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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 02:50 pm (UTC)
This is glorious.
Jul. 9th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
Well, that's definitely a throne you could get killed by.

Edited at 2013-07-09 03:14 pm (UTC)
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:57 pm (UTC)
*dramatic voice* nooooooo
I think Tommen is going to die.
Rob Kazakis Montgomery
Jul. 9th, 2013 03:19 pm (UTC)
Is there any possibility that the iron throne might have a part to play in the deaths of the remaining rulers?
Jul. 9th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
is completely different from what I imagined ... is perfect *-*
Jul. 9th, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC)
amazing! Marc Simonetti has done it once again...love his work.
Jul. 9th, 2013 04:56 pm (UTC)
Wow, I love it. It looks very scary, not to mention hazardous and perversely nest-like. I look forward to reading your books this summer.
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC)
Oh man, that throne ruuuuuuules.
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:14 pm (UTC)
Nope. Not the real Iron Throne.
I wish the artist would have stuck to the image above to keep from ruining the proportions. The "polished" image which appears as the final version is sadly distorted from any semblance of realism. The size of individual swords is disproportionately exaggerated. I have difficulty imagining any one man wielding these (even the Mountain). The swords are sloppy lines, and so are the architectural details. The only thing this piece has going for it are the colors and reflections in the floor. Granted, this throne room overall is a much better version than what HBO came up with, even with the flaws, but it's a far cry from what my own imagination built out of your words. To be fair, I don't own the calendar, and have only looked at the Deviantart website.
Ryan Gmc Peters
Jul. 14th, 2013 04:49 am (UTC)
Re: Nope. Not the real Iron Throne.
Did you not read the part where it says this ISN'T the final product?
Karen Stormie Crawford
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
This is exactly what I envisioned
as I read the books. I was disappointed by the size of it in the series. I would so like it corrected. That means the Joffrey would not really be seen way down below because of his size. Of course that can explain his obvious disdain for the common folk too.
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
Now THAT looks like something a king would cut himself on repeatedly
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:42 pm (UTC)
In the HBO show, I've always found that Joffrey looks way too comfortable sitting on the Iron Throne. It appears far too smooth and small, nothing at all liked I'd imagined.
I always pictured it to be something no one would ever want to sit on, with numerous jagged points sticking into the king's back. To be honest, in my mind it never really seemed like a chair fit for a king, since it's such an uncomfortable eyesore. I once even wondered why Robert never got himself a new throne to sit upon, since he seemed to hate sitting upon the Iron Throne so much. :) But of course, the symbolism of the IT is much better than a regular golden chair.
Jul. 9th, 2013 05:50 pm (UTC)
It's a pity that I can't find the bigger version of this picture, even on Marc Simonetti's deviantArt.
well okay, I have my own Real Iron Throne in my imagination! :)
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
Throne here > tv throne
I like this one much better than the "awesome" throne from the TV show.I look forward to using this as what I think the iron throne looks like, during TWOW. Which is coming out soon right?
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
I love that you George talk with us so candidly about your true sentiments and make us feel like we've been hangin' with you and discussing something...like this! I also completely appreciate this specific topic. Of course THIS image that your friend Marc and you designed together is the closest image to what I read! That part I LOVE! It's funny and I certainly do not mean to disparage the designers of that throne but when I look at the ubiquitous HBO Game of Thrones, throne, I get a sense of something "slick"...."marketing"...dare I say "safe and accessible"? Certainly not the throne I see in my head when I am reading ASOIAF. This Throne looks uncomfortable, painful, almost mean and menacing, but also remarkable, someone said like a Dragon's nest...I agree, in this image seeing the King sitting there you sense the true enormity of the throne and it feels like it's creature.

Thanks again George for letting us in. :)
Any chance you're ever coming back NY/NJ where I can come see you?
Maybe there's a BWB happening foreseen in the near future to happen in this area (NY/NJ)? ;)
Gabriela Sanches
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
WOW! This looks like something that could chop an arm off if the person sitting on it makes any abrupt movement.
Also, the coolest thing about this image is that the throne shows up more than the king itself, wich is a nice metaphor!
James Luongo
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
Looks immense but just how practical can it be?
I agree its definitely fitting to your descriptions, but how would a King go about addressing his court all the way up there? Seems like they'd need to be really loud.

I started watching the GOT tv show before immersing myself into the books so HBO's Iron Throne is pretty much embedded itself into my brain unfortunately. That's all I see now when I read and re-read the books.
Ellie Ann Soderstrom
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
The throne looks more like a form of torture than a seat, as intended.
The art is absolutely incredible. I'd love to see a format of your stories that include art, music, audio, maps...all to your taste. An enhanced digital book. That's what I'd love to see...media about the book from your perspective!
Do you have anything like that in the works?
Aditya Visweswaran Iyer
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
Pretty mindblown now. Well when I think about it, some *spoilers* work well with the one in the show. Still, Littlefinger mocking it in S03E06 is sure fun :D
Mike Tolhurst
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
This vision of it certainly helps make clear all the times it is mentioned in the book that the chair can (literally, as well as figuratively) KILL you if you're not careful!
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing , do you plan to have anymore paintings/drawings done? I'd like to see how you see the wall.
Jul. 9th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC)
This is great
I am so happy to see this! Someone should be putting together a visualization of what's inside George's mind book.
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:00 pm (UTC)
I've followed your work and this page for quite a while, but this...I just had to create an account to comment on this...

I realize that you tried your hardest in the books to get us to understand that the simple act of sitting that throne meant to take ones life in ones hands in more ways than one, but my imagination apparently could not comprehend...

George, could you possibly share any other astonishing ASOIAF visualizations with us? A mind's eye description of something, some place, anything that you suspect your readership (or viewership) at large has had a bit of trouble conceiving?

Many thanks from a Faceless Fan for pouring that sweet sauce all over my imagination.
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
Jul. 10th, 2013 07:01 pm (UTC)
Hey, looks like you finally found someone who UNDERTAAANDS!
Carey Wilson
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
Perfect, that is how the throne should be. Horror is a huge aspect of aSoIaF and sometimes that gets left out a bit in the show. That throne is scary.

I hope the show accurately depicts how scary Dany's dragons become and not just represent them as explosive eye candy. Those Dragons scare the crap out of people.
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
oooh that's deadly.

And about not getting it 'right', that's why sometimes I fear for movies / tv shows based on books.
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George R.R. Martin
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