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The Real Iron Throne

Yes, I know, that title is a bit of an oxymoron.

There is no real Iron Throne. It doesn't exist. I made it up. I said it was made of melted swords, but really, it was made of words, like all such fictional constructs.

Ah, but it's real to me. That's part of what it means to be a writer. If you don't know what I'm getting at there, go read my old short story, "Portraits of His Children." When I write about the Iron Throne, I SEE it in my head... and I try to describe it as best I can. Not being a blacksmith or an ironmonger, however, I hammer it together with words, striving to make all of you, my readers, see what I see.

Most of the time that works... though, as the recent brouhaha about the Red Viper shows, the picture in the reader's head and the picture in the writer's head do not always line up perfectly. With the Iron Throne, however, the process has been particularly frustrating. A dozen different artists have done versions of the Iron Throne over the years. Some have been very striking, some less so, but none of them have ever been quite RIGHT. Their versions never quite matched what I saw in my mind's eye.

Then came the show, and HBO's version of the Iron Throne.

I'm a realist about these things, and I know perfectly well that for millions of television viewers worldwide, the HBO Iron Throne is THE Iron Throne, and always will be. It turns up everywhere, on book covers, on magazines, in places that have no connection to the show. Say "GAME OF THRONES," and people think of the HBO Iron Throne.

And, hell, in some ways the HBO throne is more real than mine could ever be. They've actually MADE theirs (though it is not actually made of iron). There's the one that sits on the set in Belfast's Paint Hall, and at least six others that travel about the country making promotional appearances at conventions, screenings, exhibits, and the like. They turn up in train stations and parks. Thousands of people have had their pictures taken sitting on the Iron Throne, including many celebrities. And me as well, many times. Over in the UK, Sky Atlantic has their own Iron Throne, that also travels about to help promote the show. Canal + has one too, in Spain. The Spanish and British thrones are variants, somewhat different from the HBO throne, yet similar in most important respects. I've been seated on both of those at well.

The HBO throne has become iconic. And well it might. It's a terrific design, and it has served the show very well. There are replicas and paperweights of it in three different sizes. Everyone knows it. I love it. I have all those replicas right here, sitting on my shelves.

And yet, and yet... it's still not right. It's not the Iron Throne I see when I'm working on THE WINDS OF WINTER. It's not the Iron Throne I want my readers to see. The way the throne is described in the books... HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court... my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and assymetric...

The HBO throne is none of those things. It's big, yes, but not nearly as big as the one described in the novels. And for good reason. We have a huge throne room set in Belfast, but not nearly huge enough to hold the Iron Throne as I painted it. For that we'd need something much bigger, more like the interior of St. Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, and no set has that much room. The Book Version of the Iron Throne would not even fit through the doors of the Paint Hall.

So what does the Real Iron Throne look like, you ask? Glad you asked. It looks kind of like this:


That's the Iron Throne as painted by the amazing Marc Simonetti (and if you haven't gotten his 2013 Ice & Fire calendar, better hurry, the year's half over) for the upcoming concordance, THE WORLD OF ICE & FIRE. It's a rough, not a final version, so what you see in the book will be more polished. But Marc has come closer here to capturing the Iron Throne as I picture it than any other artist to tackle it. From now on, THIS will be the reference I give to every other artist tackling a throne room scene. This Iron Throne is massive. Ugly. Assymetric. It's a throne made by blacksmiths hammering together half-melted, broken, twisted swords, wrenched from the hands of dead men or yielded up by defeated foes... a symbol of conquest... it has the steps I describe, and the height. From on top, the king dominates the throne room. And there are thousands of swords in it, not just a few.

This Iron Throne is scary. And not at all a comfortable seat, just as Aegon intended.

Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.


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Jul. 9th, 2013 09:33 am (UTC)
'Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay of that colossal wreck,
Boundless & bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Jul. 9th, 2013 09:36 am (UTC)
Looks like it could use a couple of cushions
Carey Wilson
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
Selmy will place a few cushions on there for Dany soon enough :)
Jul. 9th, 2013 09:37 am (UTC)
" It's not the Iron Throne I see when I'm working on THE WINDS OF WINTER. It's not the Iron Throne I want my readers to see."

Does that sound like the Iron Throne is going to make frequent appearances in WoW?? :D :D :D
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:37 am (UTC)
Now that is awesome.

And it's an odd thing, re: Vipergate and the Iron Throne, not letting the show's casting and imagery take over what you have imagined as a reader. Not to mention how different my own imagination likely is from your intentions!
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:59 am (UTC)
I get it
As an aspiring writer, I 'get' it when you talk about what's in your head isn't what people can see and, in my case, I like to think that I'm a transcriber and chronicler of the characters voices and actions; I'm just along for the ride and a little editing when they get to be a bit long in their tales.
Jul. 9th, 2013 11:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, I love that version of the Iron Throne. It is so much more imposing and terrible and awesome (in the stricter sense of the word) than other depictions of it. I can just imagine kings being cut by it, Jaime sitting on it in all of his smug glory after he killed Aerys...
Jul. 9th, 2013 11:30 am (UTC)
The creative mind is truly an extraordinary thing, isn't it?
Jul. 9th, 2013 11:34 am (UTC)
Now THIS is a throne I could see killing several people like the tales tell; I can easily picture a frail Targaryen king slipping on the steps and impaling himself on the blades. Epic artwork.
Calle Johansson
Jul. 9th, 2013 11:52 am (UTC)
The cast on the show
The first book was released 1996 with 15 years until the show first aired. I realize that every main character has a look in your head. I wonder if someone's look has changed in your head and become more like the actor cast to play that character?
Jul. 9th, 2013 11:54 am (UTC)
Speaking about how you picture things in your head, I am curious as to how you picture the Targaryen/Blackfyre sigils. Is the dragon 2-legged or 4-legged? We know that dragons in your universe are 2-legged but we also know that dragons only have one head. I'm curious about this since I've seen both interpretations many times, even the official HBO merchandise can't make its mind.
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
I saw somewhere (may be a recent post? yes,Dany and the Dragons) where he says he likes his dragons 2-legged.
(no subject) - mars_5 - Jul. 10th, 2013 12:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flameraven - Jul. 10th, 2013 01:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 9th, 2013 11:58 am (UTC)
Brain update
Hi George,

