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Everything We Know About HBO’s Game of Thrones Prequel

What is the Age of Heroes? Who are some of the players? Where will it take place? And more.

by | November 1, 2018 | Comments

VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 03: Naomi Watts walks the red carpet ahead of the 'At Eternity's Gate' screening during the 75th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande on September 3, 2018 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Naomi Watts (King Kong) was the first star attached to the Game of Thrones prequel series expected in 2020, HBO announced on Tuesday. The network followed up the next day with news that Josh Whitehouse (Poldark) has also been cast.

Not much is known about the new show yet, but Watts’ character is described as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” Could she be a Stark of old? A Lannister maybe? Watts was nominated for best actress Oscars for The Impossible in 2013 and 21 Grams in 2004. HBO did not elaborate on Whitehouse’s role.

“I could not be more excited,” George R.R. Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire book series upon which Game of Thrones is based, wrote on his blog of Watts’ casting. “Welcome to Westeros, Naomi.

“Jane Goldman scripted the Long Night pilot and will be running the show,” he continued. “She and her team are busy in London right now, neck deep in casting, and I expect some more names will be announced soon.”

Martin has previously stated his wish for the prequel to be called “The Long Night,” but HBO has not confirmed the name of the new series.

 Game of Thrones,Season 6, Episode 5: Debut 5/22/16 Vladimir Furdik. photo: courtesy of HBO
(Photo by HBO)

Back in June, HBO ordered the first of the four Game of Thrones prequel scripts in the works to pilot. British writer and producer Goldman won the contest to develop the next series based on the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy universe with her story set in the decline of the Age of Heroes.

Fans of Martin’s series of novels and companion works will recognize this period as the beginning of the legendary Long Night, a generation of winter that starved and froze the populace of Westeros and saw a fierce battle of the Others (White Walkers) and their army of dead (wights) against the living.

Martin’s most recent blog post suggests the number of viable scripts may have narrowed further: “There are still a couple of other possible prequels in active development. I can’t tell you the subject matter of those projects, no, sorry, wish I could. The readers among you might want to grab a copy of Fire & Blood when it is released on November 20, though.”

Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) – Book 1 is the next A Song of Ice and Fire companion book and the first volume of a two-part history of the Targaryens. (The new book begins with Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and recounts generations of Targaryens who fought to hold the seat, up to the civil war that nearly destroyed their dynasty.)


What the Prequel Is About

The story line: “Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend — it’s not the story we think we know.”


When We Will See It

HBO has said that any new series would not premiere until at least a year after Game of Thrones ends. The current series will air its eighth and final season next spring or summer, so the earliest the prequel would appear would be in 2020.


Who’s Running the Show?

George R.R. Martin in 2015 in Los Angeles, Jane Goldman in 2017 in London (Mark Davis/Getty Images; Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

The show is created by Martin and Goldman, who is known for her screenplays for Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid film. Her Tomatometer average on 10 films is 73%. Goldman will serve as showrunner.

“I’ve consulted with all of the writers on all of the successor shows, and several of them have visited me in Santa Fe for long days of discussion,” Martin wrote on his blog, “and we’ve gone back and forth in email, text, and telephone, so I have definitely been involved… but really, the accolades here should go to Jane. She has been an absolute thrill to work with… and my god, what a talent.”


SPOILER ALERT: While information that follows will be familiar to fans of the Song of Ice and Fire novels and their companion materials, some of it may be considered spoilers to anyone who has chosen not to read the book series.


Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 1, photo: courtesy of HBO
(Photo by HBO)

So what is it that “we think we know” about the time period of this prequel?


When It Takes Place: Descent from Age of Heroes = the Beginning of the Long Night

The Age of Heroes: Around 10,000 years before Aegon’s Conquest (we’re going to go ahead and use “B.C.” for “before the Conquest”), the Children of the Forest and the First Men agreed to the Pact, a peace treaty that kicked off the Age of Heroes, a time that many of the major noble Houses, including the Starks, trace their lineage back to if not earlier.

