GOT: Remembering Valyria & Other History
The times before the present Game of Thrones were even more bloody, treacherous, lust-filled and burned out. Just the way we like it!
Miss Anonymous loves GOT, but has never read the books. Of course, that has not stopped her from wanting to know more about the world of Game of Thrones. This 4-part series will help you and Miss Anonymous explore the world where our favorite TV show is set. Cheers!
One of the most radical things that George RR Martin has done in his series is writing even the history books ‘in-universe’. That is, this is not a definitive account of the world of Westeros & Essos. No, this is written by a maester in Oldtown (remember the wonder-struck Sam last season? Yes, in that exact place) and hence is subject to his beliefs and political leanings and knowledge. Which is actually a realistic depiction of how history is written.
What happened to Valyria?
Once upon a time, there was Valyria. Close to 40 families sought for prominence over each other; all of these families had certain common features: silver hair, purple colored eyes and their very own dragons. Only one family, one house, and a minor one among these, was the Targaryen house.
Picture that. At a time when most of us are are in thrall of Dany’s 3 dragons, imagine hundreds of dragons and dragon riders flying in the sky. Now, what could have happened to kill all of them?
Around the ring of volcanoes where the original Valyrians (they were shepherds apparently) had first discovered dragons, something happened. Maybe the Valyrians mined too far inside the mountains, maybe there was magic of the unknown variety, maybe it was-(one of these theories is in the next Q&A) Whatever it was, the volcanoes erupted, the sea flooded in, and the entire city of Valyria, along with the ruling families and their dragons, died from these. The people of Westeros & Essos call it the Doom of Valyria. Apt.
What happened in Hardhome?
Season 5 Episode 8 brought us to the northernmost place we have been to yet: Hardhome, where Jon rescued as many refuges as he could and came face-to-face with the Night’s King. But do you know that Hardhome was once a town?
Hardhome had been halfway towards becoming a town, the only true town north of the Wall, until the night 600 years ago when hell had swallowed it. Its people had been carried off into slavery or slaughtered for meat, depending on which version of the tale you believed, their homes and halls consumed in a conflagration that burned so hot that watchers on the Wall far to the south had thought the sun was rising in the north. Afterward ashes rained down on the haunted forest and Shivering Sea alike for almost half a year. Traders reported finding only nightmarish devastation where Hardhome had stood, a landscape of charred trees and burned bones, waters choked with swollen corpses, blood-chilling shrieks echoing from the cave mouths that pocked the great cliff that loomed above the settlement. Six centuries had come and gone since that night, but Hardhome was still shunned. The wild had reclaimed the site, Jon had been told, but rangers claimed that the overgrown ruins were haunted by ghouls and demons and burning ghosts with an unhealthy taste for blood.
(from A Dance With Dragons)
Among the tinfoil theories, one of the popular ones is that the Faceless Men (Arya’s temporary employers in Bravos) destroyed Valyria…somehow. But how did they know that their methods were going to work? Simple: they tried it out in Hardhome first. Fits on the timeline, and considering that no one wishes to go to both these places, even after all these years, can explain why. Is it true? Dunno, but it does sound awesome.
What/ who were the Rhoynar?
Remember that haunted city that Tyrion and Jorah drift past? Now, in the books, Tyrion is in a boat sailing in the Rhoyne, and the haunted city they drift past is the city of Chroyane.
Why does it matter, you may ask.
When Valyria was gaining more and more power (and territory, having taken over the Old Ghis empire), the last major empire next to Valyria was that of the people on the river Rhoyne, also known as the Rhoynar. Comprised of city-states, these people were independent, worshipped the river Rhoyne, and also, had their own type of ‘water’ magic; it helped them keep the dragons away, for some time. There were fights which went back and forth; then, when an army of the Rhoynar led by Prince Garin had killed two dragons, injured another, and defeated a Valyrian army of 100,000, Valyria sent three hundred dragons to the war. And that was it. All their cities were taken, and the Rhoynar utterly defeated. In his last hours Prince Garin was made to watch from a cage, as all his people were killed, him being kept for last. In these moments, his rage was such that he called upon a curse. That night, the river rose and submerged the whole city. No one lived there after that. The Rhoynar were finished. Some however survived. Which brings us to….
Why is Dorne so pro-woman?
The Rhoynar were incredibly progressive; for one, their cities could be ruled by a Prince or a Princess; in fact, women also fought in their armies. It was an irony then, that before Prince Garin set out with the Rhoynar army, it was the sole woman ruler at that time-Princess Nymeria of the city Ny Sar-who opposed the plan and was subsequently overruled. Recognising the folly of the situation, she assembled all who were left (most of them being women) and taking close to a hundred ships, sailed out (this happening immediately after Prince Garin was defeated). After a journey full of false destinations, desertations, and disappearences, some of the ships reached Westeros. More specifically, Dorne. Among one of the many bickering Dornish rulers was Mors Martell of Sunspear. Marriage to Nymeria united their alliance, and in a matter of years, united the whole of Dorne under them. Now you know where all those ballsy women originally came from.
What was the Dance of Dragons?
One of the most turbulent times in Westeros, for one. When Aegon‘s great-grandson – King Viserys – died, he left behind a daughter from his first marriage and his eldest son from his second marriage as the two potential heirs; while the King favored his daughter, the realm wanted a King, not a Queen. A complete history of what happened is detailed in TWOIAF, and GRRM hopes to write it in even greater detail in his (yet another one of many upcoming projects) novella Fire and Blood. How big was it? A total of 18 dragons were present before and during the war. After the war, one went wild, one disappeared with her rider, one simply vanished and one survived; all the rest were killed during the war. Dragons were seen no more in Westeros. Even for a Targaryen family, the whole lead-up to the situation and the resulting fights were complicated as hell; there are nieces marrying uncles, bastard kids born because the husband is (supposedly) gay, commoners appearing from nowhere and managing to become dragon-riders, epic fights, and mysterious disappearances. This was, undisputably, the original Game of Thrones.
Why didn’t the Valyrians invade Westeros?
This one is actually a legitimate one. If Aegon Targaryen and his two sisters, along with their three dragons could rule over the whole of Westeros, why not the Valyrians with more than three hundred dragons?
Among the many historians of Westeros, one was Septon Barth. The Hand of a Targaryen king, for some reason his writings were destroyed by a later Targaryen king. Be that as it may, he refers to a (supposed) Valyrian prophecy that the gold of Casterly Rock would destroy the Valyrian Freehold. Another historian suggests that the Valyrians had come till Oldtown, but then something happened which led them to turn back. But those are the books…
User samsaraisnirvana put forward her/his take: the Lannisters were sold a Valyrian steel sword by a Valyrian family; the gold from this was used to buy and pit the families against each other, in the process killing the mages which kept the volcanic activity stable in Valyria. Following which….
The entire thread is a delight. There is debate on Valyrian steel, about the relative lack of development of civilization. Do have a look.
Or maybe the Valyrians knew about the greenseers among the Children of the Forest, who could have been able to warg into a dragon (which we might be able to see for ourselves). Maybe that stopped them?
Where did the Dothraki come from? What do they even do?
You see, normal stages of civilization (at least the one civilization we live in :p) start out with nomads, followed by the nomads settling down somewhere, and then, BOOM! A city is born. The Dothraki, however run counter-current to this. TWOIAF says this about the lands that the Dothraki live on:
Travelers name these the Haunted Lands for the many ruined cities that dot them, or the Great Desolation for their emptiness, but it is as the Dothraki sea that these grasslands are best known today. That usage is comparatively recent, however, for the Dothraki are a young race, and it was only since the Doom destroyed Valyria that their khalasars came to dominate these lands, sweeping out of the east with fire and steel to conquer and destroy the ancient cities that once thrived here and carrying off their peoples into bondage.
Before the Doom however, an entire kingdom-the Kingdom of Sarnor, though all their cities were more city-states – comprising of some of the biggest and beautiful cities of that time, extended over the grasslands. The Dothraki defeated, pillaged and burned almost all of the cities, one by one.
The Dothraki also destroyed a Valyrian outpost / city to the west, Essaria, the city of Ibbish to the north (which was a thriving port), and numerous cities of the Qaathi, leaving them with only one last city, Qarth. All they left behind are ruins. Lastly, I draw your attention to one small interesting nugget of history about the Dothraki; some of the Dothraki talk of a time when they had crossed west, from the lands to the east of the Bone Mountains. Why do you think that happened?
More? Here are our other features:
Your favorite characters are not who they appear to be. Or are they?
Where does this world stretch to? Here, here.
And what are the animals roaming these lands? Hear, here.