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The Coconut God

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  1. This post has been a long time coming. I'm finally going to buckle down and write it. Seven months ago I made a post on r/asoiaf in which I proposed a different way of calculating the population of Westeros, based on the number of existing settlements and their average population in medieval times. I arrived at a high estimate of 14 million inhabitants, a number I was very happy with, since the 40 million based on the 1% army size rule always felt too large to me (I have a background in geopolitics and I feel ruling over 40 million would require a more complex political system than the one depicted in the series), and also unreliable, since basing your estimate on such a small percentage can cause wild variation in your result. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convince @Ran at that time, even though the nameless market towns he pointed out I had ommitted (based on oane of Arya's chapters in AcoK) wouldn't have made much of a difference (an extra 4 million people overall, and this is ignoring the fact that I was very generous with my estimates everywhere else). Now, I am able to provide you with solid textual proof that Westerosi armies represent more than 1% of the population, and hopefully I will be able to explain why a lower population density makes perfect sense for the World of Ice and Fire. 1. Army size and population - a look at the Chequy Lion While the main series never gives us much insight into the recruitment process the lords of Westeros employ, we do get to see this in the second Dunk & Egg novella, The Sword Sword. Ser Eustace Osgrey, a disgraced knight, requires Dunk to levy no less than "every able-bodied man of fighting age". This would normally mean roghly 33% of all men, or 16.5% of the population... This is a tall order, of course, and I doesn't quite get filled, but it is important to note that this was the initial goal, and nobody found it unusual. This woman in particular takes it very naturaly: Now, how many people does Ser Eustace have? Let's take a look: "No more than a handful of hovels" I take to mean 5 or less (my own grandfather on my mother's side was born in a "village" with 3 houses in northern Romania, so I wouldn't find such a number unusual), so less than 15 families in total. According to Google, the average medieval family had 6 members, though if we want to pump it up a little we can go to 10. That's somewhere between 90 and 150 people under Ser Eustace's care. This lines up with the real world estimates; a knight was usually supported by an average of 300 villagers. Since Eustace's family had lost some lands both before and after the rebellion, and men during the fighting no doubt, it makes sense that he would be way below average. Of these 90 to 150, 12 recruits show up, of which Dunk keeps 8. Note how we have extra recruits to balance out the draft dodgers (if there were any at all – the numbers could be small simply because Eustace had previously lost another round of fighting men in the rebellion). With Dunk himself, the count goes up to 9 (I'm not counting Bennis because he did run away in the end). So, what is the army size relative to the population for Ser Eustace Osgrey, disgraced knight who has little to offer and little to threaten his subjects with? 6-10%! 3% at the lowest, if we ignore the hovel count and go straight with the real world average, but even so it is a far cry from the 1% used to reach the 40 million. With the 3%, we get to a number very close to my own initial estimate, 13,400,000, both methods allowing for that number to go even lower. But wait! Westeros is supposed to be roughly the size of Europe, which used to have between 50 and 70 million inhabitants in the Middle Ages. Its population can't possibly be this low! I used to think the same, and I was actually advocating for retconning its size in that old reddit post, which is... silly, I have to admit. But there is actually a perfectly viable explanation that works with the world... and it has to do with agriculture. 2. The quirks of growing your crops when the seasons are out of whack Yes, agriculture is the true solution to our problem. Because the actual size of the territory has little to do with the size of its population. It's how much food that territory can provide that truly matters. Medieval Europe, from Charlemagne to the Renaissance, used two systems of agriculture: the two-field system and the three-field system. Under the two-field system, a field is planted in one year and left to fallow in the next. Under the three-field system, the field is planted for two consecutive years, once with one type of crop during the autumn and once with a different one, which consumes different nutrients and replenishes the others, during the spring, then is left to fallow in the third year. The yearly harvest from each of this style of crops will feed a certain population for one year (smaller for the two-field, larger for the three-field). Now, in Westeros, you don't get the standard temperate European year; you get several consecutive years of fertile summer, followed by a similar number of years of winter, in which you can't plant anything at all. This means that you effectively have to plant duble the number of crops in the years of summer in order to store enough for the years of winter. It sounds easy. Plants tend to grow in summer, after all. However, you still have to respect the fallow cycle, otherwise the soil will become degraded and quickly lose its fertility. Best case scenario, this means you need to have set aside double the surface of arable land so you can plant enough crops per year to cover the quota. And it only goes downhill from here. The more efficient three-field system largely relies on high yield winter cereals for one of the crops. These are planted in autumn and benefit from the snow's moisture to gather nutrients and grow, so they can't really be used throughout a prolonged summer. The heat of the summer also means that the fallow land will become dry and cracked unless it is allowed to be covered by grass an weeds.. which is a Catch 22. In our world, ploughing an overgrown field in autumn would allow winter to kill most of the weeds and provide fresh, moist soil for planting in spring. In Westeros, during mid and late summer they might have to rely solely on grazing to clear the land for a new crop, which may increase the fallow cycle and also increase the chance that some weeds would survive to affect the crop, decreasing later yields throughout the years. Worst case scenario, people would be unable to replant a summer-fallowed field until the next spring, meaning they could use even five or six times more land than us for the same number of crops over the length of their average seasonal cycle (starting with a perennial fodder that can be easily cleared as they move over to that field). A low yield per hectare averaged for all seasons would also explain why villages and towns are situated far away from each other: each village needs that much more arable land compared to an European village in order to provide it with the same ammount of food. A larger ratio of fallow land compared to planted crops – due to a need to prevent soil degradation – also explains why we see our characters more often on wild roads than in fields. It also explains why the cities are so few, and always on the shores of a sea or river: the area required to provide food for the inhabitants is much larger, to the point that it hinders transportation on land, and they need fresh goods to be shipped to them. Last but not least, it explains why the Iron Island are so populous compared to much larger kingdoms on the continent: they rely on the sea to provide food for them, and the sea manages to replenish itself more efficiently. It also adds a new dimension to the words of House Greyjoy, "We do not sow".
