Interpreting Game of Thrones


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Winter is over, so winter is coming again.

HBO's fantasy series "Game of Thrones" dove into its fourth season on April 6 with a record-breaking 6.6 million viewers and created some of its loudest buzz yet after a dramatic twist during the episode.

With each new season  —  and all those to come, given that seasons five and six have now been confirmed  —  the culture surrounding "Game of Thrones" becomes (almost) as intricate as the show's elaborate universe. But with a web of story lines and a vast cast of characters, it is nearly impossible for non-fans to keep up.

I am here to interpret some common "Game of Thrones" lines for those who, for one reason or another, have not yet joined the fandom. These topics were submitted by my sister Abby, who is the last member of my family I have yet to convert to the series.

So without any major spoilers or further ado, here are some answers to your most pressing "Game of Thrones" questions: 

Why do they say 'winter is coming'?

In the world of "Game of Thrones," seasons are indefinitely long and extreme (so it's basically Iowa). When the series picks up, Westeros  —  the main location of the show, basically the Great Britain of the "Game of Thrones" universe — is on the tail end of a 10-year summer, meaning the upcoming winter will be especially severe and "might" bring with it an army of ice zombies (no big deal).

Also Winter is Coming are the "words" — or basically the slogan — of House Stark, a family from the north who are the major protagonists of the series. Their mascot is a giant wolf.

Who are the Lannisters?

The Lannisters are another important family in Westeros, whose sigil is a lion. They are the ultimate rivals of the Starks, and they "always pay their debts" — whether that be a large sum of money or a revenge killing. Some famous Lannisters include the witty dwarf Tyrion, played by Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage, and Joffrey, the teenage king of Westeros, also known as the most hated character in the history of television.

Is the Iron Thrones that pokey sword chair?

Yes, it is. Westeros is divided into seven kingdoms, but whoever sits on the Iron Throne rules over them all. Though the Iron Throne is ugly and uncomfortable, everyone — and I mean everyone — is literally dying to sit in it. You can even buy one for yourself for $30,000 (and $2,500 shipping) at the HBO store.

Is there really a lot of sex and incest in "Game of Thrones"?

Well, yes. This is HBO we're talking about. But, for the most part, the show finds interesting ways of showing how sex is tied to politics. The incest is mostly subtext, except in the case of two Lannisters, Cersei and Jaime, who are twins — and both happen to be King Joffrey's parents.

Why is everyone obsessed with that blond girl?

Daenerys Targaryen —  a.k.a., Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, or "that blond girl" — has her own claim to the Iron Throne and is willing to fight for it with "fire and blood" … and some bad-ass dragons. She is both sensitive and ruthless. What's not to love?

What is this "Red Wedding" everyone freaked out about last spring?

George R.R. Martin — the author of the Game of Thrones source books — is famous for killing off lead characters out of the blue. The best example of this takes place in the ninth episode of the third season "The Rains of Castamere," also known as the "Red Wedding." Let's just say some of our heroes gather for a little wedding and don't make it home after the reception.

And the 'Purple Wedding'?

Alas, no Game of Thrones nuptials are safe. This fatal affair took place in last week's new episode "The Lion and the Rose" — and was perhaps slightly more satisfying for fans than the "Red Wedding."

Who the hell is Hodor?

Hodor is a rather dim-witted but extremely large man who was enlisted to carry around the paralyzed Bran Stark (apparently wheelchairs had yet to be invented). Hodor is a minor character, but fans are interested in that he can only say his own name — sort of like a human Pokémon — and enjoy submitting "HODOR" to every Internet comment section they can get their hands on.

What does 'valar morghulis' mean?

It is a phrase in the fictional language High Valyrian, which means "all men must die." It's one of the main mottos of the show — which is why it was on all the season four advertisements — and I'm pretty sure George R.R. Martin recites it over and over like the rosary before he writes any A Song of Ice and Fire books.

You can catch up on "Game of Thrones" at hbogo.com, and check out new episodes Sundays at 8 p.m. on HBO.

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