The Age of Heroes in Westeros history in “Game of Thrones” is rife with myth and legend — it was a time thousands of years before the events of the current series, and one when events weren’t recorded, only handed down as stories.
With the news that HBO is creating a “Game of Thrones” prequel to be set, at least partially, during the Age of Heroes, the question becomes, what will it actually be about? There are a lot of things that a show set during the Age of Heroes could cover. The description of the show provided by HBO also suggests that everything we think we know and have already seen about the history of Westeros is likely to be very wrong, which opens a ton of doors.
Here’s what HBO said, exactly: “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.”
From the founding of the Great Houses of Westeros, to the building of the Wall and beyond, here’s what we think the “Game of Thrones” prequel show will encompass.
The Long Night
The “darkest hour” mentioned in the series description almost certainly refers to the Long Night, the extra-long winter and period of darkness that is said to have lasted a whole generation, and covered the entire known world. The intense cold and darkness caused ice to push down from the extreme north, and with it, an invasion by the magical and undead Others, also known as the White Walkers.
In “Game of Thrones,” we are shown, through one of Bran Stark’s visions, that the White Walkers were first created by the Children of the Forest as a weapon against the First Men. The description for the prequel show says we’ll see their “true origin,” though, which suggests a lot more context. The Children of the Forest and the First Men united to fight the Others, but they were continually pushed south by their forces. Eventually, First Men, the Children, the nascent Night’s Watch and a mythical figure known as the Last Hero managed to push the Others back to the north in Westeros.
The war will go East
Because “Game of Thrones” has centered the whole deal with the White Walkers firmly in the upper reaches of Westeros, it can be tempting to assume the war that took place during the Long Night also will be limited to that continent. But considering that the civilizations of Essos — including places like Yi Ti and Asshai that are further east than we’ve ever seen on the show — have their own legends about the Long Night and the war against the White Walkers, it’s reasonable to assume that this winter that supposedly lasted a generation impacted the entire known world.
In particular, the Golden Empire of Yi Ti ties its founding to the Long Night — that probably means those folks will be important to the war.
Not only does everyone in the world have their own legends about the Long Night, but they also all have basically the same story about the guy who ended it — the one that Melisandre calls Azor Ahai.
On Essos, the continent to the east, the battle saw the legendary hero Azor Ahai show up wielding his fiery sword Lightbringer. Azor Ahai factors highly in legends in “Game of Thrones” — he’s the guy the Red Woman, Melisandre (Carice van Houten), talks about a lot. Ahai is a major figure in the Lord of Light religion. The tenants of the religion say he’s supposed to return as the Prince That Was Promised to lead Westeros against the return of the White Walkers.
Like the Prince That Was Promised — who we believe right now is represented by the triumvirate of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister — Azor Ahai is almost certainly not a single person. The prequel series will likely be, like “Game of Thrones” itself, an ensemble series centered on a small band of heroes who history will consolidate into a single legendary figure.
Asshai will be very important
This mysterious place has been mentioned many times but never seen on “Game of Thrones,” but it’s obviously a crucial location with regards to the Long Night. For one thing, Asshai is a part of the Shadowlands where Dany’s dragon eggs came from. Those dragons are extremely important to the prophecies regarding the return of the White Walkers — the Night King would still be trapped beyond the Wall without them.
Likewise, the Lord of Light religion, which is obsessed with the prophecies of Azor Ahai and the Prince That Was Promised, originated in Asshai. And Asshai is a place that is described as being perpetually dark and gloomy and having only a small population despite being physically much larger than King’s Landing.
And nobody knows when Asshai was founded or why it is the way it is. It feels like a safe assumption that we’ll learn both of those things in the prequel show.
The origin of the Lord of Light
Of all the religions on “Game of Thrones,” only one has given us conclusive evidence that its god is real — that of the Lord of Light. We’ve seen both Melisandre (who is from Asshai) and Thoros of Myr resurrect people, so they have to be onto something.
However, we also know that those folks are totally wrong about the afterlife, because those resurrected folks, Jon Snow and Beric Dondarrion, have both described death as pure nothingness with no afterlife at all. So whatever this mysterious Lord of Light is, it’s both definitely a real thing but also less than what its followers think it is. So we can’t help but assume that we’ll find out what this strange supernatural thing actually is.
The beginnings of the Valyrian empire
One big element of the history and legends of Westeros by the time “Game of Thrones” rolls around is the empire of Valyria, found on the continent of Essos, which was destroyed a few hundred years before the events of the show. Valyria was where the Targaryen dynasty originated. They’re the folks who used dragons in warfare, and they created the extra-special Valyrian steel — which is said to be a metal forged with magic and dragonglass. At the time of the Age of Heroes, Valyria wasn’t an empire yet. But it’s around that period that Valyria Freehold, what would become a huge empire, was founded, and which conquered another empire at the time, Old Ghis, with the use of dragons.
