[SPOILERS ahead for those not caught up on Game of Thrones season 6.]
Being one of the biggest and most influential television series currently on the air, everyone knows that Game of Thrones is based off of a projected seven-book series called A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R.R. Martin. What most perhaps don’t know, however, is that Ice and Fire is only one of three strands of texts that Martin has written, detailing the previous three centuries of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros’s backstory (and hinting at the 12,000 years before that, to boot): a series of prequel novellas, stretching as far back as 150 years before the main story (that’s during the Targaryen civil war popularly known as the Dance of the Dragons, for all those maesters-in-training at home), are generally released in between each new ASOIAF installment, while The World of Ice and Fire is an encyclopedia-esque book that lightly recounts all known history, starting with the First Men’s arrival at Westeros and the start of their war with the children of the forest (a war which, we now know thanks to Game of Thrones, would have major consequences for thousands of years to come).
These supplemental tasks have always been just that – supplemental. Until now, that is.
Speaking at Balticon (a big convention in Baltimore, Maryland) this past weekend, George Martin officially confirmed a direct link between his main book series and the Tales of Dunk and Egg, a proposed series of 12 (or so) novellas that follow Ser Duncan the Tall, a hedge knight trying to make a living roughly a century before A Game of Thrones, and his squire, Aegon Targaryen (called Egg by his friends and family), who will one day go on to become king and the father of Mad King Aerys (that’s the crazy chap who killed Lord Eddard Stark’s [Sean Bean] father and older brother, helping to instigate the rebellion that would overthrow the Targaryen dynasty). It turns out that Brienne, Maid of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who has proven herself to be the best swordsman in all of the Seven Kingdoms (by besting Ser Jaime Lannister [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] in combat), is the descendant of Dunk, a man who was never really knighted but would nonetheless go on to become the lord commander of King Aegon’s Kingsguard (a position that Jaime held up until this week’s installment).
Why should this matter to television audiences? Easy: it touches upon those wonderful narrative domains called theme, characterization, and, just maybe, foreshadowing. Brienne has never herself been officially knighted (nor could she be, being a woman and all), but she has proven herself time and again to be the most chivalrous, the most leal, and the most honest individual in all of Game of Thrones – the same exact disposition and status that her great-great-great-grandfather possessed. This has got to say something about Martin’s worldview, and it might even possess a bit of foreshadowing for what Brienne the Beauty’s ultimate fate may hold (which, Ice and Fire fans know, is both good and bad).
As any book reader will tell you, Martin has spared no effort in attempting to incorporate his Tales of Dunk and Egg (which didn’t start releasing until after the second volume in the main series) into A Song of Ice and Fire’s multi-layered story, even going so far as revealing that the long-mysterious Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) is actually Lord Brynden Rivers, a main character from the novellas and a man who has served many important roles in Westerosi history, including a key general during the Dance of the Dragons, a Hand of the King to two monarchs, and, even, a lord commander of the Night’s Watch. This latest confirmation will undoubtedly only make HBO more interested in also realizing Dunk and Egg on the small screen, as both it and Martin have made mention of several times over the past few years.
Then again, given the fact that Game of Thrones never once referred to the Raven as Brynden Rivers – and, at this rate, probably never will – and given that most of the other developments that are promised to come in future Dunk and Egg installments (such as the destruction of Summerhall, the Targaryens’ seasonal residence that just may have been wiped out in the misguided attempt to birth dragons) have likewise never even been mentioned in passing, it’s most likely that the ancillary texts will remain nothing more than footnotes for television fans – albeit very well-written, highly-recommended footnotes.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with “The Broken Man” at 9:00 pm on HBO.
Source: George R.R. Martin [via Vanity Fair]