The True Winterfell according to the books
October 9, 2019 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Winterfell is bigger than Game of Thrones would have you believe. A Song of Ice and Fire's Winterfell is actually fucking gargantuan, as seen in this realistic full 3D model by Shadiversity.
posted by Foci for Analysis (33 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reminds me of hearing an interview with the designers of one of the Game of Thrones video games where they described showing their version of The Wall to George RR Martin, and him being flabbergasted and horrified by its scale: "But we made it exactly to the dimensions you described!" "I made it too big!" (IIRC the books describe it as being a mile or two high, so imagine something several times higher than the world's highest skyscrapers, and hundreds of miles long.)

I feel like this is just endemic in fantasy and sci-fi. Lots of writers like to throw around big numbers because they sound impressive without actually thinking about what those numbers mean. (See also: every fantasy or sci-fi story that has a society or organization that persists in recognizable form across tens of thousands of years, which is like expecting modern Egyptians to still be building pyramids with primitive tools and worshipping Osiris, except the Pyramids were only build about 4500 years ago.)
posted by firechicago at 9:33 AM on October 9 [9 favorites]


That was fascinating but I would have liked to first seen as it is accurately portrayed in the book and then with his modifications. It got a little confusing for a bit. Thanks for posting though as I love geeky people who just geek out on the internet about the thing they are thrilled about. I've always been drawn to building games and ideas of what my dream castle would be like.
posted by kanata at 9:51 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


DRAGONFIRE CANNOT MELT STONE TOWERS !!!!

ASK MAESTERS ABOUT TRUTH BEHIND HARRENHALL !!!!!

WHAT DONT THEY WANT YOU TO KNOW !!!!
posted by lalochezia at 9:53 AM on October 9 [26 favorites]


I feel like this is just endemic in fantasy and sci-fi. Lots of writers like to throw around big numbers because they sound impressive without actually thinking about what those numbers mean.

Star Wars is certainly guilty of this. The original Death Star supposedly had a crew complement of 1,179,293, an oddly specific number broken out into the even more specific 265,675, plus 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew. That's almost exactly the population of Dallas. (Does Dallas have Stormtroopers? I don't know.)

I mean honestly, what the hell were all those people supposedly doing? Just the food and water alone!

Okay, granted, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier has a crew of 6,012 including the air wing. (Also an oddly specific number.) So scale one of those up to the size of a small moon, and maybe that's where they got these numbers. But still, it just sounds ridiculous!
posted by Naberius at 10:47 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Lots of writers like to throw around big numbers because they sound impressive without actually thinking about what those numbers mean.
The ASoIF number that trips me up is the sheer size of Westeros. I love the books but when I think of how fvcking big the land is I just can't suspend disbelief about a ca-15th-century English style society being able to hang together over those distances, even with carrier-raven communications.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 10:56 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]


I mean honestly, what the hell were all those people supposedly doing? Just the food and water alone!

Keeping the local systems in line through fear: Fear of being made to serve on that battlestation, with its lack of logistical support. I mean, sure, its a technological terror, but its power is insignificant compared to the power of the supply chain.
posted by nubs at 10:59 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


That anecdote about GRRM's reaction to the Wall's stupendous scale is fantastic.

I don't have access to it at the moment, but in an article - maybe his Postscript to the Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco relates that in his zeal for accuracy in world-building, he tried to make conversations between two walking monks the right length for the distance between various buildings in the Abbey of the Rose.
posted by Caxton1476 at 11:04 AM on October 9 [19 favorites]


The titular throne is as big as a hill.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:45 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


This is so cool! They should make a TV show.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:26 PM on October 9 [5 favorites]


Sometime last year I went down the rabbit hole watching this guys castle videos. He's always just a little bit over enthusiastic but it's lots of fun watching him go into castle design and tear into movie castles. Reminds me of Spacedock's videos about spaceship design. Good nerdery.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:50 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of hearing an interview with the designers of one of the Game of Thrones video games where they described showing their version of The Wall to George RR Martin, and him being flabbergasted and horrified by its scale: "But we made it exactly to the dimensions you described!" "I made it too big!" (IIRC the books describe it as being a mile or two high, so imagine something several times higher than the world's highest skyscrapers, and hundreds of miles long.)

