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References and Homages in A Song of Ice and Fire

Most fans have been able to spot the similarities between George RR Martin’s character Samwell Tarly and JRR Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee. Martin was a huge fan of Lord of the Rings since the books were first published in the USA, so it’s no surprise he left a few homages to Lord of the Rings and some of his other favorite works in his books. (Although, when a comparison between Jon Snow and Frodo was made (in regards to how Frodo ended up scarred on the inside) Martin only said that “He’s taller than Frodo”.)

Following is a list of all the homages and references I could find in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m sure there are other references that I have missed, just as I’m sure there are a few that are on the list that Martin hasn’t confirmed, or that may just be a coincidence. It’s just a fun list for this fine Friday. Feel free to share more in the comments section.


Literary Works and Figures

J.R.R. Tolkien

Ser Theodan the True, one of the Warrior’s Sons under the Faith of the Seven, is a reference to King Theoden of Rohan, in The Lord of the Rings.

Oakenshield, a castle on The Wall, shares a name with Thorin II Oakenshield from The Hobbit.

Khal Drogo shares a name with the father of Frodo in Lord of the Rings, Drogo Baggins.


The name of singer Marillion appears to be a nod to the British rock band of the same name who took their name from a shortened version of the Tolkien novel The Silmarillion. (Or it could just be a reference to The Silmarillion on its own)

Jack Vance

House Vance, a vassal of House Tully, is named for Jack Vance. Lord Norbert Vance himself is noted as having gone blind, and in the late 2000s Vance himself was noted as being technically blind.


In Vance’s Lyonesse series, one location is known as Castle Haidion which boasts five towers, one formally called The Tall Tower, and informally called The Eyrie. Martin may have designed Castle Eyrie as a homage.

Wayfarer’s Rest, one of two castles held by House Vance, is a reference to Liane the Wayfarer, a prominent character in The Dying Earth.


Ronald the Bad, a kinsman of Lord Vance, is a nod to Jack Vance’s novel Bad Ronald.

Hugo Vance is a nod to the various Hugo Awards that Vance has won.

Ellery Vance is a nod to the pen-name “Ellery Queen”, used by various authors including Jack Vance.


Kirth Vance is a reference to the protagonist of Vance’s Demon Princes series.

The names of the three children of Lord Karyl Vance are also references to Jack Vance characters: Emphria Vance for the novel Emphyrio, Rhialta Vance for the novel Rhialto the Marvellous and Liane Vance for the aforementioned Dying Earth.


The arms of both branches of House Vance show dragons, a nod to Jack Vance’s novel The Dragon Masters.The towers on the Atranta’s version of the sigil are a reference to the Vance short story The Last Castle. The eyes and rings on the Wayfarer’s Rest sigil are another reference to The Dying Earth.


The phrase “all men must die” (the Westerosi translation of the High Valyrion phrase valar morghulis) first appeared in Vance’s Star King novel published in 1964.

Roger Zelazny


House Rogers of Ambrose displays a sigil that features nine unicorns circling a maze. Both unicorns and a maze are a reference to the first Amber novel, Nine Princes in Amber, by Zelazny.

The title “Lord of Light”, given to the red god R’hllor, is a reference to Roger Zelazny’s most famous single novel, Lord of Light.


On the Isle of the Gods in Braavos Arya sees the entrance to the “Pattern-Maker’s” maze. Martin adds, “Only those who learn to walk it properly will ever find their way to wisdom”. Which is a reference to the pattern maze underneath Amber, and Dworkin its creator.

H.P. Lovecraft

The Drowned God and the words “What is dead may never die,” appears to be a reference to the horror writing of H.P. Lovecraft, “That is not dead which can eternal lie,/ And with strange aeons even death may die.”.


The map of Eastern Essos also features the City of K’Dath, a clear reference to Lovecraft’s story, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

Comic Books


Martin has been a comic book fan for almost all his life.

House Lothston has a black bat on a partly yellow background, which could very likely be a Batman reference in addition to the phrase “as useless as nipples on a breastplate” (referencing Schumacher’s Batman & Robin).


“... black hood, blue beetle, and green arrow” is a reference the Archie comics superhero the Black Hood and the DC Comics heroes Blue Beetle and Green Arrow. A second time we came across a variation on this in a later book the black hood was replaced by thunderbolts, which has been speculated to be a reference to one of the DC Characters, the Flash and/or Johnny Thunderbolt.

Other Authors & Literary Works

House Jordayne of the Tor refers to the late author Robert Jordan, whose Wheel of Time series is published by Tor. In a similar vein, an Archmaester Rigney who alleged that history is a wheel refers to the series and its author again, this time using Jordan’s real name, James Rigney.


House Willum features Lord Willum’s sons named Josua and Elyas, who are described as quarrelsome. The reference is to Tad Williams and his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn epic fantasy series, which feature (in part) the feuding royal brothers Josua and Elias. The arms of the house (three silver longswords crossed on black beneath a dragonbone skeleton on a white chief) refer to the magical swords that play an important part of the story, and to the first novel The Dragonbone Chair. Martin has cited the series as a major reason for why he went forward with A Song of Ice and Fire.


House Costayne of Three Towers references the work of Thomas B. Costain, a favorite historical fiction writer of Martin’s. The arms refer to the novel The Silver Chalice and the film The Black Rose (which was based on Costain’s work).


Harry Sawyer and Robin Potter are two deceiving suitors of Brienne who she revenged at Bitterbridge. She recalls unhorsing Harry Sawyer and then giving Robin Potter a nasty scar on his head. Some readers speculate it is a reference to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, who was famous for a scar on his forehead.

Alaric of Eysen is described as a far-traveled singer in the books. The character is a reference to Phyllis Eisenstein’s heroic minstrel character Alaric. Martin has been a lifelong friend of Eisenstein, and was the writer who adapted one of her short-stories as a screenplay for an episode of The New Twilight Zone.


Lord Titus Peake, a Lannister bannerman, is a reference to Mervyn Peake and his seminal work of fantasy, the Gormenghast trilogy, starting with Titus Groan.

House Deddings of the Riverlands (who were an ally of Robb’s during the War of Five Kings) is a reference to David Eddings who was an American fantasy author, best-known for his series The Belgariad and related works. While the Lord and Lady Deddings were causalities of the War, it should be noted that at the time Martin wrote this reference, both David and his wife (and co-writer) Leigh Eddings were still alive.


The maps in The Lands of Ice and Fire reveal a city in the distant east of Essos called Carcosa. Carcosa is a fictional city created by Ambrose Bierce for his 1891 short story, An Inhabitant of Carcosa. (Which also influenced Lovecraft)

Greywater Watch, the castle belonging to Howland Reed may be a reference to Diana Wynne Jones’ 1986 book, Howl’s Moving Castle. (Which was later turned into an animated film of the same name by Studio Ghibli.)



The ship captained by Lord Baelor Blacktyde, Nightflyer, refers to an award-winning novella by Martin, Nightflyers.


Bakkalon, the Pale Child is a foreign god mentioned among those with idols at the House of Black and White. This references a god of the same name that features heavily in Martin’s science fiction story And Seven Times Never Kill Man and mentioned in several other tales set in Martin’s future history.

The Fever River, whose source is in the Neck, is named after the river Fevre which gave Martin’s novel, Fevre Dream, its name.


In the prologue to A Game of Thrones, Will recalls a story that says “Dead men sing no songs.” Which could be a reference to Songs the Dead Man Sings, which was a novella published by Martin in the 80’s. (Or it could just be a twist on common phrase “dead men tell no tales’.)

Other References

The Three Stooges (Larry, Curly, and Mo) were worked into A Game of Thrones, as the Bracken men-at-arms Lharys, Mohar, and Kurleket.


House Wyl of Wyl features a black adder on its arms. Martin has confirmed that this is a nod to the BBC historical comedy series starring Rowan Atkinson, Blackadder.

The Volantene patriot and Triarch Belicho whose unbroken string of victories were allegedly put to an end by giants, who tore him limb from limb, refers to the 2007-2007 New England Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick. The team had managed a perfect season—the first team to go without a single regular season loss since 1972—and entered the Superbowl as heavy favorites against the New York Giants only for the Giants to win. Martin is a major supporter of the Giants, and has been quite vocal when it comes to Belichick and the rivalry against the Patriots.


Ser Patrek of King’s Mountain is a reference to book blogger Patrick St. Denis, who won a football bet with Martin after the Dallas Cowboys had a better season than the New York Giants. The knight’s arms feature a blue star on silver, a clear reference to the Cowboys jersey. His death at the ends of the giant Wun Wun has been confirmed as a nod to a past New York Giants quarterback, Phil Simms, whose jersey number 11 was retired by the giants in 1995.

Ser Courtenay Greenhill is a knight in the retinue of Margaery Tyrell at King’s Landing is a reference to two men, Richard Courtenay and Peter Greenhill, who are noted creators of model knights, which Martin collects.


Grand Maester Pycelle tells Cersei Lannister that she has not lost a son but gained a daughter when Margaery Tyrell weds Tommen. The exact same words are used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the Lord of Swamp Castle’s son marries a noblewoman with “huge tracts of... land”. Martin is a known fan of the film.

The new Unsullied of Astapor are said to “run when you fart in their general direction.” This could be another reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which a French soldier uses the phrase “fart in your general direction” to insult English knights before forcing them to retreat from their castle.

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