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Things Fans Want To See In The Game Of Thrones Prequel The Hedge Knight

Despite its disappointing final season, HBO's "Game of Thrones" remains one of the most popular TV shows in history. The series is an adaptation of George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series of (so far) five novels. Those books tell the story of the warring and collaborating noble families of the Seven Kingdoms against a backdrop of a supernatural threat from the North. Prequel series "House of the Dragon" — based on Martin's fantastical fictionalized history text "Fire & Blood" — focuses on the Targaryen dynasty roughly two centuries earlier near the peak of its power. And now comes "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight," which will bring to the screen the first of Martin's (again, so far) three Dunk and Egg stories.

"The Hedge Knight" will take place about a hundred years before audiences meet Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. The novella and its two sequels, "The Sworn Sword" and "The Mystery Knight," stand out in Martin's body of work. They're shorter, simpler, and, quite frankly, a little more fun. They also take the perspective of a commoner, not to mention the form of the (currently extremely trendy) lone wolf and cub trope. Ser Duncan and his young squire Egg go on adventures throughout Westeros. That's it, really. But many of those adventures intersect with some of the most legendary events in Martin's lore, and the ones that don't are still legendary in their own right amongst fans of Dunk and Egg. These are the things readers of "The Hedge Knight" are hoping to get in the TV series.

A properly tall Ser Duncan

"Game of Thrones" had its fair share of really, really tall characters. There's the Hound, who in the books is said to measure in at 6 feet 8 inches. The actor who played him, Rory McCann, is 6 feet, 6 inches. Then there was his brother, the Mountain, who was played by multiple actors but most notably by Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, who is 6 feet 9 inches; in the books, the character is even taller. There was Brienne of Tarth, portrayed by the 6-foot-3-inch Gwendoline Christie. Martin describes her as about 6 and a half feet. And who could forget Hodor, the gentle giant brought to life by 6-foot-10-inch actor Kristian Nairn, who held the door for Bran. 

"The Hedge Knight" will introduce another person of preposterous stature to the "Game of Thrones" extended universe. The protagonist and point-of-view character, Dunk, is so tall that instead of his family or place of birth, his defining characteristic becomes his name. Ser Duncan the Tall is reported to be nearly 7 feet by one account and exactly 6 feet, 11 inches by another. His size isn't just remarkable enough to have been preserved in Westeros' history books; it's also a comedic contrast between Dunk and his traveling companion, the diminutive Egg. 

Very few actors match Dunk's stats, and productions usually use camera trickery and digital effects to create such illusions. Among the fans' suggestions for Dunk are Henry Cavill and George MacKay. They're tall for movie stars, but not for knights; they're both about 6 feet tall, give or take an inch. Since Ser Duncan's appearance is so important to the story, many readers are hoping for a properly towering figure ...  which might mean casting someone relatively unknown. 

More time with Ser Arlan of Pennytree

Of all Martin's books, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" should be the easiest to adapt. "Game of Thrones" had to fit thousands of pages of story into Seasons 1-5, while "House of the Dragon" uses only a tiny section of "Fire & Blood" for its first 10 episodes. Both had to contend with dozens of locations and hundreds of characters. "The Hedge Knight" — which will almost certainly be covered in full in the first season — is about 150 pages with one main setting and a manageable number of central players. This means the show ought to be able to render the events of the novella at about the same pace and with the same amount of detail. 

But adaptations shouldn't be afraid to make changes that improve the story for the new medium. One area where the TV show could do better than the book is in its depiction of Dunk's mentor, Ser Arlan of Pennytree. Arlan is an archetypical "Thrones" character; like Davos Seaworth, he's an older nobleman and hardworking knight with a grizzled appearance and demeanor, good intentions, and a slightly mysterious backstory. But we never actually meet him in Martin's writing, and some fans want the series (which will probably need to be fleshed out a bit) to correct that. While some folks on Reddit have suggested starting the show with Ser Arlan, user skj96 thinks Ser Arlan and Dunk's relationship could be handled in flashbacks. 

Dunk's shield

Family words and crests play a vital part in the overall aesthetic and the narrative of "Game of Thrones." So do ancestral weapons like swords and shields. Ser Duncan's shield serves as the cover of some editions of "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," and it's a major Easter egg that supposedly connects Dunk to a beloved major character down the line. Fans like Twitter user DaFaRsHeR have long wanted to find out how in a series. In all likelihood, viewers of "The Hedge Knight" will get to see the origin story behind that shield and its design early in Season 1. The ultimate reveal, however, probably won't come until closer to the show's end, in a Season 3 or beyond. 

