Game of Thrones has many strengths, one of which is stellar world-building. Grounded in rich lore and mythology, the series includes fascinating events that precede season 1. Some of these events stretch back thousands of years ago when the empire known as the Valyrian Freehold was the pinnacle of civilization. Looking back thousands of years also provides insight into the origins of the White Walkers and the first time they terrorized Westeros.
Long after these events, but still before season 1, Westeros was conquered and then ruled by generation after generation of Targaryens. The Targaryen dynasty ended with the demise of Aerys Targaryen, who was often referred to as the Mad King. The war that ended the Targaryen reign was called Robert's Rebellion, as Robert Baratheon led the fight against the Iron Throne. It was hardly happily ever after in the aftermath of Robert becoming king, though. More crazy events occurred that forever changed Westeros and set the stage for season 1 of Game of Thrones. It's through looking at the past that audiences can better understand the intricate dynamics between the vast number of characters and kingdoms in the show.
Characters like Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Theon Greyjoy might not have been alive or been very young when many of these events occurred, but exploring this history sheds light on the challenges that each of these core characters face. In many cases, it is the mistakes and sacrifices of their parents and ancestors of old that gave rise to the conflicts that the younger generation must solve.
Let's take a look at the 30 Wild Things That Happened Before Season 1 Of Game Of Thrones.
30 The Doom Of Valyria
The Valyrian Freehold was a vast empire that prospered for thousands of years. They were rich in every sense and the greatest civilization of their time. At the height of their power, they ruled half of the known world. They had the best weapons (Valyrian steel swords), the most magnificent architecture, and an intellectual renaissance brimming with the world's best art and scholars.
Much like the Roman Empire, only one devastating event was needed for it to fall, though. A cataclysmic event struck and wiped out the center of the Valyrian Freehold, which caused the entire civilization to collapse. This became known as the Doom of Valyria. The once mighty empire was reduced to ruins.
29 Creating The White Walkers
Thousands of years ago, the Children of the Forest fought to defend themselves against the First Men who came from Essos. Overcome by the First Men's attacks, the Children turned some of their enemies into White Walkers. The Night King was the first man they transformed into a White Walker. They were created to protect the Children, but eventually the White Walkers broke free of their control.
Many of the Children regretted the dangerous terrors that they'd created, but they assisted in the fight against them. The Children joined the fight again when the White Walkers resurfaced, as many of the Children sacrificed themselves so Bran Stark could escape.
28 The Long Night
Eight thousand years ago, Westeros endured a winter that lasted an entire generation. This was known as the Long Night during which the White Walkers and their army of wights fought to destroy all life and bring eternal winter to the world.
They were former enemies who not long ago had fought against each other, but the First Men and Children of the Forest banded together in order to defeat the White Walkers and survive. Through much sacrifice and loss, they drove the White Walkers and the wights back to the northernmost reaches from whence they came.
27 Building The Wall
Seven hundred feet tall and made of solid ice, the Wall seems like a massive structure that's stood along the northern border of Westeros for all of eternity. It didn't always exist, though. In fact, it was actually built after the Long Night to prevent the White Walkers and their army from invading Westeros again.
By the time of season 1 of Game of Thrones, most viewed the Wall as separation between the people of Westeros and the wildlings. The White Walkers had become little more than myths, and as such, the true purpose of the Wall was largely forgotten, even by the Night's Watch.
26 Creating The Iron Throne
The Iron Throne was forged by the first Targaryen monarch, Aegon the Conqueror. One thousand swords that had been surrendered to Aegon were melted down by the breath of his dragon Balerion the Black Dread and then beaten and shaped into the iconic Iron Throne. Though it was an uncomfortable chair to sit on by all accounts, the Iron Throne's real power was the power it symbolized, along with the fear, respect, and desire it instilled in countless others.
Even though the Iron Throne came about from the Targaryen dynasty, it remained after the life of Mad King Aerys Targaryen was taken. Robert Baratheon, Joffrey, Tommen, and Cersei Lannister all sat on the Iron Throne when they ruled the Seven Kingdoms.
25 Burning Of Harrenhal
King Harren Hoare made the mistake of crossing Aegon the Conqueror. During Aegon's Conquest, the Targaryen ruler offered to make King Harren Lord of the Iron Islands if he yielded his castle. Harren refused and in retaliation, Aegon had his dragon Balerion the Black Dread torch the entire castle of Harrenhal. Harren mistakenly believed stone couldn't be burned, not understanding the power of dragon fire.
While Harrenhal still stood hundreds of years later, the once magnificent castle remained a dark ruin, never able to recover from the wrath of Aegon the Conqueror and his dragon Balerion.
24 Dance Of Dragons
The Targaryen dynasty wasn't always smooth sailing, especially when it came to fighting within the family over who should sit on the Iron Throne. At one point, a civil war erupted between the Targaryens known as the Dance of Dragons, where King Aegon II Targaryen fought with Rhaenyra Targaryen for control of the Seven Kingdoms. Beyond the dragon sigil of House Targaryen, the war was called this because it was literally fought with dragons.
Neither Aegon nor Rhaenyra survived the war. In the aftermath, it was Rhaenyra's son Aegon III who was crowned and continued the Targaryen dynasty.
23 Temporary Dragon Extinction
Dragons had long been part of the world, especially when it came to the Targaryen dynasty. One hundred years before season 1 of Game of Thrones, though, dragons became extinct. The dragons from the days of Aegon and Visenya Targaryen had been massive, formidable creatures. The same couldn't be said about the last living dragon before the extinction, as the creature's head was barely the size of an apple.
Extinction didn't last long, though, as three dragons were born one hundred years later when Daenerys took their eggs into the flames.
22 Maggy The Frog Told Cersei Lannister Her Future
Wanting to learn what her future had in store, Cersei Lannister sought out the fortune teller Maggy the Frog. Cersei thought Maggy would tell her that she'd marry the handsome prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Instead, Maggy told Cersei that she'd marry the king, her children would perish, and a younger and more beautiful woman would one day usurp her.
This was not exactly the fortune Cersei was looking for, and thus Maggy's words haunted her for the rest of her life and shaped how Cersei treated her children. Cersei also tormented Sansa Stark and Margaery Tyrell largely because she feared one of them was the usurping woman Maggy foretold.
21 Gregor Clegane Burned His Brother's Face
Gregor Clegane -- known to most as the Mountain -- was never the most verbally expressive or emotionally stable adult. The same held true when he was a child. One day, his brother Sandor was playing with a toy that Gregor wanted. Instead of having a conversation about who should play with the toy, Gregor thrust Sandor's face into the fire.
This is why half of the Hound's face is burnt and why he carries such a bitter grudge against his brother the Mountain. Many fans are still hoping for Cleganebowl, an epic duel between the Clegane siblings that's been building ever since young Gregor burned Sandor's face.
20 Littlefinger's Challenge
Before she married Ned Stark, Catelyn Tully was actually betrothed to his brother Brandon. Not all were satisfied with this arrangement, though, particularly Petyr Baelish. Known to most as Littlefinger, he'd grown up beside Catelyn and had been obsessed and in love with her for many years. He challenged Brandon Stark to a duel in order to win Catelyn's hand.
Easily the superior swordsman, Brandon swiftly defeated Littlefinger. He could've taken Littlefinger's life, but Catelyn begged him to be spared, so instead Brandon showed him mercy. Catelyn felt no romantic love towards Littlefinger, yet she loved him like a brother and couldn't stand to see his life ended by the man who at the time was her future husband.
19 The Mad King's Rejection
Always looking to advance the position of House Lannister, Tywin tried to arrange a marriage between his daughter Cersei and the Mad King's son Rhaegar Targaryen. The marriage was not just desired by Tywin, since Cersei wanted to marry the handsome prince as well.
