Westeros World Building Complaints


You know what happens when Game of Thrones is off our screens for too long, don’t you? Fans start thinking.

Now, much of the time, when fans get thinking, lovely things occur. Rhaegar and Lyanna love story videos, for instance. Etsy shops full of cool fan-made merch or deviant art collections spring into being.

But not all the thoughts the fans have are positive. Sometimes they do things like question Martin’s geography. Because let’s face it: when it comes right down to world building, Westeros doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Let fantasy fan and migration blogger Lyman Stone explain:

Image: Lyman Stone

"Westeros is pretty big. George RR Martin (henceforth GRRM) has compared Westeros to South America in size. Looking at the map above, it’s clearly smaller in land area than the European Union, though not much smaller. But this is weird. South America is about 6.9 million square miles. The European Union is about 1.7 million square miles. So we have a very big problem already, the author doesn’t seem to have any idea how large his world is. Whoopsie."

Personally, I’ve always ascribed to the theory that Westeros is about the size of the European Union. (I also ascribe to the “Planetos wobbles” theory of the seasons.) Stone also says the populations are way smaller than we think.

Image via HBO

"Rule of thumb, all your city population ideas, chop’em in half. Never trust pre-modern population estimates!… Most estimates put King’s Landing at 500,000, Oldtown just below it (say 450,000), Lannisport below that (300,000), then Gulltown (50,000), then White Harbor (40,000). Let’s chop that in half: so instead of 1,340,000 in our top 5 cities, we’ve now got 670,000 in our Top 5 Cities."

Also, the insistence on intermingling and and traveling, and the idea that populations all share the same language, is bupkis.

"In pre-modern societies, most people didn’t migrate. Ever. Most people didn’t really ever even travel, unless they were recruited for war. In other words, genetics traits tended to be geographically more concentrated than they are today. Likewise, linguistic traits were tightly concentrated."

Using Spain as a Dornish stand-in, Stone goes on to show that in our modern era, right now, a land the size of Dorne would have dozens of local language variations and dialects. For everyone to speak the same language in Westeros is nearly impossible…unless you accept what we already know to be true.

"All of that to say, Westeros is incredibly un-diverse. Because Westeros isn’t a continent. Westeros is Britain, blown up on giant scale."

Well, of course it is. Have you seen the sheer amount of BBC actors the show has? There are all of two actors who are not from England, and one is from New Jersey of all places.

"For GRRM, this appears to mean exploring an undiverse world killing each other while a looming threat of external diversity rises up to destroy the unsuspecting white people. Whoops. For all the climate-change analogies, “immigrants will kill us all” is a way easier explanation of the twin threats beyond the wall and across the Narrow Sea."

So next time someone wonders aloud why Game of Thrones is so popular in the US and the UK, fantasy being a genre that historically has only niche appeal, perhaps you should suggest that it’s for the same reason Brexit won in the UK and Donald Trump is a serious candidate for President of the United States.