The Mysterious Continent of Sothoryos
In each new episode of Game of Thrones, we can see the map of the Known World in the opening credits. But while we’re familiar with the continent of Westeros, since most of the action takes place there, and parts of Essos, when we’re following Daenerys and other characters along their journeys, we know almost nothing of another, largely unknown continent just South of New Ghis and Slaver’s Bay.
This is the mysterious and dreaded continent of Sothoryos. It even appears on the map, but just a small piece of it; it’s northernmost tip. Almost nobody has ever traveled that far South and then came back to make an accurate description, let alone draw a map of the place. And since we know that G.R.R Martin is fond of taking inspiration from the real world and its history, we can be almost sure that the continent is immense; in fact, we are. Looking at the map above, we can draw some clear parallels to our own timeline and the maps people used in the Middle Ages, right before the Age of Discovery. It’s called “the Known World” and not simply “the World” for a reason.
With that being said, the action in the show, as well as in the books, could be taking place on a much, much larger map. From what we definitely know about Sothoryos so far is that it’s mostly covered in jungles, it’s extremely dangerous, it’s inhabited and has numerous islands just off its northern coast. Even though technically not considered part of the continent itself, these islands include the Basilisk Isles, the Summer Islands, and Naath among others. And we have only met a few people from these places throughout the show. One such example is Grey Worm, the leader of Daenerys’ Unsullied. He is originally from the Summer Islands, but was taken as a slave when he was really young, and remembers nothing of his home. Missandei, on the other hand, is from Naath, but she too was taken as a slave when she was a young girl.
But these make up just a tiny portion of what is the mainland Sothoryos. It is believed the continent to be at least as big from North to South as Essos is East to West; possibly even larger. Before Valyria was destroyed, a dragon-raider is said to have attempted to fly over the continent and discover its southern edge. Atop her dragon, she returned three years later reporting that there was no end in sight when she turned around. Sothoryos is said to be very lush and covered in dense jungle and everglades, containing countless crocodiles. The ancient cities and civilizations that existed long ago on the continent are completely grown over and hidden from view.
Those who inhabit the islands North of Sothoryos have told slavers and travelers stories of countless fierce beasts lurking within the tropical forests. Those who’ve tried to colonize the continent oftentimes died or decided to get the heck out of there before they did. An archmaester once wrote that 9 out of 10 people who travel from Westeros to Sothoryos will catch one or more of the many deadly diseases plaguing the continent. And roughly half of those will die because of them. Those who would survive would have to face the deadly creatures which inhabit the continent. Among these creatures are basilisks, tattooed lizards, vampire bats, giant spiders and snakes, huge apes and winged dragon-like creatures known as “wyverns”.
The tribes of people living in the deep jungles are known as “Brindled Men”. These seem to be a sort of near-human race of hominid, extremely violent and with no widespread form of political government. There are also rumors of cannibals, ghouls, lizard men and blind cave dwellers who may inhabit the continent. Beyond the known map, Sothoryos is known as the “Green Hell” and with good reason. In part, because people are usually afraid of the unknown and part because of what they already do know. However, some maesters speculate that these are just scary stories told by the people from the Summer Islands to slavers, in order to deter them from venturing too far south and attack the otherwise normal human civilizations which might be found there.
But this theory would seem unlikely, especially with the parts of Sothoryos we do know. For starters, there’s Zamoyos River. It flows into the Summer Sea and is particularly known for its green waters. These are full of quicksands and rotting, submerged trees; not to mention huge crocodiles able to capsize boats, flesh-eating fish, and worms which lay eggs in swimmers.
Just off shore, there’s the Isle of Tears, part of the Basilisk Archipelago, and the now-ruined city of Gogossos. It was originally built and ruled by the Ghiscari Empire, before being captured by the Valyrians. It became a penal colony for the worst of the Valyrian Freehold, to live out their lives in hard labor. Besides torture and all sorts of other savage practices taking place in the prison colony, there were even rumors of blood magic taking place there. After the Doom of Valyria, the city endured and even prospered for a while. Then, as if out of nowhere, a plague called the “Red Death” emerged in the slave pens and decimated the entire island, as well as the rest of the archipelago.
Another ghost city, this time on the continent is Yeen. This is an ancient city, built entirely out of an oily black stone, the same material used for the ancient throne of the Iron Islands, known as the Seastone Chair. The foundation of the Hightower is made out of it too. Who made them is a mystery. Anyway, even though Yeen has been in ruin for thousands of years, reportedly, vegetation seems to not be able to creep back in like in other places. Some have even tried to rebuild and resettle the city, but all attempts ended in horror and death. The Rhoynar, ancestors of Dornishmen, are one of these people. When a boat came to check on the new colony, they found every man, woman, and child to have simply disappeared. It was believed that the Brindled Men had something to do with it, but since there was no one left to tell the story; all of it is speculation.
How much of this is true, and how much is pure fantasy on the part of the people from the GOT universe, we don’t know. We would like to maybe find out someday, with some future novels and maybe even a movie or TV show. But until then, we can only imagine of the horrors lurking in the shadows of Sothoryos.
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