Seven seasons, 67 episodes—and soon to be 73 episodes, after Game of Thrones' final-season bows this May. An ensemble comprising some two dozen or more main characters, each belonging to families whose lineages bring with them an inheritance of conflict both internal and external, which informs the story at hand.
There's a reason why virtually every Game of Thrones fan spent the unconscionably long hiatus leading up to the final season rewatching everything that came before. We're six episodes away from the resolution to a conflict that's been steadily brewing for nearly 10 years and within the show, well, millennia. That is a metric ton of plot and character information to keep track of, and this show has too much going on to hold viewers' hands. To that end, there's no better time than now to dedicate an encyclopedia with handy explanations, definitions, and summaries of every family, magical tool, nickname, and pertinent locale that has impacted this saga in a major way and may impact it even more in its final hours.
Some notes: This is, for all intents and purposes, a show adaptation only. If we truly committed to cataloging everything the incredibly dense books detail, we'd be at this forever, much like George R.R. Martin is re: finishing Book 6. The same goes for character names—there's just too many people crucial to this series at one point or another. To that end, we've included surnames and the occasional nickname or job title as an opportunity to highlight some super key people.
Don't go into the final episodes unprepared: Dive into our glossary, refresh yourself on major events and people, and get pumped. Winter is here.
Jon Snow's government name.
The second race of men to invade Westeros, they bring with them the Faith of the Seven, and all but obliterated the Old Gods and the First Men from the bottom two-thirds of the continent. They remain today the prominent ethnic group in the South, while many in the North still proudly trace their lineage back to the First Men.
The figureheads of the Vale; Jon Arryn's suspicious "death" (read: murder) is essentially the inciting incident to the whole series.
Crossing off more enemies every day, and enjoying every bloody second.
Slave city and ground zero for Daenerys assuming her mantle as the Breaker of Chains.
The Valyrian blade that basically kick-started the entire conflict. It took seven seasons to find its way back to the throat of its rightful owner. But was it worth the wait? (See L, Littlefinger)
Battle of the Bastards:
Two Northern sons with a metric ton of daddy issues between them duke it out for control of the North. A much-needed Stark victory.
Battle of the Blackwater:
The series' first big battle episode and still one of its—and Tyrion Lannister's—finest moments. History will never mention him, but the real ones know.
Battle of Castle Black:
In which the Wildlings and Mance Rayder finally make their move.
Battle of the Trident:
The pivotal battle in Robert's Rebellion, in which the eponymous warrior deals Rhaegar Targaryen—and, thusly, his whole family—a death blow. But as we come to learn, Rhaegar is far from the villain Robert makes him out to be (but he’s still a shitty husband).
Family of King Robert, who took the throne from the Targaryens; a short-lived reign thanks to the machinations (and incestuousness) of his Lannister in-laws. Now completely wiped out after brothers Stannis and Renly choose fratricide over family unity.
Home to House Mormont, i.e. Ser Simp Jorah, the Night Watch's dearly departed Jeor, and, most importantly, the preteen queen bee, Lyanna Mormont.
You thought Joffrey was an insufferable, evil prick? Hold Ramsay Snow-turned-Bolton's ale. He gets it from his daddy, Roose, the traitor who helps facilitate the Red Wedding.
The marvelous eastern city home to both the insanely wealthy (see: I, Iron Bank) and the most gifted killers (see: F, Faceless Men).
The vigilante group loyal to no one but the Lord of Light, they've joined the fight against the Night King in a GRRM-designed dream team.
Headquarters of the Night's Watch, located on the Wall and the last vestige between Westeros and the savage free folk and ice monsters who overrun it.
The Lannisters' ancestral home that's literally built on gold.
Children of the Forest, The:
Non-human race with a juvenile visage and the alleged indigenous people to Westeros before the First Men come along and behave so dickishly it forces these non-kids to plunge dragonglass into a human male and create White Walkers to fight back. Thousands of years later, they’re dedicated to helping reverse that very, very big mistake.
The headquarters of the Order of the Maesters and a bookworm's wet dream.
Unofficial code name for the fraternal showdown GoT fans and A Song of Ice and Fire readers alike have been waiting years for. Fuck a Night King: Can The Hound do what Oberyn Martell was too obsessed to complete and take the Mountain—easily one of this show's most evil and deserving motherfuckers—down once and for all?
Beyond the Wall's version of a rest stop. At Craster's Keep, fathers love daughters, monsters love babies, and Brothers of the Night's Watch hate following orders.
These six massive pets of the Stark children have proven to be ride or die. But, sadly, with only Ghost and Nymeria left, it's mostly the latter.
A pivotal Northern stronghold held by the Ironborn for a spell.
Maybe one of the coolest settings, but definitely, woefully, the most underutilized.
Eastern horse tribe that no one expected to ever come west, much less pledge their undying loyalty to a woman—until the silver-haired Khaleesi came along.
Two things can kill a White Walker—Valyrian steel, and this, the same thing the Children used to make Walkers in the first place. Hmm...
The launching point for both Stannis' and later Dany's campaign to capture the Iron Throne. Let’s hope she has better results.
Former stronghold of House Bolton, it serves as the setting for Theon's many, many torture sessions.
Daenerys' prodigal son, prone to teenage bouts of rebellion but always there when he's needed.
Drowned God, The:
The Ironborn's go-to god for reaving, raiding, and pillaging.
The continent that almost made Dany an ancillary character.
A lord is murdered by his wife in order to secure herself a new husband, who actually loves his new wife's sister and then throws said new wife to her death (see M, Moon Door), only to have her simple-minded son become the new lord and puppet of the murderer/husband. And they said King's Landing was dramatic?
Who are they? No one… except the coolest assassins ever.
Faith of the Seven:
The dominant religion of Westeros. It's mecca of worship was once the Sept of Baelor.
Even the Mother of Dragons can't quell Essos' love of organized violence.
First Men, The:
The first human colonizers of Westeros. Their war to capture the continent all but wipes out the Children, thus leading to the creation of the Walkers.
Fist of the First Men:
The first landmark the Army of the Dead pass on their road trip south.
Two towers united by a bridge. A joke of a family, often looked down upon, but Catelyn Stark knows what they are capable of. (see R, Red Wedding). Thankfully, Arya Stark got the last laugh (see A, Arya's List).
Free Folk, The:
See W, Wildling—but the politically correct term.
Pray for him (see D, direwolf).
Sellswords (see S) currently on their way to help Cersei backstab Dany.
Great Stallion, The:
The horse god of the Dothraki, seems to be an anything-goes kind of god.
Ruling family of the Iron Islands, known to stage a pitiful rebellion or two and get squashed by the Throne and/or Starks for it. Until Euron Greyjoy comes in all Rick Owens pants and ambition.
A plague upon the civilized world and the cause of Stone Men, this once-incurable disease proved no match for Sam the Slayer.
Hand of the King/Queen:
Westerosi version of Chief of Staff. Perks: Comes with a little pin and the possibility of making a big difference. Downside: Life expectancy is very low.
Site of the Night King finally, memorably proving his validity as a threat and sonning Jon Snow.
The greatest castle in Westeros for about a week, then some dragonfire gets to it.
Sam gives this Valyrian blade to Jorah Mormont for the war to come.
It's here where Olenna waved farewell with a verbal middle finger, admitting her role in the Purple Wedding: "Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me."
The realm’s most loyal gentle giant; the lynchpin of a temporal loop that may foreshadow how Bran may end up saving the day (or dooming it, depending on which theories you believe).
Made lordless by Drogon at the Loot Train. RIP, Tarlys.
Makes the Lannisters' nest egg look like baby money.
Home to the Ironborn and the least attractive islands. You'll never read about a Westeros tourism boom here.
The seat everyone’s fighting over, said to be forged from dragonfire of 1000 swords. Just one of many lies the realm is built on.
Dothraki for "queen"—the most favored Daenerys moniker among characters and fans alike. But don’t forget she's also the Stormborn, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, the Last Dragon, the Unburnt, Mhysa, Queen of the Andals, and the Princess that was Promised.
Westeros' Washington, D.C., where drama goes down, wildfire goes off, and heroes lose their heads. As Tyrion and Ned aptly try to warn their loved ones, "we’ve come to a dangerous place."
A moniker and a badge of shade and shame assigned to Jaime Lannister for killing the Mad King he was sworn to protect, which he lets define his identity until he loses the sword hand he earns it with.
Tyrion's nickname after killing Tywin. Because, apparently, original nicknames are hard to come up with.
For an adaptation that's generally been above-average faithful to its source material, this is one of the most bemusing deviations and a missed opportunity. If you know, you know, but let's just say watching Arya get revenge for the Stark family is wonderful, but the sting of the Red Wedding would've been mitigated slightly had this person been allowed to rise up. Alas.
They always pay their debts, especially if that debt is revenge. Always the richest of the main families, under Tywin Lannister's Joe Kennedy-esque steering, they became the most powerful… until the entire family crumbles under his ambition.
Badass moniker for the dearly departed Rhaegar Targaryen, signaling the end of the family… until his even more badass little sister assumes the mantle.
Once Varys' spies, now Cersei's creepiest little killers.
Nickname for the cravenly ambitious Lord Petyr Baelish, a social climber-turned-evil genius who basically kickstarts the entire show by bringing long-simmering tensions between the first families to a boil with one mere murder.Chaos is a ladder. (Maybe if he'd planned his own execution it would've been less anticlimactic.)
A Mormont family Valyrian blade gifted to Jon Snow, it's already killed two White Walkers and hopefully has the Night King's name on it next.
"The real war is between the living and the dead. And, make no mistake, the dead are coming." Can't wait!
Loot Train Attack:
With the best horseback action of any battle, we finally got to see the Dothraki ride on Westeros and kill the men in iron suits.
Lord of Light:
Smoke babies, resurrection, and human bonfires in its bag, this deity's the definitive GOAT god of showmanship.
Many-Faced God, The:
"There is only one god, and his name is Death."
Golden spear piercing a red sun. Dornish royalty who take up with the Targaryens, marrying Elia to Rhaegar and suffering mightily for it; decades later to avenge Elia and now Oberyn, they once again take up with the Targaryens and… suffer mightily for it.
Martin, George RR:
A genius and a sadist, the man from whose A Song of Ice and Fire book saga this series stems contributed to the show with creative input and one script a season until his own procrastination caught up to him. Now the conclusion to his own story will come before he gets a chance to write it.
Slavery conservatives of Essos who can't get jiggy with AO-Khaleesi's New Green Deal and die very horrible deaths for it.
The Essos city where Daenerys field-tests her queenliness… which proves that even the best women for the job aren't always perfect at the outset.
Where brothers of the Night's Watch go to get their rocks off before it's abandoned because of Wildlings.
Moon Door, The:
The Vale's means of execution. It's also the fastest/worst way to leave the Eyrie.
Mormont - sigil:
bear. Northern house quietly comprised of some of the series' most respectable and loyal characters.
A fine little blade. Just don't ever try and pick your teeth with it.
The final boss of all bosses, he's been striking fear in our hearts since Season 4, and in Jon's since 5, but there’s still so much left to learn. Honestly, though, is he really more intimidating than Cersei?
Night's Watch, The:
A brotherhood of outlaws, bastards, killers, and thieves sworn to guard the realms of men for this night and all the nights to come.
"You have to go. They'll kill you." Truer words have never been spoken (see D, direwolf).
Valyrian blade melted down from Ned Stark's massive broadsword by Tywin Lannister but, thankfully, given to someone who would (and did) do its lineage justice, hence the name.
Old Gods of the Forest:
If creepy-faced trees with stigmata are your thing, have we got the religion for you.
Order of the Maesters:
Pretty much a medieval teacher's union.
Ding-dong, this dickhead is finally dead. He died clawing at his own throat; true justice would've been Arya sticking Needle through it, but on this show you take what you can get.
The crusty-looking capital of the Iron Islands.
The self-proclaimed "greatest city that ever was," aka the plot filler we couldn't wait for Dany to get the hell out of.
The mnemonic code name among longtime ASOIAF fans, designating the popular theory of Jon Snow’s true parentage. As the Season 6 finale confirms (and, in case it flew over your head, the Season 7 finale underlines), turns out they were right all along.
The bread basket of Westeros with a touch of Liberace flair, this resource-rich region is home base to the Tyrell family until they get on Cersei’s bad side.
The castle that holds the Iron Throne. If those walls could talk, they'd probably scream.
The mysterious evangelist for the Lord of Light—we owe the series' most welcome resurrection to her powers. She’s also responsible for one of its most disturbing deaths. Her own death is sure to be interesting—no spoilers, she predicted as much to Lord Varys.
Prince Oberyn Martell, the cunning warrior nursing a grudge against the Lannisters for the brutal death of his sister during Tywin's overthrow of King's Landing during Robert's Rebellion.
A betrayal, assassination, and chess move stunning in its precision, disturbing in its cold-bloodedness, and ungodly to a point of potentially dooming everyone involved in it. You've never seen a hero take an L like this. Witness the true extent of Tywin Lannister's influence, and one of the most shocking twists across pop-culture history.
Everyone needs friends like the Reeds, the Northern family who have been assisting the Starks for decades. Howland held Ned down during a pivotal moment at the Tower of Joy; his children, Jojen and Meera, guided Bran on his quest.
One of Dany's dragon children, and with Drogon as the moody prodigal and Viserion now a bad guy, the de facto Jan of the bunch.
The dynastic home of House Tully, it was gifted to the supreme snake, i.e., Walder Frey, by the Lannisters after his audience-shattering betrayal of Rob Stark at the Red Wedding.
Robert Baratheon’s bid to overthrow the Mad King once and for all and "rescue" his true love Lyanna Stark. The outcome creates a series of circumstances that sets every conflict in ASOIAF in motion.
Three of Oberyn's daughters unite in their quest with Ellaria Sand to avenge the Martell family against the Lannisters—even if that means innocent deaths. Sadly, they're cooler on paper.
The Dornish surname for bastard. It doesn't carry anywhere near the negative stigma it does in the North. "We are everywhere in Dorne. I have 10,000 brothers and sisters."
Second Siege of Meereen:
When Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis really thought they were about to reinstate slavery by bringing some ships to a dragon fight.
The fancy word for contract killer.
Once divided in war, then united by Aegon Targaryen, then divided and reunited by Robert's Rebellion, then divided once again by his murder, and now kind of united in their stand against the Whites. Point being Westeros is always fighting someone.
Renamed the Bay of Dragons after Dany invades and puts an end to slavery. All hail the Breaker of Chains.
"And why is my surname Snow?" "Because you’re a bastard from the North."
Song of Ice and Fire, A:
ASOIAF for short. The proper name for the saga we’re all so wrapped up in. Game of Thrones is a sexier name for a TV show, sure, but, in actuality, it’s just the name of the first book.
Sons of the Harpy:
Determined to bring slavery back to Essos, they run around in Carnival costumes and make quick work of unbeatable armies with just some little shanks.
Zealots given power by Cersei's shortsightedness, but their movement, uh, burns out (see W, wildfire).
Steadfast wardens of the North, de facto protagonists of this sprawling story, certainly the most noble and heroic—great qualities that are usually their undoing.
Jorah and Tyrion are unlucky enough to discover these Greyscale exiles also sink like their namesake.
Just another one of Dany's many titles, proving that “true badass” translates across all cultures.
The unconquerable castle where Stannis Baratheon is rescued from starvation by the Onion Knight.
All we ever really get to see of this enchanting city is the gardens, making it, like much of the rest of Dorne, a wasted opportunity.
Founding family that shapes Westeros into what it is, they hold the Iron Throne until the Mad King's ravings (and his son Rhaegar's wandering eye) bring about a rebellion that effectively erases the family… until the Last Dragon rises in an unlikely exiled girl in the East.
Honestly, no idea. What we know: He's an old guy, lives among the Children, is a greenseer with the ability to time-travel, and he summons Bran to him so he can pass these skills along. What we don’t know: literally anything else. The Night King seems to really enjoy killing him, though.
Westeros' version of a swing state, this family resides in High Garden and has the wealth, reputation, and numbers to sway the odds for whichever warring family they take up with. Sadly, enabling Margaery Tyrell's thirst to be queen also sets the whole family's ruin in motion.
The most elite fighting force in the entire world. Unless, of course, they're fighting men with gold masks and tiny knives (see S, Sons of the Harpy).
Westerosi North-adjacent region from whence Catelyn Stark hails.
One of the series' coolest and most foreboding catchphrases. Translation: “All men must die.”
A once-great mecca, now a mythical ruined city.
The rarest and finest type of sword. The only weapon that can kill a White Walker, save Dragonglass.
Along with Astapor and Yunkai, makes the mistake of trying to renegotiate with the Queen of Dragons (see Second Siege of Meereen).
One of Dany’s dragon children, now the undead ace up the Night King's sleeve (which he only has thanks to a lot of blatant plot machinations, but we digress).
The 700-foot-tall, 300-mile-wide, man-made solid-ice construct built to keep the Wildlings—and worse—out of Westeros. Worked pretty well for a few millennia, too.
Someone gifted with the ability of projecting their consciousness into and assuming control of another entity—usually animals, but also Hodors.
When carved into Heart Trees, they work as the eyes and ears of the Three-Eyed Raven. Expect these natural surveillance cams to be a crucial tool in the war to come.
The most relevant continent in the GoT universe, with repeated civil wars, numerous invasions, political assassinations galore, and now a plague of dead marching to wipe out the living. Honestly, from the outside looking in, it appears to be the only one that can’t get its shit together.
Mysterious creatures reduced to myth after thousands of years of hibernation, they spend the majority of the series lurking on the sidelines while the humans enjoy their petty power struggles. Now they’re back, with a leader, a dragon, and, well, see V for Valar Morghulis.
One of the two Valyrian blades made from Ice, it is given this obviously overcompensating name by King Joffrey.
Zombies that make up the Army of The Dead, they can be freed if the White Walker that turns them is killed.
Highly volatile and explosive substance. An almost-tool of genocide by the Mad King until the Kingslayer steps in, also successfully deployed by Tyrion Lannister at the Battle of the Blackwater and successfully used by Cersei Lannister to "handle all family business" in one fell swoop (and cement “The Winds of Winter” as the best episode of the series).
The people unlucky enough to be on the wrong side of the Wall when it goes up, they bend their knees to no man. Except Mance Rayder. And Jon Snow. And now Dany.
Captured, burned, rebuilt, and occupied. The North has a lot to remember.
Before being killed by the biggest bastard at the Battle of the Bastards, he liked to spend his time knocking down castle gates. RIP, the last giant.
Another slave city that is largely good for nothing up until the Second Siege of Meereen, when it’s really good for nothing.