Looking back, it’s kind of remarkable that Game of Thrones found once-in-a-generation mainstream fantasy success. Not that the series isn’t awesome, because it is. But “The World of Ice and Fire” that author George R.R. Martin crafted, and Thrones adapted, is a truly imposing beast. The show’s Westeros was filled with ancient, dynastic families with unfamiliar names. Not only that but the continent they occupied was intended to be the size of South America and was still significantly smaller than the Daenerys Targaryen-occupied Essos to the East, both of which had sprawling, complicated histories.
Thankfully, HBO made a successful bet that quality in storytelling would be enough to convince the usually fantasy-phobic viewer to commit. And the network is set to make that bet again with the almost equally epic story of a generation-sprawling Targaryen civil war in prequel series House of the Dragon. Still, despite the Game of Thrones franchise’s massive success across many TV-watching demographics, it’s undeniable that a big chunk of TV watchers find the commitment to learning dozens of characters’ names and their convoluted histories too difficult to invest their time in.
And that’s where the second Game of Thrones spinoff, Tales of Dunk and Egg, should prove handy. As first reported by Variety, HBO has entered into development on a TV adaptation of the “Tales of Dunk and Egg” – a series of three prequel novellas set 90 years before the events of Game of Thrones. Like its flagship series, the three Dunk and Egg stories (“The Hedge Knight,” “The Sworn Sword,” and “The Mystery Knight”) are set in Martin’s sprawling Westeros. Unlike the multi-character-centric main Thrones series, however, the Dunk and Egg tales center on only… well, Dunk and Egg.
Dunk is Ser Duncan the Tall, a lowly hedge knight who travels the country looking for quests to prove his valor and tournament winnings to keep his belly full. Egg is an intelligent, bald boy who comes across Dunk and convinces him to let him serve as his squire. Both Dunk and Egg will eventually become major figures in the history of Westeros (there’s a reason why Egg shaves off his distinctive hair) but for now, they’re just Dunk and Egg. As the continent reels from the Blackfyre Rebellion, Dunk and Egg travel the countryside, often unwittingly happening upon major historical events.
Martin clearly enjoys writing Tales of Dunk and Egg and had previously stated that he wouldn’t greenlight an adaptation of the stories until all of them were finished. Just like the main series, Martin intended on publishing seven (or ten or twelve) Dunk and Egg stories, but with his progress slowed to a crawl on The Winds of Winter, it’s clear that finishing the tales is no longer likely to happen. That makes Tales of Dunk and Egg a bit of a dicier adaptation proposition than House of the Dragon. The Dance of the Dragons civil war at the heart of House of the Dragon has a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. Tales of Dunk and Egg does not. And we all recall what happened last time Game of Thrones didn’t have a pre-prescribed ending in place…
Still, it’s hard to overstate just how delightful Tales of Dunk and Egg are. Game of Thrones viewers who enjoyed the “Westerbros” genre of storytelling on the flagship program will find plenty to like with this. Dunk and Egg in many ways are the progenitors of the mismatched buddy comedy duo dynamic that Thrones deployed time and time again with pairings like Tyrion and Bronn, Jaime and Bronn, or really anyone with Bronn. Dunk is a lowborn Flea Bottom resident trying to find some semblance of honor in a chaotic world while Egg is a highborn trickster trying to break out from his handcuffs of nobility. The dynamic works, and it allows for the two characters to enter into a diverse array of storytelling situations.
The first novella, “The Hedge Knight,” was published in 1998. It’s a wonderful, simple action story where Dunk attends a jousting tournament in Ashford in search of gold and glory, yet finds only trouble. (It’s actually quite similar to the 2001 Heath Ledger-starring A Knight’s Tale…which still doesn’t get nearly enough appreciation.) “The Sworn Sword,” published in 2003, is an oddly romantic tale about the smaller regional land conflicts in Westeros. “The Mystery Knight,” published in 2010, is a full-on conspiracy thriller, featuring many notable characters from the larger Thrones canon.
The best format for each of these stories would likely be that of a TV movie. Or perhaps even a BBC’s Sherlock-style series of three 90-minute episodes. But if reports that HBO intends to make Tales of Dunk and Egg a full series are correct, then there’s no reason to believe that can’t work as well. Westeros is big enough for a variety of stories. This time around, however, the limited focus on Dunk and Egg’s perspective could make those stories more accessible than ever before.
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