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Imminent Ned (also know as “Winter is Coming”) is an image macro series featuring the character Eddard “Ned” Stark from the HBO series Game of Thrones, a television adaption of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. Its snowclone template “Brace Yourselves, X is Coming” can be versatilely used to forewarn or proclaim the impending arrival of a highly anticipated event, a product or an internet meme.
In George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the phrase “winter is coming” is prominently featured as the motto of House Stark of Winterfell, a noble clan renowned for its fortified ancient castle. It was also used in the HBO series Game of Thrones as the title of the pilot episode, which aired on April 17th, 2011, as well as for several promotional trailers and posters.
An image macro featuring a photo of an owl and the phrase “winter is coming” (shown below, left) was submitted to Quickmeme in July 2011, but the phrase didn’t take off until it was paired with an HBO promotional portrait of Ned Stark (played by Sean Bean) later in August that year. The earliest known instance using this image (shown below, right) surfaced shortly after the U.S. East Coast earthquake on August 23rd, 2011.
Throughout 2011, Game of Thrones continued to climb in viewership and ratings and so did the prevalence of the image macro series on Reddit, where the subreddit for the show had gained a large following of 20,128 subscribers by early October 2011. On Quickmeme, numerous entries dedicated to the series emerged in August 2011, most notably Imminent Ned, Winter is Coming and Ned Star Winter is Coming. Outside of Reddit, there is a fan site for the TV series under the domain WinterIsComing.net and similar image macros can be found on Memebase unde the tag “Winter is Coming” and Tumblr under the tag “Imminent Ned.”
Search queries for “winter is coming” saw a brief spike in April of 2011, coinciding with the premiere episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones.