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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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Mariana D'Ornellas
Jul. 11th, 2013 01:59 am (UTC)
I love it, if I were at King's Landing it would make feel even more afraid of Joffrey
Jul. 11th, 2013 02:31 am (UTC)
The Iron Throne kind of remind me the Sword of Damocles. A king should never sit easy.
Jul. 11th, 2013 06:21 am (UTC)
Like a throne carved of a tree. But not from a tree. Not carved either. Yet with its own ability to grow with each trophy.
Jul. 11th, 2013 06:51 am (UTC)
Have to differ here
I always pictured it in the book as being the throne and the entire dais surrounding it if it was to have steps and be bristling with swords all around. The one on the show cuts a harsh but iconic figure, whereas this artist conception looks more like The Iron Shrubbery, with a throne cut into it.

And I like how on the show, one of the councilors (was it Varys or Littlefinger?) remarked about how the throne really couldn't possibly have been made from so many swords as the legends said. Exaggeration is a common theme through history after all
Jul. 11th, 2013 08:37 am (UTC)
After some years, HBO brings a Special Edition and remaster throne. ;)
Julien Billet
Jul. 11th, 2013 10:43 am (UTC)
I find both Iron Throne are very different and your Iron Throne is amazing ! I love it.

It must be concluded that HBO does not ask you your review on their version of the Iron Throne before that the series begins ?
Jul. 11th, 2013 01:56 pm (UTC)
I'm an amateur writer and I completely understand.
Different artists interpret the written word differently, there's issues about different media that make it difficult or impossible to do things on television and film that are easily done in a book when all the audience needs is a few good words and an imagination, but I've only just begun reading this series and it's clear just how much effort, time and heart must have gone into the project. Something this big, I can only imagine all the changes and development characters, concepts, events and "looks" everything must have gone through from the time you conceived the idea to the time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys as the case may be).

So to have something iconic change is a shame. As a whole, I hope the series is does the books justice, because from what I've seen of the show, it's great, and what I've read of the books, they're great too. But it really is a shame when filmmakers or television producers change or ignore crucial parts of the source material because there is a man or woman behind that and it means so much to them, like a part of themselves, and it's unfathomable that some people can't honour or respect that (I'm not saying the people over at HBO don't respect you or your work, but in general, it feels like a lot of producers miss the fact that the writer had an intention when he/she wrote the words).
Wes Beard
Jul. 11th, 2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
Looks great. Reminds me of a metal tornado actually. I wonder expect more description of uneasiness or unsure footing when approaching the the Iron throne. Whether it be Cersei and Jamie standing beside it or a humble begger. A warning known through out the land so stand clear of it or leave your soul to watch over it forever kind of thing. the step do look awfully worrisome. (I had to spell check this since I'm not going to have a spelling error while posting to a GIANT celebrity such as yourself lol)
Chris Ditto
Jul. 11th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
Iron Throne
Perhaps you can get Jesse James to build it for you
Anthony Colorado
Jul. 11th, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
Any chance for a Houston or Galveston for book signing? UTMB in Galveston has a ton of fans of the series and i assure would be willing to provide the highest of fives...
Gal Shitrit
Jul. 12th, 2013 12:22 am (UTC)
Just amazing
When I first read AGOT I imagined it more similar to the artowork than the HBO version. The Image is amazing it way more suitable.
Jul. 12th, 2013 01:02 am (UTC)
Iron Throne
I thought Michael Komarck's portrait of Jaimie sitting on the Iron Throne was the best. That's how I thought of it anyway. And how I see Jaimie. Mike is incredible.
Jul. 12th, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC)
Loved the Shelley's reference.
Jul. 12th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
It looks great. Gotta say id like to get a pic of me sat on the HBO throne tho. When I first saw the cover with Sean Bean sat on it I knew it wasn't right but its still very cool.
Jul. 13th, 2013 03:31 am (UTC)
Act choo Ally
The key description in the book, if memory serves correctly, was that kings cut themselves on the throne. It was difficult to sit comfortably on, so the actual seat should not be flat.

If anyone is interested, the recpatcha that you do to join sites, it's slave labor. The old captcha project was to decipher one squiggly word, they added a second and enslaved us all, turning us into Duracell batteries, al la The Matrix. (Look it up, the NY Times should pay us)

Edited at 2013-07-13 03:33 am (UTC)
Jul. 13th, 2013 06:56 am (UTC)
Have you read "Storm Warning" by Mercedes Lackey
Published in 94,which i believe makes it first, it has an "Iron Throne" made from captured weapons. However it is not sharp and jagged and a hazard to sit on. Which btw, is why i don't regard HBO's prop as authentic, no one has cut themselves on it.
Jul. 13th, 2013 05:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Have you read "Storm Warning" by Mercedes Lackey
Nope, never heard of it.
Jul. 14th, 2013 04:08 pm (UTC)
Joao Simplex
Jul. 14th, 2013 05:21 pm (UTC)
I'm infected by tetanus just looking at it!
Jul. 14th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
Health and Safety Issue.
No wonder HBO didn't build this tangled mass of barbed metal - they'd never have gotten the insurance to seat actors or tourists on it. Imagine all the tetanus shots, ha ha.
Jul. 15th, 2013 03:45 pm (UTC)
Yes this is the throne! Gloomy, imposing voracious.
The TV adaptation is great, and the series of books is even better!
Hugs your more a fan of Brazil!
Jul. 18th, 2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
Maester's Chain
Loved your post and thought it was really smart to highlight the difference between what's in your mind, what's on the page and then what gets represented visually.

I don't feel like I've ever seen a visual of a Maester's chain that accurately represented what is described in the books. Do you know of any artwork that is close?
Jul. 19th, 2013 11:17 pm (UTC)
I was first introduced to the Iron Throne by HBO, and I like their version all right, and understand why a hulking jagged monstrosity might have been infeasible in real life. But I definitely like this version more. One thing I've wondered though... how come none of the kings since Aegon ever decided to sneak a blacksmith into the throne room one night to hammer out the really pointy bits? I feel like there had to have been somebody in the royal dynasty who thought "tradition is great and all but so is not getting flayed by my own chair."

Edited at 2013-07-19 11:17 pm (UTC)
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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