I'm pretty sure it's specified in one of the books ( I suppose the first one) that the wall is 700 feet high; that was stuck in my head when I was doing an art history seminar on architecture, so I spent a lot of time using skyscrapers to contextualize it. So! The trio of tallest buildings in Minneapolis are all about 775 feet high; if you look at this panorama, the brownish shitsack to the left that's a step down in height from the 3 tallest is about 670. So the wall would be between those heights.

Not a mile, but also not really a useful height for defense. I don't think you could get much done with a bow and arrow from that distance.
posted by COBRA! at 1:02 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


This is why the next book is taking so long. He is stuck visualizing the endless context.
posted by srboisvert at 1:33 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


See also: every fantasy or sci-fi story that has a society or organization that persists in recognizable form across tens of thousands of years, which is like expecting modern Egyptians to still be building pyramids with primitive tools and worshipping Osiris, except the Pyramids were only build about 4500 years ago.

The first pyramid built in ancient Egypt was the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara in 2667–2648 BC. At Saqqara, you can still see graffiti left by tourists during the 18th and 19th Dynasties, i.e. in 1550–1189 BC, when the pyramid was already well over a thousand years old.

To Cleopatra, the the oldest pyramids were some 2600 years old, built further in time from her than she is from us, yet the writing and religious symbols found on them would still have been familiar to her.

The worship of Osiris dates to at least the early 4th dynasty, and continued at Philae until at least the 450s CE.

The ancient Egyptian civilisation persisted in very recognizable form for some 3000 years, a hundred generations of pharohs.

In a setting that doesn't involve major technological changes, or the effects of external forces, I see little reason to assume that societies and organisations shouldn't persist in recognisable form across many thousands of years.
posted by automatronic at 2:04 PM on October 9 [13 favorites]


This reminds me of the 19thC people who tried to reconstruct models of Noah’s Ark and the Tabernacle and the pre-destruction Temple from scriptural measurements, then going to great lengths not to have to say hmmm, actually that’s a pretty shitty boat
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:20 PM on October 9 [7 favorites]


Can someone post some time markers for those who can't/won't watch a 42 minute video on this? Please and thank you!
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:05 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm sorry, it looks like if I click on the video here instead of watching it on YouTube it starts at around minute 23? When I first clicked somehow it took me to the beginning.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:06 PM on October 9


Sorry antipodeans, but is that a fake Kiwi accent or a fake Aussie accent?
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 6:55 PM on October 9


Naberius: The Death star is the size of a moon. Wiki says it has a diameter of between 140 and 160 km. Splitting the difference this gives a volume of 1,770,000 cubic km. My best estimate from googling is that an aircraft carrier is about 0.002 cubic km. I think there will be enough for the crew of the Death Star to be getting on with.

The real problem with picking huge numbers is not that they're absurd, but that authors don't actually follow through. The Death Star works because it gives you as sense that the Evil Galactic Empire most definitely all three of those things. It has unimaginable resources available.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:10 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


I can feel myself sliding down the rabbit hole just from the first 10 minutes. What a great topic! I’m a big Sims player, so the idea of designing and building castles in a CAD program is right up my alley. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:37 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Much of the crew of the Death Star is probably involved in the Environmental Systems. Water reclamation, aero- and hydroponics, vast holds of plants and algae that process the carbon dioxide into oxygen, and the poor bastards who have to clear out the dianoga from the waste processing systems.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 11:15 PM on October 9


Can someone post some time markers for those who can't/won't watch a 42 minute video on this?

Not really, and that's kind of the problem here: super interesting topic narrated by someone who says everything three times with varying emphasis to make sure you got the point. There's a really tightly edited 15 minute struggled to escape a bloated 41 minute exercise in prolixity.
posted by fatbird at 11:16 PM on October 9 [5 favorites]


Sorry antipodeans, but is that a fake Kiwi accent or a fake Aussie accent?
Conrad-Casserole I am an Australian and to me he sounds like another Australian. I don't think it's fake, I think it's just Cultivated Australian. Which would make sense since that's an accent people use, consciously or unconsciously, for presenting or public speaking.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:29 AM on October 10


There's a really tightly edited 15 minute struggled to escape a bloated 41 minute...

This sums up a lot of his videos. He knows the material, and is clearly passionate about it, but even those that intersects and overlaps my own nerdiness are sometimes hard slogs.

I wonder what his fiction book is like, having been presumably subjected to a professional editor?

