George R.R. Martin, the author behind A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, gave an interview in Entertainment Weekly on Monday that might have answered one of his fans' oldest questions.
There is a lot going on in Westeros for Martin to talk about these days — from the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones, to the prequel series currently in production to his new book, Fire and Blood, coming out on Tuesday. In the process, he offered new insight into the historical timeline of his fictional world, perhaps vindicating an idea that Samwell Tarley had early on in the story.
Many outlets have been reporting that HBO's new show, tentatively titled The Long Night, will be set 10,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones. That is when the First Men — the ancestors of the Starks — believed the White Walkers marched down from the far north for the first time. However, as Martin pointed out, that figure came from an unreliable narrator.
"'10,000 years' is mentioned in the novels," he said. "But you also have places where maesters say, 'No, no, it wasn’t 10,000, it was 5,000.' Again, I’m trying to reflect real-life things that a lot of high fantasy doesn’t reflect. In the Bible, it has people living for hundreds of years and then people added up how long each lived and used that to figure out when events took place. Really? I don’t think so."
Martin's fictional encyclopedia, The World of Ice and Fire, notes that Westerosi scholars cannot be sure whether the Long Night happened anywhere between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago. This makes a big difference, as 5,000 years ago was the same time that the Valyrian Freehold was rising to power across the narrow sea.
Valyria is the civilization in Martin's world that everyone's favorite dragon rider, Danaerys Targaryen is descended from. It was a Republic of sorts that mastered dragons, perfected some powerful magic and created those rare Valyrian steel swords which are one of the only two things that can kill White Walkers.
That is, with the exception of the mysterious sword mentioned in Sam's scroll.
In A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series, Sam goes into the Night's Watch's archives searching for information on the Others and how to fight them. He reads about a dragonsteel blade, which he and Jon Snow speculate might have been Valyrian steel. However, as far as they know, the Long Night happened 5,000 before Valyria rose to power, making it seem impossible.
Martin may have finally put this question to bed on Monday with an uncharacteristically direct answer. Instead of being coy about whether the new show might be set 5,000 or 10,000 years in the past, he decided to let his fans in on the secret.
"I think it’s closer to 5,000 years," he said simply.
Martin did not comment on how this revelation could or should influence readers' interpretation of the past, though his followers will likely find it for themselves.
If the Long Night coincided with the early days of the Valyrian Freehold, that means that those sorcerers could have traded with their neighbors across the Narrow Sea, perhaps giving them what was then called "dragonsteel." They could even have aided the First Men in their battle against the White Walkers, meaning that the prequel could include some dragons, and some silver-haired, purple-eyed riders on their backs.
Only time will tell. The prequel series begins filming in February, first filling out a pilot order and then hopefully going to series. Meanwhile, Martin's latest book, Fire and Blood, comes out on Tuesday. It chronicles the first 150 years of the Targaryen dynasty in detail, filling over 700 pages with fantasy drama.
Game of Thrones itself returns to HBO one last time in April of 2019.