A World of Ice and Fire Analysis: Chapter I (From the Dawn to the Doom)

It’s finally here! I only preordered the damn thing back in February of 2013, and now I have it in my hands.

Before I begin, a word about structure – I am not going to be writing a full essay per chapter, or at least not now. That would put a GRRM-sized dent in my progress in ACOK, and in the case of material we already know about, it wouldn’t be a very interesting essay to write “well, already knew this.” So instead, I’m going to write in bullet points, similar to how I did the Quick Analyses, in part because I’m going to be building on them for the sections of this book that we’ve been fortunate to see ahead of time.

So here goes…



  • I liked the crossed-out names on the dedication. Nice touch.
  • the Citadel operates a writing service for the poor, take in foundlings. Although not out of the goodness of the heart as much as out of enlightened self-interest and in this case,
  • Archmaesters are ranked by ring, rod, and mask – what’s interesting about this is that we’ve yet to see Archmaesters wearing any element of this regalia, and given that we’ve met some archmaesters not wearing their regalia, I’m clearly wrong in my belief that the mask was used to establish an element of anonymity, a la the masked lords of Waterdeep. So maybe more like academic regalia in the old European universities? However, I still hold that it suggests an extent to which the Archmaesters of the Conclave and the Seneschal are the real powers in the Citadel, with the Grandmaester being a powerless figurehead.
  • Maester Yandel (Elio and Lindaaa) got his first link at 13, and took 7 years to complete his chain. An early start and a quick learner for our maester.

The Dawn Age:

  • I like the debate over the age of the world; very much //ing medieval debates.
  • One thing that I noticed with the full book in my hand is which cultures are mentioned as having texts that the maesters know about – the Andals, the Valyrians, the Ghiscari, and the people of Asshai. The first three are to be expected, but it’s quite surprising that the people of Asshai have spread their ideas so widely, given how far away they are from Westeros, and it’s also surprising we don’t hear about the writings of the Qartheen or the people of Yi Ti (at least not yet) anywhere near as often.
  • “The giants living uneasily alongside the children, ranging where they would and taking what they wanted.” This would fit in with the mythological portrayal of giants as emblematic of hunger and greed (see the Cyclops, the man-eating giants of Attack on Titan, etc.).
  • Cregan Stark’s maester was into archaeology. Interesting…
  • I would give many eyeteeth to read Maester Childer’s book on the Starks of Winterfell.
  • Bran the Builder learning the True Tongue from the Children of the Forest, or “those who sing the song of earth,” which would explain how he built the Wall. So maybe the elemental theorists are wrong and the Wall = earth magic, not ice magic?
  • “Wed to the Sea: Being an Account of the History of White Harbor” – possible connection between White Harbor and Pentos? More evidence of the Squisher/Merman Conspiracy? Seaside regions developing sea-based religions?
  • The greenseers could speak with animals? Or even speak in animal form? Cool…and further convinces me that Bran’s going to speak with Stannis and tell him the secret of Winterfell’s walls.
  • I like that seeing the future is more difficult than seeing the past. Consistent with my arguments about prophecy from BLAH Episode 8.
  • The Children lived as far up as the Lands of Always Winter – possible evidence for the Others as Unseelie Children?
  • The Children living in tree towns – how old is the hidden village that the Lady of the Leaves lives in?
  • Gendel and Gorne mediate between the COF and giants, only 3,000 years ago! And that’s how they find the entrance to the tunnel….interesting. I wonder why Mance never sought out the COF?
  • I love Septon Barth as the weird uncle the Citadel doesn’t like to talk about. And the things he’s interested in…if it’s true the Children can speak with ravens, does that mean the Children know about the Grand Maester Conspiracy?
  • The third race? Squishers?

The Coming of the First Men:

  • arrival between eight and *twelve* thousand years ago? There goes the timeline. Maybe the Andal invasion is later than we think, but the First Men are ooooold.
  • Interesting that we see so little in the way of First Men presence in Dorne if they landed there first. You’d think there’d be archaeological evidence. And why so fast a move from the Broken Arm to the North? The ancestors of the Native Americans took around several thousand years before they moved off the Bering land bridge, and it seems like the First Men took a few decades at most.
  • “brought with them strange gods, horses, cattle, and weapons of bronze” – who were the gods? Obviously the Storm God and the Sea Goddess and the Drowned God, but any others?
  • Children of the Forest’s military caste known as “wood dancers” – I wonder how much Warhammer Fantasy Battle the authors played back in the day?
  • Greenseer magic – foresight, warging, water magic? Odd mix. I do like the rationalist critique from the maester.
  • Don’t think much of the art of the Children, they look way too human.
  • The Pact seems more interesting when you consider that the weirwoods are both living gods, ancestor spirits, and the future burial place of the greenseers. No wonder the Children were willing to give up so much to keep them.
  • Green Men extant on the Isle of Faces. I wonder who’s close to there?
  • Also, I’m really curious how Howland Reed, Rhaegar Targaryen, and Lyanna made it to the Isle of Faces if the Green Men guard it with nature magic so fiercely.

The Age of Heroes:

  • State-building among the First Men almost immediately, “forging the seeds of the kingdoms that are the ancestors of the Seven Kingdoms we know today.” Terrible mixed metaphor, but good to see social processes at work.
  • Given what they’re about to write, I’m surprised the in-universe authors didn’t note the weirdness of Artys Arryn as listed as part of the Age of Heroes, given that the Andals came thousands of years later.

The Long Night:

  • Btw, the attention to archaeology and anthropology in this book is wonderful. Really makes the imagined scholarship feel so much realer.
  • I love the way in which the Long Night is a universal myth, with different variations among the Rhoynar, the Asshai, the Yi Ti, etc. Reminds me a lot of the universal Flood myth that Neal Stephenson had so much fun with in Snow Crash.
  • The Long Night really was a world-spanning event – the Rhoyne freezing.
  • The “secret song” variant of the Rhoynar makes me think of the COF’s “song of the earth.”
  • Even more evidence that R’hllorism originated in Asshai, which makes complete sense. A people who live in permanent shadow would come up with a Manichean fire/darkness theology.
  • Woman with a monkey’s tail – super-Saiyan in Yi Ti?
  • Northmen definitely practicing voluntary euthanasia in winter. No wonder the population is more sparse up there.
  • I love the debate over the seasons, the idea that the seasons once would have been regular is fascinating. Also note that Barth argues the seasons are magical in nature – this guy’s research agenda is absolutely fascinating.
  • 6,000 years or 8,000 years ago, we’re still talking about a damn long time. And the Starks survived all that time?

The Rise of Valyria:

  • Old Ghis vs. Yi Ti as the first civilizations! Remind me again how ASOIAF perpetuates Orientalism?
  • Grazdan the Great // Gaius Marius?
  • The Valyrians claimed to be part-dragon….o.O?! Paging Maester Mendel…
  • The Archons were an elected executive from Old Valyria! Of course! I should have predicted that back in Laboratory of Politics Part I. Hell, I should have predicted that from Volantine triarch(ons)s! And of course the Free Cities would use the term (it’s like the Gaetians, the Genoans, the French, and the Greeks using the term Consul after the Romans)…so the main difference is between the republics is legislative vs. executive-dominated?
  • I like Fomas’ Lies of the Ancients – very revisionist/Beardian analysis.
  • Barth argues that the people of the Shadow woke and tamed the dragons! Gods, this guy had his fingers in every mystery. Certainly, that would explain the provenance of Dany’s eggs, Bran’s dream about the dragons stirring beneath the shadow, etc.
  • If dragons were so widespread in their habitat, shouldn’t we have seen more of a cultural/sociological impact? Or is it just without dragon-riders that they function more like natural disasters?
  • Confirmation of my theory that the Ghiscari culture was wiped out during the war and has been cobbled together like the ancient Italians aping the Romans. So who gives a damn about whether slavery is part of their “authentic” culture?

Valyria’s Children:

  • Valyrian slavery came from Ghis! Interesting, sort of parallels arguments about how Rome “accidentally” acquired a world empire after the Punic Wars, and thus lost its pure republican traditions.
  • How far east did the Valyrian Empire go? Further than the Ghiscari? How close to Yinishar and the Bone Mountains did they get?
  • Qohor and Norvos were religious colonies! I hadn’t thought about it, but it makes complete sense, given the importance of religion to both those places.
  • Lys and Volantis as colonies that bought self-governance makes sense – and of course they had been ruled over by appointed archons and bought the right to elect their own. It’s just like the way that provinces of Rome had proconsuls and then during rebellions proclaimed their own caesars and augusti.
  • Pentos and Lorath as initially non-Valyrian is quite interesting, I like the influence of nationalism on history. I do wonder why they didn’t mention Myr, given how differently Myrmen are described from Lysene, etc.
  • I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts, right now before I even read to the chapters on the Free cities, that Tyrosh was a military colony.
  • The slaver fleet of Braavos! Well, that makes sense – you’re not going to get to a city with the population of Braavos from a single ship. Also, you can really see the multiculturalism baked in from the start: “scores of races, a hundred tongues, and hundreds of gods.”
  • Interesting tidbit about the free vs. slave legions of Old Ghis. And no mention of the Valyrian legions…I wonder if GRRM regrets double-dipping on the Roman legions?
  • First inconsistency: Valyrian steel as folding and spells vs. alloy and spells.
  • Only 227 Valyrian steel swords in all of Westeros. Good to know the number.

Arrival of the Andals:

  • Iron weapons – no mention of steel just yet. Inconsistency or what? Incidentally, if the Andals did have steel at this point, that’s a much faster movement from Neolithic to Bronze to Iron to Steel than in our history.
  • I hadn’t really realized how long the Andals lived in Andalos.
  • Interesting interplay between the Rhoynar and the Andals and the Valyrians. Kind of surprised the Andals went first.
  • The Andals took a weird as hell path to Westeros though, back to the Axe, then northwest? There’s not a lot of Axe to go through before you hit the ocean.
  • The Andal invasion of the Vale being followed by a period in which Andal adventurers pour out of the Vale in search of kingdoms of their own does help to explain Lann the Clever.
  • What happened to Erreg the Kinslayer? I wonder if the ghosts of High Heart drove him mad.
  • Pour one out for King Arthur Tristifer the Hammer of Justice. Fighting the good fight.
  • Children of the Forest in the Neck?
  • I have no idea what the deal is with the Swan Maidens.
  • From conquest to consolidation – very much Saxon/Celtic interbreeding going on. I wonder why we didn’t get more religious lapses // the Ironborn in remote areas?

