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The Knight of Flours

So how do days, weeks, months, work in Westeros

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I think it's fun to go over the facts again.

What we know:

) days, i.e. the amount of sunshine per rotation of the planet, are shorter in winter, longer in summer.

Is this the case during long winters on Planetos, though? Is there any point in the books where this is mentioned?

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I'm pretty sure that in a Theon chapter he thought that he had been in the Dreadfort's cells for about six months? Or maybe I misread.

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I found a reference for the days getting shorter in Winter

It's from ADwD, Jon chapter, p. 242

"We hold the Wall. The Wall protects the realm ... and you now. You know the foe we face. You know what's coming down on us. Some of you have faced them before. Wights and white walkers, dead things with blue eyes and black hands, I've seen them too, fought them, sent one to hell. They kill, then they send your dead against you. The giants were not able to stand them. nor you Thenns, the ice-river clans, the Hornfoots, the free folk ... and as the days grow shorter and the nights colder, they are growing stronger.

If the days grow shorter at the same time as it gets colder, so winter = short days, it means that the relative position of the rotational axis of the planet to the sun is the driver of seasons, just as it is on earth. When the axis points towards the sun, that hemisphere gets more sunshine in a day, so the temperature goes up and vice versa. Since we also know about Planetos that there is a fixed north star, we know that the direction of the rotational axis does not change over time, as "north star" = "star that the rotational axis points towards". That only leaves movement of the planet around the sun. As the seasons are obviously not of constant duration, the movement of the planet is not regular, and here is where the magic cards come in.

Of course we could use magic as a wildcard much earlier and say that Planetos does not actually orbit a sun at all, and that the sun magically goes around the planet with magically altering days so that everything pans out as we see it. But I prefer the solution where everything works mostly as we know it, and magic is only used to bridge that final gap that cannot be explained in any other terms.

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Anyone know the textual refs for shorter days in winter?

In A Clash of Kings, a white raven comes to announce the end of the summer, and in the end of A Dance with Dragons, another white raven arrives to announce the beginning of the winter, so we know that the second, third, fourth and fifth book all happen in the autumn. In A Feast for Crows, Brienne says:

"The days are growing shorter," Brienne pointed out.

(Fourth Brienne chapter)

If the days are already growing shorter because winter is comming, they'll probably be shorter in the winter itself as well

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If the days are already growing shorter because winter is comming, they'll probably be shorter in the winter itself as well

Actually, if it goes like on Earth, the days will be at their shortest at the beginning of the winter, but will grow longer from this day on

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Actually, if it goes like on Earth, the days will be at their shortest at the beginning of the winter, but will grow longer from this day on

as far as I understand, that is because the Earth, and the oceans, are a good heat reservoir, so that the actual temperature lags behind the temperature input (sun) cycle. I imagine that if the seasons change were a lot slower, as they seem to be this time around in Westeros, that the lag would be a lot less, so that the correlation length of days and temperature, would be more straight forward.

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Here in Britain, 'spring' sometimes starts in February, sometime not till late April (like this year) ...... Our seasons are not fixed and do not necessarily define a year. Many cultures on Earth used the rising of a particular star or constellation as the start of a new year. Likely, it would be the same on Planetos. So a year is measureable, and fixed. The seasons vary (as on Earth) but (unlike on Earth) can last for years - thanks to magic. Simple :)

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Here in Britain, 'spring' sometimes starts in February, sometime not till late April (like this year) ...... Our seasons are not fixed and do not necessarily define a year. Many cultures on Earth used the rising of a particular star or constellation as the start of a new year. Likely, it would be the same on Planetos. So a year is measureable, and fixed. The seasons vary (as on Earth) but (unlike on Earth) can last for years - thanks to magic. Simple :)

only that it isn't.

There are indeed many cultures on Earth that know how to count years even though they don't have clear cut seasons as we do. Most still have periodic weather phenomena like rainy seasons that are driven by the passing of the seasons someplace else on the planet. Star constellations are also something that can be observed. However, all these ways of counting the years rely on the steady and periodic orbit of the earth around the sun. If Planetos goes around its sun at a highly irregular pace, as it seems to do based on the evidence of static north star and shorter days in winter, then those other ways to count years don't work, as movement of stars would still depend on the location of Planetos on its orbit, so a very long winter would correlate with seeing the same star constellations for a very long time. I have a hard time seeing how in such a world people would count the passage of time by years, when the isn't any regular cyclic process with such a period.

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only that it isn't.

