ASOIAF Theory: Dunk and Egg as required reading
If you discovered A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE via the HBO series Game of Thrones, there is a good chance that you aren’t familiar with the other series that takes place in Westeros, The Tales of Dunk and Egg. The simplest way to describe the series is as a prequel in the sense that they take place prior to Robert’s rebellion against the Targaryen King Aerys. Compared to A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast For Crows, and A Dance With Dragons, the three (so far) works in the Dunk and Egg series are shorter novellas. They were all published as part of anthologies by multiple authors, and as of yet can not be purchased separately or as an entire series.
Let’s take a look at the order of which all of the books were published to establish the theory that they are “required reading” in order to get the most out of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.
So we can see that the publishing dates of the Dunk and Egg series are interwoven with the main series of novels. That’s a starting point, but that’s hardly an indication that George R.R. Martin intends for readers to read both series as they are published, so lets look into the novellas and see what content they contain and how it could benefit a reader.
For this exercise I will work backwards, and give a warning to all readers. Spoilers ahead. If you have not finished all novels and all three novellas, read at your own risk.
The strongest case that I have for this theory is Bloodraven. I know a good amount of people who have read A Dance with Dragons, but a many of them ask me who this Bloodraven person is that I’m talking about. The title never occurs in A Dance with Dragons, and if your only knowledge is based on what you have read in the main novels, you would have a challenge to identify him. There is a passage in A Feast For Crows when Sam, Dareon, and Maester Aemon are on their ship headed to Braavos that the name comes up. Maester Aemon is describing his original trip to the wall with his honor guard that contained a future Lord Commander, Brynden Rivers.
So how is the average reader expected to piece together the connection between a brief reference from a previous book and Bran’s friend the three-eyed-crow? With a little help I suggest. In The Mystery Knight, Bloodraven is the hand of the king and feared throughout all of Westeros for having spies and informers everywhere.
How many eyes does Bloodraven have? A thousand eyes, and one.
This line is repeated over and over throughout both The Sword Sword and The Mystery Knight.
There are other references as well, to towns and tourneys that give back story or foreshadowing. For those who feel ill will towards Lord Walder Frey, here are three descriptions of him as a baby via The Mystery Knight:
The bride’s father followed close behind her, hand in hand with his young son. Lord Frey of the Crossing was a lean man elegant in blue and grey, his heir a chinless boy of four whose nose was dripping snot.
They met beneath the viewing stand where Lord and Lady Butterwell sat on their cushions in the shade of the castle walls. Lord Frey was beside them, dandling his snot-nosed son on one knee.
Egg stood before him, freshly bathed and garbed in princely raiment, as would befit a nephew of the king. Nearby, Lord Frey was seated in a camp chair with a cup of wine to hand and his hideous little heir squirming in his lap.
Hideous and snot-nosed indeed.
Lastly, and this dives into the realm of speculation, there are some who believe young Aegon Targaryen, who we meet in A Dance With Dragons, is not who he says he is. Or even who he thinks he is. GRRM spends almost the entire second novella, The Sworn Sword discussing the Blackfyre Rebellion and the battle of the Red Grass Field. Why spend so much time on one specific element of Westeros’ history if not for it to come back into current events. Many believe that Aegon is actually a Blackfyre. Similarly to Bloodraven, the average reader would be left scratching their head trying to figure out who and how and what makes this all possible.
I’m sure there are a lot more points that I have omitted from this theory (add your own in the comments!), but there are definitely at least the two that I stated above that make a good case that you should really be reading Dunk and Egg as well as the main novels. This is timely as the next installment of the Dunk and Egg series The She-Wolves of Winterfell is planned for later this year. We hope.