(edit - Amazon reviews for his book are.... decidedly mixed....)
posted by Paladin1138 at 4:09 AM on October 10


The real problem with picking huge numbers is not that they're absurd, but that authors don't actually follow through. The Death Star works because it gives you as sense that the Evil Galactic Empire most definitely all three of those things. It has unimaginable resources available.

The real problem is that the Death Star is a really dumb idea that looks cool. Like most of Star Wars. If you wanted to kill all life on a planet you'd just put some thrusters on dumb mass like an asteroid and accelerate it to high speed.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:46 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


I hope you like stairs...
posted by Meatbomb at 8:44 AM on October 10


"The real problem is that the Death Star is a really dumb idea that looks cool. Like most of Star Wars. If you wanted to kill all life on a planet you'd just put some thrusters on dumb mass like an asteroid and accelerate it to high speed."

Yeah but then you have to find an asteroid for every single planet you wanted to threaten and those don't just grow on trees, you know? Far easier to trudge an entire that's-no-moon from one doomed planet to another.
posted by komara at 8:58 AM on October 10


The real problem is that the Death Star is a really dumb idea that looks cool. Like most of Star Wars.

Which actually makes a whole lot of sense. The portrayal of the Empire has always drawn heavily on the Third Reich, which was notorious for its ridiculously oversized / overpowered "Wunderwaffen" projects. These appealed to Hitler, but - when they even managed to be successfully constructed - frequently turned out to be utterly impractical, inefficient and vulnerable on the battlefield.

And the Death Stars demonstrate this perfectly in-universe - they displayed impressive firepower, but presented large, slow to move and vulnerable targets to enemy "air" power, and were both destroyed shortly after being deployed. Considering the immense resources that would have been needed to construct them, they were strategic failures.

Much the same would have happened had the Nazis ever completed the P.1500 Landkreuzer.

Had the materials, crew and resources in the Death Star been used instead to build a conventional fleet, the Rebellion would have been wiped out at Yavin.
posted by automatronic at 12:40 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


Actually, pushes up glasses, forgets he got lasik, pokes self in eye, hopes you don't notice, planetary shields in Star Wars can shrug off asteroid strikes. So the Death Star does serve a purpose, I say, blinking quickly.
posted by BeeDo at 2:41 PM on October 10


This endlessly frustrated me about the TV show.

King of the north - WHAT north? All 30-odd people? That's not a king, that's barely even a landlord.

I'm planning a potluck for my neighborhood and used google maps. There are 70 houses on the two blocks I live on. In my neighborhood there are probably more people than the TV show's winterfell.

Where did they keep getting all those soldiers? Every battle, the entire force would be decimated - all x thousand of them! And then next episode, they "called their banners" and had thousands more from --- other castles of equal magnitude (aka 50 residents).

King of the north. Winterfell purported to be capital city of a splinter country. Capital city, and they didn't have enough administrative resources to levy taxes.
posted by rebent at 7:56 AM on October 11


Back on the topic of the castle in question, the books always implied one of the purposes of Winterfell was a place for the people of the north* to retreat to during the long winter, taking advantage of the glass gardens and geothermal heat. So it makes sense for Winterfell to be more like a walled city than a normal castle.

* - At least, like, 200 people.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:06 AM on October 11


taking advantage of the glass gardens and geothermal heat.

In the video, he included some hot springs but he seemed to miss that Winterfell is geothermally heated. He implied that they'd be using wood fires for all of their heating needs, which shouldn't be the case, I would think. It's an important feature of Winterfell!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:15 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Fiasco da Gama: This reminds me of the 19thC people who tried to reconstruct models of Noah’s Ark and the Tabernacle and the pre-destruction Temple from scriptural measurements, then going to great lengths not to have to say hmmm, actually that’s a pretty shitty boat

Mefi's favorite assyriologist Irving Finkel once got a Babylonian tablet detailing the process of building the ark of Atrahasis (one of the protagonists of the Mesopotamian flood myths along with Ziusudra and Ut-Napishtim), and what he got from it was that a) it was intended to be the biggest coracle you could imagine if you were a Babylonian fisherman, b) the scribe that put that down ****actually worked out quite reasonable figures**** for the materials needed. You can read about it in his book The Ark Before Noah or watch a lecture where he also tells of what happened when they tried building such a coracle, only at 1/3 scale.
posted by sukeban at 12:31 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


I mean honestly, what the hell were all those people supposedly doing? Just the food and water alone!


Making Penne a L’Arrabiatta?
posted by antiquated at 3:54 PM on October 11


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