So those White Walkers and their army of zombie ‘wights’ in Game of Thrones are weird, right? Ancient men turned into the Four Frozen Horsemen of the Apocalypse marching on the Seven Kingdoms–yeah yeah yeah, whatever. They just scratch the surface of the weirdness knocking about on Planetos, the broader name of the world George R.R. Martin’s saga is based on.
Not all of this has made it into the show itself, indeed the majority of it is so freaky deeky it probably would have alienated half the intended viewership, but ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ beyond the wights and dragons and magic swords is riven with pure H.P. Lovecraft madness that holds a thousand more potential stories within.
There is loads of this stuff inside the lore but as Season 8 closes in, we picked five of our favourites from the crazy broader world of Game of Thrones. Brace yourselves for some deep strange…
Assha’i by the Shadow
When all is said and done about Game of Thrones, the one location on the Planetos map it will be a shame we never saw is Assha’i by the Shadow, a city in the far corner of the eastern continent of Essos, on the edge of the known world charted by the map makers of Westeros. Assha’i has been mentioned plenty of times on the show. It’s where Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon eggs came from. It’s also the birthplace of the mysterious red witch Melisandre.
Artwork and description paints Assha’i as a supremely dark trading port filled with exotic trades and spices, but a haunting, quiet and oppressive equality. All of the buildings are made from oily black stone. There are no children and those who live there do not speak in public, covering their faces in dark veils. It is a place where dark magic is reputedly practiced, of shadow binders and necromancers and all the charming, not at all Harry Houdini types. Few have been to Assha’i and especially the Shadow Lands beyond it.
On these lands is the so-called ‘ghost grass’ amongst which dragon eggs can be found, suggesting dragons never died out in this part of the world as they did on Westeros. The ancient, abandoned city of Stygai lies at the heart of it – a terrifying, monolithic place filled with dark magicians.
As for what lies under the Shadow, god only knows! Cthulhu? It wouldn’t surprise me…
Unlike Assha’i, Valryia is one of the more legendary mythological aspects of Game of Thrones that we *have* seen in the show. Remember that road trip Tyrion Lannister takes with Jorah Mormont during Season 5 to reach Daenerys? Unlike in the books, they take a little short cut into the ruins of Valryia, an ancient civilisation which is Planetos’ version of Rome, Pompeii and half a dozen cities of antiquity rolled into one.
Valryia is important to the entire story of Game of Thrones. One of the oldest and biggest civilisations at its peak, a Roman Empire analogy in the GoT world, Valyria was also the ancestral home of both tamed dragons and the Targaryen family who either via prophecy or, as some have suggested, their own genocide, up sticks and survive the Doom of Valyria – a near atomic series of volcanic eruptions which wipes the city, and Valyrian civilisation off the map, with almost zero survivors. What caused it? Nobody knows. Is the place cursed and haunted as a result? Maybe.
What remains left today is a haul of a small continent which still smokes with the remnants of fire (over three centuries since it went down) and is home to an exiled group called the Stone Men, all afflicted with the ‘grey scale’ disease which turns them eventually to stone. They live like savages in the ruins, almost killing Tyrion in the process during their voyage.
One unwritten rule as a sailor on Planetos? Give Valyria a wide berth as many who sail there–including Tyrion’s uncle Gerion Lannister–never return…
The Thousand Islands
Nope, not the dressing, nor even the archipelago from our world you may be familiar with. Planetos’ Thousand Islands are a lot scarier, a lot more distant and a lot more likely to be avoided. We’re even further east here in Essos than Assha’i, into territory filled with mysterious lands and ancient, decayed cities barely charted by the Maesters of Westeros.
The Thousands Islands are a collection of a thousand, uh, islands, off the north eastern coast of Essos above the forests of Mossovy (themselves filled with shapechangers and demon hunters – lovely), which due to the tides and climate are sand blasted husks of rock on which dwell a xenophobic race of hairless, green-skinned, distinctly vampiric looking people who file their teeth and foreskin (yes, you read that right), speak in an unknown language and sacrifice unwitting sailors to weird fish gods.
Get this, though. While they worship creatures from the deep, they are so terrified of water they never go near it, despite living *on an archipelago*. It’s no wonder pioneering Westerosi adventurer Corlys Velaryon called it a day when he sailed this far – you’d want to be away from this bunch of weirdos sharpish!
Speaking of weird fish gods… have you heard of the Deep Ones? This is the most overtly Lovecraftian concept in Martin’s books (perhaps except the fact he stole an entire Lovecraft name for one of his strange distant cities), the idea of a super-ancient race of sea-dwelling beings who could well be monstrous things beyond any imagination that exist under Planetos and could emerge at any moment.
Sounds bonkers even for Planetos, right? Well, not necessarily. They’re largely just myth but there is plenty of evidence dotted around all the cultures of Planetos that maybe the Deep Ones existed. Remember the fact the Greyjoy’s of Pyke worship the ‘Drowned God’ under the sea? Sounds like a Deep One to me. You’ve got the aforementioned Thousand Islanders, plus there is an uber-theory that places and objects covered in the oily black stone that Assha’i is made out of all stems from the Deep Ones – given on multiple continents these things exist and nobody knows who built them.
So do a gigantic race of super hellish fish beings exist underneath all of the continents in Game of Thrones, waiting to unleash themselves on the world? And can you *imagine* what people would say if the show threw these guys into the final season? You almost want them to do it and find out…
Yeen and the Green Hell
Forget everything else, however, because arguably the weirdest and most terrifying part of Planetos is jointly the ancient lost city of Yeen and the nearby Green Hell. Seriously the two last places on this world you would ever *ever* want to end up…
For a start, Yeen is located on the third known continent on Planetos called Sothoryos; barely charted, largely unexplored to the point the southern half does not appear on Westerosi maps, Sothoryos is a verdant jungle filled with veritable horrors. Yeen is a city that has long been abandoned; ancient even to the ancients, made of the same oily black stone as Assha’i (suggesting more of those Deep Ones), Yeen is so terrifying even the foliage won’t grow over it. Nymeria of ancient Westerosi legend once pitched up with her people there and a thousand of them *vanished* overnight. How? Who knows? Who built the place? No idea. Do people avoid Yeen? Hell. Yes.
Speaking of Hell, to the south deep into Sothoryos is a jungle known as the ‘Green Hell’, a place filled with some of the most terrifying things, according to legend, on Planetos; the native ‘Brindled Men’ of the continent, savage Neanderthals; giant vampire bats that can drain the blood of men in minutes; and wyverns, dragons basically without the fire breathing and much more like the carnivorous raptors of dinosaur legend. Even if you survive all this, you’ll probably get captured by slavers who patrol the coasts. In other words, avoid Sothoryos like the plague.
And we haven’t even talked about Ulthos, the mythical fourth continent not on any maps. But that, as they say, is another story…
What’s your favourite bit of weirdness from the world of Game of Thrones? Let us know.