It might be Westeros’s heroes’ last night alive: Time for wine, time for conversation, and time for a song. When Tyrion Lannister called for music amid a fireside chat with comrades in the latest Game of Thrones episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” it was the shy squire Podrick Payne who answered his call. “High in the halls of the kings who are gone,” he sang in an unexpectedly delicate, pretty voice, “Jenny would dance with her ghosts.”
Those words, from the second book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, compose the opening line of “Jenny of Oldstones,” a song that’s referenced throughout the Martin saga. In Westeros history, Jenny was a common woman whom Duncan Targaryen fell in love with and married, thus triggering a war (he’d been betrothed to a Baratheon princess) and abdicating his claim to the throne (making way for the line of succession that would lead to the fall of House Targaryen). Jenny believed herself to be descended from the First Men, the ancient race who first populated the continent.
Martin’s books didn’t specify the full lyrics of the song, but the showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss filled in the blanks for the latest Thrones episode. Podrick sings of Jenny dancing with the ghosts of those she’d loved and lost “through the day / And into the night through the snow that swept through the hall / From winter to summer and winter again / ’Til the walls did crumble and fall.” As he sings, viewers see a series of tender moments between characters amid preparation for humanity’s stand against the army of the dead.
The song’s slow and lilting melody was written by Ramin Djawadi, the composer for all of Thrones’ music, including the thrumming title theme and the string-laden episodic scores. Only a few other examples of lyrical (and diegetic) tunes have shown up previously on Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere,” the Lannister war song, and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” a bawdy drinking tune. I met with Djawadi last year for a glimpse at his process, and after hearing the new song—as well as its haunting cover by Florence and the Machine—I spoke with him again, this time about the musical material heard thus far in Thrones’ final season. This conversation has been edited.