs here are very different from the rest of the continent.

To the west lies The Reach. It is the stronghold of House Tyrell (Margaery, Ser Loras), and is ruled from the castle Highgarden. Bastards born here take the last name “Flowers”. It is the most fertile region in the continent.

Above Dorne, we have the Stormlands. It is the seat of House Baratheon (Robert, Stannis, Renly), who have ruled it from the castle called Storm’s End. Bastards here are given the surname “Storm”. As the name signifies, the region is rocky, stormy, marshy, and contains many forests. The Tarth House (Brienne) is a part of this region.

Above Stormlands, we have the Crownlands, the seat of the Iron Throne. The ruler of the Iron Throne is regarded as the ruler of the entire land of Westeros. The capital city is King’s Landing and the bastards here are given the name “Waters”.

Currently, the throne is held by House Lannister (through Cersei, the Queen Regent, with Tommen being King). Previously, the Iron Throne seated Robert Baratheon.


To the west, we have the Westerlands, the kindom of House Lannister (Jaime, Cersei, Tywin, Tyrion), who rule it from a massive stone fortress called Casterly Rock. The region is mountainous, and bastards here take up the name “Hill”. This is the richest land in the continent due to the overwhelming numbers of gold and silver mines.

The region in the centre of the continent is called Riverlands, a medley of plains, hills, forests, and numerous rivers. The main river here is the Trident. Bastards are, of course, given the name “Rivers”. The north part of this region forms the southern part of what is known locally as The Neck. For many years, the area was ruled by House Tully (Catelyn [Stark], Lysa [Arryn], Brynden "Blackfish" Tully), but is now in the hands of House Frey.

This region sees a lot of trade due to the rivers, and is the location for the Harrenhal castle.

Here’s a recap of the world of fire and ice & everything that happened before the Game of Thrones TV series began. 
House Tully. 
(Photo Courtesy: Deviant Art)
The archipelago of seven islands to the left here are Iron Islands, the land of the Greyjoys (Theon, Yara, Balon), who rule from the castle Pyke – also the name of the bastards born here.

The seas around the islands are very stormy and destructive, and have also destroyed and eroded most of the Pyke castle.


To the islands’ diametric right, we have The Vale. Also known as the Vale of Arryn, it is the seat of House Arryn (Jon: dead before the series began, Lysa, and the son she nurses still, Robin). The treacherously mountainous kingdom also includes some of the most idyllic regions in the land. The rulers rule from the castle Eyrie, which is located high above the ground, in the snowy Mountains of the Moon. Bastards here are called “Stone”.

The North is the largest of the seven kingdoms. The region is ruled by the Starks (Ned, Robb, Sansa, Arya), from their castle, Winterfell. The kingdom is vast, thinly populated, with lots of forests, plains, and small villages.

There are two geographic boundaries: The Neck to the south (Jojen and Meera Reed) that holds Moat Cailin, a mega fortress, and The Wall to the north.

The region is extremely cold, sometimes snowing even in summer. Bastards are called “Snow”. And I love Jon Snow.

Here’s a recap of the world of fire and ice & everything that happened before the Game of Thrones TV series began. 
Jon Snow. 
(Photo Courtesy: Giphy)

Moving on. Essos is the largest continent, and the weather grows hotter the more south you go. Dany is the main protagonist on this land. The land is divided into many distinct regions.

The Free Cities are 9 independent cities located on the west coast (Braavos, Myr, Pentos, Volantis, Lorath, Lys, Tyrosh, Norvos, Qohor). Except for Braavos, every other city is a remnant of the mighty Valyrian empire.

To the east lies the vast, dead, grassland called Dothraki Sea. It is inhabited by the famous (or infamous, in the GoT world), barbarous Dothraki people, headed by their Khals.

Then you have Slaver's Bay, that contains the slave cities of Yunkai, Mereen, and Astapor (land of the Unsullied). To the extreme east, you have Qarth, from where hail the warlocks who have been trying very hard to kill Dany. East and south even to this are mysterious lands, most notably Asshai, from where hails Melisandre.


Prehistory and Timeline of Events

Before men made an appearance, the land of Westeros was inhabited by short, human-like creatures called Children of the Forest. There also existed giants and other magical creatures. We don't know much about Essos at this point, but we do know that they had an established society with kingdoms and warriors

Around 13,000 years before the series began, we had the First Men (who came from Essos) invade Westeros from the South. They pushed further and further into the land, establishing kingdoms and settling all over the place, and constantly clashing with the Children.

Some 2000 years into the settlement, the Men and the Children made a pact to live peacefully. The Men started adopting the customs and the Gods of the Children. 4000 years after the pact, House Stark was founded by Brandon the Builder. We also had the founding of House Lannister, and had kings take control of the Reach, Storm’s End, and Iron Islands.

