Game Of Thrones is starting up next week, and the whole story and characters can confuse people. I won't be so bold as to claim my primer will make things LESS confusing, but I think it is written to cover a few facts about the "past" (before the TV series started) and to "connect the dots" a bit. Again, i'm not covering all the characters - but a few important points that TV watchers who didn't read the book should be aware of.
Here's a few things you probably should know going into the next season.
Jaime Lannister (the guy who got his hand cut off and likes to have sex with his sister) - He's the "Kingslayer". He was appointed to the position of Kingsguard at 15 years old by the "Mad King", Aerys II Targaryen. Aerys was House Targaryen. Daenerys is Aerys daughter (the hot blonde girl with the three dragons). Aerys was married to his sister Rhaella (Dany's mom). They had three children Prince Rhaegar (hasn't been shown in the TV show and is already dead more on him later), Prince Viserys (you remember him, he was killed by Daenerys's husband Khal Drogo, the horse warlord dude that poured liquid gold over his head), and Princess Daenerys. Queen Rhaella died giving birth to Daenerys (in a very bad thunderstorm and Dany got the nickname "Stormborn").
WHAT THE FUCK DUDE, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO MAKE IT EASIER TO UNDERSTAND
I am, relax! OK, so we are all on board with what I just wrote. Re-read it and wrap your head around what I just wrote. It is important.
Moving on. Rhaegar Targaryen, the heir to the throne and Dany's big brother (said to be drop dead gorgeous, a skilled knight and exceedingly intelligent) was killed during Robert's Rebellion. Robert Baratheon remember him? The fat king that was married to Cersei Lannister (the blonde haired Queen that loves her twin brother Jaime Lannister the "Kingslayer")?
Remember Robert Baratheon (along with House Stark and House Aaryn) rebelled against House Targaryen. Why?
The conflict was instigated after Rhaegar Targaryen had kidnapped Lyanna Stark, who was betrothed to Robert Baratheon (for the record this was an arranged marriage between House Stark and House Baratheon).
Lyanna Stark (who we never met - she was very beautiful but headstrong, willful, courageous and hot-tempered like her niece Arya) was the younger sister of Lord Eddard Stark. We remember Ned, played by Sean Bean, he got his head chopped off by Joffrey.
Quick recap. Rhaegar the prince kidnapped Lyanna. Robert, her fiance, flipped out and got Ned Stark & Jon Aaryn (more on him later) to rebel. Robert kills the prince in battle. Jaime Lannister murders the king.
Right? OK, there's a bit more you need to understand.
At the time in which Rhaegar kidnaps Lyanna he was MARRIED. His wife was Princess Elia. Elia was from House Martell. House Martell rules Dorne. Elia had two childen: Rhaenys and Aegon. All three were killed during Robert's Rebellion during the sack of Kings Landing. Elia was RAPED and MURDERED by Gregor Clegane (The Mountain). If you don't remember Gregor Clegane, he is the brother to Sandor Clegane (The Hound). The Hound has the burnt face and currently is the one who carries around Arya Stark to sell her back to her family.
Lots of names, lots of families, I know. But what's important here is that HOUSE MARTELL was married to HOUSE TARGARYEN. Elia, the pride and joy of DORNE, the beautiful princess was raped and killed by The Mountain. Despite pleas of Ned Stark neither Gregor nor Lord Tywin (Jaime killed the king, but come on it was his DAD who pushed him to do it!!) were punished by the King Robert for the murders of the royal family. All was forgiven.
All these marriages are arranged between houses to keep peace in the kingdom and create alliances, etc.
OK, so why I told you all this is important for next season. Because this season we get to meet the "The Red Viper" (he has a history of using poisoned blades in combat), Prince Oberyn Martell. Remember HOUSE MARTELL? Elia Targaryen (nee Martell) was his sister. She was raped and murdered by Gregor Sandor. You think he forgot this? Guess who we will be meeting very soon.
Lots of names and lots of Houses. Here's a few other tibids to keep in mind:
Daenerys is the "rightful" ruler of Westeros (depending on your point of view). She's got three dragons. One dragon alone and you can rule a land, and she has THREE and they aren't even fully grown. It has been 200 years since dragons roamed the lands. Interesting facts is the dragons names are Rhaegal (the green dragon, named after her big brother), Rhaegal (the pale gold dragon, named after her middle brother) and Drogon (the black dragon, named after her deceased husband Khal Drogo - the most dangerous of the three dragons).
Westeros up until this point really doesn't know she's alive as much as the TV show tells her story. She's making her way back to Westeros and building an army.
