Game of Thrones houses explained: From the Starks and Lannisters, to the Targaryens and Greyjoys

16 April 2019, 10:24 | Updated: 16 April 2019, 10:26

Even the most zealous Game of Thrones fan could be forgiven for forgetting how everyone's connected
Even the most zealous Game of Thrones fan could be forgiven for forgetting how everyone's connected. Picture: YouTube / HBO, Game of Thrones

While we're huge fans of Game of Thrones, there's no denying it can sometimes get a little confusing to keep track of who's who, and how they're all connected.

So, whether you're an avid watcher or a Thrones novice, we've put together this nifty guide on all the houses to help jog your memory now that season 8 has landed.

**WARNING! Contains spoilers**

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Ned Stark (rest his soul) was head of House Stark
Ned Stark (rest his soul) was head of House Stark. Picture: YouTube / The Take by ScreenPrism

The Starks

Backstory

Until the Targaryen conquest, the Starks ruled as kings of the north. Afterwards, they took the role of wardens of the north for around 300 years.

At the beginning of the show, Eddard Stark, more commonly known as Ned, was serving as Warden of the North. Residing in Winterfell, Ned was part of Robert Baratheon's rebellion against the Mad King and had strong ties with the monarch in King's Landing.

In season 1, Robert's killed by boar after his wife Cersei ordered his men to get the king drunk. Cersei then puts her son Joffrey on the throne in his place. King Joffrey, however, is a nightmare and overall lunatic who tortures his subjects and Ned's daughter, Sansa.

While in King's Landing, Ned is beheaded in front of Sansa and Arya (who is hidden in the crowd), after he's wrongly blamed for Robert's death.

Family members

Ned Stark - Warden of the North, Robert Baratheon's close friend and Stark patriarch. He died in season 1.

Catelyn Stark - Ned's wife and Lady of Winterfell. She's also the daughter of Hoster Tully and the sister of Edmure and Lysa. She died at the 'Red Wedding' in season 3.

Robb Stark - Ned and Catelyn's eldest son Robb gave himself the title of King of the North after his father's death, seeking vengeance on the Lannisters for their dirty deed. Before he reaches King's Landing, however, he is killed by Walder Frey at the 'Red Wedding'.

Sansa Stark - The red-headed beauty is the eldest of Ned and Catelyn's daughters. She's first betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, but gets married to Tyrion, then to Ramsay Bolton. As of season 7, she is now the Lady of Winterfell.

Arya Stark - Arya is portrayed as a tomboy in the earlier episodes, wanting to learn to fight like her brothers. She later trains to become an assassin, learning from the Faceless Man.

Bran Stark - In the first ever episode, Bran, who had a habit of climbing the walls of Winterfell, lost his ability to walk after Jamie Lannister pushed him from a turret window for catching him having sex with his sister Cersei. From then on, Bran is crippled. Over time, Bran becomes the Three-Eyed Raven.

Rickon Stark - The youngest Stark sibling didn't play as big a part as his sisters and brothers in the show, but his death was symbolic. After Ramsay Bolton held him captive, he ordered Rickon to run across the battlefield ahead of the Battle of Bastards, challenging him to avoid his arrow. Rickon died before he could reach the safety of his brother Jon.

Jon Snow - Jon is first believed to be the bastard son of Ned Stark. For this reason, Catelyn Stark never accepts Jon and is often hostile toward him. He is supposed to be the same age as Robb. Jon slowly builds up authority in the north, first as a member of the Night's Watch, then as the Warden of the North. After his brother's death and leading his house to victory to reclaim Winterfell, he is chosen as King of the North. In the last season, we discovered that Jon isn't the son of Ned, but, rather, the son of Ned's sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen.

Lyanna Stark - It turns out the Ned's sister Lyanna secretly married Rhaegar Targaryen after he annulled his marriage with wife Elia Martell. She then falls pregnant with Jon Snow, but dies during childbirth. On her death bed, she asks Ned to safeguard her child.

Benjen Stark - The First Ranger of the Night's Watch and Ned Stark's brother plays a significant role in aiding Ned's children. First, he's seen assisting Bran escape the White Walkers, then he sacrifices his own life to save Jon Snow from them in season 7.