When Dunk comes into possession of Ser Arlan's belongings, he realizes that since he isn't Arlan's son, he cannot use the Pennytree's symbol or colors — a winged silver chalice against a brown backdrop. The problem is that Dunk isn't anybody's son. He was orphaned at or shortly after birth and knows nothing about his heritage. To become (or to at least appear to be) a respected-enough hedge knight to enter tournaments and find work, he basically has to invent an identity for himself. How plausible that identity is, both to Dunk and to noble outside observers, is one of the catalysts of the action in and one of the primary themes of "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms." And how Dunk comes by his new personal coat of arms is one of the book's more captivating subplots. The image — an elm tree under a shooting star — is quite beautiful and sure to adorn tons of official merch.

Sparks between Dunk and Tanselle

Besides dragons, palace intrigue, violence, and frozen zombies, "Game of Thrones" is also known for its steamy (and sometimes not so steamy) romances. A cursory glance through the history of "Thrones" relationships will reveal that most of them are complicated if not doomed from the start. If "The Hedge Knight" hews closely to the text at all, Dunk will have his very own fraught subplot with a love interest, and it's one that fans like Twitter user Jade Ramone are deeply invested in. When he arrives at the tournament at Ashford, Ser Duncan makes the acquaintance of Tanselle, a Dornish artist and puppeteer who goes from town to town with her uncle as part of a troupe of performers. Dunk can't get the statuesque Tanselle — whose nickname is Too-Tall — out of his mind. 

Even those who haven't read the book can probably guess how things go for Dunk and Tanselle, based only on the premise that they both lead somewhat transient lifestyles, and on Martin's tendency to rip lovers apart as soon as he gets them together. See: Daenerys and Drogo, Robb Stark and Talisa, Jon Snow and Ygritte, Jaime Lannister and Brienne, Missandei and Grey Worm, and Jon Snow and Daenerys. But that's not the point. The point is, Martin's best pairings crackle with tension, particularly before they get together (or even if they never do). Dunk doesn't have Tyrion's wit or Jaime's charm, but he's as much a lover as he is a fighter, and "The Hedge Knight" should let its chivalrous lead fall hard enough for Tanselle that he has something to think about as he wanders Westeros in later seasons. 

A truly terrifying Prince Aerion

The saying goes, "Every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land." The two sides of the Targaryen coin: greatness and madness. Dunk (and audiences) will come into contact with a whole new generation of Targaryens in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," and that coin flip wisdom will hold up. At court around 209 AC (after conquest) are Prince Maekar and Prince Baelor Breakspear, as well as Maekar's sons, the Princes Daeron, Aerion, Aemon, and Aegon. Daeron goes down in history as Daeron the Drunken. He's plagued by prophetic dreams and self-medicates with drink and women to ease his mind. He's no peach, but much worse is Aerion, who calls himself Brightflame. 

Aerion will probably function as the alpha antagonist in "The Hedge Knight." As Targaryens go, he doesn't inflict the worst or the most damage, though he's still completely vile and cruel. He's in the running for most mad, however. This vicious prince is really into his family's history with dragons — so much so that he eventually believes himself to be one. Aerion decorates his clothing to approximate the look of a dragon and dabbles in dark magic. To comp another fantasy series, he's like Gilderoy Lockhart crossed with Voldemort — a vain and charismatic psychopath with a lust for power and few scruples who fans love to hate. He's the antithesis of Dunk, who's kind and self-deprecating. If Max's "The Hedge Knight" gets their rivalry right, the series should be a hit.

More tournament action

"A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" takes place almost exactly in between "House of the Dragon" and "Game of Thrones." Dragons existed during those series, but sadly, they're extinct in Dunk and Egg's age. Will casual viewers still tune in for a dragon-less fantasy show? Some fans don't think it'll be a problem thanks to another massive spectacle — tournaments! Reddit user SerDuncanonyall points out similarities to the movie "A Knight's Tale" and other users agree that the grandeur of the tournament circuit should be a draw. Plus, without CGI dragons taking a big bite out of production budgets, that money can go toward making Season 1's Tournament at Ashford extra grand. 

