The George R. R. Martin Drinking Game

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally, finally, finally finished all of the presently existing Song of Ice and Fire books. I reread the entire series this year in preparation for A Dance With Dragons. It took me a while not because I don’t enjoy the series (I do) but as much as I love it, I often got distracted and had to read something else. The characters, plot, world and story of aSoIaF are absolutely splendid, but every so often I needed to stuff something else into my brain.

In particular, because Martin has turns of phrase that he uses over and over again in a highly characteristic way. I suspect he’s doing this purposefully, in emulation of the habits of Classical poets. Most translations of the Odyssey have turns of phrase like “the wine-dark sea,” “the grey-eyed goddess Athena,” and “the Earth that feeds us all” popping up over and over again. The explanation I always got for this is that epics were initially unwritten, and repetition like this made it easier for the poet to recall giant stories from memory.

Phrases like this pop up so often in Martin that one could easily make a drinking game out of them, as well as other Martin-isms. I don’t think this is a mark of poor writing, but it is highly noticeable and occasionally does take me out of the book a bit. Seeing repeated phrases is kind of like seeing the zipper on a movie monster’s costume. Every so often, I wanted other words banging around inside my brain and I had to take a break. The next time you feel like reading giant fantasy novels and imbibing booze, try drinking every time you read:

  • Milk of the poppy
  • Little and less
  • Much and more
  • Mulled wine
  • Leal service
  • Sweet sister
  • Wedded and bedded
  • Just so
  • It is known
  • Mummer’s farce
  • Useless as nipples on a breastplate
  • Where do whores go
  • Stick them with the pointy end
  • I know, I know, oh, oh, oh
  • Any variation of “waddle”
  • Hands of gold are always cold
  • Half a hundred
  • Our friends of Frey
  • Bent the knee
  • Any reference to mail, wool, and boiled leather in any combination
  • Any reference to Valyrian steel
  • Any reference to a blade being “so sharp you could shave with it.”
  • Any reference to the Mother being merciful
  • Any reference to the Crone’s wisdom
  • Any reference to the Father’s judgement
  • Any reference to or recitation of The Bear and the Maiden Fair
  • Any reference to The Rains of Castamere
  • Any reference to Arya being “[adjective] as a [noun]”
  • Any gratuitous description of heraldry
  • Any gratuitous description of food
  • Any time characters are referred to by their sigils, e.g, “Wolves” or “Lions”
  • Any cryptic invocation of Summerhall
  • Words are wind
  • A Lannister always pays his debts
  • Dark wings, dark words
  • The night is dark and full of terrors
  • Winter is coming

And of course, you should take a big old swig from whatever you’re imbibing every time a major character dies. Or supposedly dies. Or ends their POV chapter on an annoying cliffhanger. If you do that, you will be good and drunk, and swaying from side to side.

Be advised that if you keep doing that for more than twenty pages you will get alcohol poising and then you will die.

(Did I miss any? There are probably plenty more. Also, I’m really looking forward to The Winds of Winter.)

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