14 Disturbing ‘Game Of Thrones’ Details That Only Book Readers Would Know About

Even by HBO’s standards, the Game of Thrones series was quite an intense watch for many audience members back in 2011. Game of Thrones would go on to be filled with plenty of shock value and become one of HBO’s most controversial shows. No episode of the dark fantasy series would be short of nudity, fierce action or even blood sacrifice and dark magic.

As dark as Game of Thrones may already be, fans of the beloved HBO series should be excited to learn that the books contain all kinds of even more unsettling details and lore. Specifically, The World of Ice and Fire, a companion book that helps book readers further explore Westeros, details an array of terrifying creatures and territories that the series just failed to explore.

The World of Ice and Fire is the perfect glimpse into how scary the Game of Thrones universe can really be and HBO has barely scratched the surface. From a deadly fever spread by butterflies to a mysterious island filled with hundreds of Jaqen H’ghar, these 14 details from The World of Ice and Fire are living proof that the HBO series could’ve been much, much more disturbing.

1. Steer Clear Of Sothoryos

Photo: Nutchapol Thitinunthakorn / The World of Ice and Fire

If Game of Thrones were set on Sothoryos – a mysterious continent to the south of Westeros and Essos – the series would be over in one episode. Between the countless diseases, enormous crocodiles, giant piranhas, basilisks twice the size of lions, parasitic worms, velociraptors (!), gargantuan bird/dragon hybrids, and cannibalistic Neanderthal-like natives, everyone would basically only have time to make out once and die. 

Considering the continent is basically like the show 1000 Ways to Die – but with all 1000 things happening at the same time – it’s unsurprising most of its inhabitants bounced a long time ago, only leaving behind mysterious ruins. 

2. The Missing Giant Ice Spiders

Photo: HBO

As if the White Walkers weren’t horrifying enough, the undead rode on massive ice spiders during the Long Night. According to Sam Tarly’s thoughts, they love blood, too. Great:

The horn blew thrice long, three long blasts means Others. The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows, the monsters of the tales that made him squeak and tremble as a boy, riding their giant ice-spiders, hungry for blood.

3. Beware The Women Of The Thousand Islands

Photo: Rene Aigner / The World of Ice and Fire

In the far, far east, past a body of water called Leviathan Sound, there is an archipelago called The Thousand Islands. The women there are green, bald, and have mouths of filed, pointy teeth. If the parallels to the Wicked Witch of the West aren’t already strong enough, they’re also terrified of water.

The women of The Thousand Islands are incredibly savage. Seemingly frustrated by the fact no one can understand their alien language, they regularly sacrifice friendly, innocent sailors to a hideous, fish-headed god. 

4. Naath And Its Deadly Butterflies

Photo: Arthur Bozonnet / The World of Ice and Fire

When Missandei tells Davos in Season 7 that she’s from the southern island of Naath, he mentions the island’s butterflies. This makes it seem like Naath is a peaceful tropical paradise. This is horribly, utterly wrong.

According to lore, any non-native who stays on Naath for longer than a few hours succumbs to “butterfly fever.” It sounds kind of delightful, like a disease a kitten would get, but it’s actually a pathogen carried by Naath butterflies that causes you to sweat blood and shed all of your flesh until you die. It’s the only reason Naath remains unconquerable. 

5. The Doom And Gloom Of Asshai

Photo: Rene Aigner / The World of Ice and Fire

Understanding Melisandre’s homeland of Asshai-by-the-Shadow shines some light on why she’s such a huge bummer. This gloomy Essos city – built entirely of pitch black stone – is devoid of markets, taverns, and joy in general. There are also no children anywhere, which means that everyone is either asexual, infertile, or eating babies as soon as they’re produced.

What really makes Asshai a realtor’s worst nightmare, however, is the lack of potable water. The population of Asshai – which consists of taciturn sorcerers, necromancers, and other weirdos – has to rely solely on trade in order to acquire fresh drinking water. All of the water in Asshai itself is toxic, and full of hideously deformed fish. 

6. The Men Living Deep In The North

Photo: HBO

The hairy, smelly men of Skagos are mentioned in George R. R. Martin’s books, but rarely seen. This is partly because they’ve never pledged allegiance to the Starks, despite sitting directly to the east of the Wall. They’re also not very gregarious, in that they’ve been known to greet visitors by murdering them and eating them. 

As if that weren’t bad enough, they’ve ruined the idea of unicorns by turning unicorns into terrifying murder tools. Sailors near Skagos have seen islanders riding “great, shaggy, horned beasts, monstrous mounts so sure-footed they have been known to climb the sides of mountains.” In Dance of Dragons, Davos is on a quest to retrieve Rickon Stark and Osha from Skagos. Good luck, Ser Onion Knight. 

