References in ASOIAF

George R. R. Martin’s ASOIAF books are filled with references to pop culture and history and tons of other things. Here’s a compilation: 

On a Reddit post noting the Muppets reference in TWOIAF (Elio Garcia’s explanation‘s probably right), redditors added stuff they’d noticed as well.

From this comment:

  • Lady Catelyn was escorted to the Eyrie by the Westerosi versions of the Three Stooges Larry, Moe and Curly, aka Lharys, Morrec, and Kurleket. The descriptions of their helms and hair matches the hairstyles of the Stooges.
  • There’s an island in the reach and a castle on the wall called “Oakenshield”, a clear Hobbit reference.
  • There’s a giant who’s named for Phil Simms (WunWun= 11, his jersey number), a famous player for the NY Giants. The giant kills a knight whose sigil is modeled after the Dallas Cowboys—this is due to GRRM losing a bet with a friend who was a Cowboys fan.
  • In chapters featuring the Ironborn, there’s usually a lot of names which point to the Cthulhu mythos (i.e. Dagon), their Drowned God obviously being the biggest clue.
  • There’s a Harry Potter reference in AFFC when Brienne recalls the melee at Bitterbridge. She strikes down two knights, a “Harry” Sawyer and a Robin “Potter”, giving one a scar from a hit to the helm. Supposedly, this is GRRM poking fun at the fact that ASOS lost in an awards ceremony to one of JK Rowlings books.
  • Small Paul bears a striking resemblance to Lennie Small from Of Mice and Men.
  • The first Reek chapter may include a subtle reference to Wes Craven’s first film, The Last House on The Left, as Theon’s cell is “the last one on the left” and some of his tortures are very similar to those that occur in the movie.
  • Some houses have names borrowed from favorite authors of GRRM: House Willum (Tad Williams), House Jordayne of the Tor (Robert Jordan, who is published by Tor), House Deddings (David Eddings), and House Vance (Jack Vance).
  • There’s also a few houses in the Westerlands whose sigils are those of comic book heroes—black hood, blue beetle, green arrow.
  • The sigil of House Swyft is a Bantam Rooster, and ASOIAF is released through Bantam Books.
  • Robb Stark’s marriage to Jeyne Westerling may have an Iron Man reference within it—Jeyne’s a Spicer on her mother’s side, and their sigil has three pepper pots on it. So a Stark marries Pepper Pots in both Iron Man and ASOIAF.
  • The Lothston family has a member like the historical Elizabeth Báthory—Mad Danelle, who bathed in the blood of young women.
  • The Volantene patriot Belichos, who never lost a battle until he was eaten by a giant, is Bill Belichick’s Patriots, who were undefeated until losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
  • The character of Darkstar is from the Grateful Dead song of the same name. GRRM is a big fan of the Dead, so odds are if you see something in ASOIAF that you think is pointing towards their work, it probably is.
  • House Wull points toward the Scottish comic strip Oor Wullie. The main character of Wullie is always seen with his bucket, and the sigil and nicknames of this house all revolve around buckets.
  • House Umber—The land of the Umbers is directly south of the wall. The English county directly south of the Scottish border, on the eastern coast is called Northumberland. North Umber land.
  • Howland Reed is Lord of Greywater Watch, a castle that moves, aka Howl’s Moving Castle.

Concerning House Durrandon,

  • One comment pointed out a Blackadder reference: the ASOIAF character King Baldric Durrandon “The Cunning” is named for Baldrick from Blackadder, whose catchphrase is “I have a cunning plan.”
  • Another pointed out a reference to the 80s band Duran Duran.
  • Another suggested that “Durran” was from Tolkien’s House Durin.

About locations,

  • This comment pointed out the actual inspirations for names of places in Westeros.
  • Another added a Vale of Arryn derivative.

And others:

And in another post on r/asoiaf, a redditor noticed the Three Little Pigs reference. And while on the topic of fairytale tropes and references, apparently Cersei is Snow White and Jon Snow is Snow Wight.

And names mean so much more in Westeros:

  • A comment on a Westeros.org forum listed the hidden meanings in some character’s names: “You can take some characters names and get interesting references; the two-faced Janos Slynt resembles Janus, the two-faced God. The Kettleblack brothers, who accuse Margaery of treason when they know fully well they and Cersei have committed treason invoke the old phrase “pot calling the Kettle black”. Lancel is similar to Lancelot, the legendary knight who was cuckolding Queen Guinevere behind King Arthur’s back, like Lancel is doing with Robert.”
  • In response to another comment about Lord of the Rings references, the same commenter also added: “Having a character called Sam that has a strong relationship with a protagonist for one. The books are actually loaded with literary references. There’s an Archmaester who wrote “time is a wheel” called Rigney. The Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan’s real name is Rigney.”
    • The ‘Sam’ reference is the connection between Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee, Frodo Baggins stoutish sidekick, and GRRM’s Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow’s stoutish sidekick.
  • And this post on r/asoiaf had even more: “GRRM, being highly educated in history and politics, seems to have an interest in foreign languages as well. Throughout the story of ASOIAF, characters appear that have names that directly correspond to their role in the story. Examples:
    • Orell is a wildling skinchanger that can warg into an eagle. His name literally means “eagle” in Slavic languages.
    • Varys is the chief of intelligence at King’s Landing, bearing responsibility for messages and information. “Varis” is the Finnish word for crow.
    • Bran sees dreams of the three-eyed-crow and is guided by him. “Bran” is the Welsh word for crow.
    • Sybell Spicer is the granddaughter of Maggy the Frog—the woman who prophesied Cersei’s downfall. In ancient Greece, Sibyl were female oracles.
    • Yezzan-zo-Qaggaz is a wealthy slaver from Yunkai who has a disease that makes him reek uncontrollably. In Spanish, the word “cagas” (pronounced the same way as Qaggaz) is a conjugation of the verb “to shit” (cagar).
    • And, finally, to arrive at the matter at hand:
      I’m Bulgarian. In Bulgarian, the word “jojen” (джоджен) means spearmint, a variety of mint that is green (a color strongly associated with the Reeds, including but not limited to green-seeing) and grows in swampy areas.” (The point of the post was to explain Jojen Paste. Or mint toothpaste, in other words.)
  • This redditor shed light on Rickon’s direwolf’s name. (This one’s rad.)
  • This post lists possible meanings/origins for names in ASOIAF, both relevant and otherwise.
    • One commenter also listed some surnames’ meanings that sort-of made sense.

Notes: All links lead to the posts or comments containing source material.

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