The first Game of Thrones spin-off series got a pilot order earlier this month, and its premise may be somewhat confusing for those that aren't well-versed in George R.R. Martin's intricate fictional world.
HBO's massive fantasy show is based on a series of novels called A Song of Ice and Fire. As fans of the books love to point out, the source material is filled with far more detail and nuance than the show. The books offer more glimpses at the massive world outside of the central story, and the long, meticulously written history of the kingdoms, religions and natural disasters that defined it.
As if that weren't enough, Martin co-authored a fictitious history and encyclopedia of his sprawling fantasy world called The World of Ice and Fire. In it is much of the information about the "Age of Heroes" the new series will reportedly be based on.
“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," reads HBO's press release on the new series, according to The Wrap. "And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ 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.”
Martin himself offered further detail on his personal blog, where he wrote that the show will be set 10,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, though he notes that the timeline can't necessarily be trust, and it may be closer to 5,000 years. He confirmed that none of the main characters of his main story will appear, and he wrote that he would like the series to be called simply The Long Night.
In Martin's fictional history, The Age of Heroes is an ancient period mired in mythology. It begins shortly after a group called The First Men migrate into Westeros and reach a peaceful settlement with the existing life forms there — giants and the "Children of the Forest." The stories from the Age of Heroes are analogous to the myths of demi-gods.
The Long Night, in turn, brings an end to the Age of Heroes. It pits the First Men's heroes against their greatest foes, which readers are led to believe are the same as White Walkers. It is a time of powerful magic and endless warfare, and the longest, coldest winter in the story. It is also the time in which the First Men, the giants and the Children band together to build The Wall, where Jon Snow volunteers to serve at the beginning of Game of Thrones.
On the Game of Thrones fansite Winter is Coming, fans have noted that two characters from the contemporary story could make appearances in the upcoming prequel — Leaf, of the Children, and The Night King himself. Other vaguely referenced figures could show up as well, including Bran the Builder, whom Bran Stark was named for 10,000 years later. The show will also undoubtedly feature Azor Ahai, the ancient hero rumored to have beaten the Others back with the flaming sword Lightbringer.
So far, the new show has only a pilot order from HBO, and no solid release date. However, fans of Game of Thrones are busy enough waiting for the main series' final season to air in the spring of 2019.