There are indeed many cultures on Earth that know how to count years even though they don't have clear cut seasons as we do. Most still have periodic weather phenomena like rainy seasons that are driven by the passing of the seasons someplace else on the planet. Star constellations are also something that can be observed. However, all these ways of counting the years rely on the steady and periodic orbit of the earth around the sun. If Planetos goes around its sun at a highly irregular pace, as it seems to do based on the evidence of static north star and shorter days in winter, then those other ways to count years don't work, as movement of stars would still depend on the location of Planetos on its orbit, so a very long winter would correlate with seeing the same star constellations for a very long time. I have a hard time seeing how in such a world people would count the passage of time by years, when the isn't any regular cyclic process with such a period.

But is there any reason to suppose that Planetos does not revolve around its sun every 365 days? And that the start of each new year is not determined by the Maesters, for example, observing the rising of the star Woteveritscalled - which happens every 365 days? Hence a year lasts 365 days just as GRRM says.

Unlike on Earth however, the 'seasons' have nothing whatsoever to do with the orbit of the planet around the sun. They are instead controlled by magic.

Of course, we must then assume that the length of daylight is likewise determined by magic and the planet's orbit.

However, if we take a more scientific explanation for the varying seasons - that the speed Planetos orbits its sun varies (magic just being responsible for speeding up or slowing down the orbit - though other sci-fi explanation are also possible) - then all this goes out the window and you'd be quite right: there is no realistic way for determining a year.

The only other possibility I can think of is if it were by a count of days based on a tradition going back many hundreds of generations - ie it was remembered that in the very old days (before magic messed up the seasons) a year lasted 365 days (or 13 'moons') during which time there was winter, spring, summer and autumn and although all the other determinators for the turn of year now occurred over many thousands of days, every culture on Planetos retained this ancient tradition. Which I suppose is also possible?

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But is there any reason to suppose that Planetos does not revolve around its sun every 365 days? And that the start of each new year is not determined by the Maesters, for example, observing the rising of the star Woteveritscalled - which happens every 365 days? Hence a year lasts 365 days just as GRRM says.

That's precisely the question I am trying to explore. That is, how the seasons work, while using the least possible amount of magic in the explanation. I do fully realize that this is a bit of an academic exercise, GRRM is not likely to answer any of this in the next books.

Still, if you want to come along with the ride, there is evidence for the length of the orbit, and that is the fact that the days grow shorter with the seasons, for which several textual references are in this thread. As long is this is not just swiped away as coincidence, that means that the seasons correlate with the position of the planet on its orbit, since we also know that the direction of the axis of rotation does not change.

The only way to save the years would be a superposition of a regular 365 day orbit with very weakly changing reasons and an irregular rise and fall of average temperature due to an unknown other process (magic). In that scenario, though, the length of day should not have any correlation with the "big" seasons and the fact that people refer to shortening days would mean that we are now entering the smaller "regular" winter within the bigger unnatural winter. I don't see how that makes sense though as we have been in a few years of "autumn" now without anyone mentioning days getting longer and shorter.

If there are other theories out there, I would love to hear them.

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Actually, if it goes like on Earth, the days will be at their shortest at the beginning of the winter, but will grow longer from this day on

My bad :)

If there are other theories out there, I would love to hear them.

Perhaps the people from past Westeros, Essos, Sothoryos and Ulthos one day decided on how to name a year, just like people in our world once did. We have looked at the amount of time it takes the earth to move around the sun. George Martin has already stated before that the abnormal length of the seasons have a supernatural fantasy explanation, and not a scientific one, so seasons will have nothing to do with the years in asoiaf-world.

It is very possible that once upon a time, the people decided that one year would count a certain amount of full moons (or perhaps they start their count at a new moon, or some other state of the moon, I don't think this has been specified anywhere).

Don't forget that not everywhere on earth people count by the same years. The Islamitic calander counts moons, and because of that, a year in that calender is about 11 days shorter than a year in the Gregorian calender (used at most places). (this I read on Wikipedia).

So perhaps it has nothing to do with the amount of time it takes the asoiaf-world to orbit around the sun?

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That was my original proposal, that people in the asoiaf world would count moons and the author conveniently calls 12 moons a year to make the book readable for an Earth audience. It still leaves some open questions, as why they celebrate name days, which definitely suggests that a "year" has meaning to them, even though we can't understand how they arrive at that specific time period, lacking any clearly periodic outside cycle with that periodicity.

One way to explain it, would be that people in Westeros count in dozens much like we did here, and that for lumping up a dozen moons, they use the word "year", and subsequently use this as a measure of time, as it seems much more convenient to count age by. Uneducated people would likely have trouble counting their age in moons once they go over a few hundred.

In that way, we can introduce years to Westeros through the backdoor.

