The man who crafted the languages of Essos for HBO’s Game of Thrones is heading to Arrakis. Dothraki and Valyrian language builder David J. Peterson is doing language work for Denis Villeneuve’s highly-anticipated Dune. Now, how do you say “the spice must flow” in High Valyrian?
Peterson, who previously stated he was in the middle of language development for Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Dune, discussed his involvement in an interview with io9 today. Though that’s pretty much all he could say:
I asked [the studio before the interview], especially because it seemed like every day you’re jumping on Twitter and, ‘Oh this person is working on Dune.’ I’m like, ‘Can I say I’m working on Dune?’ They said, ‘Yeah you can say you’re working on Dune, but you can’t say anything about what you’re doing.’
Though he did give us a small hint: “I will say this: It’s more than one thing,”
The main language in the world of Dune is called Galach, though it’s portrayed as English in the series created by Frank Herbert. Then there’s Chakobsa, a hunting language spoken by the Fremen of Arrakis, which is seen as a likely candidate to be worked on by Peterson (though he wouldn’t confirm). Other notable languages in the series include Azhar, a secret language tied to the Bene Gesserit, and Islamiyet, the arcane language spoken only behind closed doors by the Tleilaxu secret council. I’m crossing my fingers for all of them.
Peterson also confirmed to io9 that he worked on the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, though he couldn’t reveal any details on that either. He did say security was brutal this time around, unlike anything he’d ever experienced on a show before.
“This season I didn’t get partial scripts, and I would’ve been very insulted by that but it turns out the same was true of the actors,” Peterson told us. “I only got the specific lines that I needed to translate and maybe like a very, very minimal bit of context to set up the scene.” He also mentioned the security on the sets themselves: “When you entered and left the actual set you had to go through a security gate where you put stickers on the cameras on your phone, so you couldn’t even accidentally record anything.”
Peterson reflected a bit with us on what it’s been like working on this series over the past decade, and how it changed his career and life.
“It’s been 10 years, 10 years of my life, and honestly it’s changed the course of my life. That was the first show I ever worked on, and since then I’ve worked on 20 more and have been contacted on about 50 more than that,” he said. “It was interesting seeing it evolve from, ‘Oh, this is a neat show based on a fantasy property we really like’ to ‘This is a genre and era-defining show.’ It’s been interesting seeing that behind the scenes.”
As to whether he’s doing any work on George R.R. Martin and Jane Goldman “The Long Night” prequel series, which is filming a pilot for HBO this summer, all Peterson would say is he “may have been approached by a few” of the five Game of Thrones spinoffs that have been in consideration, and that he would love to work on any of them. But he couldn’t say more, for contractual reasons.
For what it’s worth, Peterson had already crafted some True Tongue—the official language of the Children of the Forest, who played a major part in shaping the events of the Long Night. It was set to be used in the sixth season of Game of Thrones, but got scrapped. I’m just saying...it’s already there. Might as well use it.
Dune is currently in production and stars Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, and basically every other major actor on the planet. It’s set to come out Thanksgiving 2020. Game of Thrones returns with its eighth and final season on April 14.
Peterson has been working on expanding the High Valyrian language course on Duolingo, which is currently available.
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