Read Game of Thrones A-Z Online

Authors: Martin Howden

Tags: #History, #Reference, #Dictionaries & Terminology, #Writing

Game of Thrones A-Z (2 page)

BOOK: Game of Thrones A-Z

She is taken, along with her father and sister, Sansa, to King’s Landing, and it soon becomes clear their lives are in danger. Realising he can’t quell his feisty youngster, her dad finds a sword instructor for her. She loves her lessons with the eccentric Syrio Forel. He teaches her in the flamboyant Braavosi style but ends up defending her for real following the death of her father.

Arya manages to escape from the castle and lives off the street looking for food. She is found in the crowd during the execution of her father by Yoren, a member of the Night’s Watch. He forces her to look away when her dad is beheaded, and then chops off her hair so she can pass as a boy.

They are eventually captured, and taken to Harrenhal and made servants. During her journey there, Arya rescues a man named Jaqen, who tells her he will kill three people for his life and the two other lives that she saved. At this point, she had already created a hit list of people that had wronged her. Arya eventually escapes Harrenhal, and finds out that Jaqen can change his face. He gives her an iron coin in case she ever needs him again.

During her journey, Arya is discovered by the Brotherhood Without Banners, but she ends up being captured by The Hound later. His plan is to reunite her with her brother Robb in turn for a reward. However, they end up at the location where the events of the tragic Red Wedding take place. As her brother and men are being slaughtered, The Hound has to knock Arya out to ensure her safety. He takes her to the Vale of Arryn, which is ruled by her aunt Lysa. She eventually heads to Braavos to use her coin, and is initiated into the guild of the Faceless Men – the shadowy group of assassins that Jaqen was a member of. Following her training, Arya drinks some milk, which blinds her the next morning. Taking on the guise of a street urchin, she becomes better at lying and detecting the lies of others. She regains her sight after passing a test. After she kills her first target, Arya is told she will begin her proper apprenticeship.

Arya is played by Maisie Williams. She had grown up loving drama but always thought of herself as a dancer. When she was 10, she enrolled at Susan Hill’s School of Dance. Williams said about her time there, ‘After I had been there a while, Sue suggested I attend a talent show in Paris. I came away from this with an agent and an audition with Pippa Hall, a children’s casting director, for 
Nanny McPhee 2

During the audition process, Williams met Eros Vlahos (who plays Lommy Greenhands). ‘I didn’t get the part but did get down to the final two,’ she said. ‘At the time I was really disappointed, but I now realise that I did well to get that far. My agent, Louise Johnston, then put me up for an audition for Arya. I have to say that at first I wasn’t too keen, I was still thinking about 
Nanny McPhee 2
. But all auditions are good experience, so I went along and after the first audition in London I knew I wanted to be Arya!’

She was to have three auditions in total for the part. ‘The first audition was in London at the end of June; it was very quick, recorded on video with lots of others all auditioning for Arya, Sansa or Bran. I was thrilled when after a few days I got a call back. The second audition was much longer; I had to do the same scene (a Kingsroad scene not used in the actual series) about five times with three different girls auditioning for Sansa, one of whom was Sophie Turner. We immediately got on well and both wanted each other, and ourselves, to get the parts so that we could meet again. I also did an Arya and Gendry scene from book two. The final audition was a screen test with David Benioff and Nina Gold at the beginning of August. I really enjoyed it and I thought it went quite well.

‘We were packing up to go home from [a family] holiday in Scotland a few days after the final screen test when Louise, my agent, called and asked to speak to me. I knew there was good news when Louise asked to speak to me before she spoke to my mum; bad news comes from Mum, good news from Louise. I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it. Then a few days later we found out that Sophie was playing Sansa. I WAS SO EXCITED! It was a dream come true! It took a while to sink in but it was the best thing ever!’


A Song of Ice and Fire
 is, according to the book series’ author, George R. R. Martin, his ‘magnum opus’. ‘It’s the biggest thing I have ever done and it’s the most ambitious book I have ever done,’ he said.

He began the series in 1991, while he was writing another book. While writing, an image of things called ‘direwolves’ suddenly blazed in his mind, and that image would quickly spread itself – until in no time at all he would have the first chapter in his head.

‘Then I wrote the second chapter, the third chapter and suddenly I knew I was deep into this,’ Martin said. ‘At first I was thinking, “Is this a short story?” or “Is it a novella?” “No, it’s going to be a book; it’s going to be a trilogy.”’

In 1991, he had already settled on the book being a trilogy. ‘Trilogies in fantasy have been very much in style since Tolkien, Martin explained. ‘But then Hollywood stuff came up, and I put it in the drawer for a couple of years while I did pilots and so forth. When I picked it up in ’94, I sold it as a trilogy. But then, over the course of finishing that first book, it rapidly became apparent that I wasn’t going to get to the place that I wanted to by the end of all these thousands of pages.

‘So then I started talking about four books, and by a certain point in the process I started talking six books. I skipped right over five – I never ever thought it would be five. I don’t write things in blood, but seven feels right.

Seven gods, seven kingdoms, seven books – there is a certain elegance to that that I would like to retain. That being said, the main thing is to tell the story – not to rush the story or to squeeze things.’

Part of the appeal is that each chapter takes on the perspective of another point of view, thus changing the characters from hero to villain and vice versa, as we hear people’s inner thoughts. ‘We all have reasons for the things we do, even the things that might look evil from the outside,’ explained Martin. ‘Sometimes they’re based on mistaken assumptions or innate selfishness or psychological compulsions, but they’re still reasons. Some of my science-fiction stories dealt with this theme of telepathy. If we could read other’s minds, would that lead to universal love and understanding or would it lead to universal revulsion?’

The first book in the series received a positive reception, with critics praising 
A Game of Thrones
 for being more than just a sword and sorcery epic. It won several awards, including the Locus Award in 1997. 
Clash of the Kings
 was released in 1998, also winning the prestigious science-fiction Locus Award, and was also praised by critics.

The third book, 
A Storm of Swords
, was released in 2000, with a novella entitled 
Path of the Dragon
 – a compilation of some of the chapters about Daenerys Targaryen – preceding it. For series three of the show, the producers went against their original manifesto of one series per book, and split the mammoth book into two series. Some countries split the paperback edition into two parts – 
and Snow
 as part one, with part two entitled 
Blood and
. And in France they went as far as splitting it into four editions.

A Storm of Swords
 was nominated for the hugely prestigious Hugo Award, but lost out to J. K. Rowling’s 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
. The story continues the saga of the Five Kings and Daenerys’ return to Pentos with her plans to invade the Seven Kingdoms. The novel features one of the most talked-about scenes in the series – the Red Wedding – which is looked at in greater detail later on in this book. 
A Storm of Swords
 debuted at number 12 in 
New York Times
 bestseller list.

Martin’s idea was that his next book would be shorter and more like his previous book 
A Clash of Kings. A Dance
with Dragons
 was originally set five years after 
A Storm of Swords
, but he realised the five-year plan didn’t work for certain characters, and so 
A Feast for Crows
 became the fourth book, picking up after 
A Storm of Swords
, with Martin scrapping the five-year gap.

The story was organic and proving hard to tame. Soon, the book was longer than 
A Storm of Swords
 – and he hadn’t even finished it. Martin was reluctant to cut parts of the story and cut down on the characters. The publishers wanted to split the book into 
A Feast for Crows
, parts one and two, but Martin was reluctant to go with that option, and felt the first part didn’t have the sort of resolution to his characters that his fans were familiar with.

However, a friend of his suggested that, instead of splitting the story into two parts, he divide it geographically into two parts – the first part being 
A Feast
for Crows
, the other 
A Dance with Dragons
. It meant he could postpone the unfinished character arcs and move them into the later book.

Martin has said about the split, ‘I regret the necessity to split the books, but if I had to split them, then I think geography is preferable to chronology for a variety of reasons.’ It was released in 2005, heading straight to the top of the bestseller lists, and saw Martin being dubbed the ‘American Tolkien’.

Unsurprisingly, the story split meant the fates of some characters were left unresolved, but the author had stated the fifth book would be released the following year. However, the dates were constantly pushed back, and it would, in fact, be six years before
A Dance with Dragons
 was published. In the meantime, the book was sold to HBO, and years of development saw a script finally being made, a pilot ordered and a series subsequently shown.

The last two books promise to be just as long, if not even longer. The penultimate instalment will be called 
The Winds
of Winter
. The seventh book will be entitled 
A Dream of
. It’s believed the book will be the final one, but Martin has said he is only firm about the ending of the series ‘until I decide not to be firm’.

While he writes with the major plot points in mind, he is a writer who lets his story unfold as he goes along. He told 
Rolling Stone
 magazine, ‘I have names for these types of writers – I call them architects and gardeners. The architect, before he drives a nail into a plank, has all the blueprints and knows what the house is going to be like and where the pipes are going to run. Then there are the gardeners, who dig a hole in the ground and plant a seed and water it – with their blood sometimes – and something comes up. They know what they planted, but there’s still a lot of surprises.’

He went on, ‘Now, you seldom get a writer who is purely an architect or purely a gardener, but I am much closer to a gardener. I know the ultimate end of the series and I know the fates of all the principal characters, but there’s a lot of minor characters and details that I find along the way. For me, both as a reader and a writer, it’s about the journey, not the ultimate destination.’

Martin explained he liked to use the metaphor of a journey. ‘If I set out from New York to Los Angeles, I can look at a map and know that I’m gonna go through Chicago and then Denver. But that doesn’t mean I know what’s around every turn and bend of the journey, where there’s gonna be a detour or there’s gonna be a hitchhiker. Those are the things I discover on the journey. And that, for me, is the joy of writing.’

Martin has told Benioff and Weiss the main plot points in case anything happens to him, but he will not permit another writer to finish his novel. ‘Well, there’s an element of my fans who are constantly pointing out my mortality to me and writing me letters about what plans I have made for when I die, and who’s going to finish the series. I’m not planning on dying soon. I have a few health problems that come with age, but I’m in pretty good health. I hope to have another 20 years or so – plenty of time to write and who knows how medicine will have advanced by then? Maybe I’ll be immortal. I would like that.’

He didn’t help tone down fans’ expectations when, after finishing the previous book, 
A Feast for Crows
, it was suggested that work had already finished on 
A Dance with Dragons
 in 2005. ‘This is a common misconception,’ he told 
Entertainment Weekly
. ‘Parts of 
A Dance with Dragons
 were finished in 2005, when I finished 
A Feast for Crows
. It’s not like I had two complete books. I had one complete book, and one that was partially written. And I made an estimate as to how long it was going to take me to translate that partial book into a full one, and it was a woefully optimistic guess. What can I say? It’s taken a lot longer.’

There are fears that the TV show will eventually be ahead of the book – not something that worries Martin. He told 
Rolling Stone
 magazine in 2012, ‘I have a considerable head start. But check with me in another year – I might have a different answer! I have a number of other projects that I’m juggling; I have to clear the decks so I can concentrate on the books. I have to learn to say no when people approach me for a short story or foreword. Last week, I spent the entire week writing introductions, for three different books.

The truth is I’m a slow writer, no matter what I do, whether it’s a giant fantasy epic or a foreword. “This is only a thousand words; you can knock it off in an afternoon.” No, I can’t, I’ll be sweating over it for three days.’ He added in another interview, ‘It has been a long journey. I think I’m starting to see it, but that’s still a very long tunnel. The last book was 1,500 pages in manuscript.

I think each of the next two will be at least as long, so that’s 3,000 more pages that I still have to write, and that’s a considerable amount of writing. I write one chapter at a time, one scene at a time, one sentence at a time, and don’t worry about the rest. Step-by-step, sooner or later, the journey will get me there.’

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