Cridefea

Long winters in reality vs long winters in AsoIaF

58 posts in this topic

First thread!! (if there are other threads on this topic, feel free to close it but I didn't find one on a comparison)

 

Last week I watched a documentary on tv about climate abnormalities during the “Year without a Summer” (eruption of Tambora) and the events of 535 A.D.

(For those who don't know what I'm talking about Year without a Summer and Weather events of 535 )

So we know something about what a long winter can cause in our world and we know something about it in Westeros too. But what can GRRM use of real long-winters experience and what is he forced to chage because of the plot?

Ex:

  • Some epidemic were related to long winters, but in a novel with a complex plot it is difficult to use in a realistic way.

  • Storms and floods destroyed everything, but how will the characters travel? Will it ice the rivers?

 

Note. Sorry for my English, it's not my first language :P

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I don't know if he's done that much research into what a real "long winter" would be like. I mean, looking at it logically, it seems like half of Westeros would starve every twenty years. Why the North is permanently settled at all is beyond me.

Your English is fine. Better than my Italian: ciao, bella! Mi chiama Illyrio Mo'Parties. Er... quattordici! Vaffanculo! Juventus!... that's all I can remember

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The U.S. has had some freaky winters that fell in the middle of spring/summer in our history as well. Both cases document the devastation that accompanied these freak phenomena. I am assuming that George has some major plans in store where either a vast amount of Westeros will die off, and/or the destruction of the Others will set the world right and the rainbows of spring aren't too far away?

I will say that Jon letting the wildlings through the wall was a smart idea because they have the knowledge and experience to survive such harsh conditions.

This one in 1888 was called the "Children's Blizzard".

https://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/the-great-blizzard-of-1888-americas-greatest-snow-disaster

and this one

"The year 1816 was known as ‘The Year Without a Summer’ in New England because six inches of snow fell in June and every month of the year had a hard frost."

http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/1816-year-without-summer/

Agh! I see you linked to one of the same stories I did, just from a different source :D

Edited by The Fattest Leech

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Wasn't 1816 when some big fucking volcano went off in Indonesia? *scrolls upthread* yes... yes it was.

I assume GRRM will kill off a lot of the cast when winter hits, but that doesn't explain how the entire society doesn't collapse every time a 5-yr winter rolls around. Realistically, how long can grain keep?

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4 minutes ago, Illyrio Mo'Parties said:

I assume GRRM will kill off a lot of the cast when winter hits, but that doesn't explain how the entire society doesn't collapse every time a 5-yr winter rolls around. Realistically, how long can grain keep?

Not to mention winters that last a generation

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1 minute ago, Michael Mertyns said:

Not to mention winters that last a generation

I farkin reckon. All the northern latitudes in Planetos ought to be inhabited by tiny tribes of eskimoes, if anybody - really, the land and castles and whatnot would be owned by the rich and powerful in the south, who would send up migrant workers to make some money off the land in the summer and abandon it in the winter.

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Just now, Illyrio Mo'Parties said:

Wasn't 1816 when some big fucking volcano went off in Indonesia? *scrolls upthread* yes... yes it was.

I assume GRRM will kill off a lot of the cast when winter hits, but that doesn't explain how the entire society doesn't collapse every time a 5-yr winter rolls around. Realistically, how long can grain keep?

I think we learn a little about the food storage from Littlefinger in the Alayne chapters. That is one way he is keeping pressure on the Vale lords, if I remember correctly. There are a few ways to hold the food. None of which seems appetizing, but I guess old beef is better than long pork? Here are a few examples, not a lot of details, but my search shows that there are granaries in most POV's all around Westeros. The issue now is all of the fields and stores that were burned by Twyin and the Mountain and such during the wars.

  • Whatever part remained when the Eyrie was reopened would be roasted up for the spring feast, if it had not spoiled. A good supply of hard frozen meat foretold a summer of plenty, old Gretchel claimed.
  • The Eyrie's granaries held sufficient oats and corn and barley to feed them for a year, but they depended on a bastard girl named Mya Stone to bring fresh foodstuffs up from the valley floor.
  • The Eyrie was a small castle by the standards of the great houses; seven slender white towers bunched as tightly as arrows in a quiver on a shoulder of the great mountain. It had no need of stables nor smithys nor kennels, but Ned said its granary was as large as Winterfell's,

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Yeah, I get all that, but I mean, let's say you're a castle in Westeros, you've got a large and well-stocked granary, but it's not getting restocked for the next few years. At what point would those grains go bad?

Can they even go bad? I'm assuming so, but I don't really know. I mean, take the frozen meat, they say you're only supposed to freeze it for six months max. I don't know what happens after the six months, but I assume it's not as bad as what happens after 10 years.

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1 minute ago, Illyrio Mo'Parties said:

Yeah, I get all that, but I mean, let's say you're a castle in Westeros, you've got a large and well-stocked granary, but it's not getting restocked for the next few years. At what point would those grains go bad?

Can they even go bad? I'm assuming so, but I don't really know. I mean, take the frozen meat, they say you're only supposed to freeze it for six months max. I don't know what happens after the six months, but I assume it's not as bad as what happens after 10 years.

I think the difference is our home freezer is nothing compared to a supernatural world freezer. The granaries are huge and made of stone and are colder than what we can get. Humidity and moisture are the enemies, but in a deep freeze there is probably not as much of a worry as that.

Plus, if the granaries work anything like they do in our world, the first harvested stuff (oldest) is at the bottom, which is pulled and used first, essentially keeping a conveyor of fresher goods coming next.