For reference, the events of the seventh season of Game of Thrones occur roughly 300 years after the Conquest (or “A.C.”) of Aegon the Conqueror, the first Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, king on the Iron Throne, and founder of the Targaryen dynasty of rulers. We know, however, that the show took many liberties with the plots of the books; for one, to compress the series’ timeline.

In season 1 of the series, Old Nan tells young Brandon Stark tales of the Long Night, which began 8,000 or 6,000 years B.C. (apparently, even in fiction, accounts may differ).

Given the few details we have about the prequel, it would be fair to surmise that its events take place anywhere between 6,000 and 9,000 years before Jon Snow became King in the North and Daenerys returned to Dragonstone with her “children.”

That’s a hell of a long time, and it promises that the world the prequel takes place in will be in many ways more primitive than the one fans of the show are used to seeing.


Major Events In and Around the Period

Game of Thrones, Kae Alexander, photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
(Photo by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO)

The Pact: With around 1,000 or 2,000 years separating the Pact from the Long Night, the immediate events around the treaty won’t likely be seen (except perhaps in flashback like the Tower of Joy moments with young Ned and Lyanna Stark seen in Game of Thrones). The Pact was signed on the Isle of Faces in the center of the lake called Gods Eye.

The prequel is set at least 6,000 years B.C., and — just to remind us of the timing — construction on the monstrous castle Harrenhal, a ruin in Game of Thrones, will begin on the north shore of Gods Eye around 42 years B.C. by King Harren Hoare. But who’s to say how the new series will play with the timing of events?

The Long Night: A generation of the darkest, coldest winter in known history that saw the Others come down from Lands of Always Winter to devastate the world of men.

Battle for the Dawn: Is the final battle of the Long Night — the outcome, of course, is clear given that the events of Game of Thrones happen.

The Night’s King Rises: The thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch breaks his vow and declares himself a king. The Starks of Winterfell and the King-Beyond-the-Wall, Joramun, join forces to take him down. The stories have it that his treachery began when he was seduced by a female Other, which — White Walker sex would be something we definitely haven’t seen.

The Andal Invasion: Accounts vary, but the Andals crossed the Narrow Sea from Essos anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 years B.C., close enough for the prequel to potentially feature something of the Andal Invasion, which began at the Fingers (homeland of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Game of Thrones).

In Essos, people discover dragons: If the sheepherders who would go on to become the Valyrians of the region were only just discovering their dragons when the First Men were recovering from the Long Night, that should give us some idea of how much time will have to pass before dragons become part of this story.

That said, the Asshai’i claimed the dragons of Valyria came from their Shadow Lands and that the Valyrians were taught to control their dragons by Eastern mystics visiting the region, so even if the prequel doesn’t show dragons in Valyria, if it spends any time in that magical Eastern part of the world, we may see dragons after all.

The histories also suggest that the Valyrians and their dragons may have bullied the Andals out of Essos, which would mean that the Andal Invasion happened later than 6,000 years B.C. — and by “later,” we mean closer to Aegon’s Conquest in the 2,000, 4,000, or 6,000 years between the Long Night and it (depending on when the events of the prequel is set).

But the potential overlap (at around 6,000 years B.C. for most of these major events) makes for intriguing possibilities: The prequel could show, for instance, the people of the Valyrian peninsula discovering the dragon nesting place and their first attempts to tame the beasts, while in Westeros the Long Night might be in full swing.


Who Are the Possible Players?

Game of Thrones: Isaac Hempstead Wright (Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO)
(Photo by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO)

Given the timeline, we’ve already established that we’ll likely see the Children of the Forest and certainly the First Men (speakers of the Old Tongue and, after interacting with the Children of the Forest, worshipers of the Old Gods), but who are the notable people among and around them?

The Three-Eyed Raven (or Crow): Even though Martin himself has denied that any of the original series’ cast would appear, of all the characters in Game of Thrones, two who could reasonably make an appearance in a prequel (outside of flash-forwards) are the time-travelers: the original Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright).