Ten Thousand Ships:

  • opening of the Rhoynar-Valyrian war seems very similar to the Punic Wars, with both groups brought in through their satellites.
  • the Rhoynish civilization seems…a bit Star Trek utopian, everything “lovelier than the last.” Is this being written by a Dornish maester?
  • Water magic! Ok, all of the sudden we’re in Avatar: the Last Airbender territory, and I’m kind of liking it. Watery walls – man, if only the Rhoynish had migrated to the Riverlands…Water wizards sinking entire towns, giant waterspouts raised against dragons.
  • Political disunity is never a good thing up against a militaristic republic. “In these conflicts, the Valyrians emerged as victors more oft than not. The princes of the Rhoyne, fiercely proud of their independence, fought alone, whilst the Valyrian colonies aided one another, and when hard-pressed called upon the power of the Freehold itself.”
  • Rhoynish-Andal conflict predates the Rhoynish arrival in Westeros. Interesting.
  • Seems like a very extended conflict: “ the War of Three Princes, the Second Turtle War, the Fisherman’s War, the Salt War, the Third Turtle War, the War on Dagger Lake, the Spice War, and many more, too numerous to recount here.” 250 years all-told, that’s almost as long as the entire Targaryen dynasty.
  • Old Man used to be Old Men. Amazing little synecdoche of loss there.
  • Sarhoy gets the Carthago delenda est treatment – three dragonlords are enough.
  • so that’s why Garin was known as Garin the Great. Hannibal parallel, with a bit of Phyrrus.
  • So the Valyrian colonies get virtually wiped out and then the Valyrians send in the cavalry – wonder why they didn’t send in more to begin with. Arrogance?
  • this account definitely makes the legend that Nymeria’s escape was enabled by a heroic sacrifice sound like gilding over a massive blunder.
  • So, ten thousand ships…a million people on board? Maybe two?
  • My god, the Rhoynar were unlucky on the way to Dorne. Reminds me a lot of the Odyssey crossed with the Aeneid.
  • Interesting that the Stepstones are Rhoynish. I wonder if we’ll hear more about Dornish involvement with the Stepstones in later chapters?
  • Nymeria’s mass marriage sounds a lot like a consensual Rape of the Sabine Women in reverse.
  • Possible Inconsistency: Dornish metalwork in advance of the Andals, yet the Andals are described as having steel in the Vale section.
  • On the other hand, let it be clear: the Rhoynish were more advanced than the Andals, who were more advanced than the First Men. Westerosi supremacy is a myth.
  • What happened to the Dornish water witches? You’d think that would come in handy in the desert.
  • The Yronwoods loved their titles, didn’t they?
  • So we have the Yronwoods backed by the Jordaynes (Sandy Dornish?), Blackmonts (Stony Dornish), and Qorgyles (Sandy Dornish) vs. the Martells backed by the Fowlers (Stony Dornish?), Tolands (Salty Dornish?), Daynes (First Men?), and Ullers (Sandy Dornish). Definitely not the Stony vs. Salty conflict I had thought it was.
  • The Daynes married into the Martells?! Fascinating!
  • 3 invasions and 2 rebellions. No wonder they call Nymeria a warrior queen.

  The Doom of Valyria:

  • Increased trade right before the Doom; probably due to the Dragonstone outpost. I wonder what the pre-Targ “schemes and intrigues” were?
  • The Valyrians delved too deep! Groan. Should have expected that.
  • Barth thinks it was a collapse in blood magic! Well, the Faceless Men whacking the fire mages would explain things.
  • The R’hllorites as anti-Valyrian is fascinating! And totally unexpected, given the mutual interest in dragons and fire.
  • The Free Cities took out dragonriding Archons? That’s gutsy.
  • Emperor Aurion – a fascinating lacuna. Very much getting the impression that: a. people who go to Valyria don’t live very long, and b. Euron is full of shit.
  • The Sealord of Braavos provided a hundred ships to the Lysene! Called it.
  • So Aegon torched a Volantene Fleet that was going to take Lys…
  • Man, the Volantines have terrible luck.
  • The description of the emergence of the problematic presence of the Free Companies is pure Machiavelli. Always nice to be right…
  • Mantarys – suffering from effects of magical radiation?

And we’ll end it there. See you soon for Chapter II!

57 thoughts on “A World of Ice and Fire Analysis: Chapter I (From the Dawn to the Doom)

  1. Wow, definitely I need to read this carefully….

  2. drevney says:

    So is this book Ice&fire’s ‘The Silmarillion’ ?

    • jreinatl says:

      If I understand correctly, there’s still going to be another volume, “Fire & Blood” that has a detailed history of the Targaryen dynasty, which is what was previously referred to as the GRRMarillion, and is planned for after ADoS.

    • There’s also the GRRMarrillion coming, but that’s more about the Targs than the world.

  3. nobodysuspectsthebutterfly says:

    Artys Arryn is explained in the Vale section. A lot of the Free Cities are covered in more detail later too. (re your Myr question.)

  4. somethinglikealawyer says:

    Gaius Marius = Graz the Great. Nice catch. The Ghiscari legions look to be the first standing, professional army of Planetos.

    As far as the Valyrian legions go, I would think that the dragonriders would go first, burning and disrupting formations, especially for armies in the field. The Valyrian legions might have been seen as a secondary tool of war compared to taming and training dragons for war. I’d agree that they have to have some infantry, since a single dragonrider can hardly hold territory, but maybe the fame and acclaim of the dragonriders (the rockstar nobles of the Freehold such as it was) meant that the notes about the infantry never survived the Doom. Especially if they were cribbed from Old Ghis.

    The Garcias made mention in their AMA on Reddit that they were big Dornish fans, so I’m guessing a little bit of that made it into their writings on Rhoynish culture.

    Regarding the longevity of the Starks, is it possible that, given the oral tradition, that at least at some point, there were no Starks, but someone who made a name for themselves said: “Oh yeah…I have Stark blood. I’m, uh…from his second wife who no one talks about. Argue with my axe if you don’t believe me.” Or is that a bit too far-fetched?

    • David Hunt says:

      It’s not far-fetched given the amount of time involved. The Stark line going back as far as it is supposed to is the far fetched option when viewed at from a realistic perspective. However, ancient lines that go unbroken into the misty past as a common trope of fantasy, so I’d go with the interpretation that the Starks have been the Starks since the time of Braden the Builder.

    • Yeah, I just think the Valyrian legions was over-egging the pudding a bit.

  5. […] Martin’s world-building. He may not be an Oxford don, but the details hang together.  As I delve into the details, bringing to bear the historian’s art of close reading of source materials, I’m not […]

  6. Abbey Battle says:

    It took me a New York minute to get this book in bed when it was delivered today and I’m not ashamed to say that I gibbered and capered like GOLLUM GOLLUM on uppers all the way upstairs.

    Please don’t judge me.

  7. Neil Young says:

    Remind me again how ASOIAF perpetuates Orientalism?

    Seriously? I don’t understand how you can look at the portrayal of Qarth, the Dothraki, or Slaver’s Bay and not see it as orientalist. And I have absolutely no idea how saying that civilizations apparently analogous to ancient Egypt and China are older than a civilization analogous to Europe would somehow constitute a refutation of accusations of orientalism. Plenty of nineteenth century scholars understood that European civilization was relatively younger than many other world civilizations, and still held patronizing, orientalist conceptions of non-European cultures.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      To be fair the Ghiscari are far more Mesopotamian than they are Oriental; I always think of Assyria when I hear the people of Astapor described as ‘bricks and blood’ (although the Greco-Roman influences, in terms of the Tokar and the fighting pit are also strong).

    • I go into this in more detail on my tumblr page, but yeah.

      1. As I explain in some detail in my Dany chapter analyses from AGOT, the depiction of the Dothraki is actually far more complicated than first appears, and is much more about culture shock and assimilation. The Dothraki are anything but simplistic portraits of barbarian raiders – they are adept at moving between cultures, they are both nomadic and urban, they play an integrative role in the continent’s economy, they have an entire ideology of manifest destiny, there’s cultural meaning built in to the very structure of the khalasar, etc.

      2. The people of Slaver’s Bay are primarily Valyrian in heritage, the original Ghiscari having been slaughtered/burned/enslaved. Dany’s war against the slavers, as I’ll go into in Part VI of the Laboratory of Politics series, is a war waged against her own ethnicity.

      3. As for the Qartheen, they’re as much a commentary on the Byzantines as anything else.

      Orientalism requires more than just east vs. west. Eastern cultures are contrasted against Western as static vs. progressive, undeveloped vs. developed, monolithic vs. culturally specific, irrational/emotional vs. logical, backwards vs. forward-looking, etc. I don’t think Essos fits that bill.

      1. Westeros is poorer and less economically developed than Essos. It’s far less urbanized than Essos. It’s an exporter primarily of natural resources and can’t produce the advanced manufactured goods it imports from the Free Cities. Its financial system is really quite crude, especially in comparison to the large banks and insurance companies of Braavos. It has very few roads and none of them Valyrian; main thoroughfares like the Kingsroad don’t have bridges over major rivers but use fords instead; it lacks internal canals to connect major river systems.

      2. Westeros is less politically developed. It’s only been politically unified for 300 years, and even that weak feudal state is extremely shaky and may not survive. Essos has had continent-spanning empires that lasted for thousands of years. It has much more diversity of political systems – republics with separation of powers and political parties, merchant oligarchies, elected tyrants, etc.

      3. Westeros is considered less culturally developed. Essosi call Westerosi unwashed barbarians, referring to them by the inaccurate title of “Andals.” (reminds me of the way Americans and Europeans labeled various nationalities by incorrect names because they didn’t speak the language) The Essosi of the Free Cities are the blood of Old Valyria; the Ghiscari have their empire, the Dothraki have their prophecies of manifest destiny, and the Qartheen are the pureblooded descendants of the greatest city that ever was or ever will be. Westerosi nobles are sent to the Free Cities to get culturally enriched, not the other way around. In terms of cultural production, most mummers are imported from Essos, as Westeros has no tradition of theater.

      • Grant says:

        Political development is a tricky idea in my opinion (after all the military-oriented structure of Westeros was probably a necessity in the warring years), but for culture and impact Essos actually seems to have much more in common with continental (especially southern) Europe. It used to be a great tradition for English nobles (and probably the nouveau riche as well) to take a tour of those lands around the end of their schooling.

      • Neil Young says:

        Yes, but Westeros is *Medieval* Europe. Which even nineteenth century orientalists (in both senses of the word) were perfectly capable of seeing as less advanced than the contemporary Islamic World or China without being any the less orientalist. Middle Easterners(both Byzantine and Islamic – and I think it’s very wrong to view western attitudes towards Byzantium as unrelated to orientalism) called Western Europeans unwashed barbarians, referring to them by the inaccurate title of “Franks”.

        The people and civilizations of Essos, so far as I can tell, are depicted as either barbarians or decadents. I’m much less convinced of the supposed cultural sophistication of the Dothraki than you are (I think that what notes there are of this are pretty minor notes in a depiction that is much more “an inaccurate high fantasy version of the Mongols, complete with not understanding that the Mongols were better at siege warfare than any heretofore existing society”). And all the other societies – the Free Cities, Slaver’s Bay, Qarth – are pretty much shown as sleazy and decadent.

        You’re right that Westeros isn’t depicted as any better, really, but it’s hard for me to see Essos as being any more sophisticated a depiction of non-western cultures than the Robert E. Howard-style sword and sorcery works it’s obviously modeled on. And there’s just so, so many tropes of orientalism in that depiction.

        • “The people and civilizations of Essos, so far as I can tell, are depicted as either barbarians or decadents.”

          That’s certainly the opinion of most of our Westerosi POVs. However Martin does an excellent job of including many, many tidbits of showing to contrast our main characters’ telling.

          I would highly encourage you to review this blogs entries that cover chapters in Essos (thus far just Dany). Mr Attewell has been doing an excellent job of highlighting the themes woven into the background information.

        • Lann says:

          It think that people get such impressions because they don’t always consider the ‘unreliable narrator’ technique which Martin uses constantly throughout the books.

  8. Grant says:

    So many possible things to comment on, but the one I’m looking at is the time spans given. We should remember that we don’t actually know that these lengths are at all accurate. Remember that Sam points out to Jon that he can’t find any lists that actually make him the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (I think he mentions the longest list only has a little over 650 names*).

    So even a well educated maester who honestly wants to write the definite truth could be hampered by sources that either didn’t know what the truth was, or had reasons to ignore it.

    Of course it’s entirely possible that they really did last for that long in the books. Over at History Behind Game of Thrones there’s an article about how a basic method in the books is to take something historical and greatly enlarge it. So Hadrian’s Wall goes from maybe twenty feet high at its highest to about seven hundred feet high in the story. So for all we know, civilizations and dynasties really did last for thousands of years. Maybe there really was a Stark family that was able to keep itself going for thousands of years**.

    *Reminds me of the confusion over the reigns of the Egyptian pharaohs, going by the lists their civilizations created you realize that they couldn’t have possibly have had so many separate rulers, especially since even though they’re listed as being in one dynasty they would have been living in a later one. Some seem to have been co-rulers, some kept on a ruler for some reason after their death (maybe using a popular name?) and for others, who knows? Maybe some were just created out of thing air.

    **Or if we want to look at it another way, maybe the Starks were a subgroup of the First Men or something and the Starks ruling today are just a family that took on the name of their ancestors. Sort of like some family from the Ainu’s that in six hundred years has the last name of Ainu.

  9. Abbey Battle says:

    On a more serious note, the book DELIVERS; it is a thing of beauty and chock-full of interesting tid-bits – I’m not a man for Spoilers, but we DO find out where Nettles and The Sheepstealer wound up after their departure from Maidenpool.

    It’s a pretty lunatic place to wind up, mind you!

    Maester Steven, in reply to some of your thoughts above:-

    – My understanding was that the Grand Maester was not in any special position of authority over The Citadel, but instead was awarded his title to help make dealings with the Court somewhat easier and make his advice harder to ignore.

    – Qarth and Yi Ti being a long way away from Westeros, not to mention some distance removed from the Free Cities even once you cross the Narrow Sea it’s perhaps unsurprising we don’t know very much about them as yet.

    One wouldn’t expect very many Medieval Europeans to reach the Land of China, after all, even though some did.

    – It’s probable that The Mance either failed to seek out the children or failed to find them because they’re very rare and shy of Men even beyond the Wall … or because The Mance doesn’t trust magic very much and the Children are VERY magical.

    – It’s probable that more of the First Men PASSED THROUGH Dorne than settled, quite possibly leaving this particular patch of dry, less-than-desirable real estate mostly the domain of nomads until the Pact made it necessary to look for open land wherever they could find it (I find this especially plausible, given that we are explicitly told that it took Rhoynish ‘water magic’ to make a good deal of the land reasonably productive).

    -Smart money says that the crannogmen kept more lore from The Children than most South of the Wall; I suspect that The Neck was one of their last hunting grounds to be forsaken by The Children.

    – The Lady with the Monkey Tail really does put me in mind of the notorious, the infamous, the downright FAMOUS Monkey King of Chinese Myth.

    – For some reason Grazdan the Great reminds of Ashurbinpal and it occurs to me that comparisons between Old Ghis and Assyria are quite applicable (not least because the Assyrians built one of the more terrifying war machines in the Ancient Near East before being taken to pieces by a younger, more charismatic empire – in their case The Medes).

    – I suspect that the apparently-strange route taken during The Flight of the Andals is a good deal less strange when one considers that they probably weren’t pursuing a coherent design when they retreated into the Axe (much less specifically steering a course for Westeros all the while), instead simply seeking to find refuge where they could as far from the Freehold as they could while still remaining in Essos before realising that they didn’t actually HAVE to remain on this particular continent.

    – In some ways the arrival of the Andals in Westeros reminds me as much of Frankish forays against the Heathen Saxons, given the clash of Monotheistic Mounted Invaders against Pagan Natives.

    -I wonder how much of the Rhoynish ‘Water Magics’ may be ascribed to hydraulic engineering and irrigation, as opposed to the occult?

    – I’d guess that a million (much less two million) would be grossly overstating the numbers following Princess Nymeria, given that her ships were mostly river-craft and not very big river-craft at that; I’d say a hundred thousand would be a more credible figure, more or less.

    – The Mass wedding of the Dornish with the Rhoynish reminds me more of Alexander the Greats mass weddings of his Macedonians with ‘Persians’ upon their return from India (albeit Nymeria seems to have made a much better job of this mass integration).

    After all, these weddings were planned by BOTH sides!

    -You might say water witches dried up over the centuries in the same way that the Alchemists lost their spark.

    -Nymeria makes Aegon the Dragon look like a lightweight by comparison (and Aegon was no lightweight, as the Book makes clear!).

    – Doubtless the pre-Targayen residents of Dragonstone were busy scheming how best to part Westerosi from their pocket money without sparking up too much interest from potential competitors!

    -The Volantenes might well have had terrible luck, but they also had a bad case of World-Beaters Syndrome (which is to say that all the bits of the World that didn’t particular LIKE being beaten decided to jump THEM first!) – for previous case studies of this terrible condition, please consult the History of France between Louis the Fourteenth and Napoleon the First.

    -It’s amusing to note that it still hasn’t actually been confirmed whether or not the Tigers actually made it as far North as Braavos, although the text seems to hint that they didn’t make it much further North than Tyrosh or the hinterlands of Pentos.

    – One wonders if the Triarch Horonno (the Forty-year man) achieved his political longevity by virtue of being the only Tiger willing to scratch the Elephants backs, in return for favours proffered and services rendered?

    • Sean C. says:

      I think the Grandmaester was probably the director of the Citadel in the days prior to Aegon’s Conquest, when he presumably dwelt in Oldtown and could manage the operations of the Citadel day-to-day. Since Aegon’s Conquest the Grandmaester resides in King’s Landing, and it’s impossible to direct the Citadel effectively from that distance, even if perhaps the Archmaesters let him think he does.

    • Great comment!

      – Yeah, it’s never precisely been stated that the Grandmaester is in charge, but the name and the election kind of implied it.

      – Qarth and Yi Ti are a ways away, but they’re closer than Asshai.

      – Mance….well, you think you would have heard of him going to find the Children.

      – True, if I crossed over into a new continent and landed in a desert, I’d keep going too.

      – I think the Crannogmen may have lived with COF for some time.

      – The Lady with the Monkey Tail as the Monkey King makes sense.

      – Grazdan the Great and Ashurbinpal is a good comparison.

      – Well, heading to the axe means heading east towards the Targs…

      – I see it more as the Saxon invasion vs. the Celts, personally.

      – Given the legends about the water spouts and the evidence from the main books about fire magic, I think a lot of it was magic. It would explain why Dorne isn’t more fertile – when the magic left, the spells stopped working. Whereas irrigation doesn’t need magic to work.

      – A million would just be 100 per ship tho.

      – Alexander’s mass marriage also works.

      – the Pre-Targs were probably looking to make money, although they might also have been surveying it for future conquest.

      – Yeah, world-beater syndrome is right.

      • Grant says:

        Organizing a full one million people would be a logistics nightmare. To flee from an oncoming enemy, using ancient vessels (and most of them probably weren’t intended to hold anywhere near one hundred) with little time… well like I said previously it’s possible it’s a case where A Song of Ice and Fire scales things up, but exaggeration and a much smaller number seems more likely. You’d also have to wonder how they’d sustain anything like one million after fleeing.

  10. somethinglikealawyer says:

    Oh, for another thing re: Euron being full of shit. The shadowbinders teaching the Valyrians how to bind dragons is interesting. If the Asshai were the first to tame dragons, they might have had methods to do so…like the Dragonbinder horn that Euron supposedly has. Given that it kills the blower smacks of shadowbinder blood magic that we’ve grown to know over the novel, so it’s perfectly possible, assuming it’s the real deal and not just a ‘kill-you’ horn, that he found it in Asshai.

    Sailing to Asshai is tricky, but feasible for a crew of the ironborn’s caliber.

  11. Amestria says:

    “So Aegon torched a Volantene Fleet that was going to take Lys…
    Man, the Volantines have terrible luck.”

    Foreshadowing! ^^

  12. TakatoGuil says:

    I was really looking forward to the histories of the foreign lands. Then I learned that they were all Lovecraft (and King in Yellow). Little references like Carcosa and Leng were amusing, but when Carcosa is ruled by a yellow emperor and Leng’s ruins are inhabited by sleeping Old Ones, when every city on the planet has twelve attached cave systems, when there’s seventy million abandoned ruined cities, and when every other racial group is squamous with amphibious features, it gets old. Way too old.

  13. ttepasse says:

    I found that I love the scholary voice of the Maesters, because they are more curious than the nitty-gritty-POVs we get in the main books. Of course somebody thinks about the seasons and tries to decipher them. And they know, they’re on a planetos, not the … diskos.

  14. Something that struck me as I read this initial section of ‘World’; the absolute lack of creation myths in all of the religious traditions we’ve yet met on Planetos.

    The closest I can recall is the Dothraki myth of the first man & horse emerging from the lake at Vaes Dothrak, but even that doesn’t elaborate on the formation of the cosmos & the world everyone lives on.

    Adherents of the Old Gods, the Faith, Rh’llorism, none seem to have any myth explaining why there is something rather than nothing. So my question is, does this explain why we have a Medieval-esque world that seems to have far more willingness to look at things like archeology and then make bold speculation on the deep history of the world?

    Here we have a Maester writing a history of the world for the eyes of a king, and he’s seriously entertaining the idea that the globe is possibly hundreds of thousands of years old, and outright acknowledging the idea that all humans began in tribal states and slowly developed over millennia (a dangerous idea when you start asking tough questions on the origin of the status quo). Just how close is Westerosi academia to an Enlightenment revolution?

    • Grant says:

      Religion and scholarly response really vary in human society. We do know that the maesters scoff at the idea of magic in general, somewhat admit that it existed at one point and may or may not have been responsible for it becoming seriously diminished a few centuries prior. There definitely were maesters who studied in magic and may have actually been able to use the glass candles to gather information and communicate with others, but now the field is considered a joke.

      Why exactly? We don’t know. Perhaps they’re similar to whatever circumstances created some deity-skeptic Hellene philosophers. Maybe the experience of the sheer amount of damage caused by the dragons led them to decide that anything magical was too dangerous. Maybe there was a power struggle in the order and the maesters who studied magic were defeated. Or maybe it was the unintended byproduct of something else. I don’t have the book yet, my copy from the library is sadly still being bound, so I don’t know if it gets into the history of the maesters.

      As for an Enlightenment (which is really imprecise), probably not. At least not in Westeros. The maesters tend to horde knowledge, the Seven Kingdoms have gone through a horrible civil war that’s still ongoing as of A Dance With Dragons and don’t have much income to spend on academic pursuits and the maesters had these views on magic for at least a hundred and fifty years without any kind of major philosophical shifts.

      Also it’s not at all clear exactly what an Enlightenment would be in a world where magic, dragons and possibly deities are actual things.

  15. jefff says:

    It’ll never be touched on–and I don’t even begin to guess how accurate it is–but something about the legend of Bran the Builder’s learning the language of the children of the forest reminded me of Gene Wolfe’s Fifth Head of Cerberus, the way the Shadow Children describe their encounter with the aboriginal inhabitants of a new world:

    When we came some of you looked like every beast, and some were of fantastic forms inspired by the clouds–or by lava flows, or water. But we walked among you in power and majesty and might, hissing like a thousand serpents as we splashed down in your sea, stepping like conquerors when we strode ashore with burning lights in our fists, and flame.

  16. Andrew says:

    The family of the wife of Viserys II, the Rogares, echos the Medicis to me. A powerful, and extremely wealthy banking clan who managed to marry into royalty with Larra paralleling Catherine de Medici who married King Henry II of France, and Lysandro the Magnificent echoing Lorenzo the Magnificent as de facto ruler of the city-state, and whose progeny were chased out after his death.

    Also, Euron is full of shit given his response to the Reader’s inquiries by basically threatening him.

  17. Chris says:

    Hmm, on the section on Summer Isles there is mention of ‘Talking Trees’ in Tall Trees Town. Wonder if there’s any Children of the Forest connection there? (though it seems it was just a handy canvass to draw some early maps for their own reference)

  18. John W says:

    Needs more maps.

  19. starkaddict says:

    Finally got my copy. Read the first part yesterday and was foing through your analysis.
    Few Points:

    1) Why eyeteeth..?

    2) We know that water wizards were the only few who were able to stand the wrath of dragons..not for long but those wars did last for 250 years..so we can say that they were a force to reckon with. Is this going to be full on elemental magic skirmish. And does that support the wall is earth magic theory. Since ice magic seems to be a other’s speciality. And are we going to explore the earth and water magic. The crannogmen and the orphans of Greenblood seems like the prime candidate for that.

    3)I always assumed that the wildlings now consider the COF to be extinct. Mance never bothered with even trying to contact them. And its not like he is a speciest. He has no issues with banding with giants. And COF would be even better allies, what with their magic and the Pact which still gives them access to all the deep forests in Westeros.

    4)Unseelie children is a plausible theory..but aren’t they a little tall to be COF..a sub-species..result of inter-breeding..?

    5)i love Septon Barth too…:D

    6)Maybe the children are unconcerned by the maesters. There is a freedom in being considered dead, or rather in this case, extinct. They themselves may be magical, but as of now the maesters do not consider them a threat. What are the children’s view on dragons any-ways. We know that they have nothing against bloodraven, but that maybe because of the first men blood flowing in his veins. Back then the others weren’t an active threat and maybe the children saw no need to bother themselves with the crusade of saving the dragons.

    • 1. Just a phrase I grew up with. It means your canines.

      2. I don’t think we’ll get a full elemental skirmish. For one thing, water magic seems fully gone.

      3. But the confusing thing is that the COF seem quite active until recently.

      4. A related species perhaps. Fae includes many different species, after all.

      5. He is a fascinating creature.

      6. I dunno, The maesters are anti-magic, the children are pretty damn magical.

      • starkaddict says:

        2) it does seem a little late to introduce other element. Though I doubt the water mages are completely extinct. Like I said, the orphans of greenblood seems like fair candidates. How much skill they have is another question.

