Game of Thrones is full of memorable murders: Viserys’ golden crown, the Red Wedding, Shireen’s horrible betrayal. The citizens of Westeros aren’t ones to shy away from violence, and it’s common knowledge that when you play the game of thrones you win or you die.
However, it wasn’t just aspiring royalty who met terrible fates. Smallfolk and lesser lords were also at the God of Death’s mercy, and could still decisively lose the game even if they were never really players. Their deaths may have left less of a mark on viewers’ minds than pivotal moments such as Joffrey’s long-awaited assassination, but they were no less painful and gruesome — often even more so.
Here are some of the most horrific deaths in Game of Thrones that you probably don’t even remember.
1. Daenerys drags a wine merchant behind her horse
Daenerys was responsible for many memorable deaths by the series’ end, but one of her most painful executions occurred before she was a conqueror, way back in season 1.
While exploring Vaes Dothrak’s marketplace in “You Win or You Die,” Daenerys encountered a starstruck wine seller who gave her a free cask of dry red.
Captured by Khal Drogo’s khalasar, the wine seller was beaten, stripped, and his wrists bound to Daenerys’ saddle. He was then made to walk behind her as the khalasar departed, with the implication that when his legs inevitably gave out he would be dragged until dead, probably longer.
2. The Tickler makes a rat eat through a prisoner
Game of Thrones has no shortage of people being savagely mauled to death or eaten by animals, with Daenerys’ dragons and Ramsay’s hounds being the usual suspects. However, a less well-remembered but no less agonising instance involved a bucket, fire, and a gigantic rat.
In season 2 episode “Garden of Bones,” the Lannister army had taken many smallfolk prisoner at Harrenhal, including a disguised Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie. There they learned that a man known as the Tickler had been torturing a captive to death every day, using an exceedingly grisly method.
Overseen by the Tickler and in full view of the other captives, Ser Gregor Clegane’s servant Weasel strapped the day’s chosen victim to a chair, placed a large rat inside a bucket, and then attached the container to the captive’s torso.
An angry mob dismembers the High Septon with their bare hands
The High Septon’s death was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in season 2’s “The Old Gods and the New,” but its relative swiftness didn’t make it any less gruesome.
After seeing Myrcella off on her journey to Dorne, the royal party — including Joffrey, Cersei, Sansa, and Tyrion — walked through the streets of King’s Landing back to the Red Keep. Joffrey’s general cruelty and indifference hadn’t endeared him to the starving smallfolk though, whose jeers at the procession soon escalated into a riot.
While the most prominent nobles eventually escaped, not everyone was so lucky. The crowd mobbed the Kingsguard and seized the High Septon, falling upon him and literally tearing him limb from limb with their bare hands. We never actually saw the Septon’s body, or what remained of it, but seeing a man hold a dismembered arm aloft clearly got the point across.
4. Daenerys locks Xaro Xhoan Daxos and Doreah in a vault
Xaro Xhoan Daxos and Doreah’s deaths weren’t as visually spectacular as many others that followed, but the agonisingly slow psychological torture involved made them two of the most horrific deaths in Game of Thrones.
In season 2 finale “Valar Morghulis,” Daenerys recovered her dragons from Qarth’s House of the Undying after they were stolen by her host, Xaro.
The enormous, impenetrable vault Xaro had boasted about was also completely bare, all of his riches a lie to help him maintain his status.
Despite their desperate pleas and attempts to bargain, Daenerys had Xaro and Doreah locked in his vault and left to die, most likely from dehydration or asphyxiation. There are few things more terrifying than being trapped in the dark, hopeless, knowing you’re going to die slowly but unable to do anything about it.
5. The Great Masters of Meereen crucify 163 child slaves
Though one crucifixion is typically more than enough for most people, numerous crucifixions took place during Game of Thrones. The most memorable were the 163 Great Masters Daenerys crucified after she took Meereen, as well as the slaves she offered water to along Astapor’s Walk of Punishment. But in case you’d forgotten, it was another batch of crucifixions which prompted Daenerys to retaliate at the Great Masters in this manner.
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On the road to Meereen in season 4 premiere “Two Swords,” Daenerys and her army encountered the crucified body of a slave child pointing toward the city.
Of course, the attempt to cow Daenerys only made her more angry. Once she took Meereen a few episodes later, the Khaleesi ordered the same number of Masters to be rounded up and crucified in retaliation — an unsettling glimpse at the woman she eventually became.
We only saw an already-dead child, so I am going to tell myself they all died quickly and painlessly and were nailed up postmortem, even though I know it’s a lie. It’s more likely they were marched out there still alive and forced to watch their peers be crucified while knowing this drawn out, painful death was what awaited them too.
6. Ramsay skins numerous people alive
For all House Bolton’s talk of flaying, Ramsay is more well-remembered for setting his vicious pack of hounds on people than for skinning them alive. That isn’t to say he didn’t relish using this excruciating torture method whenever the opportunity arose, though.
Ramsay utilised flaying in several occasions across the series, even partially skinning Theon in season 4 episode “The Climb.” However, while Theon lived, most of Bolton’s victims didn’t survive the ordeal. These included the ironborn at Moat Cailin, who surrendered after Ramsey promised them safe passage; Lord and Lady Cerwyn, who refused to pay taxes to the Boltons; and an older female servant, who tried to help Sansa escape Winterfell.
Mercifully, we aren’t subjected to the terrifying ordeal of seeing these poor people be flayed — simply watching Ramsay remove the skin from Theon’s finger was nauseating enough.
There are many painful deaths in Game of Thrones, but flaying has to be one of the most agonising.
There are a ton of other horrible, gruesome, frequently forgotten Game of Thrones deaths across the series as well. Khal Drogo slit Mago’s throat and tore out his tongue, Ser Meryn Trant and Oberon Martell both had their eyes gouged out before they were killed, and Ser Vardis Egen and Lysa Arryn had a long time to think about their demise while plummeting from the Moon Door.
The fact that these brutal deaths can easily be overlooked goes to show just how much gore and murder there was in Game of Thrones. Usually you’d remember someone being violently relieved of their tongue, but here it’s just another day in Westeros.