May 23, Turtle Day. How Game of Thrones started with turtles

Game of Thrones began as Game of Shells.

It’s turtles all the way down.

George R.R. Martin’s childhood turtles kept dying, sometimes in horrible ways – like trapped for a month under a refrigerator.

Being Martin, he had to think that they were killing each other in sinister plots.

“Turtles have always been my sigil, I suppose. When I was a kid, growing up in Bayonne, NJ, I lived in a federal housing project, and we were not allowed to have a dog or cats. The only pets I could have were turtles. So, I had an entire toy castle filled with dime-store turtles. I gave them all names, and since they were living in a toy castle, I decided they were all knights and kings…and I made up stories about how they killed each other and betrayed each other and fought for the kingdom. So, Game of Thrones, actually began with turtles.” -George R.R. Martin (Source)

Luckily for us, he recast it with human beings.

A Lannisturtle always pays his debts.


His turtles are definitely partly the inspiration for one of Martin’s awesome novelettes, called Sandkings.

Many writers have had a non-human muse.

Edgar Allan Poe had a cat; Charles Dickens a raven. (Funny, would have guessed the reverse!)

Even the macho Ernest Hemmingway had an itty-bitty kitty called Boise, who he wrote into “Islands in the Stream”.

I’m sure not all Game of Thrones plot points come from terrapins. (Some surely come from the War of The Roses.)

But he’s said quite a few times that turtles are where the idea began.

Which is probably why he wears this everywhere:

Some impatient fans think turtles inspired his writing pace.


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