There have been tournaments on Westeros-set series before. On "Game of Thrones," Robert, Joffrey, and Renly Baratheon all hold tourneys, and on "House of the Dragon," Viserys Targaryen intends to mark the birth of his and Aemma's son with one. The Heir's Tournament that's part of the premiere episode of the prequel series is the most impressive staging of such an event yet. But several prominent tales in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" take place at tourneys, which should mean they'll take center stage in the television adaptation. If done correctly, instead of montages of jousting and swordplay, "The Hedge Knight" ought to show the tourney in full and allow the audience to get to know and care about each entrant. Twitter user draxxys can't wait to see Lyonel Baratheon, the Laughing Storm, in action, while Ragnarok Falls is hyped for Baelor Breakspear. 

Puppet shows

Westeros isn't exactly an egalitarian society. There's a ruling class and a working class, and they're unmistakably distinct from each other. Though being of noble birth comes with its challenges as, say, Rhaenyra or Sansa will tell you, it's no picnic being a servant at King's Landing, let alone a peasant on the streets of Flea Bottom. One of the few contexts in which the landed gentry and the common folk mix? Live theater! Mummers troupes often perform lewd versions of royal history in the world of "Thrones," and for the rich and the poor alike ... especially whenever there's a wedding, name day, or coronation. Teenage Rhaenyra gets a taste of local politics when her uncle Daemon took her on a late-night field trip to witness a roast of her own family. 

As previously mentioned, Tanselle is a member of a troupe of puppeteers that's assembled to entertain the crowds gathered for the tourney. That troupe puts on what turns out to be quite a controversial and consequential show with marionette-like wooden dragons. It upsets characters in-world, but in our world, fans like twitter user SandraM are excited to see it for themselves. The creators of "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon" have done an exemplary job already with these types of stories within stories. Tanselle's puppet show is yet another chance for the cast and crew of "The Hedge Knight" to get creative putting their own spin on a franchise tradition.

An epic Trial of Seven

Just as the citizens of Westeros don't enjoy income equality, they also can't depend on a very fair legal system. For those suspected of a crime in Martin's world, the choice is often between corporal punishment or trial by combat. Lose a hand or fight your accuser to the death and let the gods decide (and that's only if you're lucky enough to be highborn). "Game of Thrones" fans have been present for some marquee trials by combat, mostly involving Tyrion Lannister. Bronn fights on his behalf the first time, Oberyn Martell the second. These scenes are some of the highlights of the whole series. 

Without giving too much away, Dunk finds himself in a similar position at some point during the events of "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms." Fortunately, he's more than capable of defending himself. Unfortunately, his adversary demands a Trial by Seven, in which both the accuser and the accused must assemble a team of seven (including themselves) to square off in what amounts to a mega-duel. This is easier said than done for Dunk, who isn't highborn and doesn't have a Lannister's money or connections. The Trial by Seven is the climax of "The Hedge Knight" and fans like twitter user Francisco Solis are losing their minds about the possibility of seeing it in live action. It will be the first time book readers will see a Trial by Seven on screen, with each knight battling with his choice of fighting style and weapon, and it'll put a number of the show's main characters in a life-or-death situation.

Groundwork for future seasons

If all goes well (and with George R. R. Martin himself deeply involved, let's hope it does), "The Hedge Knight" could be the first of at least three seasons of "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms." While there are some recognizable tie-ins to the author's overarching story in part one, most of the stuff fans are really waiting to see won't happen until much later in Dunk's life. Ser Duncan plays a pivotal role in the Blackfyre Rebellions. He's rumored to have fathered at least one child and is thought to be related to at least one fan-favorite "Game of Thrones" character. He crosses paths with the likes of Walder Frey, Barristan Selmy, and Maester Aemon. And he's present for the Tragedy at Summerhall... one of the fascinating footnotes in Martin's worldbuilding that hasn't yet been brought to life on TV.

Though Dunk's tale is relatively modest in scope and length, at least compared to the Targaryen history that is "Fire & Blood" and the five-volume "A Song of Ice and Fire," it offers a fresh perspective into key pieces of Martin's lore. Not to mention, Ser Duncan the Tall becomes a legendary knight in his own regard. We don't know if "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" will stop where the novellas do as of now or if Martin and Max will explore Westeros through Dunk's eyes beyond "The Mystery Knight." But we can hope that if "The Hedge Knight" is successful, this series (and other spinoffs) could eventually give fans live-action adaptations of more of their favorite book moments.