  2. The rule of thumb is that a city has 20.000 inhabitants or more. A village has less than 1.000, a regular town has between 1.000 and 10.000 and a large town between 10.000 and 20.000. "Market towns" are on the low end of urban settlements, probably around 1.000-2.000, since, like the name suggests, they are simply places where people from several villages meet to trade. To give you an idea about a town's size, this is a map of Timișoara around 1700 (not medieval, but it should be close enough), when it had ~5.000 inhabitants. Some Westerosi towns would be larger than that (Duskendale for sure, Maidenpool a big maybe, Barrowton perhaps), but most of them probably wouldn't (Saltpans should be small, considering most of its people were killed by a band of outlaws, Mole's Town is basically a village, Fairmarket is supposedly modestly sized). For the opposite end. here's Paris in the 16th century, with a population of 150.000. Medieval Europe had over 35 cities with a population higher than 20.000. Towns the size of Timișoara were too many to count. At 77% the size of Europe and having the same population density, Westeros should have 27 cities, so even if we add one settlement close to 20.000 in each of the kingdoms we haven't explored, we're still closer to 1/3 of Europe's numbers than to actual parity. And I still fail to grasp why this parity with Europe is so important that it's worth casting aside creative integrity to preserve it. At the end of the day, it's a question of where you want to suspend disbelief: at the macro level, in regards to population density and military statistics, or at the micro level, when it comes to a believable administrative structure. Why is the macro more important than the micro when the story hinges so much more on the latter? Please answer this one simple question. The population growth attributed to King Jaeherys's reign is simply ridiculous, and if it does indeed apply to all of Westeros, George should be encouraged to revise it. Barring that, we should treat it as an inaccuracy. This growth is 15 times larger... 15!!!... than the average growth per 50 years in the Middle Ages, not counting the 14th century since it was affected by the plague. To reiterate... The average growth per 50 years in the non-plague periods of the Middle Ages was 6,5%. The growth rate for the 50 years of Jaeherys's reign – 100%! Suspend disbelief?! Suspend my balls! And it would be equally absurd for the population to just stop growing after that... even accounting for plagues (the bubonic plague only caused a population decrease of 10% overall, and it lasted longer than the Winter Fever; the Spring Sickness is said to have only killed "tens of thousands", which is probably bad math again, but even if it's hundreds of thousands it wouldn't stall population growth too much). Even if the growth rate was halved after Jaeherys's death, we would be at 8 times the pre-conquest population right now... And here's the sweet, sweet irony of it all. If we're saying that the Seven Kingdoms have 40 million inhabitants now because the population doubled or tripled after the Conquest... that means you are totally fine with 14-20 million people living in Westeros before the Targaryens. Wasn't the infrastructure back then still close enough to medieval Europe? Wasn't the Reach still as fertile as France? The Targaryens didn't bring any technological advancements, and the political system didn't change that much... You could say that the unification reduced conflict and increased trade, but it's not like the Targaryens didn't have internal conflicts or that the kingdoms never traded with each other before (some connections surely existed, since the lords still used maesters, alliances were frequently formed and the kingdoms in the south shared a religion). If anything, pre-conquest Westeros was a lot more like medieval Europe, which was never united under a single empire. Large population growths are... problematic in a world like ASoIaF, because important demographic fluctuations tend to produce societal changes, and here we are supposed to have a static political system, a feudal structure that's been lasting for thousands of years. This would be easier to accept if population levels were also relatively static. Now, here's my interpretation of the growth during Jaeherys's reign. During his first years on the throne, a lot of people died of the shivers. Certainly not half, but a large number nonetheless, similar to Europe's bubonic plague, but in a much shorter time. What I noticed while looking at medieval demography was that the growth rate was twice as big during the 50 years following the plague. The population dropped by 10% , and then rebounded in only half a century, a growth that would have taken 100 years previously (and after). This likely happened because the dead had left behind an already existing infrastructure waiting to be filled, and people would have had an easier time finding work, resources and space to support their families. Something like this, in combination with Jaeherys's policies and the peace he offered, could account for a 15-20% growth rate instead of 6,5%. Certainly not 100% though, that's simply not feasible. This, in combination with a great migration towards urban centers encouraged by trade and Jaeherys's investment in them (certainly in King's Landing, he would have hired many workers to expand and improve the city), would have tricked maesters into believing the overall population doubled. Perhaps there is also a level of propaganda here, stressing on how great an already beloved king was. But in reality, the overall population would have stabilized relatively close to where it used to be prior to the epidemics.
