Essos is a fictional continent in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and its HBO adaptation Game of Thrones. Most of the action in the show, naturally, happens in Westeros where great lords and houses vie for power against each other. Only one character anchors us to Essos and it’s Daenerys Targaryen.
Exiled from Westeros following Robert’s Rebellion, Daenerys and Viserys (before Khal Drogo killed him) introduce us to the Free Cities and the Dothraki, showing fans both the familiar (from a Westerosi perspective) and exotic sides of the continent. As Daenerys consolidates power and conquers large swathes of Essos, we come across new civilizations, each one stranger than the last.
And that’s just counting the ones we get to see on the show. Other civilizations like the Rhoynar and the far east, almost mythical empire of Yi Ti.
All the Reasons Why Essos Could Be A Cool Spin-Off Topic
If you haven’t read the A Song of Ice and Fire Books, you’re missing out on just how massive Essos actually is. Okay, it likely isn’t as big as it’s made out to feel in the books because of the fact that Westerosi people are yet to discover circumnavigation. The world feels bigger when much of it is yet unknown.
But the point stands. Westeros is tiny compared to Essos and its massive empires and civilizations with histories that stretch further back than the ones we know of the Andals and the First Men.
The Free Cities of Essos Are Interesting City States
We don’t even have to go far to find places to explore in an Essos spin-off series. The Free Cities of Essos are rich with cultures that have stronger remnants of Valyrian culture as they used to be part of the Valyrian Freehold, a group of colonial territories controlled by Valyria.
Braavos, the richest and most powerful of the Nine Free Cities, was the only one to be founded by Valyria’s escaped slaves. It’s home to the fearsome Iron Bank, the most formidable navy in the known world, the Faceless Men, and hundreds of gods worshipped by the descendants of slaves gathered from Valyria from around the world. There’s Lys, where most people still look like Valyrians, Myr, Tyrosh, Norvos, Pentos, Qohor, Lorath, and Volantis. In Volantis, non-Valyrians are barred from entering a part of the city while Lorath was once dominated by a civilization of mysterious Mazemakers.
We Could Revisit Valyria Before the Doom
Here’s the Essosi nation everyone knows about, Valyria. Now called “Old Valyria”, the city was the origin of the Targaryen dynasty as well as the houses Celtigar and Velaryon. This alone makes it a place of interest but add to that the mysteries of what the dragons really are, how the Valyrians were able to control them, and what really caused the Doom and you have a recipe for a hit show people would watch just to get the answers they’ve always wanted.
That is if the characters that we witness Valyria through can survive it. Aerea Targaryen, one of Balerion’s riders, flew her back to Old Valyria where she was infested with Valyrian blood magic and returned disfigured and bursting with all sorts of monstrosities like “worms with faces”.
Or Learn About Rhoynish Culture and Nymeria’s Dynasty
Ever wondered why the culture of Dorne is so different from the rest of Westeros? They have an irreverent attitude towards the Seven, care little about distinguishing bastards from trueborn children, and practice primogeniture regardless of gender – an issue that rears its head in House of the Dragon.
All that is thanks to the Rhoynar, a people that once resided on the banks of the River Rhoyne which they worshipped as a Mother Goddess. When Valyrians came to conquer the Rhoynar, one of their Princesses, Princess Nymeria of Ny Sar, took surviving Rhoynar to Dorne where she married Lord Mors Martell. In exchange for providing her people refuge, Nymeria would help House Martell gain dominance over Dorne, uniting their houses as House Nymeros Martell which is why both male and female Martell heirs can inherit.
There’s already a lot to dig into about the Rhoynar and its diaspora, let alone what the civilization may have been like at its height as it was said to be just as old and powerful as Ghis.
Maybe Explore the Dothraki Sea and the Fallen Civilizations Near It
We spend a lot of time with the Dothraki in Game of Thrones because Daenerys begins her journey toward becoming her own person there. Though an outsider, she quickly assimilates into Dothraki culture, learning to respect and value their traditions. Well, most of them, she still has her own which causes her to push back against the Dothraki tradition of keeping widows of khals at Vaes Dothrak.
In the time she spends wandering the Dothraki Sea, we come across cities and civilizations that were destroyed and enslaved by the Dothraki. It was once home to what was believed to be the first civilizations and some characters in the books believe the Andals and the First Men originated from it. There are hundreds of unknown and unnamed cities lost to time in the Dothraki Sea that could easily take up their own season in an Essos spin-off.
Investigate the Dark Magic of Asshai
Asshai is a shadowy city in a far corner of Essos that we mostly here of in the show because it’s where Melisandre and the Red Priests of Rhllor originate from. It is home to shadow binders, sorcerers, and all sorts of practitioners of dark magic. Asshai seems to hold the most information about the Long Night and the magic behind the dragons, perhaps even how the Doom began and who were the people who taught the early Valyrians how to tame dragons. There’s even a city near Asshai called Stygia that’s said to be home to demons and dragons, so mysterious not even shadow binders come near it.
There’s also a strange theme in Asshai about buildings made of black, oily stone. This description is used for several structures in the books that are borderline mythical in nature. These are the Seastone Chair of the Ironborn, a statue of a toad in the basilisk isles, a cursed city called Yeen in Sothoryos, the Hightower in Oldtown, the Five Forts of Yi Ti, and even a black stone that the Bloodstone Emperor of Yi Ti was said to have worshipped.
The black stone seems to lend credibility to the YiTish claim that there was once a Great Empire of the Dawn that ruled most of the world before the Long Night.
Discover the Truth About Yi Ti, Ib, Carcosa, and the Jogos Nhai
Beyond the ones we see and hear in passing in the show, there are the ones that are never really seen in the books. Yi Ti is said to be another ancient civilization that emerged from the Golden Empire of the Dawn following the Long Night. It’s an analog to Ancient China.
Then there’s Ib, an island far north of Essos populated by the hairy Ibbennese who are known for their seafaring skills and for subsisting on whales. They’re the Inuits of this fictional world.
Little is known about Carcossa aside from it being connected to Yi Ti because of the yellow emperor who is said to reside there.
Lastly, we have the Jogos Nhai who are said to shape their heads into conical shapes and breed zebra-horse hybrids called…zorses. They’re rival nomads to the Dothraki and are basically what the Dothraki are to the Free Cities but with Yi Ti.
If An Essos Spin-Off Happens, Elissa Farman Could Be Our Guide
There are several adventurers that are mentioned in the history of A Song of Ice and Fire but a few stand out from the rest. An Essos spin-off could follow Aerea Targaryen, who flew to Valyria on Balerion, or her mother’s friend, Elissa Farman.
Elissa Farman is the only person from Westeros to have circumnavigated the world. After selling the eggs, she buys a ship she names Sun Chaser before returning to Oldtown to look for a crew. Eustace and Norman Hightower join her, sailing west in search of the undiscovered lands Elissa Farman believed were there.
Far after these events, Corlys Velaryon begins his own journey of the known world, traveling as far as Yi Ti. In Asshai, he sees a ship he believes was Sun Chaser. Asshai is in the east and considering that Elissa Farman sailed west, he believes she may have been the first Westerosi to discover to circumnavigate the world.
Of course, Corlys Velaryon, Euron Greyjoy, and Lomas Longstrider would all make great guides too, but Elissa Farman would tie the events of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon much better.
There’s a theory running around that the three eggs that Elissa Farman stole from Dreamfyre are the exact same three eggs that Daenerys later hatches into Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion.