George R.R. Martin Explains The Red Wedding’s Historical Roots
by Dan Casey on June 5, 2013
Note: This post contains mild spoilers, so for the love of all that’s good and Hodor, stop reading right now if you don’t want anything ruined.
Game of Thrones may have aired on Sunday, but the visceral impact of this week’s episode has stayed with many viewers — myself included. Simultaneously heartwrenching and brilliant, the ending of this week’s episode, “The Rains of Castamere”, is one of the biggest events that book readers have had to keep under their all-knowing lids for those of us who only watch the show. Known in Game of Thrones fandom as “The Red Wedding,” it’s a grisly, brutal affair that shocks, awes, and takes away some beloved characters in one of the biggest punches to the emotional gut I’ve ever experienced in TV. But, did you know that these nefarious nuptials are based on historical events? In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, George R.R. Martin explained the deep historical roots for both hospitality law/guest right (remember when they shared bread and salt upon arrival at the Twins?) and the Red Wedding itself.
On hospitality laws – e.g. the “bread and salt”:
“It was stolen from history. Hospitality laws were real in Dark Ages society. A host and guest were not allowed to harm each other even if they were enemies. By violating that law, the phrase is, they “condemn themselves for all time.”
On the Red Wedding’s historical roots:
“The Red Wedding is based on a couple real events from Scottish history. One was a case called The Black Dinner. The king of Scotland was fighting the Black Douglas clan. He reached out to make peace. He offered the young Earl of Douglas safe passage. He came to Edinburgh Castle and had a great feast. Then at the end of the feast, [the king's men] started pounding on a single drum. They brought out a covered plate and put it in front of the Earl and revealed it was the head of a black boar — the symbol of death. And as soon as he saw it, he knew what it meant. They dragged them out and put them to death in the courtyard. The larger instance was the Glencoe Massacre. Clan MacDonald stayed with the Campbell clan overnight and the laws of hospitality supposedly applied. But the Campbells arose and started butchering every MacDonald they could get their hands on. No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse.”
So, there you have it, folks. Turns out Scotland was a pretty terrible place to get married back in the day. No word yet on if Walder Frey has been invited to Kanye and Kim Kardashian’s wedding.
What did you think of this week’s Game of Thrones episode? Let us know in the comments below and please, please, PLEASE, tag any and all book-related spoilers. No one wants to have the show ruined for them by knowing the twists and turns coming down the road, so please be respectful of your fellow commenters or the Lannisters will send their regards to your comment.