“A hedge knight must hold tight to his pride. Without it, he was no more than a sellsword.” – The Hedge Knight
George R. R. Martin has published three novellas (with the fourth due in May 2013 and many more rumored to come) as prequels to the Song of Ice and Fire series, and begin approximately 89 years before the events of A Game of Thrones. The short stories follow Dunk and Egg, a hedge knight and his mysterious young squire, on their adventures through Westeros during the reign of two Targaryen kings.
The first story The Hedge Knight follows Dunk to his first tournament, where he calls himself Ser Duncan the Tall to sound more knight-like (he towers just shy of seven-feet tall). On his way to the castle he meets Egg in the stables of an inn, and the young boy’s unusual bald appearance provides a clue to his true identity. Dunk agrees to let Egg squire for him, and the tournament holds many action-packed surprises starring countless historical figures that are mentioned in the later novels. The fighting ends in a legendary trail by combat, which turns into a unique “trail by seven,” where two teams of seven champions battle until every member of one team is dead. The Hedge Knight was originally published in an anthology of short stories by famous fantasy writers called Legends in 1998.
The second story The Sworn Sword picks up a few seasons later during a scorching summer, where Dunk has sworn to serve for Ser Eustace Osgrey in the Reach, an old man who constantly reminisces on the former grandeur of his House. Ser Osgrey often subjects the pair to misleading tales of his part in the infamous Blackfyre Rebellion, where the bastard Daemon Blackfyre Targaryen attempted to usurp the throne from his true-born half-brother Daeron. Dunk discovers Ser Osgrey’s river has dried up because a high-born lady known as the Red Widow built a dam upstream, and goes on a mission to get the water flowing through the farmlands once more.The Sworn Sword was published in 2003 in Legends II.
The third story The Mystery Knight takes place shortly after the second, with Dunk and Egg traveling north and planning to eventually reach Winterfell to help the Starks fight the rebelling Iron-born of House Greyjoy. On the way, they learn of a lavish wedding between a young Frey daughter and Lord Butterwell of Whitewalls, and meet a troupe of traveling hedge knights planning to joust at the wedding celebration. The prize for winning the tournament is an extremely rare dragon egg. Dunk and Egg decide to attend the wedding and join the lists, if only to sleep under a roof and eat good food for a few days. At the wedding we get a glimpse of four-year-old Walder Frey, who later appears in A Game of Thrones as a crotchety old lord who allows the Stark army to cross his bridge as long as Robb Stark marries one of his daughters after the war. While Dunk and Egg meet many knights at the wedding, two stand out among the rest: Ser Glendon Wall who claims to be the bastard son of the famed warrior Fireball, and a handsome and wealthy “mystery knight” who calls himself Ser John the Fiddler. The Mystery Knight was published in 2010 in an anthology titled Warriors, which was edited by George R. R. Martin himself.
The fourth tale is rumored to take place at Winterfell, where Dunk and Egg encounter the infamous Stark she-wolves. These short tales are recommended for anyone itching for the release of Winds of Winter, and those who can’t wait to immerse themselves in the fantasy of Westeros once again.