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An Oxford Companion to Game of Thrones

By Jonathan Kroberger

“My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much Jon Snow.”
–Tyrion Lannister

The long-awaited third season of Game of Thrones premiers on HBO 31 March 2013 and Oxford University Press has everything you need to get ready, whether you’re looking to brush up on your dragon lore, forge your own Valyrian steel, or learn about some of the most dramatic real-life succession fights culled from our archives.

For the aspiring Daenerys Targaryen:

Dragons, Serpents, and Slayers in the Classical and Early Christian Worlds: A Sourcebook
By Daniel Ogden
This comprehensive collection of dragon myths from Greek, Roman, and early Christian sources is perfect for any would-be Mother of Dragons.

Boats of the World: From the Stone Age to Medieval Times
By Seán McGrail
Having trouble finding boats to take you to Westeros? This collection of ancient vessels is all you need to build your own.

Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine
By David Leeming and Jake Page
A history of divine women, from Hera and Pandora to The Holy Mother.


History’s greatest “real life” Game of Thrones:

Poisoned Legacy: The Fall of the Nineteenth Egyptian Dynasty
By Aidan Dodson
Aidan Dodson explores the mysteries of the origins of the Egyptian usurper-king Amenmeses and the career of the ‘king-maker’ of the period, the chancellor Bay (sort of an Egyptian Petyr Baelish). Having helped to install at least one pharaoh on the throne, Bay’s life was ended by his abrupt execution, ordered by the woman with whom he had shared the regency of Egypt for the young and disabled King Siptah.

The Children of Henry VIII
By John Guy
Henry VIII fathered four children who survived childhood, each by a different mother. Their lives were consumed by jealously, mutual distrust, bitter rivalry, hatred…sound familiar?

“John Snow (1813–1858)” in the Oxford DNB
By Stephanie J. Snow
OK, so he only shares the same name as the member of the Night’s Watch, but still…he discovered that cholera was a waterborne infection! That’s pretty heroic.

For the student of the Common Tongue:

From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages
Edited by Michael Adams
Think Dothraki is a cool language? You may be interested in some other made-up languages.
The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, First Edition
By Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner
No study of invented languages is complete without the father of them all, J.R.R. Tolkien.

“Words are wind – the language of Game of Thrones” on the OxfordWords Blog
By Adam Pulford
Pulford examines Martin’s language, some truly archaic and some only archaic-sounding.

For those looking to besiege King’s Landing:

Masters of the Battlefield: Great Commanders From the Classical Age to the Napoleonic Era
By Paul K. Davis
Vivid portraits of fifteen legendary military leaders on and off the battlefield. Tywin Lannister would fit right in.

The Illustrated Art of War: The Definitive English Translation by Samuel B. Griffith
By Sun Tzu
Translated with an Introduction by Samuel B. Griffith
Robb Stark could take a lesson or two from this masterpiece of battle tactics and strategy.

How to trade like you’re the richest man in Qarth:

“The Medieval Spice Trade” in The Oxford Handbook of Food History
By Paul Freedman
If you’re applying for a spot in the Ancient Guild of Spicers, this article is a must-read.
The Silk Road: A New History
By Valerie Hansen
Xaro Xhoan Daxos would have a whole chapter in this book if he were, you know, real.

Some of George R.R. Martin’s literary inspirations:

Oxford Book of British Ghost Stories
By Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert
George R.R. Martin has his own list of recommended authors, a good many of whom are collected here.
The Classic Horror Stories
By H. P. Lovecraft
Edited by Roger Luckhurst
While note exactly fantasy, there are enough ghouls and monsters here to frighten a White Walker.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Edited by J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon
Revised by Norman Davis
Knights, castles, and magic. A classic.

That’s it! So crack open some of these books (and some Iron Throne Ale) and enjoy Season Three!

Jonathan Kroberger is an Associate Publicist in the New York office of Oxford University Press. Special thanks to Kimberly Hernandez for research assistance.

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Image credit: All images from the Game of Thrones television series copyright HBO. Used for purposes of illustration.

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