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Floki of the Ironborn

A question about a region's fighting strength (particularly the North)

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4 minutes ago, Bright Blue Eyes said:

Of course not. But I am talking about travel times. Somewhat like half the North is 500 miles or more from the next rookery to be notified by raven. In comparison, it's difficult to find any point in the Westerlands that's even a mere 50 miles from one.

Each single rookery in the North has to have couriers on their horses scour more than one hundred times the area than their southern counterparts. That takes an incredible amount of time. Otherwise no one would even know they are supposed to show up at Winterfell or Moat Cailin or whereever.

 

I don't think most northeners are so scattered though. Sure, it takes time to gather them, more than in any southern kingdom, but it makes sense for them to live in the most fertile and well-protected areas and not as hermits. So you probably find a few hundred people living together at one place, but then you can ride for days without seeing more than a handful. 

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11 hours ago, John Doe said:

Exactly. And it's possible the North is just not very fertile. Robert travelled the kingsroad up to Winterfell and asked were all the people were, that alone shows how unpopulated that region is. North of Winterfell the situation should be even worse. 

It is worse. Just compare what little we got from Ned's travel down the Kingsroad and compare it to Tyrion's more detailed account of his journey up to the Wall. The impression you get is that nobody lives up there. Literally nobody. Considering that the Kingsroad is the main road through the North, the way traders and travelers would take, one should assume that if there are any settlements they would be at/near the Kingsroad. But none such settlements are mentioned during Tyrion's journey to the Wall.

I guess there must have been a few such but then - if a progressing king doesn't cause the people to hang out near the Kingsroad then I don't know what will. Robert was most likely the last king since Aegon V (who I assume visited the North at least once after his coronation) to visit the North.

The issues the Northmen had with the Ironborn for centuries could explain why the western coasts are not exactly populated all that much. Considering the size of the North the natural reaction to those constant raids would have been to retreat farther inland (which the Northmen most likely did while the Ironborn ruled the entire western coast, just as the other coastal-living First Men).

By the way:

@Free Northman Reborn talked about strongholds of the clansmen. Are any such ever mentioned? Could be that those exist, but I wonder whether those clans not just live in some huts/villages/halls, keeping each other warm and close in the lands they control. They seem to be closest to the good old First Men lifestyle the wildlings still practice.

11 hours ago, Bright Blue Eyes said:

Of course not. But I am talking about travel times. Somewhat like half the North is 500 miles or more from the next rookery to be notified by raven. In comparison, it's difficult to find any point in the Westerlands that's even a mere 50 miles from one.

Each single rookery in the North has to have couriers on their horses scour more than one hundred times the area than their southern counterparts. That takes an incredible amount of time. Otherwise no one would even know they are supposed to show up at Winterfell or Moat Cailin or whereever.

That depends how the population is spread. Are there many lonely farms and houses and the like, or is the population mostly concentrated in small settlements where people are living together to help and protect each other?

Most likely the latter. There will be the occasional hermit farm and the like but the people living in such places wouldn't answer the calls of their lord anyway. They would need every hand to keep their farm running. Only larger communities can spare men to go off to war. Isolated families can't.

The logistics would most likely not enable the Northern lords to conscript many of their levies - or rather only if they actually govern over people that are easily reachable. The best guess is that the most settlements/people of a given are in general concentrated near the lord's castle. That makes sense especially if we remember the historical purpose of all those castles - to protect the population when they are threatened by outside enemies.

This could also explain why the hell the Karstarks had such trouble getting in the harvest. They recruited men mostly from near their own castle where most of their peasants live anyway.

11 hours ago, John Doe said:

I don't think most northeners are so scattered though. Sure, it takes time to gather them, more than in any southern kingdom, but it makes sense for them to live in the most fertile and well-protected areas and not as hermits. So you probably find a few hundred people living together at one place, but then you can ride for days seeing very few people.

Bran's journey pretty much confirms this. They meet one guy throughout their entire walk up to the Wall. Granted, they did not look for people but one should assume they would have to have been more careful had they crossed lands where people were actually living.

We should also keep in mind that large forests like the Wolfswood would also support fewer people than other places. And come to think of it there might be large regions where no farming and planting is done at all. Grasslands like the Barrowlands or the Rills (where the Ryswells might actually breed their horses half-wild, allowing them to live and breed on large plains where no people live.

And farther in the North there might be a lot of shepherds letting their flocks graze on the empty land.

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What I see is a lot of general, roundabout talk upthread about reasons why the North should have a low population density. Which it does, and which no one disputes.

However, low popuation density does not equate to low POPULATION. People are right to say that Bran hardly sees a soul when travelling through the Moutain Clan lands. And yet, we see for a fact that the Clans easily raise 3000 armed men from these "empty" lands.

People are correct to say that Robert complains about the relative emptiness of the Barrowlands. And yet, Tyrion and Jon also note that the lands along the Kings Road grow even more empty North of Winterfell. Despite this, we still see the Karstarks raise 3000 men to war.

Clearly, the emptiness of the lands in question is countered by their sheer size, and enables 3000 men to be raised by the rulers of these areas.

There is no settlement remotely close to Barrowton's size anywhere in the Karstark lands. And Barrowton is not located on the Kingsroad, signifying that the Kingsroad is not an indicator of where you will find population centres in the North.

