This June, the hit HBO fantasy series Game Of Thrones returns for a shortened penultimate season, and fans cannot wait to find out what will happen when Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) finally lands in Westeros to claim the Iron Throne. We're also looking forward to seeing the surviving Starks reunited, as Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) returns from North of the Wall (with his new powers), Arya (Maisie Williams) cuts a bloody swathe on her way home to Winterfell, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) plot their attack on Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Everyone is finally coming together, and although the final two seasons may be shorter than usual, they are sure to be packed with shocking intrigue.
However, the premiere of the seventh season also marks the beginning of the end for Game of Thrones, and as warring families come together from all corners of Westeros, we know that it will be the final showdown. This leaves us wondering - what is next for this live-action version of George R R Martin's world? HBO president Casey Bloys has confirmed that the network is looking into the options for a spin-off series, with a strong likelihood that the next show set in Westeros will be a prequel.
We've already looked at why a series based on Robert's Rebellion could be a great idea for a new show, but it's not the only time in Westeros history that we would like to see brought to life for the small screen. Another option for HBO could start much further back in time, when the First Men set foot on Westeros.
The History Of Westeros: The First Men And The Andals
The recorded history of Westeros begins in the Dawn Ages, when the land was inhabited by the Giants and the Children of the Forest. Then, 12,000 years before Aegon's landing, The First Men invaded, starting a battle for Westeros that lasted for years. Eventually, the First Men and the Children of the Forest signed a pact, giving them shared custody of their lands, and ushering in the Age of Heroes. Many of the legends of great men of Westeros come from the Age of Heroes, including the stories of Bran the Builder. It was during this time that the First Men and the Children of the Forest first experienced the coming of the long winter and the arrival of the Walkers, and came together to fight them back and build the great wall.
Six thousand years before Aegon's Landing, Westeros was invaded again, this time by the Andals. Coming from Essos, the Andals landed at the Vale of Arryn, bringing with them the Faith of the Seven. After another battle for control, a second pact is made between the Andals and the King in the North. This was the end for the Children of the Forest, however. This peaceful race had been slowly disappearing since the first Winter, and the Andals slaughtered all they found, leaving almost none left. It was also following the Andal invasion that the Seven Kingdoms formed, to remain largely separate (and not always peaceful) until Aegon Targaryen invades centuries later, uniting the kingdoms under his rule.
Going Back To The Beginning
A prequel series that returns to the age of the First Men would take us right back to the beginning of Westerosi history - thousands of years before the events of Game Of Thrones. There are a lot of advantages to this kind of long-range prequel, although it may seem extreme to some. Fans loved seeing the few remaining Children of the Forest during Bran's journey beyond the Wall, and the story of the First Men's arrival on Westeros would give us a new look at these incredible characters. We would also get to see more of the origin of the Walkers, as they were originally created by the Children of the Forest in order to fight the First Men. A First Men series would be the ultimate origin story, showing us where so many of the mystical beings and powers in Game of Thrones comes from.
There are also myriad stories to draw from in the long history of the Dawn Age and the Age of Heroes. A First Men-based series could potentially be set up to skip long periods of time between seasons, showing us the most interesting stories in Westerosi history: the invasion of the First Men, the Long Night, the Andal invasion, the formation of the Seven Kingdoms... each of these stories could even be drawn out over several seasons. The sheer volume of material available lends itself to a series that could continue for as long as viewers are happy to continue watching, tracing through the entire history of Westeros.
Finally, this kind of prequel would also land us in a totally different world - costuming, sets, politics, magic, everything would be different. This would be a big change, and give fans something totally new to enjoy. More magic, in the stories of the Children of the Forest, the raising of the Wall, and many more of the early stories is also sure to appeal.
Too Much To Tell
The sprawling history of the First Men may be one of the advantages to a series about them, but it is also a potential downfall. If a series were to attempt to cover the entire history of the First Men, even skipping through the less violent or salacious stories, it could easily spin out of control. It could be a better idea to create a series around a single period in history - the initial invasion of the First Men, or the Long Night - and gauge audience reaction before moving on to another period of history. While there are a few familiar names (Bran the Builder, the Children of the Forest), the majority of the characters would be entirely new to audiences, which could be less appealing than a prequel that focuses on more recent history.
The early days of the First Men may also lose some of the medieval appeal of Game of Thrones. Many people love the sweeping gowns and tall castles of the current series, which dovetails nicely with the fantasy elements (especially dragons). Twelve thousand years before this, it seems logical to assume that their civilization was not quite so advanced, and a more primitive world may not appeal in the same way. There are also still no dragons in the stories of the first men, since the dragons are part of the Rhoynar and Valyerian history, and do not appear on Westeros until the Targaryen invasion (another phenomenal story that would make for a great prequel).
The First Stories
The First Men have a vast and complex history, dotted with phenomenal stories and deeply connected to the events of Game Of Thrones, and seeing these stories unfold in a new series would be the ultimate prequel series. For serious fans, it comes with the added benefit of potentially unlimited seasons, while others may enjoy seeing a more magical, earlier version of the Westeros that we know. Any First Men series would need to narrow its focus, however, or find an anthology-style format that would take into account the centuries of rather boring history that would be less than thrilling to watch.
It's certainly a fascinating possibility, going right back to the beginning, although George R R Martin has created such a rich and detailed universe that there are almost too many prequel options to choose from! We're thrilled at the idea of any of them coming to life to fill the void that Game of Thrones will leave, and can't wait to find out what's next for the Westeros universe on HBO.
- Game of Thrones release date: Sep 19, 2018