        3) That they did. Seems odd. Maybe Mance did try to find them but wasn’t successful. They are a rare bunch after all.

        4) Related or not, there is definitely more to the story between COF and others. Hopefully TWOW will clear some air.

        6) Yes, but for the time being, Maesters are only concerned with dragons and fire magic, which is not exactly COF’s area. It is weird that they did not interfere with the conspiracy of the citadel but maybe they figured that it is none of their business. For all we know COF may be anti-Valyrian. Maybe they are just keeping an eye on things. I am just snowballing here, but COF do not seem all that concerned with anything south of the wall, be they maesters or dany and her dragons.

        • 2. I think they’d have used the magic before if they still could.

          3. Quite possibly.

          4. Let’s hope so.

          6. I don’t think the maesters are only concerned with dragons and fire-magic. The maesters seem anti-all magic to me.

  20. Andrew says:

    1) The Others’ language is described as sounding like the cracking of ice. It could have the same origins as the CotF’ language in that it was based off the sounds they heard everyday.

    2) The monkey tail hats of the people of Yi Ti could be in honor of the women with a monkey tail who supposedly brought back the sun.

    3)The Isle of Faces could also be akin to Avalon of Arthurian legend which was derived from Ynys Avallach, the Isle of the Apples, the spiritual center of the Celtic religion. Avalon was supposedly the home of a sacred tree sprouted by Joseph of Arimathea like the sacred heart trees of the Isle of Faces. The island was home to a group of Celtic priestesses renowned for their ability to turn into animals, to heal the incurable and prophesy the future according to the Gaulish Pomponius Mela. The Green Men can likely warg, heal (such the wounds of Daemon) and likely prophesy akin to green dreams.

    According to Isidore of Seville in Etymologiae XIV 6.8 “Fortunatae Insulae,” Avalon “gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more.”

    The Green Men likely do live for extended periods of time thanks to the weirwoods, and are immortals or near enough. Otherwise that wold beg the question of where they get fresh recuits in an area dominated by the Seven?

    The island likely provides the food needed for them given none of them are described visiting the shores to obtain foodstuffs or their sight would be common, and HR had to subsist on something through an entire winter on that island without having gone to shore.

    4) You think Rhaegar and Lyanna visited the Isle of Faces (to get married by the heart trees there)? I think Rhaegar would have asked for a septon at least, but not refused Lyanna’s request for a heart tree to witness the wedding. Possibly a certain traveling septon we met on his circuit through the riverlands in AFfC?

  21. We just received our copy of this book for Christmas and now I finally can explore the insights that many have about its contents. Yay! In regard to this:

    “Also, I’m really curious how Howland Reed, Rhaegar Targaryen, and Lyanna made it to the Isle of Faces if the Green Men guard it with nature magic so fiercely.”

    It’s given that magic exists in the ASOIAFverse. It’s my theory that the elemental nature magic is everywhere, although strongest in places where magics have been harnessed by people with certain abilities, and the source magic is manifested differently depending on the users’ gifts and skills. So, water magic or fire magic are drawn from the same elemental source, but the ability to channel magic in certain ways depends on inherent ability of the individual and training in a particular method. Hence, certain magic traditions could be lost if people with those inherent abilities and training become extinct.

    The Green Men of the Isle of Faces may be descendants of the CoF and/or First Men with the gifts of greensight. I think it seems plausible that the various prophesies (i.e., the PTWP) have a connection to their magic; that the Green Men foresee a coming apocalypse and the roles that Holland Reed, Rhaegar and Lyanna (i.e., R+L=J) have to play in the future of Planetos. If so, then the GM may have been waiting for these persons to make an appearance on the Isle of Faces to serve a particular purpose, and use their magics to provide safe passage and protection to them rather than to keep them away.

  22. I keep staring and staring at the world map and for the life of me still can’t figure out how Nymeria got her ten thousand ships past Voltantis and it’s massive Valryian armies that we’re out for blood. The book mentions something about “Old Channels” but either those rivers dried up or are no longer mapped, cause I don’t see any path’s from roundabouts Ny Sar to the Summer Sea and the Basilisk Isles without going upstream into the Shivering Stream, which we know they didn’t do or somehow sailing to the Sea of Mryth which at that point they’d be so close to Westeros and the Stepstones (too early in their story) it would have made their odyssey red

  23. While they clearly had one, the navy of Valryia appears to be less than it could have been. Nymeria’s rag tag fleet sailed not once but twice past their homeland peninsula. and despite having a colonies on the west coast of Essos for more than a millennium and a colony on Dragonstone for more than 200 years before before the Doom, they never really made many in roads to Westeros, which divided and backwards (technology wise) as it was should have have made it easy pickings for resources, slaves or just plain curiosity. Surely Volantis at least had some large trading and slaving fleets but as guess when you’ve already achieved flight, ship building was less interesting to those within the empire.

    For that matter I wonder how how much contact there was between Westeros and Essos before the Doom, I’m sure their was at least a smattering of trade (it’s short boat ride across the Narrow Seaaf afterall) but likely nowhere near the levels of commerce that the free cities and ports of Westeros enjoy in the current era. I’m sure pre-Doom the vast focus of import and export was to Valriya from it’s vassals.

  24. LadyKnitsALot says:

    The dedication page, with the still visible albeit “scratched out” Robert/Joffrey, never ever stops being funny 🙂

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