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Dothraki Language for Game of Thrones

HBO has sent out a press release concerning the Language Creation Society, which was hired to created the Dothraki language as shown in HBO’s Game of Thrones. That the producers had hired a linguist to develop the Dothraki language for the pilot has been previously reported at the time that the pilot was being filmed in Northern Ireland. The press release, with additional details and commentary, follows:

For Immediate Release April 12, 2010

EXPERT CREATES LANGUAGE FOR NEW HBO SERIES GAME OF THRONES

David J. Peterson, an expert language creator from the Language Creation Society (LCS), has been chosen to create the Dothraki language for HBO’s upcoming fantasy series GAME OF THRONES, based on the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin.

When GAME OF THRONES executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss needed a language for the Dothraki, Martin’s race of nomadic warriors, they turned to the Language Creation Society.  The LCS solicited and vetted a number of proposals for the Dothraki language from its pool of experts, with Peterson’s proposal ultimately being selected by the GAME OF THRONES production team.

Peterson drew inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s description of the language, as well as from such languages as Russian, Turkish, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili.  However, the Dothraki language is no mere hodgepodge, babble or pidgin.  It has its own unique sound, extensive vocabulary of more than 1,800 words and complex grammatical structure.

“In designing Dothraki, I wanted to remain as faithful as possible to the extant material in George R.R. Martin’s series,” says Peterson.  “Though there isn’t a lot of data, there is evidence of a dominant word order [subject-verb-object], of adjectives appearing after nouns, and of the lack of a copula [‘to be’].  I’ve remained faithful to these elements, creating a sound aesthetic that will be familiar to readers, while giving the language depth and authenticity.  My fondest desire is for fans of the series to look at a word from the Dothraki language and be unable to tell if it came from the books or from me — and for viewers not even to realize it’s a constructed language.”

“We’re tremendously excited to be working with David and the LCS,” says producer D.B. Weiss.  “The language he’s devised is phenomenal.  It captures the essence of the Dothraki, and brings another level of richness to their world.  We look forward to his first collection of Dothraki love sonnets.”

Did you know?  (Hash yer ray nesi?)

The name for the Dothraki people — and their language — derives from the verb “dothralat” (“to ride”).

The Dothraki have four different words for “carry,” three for “push,” three for “pull” and at least eight for “horse,” but no word that means “please” or “follow.”

The longest word in Dothraki is “athastokhdeveshizaroon,” which means “from nonsense.”

The words for “related,” “weighted net,” “eclipse,” “dispute,” “redhead,” “oath,” “funeral pyre,” “evidence,” “omen,” “fang” and “harvest moon” all have one element in common:  “qoy,” the Dothraki word for “blood.”

Dothraki for “to dream” – “thirat atthiraride” – literally means “to live a wooden life”; in Dothraki, “wooden” (“ido”) is synonymous with “fake.”

The word for “pride” – “athjahakar” – is derived from “jahak,” the traditional long braid worn by Dothraki warriors (“lajaki”).

More information about the Dothraki language (and their love poems) will be released over the course of the series.

From a fan perspective, this latest news is quite remarkable because it shows the degree to which the producers envision the series as an immersive experience, bringing viewers into the living, breathing world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The novels only feature a handful of words and phrases in the Dothraki language, as Martin has noted he’s not a linguist and only creates words when he needs them. The television show is apparently intent on extending this, in a way not dissimilar to how the Klingon language was created around the nucleus of a handful of phrases written by James Doohan for the Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The number of words reported—1,800, with a detailed grammar—is said to be right in line with “language that is actually meant to be used to communicate.”

