Game of Thrones prequel House Of The Dragon is a much safer bet for HBO than Bloodmoon; here's why

FP Staff

Oct 31, 2019 15:12:02 IST

Ditching the Bloodmoon prequel — based on the Long Night and the events that led to the creation of the White Walkers — and ordering a 10-episode run of House of the Dragon may be HBO's wisest move yet in attempting to expand the Game of Thrones franchise.

On Firstpost: HBO announces new Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon, based on George RR Martin's Fire & Blood

Still reeling from the harsh (and in some cases, vituperative) criticism of season 8 of its flagship series, HBO couldn't have failed to note that Game of Thrones' problems started when showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff ran out of material to adapt for the screen. Tying up the loose ends of George RR Martin's layered, expansive plot and universe seems to be a task only the author himself is equipped to complete with any degree of competence.

So the Bloodmoon series, even with a stellar cast headed by Naomi Watts on board, was a risky proposition.

 Game of Thrones prequel House Of The Dragon is a much safer bet for HBO than Bloodmoon; heres why

The Children of the Forest are the original inhabitants of Westeros, in Game of Thrones, HBO

Bloodmoon was seemingly meant to depict the ancient history of Westeros (indeed, before Westeros may even have been called that). But that period of the continent's history has been left fairly nebulous by Martin himself. It gets all of 2-3 pages in The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros. What we do know from Martin's brief outline is that the Children of the Forest (and the giants) were the original inhabitants of Westeros. The First men, who crossed over from Essos, began resettling Westeros and came into conflict with the Children of the Forest, whose weirwoods they had felled.

This is a period Martin calls the 'Dawn Age' — one that ends with a pact between the Children and First Men, signalling a ceasefire in their longstanding hostilities. Before their truce, however, Martin writes of the Children being driven to a "desperate act". It isn't clear what this desperate act is — the creation of the Night King; or the sinking of 'the Neck' (the region near Moat Cailin in present-day Westeros), by which the Children hoped to break Westeros into two land-masses and therefore stop the migration of the First Men. Also unclear is if this is the same event that caused the 'Arm of Dorne' — a strip of land that connected Essos to Westeros, and which the First men seemingly used to cross over — to shatter.

The end of the Dawn Age heralded the beginning of the Age of Heroes, an era marked by lords and kings whose fabled exploits were recounted by Westerosi thousands of years later. Among these heroes was an ancestor of House Stark, Bran the Builder. The Age of Heroes also saw a longer and colder winter than any the realm had seen — a time of suffering and fear known as the Long Night. Stories of the Long Night are still related to children in Westeros as  cautionary tale, as we see Old Nan relaying to Bran Stark when he is in bed after his fall.

Martin writes of ice spiders and the Others, but we see cultures other than the Seven Kingdoms also referring to the Long Night — be it the Dothraki (who believe in a ghost grass that swallows all other grass) to the lands of Yi Ti (where they say the "sun hid its face for a lifetime").

Similarly, several cultures also speak of heroes who battled the demons of the Long Night: In Yi Ti, a "woman with a monkey's tail", whereas tales emerged from Asshai of a saviour called Azor Ahai, with a red sword called Lightbringer.

In The World of Ice and Fire, Martin describes "The Battle for Dawn", in which a hero fights his way through the White Walkers to reach the Children. With the Children's help, the First Men won the battle that broke the endless winter. These men would also go on to form the very first Night's Watch, and patrol the Wall erected by Bran the Builder, protected by the Children's magic.

And...that's it. That's pretty much the entire range of 'canon' material — apart from a stray story or two about specific figures from the Age of Heroes — the Bloodmoon creators would have been able to draw on had HBO gone ahead with a full-fledged series. Sure, there was enough to serve as a solid springboard for more detailed adventures, but seasons 6-8 of Game of Thrones are sure to have made HBO antsy about venturing into that territory.

According to Martin's world-building, the ancient history of Westeros, until the Andals came from Essos, was mainly an oral one. There wasn't the painstaking and meticulous documentation of maesters that could be relied on to reconstruct the developments of the time. However, once the Andals migrated, and more importantly, the Targaryen dynasty began with Aegon the Conqueror, there are reams and reams of written history to satisfy even the most exacting reader.

HBO's poster for the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon

HBO's poster for the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon

Based on the little that we know so far, House of the Dragon "will go back 300 years" before the events of Game of Thrones. That might imply several things for the show's primary story-line: 1. A focus solely on Aegon's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms with his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys, his reign and death; 2. A recapping of the entire three centuries of Targaryen history, spanning Aegon's conquest, the rivalry between his sons, the Dance of the Dragons (the fight between Rhaenyra Targaryen and her half-brother Aegon II to control the Iron Throne that nearly decimated the dynasty), the Blackfyre rebellions (spurred on by the illegitimate children of Aegon IV), and the end of Targaryen rule when 'the Mad King' Aerys was overthrown by Robert Baratheon.

Now George RR Martin has invested a considerable bit in Targaryen history. He hasn't delved too much into their time in Valyria (where they were not among the most prominent families), nor even the time they fled to Dragonstone, after Daenys Targaryen foresaw the Doom of Valyria in her dreams. However, their reign of Westeros has been written of by Martin in such detailed manner that Fire and Blood, published in November 2018 and running over 700+ pages, encapsulates Targaryen history only until the rule of Aegon IV and its chaotic aftermath. A second volume is expected to be published, detailing (one presumes) the six Targaryen kings who followed Aegon IV.

Apart from Fire and Blood (and scattered references in his Ice and Fire series), Martin has detailed an exciting part of Targaryen history in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms as well. The events in the book mainly deal with the childhood of Aegon V (grandfather to the Mad King, great-grandfather to Daenerys Targaryen, and great-great grandfather to Jon Snow). Aegon V is on the road with another name recognisable from HBO's Game of Thrones — Ser Duncan the Tall. (Ser Duncan is a hedge knight tasked by Aegon V's father, King Maekar, to give his son a real-life education, and that's precisely what Ser Duncan does. Although the Targaryens have lost all their dragons well before Aegon V's time, he remains obsessed with the idea of rehatching them from the eggs still in the family's possession. Many years later, now an old man, it is Aegon V's quest to hatch these eggs with the help of his pyromancers that leads to the devastating fire and tragedy at the palace of Summerhall.)

Reports state that Fire and Blood will form the main source material for House of the Dragon, so unless Martin publishes that second volume soon, it would be safe to say that the bulk of the series will deal with the eras between Aegon the Conqueror and Aegon IV.

That should also leave some scope for noble houses like the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons (Lord Orys Baratheon was believed to be a half-brother of Aegon the Conqueror and helped in the conquest of Westeros, becoming the Hand of the King in due course) to make an appearance — which should certainly please fans.

The Targaryen history is the quintessential game of thrones — and their power struggles and dynamics make for a riveting, bloody tale. Unlike the Ice and Fire series, Fire and Blood — despite the vast expanse of time and developments it covers — isn't quite as sprawling (read: unmanageable) a narrative. Made well — and there's reason enough to believe that creator Ryan Condal and director Miguel Sapochnik (The Gift, Hardhome, Battle of the Bastards, The Winds of Winter) can deliver on that count — House of the Dragon is likely to resonate far more with viewers, with its more easily drawn connections to present-day Westeros (and Westerosi), than Bloodmoon.

Whether or not it will win over fans still stewing over Game of Thrones season 8 remains to be seen, but in sticking to a material that George RR Martin has written, HBO has already chosen the stronger contender in House of the Dragon. Fire will reign.

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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2019 15:26:54 IST