When we asked Wright back in December 2017 if Bran might show up as the Three-Eyed Raven in a prequel, he said: “It would be fun. There’s so much in the history of Westeros I would love to be involved in, and I’ve got to be a small part of some of those bits and get to sort of observe some of those early things going on in the world. I would love, yeah love, to be able to be a part of any of it, any of the history. So if they offered me to come back for a day and sort of, pop by, and have a look at some scene back from King Aerys or whatever, I wouldn’t say no.”

Bran the Builder: Brandon Stark, the founder of House Stark, built the Wall and Winterfell. He is also credited with constructing or aiding the construction of other mighty projects like Storm’s End, seat of House Durrandon (and the later seat of House Baratheon).

Durran Godsgrief: The first Storm King, builder of Storm’s End (possibly with help of Bran the Builder and the Children of the Forest), and founder of House Durrandon, Durran married Elenei, supposedly the daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind, unleashing all sorts of chaos.

Dondarrions: The ancestral House of Game of Thrones’ Beric Dondarrion (leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners and the last head of his House).

House Casterly: The richest lords of Westeros had found gold in their rock and, in the process of digging it out, built the most impressive castle on the continent. In the Age of Heroes, they lost their home and the family disappeared.

Lann the Clever: Founder of House Lannister who infamously swindled Casterly Rock away from House Casterly.


House Reyne: Yes, those Reynes — of Castamere and Lannister fight-song infamy whose riches from mining surpassed even the Lannisters’. (The events that the song “The Rains of Castamere” refer to happen much later, however.)

House Dayne of Starfall: An ancient house of Dorne whose fiercest sons carry the family’s ancestral greatsword, Dawn, and are called “Sword of the Morning.” (In Game of Thrones flashbacks, Sword of the Morning Ser Arthur Dayne, is killed by young Ned Stark and Howland Reed.)

House Gardener: Founders of the Reach whose seat was at Highgarden (later the home of Queen Margaery and seat of House Tyrell, which is rendered extinct by Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones).

The last hero: The last surviving member of a party of First Men who braved the north to find the Children of the Forest to help destroy the Others. The last hero succeeded in bringing the Children to aid in the fight, resulting in the formation of the Night’s Watch and the Battle for the Dawn.

Joramun: A legendary King-Beyond-the-Wall, he blew the Horn of Winter and woke the giants.

Brandon the Breaker: The King of Winter was another “Brandon Stark.” He joined forces with Joramun to defeat the Night’s King and his corpse bride.

Greenseers: The wise men of the Children of the Forest had the greensight, were skinchangers and wargs, and could enter the minds of wolves or dogs. The greatest of them could enter the mind of any beast.

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 7: Debut 6/5/16, photo: courtesy of HBO
(Photo by HBO)

Giants: One-time harriers of the Children of the Forest, the giants are found north of the Wall in the events of Game of Thrones until Jon Snow brings the Wildlings south. Legend has it that Bran the Builder built the Wall with the help of giants.

Green Men: The protectors of the Isle of Faces, where the Pact was signed, may be Children of the Forest or possibly men.

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 1, Carice van Houten as Melisandre. photo: courtesy of HBO
(Photo by HBO)

Asshai’i: The witches, wizards, shadowbinders, and others of the mystical city of Asshai, where Melisandre of Game of Thrones hailed from.

Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa & Lightbringer: The legendary hero from Asshai killed his wife Nissa Nissa to forge his greatsword of fire, Lightbringer. (Given that downer of a legend, he could be represented as something of an anti-hero.) He goes on to fight in the Long Night and is revered as the hero of the Essos god R’hllor, also known as the Lord of Light or the red god. As “the prince who was promised,” Azor Ahai’s reincarnation is the topic of much conversation and speculation in Game of Thrones.

Early Valyrians: The shepherds who discover dragons and go on to found the Freehold of Valyria could possibly be represented in the prequel.

Ghiscari: The people of the predominant culture in Essos at the time of the Age of Heroes were slavers.


