The Game of Thrones prequel series will not feature one of the show's most prominent families, and we probably shouldn't expect its most famous creatures to show up either.
The new prequel, tentatively titled The Long Night, according to creator George R.R. Martin (though HBO has yet to give it an official name), is set thousands of years before the events of the current series, when Westeros was a much different place. King's Landing, the Red Keep, and the Iron Throne people keep fighting over did not yet exist. The Seven Kingdoms were still just that: seven separate kingdoms with their own customs and rulers, not seven principalities governed by a single monarch.
It took Aegon's Conquest, in which the Targaryens landed on the continent and set about using their dragons to take it over, to change all of that and reshape Westeros into something more like what we found at the start of Game of Thrones. That conquest was only about 300 years before the events of the series, while The Long Night will take us back millennia. That means, as followers of Westeros' history have likely already surmised, no Targaryens, and no dragons, as Martin explained to Entertainment Weekly.
"Westeros is a very different place. There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens — Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built," Martin said. "We’re dealing with a different and older world, and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”
Martin's latest book, Fire and Blood, is a history of the Targaryen dynasty, and details how they set about reshaping Westeros following the Doom of Valyria, the eastern freehold where dragons were first tamed by man. Valyria has achieved a kind of mythic status in current Westeros, where the legendary steel blades crafted there are considered priceless family heirlooms. Before they came to Westeros, the Targaryens actually didn't have much power in Valyria, but they managed to survive where other Valryian families did not, landed on Dragonstone in the west, and then realized they could wield their dragons as instruments of conquest.
In the case of The Long Night, we're going back several thousand years before that, to a time when even Valyria was not yet a power in the world. Exactly how many thousand years, though, is a little murky. That's on purpose, though, as Martin notes that in his world much of what people call "history" is a complex web of tales often told unreliably.
“'10,000 years' is mentioned in the novels. But you also have places where maesters say, 'No, no, it wasn’t 10,000, it was 5,000.' Again, I’m trying to reflect real-life things that a lot of high fantasy doesn’t reflect," Martin said. "In the Bible, it has people living for hundreds of years and then people added up how long each lived and used that to figure out when events took place. Really? I don’t think so. Now we’re getting more realistic dating now from carbon dating and archeology. But Westeros doesn’t have that. They’re still in the stage of 'my grandfather told me and his grandfather told him.' So I think it’s closer to 5,000 years."
The Long Night (still officially untitled), co-created by Martin and Jane Goldman, is casting now. Fire and Blood is on sale today. Game of Thrones returns for its ninth and final season in April.