The geography of Game of Thrones has always been a bit mysterious. Despite the world’s magic, its fantastical creatures, and its long history, the society of Westeros is still a medieval civilization, which means that there’s still a lot it has yet to discover about the world.
While Game of Thrones didn’t have time to chart every part of the map, the show left the door open for Arya to find out.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 6.]
Among the big mysteries that goes unsolved in the Game of Thrones series finale, one stands out above all others: What’s west of the Sunset Sea, the ocean on Westeros’ western shore?
In the final episode of Thrones, Arya Stark concludes her journey in a way that only she could: by refusing to settle down, and choosing instead to live a life of adventure. So Arya, a character that’s covered as much ground in the course of the show as anyone, sets sail to discover what lies west of Westeros. There’s no Grey Havens for this warrior.
If the plan sounded familiar during the finale, that’s because it wasn’t the first time that Arya mentioned it. Back in season 6, episode 8, when she’s talking to Lady Crane, Arya asks what’s west of Westeros. When Lady Crane says it could be the edge of the world, Arya smiles and says she’d like to see that.
As we learned early on in the show, Arya is a student of history, particularly the history of any highborn woman who didn’t act like a traditional lady — or, as Arya would have put it then, didn’t act like Sansa. One of Arya’s favorite women of history was Nymeria, Princess of the Rhoynar, who led her people from the brink of destruction to conquering and ruling Dorne. It was this Nymeria that Arya named her direwolf after.
Another warrior-noble that Arya was sure to be familiar with was Rhaenys Targaryen, a fierce dragon rider and one of the two queens to help Aegon Targaryen conquer Westeros. It was said that one day Rhaenys dreamed of taking flight on her dragon Meraxes and flying west. While Arya doesn’t outright say that Rhaenys is the reason for her journey, she might have provided some inspiration.
But what is actually west of Westeros? Just like the characters in the books, the truth is we don’t really know. According to George R.R. Martin, the world in the series is round and a little bit larger than Earth, which could give us a hint about what’s to the west.
We know quite a bit about Westeros, where most of the story is set, and Essos, which many characters visit. These two continents are roughly analogous to Britain and Eurasia. We also know that there’s a continent south of these two that’s a little bit like Africa called Sothoryos (yes, really). So, if these similarities hold, then it’s likely that what’s across the Sunset Sea is something analogous to the Americas. If not, at the very least, anyone who sailed far enough would eventually land in Essos on its eastern shore.
The westernmost lands we do know about are called Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys. They were discovered by Elissa Farman, yet another highborn woman who sought adventure rather than the sedentary life of a lady. Elissa — also known as Alys Westhill — was once the best friend of Princess Rhaena Targaryen. But when the two had a falling out because Elissa dreamed of sailing rather than living on Dragonstone, she stole three dragon eggs and sold them in Braavos to build her own ship, the Sun Chaser. It’s entirely possible, though not confirmed, that these are the same three dragon eggs that are later given to Daenerys Targaryen as a wedding gift.
With her new ship, designed to travel long distances, Elissa set off in the Sunset Sea and discovered these three islands — a fact we only know thanks to a member of her crew returning to Oldtown to tell the tale. We don’t know Elissa’s fate, but according to a sailor named Corlys Velaryon, he once saw a ship that could only be the Sun Chaser when he sailed to Asshai at the eastern edge of Essos.
While we may never learn the exact truth of what lies beyond the Sunset Sea, west of Westeros, the show’s finale at least gives us hope that one day, be it in the pages of George R.R. Martin’s books or some Fuller House-like sequel series, Arya Stark will find out — and so could we.