The question of who will end up on the Iron Throne has Game of Thrones fans eagerly anticipating the HBO show’s final season, which begins Sunday night.
Here’s a non-spoiler alert: The throne may end up on the Texas A&M campus as part of George R.R. Martin’s archives at Cushing Memorial Library, according to Jeremy Brett, curator of the library’s science fiction and fantasy research collection. Brett said that Martin told Cushing staff members that the collection could get a seat-of-swords throne that has been used in the show or in promoting the show, though Brett clarified that has not been confirmed.
Martin, whose book series A Song of Ice and Fire spawned the award-winning show, has ties to Aggieland that go back to the 1970s, when he attended AggieCon science fiction events. In the 1980s, Brett said, the writer and television producer was approached about archiving his papers at Cushing.
The 70-year-old Martin — who is neither a Texan (he hails from New Jersey, lives in New Mexico) nor an Aggie (he graduated from Northwestern) — was impressed with Cushing’s facilities. He called them “marvelous” in a 2013 campus appearance. He took Cushing up on its offer in 1993. That was three years before A Game of Thrones, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, was published.
At Cushing, a space dedicated to Martin’s papers is known appropriately as “The Wall.” Though it bears no resemblance to the massive ice barrier from Thrones, it is an imposing amount of material. The simple boxes and folders are a treasure chest of manuscripts, correspondence, artwork and merchandise related to the author’s career.
Brett said that interest in the Martin materials spikes when a new Thrones season begins or ends. Some people use it for scholarly reasons, he said, and some are students “who just like Martin and want to just look at stuff.”
A recent dive into some of the materials showed an assortment of goodies for fans looking for more about the Seven Kingdoms. The library’s earliest partial manuscript of A Game of Thrones is from 1993. Brett pointed out that one of Jon Snow’s famous lines — when he gave the sword known as “Needle” to Arya Stark — wasn’t included in the manuscript. “Stick ’em with the pointy end” was added later in the process.
Artwork is plentiful in the collection. Martin critiqued colorful images intended for a Thrones role-playing game, including a note that a representation of Catelyn Stark was off-target: “No, I don’t think this is Catelyn — Shae, possibly. But not the Lady of Winterfell, no.”
In February, Huffington Post writer Bill Bradley analyzed a draft of the show’s pilot episode script at Cushing, and how it differed from the version that aired. Among the notable deviations he found are a scene featuring an inebriated Snow, and chattering White Walkers speaking some sort of “language of ice.” Brett said it’s an example of what pursuits the material can inspire. But when asked about the discovery, he said that’s not the proper description.
“It’s funny, ‘discovery’ is an interesting word,” he said. “These articles periodically pop up — ‘Ooh, something was discovered in the archives.’ Archivists are like, ‘It wasn’t discovered; we knew it was there.’ I guess it’s a rediscovery. But that’s great. That’s why we’re here, so people can find this stuff and use it, and use it for things that we wouldn’t have thought of.”
Toys, small statues, weapons and even one of Martin’s trademark Greek fisherman hats are part of the archives. There’s a bust of the Night King, and a dragonglass dagger like the one Samwell Tarly used to kill a White Walker in the show’s third season.
Full-sized replica weapons from the show and the books are on display in the second-floor Reading Room, including Arya’s “Needle,” Robert Baratheon’s “Warhammer” and Snow’s “Longclaw.”
Martin sends materials on average about once a month, Brett said. Some months there is nothing, sometimes five boxes arrive. Brett doesn’t know what’s in them until he opens them.
“It is kind of fun,” he said. “If it’s a really big box, it’s ‘Yes! Toys are here.’ ”
The ties to A&M have led Martin to several campus appearances in recent years, including the premiere of the third season’s first episode at Rudder Auditorium in 2013, along with a lecture, a themed dinner and an appearance at AggieCon. In 2015, Martin donated a first-edition copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit to the library, just one of 1,500 copies of the 1937 book.
Brett is naturally a fan of Thrones and the books. He said the Cushing staff has a few favorite characters, including Brienne and Arya (“We all ride or die with Arya around here”). He’s been surprised at the evolution of Jaime Lannister, going from a villain early on to something more noble. Character development, he said, is among Martin’s top strengths.
“The cliché, of course, with Martin is that no one is safe,” he said. “He kills off people you would not expect to be killed off. It sounds kind of like a cheap thing, but it’s actually a really important thing in fantasy, to take that kind of twist.
“Ned Stark gets killed in the first season, or the first book. That is actually a huge deal, because in any regular fantasy, Ned would be the character who survives. He’s the noble, just warrior. He fights for what’s right. … And Martin is like, look, that’s not actually the way life works. Sometimes, unfortunately, guys like Ned are the guys who go down. And the bad guys triumph. Not always, forever, but the bad guys sometimes win, and that’s the way life is. … I like the way that reality is reflected in his fantasy.”