In Game of Thrones, legends of the Known World are passed down from the Maesters and the ancestors of Westeros and Essos. The tales speak of heroes, dragons, gods, and creatures that are long forgotten. The Song of Ice and Fire series is filled with plenty of legends that stretch beyond the Seven Kingdoms, and the series’ history and lore are what bring fans of the series to the show.
Westeros remembers the forest children and giants, dragons and magic used to flourish in Essos, and the people of Asshai still tell the tales of Azor Ahai.
George R.R. Martin created an in-depth world rich with fantastical and historical elements. Of course, a high fantasy requires in-depth world-building, and the world of Game of Thrones is an eye opener, built on legends and complex cultures. While the current books and TV series are focused on the Others-- the Night King from the north, the children of the forest, and the impending Long Winter-- there are other stories that the fans might have missed.
Take a seat by the fire and listen closely, because here are the 15 Game of Thrones "Known Legends" That Change Everything.
15 Azor Ahai
Azor Ahai is the warrior that forged the sword Lightbringer and drove the darkness away. During the Long Night, Azor was chosen as the hero to end the darkness. In order to defeat this darkness, he needed a powerful blade. He was able to forge such a blade after a few tries, though it took him one hundred days and one hundred nights to make.
On the hundredth day, he plunged the blade through his wife Nissa Nissa’s heart. Her soul combined with the hot blade and created Lightbringer. The fiery weapon drove the darkness away, thus ending the Long Night.
It is believed that Azor Ahai will be reborn again, sent by Rhllor, the Lord of Light. In the prophecy, the new Azor Ahai will rise from smoke and salt, as the "prince that was promised." The Song of Ice and Fire series elaborates the prophecy concerning who would be the prince for the upcoming long winter and deliver the world from darkness.
There are a number of characters in the Game of Thrones series that fit the bill. Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow are rumored to be the prince in the prophecy as both are born from smoke and tears.
14 Bran the Builder
The Great Wall just above the north of Winterfell couldn’t have been made possible without Brandon Stark “Bran the Builder.” Bran lived during the Age of Heroes, at a time when the First Men made peace with the children of the forest.
Bran was the son of Brandon the Bloody Blade. Unlike his father, who terrorized the children of the forest, Bran south their help to build the Wall. It’s also suggested that Bran may have had help from the giants.
Bran is known as the architect and is responsible for some of Westeros’ landmarks. Uthor of Hightower commissioned Bran to rebuild Hightower out of stone. On completion, the tower was over 200 feet above the harbor. Members of the Hightower house would continue to increase the tower’s height, and it's currently the tallest building the world, stretching beyond 700 feet, higher than the Wall.
Bran was also credited for designing Storm’s End. According to legend, Durran Godsgrief asked Bran to help create an indestructible fortress against the Gods. Maesters believed that no man could have achieved all of this in one generation.
13 Doom of Valyria
The Doom of Valyria was a great cataclysmic event that destroyed the Valyrian Freehold in a single night. The disaster wiped out both the dragons and their riders. The empire’s home cities perished, and the Fourteen Flames shattered Valyria’s peninsula into small islands. Some say that it was the Valyrians who couldn’t control the flames, while the septons believed the nobles delved too deep into the seven hells.
Daenys Targaryen, known as Daenysthe Dreamer (not to be mistaken with Daenerys Stormborn), had a vision of the cataclysm and convinced her father that they must leave Valyria. The Targaryen house is the only Valyrian noble family that survived the Doom and sailed to their new home on Dragonstone.
Remnants of the ruins can be seen in the Smoking Sea. Tyrion Lannister, while traveling in Selaesori Qhoran, could see a faint, red glow shrouded in smoke. Countless explorers have dared to explore the fiery seas in search of riches, but none ever returned.
12 Durran Godsgrief
Lord Durran was one of the legendary heroes, best known for creating Storm’s End and defying the gods. Durran fell in love with Elenei, a mermaid who happened to be the daughter of the Gods-- her father ruled the seas, while her mother ruled the winds.
These Gods didn’t approve of the marriage, and, like any God enraged by their mortal son-in-law, they destroyed Durran's first castle. Durran retaliated and made it his goal to rebuild the castle. After his sixth castle toppled down into Shipbreaker Bay, Durran commissioned Bran the Builder to build the seventh castle, which was able to brave through the intense storms and harsh winds.
Durran earned the nickname Godsgrief because of his affair with the Gods. His descendants, the Baratheons, would inherit his sigil and Storm’s End.
11 Century of Blood
The Century of Blood is known as a period of chaos in Essos that took place before the Doom of Valyria. Previously, Valyria Freehold had held immense power in Essos, and the small kingdoms were under Valyria's control.
With Valyria gone, a power vacuum erupted among the city-states. The Dothraki people conquered the nearby kingdoms. For every town they destroyed, grasslands grew in its place. The tall grassland region later becomes known as the Dothraki Sea.
The Volantians had three overlords contest for Valyria, and eventually eight of the nine Free Cities under Valyria emerged as independent nations.
Slaver’s Bay returned to the Ghis people, who retook their lands and established their own cities. Yunkai, Astapor, and Meereen took over Slaver’s Bay, each represented by the Wise, Good, and Great Masters, respectively. To this day, the Century of Blood is a reminder of Valyria’s lost grip in Essos and the rise of the Dothraki.
10 The Great Empire of Dawn
It is said that the Empire of Dawn lasted for over tens of thousands of years-- many see the Dawn Empire as the cradle of civilization. Its first ruler, the God-of-Earth, reigned for ten thousand years. His son, the Pearl Emperor, ruled a thousand years, and his descendants never ruled past a thousand. The later Dawn emperors had shorter reigns and lived through troubled times.
The last known ruler was the Bloodstone Emperor, the brother of the Opal Empress. The Bloodstone Emperor feasted on human flesh and forsook the Gods in place of the God of the black star. His actions ushered in the Long night.
The Maid-of-the-Light turned her back on the people, and the Lion of Night punished them. Azor Ahai drove the the darkness out, thus restoring light into the world, but the Dawn Empire was no more. Tribes and common folk separated, and the former empire was replaced by the Yi Ti Empire.
The main TV series and books will likely never explore the areas, but HBO is planning five spinoffs, and having one focus on the Yi Ti Empire would be a great addition.
9 The Grey King
Founder of the Greyjoys, the Grey King is the legendary monarch of the Iron Islands, recognized as the slayer of the sea serpent Nagga. The Drowned God turned Nagga’s remains into stone and the king used them to build the Grey King’s Hall, which is located at Nagga Hill.
The throne was decorated with Nagga's teeth, making it appear like the chair was inside the mouth of the serpent. The Grey King ruled for centuries before casting his driftwood crown aside and descended to the Drowned God's hallways to serve as the God's right hand man. Nagga’s fire was said to have brought warmth into the hall before it was snuffed out after the king's passing.
The Grey King married a mermaid and had at least one hundred sons, who would eventually contest for the throne. Although the Grey King Hall is no more, the Iron Born allow captains to contest for the throne.
8 The Winged Knight
The Winged Knight is the founder of the Vale of Arryn, and is best known for battling the Griffin King. Like Bran the Builder and Lann the Clever, he, too, was a legendary hero who accomplished deeds in Westeros. The Knight befriended the giants and merlings, and was said to have an army of giant falcons.
He learned about a giant griffin that was terrorizing the area and flew up to Giant’s Lance, the highest mountain in Arynn, to confront it. After the fight, The Knight claimed the Vale. The Arryns and their descendants would take the falcon as their house sigil.
The Winged Knight's tale is part of the Arryn family history. Maester Yandel suggests that the Winged Knight was combined in songs with Ser Artys Arryn, who fought for the Andals.
Peter Baelish eventually takes the Lady Alayne Stone’s advice and forms the Brotherhood of Winged Knights, who go on to protect Lord Robert Arryn.
Greyscale is an incurable disease, brought from the cold, damp climates of the Rhyone rivers. The virulent disease was a curse from Prince Garin the Great.
During the Second Spice War, Garin waged war against Valyria and Volantis, but he was captured and witnessed his people become enslaved. He cast a curse on the conquerors. Mother Rhyone, the Rhynar's god, sent a fog that infected every Valyrian soldier in Chroyane with Greyscale.
The people call the ruin lands the Sorrows-- a thick fog covers the narrow rivers, and most of the inhabitants are Greyscale victims. Explorers avoid the Palace of Sorrows in fear of the Shadow Lord who rules it.
Greyscale can be contained, but all victims eventually turn into stone. If the disease manages to get that far, most victims become completely mad before they die.
6 Garth the Greenhand
Garth the Greenhand was said to have led the First Men from the Arm of Dorne. Storytellers refer to him as a God with green hands, and possible antlers. Others downplay the King and claim that Garth demanded blood sacrifices to ensure a bountiful harvest.