  3. @Werthead This notion that we can convert Westeros's towns into "cities by medieval standards" is disingenuous, just like your previous insistence to lump in lesser lords together with the more important bannermen. I am ok with more towns existing than appear on the maps, and George revealing some of them, especially in areas we haven't seen before (although, as we are nearing the end of the story, he can only reveal so many – and by the way, I counted both Stoney Sept and Weeping Town), but within reason. Actual cities, just like major lords, can't be added out of the blue, because it would take too much suspension of disbelief to deal with the fact that they were never mentioned before in the wealth of AsoIaF literature. For example, large walled town in the Riverlands would have served as places of refuge for the peasants, points of strategic interest to attack or defend, prizes to share among the victors. Likewise, if there were any important settlements along Brienne's journey other than Duskendale and Maidenpool, she would have stopped there to ask about Sansa. And it's not like we're talking about two or three, or even five cities. George would have to produce at least 20 of them out of nowhere to align with European numbers, as well as hundreds upon hundreds of towns. That's so much "suspension of disbelief" you can read it on a roentgen meter. With regards to wars: I can concede that war probably can't be used as a good explanation for Westeros having a lower population than Europe, although I will note that most of the Westerosi wars George mentioned are large scale. There may have been any numbers of small scale confrontations between bannermen (Blackwoods and Brackens always being at each other throats), lesser lords and clans that aren't mentioned on that list. With regards to the population "doubling": I don't know what the exact text is, but the wiki mentions the population "north of Dorne", which could be refering to parts of the Reach, the Stormlands and the Crownlands themselves. This could be explained to a great degree to migration, people coming from other regions of Westeros to settle in or closer to the capital. The prospect of the population of an entire continent doubling in quasi-medieval times is preposterous. Even if it comes directly from George's book, I would contest its validity and chalk it as a mistake made by the maesters. To offer you a comparison, the population of medieval Europe never grew more than 16% per century, and even then some migrations were involved. The world population only achieved 100% growth in 50 years in the 1900s, particularly between 1930s and 1980s. Jaehaerys would have had to introduce some insane levels of medical advancements and maybe even started a whole campaign to encourage high natality rates, and the strain on the agricultural infrastructure to actually provide for such a large and sudden population increase must have been enormous. Can't help but ask myself what stopped the trend and where are those advancements now. If Jaeherys achieved 40 million, maybe we should be at 600 million by now?! Then again, if the population doubled simply due to 50 years of peace, that would mean wars have an insane impact on the population, wouldn't you think? No, let's just say that George (or rather the maesters) simply flubbed the math on this one, and counted localized migration as actual growth. @Feather Crystal I actually think the 7,8 million km2 is pretty accurate, if we accept the length of the Wall. One thing we can do to understand how the population is distributed over that area is to use the army sizes not for absolute estimates, but as indicators of demographic distribution. The North has 40.000 soldiers out of 400.000 total, so they would have 10% of the population of Westeros. Dorne and the Iron Isles are also roughly 10% together, so the let's say "central" or "fertile" part of Westeros, covering a surface of roughly 4 million km2, would hold 80% (or 75% at a minimum) of whatever total population we estimate. The Reach alone would have 25%. It's important to note that even within this region, some areas are sparsely populated. I mentioned Cracklaw Point already, then there are the Mountains of the Moon, the Kingswood and the Rainwood (these two forests cover about 1/3 of the Stormlands according to the maps), the Dornish Marches, the God's Eye and the rugged hills around the Westerlands, all of which limit settlement and agriculture to a greater or lesser degree (though I suppose the God's Eye allows fishing). On top of that, there are the smaller forests we don't know about. It's unspecified to what degree they cover the land.
  4. Thank you all for the interesting points you brought up. I finally managed to process and write down some new ideas. My argument so far has been that from the ground up, looking strictly at infrastructure and human interactions, the population doesn't seem to be anywhere as high as 40 million. Aside from calculations based on settlements, ground level recruitment and administration, the books are littered with pieces of anecdotal evidence that point towards low population density and high recruitment rates. After reading the latest comments, I decided to take a closer look at surface area as well, to see just how big the discrepancies are. I'm kind of surprised by the results... First of all, George claimed that Westeros is the size of South America, but later came back to this, specifying that this also includes the Canada-sized area north of the Wall (please correct me if I'm wrong). South America has an area of 17,84 million km2, while Canada is 9,985 million km2. That would leave the Seven Kingdoms a surface area of 7,855 million km2 (or a little over 3 million square miles). This lines up pretty well with the 4.828 km (3.000 miles) north-south length of the continent. If you block out a rectangle around it and do a quick area calculation, it's going to be roughly 10 million km2; substract all the parts that are covered by ocean, and it's probably going to be close to the initial result. Europe has a surface area of 10,18 km2, so the Seven Kingdoms are a bit smaller, 77% the size of Europe. Not sure why (maybe because Ran is so intimidating!), but I used to think they were supposed to be larger, or at the very least the same size. So