Note: Do NOT read on if you have not yet seen Season 3, Episode 9 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "The Rains of Castamere."
You're probably still reeling from the bloody "Red Wedding" that closed last Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones," which saw the deaths of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), her son Robb (Richard Madden), and Robb's wife and unborn child in spectacularly gory fashion. The Starks -- and all of their unsuspecting soliders outside -- were murdered while the family's guard was down during a celebration of the nuptials between Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey.
But if you're thinking that author George R. R. Martin is a twisted individual for coming up with such a bloodthirsty concept, not so fast -- Martin admitted that his idea for the Red Wedding was inspired by two events from Scottish history.
"One was a case called The Black Dinner. The king of Scotland was fighting the Black Douglas clan. He reached out to make peace. He offered the young Earl of Douglas safe passage. He came to Edinburgh Castle and had a great feast. Then at the end of the feast, [the king's men] started pounding on a single drum. They brought out a covered plate and put it in front of the Earl and revealed it was the head of a black boar — the symbol of death. And as soon as he saw it, he knew what it meant. They dragged them out and put them to death in the courtyard," Martin told EW. "The larger instance was the Glencoe Massacre. Clan MacDonald stayed with the Campbell clan overnight and the laws of hospitality supposedly applied. But the Campbells arose and started butchering every MacDonald they could get their hands on. No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse."
As Martin pointed out to EW, "Hospitality laws were real in Dark Ages society. A host and guest were not allowed to harm each other even if they were enemies. By violating that law, the phrase is, they 'condemn themselves for all time.'" So when the treacherous Frey family murdered the Starks at the wedding, they were breaking the sacred laws of hospitality (or "guest right" in Martin's fictional world) which dictate that any guest who has eaten bread and salt in their host's home is not allowed to be harmed. Despite Walder Frey being promised protection by the Lannisters after their betrayal of the Starks, we're crossing our fingers that the Freys get their just desserts for the messy feast.
The Week dug up more information on the grisly historical events, the first of which inspired this poem by Sir Walter Scott:
"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."
Both instances saw the host families break the laws of hospitality in order to gain the upper hand politically, and the Campbell men actually stayed with the MacDonalds for two weeks before they were ordered to begin the massacre -- something that had been meticulously planned by the Campbells to avoid making the MacDonalds suspicious. 38 men were said to have been murdered at the Glencoe Massacre, while another 40 women and children died of exposure out in a blizzard as their homes were burned. As The Week notes, "The massacre was considered especially awful because it was "Slaughter Under Trust" ... To this day, the door at Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has a sign on the door denying entry to Campbells."
For more from Martin, visit EW, and to learn more about The Black Dinner and The Massacre of Glencoe, click over to The Week.
The "Game of Thrones" Season 3 finale airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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