Since it’s been established that Valyrian steel can take down White Walkers, it seems likely that Valyrian steel could have been invented with that use in mind, during the Long Night. A cataclysmic event like the Long Night, and the war that went with it, would also be a convenient opportunity for a burgeoning empire with dragons like Valyria to take down a much more established and powerful one like the Ghiscari — or maybe the Long Night did that for them and the Valyrians just jumped in to fill that void afterward.
We also know that dragons are useful for killing off White Walkers, as well, which would be a pretty big public relations win for Valyrians gaining power in the world.
The origin of the world’s weird seasons
Probably the most fundamentally anomalous thing about the world of “Game of Thrones” is its weird seasons, which last for seemingly random amounts of time. Allegedly, the world had normal seasons before the Long Night, and so the legends ascribe that weirdness to the White Walkers initiating the Long Night and throwing the world out of balance.
But we don’t think it will be quite that simple. It would also be reasonable to assume that the Long Night and the resulting weird seasons happened independently, and the White Walkers simply took advantage. Why else would they have waited so many thousands of years to return, if not waiting for the randomness of the seasons to bring about the right conditions?
There’s a Yi Tish legend that provides a possible alternative explanation for the weird seasons. It goes that the Long Night began when a person known only as the Bloodstone Emperor usurped the throne of the Great Empire of the Dawn from his sister. The Bloodstone Emperor is known to have worshipped a strange black stone that fell from the sky — material that “A Song of Ice and Fire” lore indicates has popped up in other places. Most notably, it’s likely the same kind of strange black stone that all the buildings in Asshai are made of, which is what gives that city its perpetually gloomy appearance.
A strange black stone likewise has popped up in the construction of isolated buildings all over the known world, from Valyria to Oldtown in Westeros to Pyke in the Iron Islands. This seems important, and there could very well be some link between the weird seasons and this black meteor crashing into the planet
Magic and magical people in general
Though magic has largely passed out of the world by the time “Game of Thrones” starts, during the Age of Heroes, there was a whole lot more fantastical, weird stuff in Westeros and beyond. That includes the Children of the Forest, those elf-like magic creatures the First Men fought when they arrived on the content. Also hanging around are giants and dragons, as well as sorcerers. Expect the “Game of Thrones” prequel to delve deeper into the magical and mystical weirdness the current series discusses or hints at more than shows.
Bran the Builder and the Wall
The prequel show description mentions the ancient Starks, and that has to include the figure known as Bran the Builder, who is founder of House Stark according to legend. He’s the guy who built the castle Winterfell and, more importantly, the Wall, which was meant to hold back the Others if they should ever invade again. Legend has it that giants and the Children of the Forest helped him construct it. At the very least, Bran’s part in the Long Night and the Battle for the Dawn seem like they’ll definitely be a part of what the prequel show covers.
Where the Night King actually came from
So there’s some wonkiness in the old stories of the original situation with the Others/White Walkers in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books. It isn’t something that’s come up on the show, but it seems important enough that they’ll want to deal with it.
In the stories of the Long Night, there’s nothing about the White Walkers having a leader — the Night King is said to have come later, as the 13th lord commander of the Night’s Watch, a Stark, who was seduced by a lady White Walker a while after the Wall was built and the war ended (Jon Snow was the 999th lord commander, for some perspective on how long ago the 13th was). There is almost no way that that’s going to be the case on the show, because they’ll probably want to have the Night King as a character on the prequel, but that backstory would seem to preclude his inclusion since the 13th lord commander wouldn’t show up for a couple decades at least after the events the main show depicts.
Plus, the actor who played the man who the Children of the Forest turned into the alleged first White Walker in “Game of Thrones” Season 6 also happens to be the guy who plays the Night King on the show, so this alteration to the historical record may already have happened.
Whether the change in lore will be a “they remembered it wrong because it was so long ago” thing or just a change in lore like how the show turned the Three-Eyed Raven from a random Targaryen dude to a random other person who is thousands of years old is immaterial. But I imagine that while they’re doing “true origins that aren’t what you think they are” this seems like a natural item to include.
Lann the Clever and Casterly Rock
Among the best stories of Westeros is that of the trickster Lann the Clever, the legendary founder of House Lannister. This guy was apparently very smart, and used his intellect to scam people and otherwise skate out of situations that would have probably gotten him killed. The most famous story about him, and the legend the Lannisters tell, is that Lann talked the Casterly family out of their castle, Casterly Rock. Thousands of years later, it’s the ancestral home of the Lannisters, and it seems too fun and interesting a story for an Age of Heroes prequel to pass up.
This story isn’t usually tied to the Long Night or any of that fun stuff, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t make it fit.