The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers
By David C Weinczok
Hardcover: 280 pages
Published: June 12, 2019
A Review by Brian Williams
From inside cover
A wall in the distant north cuts the world in two. Ruthless seaborne warriors raid the coasts from their war galleys, yearning to regain lost glories. A young nobleman and his kin are slaughtered under a banner of truce within a mighty castle. A warrior king becomes a legend when he smites his foe with one swing of his axe during a nation-forging battle. Yet this isn’t Westeros – it’s Scotland.
Game of Thrones is history re-imagined as fantasy; The History Behind Game of Thrones turns the tables, using George R. R. Martin’s extraordinary fictional universe as a way to understand the driving forces and defining moments from Scotland’s story. Why were castles so important? Was there a limit to the powers a medieval king could use – or abuse? What was the reality of being under siege? Was there really anything that can compare to the destructive force of dragons? By joining forces, Westeros and Scotland hold the answers.
Writer and presenter David C. Weinczok draws on a vast array of characters, events, places, and themes from Scottish history that echo Game of Thrones at every dramatic turn. Visit the castle where the real Red Wedding transpired, encounter the fearsome historical tribes beyond Rome’s great wall, learn how a blood-red heart became the most feared sigil in Scotland, and much more.
By journey’s end, the cogs in the wheels of Martin’s world and Scottish history will be laid bare, as well as the stories of those who tried to shape – and sometimes even break – them.
The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers by David C. Weinczok is perhaps one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. I’m a Game of Thrones fan who has watched the entire series twice and some seasons three times so I was super excited to read this book not really knowing exactly which angle it would take. I came away deeply admiring the series/books even more and having a great appreciation for the history of the British Isles and Scotland in particular.
Anyone who has watched the series or read the books knows that GoT borrows heavily from the history and geography of the British Isles – and as Weinczok points out, especially that of Scotland. All you need to do is look at GoT’s Westeros map. This book goes through this history and geography and helps explain parallels between the series/books to include the customs, folklore, and traditions. To give a sense of the topics covered, the parts are broken down as follows:
Part One: The Land Itself
Part Two: Stories of the Stones (this section focuses on the walls and castles)
Part Three: Players of the Game
Part Four: The Wheels of War
Part Five: The Laws of Gods & Men
Weinczok shares with the reader how the North and South of Westeros have direct similarities to Scotland and England. This is not only in the physical make up of the terrain, but also in the castles and the hierarchy of the fiefdoms their castles. Other comparisons include the Islesmen & Ironborn, the Caledonians & Wildlings, Edward I & Tywin Lannister to just name a few. What is great about this book is that is goes into depth about British and Scottish history and the reader comes away with a greater appreciation for the books and history. I especially liked the sections called “Tale of Two Roberts: Bruce and Baratheon” and the “Black Dinner” and the “Red Wedding”.
I highly recommend this book if you’re a GoT fan and want to get more from the series while also learning a great deal about British and in particular Scottish history. I’ll finish with a quote from Weinczok in the Introduction:
"We read fantasy to find the colours again," wrote George R.R. Martin in his short rumination. If Martin is correct in this – and I wholeheartedly believe that he is – then it is my sincere hope that upon completing this book and venturing back into the realm of Westeros, both it and our own world will be just a little more colorful. – Edinburge, February 2019
About the Author
David C. Weinczok is a writer, presenter, and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland based in Edinburgh.
Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, he relocated to Scotland in 2011 and has been immersed in Scotland's history and heritage scene ever since.
He is a regular features writer for The Scots Magazine and has composed works on Scottish history for History Today and History Scotland on subjects ranging from battle strategies and castle architecture to political philosophy and pop culture.
David is a frequent guest on BBC Radio Scotland and presents documentary videos for Archaeology Scotland.
He has visited nearly 400 Scottish castles to date and is known for creating online historical content as 'The Castle Hunter' to raise the profile of Scotland's ancient and medieval historic sites.