Paranoid of Tywin becoming more powerful than him, the Mad King refused to let his son marry Cersei. She still became Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, though, as she later married Robert Baratheon when he became King of the Seven Kingdoms after the demise of the Mad King. Cersei's marriage to him and their "children" enabled the Lannisters to essentially rule the Seven Kingdoms after Robert perished.
18 Jaime Lannister Was Appointed To The Kingsguard
Scared of Tywin Lannister usurping him, the Mad King took out that fear on Tywin's prized children, Cersei and Jaime. For Cersei, this meant the Mad King refusing to let his son Rhaegar marry her. For Jaime, it meant appointing him to the Kingsguard.
On the surface, it seemed like an honor to appoint Jaime to protect the Mad King and serve alongside the legendary likes of Arthur Dayne and Barristan Selmy. In truth, however, it was a calculated, spiteful move by the Mad King. Members of the Kingsguard cannot inherit lands or titles, which means that Jaime could no longer inherit Casterly Rock or become the Lord of House Lannister after Tywin passed away. This made Tyrion the Lannister heir, someone who Tywin despised with every fiber of his being.
17 Jeor Mormont Joined The Night's Watch
Jeor Mormont made a rare sacrifice for his son Jorah. He wanted to give Jorah a chance to lead House Mormont, so Jeor graciously abdicated his seat of power. In order to make this possible, Jeor joined the Night's Watch so that he'd no longer have any claim to leading House Mormont.
A born leader and man of many talents, Jeor rose quickly through the ranks of the Night's Watch. He became the 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, respected by all manners of individuals from Maester Aemon to Alliser Thorne.
16 Lyanna Stark And Rhaegar Targaryen Eloped
While many were led to believe that Rhaegar Targaryen abducted Lyanna Stark, the two of them actually eloped together. Rhaegar had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled so that he and Lyanna could be wed in secret. They made these decisions out of love for one another, but devastating consequences followed for the Seven Kingdoms.
Believing that Lyanna had been abducted, Robert Baratheon started his rebellion against the Iron Throne. Robert was betrothed to Lyanna and was determined to get her back, as was the Stark family. This war ultimately led to the end of the Targaryen dynasty and cost countless individuals their lives. Rhaegar and Lyanna truly loved one another and their love forever changed the Seven Kingdoms for better and for worse.
15 The Battle Of Ashford
Robert Baratheon wasn't the most effective king, but he was a formidable warrior and battle commander. During Robert's Rebellion, he won every single battle except for the Battle of Ashford. Randyll Tarly commanded the opposing forces in that battle. While he did not outright defeat Robert's forces, they were forced to retreat, which was the only time Robert didn't win a battle during the war.
Individuals like Stannis Baratheon would forever remember this as the the defining event of Randyll Tarly's life. Impressive as it was, it didn't make up for what a terrible father Randyll was to his son Samwell.
14 The End Of Rhaegar Targaryen
While Robert's Rebellion didn't officially end until the Mad King lost his life during the Sack of King's Landing, many individuals feel that the true end came at the Battle of the Trident. It was during this battle that Robert Baratheon and Rhaegar Targaryen came face to face. The two men who loved Lyanna Stark clashed on the battlefield. They fought for hours until Rhaegar perished beneath Robert's war hammer.
Rhaegar was the heart and soul of the Targaryen forces. His charisma and nobility inspired countless people. Most were fighting for him, and not the Mad King. As such, the war began when Rhaegar eloped with Lyanna, and it essentially ended with Rhaegar's demise.
13 Tywin Lannister's Betrayal
While the Mad King and Tywin Lannister didn't always see eye-to-eye, Aerys Targaryen thought his former Hand was still loyal to him during Robert's Rebellion. This is why towards the end of the war and on Grand Maester Pycelle's advice, the Mad King allowed Tywin and his army through the gates of King's Landing.
