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'Winds of Winter' Has Unicorns, Says George R.R. Martin, Which Could Mean Big Things For Davos Seaworth

Forget winter, unicorns are coming to Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin described the new addition to the A Song of Ice and Fire bestiary while speaking with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on National Geographic Channel’s late-night talk show StarTalk. At the end of a wide-ranging interview covering the science of wildfire, the perils of worldbuilding and Martin’s childhood notebooks (in which he invented a whole system of planets surrounding Alpha Centauri), GRRM dropped a single hint regarding the next book in the ASOIAF series, The Winds of Winter.

During the interview, Martin described how he tried to counterbalance magic with accuracy, creating a world with verisimilitude. “I tried to be very accurate, for example, with horses,” Martin said. “A lot of fantasy writers get horses all wrong. They make them these tireless beasts that can go anywhere and gallop for seven days straight.”

“You don’t give the horses wings on their backs, like pegasus,” Tyson quipped.

This prompted Martin to reveal that, while pegasi will never replace his realistic horse travel, something else will be joining A Song of Ice and Fire, a creature we’re almost certain not to see in the final season of Game of Thrones.

“I have an interesting take on unicorns coming up in the new books,” Martin said, then made a joking face, as if he’d slipped up. “Oops.”

startalk-grrm-tyson-a-song-of-ice-fire-game-thrones-winds-winter-release-date Neil deGrasse Tyson interviewing George R.R. Martin. National Geographic Channel

While unicorns haven’t yet been seen in the first five books of A Song of Ice and Fire, the mythical creatures have been mentioned in connection with the mysterious island of Skagos, located off the Westerosi coast, due east of the Wall and its oceanside castle, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.

Technically subjects of the Starks in Winterfell, in practice, Skagos is isolated from the politics and people of Westeros, with even notorious pirates like Roro “the Blind Bastard” Uhoris afraid to visit the island. Beyond the bitter cold (Hardhome, visited in a Season 5 episode of Game of Thrones, is located on a peninsula just to Skagos’ northwest), forbidding terrain and stories of cannibals keep most visitors far away from its shores.

As such, Skagos and its unicorns are little more than legend and whispers through the early books in the series. In A Feast for Crows, Samwell Tarly reads about how Skagosi lords live in caves and “rode great shaggy unicorns to war.” Later, as he sails to Oldtown with Gilly and Maester Aemon (who dies during the voyage), Tarly spots the wreckage of a galley ship on the distant shores of Skagoswhat remained of its crew now a feast for crabs. It’s possible the wreck is one of the two ships lost by Salladhoor Saan to the deadly Skagosi coastline, prompting the smuggler and friend of Davos Seaworth to abandon Stannis Baratheon’s cause and return to a life of piracy.

For the most part, unicorns themselves play much the same role in mainland Westeros as they do in our world, inspiring fables and heraldic banners, with unicorns appearing in several house sigils. Unicorn cookies are served at Highgarden.

Skagos and its unicorns only become “real” and central to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire in the latest book, A Dance with Dragons. In his dreams, Jon Snow has a warg vision of Ghost watching Shaggydog tear apart an “enormous goat” and “washing the blood from his side where the goat’s long horn had raked him,” which hints at how Martin’s unicorns may differ from traditional depictions. Later, when Snow lets the wildlings through the Wall, among the treasures turned over by the freefolk is “a helm made from a unicorn’s head, complete with horn.”

When Lord Wyman Manderly learns that Theon didn’t kill Rickon Stark during his brief occupation of Winterfell, he recruits Davos Seaworth, desperate to get Manderly to back Stannis as king, to retrieve Rickon. He was last seen with Osha, on the way to you guessed itSkagos.

game-of-thrones-davos-seaworth-winds-of-winter-release-date Will Davos Seaworth return as a POV character in 'The Winds of Winter'? HBO

Martin’s talk of an “interesting take” on unicorns in The Winds of Winter would seem to confirm that Seaworth is bound for Skagos, where we’ll see the creatures in the flesh. Seemingly more like mountain goats than horses, there may be other unique qualities to be revealed when Seaworth finally drags the creatures out of legend and into ASOIAF reality.

But Martin’s hints may reveal more than just unicorns ahead in The Winds of Winter. Each chapter in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga is written from a different perspective, with a different blend of point of view (POV) characters in each book. Sample chapters have confirmed a handful of POV characters for The Winds of Winter—including Arya and Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Barristan Selmy and three different Greyjoysbut no character with reason to visit Skagos. Martin revealing that unicorns will appear in The Winds of Winter may also point to a chapter or chapters from Davos Seaworth’s perspective (he’s been a POV character in three previous books), or possibly even something written from Rickon’s perspective, who hasn’t had his side of the story told so far in ASOIAF.

game-of-thrones-rickon-stark-asoiaf-grrm-winds-of-winter-release-date Could 'The Winds of Winter' feature chapters narrated by Rickon Stark from the island of Skagos? HBO

All will be revealed whenever Martin finishes The Winds of Winter, which will be followed by the concluding book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dream of Spring.

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