Creating the World of Game of Thrones |

Map of Westeros via IndieWire

by Lydia Tan

With the final season of Game of Thrones now underway, the hype among fans on how the series will end is continuing to build up. But what actually goes behind the creation of such a hugely popular TV show like Game of Thrones?

According to history…

The main inspiration for the novel series that Game of Thrones was based on, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, was the historical conflict known as The War of the Roses of medieval England, taking place roughly between 1377 and 1487. It involved the power struggle between two rival noble families for the throne, the Yorks and the Lancasters, which spanned over generations with underhanded motives and changing loyalties.

The historical parallels can be seen in the key characters and events in the series. For example, King Joffrey is linked to Edward of Lancaster, as both were known to be young bloodthirsty kings with rumours of having illegitimate parentage. Other events at the time inspired scenes in the series — one of them was the Red Wedding, which was inspired by two events set in Scotland: the Black Dinner of 1440 and the Glencoe Massacre of 1691.

Speaking GOT

“Conlangs”, short for constructed languages, are fictional languages that are constructed like any other language, with its own grammatical and sentence structure. Conlangs are commonly created for fantasy movies, like Elvish from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (touted as the godfather of modern conlangs), Klingon from Star Trek and Na’vi from Avatar.

For Game of Thrones, the two main conlangs of Westeros are Dothraki and Valyrian, created by language creator David J. Peterson. He built on the few Dothraki phrases that Martin used in the novels, following their structure and developing them further into a language. To make the conlangs even more authentic, Peterson also drew from the culture of the people and created a lexicon around it — for example, the Dothraki don’t have a native word for “book” as they don’t have a writing system; instead they borrow the term for “book” from another language, High Valyrian.

With the show’s viral popularity worldwide, language learning app Duolingo added High Valyrian as one of their languages courses and in 2014, HBO released a Dothraki language course with language-learning site Living Language.

Creating Westeros and Essos

Most of the filming locations for Game of Thrones were set in Europe, in countries like Northern Ireland, Croatia and Spain. One prominent place is the Old Town in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which was the main setting for King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms.

Dubrovnik Old Town in Croatia

Other notable places include the Dark Hedges in County Antrim, Northern Ireland as the setting for the Great Games at Daznak’s Pit in Season 5, and Castillo de Zafra in Guadalajara, Spain used as the Tower of Joy, the birthplace of Jon Snow.

Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland
Castillo de Zafra in Spain
PC: Borjaanimal via Wikimedia Commons

However, as with many modern TV series and films, some CGI was used to enhance or add on to the natural settings. However, the CGI is so seamless and realistic, it’s hard to tell what has been added on, unless you visit the places yourself.

via Mackevision
via BlueBoltVFX

Much of the interior shots for the entire series took place in the show’s production headquarters, the Paint Hall in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast Harbour, Northern Ireland, where rooms like the Iron Throne Room were shot in. Other studios used for production included the nearby Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Northern Ireland and the world’s largest film studio, Atlas Corporation Studios in the Moroccan desert.

This has made Northern Ireland a popular tourist destination for fans. There are dedicated tour services of filming locations in Belfast, and according to Tourism Northern Ireland, the show drew an estimated 120,000 visitors to Belfast in 2016, generating £30 million (S$62 million). HBO has also announced an official studio tour in Linen Mill Studios opening in 2020.

Do it #ForTheThrone

In the lead-up to the final season premiere, the series employed marketing campaigns using the hashtag #ForTheThrone. The “Create for the Throne” campaign earlier this February invited 18 artists from around the world to reinterpret actual props from the series and shared their work and inspirations behind creating the piece.

Redesign of the Sons of the Harpy mask by AJ Fosik (USA)
via @GameOfThrones on Twitter

HBO also launched a scavenger hunt called “Quest for the Throne” where six Iron Thrones were placed in different parts of the world and fans were invited to look for them using clues posted on the respective Game of Thrones social media pages and 360° hour-long livestreams of the thrones in their locations.

The 6 Iron Thrones in their different locations around the world
Screenshot via For The Throne

The show even got fans to donate blood during their “Bleed for the Throne” drive with the American Red Cross as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) 2019 in Austin, Texas. But this was no ordinary blood donation drive — fans were treated to the full Game of Thrones experience where they got to relive the sacrifices of characters who have “bled for the throne” in the series through a mini exhibition.

The main hall of the donation drive venue, featuring a choir led by a Red Priestess
via Making Game of Thrones

There’s no denying the huge popularity of Game of Thrones; since the series premiered in 2011, it has garnered a massive cult following of fans around the world — season 8’s premiere itself broke HBO’s records with 17.4 million views across all their platforms. Even if you don’t watch or aren’t a fan of the series, you can appreciate how it became so popular. There’s something more than the blood, gore and nudity that draws fans to the show; it’s the action, drama, plot twists and diverse characters that has made this series so endearing for so many years.