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Didn't Westeros use to have normal seasons up until the Long Night, and only after that did the seasons get all weird with extremely long summers and winters? Obviously the explanation for the abnormal lengths of the seasons is magic/a curse in that case. When the Others are permanently defeated, the seasons will probably go back to normal, or they will have the eternal summer or whatever.

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That was my original proposal, that people in the asoiaf world would count moons and the author conveniently calls 12 moons a year to make the book readable for an Earth audience. It still leaves some open questions, as why they celebrate name days, which definitely suggests that a "year" has meaning to them, even though we can't understand how they arrive at that specific time period, lacking any clearly periodic outside cycle with that periodicity.

It sounds like there is one piece of the puzzle you are missing: the original cover blurb to AGoT and some of the PR material for the series when it started explicitly said that the seasons on the planet had once been 'normal', presumably meaning like ours. A 'preternatural event' disrupted the seasons and they have remained disrupted ever since. Fan speculation has been that either the Long Night and the beginning of the war with the Others 8,000 years ago, or even the Children overreaching with magic when they destroyed the Arm of Dorne 12,000 years ago (both by the accepted chronology, itself highly suspect), is what threw the seasons out of balance.

Because the seasons were once normal, that gave the Children and the First Men something to base 'a year' around. Cultural inertia has kept it as 12 moons = 1 year ever since. This is not entirely convincing (that the fact there used to be 'normal' seasons has been lost even to myth, whilst the same calendar system from those days has survived intact) but I see it as GRRM trying to keep things simple and fudging it a bit.

GRRM has also said we will get an explanation for why the seasons are out of balance in later books. Some have speculated that the final defeat of the Others (if that happens) may restore normal seasons to the world.

As for why the seasons oscillate so much, one theory is that the summers are long and warm when R'hllor's power is in ascendance and he is winning his struggle against the Great Other, and the winters are long when the reverse is true.

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It sounds like there is one piece of the puzzle you are missing: the original cover blurb to AGoT and some of the PR material for the series when it started explicitly said that the seasons on the planet had once been 'normal', presumably meaning like ours.

*snip*

Thank you, I had indeed been missing that. That's very much the missing piece there. So the term "year" evolved very naturally a long time ago and of course people go on using it even though it isn't reflected by any natural cycle. Case closed for me.

Thanks again for the info dump.

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It sounds like there is one piece of the puzzle you are missing: the original cover blurb to AGoT and some of the PR material for the series when it started explicitly said that the seasons on the planet had once been 'normal', presumably meaning like ours. A 'preternatural event' disrupted the seasons and they have remained disrupted ever since. Fan speculation has been that either the Long Night and the beginning of the war with the Others 8,000 years ago, or even the Children overreaching with magic when they destroyed the Arm of Dorne 12,000 years ago (both by the accepted chronology, itself highly suspect), is what threw the seasons out of balance.

A 'preternatural event' ? One possibility could be the sun becoming unstable. There are things called variable stars whose luminosity changes, sometimes in highly regular ways (Google Cepheid variables), but others are quite irregular - see the wonderfully named 'FU Orionis' stars. Sometimes stars become irregular when they are about to do something drastic, so perhaps the final book will end in a big supernova explosion...

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George Martin has stated that the seasons have been thrown off balance because of a supernatural event, so I doubt that there will be a logical explanation for the 9 year summers etc. One possibility could be that magic was involved. Perhaps also the Others in some way, as (I believe it was one the back cover of a Game of Thrones edition) the seasons have been weird for thousands of years, and the Others have been "gone" for 8000 years. This could be related.

At the end of the story there's the possibility that the seasons will once again become the way they are in our world. This because of the fight-to-come with the Other, and of course the return of the dragons, which have increased magic all over the place (for instance in the making of wildfire).

Of course, there's also the possibility that the seasons will stay forever as they are now. I'm only trying to explain that I doubts that we'll get a logical explanation for the seasons which doesn't involve magic (or Others, who might be a bit magical themselves, how else can they walk around after they have died?)

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I think we're all aware that there is no and will be no official scientific explanation; it's still fun to speculate.

Is there any legit support for the "preternatural event" explanation? Back cover copy isn't exactly canonical.

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I don't think it hasn't been explained because of any relation to the history or the eventual resolution of the unpredictable seasons in the story. I think its simply that George know he would end up confusing and contradicting himself if he had to make sense of an actual calendar in this world.


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I'm guessing the lunar phases are a bit longer than ours, putting their lunar year as equivalent to our solar year. Else the already-young ages of the main characters would become even more unbelievable (Robb would be half a year younger day-wise, for instance).


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