when people were reluctant to go much lower than those 40 million, I used to think that was because 40 million already meant a significant drop from the 56-70 million of medieval Europe. But that's not really the case! If we compare it to the 56 million of the early middle ages, 77% means 43 million, so the dreaded estimate is almost on the dot from the start. If we compare it to the 70 million of the 1300s, 77% of that is 53,9 million, so the 40 million figure lags a bit behind, but if we consider that Dorne and the North are both sparsely populated due to their respective climates, and that the two of them combined are much larger than the colder areas of Europe, you can explain the difference on geography alone. If we bring the demography of these two kingdoms into the equation for the early middle ages comparison, 40 million is actually too high. So those of you advocating for this number pretty much want the Seven Kingdoms to have exactly the same population density as medieval Europe in the 1300s, geographical differences considered. Isn't that quaint? Well, I don't think that's a sound positions at all. There are several key differences between the Seven Kingdoms and Europe that either demand or justify a considerably smaller population: 1. In spite of some high medieval and even Renaissance affectations here and there, the complexity of the administrative system is nowhere near that of Europe in the 1300s. It is a very rudimentary lord-to-vassal feudal structure, with no added bureaucracy and a relatively short authority chain, reminiscent of the early medieval period at best. 2. Urbanization level is low compared to Europe, in spite of two of the five existing cities being very large. It seems that a single port city is enough to service each of the major regions on the continent (with King's Landing presumably servicing three). In land there are no cities at all, and few towns worth mentioning, a sign that the economy is not strong enough to support them and that there isn't a high enough demographic pressure for people to move out of the villages and converge towards larger settlements. 3. Characters constantly travel through uncultivated, uninhabited or sparsely populated lands even south of the Neck (Brienne being the greatest example), indicating a low population density overall. 4. The unnatural seasons of Westeros throw a wrench in how large a population the land can actually support. Those five years of French summers in the Reach are followed by five years of winter in which crops can't be planted anymore. This isn't really the same as having regular seasons. Either more pressure needs to be put on the land during the years of summer, resulting in lower average yields, as per my thesis in the OP, or mortality increases during the long years of winter, culling populations, or both. For any region other than the Reach, this problem only gets worse. 5. The frequent large scale wars would also keep the population in check, either directly or through their impact on agriculture. All these being said, I really don't think 14 million should be seen as "impossible". It represents 35% of a population in line with 1300s' Europe and 44% of a population in line with early medieval Europe. A steep difference perhaps, but far from absurd, all things considered. Going for a compromise of 20 to 25 million, accounting for army sizes of 1,6-2% , should be more than acceptable to any of you (I still think 25 million is bordering on too high, but I would begrudgingly take it).
  5. @Free Northman Reborn I find it funny how it's totally fine to suspend our disbelief when it comes to agriculture, administration, winter survival and city sizes, but when it comes to recruitment rates nothing else will do than to be historically accurate to the mother #@$%ing letter. It doesn't even matter that recruitment went much higher than that for various countries in various moments of history, we must use continent-wide average, because that's the level of professionalism we invest in our fantasy literature over here, gosh dang it! What's wrong with suspending our disbelief with the armies a little bit in order to transfer some of that realism to the system of governance? @Aldarion There were several petty kings in Scotland too, prior to the unification. Nothing wrong with the Boltons having been something similar in the distant past @Werthead Come on, try to actually understand what I'm saying before you accuse me of arguing in bad faith. I am strictly referring to the bannermen of the Great Houses, of which there are ~100 on the continent. Yes, these bannermen have vassal lords themselves, but the vassals take their lands from their liege lords, and this the territories overlap. The Lannisters and Tyrells have 27 bannermen between them, so each of them would have had an average of 22 lesser lords on their lands judging by the number you quoted. Now, going back to the Sworn Sword example, one of these lesser lords would have been Lady Webber. According to the novella, her lands supported twenty times as many smallfolk as Ser Eustace's, which is at most 3.000. Multiply that by 22 and we get 66.000. Double it to account for any knights' holdings, and we'd end up with 132.000 people under each bannerman. Once again, if we actually check the numbers, the closest estimate is my 14 million. And no, I'm not actively trying to weak the numbers, but now that I think about it, I think I understand why it's happening. George designed the political structure of Westeros around the idea of a large European kingdom comprised of eight smaller states (not counting the Crownlands). That's basically medieval France, which was made up of eight duchies. So whether he planned it or not, if you try to extrapolate the population from the ground up, based on administrative elements rather than land size, you'll get close to, well... the population of medieval France.
  6. @Free Northman Reborn Again with the land size comparisons... I'm talking about governance and administration here, the very "infrastructure" Ran brought up. Read a few things about governance in medieval Scotland. It had its own court, council, parliament and laws. Bolton is one dude with a castle, to claim he can reliably govern over 300.000 people turns any pretense at historical realism into a farce.
