Warning: Spoilers ahead of “Game of Thrones.”
“Rains of Castamere” is the most well-known piece of music in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” universe. The song tells the story of how House Lannister destroyed the rival House Reyne of Castamere when they dared to rebel. In the years that followed, “Rains of Castamere” would play to both celebrate House Lannister and strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. The tune was famously played at the beginning of the Red Wedding, signaling the Freys alliance with the Lannisters and cuing the massacre’s start.
Given the rich history of the song, its onscreen debut in “Game of Thrones” was a widely anticipated moment for fans of the book series. But there was a catch: No one knew what the actual melody of the song would sound like.
Enter Ramin Djawadi — the composer for “Game of Thrones” and person responsible for building on Martin’s original “Rains of Castamere” masterpiece.
During an interview with INSIDER, Djawadi spoke about the song’s creation and how showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss gave Djawadi advance notice of the coming task.
“They said ‘for season two we want you to start thinking about a new theme that will be very important down the line,'” Djawadi recalls. “Which of course was [‘Rains of Castamere’ in] the Red Wedding.”
The goal was to have the song be recognizable to the average viewer. That way, when the melody begins to play during Edmure Tully’s wedding, a sense of foreboding would sweep over people watching at home. You would know the Lannisters were up to something just by hearing the song.
“Benioff and Weiss said there’s lyrics in the books for ‘The Rains of Castamere’ that we would like you to write a melody for,” Djawadi tells INSIDER. “It needed to be haunting but beautiful, and all these other criteria because the theme had to be really flexible. So just based on the lyrics I sat down and wrote it.”
Because of its importance to future events, “Rains of Castamere” is one of the only songs from the show that had to be written before filming had even begun. Djawadi excitedly explained why this pro-active writing was so important.
“The first time you hear ‘Rains of Castamere’ is in the first episode of season two,” Djawadi says. “When Tyrion walks in [to the small council meeting], he whistles the theme.”
You can hear Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) whistling the song for the first time in the below clip (skip to 1:30):
Later in the same season, Bronn sings part of the song while waiting for the Battle of the Blackwater to start, and the instrumentals began playing more and more frequently during key Lannister scenes. By giving viewers almost a full two seasons of hearing the tune played when any of the Lannisters were onscreen, “The Rains of Castamere” was (hopefully) synonymous with the cunning family plots by the time the Red Wedding rolled around.
In season six, the “Rains of Castamere” still plays a prominent role in cueing Lannister actions. A new version of it played during Cersei’s coronation ceremony. Djawadi added a new riff of cello into the iconic tune, signifying Cersei’s foreboding ascent to power and her transcendence of typical Lannister family values. She is no longer committed to preserving House Lannister as it once was — Cersei is building her own story of vengeance.