The meat is different. If you read any of the Ki7K books then you get an idea of how they do preserve the meat until it is basically leather. I am sure that happens when prepping for winter as well. I think Jon at the wall makes note of this during his invetories. I guess what you get with the meat is what we call "aged". I am sure when the meat runs out, people start to get nervous and the peasants start dying out first. Probably also why the coastal towns are always more populated. A consistent supply of fish.

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I have thought that destroying crops and food stores should have been considered as big of a taboo as kinslaying and breaking guest right in Westeros.  Especially towards the end of a long summer.

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11 hours ago, Yuzzybus said:

I have thought that destroying crops and food stores should have been considered as big of a taboo as kinslaying and breaking guest right in Westeros.  Especially towards the end of a long summer.

I never even thought of that. You're right

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Just now, Illyrio Mo'Parties said:

Your English is fine. Better than my Italian: ciao, bella! Mi chiama Illyrio Mo'Parties. Er... quattordici! Vaffanculo! Juventus!... that's all I can remember

 

Just now, John Doe said:

Accidenti!

:rofl:That's a very good start!!

 

Just now, Illyrio Mo'Parties said:

I don't know if he's done that much research into what a real "long winter" would be like. I mean, looking at it logically, it seems like half of Westeros would starve every twenty years. Why the North is permanently settled at all is beyond me.

 

Just now, The Fattest Leech said:

I am assuming that George has some major plans in store where either a vast amount of Westeros will die off, and/or the destruction of the Others will set the world right and the rainbows of spring aren't too far away?

Yes, exactly. He must strike a balance between realistic famine deaths and the progression of the game of thrones. Maybe magic will help.

Also, there should be migrations rather than wars.

For supplies and grain, I think the key is the South. The North will freez, but what will happen to the South? Durind the year without summer or the 535 AD there were place without storms or floods, even if cooler that before. 

Just now, Yuzzybus said:

I have thought that destroying crops and food stores should have been considered as big of a taboo as kinslaying and breaking guest right in Westeros.  Especially towards the end of a long summer.

You're probably right!!

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In terms of meat, I would think that some livestock is kept in doors by the nobility as well as preserved in various ways.

The flipside of long winters is long summers, springs and autumns, with multiple harvests, so that stocks can be built up for a much longer period of time than they can in our world. While I agree that it's a bit perplexing how people can survive years of winter in the North, my guess is that in many cases winters are not as brutal as the one they're anticipating now, so that the South, while it is affected by the season, is still able to produce some food and trade it. 

 

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As far as I am aware, grain can last incredibly long if stored correctly, and meat is a luxury anyway. As the poster above me said, some livestock is kept indoors. 

 

Besides the south- like as far south as Highgarden- doesn't have snow normally, so it should be possible to continue getting some food from there, as well as from across the Narrow Sea. Further North, where farming and stock breeding isn't possible except indoors, you have hunting and fishing to help a bit with the supplies, I assume. 

Edited by John Doe

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There is a long SSM about this: http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/The_Effects_of_Winter/

The two main bits:

But the short answer is... if the winter lasts too long, the food runs out... and then people move south, or starve...

And what happens when a winter comes - five, six years long?

Famine happens. The north is cruel.

Edited by Tucu

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Well, I stand corrected on grain. I googled it a little, and apparently it can last for decades if stored properly. Still, man cannot live on bread alone - but between mushrooms, greenhouses, imports from sunnier climes, frozen meat and vegetables, fresh hunted meat, and fresh fish, I suppose that these populations can get enough nutrition to survive the winter. It wouldn't be much fun, though.

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1 hour ago, Shouldve Taken The Black said:

In terms of meat, I would think that some livestock is kept in doors by the nobility as well as preserved in various ways.

The flipside of long winters is long summers, springs and autumns, with multiple harvests, so that stocks can be built up for a much longer period of time than they can in our world. While I agree that it's a bit perplexing how people can survive years of winter in the North, my guess is that in many cases winters are not as brutal as the one they're anticipating now, so that the South, while it is affected by the season, is still able to produce some food and trade it. 

 

How would that have worked when the Kingdoms were split? Sometimes the various Kingdoms were not in a happy relationship and not likely to grant passage for food to be sent to the North through their land?

I would think that the likelihood of those convoys getting robbed is rather high as everyone is having difficulty with a longer winter than expected. I imagine that bandits in the Riverlands would be particularly aggressive as I imagine their land would the the second hardest hit in Winter and a feeling of "screw the North" might develop when they themselves are starving too.

Of course, there is the potential to ship via barge along the coast rather than depending on roadways.

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The book mentions summer snows etc. - I have always imagined that Planetos has seasons even during "summer" / "winter" - but while in summer, "winter" means rain in the Riverlands and snow up North, with nice long summer for multiple harvests, when the Winter is come, vegetation period shrinks to one harvest and it snows in King's landing. The very existence of North as a kingdom with large armies etc. would mean that population is big enough and far above Eskimo level - think Scandinavia.

In any case, Bran chapter discussing storing parts of harvest for winter makes sense only if there still can be harvest even during the winter. Stowing one quarter of last harvest is a nonsense if winter is ceaeeless - thewn the last harvest feast should serve long hogmeat to prepare for the days to come.

 

In the end I think theat long winters are more a "Cool but too big to work" stuff brought up by GRRM early on before his world was built up more. Won't be the only case (heck, look at the Wall. GRRM himself admitted that he did not really think the 700 feet through and when he checked it up, he realized it is a tad too high).

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I just assume that the people of Westeros have kick ass preservation methods when storing their food. It is also known the various regions employ greenhouses to grow food over the winters by utilizing hotsprings.

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