Winter is coming. But the complicated web of families in the popular series “Game of Thrones” can be confusing for those who haven’t kept up with the goings-on in Westeros. Here are the most prominent houses in the Game of Thrones family tree. (No spoilers!)
Some quick background: Several years before the series begins, Robert Baratheon and his allies (including his old friend, Eddard “Ned” Stark) seized the Iron Throne from Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen. In the first episode, Robert and his family visit the Starks at their home in Winterfell.
The Starks of Winterfell
Arguably the most important family in the series, the Starks have lived in the North of Westeros for generations. Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark and his wife Catelyn (née Tully) have five children:
- Robb, a sullen, dutiful teenager
- Sansa, a naïve preteen
- Arya, a tomboy
- Bran, an adventurous boy
- Rickon, a toddler
Along with these five, Ned and Catelyn also raised Theon Greyjoy. Several years before the series, Theon’s father raided and plundered villages in the North. Robert and Ned’s forces beat him back to the sea, and Ned took Theon as his ward as a form of tribute.
The couple also raised another boy, Jon. Given the surname “Snow,” Jon is Ned’s illegitimate son. Though many have pressed him, Ned has never commented on the identity of Jon’s mother, nor on the affair that led to Jon’s birth. Not even Catelyn knows any details, and she resents Jon because of Ned’s infidelity.
The show and book series mostly focus on Ned Stark and his children. But Ned’s siblings and father also played an important role in setting up the series. Years before the first episode, Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen allegedly kidnapped Ned’s sister, Lyanna. Ned’s father (Rickard) and brother (Brandon) rushed to the king’s court to demand her release, only to be murdered by Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen. The incident sparked Robert’s Rebellion, and Lyanna died under mysterious circumstances soon after.
Ned also has a younger brother named Benjen. Benjen became a brother of the Night’s Watch, an order of soldiers sworn to protect Westerns’ northern border.
The Lannisters of Casterly Rock
Tywin Lannister heads the wealthy House Lannister. A powerful family ruling the western part of the country, the Lannisters hold considerable influence in King Robert’s court. Tywin has three children:
- Jaime, a fabled knight (best known for killing “The Mad King”) and member of the king’s personal guard
- Cersei, Robert Baratheon’s cunning wife
- Tyrion, a snarky, boozing intellectual
Jaime and Cersei are twins, and rumors abound about their close relationship to each other. Tywin’s wife, Joanna, died while giving birth to Tyrion—and Tywin loathes Tyrion as a result.
The Baratheons of Storm’s End
King Robert Baratheon has ruled Westeros since he and Ned Stark overthrew “The Mad King,” Aerys Targaryen, roughly 15 years before the series’ beginning. After the conflict, Robert married Cersei Lannister. Together, they have three children: the arrogant and cruel Joffrey, the kind Myrcella and the infant Tommen.
But something seems odd. Generations of Baratheons have had jet-black hair, but Robert’s children with Cersei are all blond. The first episode’s final scene raises questions about the children’s true parentage.
Robert also has two brothers: Renly and Stannis. Since Robert’s Rebellion, stern Stannis has dwelled offshore, while the fun-loving Renly serves as a member of Robert’s court.
The Targaryens of Dragonstone
Far across the sea, siblings Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen struggle to survive. Children of the dethroned Aerys and his sister-wife, Rhaella, they were forced to flee as infants. Viserys schemes to raise an army and take back the Iron Throne. In exchange for military support, Viserys forces Daenerys to marry Drogo, a powerful khal (chief).
All of Viserys and Daenerys’ family members were killed following their father’s forced abdication. Their eldest brother, Rhaegar, was heir apparent to the Iron Throne when he allegedly kidnapped Lyanna Stark. As stated above, the incident sparked Robert’s Rebellion, which in turn led to the family’s demise.
Hungry for more? Fans of the original book series, titled A Song of Ice and Fire, can look to the back of each book to find descendancy charts that will help you keep all these characters straight.