  7. @Lord Varys Excellent comment overall. The only (admittedly dodgy) explanation I can think of for not having winter supplies in King's Landing is a fear that such large quantities of food in a single place run the risk of being ruined by the higher concentration of pests, contamination from sewage, cellars flooding due to the city being located between a river and the sea, etc. @Werthead No, there is a hierarchy of the nobility in Westeros, even though they're all called lords and it can get a bit confusing. You've got: - the King - the Great Lords (the Tyrells) - their bannermen (the Rowan) - the lesser lords (the Webbers) - the landed knights (the Osgreys) Aside from them, there are also lords in title only, like Varys. The landed knights and the lesser lords both have their lands from the bannermen, it's just a difference of how large they are and what rights they have (knights don't have the right of pit and gallows, lesser lords do). This is explained in The Sworn Sword. I was only referring to bannermen in my calculations, all of which are listed in the character sheets. The lands of the lesser lords obviously overlap with theirs. So no, we are not talking about thousands of lords, unless we want to invent a slew of new bannermen, which would be awkward to say the least. @Free Northman Reborn Osgrey is the one example we have of recruitment down on the ground. It does not result in 3%, but rather 6-10%. 3% is a number you can comfortably get to if you assume recruitment doesn't go as well everywhere else. I agree we can debate the numbers to some extent, but to want to throw out an in-text example because it doesn't align with out of text fan calculations is patently absurd, and not a conversation I am interested in having. @Ran You bring up infrastructure, but you keep making these macro level continent to continent comparisons. Population densities can vary, and plenty of reasons can be found in Westeros to explain a lower density (agricultural habits, deaths from constant wars, deaths from long winters, etc.). But tell me this, when you look at Roose Bolton or Wyman Manderly, do you imagine them governing over the equivalents of Scotland or Sweden? Or maybe they're more like one step below that? Were you imagining ten kings of Scotland trailing after Robb in his campaign south? How is that properly conceived infrastructure? And another thing. No European city had more than 250.000 inhabitants in the middle ages, and that's on the high estimates, more conservatively they were below 150.000. Constantinople only reached 500.000 in the 1500s, some time after the ottoman conquest, which brought more efficient means of administration not typical to medieval Europe. If such a significant inflation is acceptable for the size of a city, which very much depends on infrastructure, after all, why not recruitment as well? Why is this the one thing that must be on parity with historical estimates from the real world? Do you at least acknowledge that it is causing problems in other places?
  8. @Ran If you think 14 million is impossibly low for the society depicted, allow me to explain why I believe 40 million is ridiculously high. If you count all the bannermen of the great houses and the crown, you will come up with a little less than 120, which I'll round it up for simplicity. With a population of 40 million, that means each bannerman lords over an average of 300.000 people. If you count the Iron Islands separately, since they have an abnormally large number of lords for some relatively small lands, you can take that up to 350.000 people per bannerman on the continent. That is in the ballpark of smaller European nations such as Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Transylvania, Moldavia, Wallachia, and even early Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands on the higher end. These were kingdoms, duchies and principalities in their own rights, with national identities and complex internal political systems; they had their own courts, with several ranks of peerage below the ruler (marquees, count, viscount, baron, knight or equivalents), and more often than not they were able to maintain their autonomy next to larger kingdoms. The Westerosi bannermen - the Boltons, the Blackwoods, the Tarlys, the Waynwoods, the Fowlers, etc. – in no way resemble kings, princes and dukes. Out of all of them, perhaps the Hightowers alone even come close to their purported European equivalents. Their vast majority hold vaguely defined lands which they control from a single castle or town, and only have two layers of peerage bellow them, the lesser lords and the landed knights. If we look purely at the structure of their holdings (ignoring calculated surface area and population) and the way they relate to their liege lords and the Crown, the bannermen resemble counts more than anything else. This makes sense, since George seems to have modeled the political system of Westeros around a single large European kingdom, with the great lords acting as dukes and princes. That the Lannisters and the Starks are inspired by the dukes of Lancaster and York is a good indication of this. Because of his extensive use of historical sources, the inner workings of the Seven Kingdoms feel very organic and believable, so long as you don't look at the numbers. But if you want to force 40 million people into this system, its political administration suddenly feels simplistic, like a spandex suit that looks cool on a young Spiderman but splits open on a fat man ten times his size. Moreover, nowhere in the books does a high population density actually hold up. Brienne travels through Cracklaw Point, a peninsula the size of Portugal, if the estimates are to be believed, and she only encounters a keep with a few women in it, a lone rider and three men in a ruined castle... and the last four came from somewhere else. The lands lord Bracken wants to take from the Blackwoods, which include five villages (assuming Honeytree counts as one), one town, two mills, some forests and hills and maybe a couple of castles (the Ravishment and Battle Valley don't sound like castles, but Oldforge might be one), are supposed to increase his domain by a quarter. Compare this to the principality of Wallachia, which, although it was constantly hounded by the Ottomans and therefore one of the least developed in Europe, had around 20 towns, 30 castles and keeps and hundreds of villages on its territory. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself what is harder to suspend your disbelief for: that the Seven Kingdoms would be able to field armies of 2% or 3% of its population instead of the historically accurate 1-1.25%, or that Galbart Glover would be able to govern a population comparable to that of medieval Sweden from his motte-and-bailey castle in the woods. I say accurate statistics mean little and less to this series (2-3% recruitment or even higher was not unheard of in the real world), but the intricate workings of political administration are visible everywhere, and crucial to the plot. Coming back to the agriculture, just like I explained to those nice and informative farmers on reddit, the point of it is not to solidify my point that Westeros needs a smaller population, but to serve as a clutch attempt to explain the low population density, and therefore allow the books to get away with both an appropriate population for the depicted society and the gigantic size of the continent. An offering from me, if you will, since although I believe 40 million is absurd without turning Boltonia and Tarlyland into full-fledged countries, I don't want to argue that George messed up... I want this to continue being the intricate and brilliantly designed world that I love. The ample winter supplies, although never explicitly mentioned, also feel very logical for the world, and would explain why the lords don't find it logistically challenging to move huge armies through the land – they simply consume years worth of supplies from the smallfolk, and either resupply them later, or leave them to pray that winter will be shorter than anticipated. In realistic terms, winter reserves should exist, otherwise everyone would die. I don't see how we can nitpick the realism of army sizes and chuck this one to suspension of disbelief. I'm sure that if George was asked a properly formulated question, he would have to concede that winter storage plays a crucial part in allowing armies to supply themselves efficiently in the field...
