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George R.R. Martin Explains The Red Wedding’s Historical Roots

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.

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  1. brendy says:

    this episode broke my hearth especially when they kill robb wife,so brutal and rage on it that is not even ….amazing ??? i need to read the book all right.

  2. Ali says:

    Does George “Rail Road” Martin ever leave the house without that hat?

  3. Evel says:

    I enjoyed my burrito, but I cried while eating it.

    It wasn’t the end when Ned Stark died, and this won’t be either :*)

  4. Kris Fruin (@fruinjuice) says:

    Looks like I mis-quoted her name – It was Jeyne Westerling. I still stand by her not being pregnant as I believe the potion was to keep her from getting pregnant.

    Still – I believe the reason for her to be killed (and the baby) in the show was to prevent any further complications to the story from an ‘heir’ and to give a fitting end to their part of the story.

  5. Kris Fruin (@fruinjuice) says:

    *not a book spoiler, just pointing out a difference b/w book and show*

    @GJ – Robb’s wife (Jeyne Poole) in the books, wasn’t pregnant, so her not being at the wedding and kiiled would have no ramifications. In the TV show, she was pregnant, so had to be killed to not create further issues with an ‘heir’.

    • Shari says:

      Actually, in the books she was pregnant, but her mom made her drink moon tea per Lord Lannister’s request. Then again, in the books she wasn’t a foreigner and she stayed behind at Riverrun during the Red Wedding. There are a lot of little differences between the show and the books that could drive you crazy if you get hung up on them….

  6. b4wb says:

    Great episode, can’t wait for what’s to come!

  7. Roshan says:

    One mistake most viewers do is getting attached to characters on TV shows. These things happen in show biz. How else would they’ve keep a show interesting and survive beyond the second season.

  8. hutchero says:

    Interesting but he’s got the Glencoe massacre slightly backwards, the Campbells were the guest of the MacDonalds and massacred their hosts

  9. Ann L says:

    From those of us who have read the books, just wait, there is more to come. I can’t wait to see the reaction to the season finale…

  10. GJ says:

    I remain mystified about why the change from the book regarding Robb’s wife. She didn’t go to the wedding in the book and therefore a rightful heir ( as far as most people know) still lives on. Not sure how this plays into the overall storyline.

  11. Hauke says:

    As a not book reader, I was pretty surprised, but loved the ending. I was really surprised when I heard about the strong reactions of americans on twitter and youtube. I guess in European television / cinema, bad endings are much more common than happy endings… so we are maybe alittle bit more used to it

  12. Xeroz says:

    No kidding, huh?
    I wonder if Mr. Martin realizes how much he’s keeping his readers on the edges of their seats… Hoping nothing untoward happens to that brilliant mind of his anytime soon.
    I’d like to see him enjoy many more burrito’s, and then some.

  13. Sarah says:

    Think one of the lines from the series sums up the whole thing perfectly: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

  14. Shari says:

    Instead of discussing the Red Wedding with George R.R. Martin, you should have been asking him when he’s gonna finish the next book!!!!
    We don’t want another four years.

  15. Lucas says:

    No burritos may have been enjoyed on last Monday but as someone who has read the books I can swear on the old gods, the new gods and the god of light there will be plenty of Mondays where you will have an equally strong visceral reaction to share your joyous burrito with all of humanity.

  16. Carrie says:

    Cheated by reading the story of book 3 on Wikipedia. Yeah, I knew it was coming I just didn’t know when.

  17. Brendan says:

    The episode was brilliant. I have not read the books and was not expecting it. As a result, I was wow’d yet again by this show. Game of Thrones never lets me down.

  18. Aaron says:

    I’m still reading the first book and only started after the show aired, so I had no idea what to expect, but I just watched the episode finally last night and it just fucking destroyed me. I was so incredibly angry and horribly upset. It blindsided me so bad that I just sat there in silence as the screen went black after the credits. I woke up this morning and was in a funk because of it.

    I was literally asking people I don’t even really talk to that much who happened to be around today if they’d seen the episode, just so I could talk about it. It’s sort of like a therapy; talking through the trauma. I know it’s just a show but I haven’t had this much of a visceral reaction to fiction in years. Truly heartbreaking. I’m inconsolable.

    No burritos were enjoyed on this day.

  19. Patrick says:

    It was great. Was looking forward to this for awhile.