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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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Zlatko Ceraj Cerić
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:32 am (UTC)
iron throne
Yup, this is what I had in mind, too.
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's much more like the Iron Throne I imagined. Murderous.

Not all writers see pictures in their heads, though. Me, for example. :)
Jezabel Nightroad
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:46 am (UTC)
Wow the "real Iron Throne" looks beautiful, deadly and frightening. Aegon wasn't kidding when he said, "A king should never sit easy."
Do you work with the illustrator Mr Martin in order for them to capture your vision?
Jul. 9th, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, Marc and I went back a number of times. He's a very patient and talented man... and obsessed with getting it right.
Michael Morrisson
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:03 am (UTC)
Wonderfully designed!
What a terrifying image! Hard to imagine a benevolent king ruling from atop that intimidating mostrosity. Also, though it clearly is different in style it reminds me a bit of the throne in Minas Tirith's throne room, sans steward's chair of course.
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:37 am (UTC)
Woooooow, that's so much more awesome-er than I imagined it. Would not want to put my bottom upon that seat.
Mathias Stark
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:37 am (UTC)
At long last !
This issue has been on my mind for ages now ! Thank you for stating how you really feel about it ! Now, *cheerleader mode : on* how I LOVE the sentence "when I'm working on THE WINDS OF WINTER" !!!
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:38 am (UTC)
Do you know what the realm is?
It's the thousand blades of Aegon's enemies, a story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget that it's a lie.

Ah Littlefinger... f-- liar!
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:43 am (UTC)
Yes! I've never liked the HBO throne, and in fact I was shocked when I first saw it. Apart from the size, what's most missing for me is an atmosphere of danger. Anyone sitting on it should feel that a little twist too far in one direction and they will be sliced like a ham.
Kimmy Benton
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:55 am (UTC)
Yet again you amaze us with your imagination! I'll have to do a reread with this monster in-place.
Jul. 9th, 2013 09:10 am (UTC)
Imagination and HBO's interpretation
This is YOUR world, YOUR creation and I sincerely like the HBO show, still most of the faces are not the ones I have depicted when reading your words in 3 languages over and over again :) I'd rather keep the ones I created out of your magic!
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.
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George R.R. Martin
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