This decision sealed the Mad King's demise and the end of his reign. Under the guise of an ally, Tywin and his army were allowed entry and proceeded to betray the Mad King's trust. They sacked the city and even slaughtered members of the Targaryen family.
12 Jaime Lannister Became The Kingslayer
Appointed to the Kingsguard by the Mad King, Jaime Lannister was sworn to protect Aerys Targaryen alongside the legendary likes of Arthur Dayne and Barristan Selmy. Jaime's loyalty to his family came first, though. When Tywin Lannister betrayed the Mad King's trust and sacked King's Landing, Jaime violated his vow. Instead of protecting the Mad King, Jaime thrust a sword through his back. This earned him the nickname "Kingslayer."
Years later, Jaime confided to Brienne of Tarth that slaying the Mad King had more so been about protecting the people of King's Landing than following his father's orders. In his final crazed moments, the Mad King wanted to torch himself and all of King's Landing with wildfire. Jaime put a stop to this by ending the Mad King's life, yet he would only be remembered by most as the dishonorable Kingslayer.
11 Tower Of Joy Battle
Believing that Rhaegar had abducted Lyanna, Ned Stark rode with six men to the Tower of Joy to save her. Kingsguard members Arthur Dayne and Gerold Hightower had been commanded to defend the tower at all costs. Seven against two seemed like fair odds, but Arthur Dayne was considered to be one of the greatest swordsmen to ever live.
Everyone but Ned and one of his men, Howland Reed, ended up perishing during the battle outside the Tower of Joy. Ned's survival and the defeat of the two Kingsguard allowed him to finally reach his sister.
10 Ned Stark's Promise
Once Ned Stark reached his sister in the Tower of Joy, he found her perishing from complications related to childbirth. Before passing away, Lyanna made Ned promise that he would take care of her child and never reveal the child's true parentage. Lyanna knew Robert Baratheon would not allow the child to live if he discovered that the father was Rhaegar Targaryen.
True to his word, Ned raised the child. Lyanna named him Aegon Targaryen, but to everyone else he was known as the bastard Jon Snow. Ned took the secret to his grave, never even revealing the truth to his wife Catelyn.
9 Jorah Mormont Disgraced His House
Years before he met Daenerys Targaryen, Jorah Mormont was married to Lynesse Hightower. Used to the luxury and riches of Oldtown, she had expensive tastes that Jorah struggled to satisfy. He spent all his money trying to please her. Eventually, he resorted to arresting poachers and selling them to slavers so that he'd have the money to buy his wife the things she desired.
Slavery was illegal in Westeros in the first place, an act made worse by the fact that Jorah was the Lord of House Mormont. He fled to Essos to escape punishment at the hands of Ned Stark, which set Jorah on the path to one day meeting Daenerys.
8 Tyrion Lannister Married A Commoner
Tyrion Lannister was never one to follow rules and traditions. The Lannisters were one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Westeros, and it was expected that the Lannisters would marry individuals of similar social status. Tyrion refused to follow this when he married Tysha, a commoner and the daughter of a wheelwright. They fell in love and enjoyed an incredibly brief, but blissful marriage.
However, it turned out that meeting Tysha in the first place had been a cruel setup designed by Tyrion's brother Jaime. When Tywin Lannister found out about the marriage, he did everything in his power to destroy it once and for all in the most evil way possible.
7 Greyjoy's Rebellion
Balon Greyjoy was unhappy with life under the rule of Robert Baratheon. He wanted the Iron Islands to break away from the Seven Kingdoms and achieve independence, along with bringing back the Old Way -- essentially reaving and plundering. Balon crowned himself King of the Iron Islands and tried to make his wishes come true through Greyjoy's Rebellion. He and his Ironborn allies had early successes, as they burned Lannisport and raided the western coast of Westeros.
Once they lost their element of surprise, the massive forces loyal to King Robert ended Greyjoy's Rebellion. The likes of Robert, Ned Stark, Jaime Lannister, their respective armies, and many others came together to defeat the Ironborn's revolution once and for all on Pyke.
