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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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Desiree Byrd
Jul. 10th, 2013 12:25 am (UTC)
I can see it now.
I recall reading about how The Mad King had cut himself regularly on the sharp blades of the throne, but in my head I was picturing the throne from the show (as I watched the first season before I started reading), and wondering what kind of clumsy fool would cut himself on that throne? All the blades look dull and neatly pounded down flat save for the very top. This makes more sense. Still, that throne from the TV show has been so iconic that you could build it out of feathers and as long as it retained its shape it would be recognizable.

I seem to recall a scene in the show where Littlefinger and Varys were talking and Littlefinger mentioned that there weren't as many blades as people were saying, because he counted. I can see now it was the show's way of explaining their interpretation of the iron throne.
Josh Goldberg
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
This makes a lot of sense
When looking at the show version I always thought it looked way to comfortable.
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
Love it
I love this depiction...enough said.
Kyle Figgatt
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:23 am (UTC)
Thanks for this interesting insight George! While the TV show is entertaining in its own way, your books are far more profound than it could ever be. In a perfect world the phrase "Game of Thrones" would be associated with the respective book first and the tv series second. Ah well, I suppose "Any publicity is good publicity," right? *wink*
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:42 am (UTC)
Monstrosity at its finest
Although I am an avid book reader, I have never been able to truly visualize book descriptions. A paragraph detailing landscape & appearances gets translated into "mountain", "very large mountain" & "very large and scary mountain".

As a ASOIAF reader who lacks the ability to truly visualize Westeros, seeing your version of the Iron Throne really brings the world to life. Thank you SO very much for sharing this visual accuracy with us -- especially those of us who cannot visualize it on our own!
Jul. 10th, 2013 04:38 am (UTC)
There's a Red Viper brouhaha? What, where, why and when?

That Iron Throne looks awesome but we need to see it close-up because I can't actually make out the swords.
Jul. 10th, 2013 06:07 am (UTC)
The awesomeness of it all.
This is the most majestic throne EVER, sir. For the viewers, they can always think of the HBO throne. But for the avid readers, THIS will be it. This image will be the one I will always think of. Thank you. :))
Chris Huggins
Jul. 10th, 2013 08:13 am (UTC)
King George
Its a real shame that they couldn't make this work in the show. The show is brilliant however it lacks the depth of your work George, every time (and trust me its been a few) I discover more. I love that you arn't allowing the show to overcast your own creativity, there must be 1000's of people working on it, trying to force change and you are sitting on YOUR Iron Throne with them looking up begging. You could have been Joffrey 'No it has to be exactly how I want it', you could have been Renly 'If you want it like that, fine JUST LOVE ME' but you did it like Stannis 'Fine, if you must, but I shall show the people how it truley is'. I Just hope the original HBO designer doesn't loose his finger tips....
Jul. 10th, 2013 09:48 am (UTC)
I think same thing applies to appearance of Sandor Clegane. In the book, he is very different from HBO version, not so old and very sarcactic - and in HBO series he is just old warrior. Sandor-Sansa relationships is almost cut, also.
Jul. 10th, 2013 09:57 am (UTC)
Person on the throne
Is that Joffrey on the Iron Throne?
Jon Frank
Jul. 10th, 2013 09:58 am (UTC)
A throne of iron bone.
It is fitting for a king to sit on a throne such as this... To feel the weight of his actions and the burden they leave... To know that being a king is not simply a title, not simply being a ruler either... it is a man who must make sacrifices that can ultimately lead to horrible things... that's what the iron throne is... A physical representation of a deed done long ago... and yet it still can have impact.

Jul. 10th, 2013 10:06 am (UTC)
That is definitely more awe inspiring. Now I understand Cercei's dreams of getting cut to ribbons on the thing.