7. How The Titan Protects Braavos

Photo: Paulo Puggioni / The World of Ice and Fire

Standing 400 feet above the sea, with a gargantuan steel sword and fiery red eyes, the Titan is an intimidating sight for anyone trying to get into Braavos. It’s functionally impossible to get into Braavos without first getting between his legs.

Speaking of which, the Titan also has giant steel testicles between those legs, as proven by Game of Thrones‘s 360 degree interactive map of the show’s opening credits. Since the Titan is known for his “murder holes” and “arrow slits,” from which soldiers can drop giant stones and flaming tar on any uninvited visitors, it doesn’t take long to realize those murder holes are in his balls. Honestly, the fact that they haven’t shown us this yet is a travesty. 

8. Seeing Jaqen H’ghar Over And Over

Photo: Jordi Gonzalez / The World of Ice and Fire

The show version of Jaqen H’ghar is mysterious, sexy, and more than a little terrifying. Now imagine hundreds of him roaming around a giant labyrinth on a remote island like a herd of sexy minotaurs. This was the case on the island of Lorath for many years, before Valyrians took over and slaughtered everybody.

Lorath, which is just east of Braavos and boasts massive complexes of labyrinths to this day, was home to a religious sect that honored the “Blind God,” and spoke of themselves in the third person, like Jaqen. Supposedly, Jaqen only adopted the persona of a Lorathi to hide his true face, but his decision to make Arya temporarily blind suggests he borrowed more from the Lorathi than their slightly pretentious speech patterns.

9. A Mysterious Island Full Of Giants

Photo: Douglas Wheatley / The World of Ice and Fire

Far past Meereen and Qarth, in the southeastern regions of Essos, there lies the verdant isle of Leng. The men and women of Leng are all beautiful, seven feet tall, and with skin the colored of “oiled teak.” They’ll also totally kill you, as will the isle’s truly giant “great apes,” which are so strong that they can “pull the arms and legs off a man as easily as a boy might pull the wings off a fly.” Basically, visiting Leng is like going on a vacation where everything is tall and hates you. 

10. Primitive Customs Of The Vale

Photo: HBO

Littlefinger isn’t the only depraved weirdo in the Vale. Several “primitive” mountain clans live in the foothills surrounding The Vale, including the Black Ears – so named because they keep their victims’ ears as trophies – and the Burned Men (including Timett, pictured above). The Burned Men require their young men to burn off fingers or nipples as part of a coming-of-age ceremony. The showrunners on Game of Thrones, wisely, elected to omit this part of the lore from the finished series. 

11. Finding A Piece Of Paradise

Photo: Marc Simonetti / The World of Ice and Fire

The Summer Isles are a lovely tropical paradise, perfect for anyone who loves black sand beaches and mandatory sex with strangers. Due to the islanders’ religion, anyone who lives in the Isles is expected to live for at least a year in a “Temple of Love” (pictured above), where they are expected to have sex with every person of the opposite sex who walks in the door.

It’s all in service of the Summer Isles’ goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. GRRM doesn’t explain what happens to queer Islanders, who likely would not love having sex with people of the opposite sex for an entire year. 

12. Worshipping An Odd Deity In Qohor

Photo: Nutchapol Thitinunthakorn / The World of Ice and Fire

If you saw The Witch, you probably remember how creepy Satan looked in goat form. Now imagine an entire group of people who worships that goat as a deity, and regularly sacrifice horses, criminals, and even their own children to him.

In Qohor, a city in Essos, the Qohori spend their time worshiping an angry “Black Goat” god, depicted in the coin above. They also try to avoid the forest next door, which is home to monstrous boars way scarier than the one that gutted Robert Baratheon.  

13. These Feared Warriors And Their Zebras

Photo: Marc Simonetti / The World of Ice and Fire

In the far east of Essos, there’s a desert populated by a race of people called Jogos Nhai. They’re basically coneheads, and are regarded as fearsome warriors on par with the Dothraki. Like the Maya, Inca, certain Native American tribes (and also those aliens from Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull), the Jogos Nhai practice head binding, which tapers their heads into perfect points.

They also ride “zorses,” which are definitely just zebras. GRRM just didn’t want to call them that, because this is a fantasy series and even the zebras have to be magic.

14. Visiting The Largest Temple In Volantis

Photo: HBO

Volantis is home to the largest and greatest temple in the Ice and Fire universe: The Temple of the Lord of Light. Unfortunately, everyone there is a slave, and required to be either a priest, a warrior, or a prostitute. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

On top of that, all of the slaves are required to get permanent face tattoos, designating their jobs, which means that everyone for the rest of time will know they’re a prostitute or a dung shoveler or whatever. At least the tattoo for “prostitute” is a tear drop, so all the working girls can just pretend they’re in a cool gang.