  9. @Free Northman Reborn We agree on nothing of the sort! With all due respect towards @Ran, who is an awesome member of the community and meant well, the 1% is simply a classic example of tweaking the numbers to make them look right. That doesn't mean the methodology and the results are correct. Westeros is not medieval Europe. It can have a higher recruitment rate, just like the few existing cities are several times more populous than the ones in our world, and just like dynasties last exponentially longer. I offered a concrete example of recruitment resulting in way more that 1%... and I don't even advocate for the whooping 6-10% that results from the calculations, but for a more conservative 3%, accounting for lower recruitment elsewhere. I explained why feeding these armies in the field would be feasible in Westeros... And to address what @argonak said, if people are supposed to survive through winters lasting several years, they would have to set supplies aside for them, whether George mentioned that or not. Otherwise you can throw historical realism out the window. Who cares about army sizes and population densities? Realistically they'd all be dead within a year. But, you know, if a population of 40 million with a 1% recruitment rate creatively makes sense to you because you want to have a nearsighted sense of historical realism, you can imagine whatever you wish!
  10. The Coconut God

    Board Issues 4

    I am experiencing similar issues. Would be neat if they got fixed.
  11. @Corvo the Crow Those are some very good points. You can also use the holdings demanded by the Brackens to estimate population (since they are 1/4 of their total holdings, and we know there are ~ 15 bannermen per great house). For the population to reach 40 million, ~ 75.000 people would need to live there, which is impossible, considering it's only two castles, three villages and one market town. Brienne's chapters also points out at a very low population density, otherwise there would be so many towns and villages in between King's Landing and Maidenpool (a distance similar to Paris – Amsterdam) that she wouldn't know which direction to go next. She would also encounter more people on presumably Portugal-sized Cracklaw Point. @Free Northman Reborn First of all, the 1% rule is a very poor way of estimating total population, because when you deal with such a low percentage, small variations will lead to gigantic differences in your results. If you use 0.5% instead of 1%, you will end up with 80 million. If you use 1.5%, you will get 26.6 million... That's a huge gap, and a variation of 0.5 percentage points is always plausible. Now, for what kind of troops are being levied... I think Septon Meribald's speech contradicts your assertion that poorly equipped peasants recruited on the spot don't get taken on long distance campaigns. In fact, it's the whole point of their speech that they are. And it is evident from the peasants' reaction (which I quoted in the OP!) that they fully expected to be recruited for a Blackfyre war. As for feeding the army, given the circumstances we have at the beginning of AsoIaF, that would be a hell of a lot easier than people assume. Keep in mind that people would absolutely NEED to store food for winter during the long summers in order to survive, and the series starts at the end of a 10 years long summer. Every village, town and castle should have 10 years worth of stored food for a winter that is also expected to be long. If storage is done at parity, meaning you prepare for a winter that is roughly the same length as the summer, that means everyone has enough food to last them 10 years. A small town of 1.000 people should be able to feed a an army of 60.000 for a full month while only using half of their stores. And then the army would move to the next town, or forage from villages. Now, this practice would be extremely irresponsible... these people would die from starvation in winter unless they managed to replenish their stores from unaffected towns and villages... but since when were Westerosi lords known to be responsible? The point is there would be no food shortage even for unusually large armies as they advance through the land. Even a small village could provide for their needs for a short while, granted that their stores would be entirely depleted. In fact, if armies were as low as 1% of the population, they would have a hard time depleting 10 years worth of storage from entire kingdoms. Even if food was wantonly burned, many would be able to hide their stores before their lands were affected by the fighting.
  12. The Coconut God

    Do you like Feast and Dance?

    This is your answer. Feast & Dance are transitional books. They move the plot from the largely resolved War of the Five Kings which dominated the first three volumes to whatever the endgame is going to be. People who already made up their minds about the endgame before Feast & Dance were even published tend not to like them. To them, many of the newly introduced plot points are "filler" because they don't move the story along in the direction they "know" it "must" follow. People who like to read between the lines and theorize, such as myself, tend to enjoy Feast & Dance more than the other books because they are still open ended and therefore allow us to play with the puzzle pieces and construct a multitude of potential scenarios from them. If Winds makes good use of the plot points set up in Feast & Dance (even subverting long standing expectations about the endgame if it has to), naysayers will have to concede that everything was necessary for the story after all. They may get a new enjoyment out of a re-read, since obviously they would have missed the point of the books the first time. If the plot points are dropped or hastily resolved in a manner that makes them seem superfluous, then it will be hard for people to take those books seriously even if they originally enjoyed them, much like the show is now hard to watch because of the poor ending.
