Does anyone remember Khal Drogo telling Mago in the first season of Game of Thrones: “The rain will fall on your rotting skin until nothing is left of you but bones”? That little monologue in Dothraki – as well as lots of other bloodcurdling speeches – wouldn’t have been possible without David Peterson, creator of the Dothraki language and High Valyrian.
For Geek Crusade’s launch interview, we’re talking to Peterson, president of the Language Creation Society. The
42 32 year old is also known for his work on Syfy TV series Defiance, where he invented a series of alien languages. Peterson has been creating conlangs, or constructed languages, for 13 years, having invented a total of 21 languages.
Geek Crusade spoke to Peterson over the phone last month, and he could not have been more gracious, informative and accommodating. When my recorder broke down JUST before the interview and I suggested re-scheduling, he was even kind enough to record our conversation and send it to me. And then he recorded the most badass line in Dothraki ever, which you will find at the end of this article.
Peterson told me that his involvement with GOT began when the producers got in touch with the Language Creation Society, asking for help with creating the languages of Game of Thrones. The society then opened up the process to its members in a, well, Dothraki-like contest:
Peterson subsequently created the Dothraki language based on 30 words that were already in George R. R. Martin’s books, and it now stands at almost 3,000 words.
While he has not had a chance to work with the GOT cast in person, he does record every single line on mp3, so the actors know exactly how to pronounce them. So who does Peterson think is the best at the respective languages?
While Emilia Clarke’s (Daenerys) Dothraki is “wonderful” and Amrita Acharia (Dany’s handmaiden Irri) was the best at speaking it, Peterson said he was most impressed by Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) and the way he speaks Valyrian:
“He is so good, that it just blows my mind. He’s better than me. It almost brings tears to my eyes to see him on screen. I love this man, I’ve never met him. But I just stand in awe of his performance, he’s incredible.”
Peterson added that he was highly impressed by Jason Momoa’s (Khal Drogo) grasp of the language, adding that he was proud to have the Hawaiian as his “flagship speaker” of Dothraki. Momoa made Dothraki his own by embellishing it with a regional accent, to make him sound “even more badass”, said Peterson:
And good news, language geeks: there are more languages to come in Game of Thrones, said Peterson:
“If you follow the books, at present, there is at least one more language that should have some sort of appearance: the Braavosi, which is another language descended from High Valyrian. But..at this point, the books and the show are diverging to such an extent that I don’t think there’s any way to predict if the scenes are going to remain intact…So if there were to be another language, it would probably be Braavosi, but I have no idea [if or when] it’s going to be happening. But then of course, there’s the question of the books that haven’t been written yet (laughs). So who knows, there may be another language we don’t even know about yet, that might end up featuring in some very distant season of Game of Thrones.
Peterson ended the interview with this exquisite soundbite:
And that means: “Go to Geek Crusade, or we will come to your village and burn down your tents.
What do you think of David Peterson and the job he did in creating Dothraki? Leave us your comments below and let us know.