Cersei Lannister is hoping she'll rule the Seven Kingdoms
Cersei Lannister is hoping she'll rule the Seven Kingdoms. Picture: YouTube / The Take by ScreenPrism

The Lannisters

Backstory

Their family motto is that the "Lannisters always pay their debt". Cersei's marriage to Robert Baratheon secured their power over King's Landing and Westeros.

Family members

Tywin Lannister - The head of House Lannister and father of Jamie, Tyrion and Cersei. Tywin was renowned for his military mind and strategy, but he wasn't as hot on the parenting thing. While he imparted his wisdom on Cersei and Jamie, he resented Tyrion for 'killing his wife' during childbirth. Tyrion ends up killing his father with a crossbow while he's sat on the toilet.

Tyrion Lannister - Tyrion is the youngest of the Lannister siblings, and was born a dwarf. While for the most part we see him frequent brothels and get steamy drunk, he's also extremely witty and intelligent, and becomes hand to Daenerys.

Cersei Lannister - Cersei was married to Robert Baratheon after the rebellion as a strategic move. While she was married to him, she was actually in love with her twin brother, Jamie. The pair have an incestuous relationship which was first uncovered by Bran. They also share three children; Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella.

Joffrey - The eldest of Cersei's children becomes king when Robert dies. One of his first orders as king is to sentence Ned Stark to death after he was framed for Robert's murder. He then tortures Ned's daughter Sansa, who is betrothed to him. He finally meets his end on the day of his wedding to Margery Tyrell.

Tommen - Becoming king after Joffrey's death, kind-hearted Tommen takes his brothers place on the throne and also plans to marry Margery. Cersei uses her son as a pawn, but is then imprisoned by the High Sparrow and their scary religious followers. Avoiding her trial and locking Tommen in the Red Keep, Cersei blows up the Sept, wiping out the Tyrells and most of her enemies. Seeing the explosion from the Red Keep, Tommen then ends his life by jumping out the window.

Myrcella - Cersei's only daughter doesn't get much screen time, but her death is also pretty gruesome and memorable. When preparing to leave Dorn, where she's been sent for her safety, she's poisoned by Ellaria Sand.

Daenerys Targaryen survived Robert's rebellion after he sent hitmen to slay her as an infant
Daenerys Targaryen survived Robert's rebellion after he sent hitmen to slay her as an infant. Picture: YouTube / HBO, Game of Thrones

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House of Targaryen

Backstory

Descending from the ancient civilisation of Valyria, the Targaryens are one of the oldest houses in Game of Thrones - and one of incestuous lineage.

They settled on the island of Dragonstone with their dragons, but the Doom of Valyria wiped out most of the dragons and killed a lot of their people.

The Targaryens then focused their efforts on conquering Westeros, where their family ruled for over three centuries. Robert Baratheon then rebelled against the Mad King, Aerys II.

It was Jamie Lannister, AKA, The Kingslayer, who murdered the king. Robert killed Aerys' son Rhaegar, who was also heir to the Iron Throne, and also ordered hitmen to assassinate Viserys and baby Daenerys.

The latter managed to escape from Dragonstone alive, however.

Family members

Aerys - Aerys was the last Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne and is also referred to as the Mad King. He was known for his brutality and cruelty towards his people, using his dragons to destroy his enemies and enforce his reign of tyranny.

Rhaegar - The eldest of the Targaryen siblings and heir to the Iron Throne was killed by Robert Baratheon during the rebellion. In season 7 of the show, we discovered that he was also the biological father of Jon Snow, whose real mother was Ned Stark's sister, Lyanna. The Targaryen prince and Lyanna married in secret, meaning Jon isn't just a Targaryen, he's also a legitimate heir.

Viserys - Aerys' second born son is smarmy by nature. He uses his younger sister Dany as a pawn, selling her to the Dothraki Khal Drogo. He does so to help form an alliance with the clan, to help him win back the Iron Throne. However, after one of his many drunken outbursts, Khal Drogo kills Visserys by giving him a "Golden Crown" (pouring molten gold over his head).

Daenerys - Possibly the character with the most names and aliases, Daenerys was referred to by her brother Viserys as 'Dany'. She also calls herself the 'Mother of Dragons', and she's often called 'Daenerys Stormborn' because she was born on Dragonstone when there was a particularly violent storm happening. She then marries Khal Drogo and becomes the Khaleesi. Her aide, Missandei, also announces Dany as the 'Lady of Dragonstone, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms' or 'The Unburnt'.

