It become inextricably linked with the folklore of the show. Any time you hear the words “Winter is Coming,” you can’t help but bristle with excitement knowing that it’s Game of Thrones.
The ominous proclamation is at the heart of the fantasy TV series as the motto of the Stark family and a reminder of the years-long winters which have the power to wipe out the inhabitants of Westeros.
The motto has become a key part of the fandom for the show, becoming an unmistakable slogan, even to those who have never watched an episode, through its popularity as an online meme. So, when George RR Martin appeared on a panel for an event at the Medill School of Journalism in Chicago, one audience member was keen to find out how he came up with the idea and he was happy to answer.
What was his inspiration for the series’s infamous tagline? As it turns out, it actually was a very cold winter. More specifically, a winter he spent in Chicago in 1967, when he was a university student in the city.
“There was so much snow that winter, you couldn’t see. [It was] all snow, all ice, and so very cold,” he said, according to Entertainment Weekly. “It was like the trenches during World War I, but they were trenches of ice. I remember walking through the trenches and the tunnels of ice, the wind blowing so you couldn’t even see. It’s an experience that never left me.”
Martin refused to be drawn on more show-specific topics though, staying commendably tight-lipped when quizzed about the fate of Jon Snow. “No comment on that,” he answered, offering the tiniest of hints. “I’m just saying, read the books.” Maybe we will George, maaaybe we will.
However, Jon’s death in Martin’s A Dance With Dragons book is “actually quite different in almost every detail”, points out Bustle. Yes, he is stabbed by the Night’s Watch in the courtyard of Castle Black, but there are some big differences, largely because many of the characters in the book never made it into the television series. Hmmm.
“Without many of Castle Black’s more peripheral supporting characters, showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss were forced to streamline the traumatic event,” says Bustle. They even invented an entirely new character to help move things along: Olly the farm boy, who is angry with Jon for showing mercy to the wildlings that slaughtered his village.
In the books, the Night’s Watch kills Jon because he wants to lead an army to Winterfell to kill Ramsay Bolton, breaking their vow to take no part in the politics of Westeros. The show however, leaves it frustratingly ambiguous as to the specific event that triggered the Night’s Watch’s urge to kill their Lord Commander.
“When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow,” writes Martin in his book. “He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold.” Chilling.