And the as-yet unseen location on Westeros or Essos fans most want to see is…


…Asshai-by-the-Shadow, the mysterious city on Essos that lies at the foot of the even more mysterious Shadow Lands. With all that mystery, how could it not win?

Asshai by the Shadow – © René Aigner. From

We should qualify that “visit” does not mean “travel to personally.” Our most recent Small Council post asked readers what location on Westeros or Essos they would like to see explored on the books or the show, with the qualification that it had to be a place the books or show hadn’t explored yet. Few in their right mind would actually want to visit Asshai, what with its greasy black buildings, complete lack of children, poisonous waters full of deformed fish, and close proximity to Stygai, charmingly known as the corpse city.

And yet, it’s those same oddities that make Asshai so fascinating. Something is very clearly wrong there, and the desire to know exactly what inspires readers’ curiosity. Just ask commenter ilovemarg:

"In Essos, no brainer, Asshai, the ancient dark city of secrets, mysterious denizens and even more mysterious history."


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Not that heavies like Casterly Rock didn’t put up a good fight. While Asshai is fascinating because we know just enough to pique our curiosity, Casterly Rock is fascinating because we’ve heard so much and want to see it for ourselves. Hopefully, we’ll visit it sooner or later.

I doubt we’ll ever see Asshai, though. George R.R. Martin is a canny writer, and part of the reason he created far-flung areas like Asshai, Sothoryos, and Ulthos was to deliberately cultivate an air of mystery, the better to add verisimilitude to his world. “Some of that is, Here there be dragons,” Martin said when discussing some of the more obscure parts of his world with Vulture. “It’s beyond the world they know…Even though Africa was known to Europe from the earliest days of ancient Greece, we knew relatively little about sub-Saharan Africa.” Sometimes, his fondness for playing with readers’ expectations even seems like trolling—he chuckled when talking about the complaints he gets from fans about the boundaries of his maps. “What’s this Ulthos thing over here? Is it just a big island? Or is it another continent?” Oh, George.

While it’s not impossible that we might visit Asshai, I think it falls under the umbrella of places constructed to give the world a sense of scale. Then again, it plays more of a part in the actual story than somewhere like Sothoryos, since at least one major character—Melisandre—hails from the area. Plus, there’s the prophecy that Asshai’i hometown hero Quaithe, pictured above, gave to Daenerys in A Clash of Kings, the one the Mother of Dragons is so fond of repeating to herself. “To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

Does that bit about passing beneath the shadow mean we’ll see Asshai eventually? It’s just another one of the city’s many mysteries.

Next: Filming at Riverrun clears bureaucratic hurdle, will commence next week