What Is "The Long Night" from 'Game of Thrones' Anyway?

It’s official: HBO has ordered a pilot for a Game of Thrones prequel, written by Jane Goldman, best known for writing the Kingsman movies, Kick-Ass, and two X-Men movies. If the pilot is picked up to series, Goldman will serve as showrunner. Details on the potential spinoff show are limited, but here’s the synopsis, according to the network and reported by The Wrap:

Naomi Watts has been cast for the pilot, Variety reports, and though her character is under wraps so far, it’s been described as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” Actor and Burberry model Josh Whitehouse has also been cast as a lead.

In a post on his blog, author George R.R. Martin noted the prequel will take place anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 years before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire, so there’s no chance any characters from the series will pop up. (Though GoT fan site Winter Is Coming notes that Leaf and The Night King could still be around.) In a more recent post, Martin confirmed the series will be called The Long Night.

Here’s what you need to know about the Age of Heroes, the titular Long Night, and how it ties in to Game of Thrones.

What’s the Long Night?

Thousands of years before the plot points in Game of Thrones, Westeros used to be inhabited by magical creatures like giants and the Children of the Forest, and later, by the First Men.

The Long Night was a winter that lasted an entire generation, caused by the White Walkers’ first invasion of Westeros. Those caught up with the GoT TV series already know that the Children of the Forest created the icy beings in an attempt to protect themselves from the First Men, which later backfired.

The Long Night resulted in the legendary War for the Dawn, a conflict between the White Walkers versus the Children of the Forest and their new allies, the First Men. (This could set up some pretty epic battle scenes in this new HBO prequel.) Ultimately, the White Walkers were defeated, retreated far north, and were kept out by the Wall.

It’s possible this prequel will also shed light on The Last Hero, a mythical figure in GoT history who’s rarely mentioned in the written series, but is believed to have faced the White Walkers during the Long Night. In one of the novels, Samwell Tarly tells Jon Snow that the The Last Hero even killed a White Walker with dragonsteel.

However, it’s unknown who this hero was, or what his fate was, though some fans theorize that he’s the same person as Azor Ahai, who’s know for the wielding the glowing sword Lightbringer.

And what is the Age of Heroes, anyway?

The Ringer notes that all we know about the Age of Heroes comes from what the characters in the books say happened, plus a companion book, The World of Ice and Fire. Samwell Tarly notes in A Feast for Crows that “the First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know…comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later.” And those accounts are debated by maesters in Samwell’s era.

According to Mashable, the Age of Heroes started when, after centuries of war, the First Men signed a peace pact with the Children of the Forest and the giants. It ended when the Andals, another tribe of men, invaded Westeros and went to war with just about everyone.

Some iconic GoT clans were founded in this time.

The Wrap notes that during the Age of Heroes, families we know and love from Game of Thrones—like the Starks and the Lannisters—got their start. Because there’s not too much source material to go on, the prequel could focus on a variety of things. There’s Brandon the Builder, who may be the “Stark of legend” HBO is teasing; he’s known in legend for building many of Westeros’s main structures, like the Wall, and starting the Night’s Watch. There’s also Lann the Clever, the founder of the Lannisters, who took over Casterly Rock.

And as for “the mysteries of the East,” the prequel could discuss Grazdan the Great, who founded a city built on slave labor, similar to Slaver’s Bay, or Valyria (the Targaryen’s place of origin), the capital of an empire (with dragons) that got destroyed. Despite its destruction, its language, Valyrian, remains in Game of Thrones.

But everything we know about the Long Night could be wrong.

Goodman has a lot of creative wiggle room with this new prequel, so everything we think we know about the Long Night could end up completely differently onscreen. Don’t be surprised to have your expectations upended about the world of Westeros, and beyond.

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