Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?
George R. R. Martin (hat tip: Alex Tabarrok)
Fans: How/why do the winters and summers in Westeros last so long; wouldn’t that cause environmental problems?
GRRM: IDK, MAGIC.
also, completely different climate conditions somehow producing medieval-ish european society, what.
Last night my housemate and I were trying to figure out how much time has passed in the GoT TV series and were totally stumped. On the one hand, season 1 is definitely at least a year because Daeneerys has enough time to give birth. Also, she travels a really long distance between seasons 2 and 4, meaning… a lot of time…?? But then in seasno 4, despite the fact that we’ve seen enough time pass for an entire royal wedding to be planned and Jon Snow to recover from multiple arrow wounds, the White Walkers still haven’t arrived at the wall, when at the end of season 3 they seemed to be about half a mile away.
Why, in an environs with such ridiculously long and brutal winters, is there not more subterranean dwelling? The medieval-esque European-esque cities are drawn from cultures that endured milder
winters, they wouldn’t last eight minutes, let alone 8,000 years. Do the winters affect cities across the Narrow Sea, or are they just Magically Forever Desert? And how is it that their culture has stagnated for EIGHT. THOUSAND. YEARS? We managed to shit out electricity after only 5,000 years or so, how is Westeros perpetually stuck in The Vaguely Middle Ages? Wouldn’t some enterprising Westerosi have developed things like interior heating, maybe some hydroponic growing systems so that winter was actually survivable? For fuck’s sakes, the Minoans developed PLUMBING, and they were rocking out back in the 3,000s BC.
Plus, in a setting with multi-year winters, wouldn’t their entire way of life have developed into a super hardcore agricultural society with the mother of all storage systems? Fuck these little peasant farms, if they were going to live past a generation or two, they would have to have enormous agricultural setups, as well as highly polished storage systems, well beyond a basic medieval capacity, given that whatever they grew over the summer would have to LITERALLY LAST THEM FOR YEARS.
If anything, a huge, opulent monarchy wouldn’t have lasted for eight thousand years, because if history has taught us anything, it’s that you get, at best, sixty to seventy years of hungry peasants before they start revolting. How are there not more peasant uprisings? How have these asshole lords managed to stay in power, given that the peasants could literally starve the fuckers out. You’re telling me that during the long, cold, harsh winters, some enterprising farmer wouldn’t just add some fallowed rye into his tarrif, and suddenly BAM, hello democracy?
ALSO, the wildlife. Again, Earth-analogous animals would not be present, or at least those which live in temperate European climates. Anything that hibernated would have evolved to store massive fat deposits, again, to last several years, or else would probably not hibernate, but emerge to hunt in the winter.
Tolkien didn’t ask about Aragorn’s tax policies because 1) It didn’t matter to the story, and 2) He’d probably figured it out, but was smart enough to not feel like he needed to write several pages about it in order to feel good about how “authentic” and “realistic” his world was.
Additionally, from what I remember (I noped out in book three, which was admittedly a long time ago, so I might be wrong), ‘summer’ had multiple harvests — that is, crops were on the same cycle that they are in temperate zones on Earth. They grew to maturity in three to four months, and were harvested, and then another round of planting was done. So in theory, enough grain, etc. was saved from each harvest during the multi-year summer that the cumulatory saved grain would last through the multi-year winter.
Except that makes no evolutionary sense. Temperate crops ripen precisely because winter is coming; ripening is triggered by autumn. If you only have one transition from summer to winter, you only get one ripening. If you have one really long autumn, theoretically you’d get one really long ripening period, which is what would be needed for plants and animals to survive a multi-year winter anyway. You’re not going to get germination (spring), growth (summer), and ripening (autumn) in the same season if you have temperate-zone plants.
(Not to mention the problem of defining ‘years’ when you have no consistent seasons; even equatorial cultures on Earth have a wet season and a dry season that allows for a regular demarcation of time. A ‘multi-year winter’ is something of a contradiction in terms.)
Another completely illogical thing is that ‘north of the Wall’ is shown as being covered in snow — in the summer. If it’s covered in snow in the summer, then nothing can grow there. Ever. We have an example of a place that is covered in snow year-round on Earth, it’s called Antarctica. And nothing grows there. Ever. You can’t have humans, trees, deer, whatever surviving independently north of the Wall if it doesn’t have, at a minimum, an arctic spring and summer. Also you don’t get trees because of permafrost. You don’t get a successful human civilization and a giant wall made out of ice that lasts through a multi-year summer in the same place.
And the Night’s Watch really, really needs to start wearing hats. Does magic prevent frostbite?
I am completely fine with GRRM saying, ‘idk, just go with it, that’s not the point I’m trying to make’ when it comes to world-building, because I don’t think authors need to have a completely logically consistent universe when the illogical things aren’t relevant to the point they’re trying to make. But said authors can’t throw stones when other authors also have illogical parts of their worlds when those parts aren’t relevant to the point that those authors are trying to make.
Also, for the record, Tolkien did indeed discuss what happened after the main story ended in LotR: Gondor and Rohan ended up engaged in multiple wars with the remnants of Sauron’s armies for several generations. It was unpleasant, but there was no genocide. Eventually peace was hammered out between Gondor, Rohan, and the eastern countries that had sworn allegiance to Sauron. In fact, he even said that in a couple generations, it was ‘hip’ for young Gondorians to pretend to be orcs, because they didn’t understand the sacrifices their grandparents had made, young people these days, etc., etc. So I’ll say the same thing to GRRM that I’d say to Phillip Pullman: just because you didn’t read it doesn’t mean Tolkien didn’t write it.
(Source: jedsundwall, via dytabytes)