  13. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    I'm not sure if Jon's ending will be the same in the books, as in him rejoining the Watch or living north of the Wall with the wildlings. That seems a little disconnected and trite to me. He goes through this gigantic arc only to end up more or less back where he began? What about the LotR ending George said he was aiming for? Some characters did "go back home". but neither Frodo nor Aragorn ended up where they began. The events of the books changed them to much. Now, when it comes to his assassination, I don't think that's actually about Jon... Well, it is to some extent, but that's not the main reason why George made it happen. I think it's more about how Jon's absence will affect the rest of the story in the North, especially Stannis's. Unlike D&D, George doesn't make his character stupid just for the sake of advancing the plot. Stannis is stubborn and flawed, but he's not stupid. If Jon was around when the Others invaded, he would listen to his advice, just like he did in the Bolton campaign. I can see Stannis failing to take advance from Davos in the future, and that would be one of those big tragic mistakes for the character, but Davos would only be in a position to give ethical advice. Jon knows a lot about the North, the wildlings, the wights and the Others, he is in a position to give informed tactical and political advice. If the end of Stannis's arc is that he burns Shireen and leads a doomed attack against the Others after half his men abandon him, I can't imagine that happening with Jon at his side. And simply saying "Jon was caught up somewhere else" would be a cop out if we assume the clash with the Others is imminent. Another important part of this is that Jon, not Stannis, was the glue holding all the factions at the Wall together. The wildlings wouldn't turn on the Watch while Jon was in charge. The northern lords presumably wouldn't turn on Stannis if Jon was at his side. Especially if they know about Robb's will. Taking Jon out of the picture is an opportunity for these conflicts to play out. I will be very surprised if they don't. Of course, this also serves Jon indirectly, because you want to think of him as the character who would have known what to do. Had he been around and incapable of doing anything while all the shit the fan, then you would ask yourself "Who is this guy to pick all the pieces at the end? He's just as responsible as everyone else". So I don't think it will matter all that much if he's dead or in a coma or if people will make a big deal of his resurrection or not. The real plot point is that he won't be around for a while, and the way in which this will affect his character is that he won't be directly involved in whatever goes down (while still being able to internalize some of the blame, since the assassination itself was a result of his own political and leadership mistakes). Personally, I still suspect he will die and be resurrected, first of all for the "cool factor" and the impact it will have on some of the people who choose to follow Jon afterwards, and second of all because it would allow George to tighten up the narrative a little bit. Think about it, Cat stopped getting PoV chapters after she became LSH, so George can stop giving us Jon chapters for most if not all of TWoW, to keep us in suspense on whether or not it's still our Jon in there. Then all the other PoV characters in the North, like Davos, Asha, Mel and Theon, instead of being superfluous after Stannis dies, can serve as a window into whatever Jon is doing.
  14. I don't think George is the kind of guy who viciously bashes stuff, especially stuff made by people he knows. I've often seen him praising pulpy, average quality stuff on his blog. He's like one of those kindly teachers who gives everyone a passing grade, and if he criticizes something, he's going to do it in a veiled, inoffensive way (unless it's people selling false stories about him on the internet). I think part of that is because he's very self-conscious as a creator (he has to be to struggle so much with ASoIaF), and part because he used to be a screen writer himself in the 80s and early 90s, so his expectations were always, at least in part, based on experiences from a time when even the best TV shows were mostly cheap schlock. As bad as it is right now, Game of Thrones still exceeds those standards in many many ways. We have a different perspective, because we've been watching good serialized dramas for most of our adult lives, and we are also shell shocked and jaded because of bad endings from popular series like Lost, Dexter, BSG, etc. Personally, I really really hope George is not as depressed about the series as we are. He needs to keep himself healthy and sound of mind to keep writing. We're just going to have to be assholes for him and bash D&D ourselves!
  15. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    You assume Jon will be resurrected at Castle Black while Marsh is in charge. I certainly don't. And yes, fire wights are "not who they were", but that doesn't mean they are enslaved husks either. IIRC, Martin said each time they die something is lost, and they become more single minded, but I assume what remains still comes from who they were. I imagine they are like people coming back after a massive stroke, minus the paralysis. But in any case, I don't really understand what the point of this argument is. I'm not married to the idea of Jon dying and coming back to life, I'm perfectly fine with him not dying at all. The points that are important to me are: He's not dead right now. I think the story would be served better if he's out of commission for a longer time, allowing Stannis to ruin his relationship with the North and possibly lose to the Others all without Jon's intervention. So, to me, he's in a coma at the moment. Whether he recovers or not remains to be seen. Robb's will is what frees him of his vows and makes him KitN. The resurrection, even if it happens, is just a red herring with regards to the vows, and he doesn't need to fight the Boltons to prove himself as king. He is king by Robb's decree. That's it. If he doesn't die at all, that works just fine for me. Who says the North needs to be united? The Others are coming, this is when the ball drops. The North needs to be at its lowest. Ditto for the Wall, things are already at the point where they are about to fall apart when we last see the place in Dance. Why fix it when we know it has to break again for the story to move forward? This is a show to books thread, what part of the show gave you the impression that the Others will be held back at the Wall? But Roose vs Stannis is already in the final phase! If Roose loses, the story can progress to the Others, to the mother fucking stepping stone to the endgame. If Stannis loses, the story goes into another side quest loop. Roose vs Jon, interesting or not, is not necessary for progressing anything. Why not have Jon vs Lady Dustin afterwards? She's interesting too...
  16. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    But why must we have this convoluted mess... Stannis losing, surviving, running away to the wall, somehow growing mad enough to burn Shireen instead of running off to Braavos to get more sellswords... all for the sake of the boring ass Ramsay vs Jon side story? I don't get it. It's just bad. The story flows smoother, is more satisfying, and serves the characters better thematically if Stannis retakes Winterfell, finally loses his skepticism about his higher destiny and makes the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the realm, only to be crushed by reality in the most tragic way. It doesn't matter what you and Martin call him, what matters is how he is seen by his potential followers. Fire wight or not, Beric's resurrections were enough to convert a lot of people down in the south. The crucial difference between them and the ice zombies (at least the ones the Others use) is that they can pass off as real people.