We believe we’ve discovered the original call for submissions sent to the conlang community. It was first posted on September 4, 2009. One can see that the details fit the series: graphic violence, a fantasy setting with some prepared vocabulary, a pilot with the possibility of 10-12 episodes a season. According to this page, David Peterson provided the most interesting proposal but other names are mentioned.. One leaps out at us: Bill Welden, a Tolkienian language expert who was involved in The Lord of the Rings films. On his Livejournal, Peterson wrote at the end of 2009 of 2009 that the, “biggest bit of unexpected news was the television job to create a language. Still can’t wait to say more about that. Come March, I should be able to say everything. This project, though, cut into my August, September, October and November.” He had posted some additional information at the start of November:

But, of course, the largest enterprise I undertook over the course of the last month (two months, really) was I applied for a job posted by the LCS. Without going into details, the job was to create a language for an upcoming television show. The application process was exhausting (took most of my free time for the past two months), and there were a ton of excellent conlangers applying. At the beginning of this month, I was informed that I’d moved onto the final round, and this past Friday, I was informed that I’d won.

....

Until someone somewhere leaks the information, or I’m given the okay by the network, I signed a thing saying I wouldn’t say anything about the series, so all I can say for now is that it’s a major TV network, and the show is, at this point in time, guaranteed a pilot (and I’m guaranteed work for the pilot). If the pilot is picked up, the show will get a one season run, and I’m guaranteed work for the first season. Thereafter, I imagine it will depend on the show’s popularity, the quality of my work, and the direction of the show. Still and all, very exciting!

On December 2nd he remarked that the job proved to be less work-intensive than he had expected, suggesting that the amount of Dothraki used in the pilot is not as great as first envisioned; or at least, the amount of work that went into preparing the “artistic language” for the show was greater than what ended up on screen to start with. Examples of Peterson’s constructed languages can be found at his page on the Language Creation Society website.

The Language Creation Society was founded in 2007 and it seems they offer language creation services for television, film, fiction, and other endeavors, with Game of Thrones appearing to be their first major client.

Correction: Dany Casting in the U.K.

This is what we get for being over-excitable at the moment. Below we discuss a casting call for a new TV series from a “Major American production company”, shooting to start in June, lasting 6 months. We assumed that it was very likely for Daenerys. However, a bit of googling reveals more details of the role:

“Description:

Playing age 14-18 years.

With the face of and Angel and the Heart of a devil, the leading lady in this groundbreaking TV series is from a Spanish family that have moved to Italy. Has to be very petite and Manipulative in nature. RP / Neutral Accent.”

At a guess, this is for Showtime’s Borgias. For the sake of completeness, we’ll maintain our full speculation below, but we’ll emphasize that it’s clearly wrong. False alarm!

Thanks to the sharp-eyed Rabbit, it looks like the mystery of U.K. casting calls for Dany—something we were sure was taking place, but could never find any evidence for—may have been resolved. There’s a notice at the Casting Website in the U.K. which states the following:

“Major American production company is launching a new TV series to be aired to a UK audience. Looking for the leading girl to star in this ground breaking production. 6 Months filming from June.”

Most notably? Closing date is given as March 21st, which implies a couple of things: the call must have gone out at least a week prior to that date, and perhaps longer, and that the U.K. casting may have already progressed to the point of narrowing down to a couple of choices there. Given GRRM’s recent reference to looking at audition tapes from HBO, we might assume they’re starting to get pretty close. However, we do know that casting is still going on in New York City, with head shots and resumes still being solicited for actresses.

It’s entirely possible that this is for some other show entirely, but the timing fits perfectly with what we’ve been told before: June start and ~24 weeks of filming. To be fair, the same might be said of Starz! Camelot, also set to begin production in June in Ireland. If we can get a definitive answer as to what production the breakdown was for, we’ll report it.

International Rights

George R.R. Martin clarifies the situation for international viewers, in regards to if and when they will be able to watch HBO’s Game of Thrones on television in their native countries. GRRM goes through a list of countries and territories:

Canada: HBO Canada will air it at the same days and times as in the U.S. Canada, the show will be seen on HBO Canada, same days and times as in the US.

Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile: It will air on HBO Latin America, though days and times may vary.

France: It will air on Orange.

Israel: It will air on DBS.

Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic: It will air on HBO Central Europe

Asia: It will be offered by HBO Asia to countries within their territory, but not all will necessarily carry it (in some cases due to content restrictions in those countries).

As for the countries not listed here… next week in Cannes, the MIPTV trade show will be attended by broadcasters and program directors from around the globe. HBO will have a presence, screening its shows and selling foreign broadcast rights. Game of Thrones will be on the table as well, and Martin says that in a few weeks HBO should know which countries will be opting to air the series.

New Audition Tapes

George R.R. Martin is keeping himself very busy, with Dance with Dragons, Fort Freak, and a host of other tasks and projects now that he’s gotten taxes out of the way. Among them? Reviewing the latest batch of audition tapes. This follows our previous report on the fact that casting is going on for the role of Daenerys Targaryen, which may or may not mean that Tamzin Merchant is definitely out of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

However, one other thing that hasn’t been mentioned very much is that it’s quite possible that casting has begun in the U.K. for the many roles that will need to be filled by the time late June roles around. As always, more information as soon as we get it.

TV Drives Book Sales

Variety has a brief report on television success for literary adaptions turning into publishing success. The obvious example is Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series which, boosted by the massive smash hit True Blood, have increased her sales across all her books. The article doesn’t mention the fact that all her Sookie novels were holding on to places on the New York Times Bestseller List (paperbacks) for weeks on end as the series surged in popularity week over week. We’ve had it at secondhand that sales of Harris’s books increased twenty-fold thanks to True Blood:

True Blood isn’t the only example, however. The Dexter series on Showtime has given the original novels (especially the first, which most closely formed the basis for the series) a significant boost, with sales having “have doubled every year since the series debut”. Another genre show, The Vampire Diaries, has helped sell a million additional copies of the series on which it’s based.

Random House is indicated as certainly being hopeful that HBO’s series will prove a success and will help fuel the growing fanbase for A Song of Ice and Fire. However, they do acknowledge that the significant length of the novels of the series—especially compared to the much shorter, lighter, self-contained Harris novels—mean that a greater commitment is needed from readers, and that this commitment may reduce the size of the boost in a series which is already very popular by any standard.

Fans Petition for BSG Composer

An online petition has been started by fans, attempting to bring composer Bear McCreary to the attention of HBO and the Game of Thrones producers. McCreary has extensive credits, having composed the music in part or in full for such series as Eureka, Human Target, Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicle (starring Lena Headey, cast as Cersei Lannister), and most famously Battlestar Galactica and its spin-offs Battle Star Galactica: The Plan and the currently-airing Caprica.

A Look at the Budget

After much research and math, we’d like to share our newest article: A Budget to be Reckoned With. Taking the facts and figures made available in the wake of the greenlight, we exhaustively try to sort out what the purchasing power of the reported £30 million ($45 million US) budget is compared to similar productions, past and present. It’s not a straightforward calculation, as average wages, tax incentives, and other such things have to be worked into it. However, the end result is that there’s serious cause for some additional jubilation: this is a big production by any reasonable standard.

The Appeal of Game of Thrones

The BBC has a new report examining why the anticipation level for Game of Thrones has been so high, interviewing fans and booksellers.

Of particular interest are producer Mark Huffam’s comments, reiterating that the natural, unspoiled beauty of Northern Ireland played a part in convincing HBO to set the fantasy drama there. He cites several locations as examples: “There’s the Mournes, Tollymore, the Antrim Coast and Shane’s Castle to name but a few.”

And from the article, just because it’s amusing: “The demand for suitably hairy extras was so great that some had to be recruited from local heavy metal message boards.”

Weekend Recap

This has been the busiest week for news about HBO’s Game of Thrones since the filming of the pilot, with a host of new information. To help gather all in one place, here’s our weekend recap of all the notable tidbits:

New Details from GRRM

George R.R. Martin has updated his official site’s News section regarding HBO’s Game of Thrones being green lit for a full season.

