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What's west of Westeros and why Arya's journey could be the Game of Thrones spinoff we deserve

Contributed by
May 21, 2019

The end of Game of Thrones doesn't necessarily mean the end of the story. Whatever fans think of the ultimate conclusion to the decade-long TV show, not every character's story came to an end. The book may have closed on the Targaryen dynasty once and for all, but for the four surviving Starks, their journeys have just begun. And no path looks to be more interesting than Arya Stark's, who headed out to sea to find whatever is "west of Westeros."

It could be the most brilliant idea for a TV spinoff no one at HBO considered ahead of time. Think about it! Game of Thrones: West of Westeros, starring Maisie Williams as the captain of an intrepid crew of Northern explorers, with a five-year mission to discover what lies beyond the horizon of the Sunset Sea. (Naturally, such a show would then have to guest star Sophie Turner as her royal patron The Queen in the North.) But what precisely is Arya going to find when she sails beyond the furthest reaches of the continent? Luckily, the A Song of Ice & Fire companion book, The World of Ice & Fire, and the new Targaryen history, Fire & Blood, have some clues.

The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien once said of his writing, "I wisely started with a map." Maps have always been an integral part of fantasy worldbuilding, with readers poring over them, trying to get a sense of place and distance, especially in stories in which road trips are involved. From L. Frank Baum's Oz books to N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy, the maps are part of the joy.

George R.R. Martin's books are no different. Though the early going focuses on central Westeros, and the western coast of Essos, by the time A Dance with Dragons was released, most of the world of "Planetos" (as fans refer to it) had been fleshed out.

(Photo Credit: HBO)

(Photo Credit: HBO)

According to the maps, Planetos has three known continents: Sothoryos to the south, Essos to the east, and Westeros to the west. Not all these continents are fully mapped out either. Westeros, for example simply trails off to the upper North region of the map, with no indication of how, when, or why it hit the northern pole of the planet. Likewise, Sothoryos stretches down into the unknown, with no evidence of what lies below. Essos has no eastern shoreline, as it ends in the Grey Waste desert, which no one has crossed and lived to tell the tale or map out.

But to the west of Westeros lays the Sunset Sea, a tempting body of water to cross. Some believe the world is a disc ("Flat Planetos-ers," if you will), but Arya is betting otherwise. Moreover, she's probably right.

Martin's original novel, A Game of Thrones, mentions another Stark who set out to explore the Sunset Sea. Back when the Starks were still the Kings of Winter, Brandon the Shipwright set sail with a vast fleet to find what was out there. He disappeared, and his son (Brandon the Burner) destroyed the Northern shipyards out of grief, which is one of the historical reasons the North doesn't have a large or powerful navy. The World of Ice & Fire also records several attempts to seek out new lands, including Arlan III Durrandon, who was King of the Stormlands, and a couple of ill-fated Greyjoys as well.

But the most interesting comes from the histories in Fire & Blood. In the first century of the Targaryen reign, three young highborns — two Hightowers from Oldtown, Ser Eustace and his brother Ser Norman, as well as Lady Elissa Farman, daughter of the Lord of Fair Isle — decided to set sail for the other side of the Sunset Sea. The latter lady was the bravest of the three. When Ser Norman's ship sank, reportedly as the result of a Kraken attack, Ser Eustace turned back. But Farmen did not, and years later, her ship, the Sun Chaser, was spotted in the port city of Asshai, one of the easternmost cities of Essos.

The meaning is clear: Planetos is round, and, moreover, if one sails long enough, one can make it to the eastern side of Essos. That suggests there is no America-style new world in the way. (One of the problems for those who sailed west looking for a passage to India is that the only way around this continent — at least until the Panama Canal was built — was to go all the way down to the southern tip of South America and back up again.) But that doesn't mean there's nothing from one side to the other.

Drowned God scene in Game of Thrones

Credit: HBO

Much has been made of the First Men, the Children of the Forest, the Andal Invasion, and the Targaryen conquest, all of which took place on Westeros' mainland. But those on the Iron Islands never believed in any of those, and they have some cultural markers that don't line up with anything found in the landmass to their eastern side. The belief in the Drowned God, for instance. In addition, the Grey sigil is of the Kraken, a creature most Westerosi people don't believe in. They also hold Kingsmoots to elect leaders, and their leaders sit upon a throne known as the Seastone Chair, which is carved from a mysterious, oily black stone, not found in the mines of Westeros. (On Sothoryos, on the other hand, there's plenty.)

This throne was found on Old Wyk by the First Men when they first sailed to the island thousands of years ago. According to The World of Ice & Fire, the Ironborn believe it was left by a people across the Sunset Sea, referred to as "The Deep Ones," men who came in from the sea long before any of Westeros' known history began. There are even rumors these men could have been mermen.

If this is true, what Arya could be looking for is a chain of islands, not unlike where the Greyjoys rule — landmasses that harbor ancient civilizations but aren't large enough to prevent someone from sailing around to Essos. She should also keep an eye out from Kraken, mermen, and the like. Just because there's only one dragon left in the world now doesn't mean the magic is gone from Planetos. It's just hiding in the unexplored areas of the world. Arya, and any spinoff featuring her adventures, is perfectly positioned to find it.

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