Game of Thrones is winding down. There are only two books left, though we probably won't be able to read them when they release because there won't be any light after the sun explodes. The TV show, on the other hand, is slated to finish with what looks to be a single season split into two parts. Though that doesn't seem like a ton of time to wrap up numerous story threads, it would likely be prohibitively expensive to keep the major actors on board, whose contracts expire after season seven.
But that's alright. HBO already has the perfect source material for a follow-up to their most successful franchise. Alongside the regular series, writer and world's tallest hobbit George R.R. Martin has been penning what have come to be known as the "Dunk and Egg" tales. These novellas take place 100 years or so before Jamie pushed Bran out that window, focusing on a Westeros still ruled by the Targeryens.
The stories are different for a lot of reasons, in part because they're lighter in tone. There's plenty of bloodshed and murder for everyone, of course -- this is still Game of Thrones -- but it's somewhat lighthearted compared to the bloody battles and abundant political intrigue found in A Song of Ice and Fire. In a way, you might say the Dunk and Egg stories are like The Hobbit to the main series' Lord of the Rings.
A spinoff TV show could definitely benefit from a smaller scale. Instead of jumping around the land every episode, forcing you to hit up Wikipedia every time an obscure character returns after a four year absence, a Dunk and Egg series would center on just the two titular characters.
This is Duncan. He doesn't belong to any major family house you've heard of, like your Lannisters or your Starks or your Hot Pies. No, ol' Dunk here is from the putrid slums of King's Landing, otherwise known as Flea Bottom. If Game of Thrones existed in the same universe as Aladdin, Duncan would have grown up thinking "Street Rat" was his actual name. Despite his humble upbringing, Duncan landed a sweet squire gig with a knight named Sir Arlan of Pennytree. Now, technically Sir Arlan was a hedge knight, which is sort of a wandering mercenary with fancy armor, but that still counts as a knight all the same. When Arlan bites it at the outset of our story, Dunk has some decisions to make. As it turns out, these decisions involve weaseling his way into a knighthood by pretending Arlan had him bend the knee in his last breaths. Though fairly puckish and definitely rogueish, Duncan remains righteous without ever becoming squeaky clean; he's a bit more on the level than Han Solo, but doesn't ever go full-on Luke Skywalker.
As the years went on, the tales of Ser Duncan's heroics reached far and wide. Eventually he worked his way all the way up to Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Not bad for a lanky kid from Flea Bottom. His exploits were so numerous and impressive that four full pages were dedicated to "Ser Duncan the Tall" in a book chronicling the history of the Kingsguard. Even a shitstain like Joffrey had to respect that.
But Duncan is only one half of the team. See, on his first adventure after his teacher kicked the bucket, Duncan ran across an rascally bald child who called himself Egg. Boasting a pale, bald melon befitting of his name, Egg was a bit of a smartass, but he was sharp and capable a squire as Dunk could ask for. If that Odd-Coupley relationship reminds you of Brienne and Pod, there's a reason for that -- George R.R. Martin recently confirmed that the equally tall Brienne of Tarth is actually a descendant of Duncan.
Though the kid was obviously green behind the ears, Egg came in handy soon enough. Mostly because he's secretly a Targeryen prince.
Officially named Aegon V, Egg disguised his identity by shaving his unmissable platinum locks (though he remained recognizable thanks to his purple eyes). While it's somewhat dangerous for a prince of the land's most important royal family to go gallavanting around with a nobody hedge knight, the Targeryens weren't exactly worried. After all, Aegon was the fourth son of a fourth son -- a lot of terrible shit would have to happen for him to become king. And it's not like any terrible shit ever happens in Westeros, right?
What's great about the Dunk and Egg stories is that -- so far, at least -- they're pretty self-contained. One of them involves a land dispute that turns deadly, and another centers around a jousting tournament with a dragon egg put up for the prize. A couple of the stories were also adapted into graphic novels, which are great for visualizing something like a badass seven-way trial by combat.
Though still a prequel, the stories are spread out over years of time. This would benefit a possible TV series, since the young actor potraying Egg would age up along with the character at the proper pace instead of looking like a 40-year-old teenager (coughBrancough). The tales also get close enough to the timeline of Game of Thrones proper that we'd start to see familiar characters pop up in the world. In one story, a very young Walder Frey can be seen running around being an asshole at a wedding, because that's apparently all he does.
Those ties to more "current" events go even further, as Aegon's older brother happens to be Aemon, who grows up to be the head Maester of the Night's Watch. The two were evidently close, as Egg is one of the last people Aemon mentions before he dies.
Though GRRM has plotted out Dunk and Egg stories, so far he's only put out three. Yes, he'll be extra double-dead before he finishes them all and we should make our peace with that now. But some of the future stories sound great; next up is a trip to Winterfell and a run-in with the formidable females of the Stark family. Whether it's a television series or a few TV movies, it'd be neat to see Dunk and Egg grow up and forge their own paths, even if we know where they're headed. As it so happened, Egg did grow up to become the king known as Aegon the Unlikely. And according to the World of Ice and Fire, at some point Dunk -- now a member of Egg's Kingsguard -- duels Lyonel Baratheon in a trial by combat that looks unbelievably epic.
Of course, there's the problem that none of this will really be of any consequence. If Dunk and Egg ever hits the small screen, the Game of Thrones saga will be long over. We'll already know who ends up sitting atop the Iron Throne, if the seat still exists at all. What mystery is left?
Well, George R.R. Martin has thought of that, purposely leaving a few tantalizing blank spots in Game of Thrones history. For one, we don't know exactly how Brienne relates to Duncan, and we don't know the specifics of that sure-to-be-awesome duel pictured above. Most of all, we don't know what really happened at Summerhall.
The history of Westeros tells us how Dunk and Egg die, and it's not in their sleep -- instead, they burn alive. All that we know for sure is that Egg was attempting to hatch some dragons at the famous castle of Summerhall, and everything went terribly wrong. Who knew that trying to ressurrect an ancient, uncontrollable power to wield for the good of your people could end so poorly?
The rest of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy at Summerhall remain a fascinating mystery, the details of which we've already explored at length . Suffice it to say, seeing it play out on-screen would be a horrible delight, and would finally solve one of the great mysteries of the Game of Thrones universe.
Those interested in the stories should definitely check out A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which collects the first few Dunk and Egg stories with some great illustrations by Gary Gianni. Or you could just wait for the TV show, which will probably end up spoiling the next six novellas that will never hit shelves anyway.