Antagonists?

 Game of Thrones, Episode 66 (season 7, episode 6), debut 8/20/17: Vladimir Furdik. photo: courtesy of HBO
(Photo by HBO)

The Others: “White Walkers” in Game of Thrones. The Night King and his court are other Game of Thrones characters who could turn up in prequels. Remember that in the series, Leaf is shown stabbing a human captive with dragonglass turning him into the Night King to help fight the invading First Men. Speaking of…

The Night’s King & the Night’s Watch: Portraying the treacherous Night’s King (not to be confused with the White Walker Night King — or maybe so), and his army of Night’s Watch would flip the heroics of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones on its head.

Urron Greyiron: The King of the Iron Islands from House Greyiron who stole the title by murdering the competition during the kingsmoot.

Andals: The first waves of the bloody Andal invasion could be compressed into the Long Night; though if the Andals were pushed out of Essos by the expanding Valyrians, then the largest part of the invasion would have occurred after the Long Night. The prequel is supposed to cover the decline of the Age of Heroes, however, and the Long Night lasted about a generation, so to truly show the Andal invasion, the prequel’s characters could be born and die of old age over its course.


Locations We Might See

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 2, photo: courtesy of HBO
(Photo by HBO)
  1. The Wall under construction
  2. Winterfell under construction
  3. Casterly Rock changing hands
  4. The Reach, prosperous and led by the Kings of House Gardener
  5. “North of the Wall” before the Wall
  6. Asshai and the treacherous Shadow Lands (if we’re lucky)
  7. The Old Empire of Ghis
  8. Yi Ti (fall of Great Empire of the Dawn/rise of the Golden Empire of Yi Ti)
  9. “Valyria” before dragons and the Doom
  10. Andalos, home of the Andals in Essos

Want to see some of these places on maps? Try herehere or buy The Lands of Ice and Fire collection of 12 maps.


Beyond: What Might a Sequel to This Prequel Hold?

The arrival of the Targaryens & the Doom of Valyria: The burning, smoking dead Valyrian Freehold – the Targaryen homeland – met with a great catastrophe. A series that clears up the mystery of exactly what happened would be most welcome. The Targaryens left Valyria with their dragons before the Doom, landing on Dragonstone and establishing their family.

Aegon’s Conquest: Aegon would later conquer six of the seven kingdoms. A prequel sequel could show the last of the Kings of the Isles and the Rivers Harren the Black, the construction of Harrenhal, and the great castle’s destruction by Aegon’s dragon Balerion.


In the Meantime, About Game of Thrones Season 8…

Game of Thrones (Courtesy of HBO)

Game of Thrones will return for its six-episode, eighth and final season in 2019.

The season will open at Winterfell with Daenerys and her followers meeting up and mingling uneasily with Jon Snow’s northern coalition, EW reported in its November 9 issue cover story. One major tease writer James Hibberd was granted publication approval for  is — it will surprise absolutely no one to learn — that Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) “isn’t thrilled that Jon bent the knee to his fancy new Targaryen girlfriend, at least not at first.”

The story also describes preparation and reactions to filming the final season battle between the human allies against the Night King’s Army of the Dead, which took 55 nights to film the external scenes alone. The production expanded the Winterfell set to accommodate the battle, which actor Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, described as “brutal … It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park,” referring to season 6’s epic battle between Jon and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

The battle will cut between the various characters during the fight.

“We’ve been building toward this since the very beginning, it’s the living against the dead, and you can’t do that in a 12-minute sequence,” series co-creator David Benioff told the magazine.

Benioff and co-creator D.B. Weiss, David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik are directors for the new season. Benioff and Weiss, Bryan Cogman, and Dave Hill are writers for the new season.


Want to read more about the ancient Houses of Westeros, the locations, and events of A Song of Ice and Fire history? In addition to the novel series, you can visit A Wiki of Ice and Fire, read through the Game of Thrones Viewers Guide, or pick up The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones.

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