Thanks for the visual update, I’ve been a reader long before the HBO series and I must say I was always a bit disappointed with the iron throne on screen, and even more so when I one in real life (Waterstones, Piccadily circus, London)

In my mind it wasn't as big as yours (perhaps this is where I'm going wrong) but equally as pointed and sharp, I loved the fact people cut themselves on it all the time. Forever more it will be the hulking monstrosity which is depicted above :-)

Looking forward to WINDS, keep up the good work George, you are a legend!

Jul. 9th, 2013 12:01 pm (UTC)
I have to say this images is best. I'm embarrassed to admit i saw the show first but when i read i don't picture the actors or the show throne. My husband has been reading your books since high school(he's 30 now) and wanted to name our daughter Arya(who is most definitely my favorite character now!). Anyway i think you wrote the books really well so that even though i read after show...i don't see the show. This iron throne looks far more realistic than the perfectly symmetrical one on the show. :/ i should stop writing comments on my phone! Sorry for errors.
Mariana Carcamo Del Carpio
Jul. 12th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
On the name subject, I have considered Daenerys Lyanna for a girl =] . A song of Ice and Fire has so many names, all so very tempting.
Dorian Kratsas
Jul. 9th, 2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
Wow. Consider it filed away in my book-visuals memory bank.
Jul. 9th, 2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
That's awesome, I can't wait to get my hands on The World of Ice and Fire. In my opinion, Marc Simonettie has made the best Song of Ice and Fire calendar yet. The artwork is just amazing. The ill-faited 2009 calendar is nearly as good though, and has my favorite depictions of Eddard and Jon.
Alex Burr
Jul. 9th, 2013 12:51 pm (UTC)
Larger version
Jul. 9th, 2013 12:58 pm (UTC)
Magnificent, and imposing! THAT right there is the throne of a conquerer.

It really seems to me that this is the hardest task a writer has: not merely when dealing with a live action adaptation, but for every reader. It's getting the images and ideas in one's head (that the writer can see so clearly and perfectly) onto paper using words that are sufficient to share those visions in a way others can understand and appreciate. Such a challenge, but so satisfying when it works.
Jul. 9th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
Love it. I always thought the one on the show was made up of absurdly few swords, given your description of the thing, though I never quite pictured it this... hulking.
Patrick Keehn
Jul. 9th, 2013 01:54 pm (UTC)
Love the "Ozymandias" reference. So fitting! I am also a Percy Shelley fan.
David Johnson
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:00 pm (UTC)
All I can think about is Ned's uneasiness as he sat upon that thing.

I'd also be interested in Simonetti's approach to Valyrian steel. I have heard rumors that it looks like Damascus steel, but haven't heard any confirmations.

Edited at 2013-07-09 02:01 pm (UTC)
Ian Pline
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
Now this REALLY looks uncomfortable.
Harvey Meeker
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
Shoulda gone CGI
I like the HBO version, don't get me wrong, but the scale of the throne room needs work for sure. Honestly, I would have gone CGI for it to get that scale and the monster throne, but then again they have so much work that gets done in there that it probably would cost a bundle.
Dalibor Dimovski
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
Terrifyingly Amazing
I for one love the throne as described in the books. It's not meant to be pretty or comfortable. After all, the weight of an entire kingdom (or seven, really) shouldn't be taken while stress free. Aegon surely would have wanted those who sit on it to know this, and to take the throne with as much fear for it as possible.

Simonetti's version looks wonderful and horrifying, as if it were to topple over at any point and swallow the audience whole in its spires and blades.

Well done, Marc!
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:35 pm (UTC)
Iron Throne
Not hard to understand how Aerys became the "King Scab" on that monstrosity although you think he would have gotten used to it!
Quick question, do you intend to be in Ireland any time soon George?
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Iron Throne
Next year, for the Irish Natl con.
Ana Paula Savioli
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
I think only by reading the description I had never understood that the stairs were part of the iron and not part of the building. Now with enlightening explanations such as this, I think it's maybe my bad. I thought before there were high steps from the same material as the floor, and on top of them the iron throne (bigger than HBO's - which never seemed right, because it's too smooth, it doesn't look like you can get cut).
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
That's such amazing artwork, thanks for sharing! I always wondered about the HBO adaptation because I remembered there being steps mentioned in the novels, and I figured the show throne would have to be smaller because of sets/etc.
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