Whenever he walked, farms, villages, and orchards sprouted from his touch. He offered seeds and taught everyone basic farming. The children of the forest enjoyed his gifts and the giants didn’t make much of his cultivation of the lands. Garth is responsible for all of Westeros’ plants and harvest food. It’s also said that he could make barren women fertile again. Any women who slept with him bore healthy sons and fair maidens.
His son, Garth the Gardener, became the founder of Highgarden. From his loins sprung House Gardener, who would rule the Reach until Aegon the Conqueror obliterated the family.
5 Wood Walkers
Wood walkers are the Essos equivalent of Westeros' children of the forest. Westeros harbored plenty of mythic creatures before the First Men ever set foot on their lands. In Essos, Wood Walkers are known for their magic. Wood walkers are shy, small beings who keep hidden and run away from humans. Some believed the wood walkers were extinct due to the Ibbenese people.
The Dothraki people call wood wakers the Ifequevron, which translates to “those who walk in the woods.” No man has ever seen these mythical creatures.
The Dothraki people avoid the Kingdom of the Ifequevron out of respect for the creatures and, perhaps, fear of their magic. Deep in the forest where the Ifequevron roam, travelers can find carved trees, much like the Weirwood in Westeros, haunted grottos, and a strange, eerie silence.
The Ibbenese claimed to have seen these creatures and believed the wood walkers offer stones and leaves as a sign of blessings from the Woodfolk.
4 Womb of the World
The Womb of the World is an ancient lake located in northeast Essos, just beyond the Vaes Dothrak and the Mother Mountains. The lake is a holy place for the Dothraki, and they believed the first man emerged from its waters, riding a horse.
The Dothraki people believed that they were descended from him over a thousand years ago. Out of the many places they conquered, the Dothraki people regard the Womb of the World and Vaes Dothrak as the two sacred places.
The lake is depthless, surrounded by reeds, with a wide opening for the river. The river runs north of the lake and deposits at the mouth of the Shivering Sea. Daenerys visits the lake after eating the stallion heart. She bathes in the lake and afterwards she and Khal Drogo make love.
3 Ice Dragons
Ice dragons are more elusive than the dragons of the Known World. They are extremely rare and remain hidden from the world, but some people suspect that they exist in the far off reaches of the Shivering Seas.
The creatures are larger than their fiery sisters, and breath cold icy winds equivalent to blizzard storms. Their leather wings are translucent and their cold, blue eyes look like blue crystals in the nights.
Although they haven’t appeared in the novels, there are several hints of the massive icy lizards. In one scene, Jon Snow observes that the long snake passage underneath the Wall is similar to the ice dragon from Old Nan’s tales. A few fans of the series suspect they might make an eventual appearance in the TV series, since the series is titled Song of Ice and Fire, and we have only seen Daenerys' fire dragons so far.
2 Lann the Clever
Lann the Clever is the first of the Lannisters, best known for outsmarting the Lords of Casterly Rock. Lann was said to be the son of either Florys the Fox or Rowan Gold-Tree. In his early years, he tricked Garth the Green by pretending that he was Greenhand’s bastard son.
Since Garth sired one hundred sons, he fell for Lann’s lie and Lann managed to make a portion of Garth’s fortune. Lann also famously took the sun’s gold to dye his hair blond. Afterward, Lann conquered Casterly Rock through deceit.
He found a narrow passageway that led into the inner structures of the castle, and pretended to be a ghost, wreaking havoc among the Casterlys. Lann moved the Casterly sibling’s gold around, which pit the siblings against one another. The Casterly brothers killed each other, and Lann seized the throne for himself.
There’s also another version of the tale, which states that Lann brought in mice and a pride of lions to devour the lords of Casterly. When the deed was done, he married the Lord Casterly’s wife.
1 Asshai City and the Shadowlands
Asshai City is part of the Shadow Lands, a far southeast region that is said to be at the edge of the Known World. Asshai is a popular port for exotic goods, but traders dare not trek beyond the city. It is believed by many that dragons came from beneath the Shadowlands, and Daenerys’ dragons were a gift from the Asshai'i people.
Not much is know about the mythical city, but that it was there before the Asshai'i settled. The stone structures are made out of black stone, which is greasy to the touch and appears to consume the light, snuffing out the bright flames of fireplaces. Due to the dimness of the city, the Asshai people have a dark, solemn appearance.
The people practice the dark arts openly across the city, and often tamper with various curses. They worship a few Gods, such as Lion of the Night, Black Goat, and Bakkalon, but most believe in Rhllor, the Lord of Light as their God. They also record arcane magic as well as history, including the tales of Azor Ahai.
The Game of Thrones' Song of Ice and Fire series is full of legends and tales. Can you think of any others? Let us know in the comments!