Meanwhile, The North is being invaded by the barbarian horde and behind that horde are The White Walker Army. You know the "WINTER IS COMING" stuff you been hearing. That was a reference to 8,000 years ago when winter lasted for "a generation" (20 years or so) in Westeros - called "The Long Night". Imagine trying to live for 20 years with no crops. Old Nan told this to Bran Stark:
"Thousands of years ago, there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts; and women smothered their babies rather than see them starve, and wept, and felt the tears freeze on their cheeks... In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds."
Its the scary bed-time stories that they told. In the very last episode of Season three the The Night's Watch (get it? They watch for THE LONG NIGHT!), those who watch the wall pleaded to the Kings that their entire force had been slaughtered and the remaining force that escaped said they saw the walking dead (Wights) and the White Walkers (they are the more dangerous undead, Sam killed one with the dagger made from "dragonglass").
Robert's Baratheon's brother, Stannis (he's the one with the red-haired witchy woman (Melisandre) and his "Hand of the King" who is missing his finger tips (Davos)) got the message and in the last episode he was going to sail north with what was left of his army (which was mostly destroyed in the Blackwater episode when they got all their ships blown up attacking King's Landing) to assist The Night's Watch. Stannis, remember, believes he's the rightful ruler because he knows that Joffery isn't the son of Robert and Cersei, but Cersei and Jaime.
Lastly, if you have followed this long, well done. A few more things you should be aware of:
Jon Arryn. He was in episode 1 - apparently he was poisoned. He was the Hand of the King to Robert. House Arryn is from the Eyrie. Remember the creepy kid who was like 10 and still breastfeeding from his mother? That's his son, Robin. His mother is Lysa Arryn. Lysa is Catelyn Stark (momma Stark who got her throat slit at The Red Wedding last season). Knowing all this will be important later to make all the connections. The Eyrie has been neutral during the civil war and is like Switzerland, no one wants to invade it - it would be a nightmare for a medieval army (without dragons, of course) to try and take it.
Joffrey was going to marry Sansa Stark but due to political reasons that switched to Margaery Tyrell. House Tyrell was aligned to Renly Baratheon (Renly married Margaery) during the civil war, but after he died, Renly's forces largely swear fealty to Stannis but House Tyrell didn't want to join Stannis. The Lannisters saw this, and with the help of Petyr Baelish (more on him in a second), the union is formed. House Tyrell is a massive army and with the Lannister gold and Joffrey (Baratheon? Lannister?) in charge with a Tyrell Queen...that is a very powerful alliance.
Sansa Stark still has political value which is why she was paired to Tyrion Lannister (The Imp). Rules are rules, and if she has a child with Tyrion, then their children would rule Winterfell. That's the gameplan - even if Winterfell is in ruins.
Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger, Master of Coin on the Small Council - he owned all the whorehouses in Kings Landing. Well he's crafty and smart and because of helping the Lannister-Tyrell alliance he was given the title of Lord and the castle and lands of Harrenhal. Last we saw him he was on a ship headed to The Vale of Arryn in The Eyrie. Who is in the Vale of Arryn...but Robin and his mother. I wonder why he's going there? To be told later...
Lastly it should be touched upon with the situation of House Stark and Winterfell. The "Warden of the North" (i.e. he runs the northlands until a new heir is established from the Sansa/Tyrion union) is Roose Bolton. House Bolton was allied to House Stark in the civil war. He flipped sides at The Red Wedding, betraying House Stark and helping Walder Frey assassinate everyone. Roose has a bastard son (literally and figuratively), Ramsay Snow. Ramsay was the one who sacked Winterfell, captured Theon Greyjoy, and returned to their home "The Dreadfort" and is currently torturing Theon (who will be known as "Reek") for fun.
Greyjoy? That would be House Greyjoy which rules over the Iron Islands, off the west coast of Westeros. They are the Ironborn - they are a fiercely independent seafaring people who chafe at the rule of the Iron Throne. Theon Greyjoy been a hostage of House Stark since his father's failed uprising against King Robert Baratheon. Now that he is in the hands of Roose Bolton - and Ramsay severed Theon's penis and sent it to his father Balon Greyjoy telling him to withdraw his troops from The North and to stop raiding - or they would send him more bits of his son. Balon scoffs at this and refuses, but also plans to do nothing about his son. His daughter, Yara and sister to Theon defies him:
"I'm going to pick the fastest ship in our fleet. I'm going to choose the fifty best killers on the Iron Islands. I'm going to sail up the narrow sea, all the way to the Weeping Water. I'm going to march on the Dreadfort. I'm going to find my little brother. And I'm going to bring him home."
Hopefully this primer helped. I didn't cover every single character, but felt as if a lot of the major holes in the TV series should be filled out a bit, especially with what is coming up in the next season.