Then came The Long Night. It was the longest, darkest, and coldest winter in history, lasting almost 100 years, followed by a long period of darkness.

Here’s a recap of the world of fire and ice & everything that happened before the Game of Thrones TV series began. 
The Long Night.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screenshot)

It was at this time that The Others (aka White Walkers) move down from the farthest north (The Land of Always Winter), wreaking havoc and fear in Westeros, killing almost all men.

But they were eventually defeated when the Long Night came to an end. It is said that they were led by a great hero named Azor Ahai (Melisandre believes that Stannis is his reincarnation).

Within the next century, Bran the Builder built the massive fortification made of ice, and called The Wall. A sworn brotherhood called the Night’s Watch was also created to protect the Wall. Wildlings – humans who wish to be “free” and not a part of the Seven Kingdoms – live beyond the wall.

A couple of thousand years later, the Andals arrived from the east and entered Westeros through what is now the Vale of Arryn. There was constant fighting with the First Men and the Children, and gradually overthrew every ruler except the Stark king, thus establishing the Arryn bloodline.

Meanwhile in Essos, dragons were discovered in volcanoes by Valyrian shepherds, who tamed them by magic and gained power, establishing the kingdom of Valyria.


Constant warring ensued in Essos for almost 4000 years. At this point, Nymeria, a warrior princess from the kingdom of Rhoyne set sail for southern Westeros. Here, she met and married Lord Martell after burning her 10,000 ships.

Thus was established Dorne, and House Martell was formed. Valyrian Freehold gained power over most of Essos, except for the Secret City of Braavos that was founded by religious leaders who had taken refuge in the hills to the west.

A Valyrian noble family called the Targaryens took hold of an island close to Westeros, and built a castle whose tower was shaped like a dragon, and called it Dragonstone (where Stannis currently resides)

Meanwhile, in the North, House Bolton, who are located at Dreadfort (in the realm of the Starks) rebelled against Starks for many generations, but finally swore fealty to them approximately 1000 years before the series present time.

Soon followed the Doom of Valyria – a mysterious catastrophe involving volcanoes that burned down the Valyrian empire. The Targaryens were still strong on Dragonstone because of the power of the last three dragons. Braavos revealed itself to the world, becoming powerful due to its banks, and the Free Cities and cities of Slaver’s Bay were liberated.

The Targaryens, Aegon the Conqueror and his two sister-consorts, then migrated to Westeros on dragons, conquering all kingdoms except Dorne and founding King’s Landing, thus establishing the House Targaryen. For the next 200 years, Westeros was plagued by civil wars and was once even led by Aegon's rumored bastard half-brother, the first of the Baratheons. All the dragons were killed. The last of the Targaryen kings was Aerys, the Mad King.

Not much is known about the history of Essos.


Events Before GoT Began

Multiple things happened at this point that lead to the events of the series. Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark were wards together at the Eyrie, under Jon Arryn. Tywin Lannister was proclaimed the Hand of the King and proposed Cersei’s hand for Prince Rhaegar, Aerys's son.

But King Aerys refused and married Rhaegar to Elia Martell of Dorne. Almost a decade later, Robert Baratheon became engaged to Lyanna Stark, the sister of Eddard Stark. Catelyn Tully became engaged to Eddard Stark’s older brother, Brandon. Jaime Lannister became a member of King Aerys’s Kingsguard.

During a tourney at Harrenhal, Prince Rhaeger named Lyanna Stark the Queen of Love and Beauty instead of his own wife Elia, and purportedly abducted Lyanna, causing much scandal.

When Brandon Stark and his father appealed to King Aerys to ask Rhaegar to return Lyanna, he had them both killed sadistically. He then asked Jon Arryn to deliver the heads of Robert and Eddard. Instead, the houses Stark, Tully, Arryn, and Baratheon rose in rebellion.


During the period of the rebellion, Ned Stark married Catelyn, who became pregnant with Robb, and left to join Robert at the battles. Robert fought to reclaim the throne in the name of his ancestor.

The Lannisters betrayed the Targaryens, with Tywin Lannister sacking the city and Jaime Lannister killing the Mad King, earning the nickname Kingslayer. Prince Rhaegar was killed by Robert; Princess Elia Martell and their children were killed by Tywin Lannister’s men.

Targaryen supporters secretly smuggled the two other Targaryen children - Viserys and Daenerys – to Essos. The abducted Lyanna Stark was discovered dying in a pool of blood. Robert became King and married Cersei. Ned Stark went back home with a bastard son, Jon Snow.

Balon Greyjoy assumed kingship over the Iron Islands, but was subdued by Robert. His son, Theon Greyjoy was taken to the Starks as a hostage and ward. Jon Arryn, the then Hand of King, discovered that Robert and Cersei’s children are actually the fruit of Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous union, and is poisoned in King's Landing.

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Topics:  Game Of Thrones 

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