Theon Greyjoy grew up with the Starks, before he returned to the Iron Islands
Theon Greyjoy grew up with the Starks, before he returned to the Iron Islands. Picture: YouTube / HBO, Game of Thrones

The Greyjoys

Backstory

The family dates back to the reign of the Grey King, during the Age of Heroes.

According to legend, the Grey King took a mermaid for his wife and ruled the sea.

Under Balon, the Greyjoys have continually attempted to extend their power beyond the Iron Islands.

Family members

Balon Greyjoy - Lord Reaper of Pyke and head of House Greyjoy, Balon was murdered by his older brother Euron.

Theon Greyjoy - Captured during the rebellion, Theon was raised by the Starks at Winterfell and was treated like a member of the family. Later on, he leaves Winterfell to return to the Greyjoys. Turning against the Starks, Theon seizes Winterfell while Robb is at battle. He also pretends to burn Rickon Stark to impress his biological family. Winterfell then falls into the hands of the Boltons and Theon is tortured and mutilated by Ramsay Bolton.

Yara Greyjoy - Theon's sister Yara is a fierce warrior who's grown up on the Iron Islands. She saves Theon from Ramsay's evil clutches, but is then captured herself by her uncle Euron after she's chosen to lead her house. Euron tempts Theon to rescue his sister, but instead, he dives overboard and Yara is taken to King's Landing as a prisoner.

Euron Greyjoy - Euron is a pretty much a pirate and outlaw who murdered his brother Balon. Ever the opportunist, Euron travels to King's Landing in the hopes of marrying Cersei Lannister. Always wanting something in return, Cersei demands Euron brings her evidence of his loyalty to her, so he returns with his niece, Yara. He also plots with Cersei behind even Jamie's back, as they plan to take over Westeros while Jon, Dany and the rest are fighting the White Walkers.

Olenna Tyrell was killed by Jamie Lannister in season 7
Olenna Tyrell was killed by Jamie Lannister in season 7. Picture: YouTube / The Take by ScreenPrism

Other key houses

Tyrell - After the Targaryen conquest, the Gardeners were eliminated, leaving House Tyrell vulnerable. First, Margery Tyrell and brother Loras tried to ally themselves with the youngest Baratheon brother. Then, after his death, they moved to King's Landing and forged a plan to marry Margery to King Joffrey. Learning about his sadistic nature, Tyrell matriarch, Olenna, poisoned Joffrey and arrange for Margery to marry his younger - and nicer - brother, Tommen. Margery, her brother and father were wiped out when Cersei blew up the Sept, and Jamie Lannister later poisoned Olenna to death.

Baratheon - Included Robert Baratheon, who led the rebellion, his brother Stannis, whose claim to the Iron Throne was originally supported by the Red Priestess, Melisandre, and Renly, who was first supported by Margery Tyrell. Renly was also having an affair with Margery's brother, Loras.

Frey - The Freys began as bannermen for House Tully, but are known for their lack of loyalty. They slaughtered Robb and Catelyn Stark at the Red Wedding, on the orders of the Lannisters. Arya Stark then murdered Walder Frey and his family to avenge her mother and brother.

Tully - The Tullys were once the principal house of the Riverlands, rising to power during the Targaryen conquest. Following the Red Wedding, the Tullys fell under Frey control.

Arryn - Serving as Warden of the East and residing in the mountainous stronghold of Eyrie, the House of Arryn have played a key part in the show. Catelyn Stark's sister, Lysa, married Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish after she was left widowed. She's also the mother of Robin Arryn. Littlefinger then plotted against Lysa, throwing her out the Moon Door and trying to set up a wedding between Sansa Stark and Robin. He then orchestrates Sansa's marriage to Ramsay Bolton.

Bolton - The Boltons reside in the north and initially served as bannermen for the Starks. Roose Bolton turned against the Starks at the Red Wedding, however, killing Robb. Roose was then murdered by his bastard son, Ramsay - who was also torturing Theon Greyjoy. Ramsay was killed by Sansa, who set his dogs on him after the Battle of the Bastards.