In the epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, the power struggle for the Iron Throne among the great Houses of Westeros, reveal a convoluted plot with fantastic elements. Martin’s storytelling ability offers a complex and ambiguous world that remains throughout the centuries – important points in the history of Westeros and Essos are highlighted in the narrative, shaping the actions and reactions of many characters. The Age of Heroes and the Targaryen Dynasty periods are exceptionally lore-rich, indulging readers into a world of magic, dragon riders, and extraordinary cliffhangers.
According to the official synopsis, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series will take 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. “ If done right, this spin-off has the potential to outshine Game of Thrones’ popularity. The new series will be shrouded in mystery but with many stories to tell.
If you didn’t read the books, you might be wondering what exactly the Age of Heroes is and what stories can unfold. Although the information on this particular period is limited, book references can give us an idea on what to expect in the upcoming series.
Are you ready for spoilers?
Age of Heroes
Roughly two thousand years after the arrival of the First Men in Westeros, the Dawn Age ends with the forging of the Pact, ceasing years of warfare between the First Men and the Children of the Forest, a mysterious non-human race who were reportedly the original inhabitants of the continent of Westeros. The golden Age of Heroes follows with four thousand years of peace and prosperity. During this period, rulers laid the foundation for a rich society in cultural traditions. The “Bronze Age of Westeros” was ruled by war-band leaders, and their castles were nothing more than basic ringforts – Winterfell, Storm’s End, Casterly Rock, Pyke, Oldtown, and Highgarden are some of the first castle sites mentioned in the books. Other well-known sites like King’s Landing or Dragonstone were empty fields at this time.
During the Age of Heroes, Westeros was divided in seven major kingdoms: Kingdom of the North, Kingdom of the Mountain and the Vale, Kingdom of the Iron Islands, Kingdom of the Rock, Kingdom of the Reach, Kingdom of the Stormlands and Dorne.
Six thousand years later, the arrival of the Andals would bring the Faith of the Seven, iron weaponry and a superior writing system that replaced the First men’s runes, a primitive writing system engraved on stones and other objects. Although giants and most wildlings still speak the First Men’s language (Old Tongue), a large number of Westerosi currently speak the Common Tongue.
Legendary Kings and Heroes
King Brandon Start
King Brandon Stark (Bran the Builder or Brandon the Builder) was the founder of House Stark and reigned as the first King in the North and Lord of Winterfell. King Brandon was responsible for building Winterfell and the Wall, which legend has it, was raised with the aid of giants. King Brandon is connected to an improbable number of great works over a span of numerous lifetimes.
The Grey King
According to the islanders’ faith, the ironborn are a race apart apart from the common run of mankind, descending from fish and merlings. In the current timeline, the ironborn stand apart with different customs, beliefs and ways of governance unlike those common elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms. The Andal’s religion never took root here; the Drowned God and the Old Way are cherished by the majority of the seafarers of the Iron Islands.
One of my favorite legendary characters is the Grey King of the Iron Islands. He reigned for a thousand years, slew the largest of the sea dragons, Nagga, and took a mermaid as his wife so his 100 children could live on land and water. The Grey King allegedly brought fire to earth by taunting the Storm God (a malignant entity who hates men and all their work), and after his death, the Storm God erased most of his legacy and slaughtered his children. The surviving 16 sons and daughters elected Urras Greyiron, the first Salt King of the Iron Islands, under the petrified bones of the gigantic sea creature stand on Nagga’s Hill, Old Wyk – the only remnant of Grey King’s reign. Lords and ship captains gather at this location to elect a new king, a traditional ironborn custom known as Kingsmoot.
King Garth the Gardener
Garth Greenhand or King Garth the Gardener was the first High King of the First Men, the founder of House Gardener and King of the Reach; half of the Houses from the reach descent from Garth Greenland including House Tyrell. Many tales would have us believe that he preceded the arrival of the First Men, making him the very first and only man in Westeros.
