If you’re like me, I imagine you’re watching as the approaching final two seasons of Game of Thrones with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. I’m excited to learn how the story will end, but terrified of the prospect of no longer getting to enjoy the complex machinations of Westeros.
Fortunately, it sounds like there’s many more adventures to be had in George R.R. Martin’s World of Ice and Fire. The famously slow-working author recently confirmed as much in his blog, revealing that there are five potential prequel shows being worked on (although who knows if more than one could be picked up at a time). The fact that not one of these is a sequel doesn’t exactly bode well for the survival of mankind in the flagship series, but there’s another explanation for why all the ideas look back instead of forward: Martin has already done an amazing job fleshing out the history of his world.
The pages of the Song of Ice and Fire series are crammed with tales and legends of heroes and once powerful houses, so much so that he had enough left over to publish several short stories, an app, and a nice thick compendium book with even more historic information. There’s a lot of great material for “successor shows” (as Martin calls them) to draw on. Here’s just a few potential starting points that could be used:
The Riverlands During The Andal Invasion
Due to their position smack dab in the middle of Westeros, the Riverlands often end up being the battlefield for some of the biggest wars in the land. Things weren’t much different 2000 years ago when the Andals began to migrate from Essos to Westeros, making war on the First Men they found living there.
At the time, you had the Tullys fighting to keep their position in the region as the iron-fisted Harren the Black misruled the realm from his massive castle of Harrenhal. The Freys had just emerged as a power in the region, and outside politicking from houses in the surrounding Stormlands and Westerlands had the Riverlands in a constant state of turmoil. But existing power structures got turned upside down with the arrival of the heavily armed and armored Andals, who represented a power that could wipe away all the great houses before them. Will the lords of the Riverland manage to band together, or will they be swept away by the fire of war?
Pros: A lot of familiar houses, plenty of opportunity for political intrigue, a compelling enemy in the Andal invaders, and the Children of the Forest are still around for creepy magic.
Cons: Before the Valyrian invasion of Westeros, so no dragons.
Princess Nymeria During The Rhoynish Exile
The Targaryens weren’t the only Valyrians running around the world spreading fire and blood. Before The Doom, Essos was lousy with Valyrian dragonriders flying all over the place and making war on the lands around them. After spending many years conquering and subjugating the slaver civilizations of the West, the Valyrians turned east to the Rhoyne river and the kingdom that had sprung up along the banks. The Rhoynish fought hard but were no match for the fleets of dragons possessed by the Valyrians. Rather that see her people enslaved and killed, a princess named Nymeria took her people into exile on 10,000 ships.
To say the voyage didn’t go well at first is an understatement. Mysterious islands with monsters and disease ravaged the Rhoynish, and pirates picked off stragglers, enslaving them by the thousands. Following a famine, a large chunk of Nymeria’s people tried to return to the Valyrian controlled Rhoynar lands and were executed. Eventually Nymeria landed on the shores of Dorne, but they find themselves as unwelcome there as in the land they fled.
But the Dornish were a divided people ruled by numerous warring lords, so Nymeria allies with the Martells, marrying into the house and burning her entire fleet to mark the end of her people’s wandering. Using her tenacity and guile, Nymeria defeated several larger houses of Dorne and sent six kings to the Wall in chains. For a thousand years after, House Martell ruled Dorne on the strength of Nymeria and her people’s accomplishments.
Pros: Lots of exciting moments in history to cover with plenty of brutal warring and sexy dragonriders involved. Delves into the mysterious period of time when Valyria was at its peak, gives us an adventure split between the largely unexplored eastern regions of Essos and the Dornish part of Westeros.
Cons: Dorne isn’t exactly a fan favorite, since it’s situated far away from opportunities to mix with the Westerosi houses we know and love. Nymeria’s tale takes place across decades, meaning the show would either have to pick one period or skip large periods of time. Plus it would be a bit of a repeat of Daenerys and her exodus from the Dothraki Sea.
Aegon The Unworthy And The Blackfyre Rebellion
A series set in this part of history would take us the close to the events of the original series. 125 years before the action of Game of Thrones, Aegon IV Targaryen sat upon the Iron Throne forged by his namesake Aegon the Conquerer. His nickname was less impressive: the smallfolk called him the Unworthy because of his poor rule and insatiable appetite for sex. By the end of his reign, the Seven Kingdoms were full of his bastard children. And in his last days he set the seeds for war by giving the ancient family sword Blackfyre to his bastard son Daemon rather than his heir Daeron. On his deathbed he legitimized all his children, and with that set off a power struggle that would continue for nearly a hundred years.
The period features a number of fascinating Targaryen family members from the bookish but wise King Daeron to the pretender king Daemon, whose reputation as a great warrior drew many houses to his side. House loyalties are split, with Aegon’s numerous bastard children siding with the Blackfyres. One notable exception is Brynden Rivers, better known as Bloodraven for the birthmark covering part of his face. Yes, this is the same Bloodraven teaching Bran to fly north of the Wall.
Bloodraven was Daeron’s hand and master of whisperers, using magic to thwart many Blackfyre plots and keep his half-brother Daeron on the Iron Throne. He engaged in a long fought feud with Daemon Blackfyre’s second in command (and another of Aegon IV’s bastards) Aegor Rivers, known as Bittersteel, for the love of their half-sister Shiera Seastar. Shiera also practiced the dark arts and was reputed to bathe in blood to keep her youth. It’s a messed up family, to say the leas … exactly the kind of thing that’d make for great television.
Pros: A Targaryen civil war with all the noble houses of Westeros participating is just cool, and it includes several strong and compelling characters like Daemon Blackfyre, Bloodraven, and Shiera Seastar.
Cons: Maybe a few too many Targaryens flying around with dragons, which sounds like a good way to eat up the entire special effects budget.
The Rise Of The Arryns In The Vale
The Vale was one of the first lands settled by the Andals in the early days. It was also unique in that the Andals and First Men lived alongside each other for many decades. Before the First Men could be wiped out, the Andals began fighting amongst themselves. This opened the door for King Robar Royce to unite the First Men and successfully wage war against their conquerers… until a Vale-born Andal named Ser Artys Arryn the Falcon Knight recognized the danger the Andals represented and formed his own army to counter them.
The story continues with numerous battles and betrayals as the lines between factions blurred and it became more about power than whether you were Andal or First Man. In the end, Royce is struck down during the Battle of the Seven Stars when he is drawn into battle with a fake Falcon Knight, only to have the real Lord Arryn and his knights route him from the rear after engaging. The resistance that survived ended up in the highlands becoming the wild mountain clans.
Pros: Plenty of beautiful scenery in the Vale, a wild knights versus vikings story, with a lot of New Gods (the Seven) versus Old Gods conflict.
Cons: No Targaryens or much magic at all.