There are a couple of new, interesting details in his update: besides confirming that the plan remains for him to write one episode per season, and indicating he believes the show would air starting April or May 2011, Martin notes that a “return to Morocco is also possible, and other locations may be used as well.” It had previously been assumed that Morocco was going to be definitely be used to film the rest of the scenes on the eastern continent featuring Tamzin Merchant’s character, Daenerys Targaryen, but it appears that that assumption is wrong. The reference to “other locations” could mean that sites in Scotland such as the previously-used Doune Castle—where the fact that the site was open to the public led to certain leaks which were said to have annoyed HBO and the production team—have just as uncertain a future, doubtless for budgetary reasons.

Reaction from Coster-Waldau

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the Danish actor cast as Jaime Lannister, provides some of the first actor reactions to the media following the announcement of HBO’s pick up of Game of Thrones. The two articles are in Danish, but in summary he notes that he’s to start filming somewhere around July 1st, that it seems Tom McCarthy will be reprising his directorial roll for the first episode to film (which is something we’ll look into), and that though his character is “bad guy #1” to start with, as with other HBO dramas, things are rarely so black-and-white.

Our rough translation follows:

BBC Video Report

BBC North Ireland has this report  discussing HBO’s Game of Thrones, including an interview with local producer Mark Huffam (who reveals that Shane’s Castle was used in the pilot—a detail we never knew before, I believe).

One interesting detail? The Northern Ireland government provided a £1.6 million (roughly $2.4 million) incentive for the production, and promises more cash incentives for continuing production. As we have previously discussed, this would be in addition to the cut-rate price given for leasing the Paint Hall, and the tax credit that could equal as much as $6 million.

For those wondering about some of the footage shown in the video, the fantasy cottage/building featured at one point is from Your Highness, and is not something that would be used for the Game of Thrones pilot.

Shooting Schedule and Locations

An article at the Irish Film & Television Network provides some great new details about Game of Thrones from HBO.

It again note the importance of Mark Huffam, a local producer, in helping to land the project in Northern Ireland. More interestingly, an approximate shooting schedule is given—June through to December, which fits pretty nicely with the rumored 30 weeks of filming a source has provided in the past—and then a list of shooting locations beside the Paint Hall.

Most of them are familiar to those who followed the production closely: Tollymore Forest Park (where the opening scene, featured in the first official publicity still, was shot) and Castle Ward (where scenes of Winterfell’s courtyard and gate appear to have been filmed). However, a new name enters the picture: Shane’s Castle in County Antrim. The castle proper has been ruined for almost 200 years, but from the description it sounds like the estate itself may be ideal for filming of exteriors in wide-open spaces.

Tamzin Merchant in New Trailer

Showtime has posted up a new, lengthy trailer promoting the final season of The Tudors, and it features quite a lot (and quite a lot) of Tamzin Merchant, the actress cast as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones. She plays the ill-fated Katherine Howard, a young woman thrust into the arms of the mercurial Henry VIII. It’s this role that brought her to the attention of George R.R. Martin, according to previous remarks he has made.

Thanks to About Yea High at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum for pointing it out.

Give Your Casting Suggestions!

Now that Game of Thrones is greenlit, it’s time for fans to pile into the Casting Polls sub-forum. Forum member Smouldering Hound has started a fresh series of threads for suggesting actors to fill the many, many roles that may need filling as the nine additional episodes of the series start shooting in June.

If you’re new to Westeros.org and its forum, it should be noted that David Benioff and Dan Weiss—the executive producers of the series—are members of the forum, and while the pilot was rolling into production they specifically asked fans to pitch suggestions for roles. Our suggestion threads then seemed to have an effect as a number of roles cast were pretty much spot-on to names fans put forward, and hopefully this chance for fans to express their further ideas is going to help them to choose some more, great actors.

Some caveats: if you’re just signing up for the forum, please be patient, I manually approve the queue a couple of times a day (manual approval helps cut down on spam bots quite a bit). Also, when posting, try to focus on British actors—95% of the roles are going to go with actors who are part of the British actors association, as special exemptions are needed for non-Brits.