On Monday night, the most popular television show of all time conceded a plot twist that was over sixteen years in the making.
Game of Thrones revealed the mystery of Jon Snow’s mother. But the man who conceived the plot wasn’t even the one to communicate this critical revelation.
Almost exactly five years ago, the most recent instalment of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire,’ was released. That same year, HBO began to air David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ Game Of Thrones, the television adaptation of Martin’s novels.
‘A Song Of Ice Of Fire’ wasn’t finished at the time. There were still two more books prescribed for publication.
Benioff and Weiss decided to proceed with their television adaptation despite having acquired an incomplete narrative. Perhaps they were confident that Martin would finish his story before the series converged with it.
Perhaps they were simply too eager to pass up the opportunity to materialise a world as enthralling as Martin’s Westeros.
Five years on and Game Of Thrones the TV series has surpassed Martin’s chronicle. Those two final books, The Winds Of Winter and A Dream Of Spring, remain unpublished.
In a blog post last January, the 67-year old author admitted to missing an end-of-year submission deadline in 2015.
Bantam Books, Martin’s publisher, allowed him two extra months. He missed that deadline as well. It would have allowed for the sixth novel to be published before this most recent series aired.
The Winds Of Winter is currently listed by Bantam as having no scheduled release date.
The sixth season of Benioff and Weiss’ series came to a close amidst a deluge of narrative material not yet divulged to book readers. As it became clear that the series would outpace the novels, Martin met with the showrunners and confided key plot points.
The secret of Jon Snow’s lineage was just one particularly significant revelation from the most recent season. That Jon Snow is even alive is another. For all the book readers know, he’s still dead. That is, if they have managed to avoid the spoiler-encumbered Internet over the past two and a half months.
When The Winds Of Winter is finally released, readers who have watched the show, doubtlessly occupying a significant percentage, will be aware that Jon Snow is alive, that he is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, that Hodor meets his death in an act of self-sacrifice, that The Hound is alive and that the Brotherhood Without Banners is important but Lady Stoneheart isn’t. Martin’s magnum opus has been wrestled from his grasp.
Last week, a YouTube clip surfaced of a Q&A panel that took place earlier this year, shortly before the beloved Hold The Door episode of Game Of Thrones aired.
The moderator questioned Martin about the origin of the name Hodor. Martin’s face visibly falls, for a brief moment. His answer is: “You’ll just have to keep reading.” As it turns out, we just had to keep watching.
Success is Martin’s burden. He may be steering the narrative of Game Of Thrones, but he’s not the one divulging it anymore. Without A Song Of Ice And Fire, there would be no Game Of Thrones but without Game Of Thrones, Martin would be at liberty to finish his own story.
The show may now have a significant impact on the anticipation of Martin’s next book.
When asked about whether he felt any pressure to keep up with the show, Martin replied: “If I did have that thought, I’ve lost – because the show has caught up and is in the process of passing me. Ideally, I would have liked to have finished all seven books and have the story complete, but the show moves at a faster pace than I do…”
Martin has assured readers that the show won’t spoil all the book surprises, but the presence of Jon Snow in the most recent series of Game Of Thrones suggests that the most significant points will be broadcast.
Martin has also admitted that both the show and the series of novels will reach the same general conclusion. He has spent decades on a story that someone else will get to finish.
Benioff and Weiss have often referred to a meeting that took place between them and Martin years ago, when they were pursuing the rights to Martin’s novels.
It was only after Martin asked them who Jon Snow’s mother was and received the correct answer that he gave them his consent. Six years later, it was Benioff and Weiss who revealed their answer to the world.