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Where Are They Now: A Ballad of George R.R. Martin

Behold the sensational tale of the writer who devised a masterful plan to captivate the world with the promise of an epic ending to his long saga, only to then … never finish it.  

Harrison Freeman

A year ago this week, Tyrion Lannister gave his now-famous speech, Bran became Bran the Broken and the king of Westeros, Jon Snow ventured north, and Game of Thrones came to an end. In honor of the conclusion of the last piece of monoculture, The Ringer will spend all week looking back on Thrones—focusing not just on its final season, but celebrating its entire eight-season run, reminiscing about its host of memorable characters, and pondering where some of them may be one year later.


[SCENE: A typical waypoint inn somewhere in Westeros. Firelight plays on the faces of road-weary travelers as they nurse their flagons of ale. In the corner, a BARD—a pink-faced man in his early 70s sporting a fine white beard, large wire-rimmed aviators, and an attention-grabbing black fisherman’s cap—tunes his lute. He strums a wistful chord and says:]

A direwolf, a lion, and a dragon all walk into a bar. Bartender says, “Well, I guess 15 million people are going to die horribly.”

[He strums another chord.]

That’s it. That’s the whole joke.

[No one laughs. He stops playing for a second.]

Say, anybody around here know the Jets score?

[A voice calls out, “Sing something already!” The bard sighs. He’s encountered this attitude before.]

Don’t like waiting, eh? You know, I get that a lot where I come from. I really do. People can be so impatient these days. They won’t even wait one lousy decade while you write the next part of a story. Well, all right, friends, I’ll sing something. This number I’m about to play is one of the oldest and greatest Westerosi legends of them all. They say Bael the Bard recited this tale in the hall of Winterfell just before he disappeared into the crypts with Lord Brandon Stark’s only daughter. I just made that up, but hey, that’s the beauty of creating the whole universe. If I say my dog’s farts are canon, the rest of you better get busy adding “phthththwhrfffpp” to the ASOIAF Wiki.

Anyhow. This is the ballad of how I, personally, came up with a plan to outsmart everyone, stick it to the doubters, and turn the entire American culture industry on its ear.

[He strums a chord.]

And it goes … a little something … like this.

[He opens his mouth and inhales as if he means to start singing, but at the last instant, he stops and says:]

At some point I might blog about this.

[Groans from the crowd. And one more time: Strum. Chord. Deep breath. Finally, the bard starts to sing.]

I’m a marvelous, mischievous planner,
I’m a creature of devious nooks;
If you try to deny that I’m terribly sly,
Then I’ll ask you to look at my books.

There’s the Red Wedding—maybe you know it?
That was one of my favorite larks.
I was smearing some jam on a sliver of ham,
And thought, “Why not do this to the Starks?”

Or consider the fate of poor Neddard,
Whom I killed just to give my tale heft;
I wrote a great hero, then made him a zero—
That’s how many heads he had left.

I can punish a lord with a pastry.
I can use empanadas to hurt.
Why, I once baked some guys into giant meat pies;
You should see what I made for dessert.

[The bard launches into the chorus of his ballad.]

I’m the man with the plan, I’m the man with the plan,
I’m the man with the beautiful plan;
I play such a long game, I should change my pen name
To “the man with the wonderful plan.”

Yet many there are who now doubt me.
They insist that I’ve lost my own thread.
I take one tiny break and they make the mistake
Of supposing I’m stuck till I’m dead.

So let’s look at the game from my angle.
Let’s lay out the lay of the land.
I’ve concocted a scheme and it’s gone like a dream,
And you’re eating right out of my hand.

I’m the man with the plan, I’m the man with the plan,
I’m the man with the beautiful plan;
I play such a long game, I have harnessed your blame
To the aim of my wonderful plan.

Phase 1 was to land the right partners,
Men whose minds were—shall we say—clear;
So all in a trice I found Benioff and Weiss,
The Brains of Castamere.

I knew they could film a fine series,
As long as they stuck to my plot,
But once they went past it, like Sand Snakes in a basket,
They’d tie themselves up in a knot.

I’m the man with the plan, I’m the man with the plan,
I’m the man with the beautiful plan;
I had some good reasons to torch the late seasons
In pursuit of my wonderful plan.

Phase 2 was to finish my novels,
While implying my word count was down;
Watch my audience grow through the HBO show
As I LiveJournaled on Josh McCown.

At first—I won’t lie—it was painful
To be looked at as if I were washed.
Then as I’d intended, when Season 8 ended,
It landed like shit on a squash.

I’m the man with the plan, I’m the man with the plan,
I’m the man with the beautiful plan;
If you want things set right, then guess what? Your true knight
Is this man with his wonderful plan.

You need someone to write a new ending,
You need someone to mend what is dire;
You saw me as carrion, but like a Targaryen,
I’ll return on a Learjet of fire.

I’ve been sitting on 2,000 pages,
Which 2 billion of you long to see;
And that number is more since the show was a bore,
Which means all of you REALLY NEED ME!

[He begins to speak, continuing to strum the lute.]

I wonder how the untold millions of people who fell in love with my work through a TV show that ultimately disappointed them are going to react when I publish … this!

[Reaching into his bag, the bard pulls out a thick envelope, which he throws down on the table with a look of supreme triumph. Then he frowns.]

Oh wait, no, that’s my rental car contract.

[He goes back to rummaging in the bag.]

I keep doing this. “Don’t lose the manuscript,” I say to myself, but do I listen?

[He feels inside his jacket, looks under the table, even lifts up his hat and pats down the top of his head.]

The point is, no writer in the history of the world has ever been better positioned to release a blockbuster of unfathomable enormity than I am at this exact moment.

[He looks under his ale tankard: no manuscript.]

Huh. Maybe I should have made a copy of that thing at some point.

[He takes up his lute again.]

Oh well, it’ll probably turn up.

I’m the man with the plan, I’m the man with the plan,
I’m the man with the beautiful plan;
I have laid out the hooks to sell 12 trillion books;
All because of my wonderful plan!