What is the Age of Heroes in Game of Thrones? Here's what Jane Goldman's prequel series will be all about

HBO has five Game of Thrones spin-offs in development, and here’s what it is saying about its first commissioned pilot, from Kingsman, Kick-Ass and Stardust screenwriter Jane Goldman:

“Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, 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’s 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.”

Age of Heroes, you say? What’s that, then?

Just to clear it up from the start, it isn’t this, despite the presence of Sean Bean.

Fortunately for us all, George RR Martin has already written a fair amount about this period in Westeros’ and Essos’ history. It’s the era that the people in Game of Thrones tell each other stories about – the time before written history, when everything was a bit vague and sketchy, having been handed down only as spoken tales.

Scraps of scholarship give hints about what might have been, but mostly it’s a time of myth. Ask Winterfell’s old Nan and she’ll tell you.

The World of Ice and Fire, Martin’s companion book to The Song of Ice and Fire, written with Elio M García and Linda Antonsson, is our main source of ‘hard’ information. In the character of ‘Maester Yandel’, the authors describe a Westeros before the First Men, when the Children of the Forest and the Giants shared the land.

All was peaceful, leafy and green until people started coming across the land bridge from Essos (while there still was a land bridge). The men and the Children went to war and – at least according to that flashback in Game Of Thrones – the white walkers were created, possibly as a weapon against men.

At the end of the war, the Children and the Men made the Pact – an agreement to share the land – which marked the beginning of the Age of Heroes.

The Age of Heroes – what happened then?

“The Age of Heroes lasted for thousands of years,” writes Maester Yandel, “in which kingdoms rose and fell, noble houses were founded and withered away, and great deeds were accomplished.”

That leaves plenty of room for a whole new canvas of warring houses – though the courtly intrigues of Game of Thrones may not be as well suited to a time of ringforts, walled fiefdoms and minor kings, and a rougher, tougher brand of brute politics might apply. Think The Last Kingdom rather than Wolf Hall.

Brandon the Builder was busy building his Wall around this time, along with other less-celebrated sword-wavers and spear-shakers including Garth Greenhand, Durran Godsgrief, Symeon Star-Eyes and Serwyn of the Mirror Shield.

©  HBO

The Long Night

The big event of the Age of Heroes was the Long Night, the legendary winter that lasted a generation, “in which children were born, grew into adulthood and in many cases died without ever seeing the spring”.

It probably had something to do with the White Walkers, though until season six of Game of Thrones only the Night’s Watch men and a few old-fashioned northerners believed they ever existed. Old Nan and her like, however, tell of ‘Others’ from the Lands of Always Winter who extinguish all light and warmth, and ride giant ice spiders and dead horses.

According to Maester Yandel there are myths in far Asshai of a great darkness, and a hero who defeated it with a red sword. He acknowledges that followers of R’hllor call this hero Azor Ahai and prophesy his return. (aka The Prince Who Was Promised.)

He also recounts a tale from Yi Ti, in which “the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.”

In the North, they say the winter was ended by a hero who tracked down the Children of the Forest and with their help founded the Night’s Watch.

So might that be the arc of the show? The arrival of the Long Winter and its eventual retreat? (ie the same overarching story as Game of Thrones.)

Given the quote above about the origin of the White Walkers and the descent from the Age of Heroes into Westeros’ darkest hour, we’d say that was a resounding yes. Expect the Night King, a dash of Azor Ahai, a fair dollop of Bran The Builder and his Wall and a lot of snow. And hopefully some ice spiders.

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