In a special Send the Ravens column, we take a deep dive into ‘The Long Night’, which appears to be the basis for the first Game of Thrones prequel…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Just over a week ago, the first Game of Thrones prequel was announced by HBO with a pilot order given to a series being developed by Jane Goldman alongside George R.R. Martin.
Martin is responsible for creating A Song of Ice and Fire, which is the basis for Game of Thrones and pretty much any prequel that would be created to carry on the Game of Thrones legacy after the final season airs on HBO next year.
Now a pilot order doesn’t mean the series will get picked up but it’s a good first step towards a show moving from the page to reality because a lot of money will be spent to shoot a first episode for the potential prequel.
While not much is known about the series, Martin gave a major clue in a post he made about the prequel just after it was announced.
“We’re very early in the process, of course, with the pilot order just in, so we don’t have a director yet, or a cast, or a location, or even a title,” Martin wrote. “My vote would be THE LONG NIGHT, which says it all, but I’d be surprised if that’s where we end up. More likely HBO will want to work the phrase “Game of Thrones” in there somewhere. We’ll know sooner or later.”
Judging by Martin’s teaser, the prequel being developed by Goldman is based on one of the first stories ever told about the history of Westeros and the rest of the known world with the event taking place approximately 8,000 years before Aegon Targaryen conquered the Seven Kingdoms.
So what is THE LONG NIGHT?
Thousands of years ago there was a period of time known as the ‘Age of Heroes’, which was a time of prosperity after the First Men settled into a peace agreement with the Children of the Forest after they first arrived on a land that would later be known as Westeros. After years of warring, the First Men and the Children settled into a pact that led to years of peace as well as expansion throughout Westeros with the roots of many of the most famous families being founded at that time.
Houses like Stark and Lannister can trace their roots back to families living during the Age of Heroes.
But sadly the Age of Heroes also contained arguably the darkest period in Westerosi history when the longest winter ever witnessed descended upon the known world.
The entire world was shrouded in darkness for more than a generation with stories passed along that children were born, lived a full life, and then died all without ever actually seeing the sun. Now most of these stories have been passed down over the centuries and there wasn’t much for record keeping during those days.
“The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it.”
~ Samwell Tarly told Jon Snow
The most common stories about THE LONG NIGHT tell about a terrible time of darkness and famine washing over Westeros and with winter came the arrival of the army of the dead.
In the books these creatures are called ‘The Others’ but Game of Thrones viewers will known them better as White Walkers. They came down from the Land of Always Winter, wielding blades made of ice and they raised wights to help them fight the living. The First Men and the Children of the Forest banded together to fight back against the White Walkers, but their power was too strong and everybody continued to be driven south during the fighting.
Old Nan told part of this story to Bran Stark back in Game of Thrones season one:
It wasn’t until it was discovered that dragonglass could kill the White Walkers that the tide started to turn in the war between the living and the dead.
This is there the story starts to get a little fuzzy depending on who is telling the tale.
The real turning point in the war was supposedly thanks to one great hero — called ‘The Last Hero’ in Westeros, Azor Ahai in Asshai, and another called ‘The Prince that was Promised’ — came forth and finally fought back the advances of the White Walker. Some of those stories say that it was this great hero who worked with the Children of the Forest to discover that dragonglass killed the White Walkers while other tales say that Azor Ahai carried a great burning sword with him called ‘Lightbringer’ that helped in his fight.
Samwell Tarly also tells a separate story to Jon Snow in the books where he mentions that ‘dragonsteel’ killed White Walkers and Jon wonders if he means Valyrian steel. As we know from Game of Thrones, Valyrian steel will kill White Walkers.
No matter which version you hear, the point is a great hero was supposedly the one who helped turn the tide in the fight of the living against the dead.
Given the prequel will be tied to Game of Thrones, it’s likely they will go by ‘The Prince that was Promised’ considering that’s already been uttered during the show with possible references to either Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen as the most likely candidates to fill that role (remember the translation to ‘prince’ doesn’t actually carry gender in this language so it could be Daenerys).
As the story goes, the great hero along with the men who would eventually become the Night’s Watch teamed up with the Children of the Forest in one final fight against the White Walkers that would be known as ‘The Battle for the Dawn’.
This was the final battle in the war as the First Men drove back the White Walkers to the north as the Long Night finally came to an end.
In the aftermath of that final battle, the Night’s Watch was formed and a man known as Bran the Builder led the construction of The Wall — the massive 700 foot tall structure that runs across Westeros that’s built of ice and magic meant to keep the White Walkers from ever returning to the south. Legends say that Bran the Builder is actually Brandon Stark, the founder of House Stark and the person responsible for building Winterfell as well.
With the end of the Battle for the Dawn and the construction of the Wall, the Long Night came to an end and the White Walkers were never seen again….until they reappeared in Game of Thrones.
Now how much of this story will be changed or adapted to accommodate a prequel based more on Game of Thrones versus the original source material is unknown but that’s the story originally written by George R.R. Martin about The Long Night.
There’s no word yet on when the Game of Thrones prequel will begin casting or production but the order has been given for the pilot so that will likely start moving quickly during the summer and into the fall.