Dany has such wonderful taste with but also sensible. I'm imagining her shaking her head and replacing it with something that won't wreck the throw cushions. ;)
Jul. 10th, 2013 10:50 am (UTC)
Haha I can now picture how maegor the cruel got killed by the iron throne.
Jul. 10th, 2013 12:27 pm (UTC)
George, please please please tell me that Victarion won't be cut from the show...
Ivo Malz
Jul. 10th, 2013 12:57 pm (UTC)
Iron Throne design.
Dear George RR Martin,

I love your original idea and what the talented Mr Simonetty made out of it.

Makes me think, though... why did the Kingslayer have to push his own sword into King Aerys´ back when a gentle push in the general direction of the Throne would have done the trick (plus might have been fed as an accident to thee Westerosi public)?

Best regards,

Wilhelm de la Kraut
Jul. 10th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
wow, this looks much more dramatic!
Jul. 10th, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC)
"The real Iron Throne" reminds me of a conversation I had where I argued that everything is real, the question is a real what? The example I gave was "Hercules is a real Greek demi-god" (in contrast to, say, Xena, who was made up for the TV series). So in that sense, yes, there is a real Iron Throne.
Jul. 10th, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC)
This is incredible! Although, not as I saw it, but this would have made a much Throne for the show, but of course such a thing as monstrous as this would be a problem to make.

Thank you for explaining and sharing the photo!
Jonathan Lamdan
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
High resolution image of the Iron Throne
Hi George, looks great. Awe-inspiring yet ominous. Here's a link to the image in high resolution:

Have fun at Comic Con
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
I love the look of this iron throne (great blog post!), and will now be picturing it this way when reading the upcoming books. :) I love the HBO show, but yeah, now this makes me wish the TV show version looked more like this. So towering and sinister and perfect for the role it plays.
Sarah Hutchison
Jul. 10th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
This is amazing! I wish HBO was able to take pointers from this. In the books you always read about how King Aerys II Targaryen would cut himself on the thrown. HBO's thrown looks harmless enough though. Obviously, replicas wouldn't be touring the country if people could actually cut themselves on it... too bad.
Enzo Terasconi
Jul. 10th, 2013 06:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, finaly the real one. Not impressive, that was my point of view when I've (and many other I guess) seen for the first time the Iron Throne on HBO. This one is magic, we can feel an history coming from it, a real presence. Well done Marc.
Jul. 10th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
Imagination v. Sight
For more avid readers, my observation is nothing particularly insightful: Movies and TV are very enjoyable for me, but the reality is that a viewer only plays a passive role - the TV/Movie world is static and imagination is not required (or encouraged). While the medium of TV/Movie lends itself to cliffhangers, confusion, revelations, etc. - it's not something that is left to interpretation, imagination or the like. Alternatively, readers are required to absorb what the author conveys and interpret/imagine the corresponding visual. With the exception of the graphic/comic style, there is no visual guide, only the words on the page and how those look in our minds' eye. This dynamic nature of books is why I love reading, and why when by brain is too tired from work, life, etc., I turn to film and television. However, it is so interesting that despite reading something before "watching" it - I have a hell of a time disconnecting (dislodging?) something like Peter Jackson's/Ian McKellan's Gandalf when I think of LOTR or the Hobbit. I wonder why that is (probably some fancy psychological term), but in any case, I'm glad that you specifically un-TV'ed the Iron Throne for me by giving me a better alternative. This one looks like it would give Joff a really chafed arse, which makes me quite happy.
Jul. 10th, 2013 09:36 pm (UTC)
I wish HBO's design department worked more closely with you to get a bit more (well a lot more) book authentic look.

Its odd no one wears their heraldic devices as they do in the book as my non-book reading friends always complain they can't tell the factions apart as all the characters seem to have joined the Night's Watch.
Jul. 11th, 2013 01:54 am (UTC)
I love the 2013 Mark Simonetti calendar, I find myself looking at it often. I hope he does more. And I think this image of the Iron Throne totally rocks. It is not what I pictured but now I can see how it is more in line with what was intended.

I also love the fact that the Fever River is included in Westeros, having ties to Galena myself.

Edited at 2013-07-11 01:56 am (UTC)
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George R.R. Martin
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