Courtesy HBO
Magister Illyrio Mopatis presents Danaerys Targaryen in Pentos.

The Game of Thrones is now showing on HBO. The production and promotion of this series has been fantastic, but not everyone tuning in may be familiar with the series of books upon which it is based. A Song of Ice and Fire, currently spanning four expansive novels, introduced us to the world of Westeros and provides a plethora of extensive information. Presented here is a bit of that information to help newcomers to this lush and living world get and keep their bearings. All information is presented free of spoilers and describe the circumstances at the beginning of the series…

Westeros is not alone. Across the Narrow Sea from the Seven Kingdoms is the continent of Essos, with city-states of exotic men and women, noble savages and smiling assassins. It was from here that Aegon Targaryen, First of his Name, called Aegon the Conqueror came to bring the Seven Kingdoms under his rule. The Valyrian Freehold once covered Essos and was the dominant power in the world, before its Doom 100 years before Aegon departed Essos with his dragons and his bannermen. But that is a story for another time…

The Free Cities – Valyria’s Legacy

Eight of the nine Free Cities were once colonies of the Valyrian Freehold. Since the Doom of Valyria they have found their own way to grow and distinguish themselves. Some share common aspects of their ancestry, such as speaking a dialect of Valyrian, while some also have become quite unique. From the Unsullied eunuch warriors of Qohor to the pleasure houses of Lys, the Free Cities attract all sorts of attention.

Pentos is one of the largest ports of the Free Cities, and it was to here that Viserys and Danaerys Targaryen were taken, and where Viserys arranged with Magister Illyrio Mopatis to marry Danaerys to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki.

Braavos – Bastard Son of Valyria

The grandest of all the Free Cities was not a Valyrian colony. It was, in fact, a refuge for those getting out of the way of rampant Freehold expansion. After the Doom, the Titan of Braavos rose as a beacon to the other Free Cities. Situated on a series of islands in a brackish lagoon, the city holds temples to many gods, including R’hllor, the Father of Waters and the Many-Faced God, whose followers claim bears different names all over the world, including the Stranger amongst the gods of Westeros.

Braavos is also famous for its flamboyant, deft and deadly swordfighters, called bravos, including Syrio Forel, Arya’s swo- “dance instructor.”

The Dothraki Sea

Beyond the Free Cities is a vast savannah of hundreds of different grasses. When the wind blows, the grass flows and ebbs like waves of water. This is the Dothraki Sea, the only one those men of the horse trust. The Dothraki are highly suspicious of any water their horses cannot drink.

They rove across this sea of grass in the hundreds of thousands, organized in khalasar armies and raiding parties. A Dothraki man only ever cuts his hair when he is defeated his battle. Khal Drogo, who took Danaerys Targaryen as his Khaleesi, has never cut his hair.

If you would like to know more, please consult the official HBO viewer’s guide or the Wiki of Ice and Fire (beware of spoilers). Also, if you find anything amiss or incorrect in these guides, please inform me.