  17. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    Being resurrected by fire means that you can't possibly be a wight. Wights are killed by fire. This is why I believe that, if he dies at all, he will come back to life from his own funeral pyre.
  18. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    Sure, but we don't have to rely on resurrection to free him of his vows, therefore there is no contradiction. If she hasn't done it already, how will she now? Stannis is prepared to die at Winterfell, and in that situation he wants Shireen to succeed him, we already know this. The only thing that could make him change his mind is if this existential threat of the Great Other actually manifests itself, because then he will have to believe that he is Azor Ahai and it is his duty to save the realm.
  19. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    You are free to disagree, but that is the enemy Melissandre set him out to face. If he's ever going to burn Shireen, and the show basically confirmed it, he will do it to protect the realm from an existential threat, He won't do it just to win a castle for himself, we've already seen that in the Theon preview chapters. If he dies in battle, Massey's orders are to win the throne for Shireen. I don't think he's dead either, not yet at least. I agree that getting out of the Night's Watch on a technicality would be highly questionable, but a king has the power to free him from his vows. We know this from both Stannis, who offered it to Jon, and from Cersei, who promised it to Osney. Since Robb legitimized him and named him his heir in his will, it stands to reason that he freed him of his vows as well, otherwise he'd just be in Maester Aemon's position. So technically speaking he's been free of his vows by northern law since the Red Wedding, he just didn't know it yet.
  20. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    They're not nulled by his death, they're nulled by the will.
  21. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    It's very simple, though. Stannis is the false Azor Ahai, the king with an iron will who will break before he bends. The Others break through the Wall, and he is convinced it is his destiny and duty to stop them. The northern lords abandon him in fear, he is hopelessly outnumbered, so he burns Shireen for a blessing from Rh'llor. Nothing happens, but he goes forth anyway, and all that happens is that his paltry forces get added to the armies of the dead. He is destroyed by the corpses of the very Freys he drowned and northmen he slaughtered to take Winterfell. Perfect ending for him, now Jon finally succumbs to his wounds and is placed on a pyre, but he comes back to life again, and on top of it all he was Robb's chosen heir as well. Boom, everyone pins their hopes on him!
  22. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    Good point about the ungrateful northerners. This wasn't convincing at all with Dany given the circumstances in the show, but it works perfectly for Stannis. I don't think she will march to Winterfell either, I think there's a high chance the North will be abandoned at least temporarily before the Others are dealt with. I keep saying this, but I think the show had very strong reasons to avoid winter as much as possible. Filming on location in Iceland is one thing, but having snow on demand on large sets like Wintefell or locations like King's Landing would have been a huge production challenge and likely insanely expensive. Of course they would opt for a season of Ramsay over the Others invading early. Even in season 8, the snow is blatantly fake and never more than ankle deep. What were they going to do for a meter high snows, rebuild their sets in Alaska and keep their crew there to shoot in the winter? I bet we'll see a much harsher and longer winter in the books. Luckily, George's imagination doesn't have budgetary constraints. I'm actually going with Brienne as the Last Hero 2.0. She has a "magic sword" after all, and this would vindicate her eight chapters of character development that a lot of people are complaining about. D&D probably thought Brienne wasn't important enough, or didn't know how to make this work for the character. Remember that fight she had with Arya? You can call me a tinfoil hatter, but I think eventually we'll see that scene as a nod to this change. Kind of like "In the show, Arya is better than Brienne, so we are giving her the job of ending the Long Night". She even used the same knife move she used when she killed the Night King in that scene, so they're clearly connected. This also means that book Jaime will get show Theon's ending. He will go full circle and die protecting Bran, which I find a lot more satisfying for his character than being squashed by a bunch of bricks.
  23. The Coconut God

    GRRM's (Brief) Thoughts on the Final Episode

    The characters he mentions by name are the ones who never made it into the show. He's being vague about everything else.
  24. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    I subscribe to the theory that Stannis will use the frozen lake to defeat the Freys, then dress his own men in their armor and enter Winterfell by guile. The Pink Letter is supposed to be a direct result of this trick and a hint for the reader that it is taking place. I also believe that Stannis's men and the loyal northern lords will tragically butcher each other because neither knows about the others' deception. Manderly's knights will fall in the same trap as the Freys, and Stannis won't be inclined to spare any survivors. The northern lords will defend themselves fiercely against a perceived Frey betrayal. So in the end Stannis will win, but there will be very few soldiers left in the North. Then Ramsay's raven reaches Castle Black first, everyone believes Stannis lost, Jon is assassinated and everything turns to shit over there. Cue the Others breaching the Wall. Good luck everyone! That's what I understand by progressing the story. I accept that I may be biased, but half a book of Jon Snow fighting the Boltons after Stannis dies in an anticlimactic way sounds like a turd sandwich to me and I don't want it!
  25. The Coconut God

    Master thread on what the Show means for the book plot

    You make a good point about fArya, but on the other hand the clansmen don't really plan to return home. Part of their reason for joining Stannis was that old men usually go out in the cold to die anyway during hard winters, to leave more food for the young, and they'd rather die in battle. As for Roose, even if he has some special powers, unless they connect to the main plot line, he's still going to be a side quest. I suppose he could be this ancient creature who can reveal something about the Others, but that would feel a bit too tacked on for me (and not really necessary, considering Bran is linked to the weirnet).
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