Smallfolk cherish many stories about Garth the Gardener – where he walked, farms and orchards sprouted up behind him; he scattered the seeds of all fruits, trees and flowers of the world as he went along; he brought the gift of fertility; and he taught the first men how to farm the lands. It is also mentioned he had green hands, green hair or green skin. Some claim that Greenhand was more than a simple mortal, he was in fact a god. King Garth fathered many children, who grew to be kings, heroes, and great lords across the Westerosi continent. Bran the Builder was one of his sons.
Lann the Clever
Popular among poets, singers and storytellers, Lann the Clever is perhaps the most controversial legendary hero. Born a bastard to one of the daughters of Garth Greenhand, Lann took Casterly Rock from House Casterly using nothing but his wits. There are several tales on how Lann frightened the Casterlys out of their home but the most common story claims states that Lann made them believe that Casterly Rock was haunted. Other story variation tells us that Lann covered himself in butter to slip through a secret cleft in the stone and cause intrigue among the nobles by whispering threats to sleeping residents, and stealing from one brother and placing the treasures in the bedchamber of another. Other tale claims that he managed to sneak lions into the castle, killing most of the Casterlys.
Lann didn’t crown himself after he took over Casterly Rock but he stands out in history as the ambitious trickster who founded House Lannister.
King Durran or Durran Godsgrief was the founder of House Durrandon, and ruled the Stormlands until the Targaryen invasion. He won the heart of Elenei, a daughter of the sea god and the wind goddess. The divine parents forbade their love, and Elenei doomed herself to a mortal’s death. Duran declared war on the gods and each time Godsgrief built a castle, the gods would destroy it with howling winds and lashing rains. King Durran persisted in building larger and more powerful fortifications, until the seventh castle, Storm’s End, resisted the storms. Book references mention the possibility of Durran being advised by Bran the Builder during the construction of Storm’s End. Others believe the Children of the Forest’s magic is the reason of why Storm’s End remains undamaged to this day.
The Winged Knight
The Winged Knight was a legendary First Man figure of the Vale that also deserve a special mention. He won the Vale by slaying the last of the Mountain Kings, Griffin King, on the back of his giant falcon. Although he often conflated with Artys Arryn or the Falcon Knight, who conquered the Vale thousands of years later, the Winged Knight is a mysterious character that might offer an interesting plot twist to the show – he took one of the Children of the Forest as his wife and was often seen with giants and merlings.
Many scholars doubt the existence of the Winged Knight since knighthood was only introduced to Westeros years later with the Andal Invasion.
The Long Night, the Last Hero, and the Wall
The Long Night refers to the longest dark winter in the Known World. During the period of warfare between the First Men and the Children of the Forest, a group of Children captured several of the First Men to experiment on, creating the very first White Walkers (or the Others). Two thousand years later, the Others began an invasion in Westeros using the dead (Wights) to kill at their command.
Azor Ahai, the last legendary hero who wielded a burning sword called Lightbringer, might be the warrior that ultimately saves the world from the Others. During the Long Night, he was the only survivor from his company to reach the Children of the Forest and forge an alliance which would be vital to win the Battle for the Dawn. The Children and the First Men unite to defeat the Others with magic and dragonglass weapons. Victory was finally claimed when the first Night’s Watch rode the last White Walkers back north, possibly to the Land of Always Winter.
Years after the Battle for the Dawn, Bran the Builder raises the Wall, a monumental fortification of ice and ancient magic. The Wall has the sole purpose of protecting the realm of men from the Others and menace beyond the wall.
The Night’s King
According to legend, the Night’s King lived during the Age of Heroes, not long after the Wall was completed. The thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch broke his oath upon the unholy marriage consummation with a White Walker. He declares himself as the Night’s King and claims Nightfort, one of the abandoned castles of the Night’s Watch along the wall. The following thirteen years of his reign would bring horrific atrocities and sacrifices to the Others.
Bran the Builder joins forces with Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, to successfully end the Night’s King reign. In addition, King Bran orders for all records to be destroyed and for many years, it was forbidden to mention his name.
The name of the new series has not been officially released but the internet speculates “Bloodmoon” is the chosen title. Knowing what the new series might unveil and how many are still looking for closure after the last season of Game of Thrones, the fans are expecting no less than greatness from this spin-off show. One thing is certain – the filming has begun and it’s happening right now in Northern Ireland.