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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 05:49 am (UTC)
It looks like a dragon's nest.
Jul. 9th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
As it should!
Joe Garcia
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:09 am (UTC)
The Iron Throne
Awesome and terrible as it should be! Now when can we expect a scale replica of THAT version? ;)
Daro Alvarez
Jul. 11th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
Re: The Iron Throne
Of course we can. That's what the Internet is for: meet crazy ideas with crazy people who realize them!
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:14 am (UTC)
Agreed. That beautiful artwork from Mr. Simonetti captures the menacing and diabolical Iron Throne that I have always been given the impression of when reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

HBO's will do - and it IS iconic - but the above is much, much more. So much more.
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:20 am (UTC)
Zounds. Reminds me a bit of massive, twisting tree roots, at least in this thumbnail image (which I find ironic yet appropriate).
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:24 am (UTC)
I would have made it bigger, but computer illiterate that I am, I can't figure out how to increase the size of the images I upload to the Not A Blog.
(no subject) - miko_york - Jul. 9th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Jul. 9th, 2013 06:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - miko_york - Jul. 9th, 2013 07:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - huinare - Jul. 9th, 2013 07:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Images - Bobby Schmidt - Jul. 9th, 2013 07:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Bigger version - Matthew Gagnon - Jul. 9th, 2013 08:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Ryan Stalgis - Jul. 9th, 2013 11:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Bigger Pic - davezatz - Jul. 9th, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - trysha - Jul. 9th, 2013 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blagh - Jul. 9th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blagh - Jul. 9th, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Rick Geraedts - Jul. 10th, 2013 10:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Thousands of swords? - Itamar Baum - Jul. 11th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Thousands of swords? - grrm - Jul. 11th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sue_bursztynski - Jul. 11th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Ikari Vainilla
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:24 am (UTC)
That iron throne looks really accurate, so amazing!, the size, the number of swords... he pretty much nailed it, I always thought the series iron throne was way too confortable to sit on, more so when looking at joff sitting on it, anyway, this is a really amazing art.
salute from Argentina, hope you guys would tour here once :(
(looking foward for that winds of winter really can't wait)
Raaji Singh Bharij
Jul. 10th, 2013 06:09 am (UTC)
It really irks me in the show when Joffrey is comfortable enough to slump and lean sideways in the Throne.... it loses what we come to know in the books which is there is no way you would do that- get to comfortable on the Throne or your reign.... and the Throne/ realm bites back!
Matt Stedman
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:28 am (UTC)
What's this brouhaha about the Red Viper? Is it about the casting? Looks about right to me.
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:58 am (UTC)
Oy... no, let's not go there again.
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:37 am (UTC)
Somewhere there's an alternate universe that exists, where every Game of Thrones episode has the budget of a Lord of the Rings movie. And this throne lives within it.

And now I'm sad.

Edited at 2013-07-09 06:38 am (UTC)
Jeff Leahul
Jul. 9th, 2013 12:34 pm (UTC)
It could be worse. Somewhere, there's an alternate universe that exists, where the war for that Iron Throne is actually happening! And we don't have to live in that universe, so keep your chin up!
(no subject) - blagh - Jul. 9th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Connor Donnelly
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:37 am (UTC)
It's interesting how when I first read the books I envisioned the throne to be something more similar to this, though since watching the show for so long, my vision for the throne has shifted to the show's version. Though I much prefer this version. Anyway, good post Mr. Martin! Don't work too hard on TWoW!
Jul. 10th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
Re: Interesting...
Same goes for me! Also, many of the actors have replaced the images I had previously for the characters. Not necessarily a bad thing, but funny how the brain works. ;-)
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:40 am (UTC)
Awesome!! I'm really blown away by the image, it's amazing! Can't wait to get the book.
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:43 am (UTC)
So glad you finally addressed this issue, George. I've always been bothered about how the iron throne was portrayed. You constantly address how the Mad King cut himself all over the throne and yet the HBO throne seems like this perfectly formed seat, hard to hurt yourself on. They could have at least made it seem like it was made by humans (maybe with some magic)
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:51 am (UTC)
Before HBO gets around to depicting them ...
What do the Seven Hells look like?

Being a guy who likes symmetry, I've imagined them as being counter to The Seven. By that, I mean each hell's, um, clientele consist of those who have most offended one of The Seven. The Warrior's Hell would have cowards, and so on.

Anyway, that's how it goes in my mind's eye.

And I wonder who would dwell in The Stranger's Hell.
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:45 am (UTC)
Re: Before HBO gets around to depicting them ...
Then all the maesters who heal people (and everyone who has ever saved a life ) dwell in the Stranger's hell, since they rob him of his "clients"
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:52 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this story! The vision of the author is ever so much more important than any other vision.
And your Iron Throne is so much more terrific than the one in the HBO adaptation.
Thanks to your Not A Blog one of my favourite books gets better and better in my head ^_^

Edited at 2013-07-09 06:53 am (UTC)
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:03 am (UTC)
Absolutely stunning artwork from Marc Simonetti! I enjoy looking at the 2013 Ice & Fire calendar every day, and I can't wait to see his contributions to the concordance.
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:06 am (UTC)
Spot on
Even though I was introduced to A Song of Ice and Fire through HBO, when I read the books I see a different world entirely. I love the TV show, but there is more meat in the books to sink your teeth into. Love that you have shown a close example of how your Iron Throne is, I will adjust my imagination accordingly :)
Noam Wohl
Jul. 9th, 2013 07:23 am (UTC)
It feels very Hyperion-Shrikesque
and looks great.
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George R.R. Martin
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