Game of Thrones (2011)
The Strangest Places in 'Game of Thrones': Far East Westeros
By: Domonique Cox-Salberg
It is hard to think of another place being as unmerciful as the lands our favorite Game of Thrones characters navigate. Much of the show happens in the west—home to the Starks and Lannister’s, where their feud alone ends in countless ruthless deaths, the Wall and the much-desired Iron Throne. However, seen in the world book, far distant cities and kingdoms are described with their unique dangers, cultures, and mysteries to explore.
Such as and most memorably the eastern continent of Essos—the land Daenerys, the Dothraki’s, and Slavers Bay, all have their stories unravel. A continent recognized for its strange parts and one we know only a little or nothing of its history. All we have been exposed to in the show include places like Pentos, Braavos, Volantis, Qarth, and Valyria. Nevertheless, those places cannot match up to anything as strange as the places in Essos to be revealed and discussed in this article.
Our first strange land is one of the four known continents in the world. Lying in the southeast of Westeros, Sothoryos is south of Essos across the Summer Sea. It is full of jungle and ruined cities of unknown size. A dragon rider once spent three years flying over the continent and is said to have never found its southern border stating its “a land without end.”
The colonies of this land have all failed, and treasure-hunters do not return, and the jungles are full of disease—wormbone, greyscale, sweetrot, blood boils, and Red Death. Archmaester Ebrose of the Citadel says that these diseases kill half of all Westeros visitors. And the ones that do survive are often killed by wildlife. Almost beastlike, their wildlife includes giant crocodiles, carnivorous fish, basilisk, snakes, and apes large enough they can kill elephants with a single blow. Besides its unknown spans and deadly creatures, Yeen remains to be Sothoryos’ greatest mystery.
Yeen is a ruined city described as “older than time” and built from massive blocks of “oily black stone.” No trees or vines touch it—it’s “A city so evil even the jungle will not enter.” When princess Nymeria tried to inhabit the land with some Rhoynar, the entire population vanished overnight. Uncanny and deadly, Sothoryos proves to be the strangest and most dangerous of the Essos parts.
Just off the western coast of Sothoryos, Basilisk Isles are islands named after the basilisk—a creature that once infested them. Thus, these are mud-and-blood towns, hot, humid, and overrun with escaped slaves, slavers, skinners, whores, hunters, brindled men and worse. Their bugs seem to perfectly match their human inhabitants as they swarm with stinging flies, sand fleas, and bloodworms. Their city Gogossos goes as far as to practice blood sorcery of the darkest ever done where they mate slave women with beast to bring forth twisted half-human children. A practice surprisingly mentioned often in the books, “twisted half-human children.”
“giants…The women take human men for lovers and it’s from them the half-bloods come” (Osha, AGOT)
“The wildlings…their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children” (Old nan, AGOT)
Knowing this, it is possible that ancient inter-species breeding gives Targaryen’s dragon magic and the Starks their warging powers. The Targaryen’s descending from dragons and the Starks being wolf blood.
The Basilisk Isles, as described in The World of Ice and Fire, “During the century of Blood this dark city waxed rich and powerful…her wealth was built on slaves and sorcery” until it was wiped out in a plague. Eventually, people returned, and have converted the land into a home for pirates. Their local customs now include pilling the skulls of their enemies on an island as an offering to a dark god.
The Free People invaded many times, but the pirates always returned. In one instance, a pirate named Saathos Saan—who also makes his appearance in the show, becomes King of the Basilisk Isles for thirty years (TWOIAF). Then, a part of this land can be found named, Toad Isle, where they worship a gigantic toad idol, and its people are known for having an unpleasant fishlike aspect to their faces, webbed hands, and feet. “In summary, the Basilisk Isles are best avoided.”
A frigid sea north of Essos, the Shivering Sea is full of common fish and leviathans the size of islands. Sailors recall seeing figures similar to mermaids, and “drowned spirits,” and mists with the ability to instantly freeze a whole ship. Then, there are reports of ice dragons “colossal beasts” much bigger than regular dragons. They are made of nothing but living ice and breath cold instead of flame, which could explain the freezing mists. When they die, they melt, so no one can prove they exist.
Moving to the far north, it is an arctic waste where blizzards never end. There are descriptions of strange lights in the shy, or as “queer lights shimmering in the sky, where the demon mother of the ice giants dances eternally through the night.” There are also tales of Cannibal Bay, where ships enter, then are trapped when the sea freezes behind them. It is believed that a thousand ships lie entombed in Cannibal Bay, and still inhabited by the children and grandchildren of their original crews “who survive by feasting on the flesh of sailors newly caught.”
Even though the Shivering Sea seems like a place no one could survive, one group of people in particular does. They go by the Ibbenese: short, strong, and hairy, with ridged brows a massive jaw. And are considered by the maesters to be different from the other races of mankind. Being able to sometimes reproduce with other humans, only can they produce sterile offspring. As cunning craftsmen, hunters, and warriors who fish the Shivering Sea, Ibbenese kind are renowned for their strength in weathering storms. Their island has dark forests and mountains full of wolves, bears, and mammoths.
Some live in those forests, and the main Port of Ibben, in the shadow of the God-King’s castle, now a colossal ruin that once housed a hundred Ibbenese kings. Another nearby forest was conquered by Ib and was said to be inhabited by “a small, shy forest folk” called the Ifequevron, woods walkers. These woods walkers are thought to be related to the children of the forest of Westeros (picture below); both races carved faces into trees. Presently, the God-Kings are gone, and Ib’s ruled by a council of nobles. However, the woods walkers are assumed to still live in the deeper woods.
Moreover, the remaining strange lands of Essos are located east of Ib. The Thousand Islands, The Bones, Jogos Nhai, Yi Ti Great Empire, Five Forts, Leng, and Asshai, are warned by George R.R. Martin that we see this world from the perspective of Westeros maesters who might be inaccurate. Distortions and error creep in and, thus, are likely mixed with myth.