6 Daenerys Targaryen's Birth
Daenerys Targaryen's birth was a dramatic event that set the stage for her dramatic life. Her father Aerys Targaryen and her elder brother Rhaegar had both already perished. Robert Baratheon sat on the Iron Throne. A pregnant Rhaella Targaryen fled to Dragonstone with her son Viserys.
A severe storm raged on Dragonstone while Rhaella gave birth to Daenerys. It is because of this that Daenerys is often referred to with the title "Stormborn." Rhaella passed away while giving birth to Daenerys, making Viserys and Daenerys orphans in a world where Robert Baratheon and many others wanted them terminated.
5 Stannis Baratheon Took Davos Seaworth's Fingers
Stannis Baratheon was always a firm believer in justice, with little interest in the grey areas of the law. Davos Seaworth saved the lives of Stannis and his men by smuggling onions and other food to them when they were starving and trapped in Storm's End during Robert's Rebellion. Without Davos, Stannis and his forces likely wouldn't have survived the war. Stannis granted Davos knighthood and lands as thanks.
In the past, Davos' smuggling was often involved with thievery. With no tolerance for such actions, Stannis took four fingertips from the right hand of Davos because of his past crimes. Regardless of how much Davos helped Stannis, he couldn't see past the crimes that he had once committed.
4 Theon Greyjoy Became A Ward Of House Stark
After the failure of Greyjoy's Rebellion, Theon was Balon Greyjoy's only surviving son. As consequence for Balon's attempted rebellion against the Iron Throne, Theon became a ward of House Stark. This meant that the Starks would raise Theon at their home of Winterfell and among their own children.
This was done not just to punish Balon, but also to keep a close eye on Theon and ensure that he would not revolt against the crown like his father did. As fans know all too well, Theon's upbringing among the Starks led to plenty more consequences, both good and bad.
3 Shireen Baratheon Contracted Greyscale
As an infant Shireen Baratheon contracted Greyscale, a disease that normally leads to insanity and a fatal end. Her father Stannis Baratheon refused to let his only daughter be taken by Greyscale. He called in countless healers across the world to cure Shireen before it was too late. The healers were eventually successful and stopped the spread of the disease, though the left side of her face would remain scarred from when she was infected as a child.
Stannis was grateful to have saved his daughter's life and mind. Her mother Selyse didn't quite share the same attitude, as she resented Shireen for being a sickly daughter instead of a healthy son, which is something that's difficult to comprehend considering Shireen's unending sweetness, intellect, and compassion in the show.
2 Growing Up In Essos
With Aerys Targaryen losing his life to Jaime Lannister and Rhaella Targaryen perishing in childbirth, Daenerys and Viserys needed new guardians. Robert Baratheon already sat on the Iron Throne when Daenerys was born. He wanted the entire Targaryen line snuffed out, which meant that it was unsafe for Daenerys and Viserys to remain in Westeros.
Targaryen loyalists still existed, though, and they were the ones who took Daenerys and Viserys across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities of Essos. Daenerys and Viserys stayed with Willem Darry the longest, but they were raised and sheltered by others as well. This cycle ended when Daenerys married Khal Drogo at the beginning of season 1.
1 Littlefinger And Lysa Arryn Poisoned Jon Arryn
Lysa Arryn held no love for her husband Jon. She had always loved Littlefinger and would do anything to make him happy. He knew the demise of Jon Arryn would be the spark needed to begin unraveling the Seven Kingdoms.
The interests of Littlefinger and Lysa were aligned, so they set out to poison Jon Arryn. It was Littlefinger's plan, but it was Lysa who ensured that her husband ingested the fatally poisonous tears of Lys. Jon's end was the beginning of Game of Thrones, as it caused Robert Baratheon to ride north and name Ned Stark as his new Hand of the King. All of the chaos that followed can be traced back to this scheme concocted by Littlefinger.
What other crazy things happened before season 1 of Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!