In any case, there is no reason to believe that the "emptiness" of the Barrowlands is any different to the emptiness of the Karstark lands or Mountain clan lands. That seems pretty standard fare for the North. But the Barrowlands are much larger.

So if the Karstarks can raise 3000 there is every reason the believe the Dustins with a larger territory, further South and with a much larger central town can raise even more.

Ultimately the North can raise as many men as the Vale. Martin himself said so. And arguably at a much lower mobilization rate, given its geography and climate. So it has at least the population of a strong, fertile southron kingdom. Just spread out across 4 or 5 times the area.

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7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So, let's look at the Northern lords' strength again, based on what we know.

We know House Karstark has raised around 3000 men to date (2740 precisely stated, and another unknown number in Ser Rodrik's 2000 strong host in which at last some Karstark banners are specifically mentioned, to give us roughly 3000 to date).

Yup just under 3k

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

We know that the Umbers rule at least as large a territory as the Karstarks, and had at least as much prominence, if not greater, than the Karstarks in Robb's army. So their strength cannot be significantly weaker than that of the Karstarks, if weaker at all. Call it 2500, conservatively.

Greater than the Karstarks? Clearly not. There was 12k at Winterfell. Now the Karstarks brought 2,300 of that and I'd say the Boltons and Starks (including Glovers and Tallharts) had at least 6k between the two of them. That leaves 3,700 between the Umbers, Hornwoods, Mormonts, Cerwyns and Mountain Clans.

It seems very unlikely that the Umbers had as many men as the Karstarks did.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

We know the Mountain Clans have raised 3000 men to date (roughly 2500 with Stannis and the men in Robb's army on top of that), and likely have some left, spread across the two score clans'  strongholds to guard their lands against the massive wildling army that is right on their doorstep.

Sure 3k, many of whom are not trained or equipped and have merely left to sacrifice themselves because its winter and don't have the resources to fight in the South. I'm really not sure you can call them soldiers. Every adult male in Kings Landing could fight if they were out of options (like the Mountain Clan members are) but I would not say that they have a 150,000 army.

But for the sake of argument you can call them 3k.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Then we get to House Bolton, who were the most powerful rivals to House Stark for thousands of years, and who logically should have more men than either House Umber or Karstark.

Sure, seems reasonable.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

This premise is only strengthened by the fact that Bolton men formed the bulk of the 3500 strong force Roose brought to the Twins, that the Boltons still had additional men to fight the Manderlys in the Hornwood lands, and that they still had 600 prime soldiers (mostly trained cavalry as well) at the Dreadfort to attack Ser Rodrik with.

That 600 with Ramsay may well have been the force that was fighting in the Hornwood lands.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 

So quite conservatively we can give House Bolton 2500 men with Roose and another 600 highly trained soldiers with Ramsay, bringing us well above 3000 soldiers without considering any additional forces that might have been fighting the Manderlys in the Hornwood lands.

What evidence do you have that the men with Ramsay were separate to the soldiers fighting in the Hornwood lands? It was not a simultaneous battle

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 

And all of this without having to tap into raw recruits like the Karstarks or Umbers had to.

You know this how? Maybe Roose took many of his raw recruits South and left his lands strongly protected with decent soldiers. Something that Robb should probably have done.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Clearly the Boltons were therefore able to easily exceed 3000 trained soldiers, without relying on lesser trained reserves like House Karstark did to get to their 3000 number.

Sorry, that is not clear at all.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

All signs therefore point to the Boltons having a full strength between 4000 and 5000 men. Similar to House Frey, in other words. Note that none of the above is based on wild fantasy or generous exaggerations. Just on cold logic and a fair assessment of the text.

Nope the signs don't point to that.

 

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So now we see a trend. We have looked at 4 constituent territories of the North, and in each case the armed strength ranges from 2500 to 4500 or more. And we are yet to get to the warmer, more fertile southern half of the North, where the largest settlements are located, or to House Stark themselves, for that matter.

The only trend we have seen is you exaggerate your estimates.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Now, given the above, it is very fair to place House Dustin in at least House Karstark's strength category, but given that they rule the second largest settlement in the North, and a territory significantly larger than House Karstark,

How do you know their territory is larger? Where is that said in the books? Which maps have the Dustins and Karstarks borders in them? When did GRRM reveal the populations of their various regions?

You seem to be making a lot of assumptions based on nothing more than that the Dustins are a little more South than the Karstarks.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 

500 miles to the south, one should probably argue that they are stronger than House Karstark. Be that as it may. At the very least they are the equal of House Karstark, although clearly quite a bit wealthier, and therefore likely to have better equipped troops and possibly more cavalry.

Sure possibly equal and possibly wealthier.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

House Ryswell can surely not be significantly weaker than House Dustin.

Of course they can.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 Theon Stark's day was powerful enough to rebel against House Stark in their own right. Something which I doubt a weak House would even dream of doing.

How many thousands of years ago was this? Can you not see how they could have changed in all that time?

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

All things considered, House Ryswell must be a signficant House in the North. 2000 men is certainly the lowest estimate that seems reasonable for them.

Nope. 1k is the lowest estimate for them as that is what Jeor states in relation to Lordly Houses in the North. Any other 'lowest estimation' is wishful thinking trying to prove an agenda.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

I will not go through every House in such detail, but will just add House Manderly to the list. We know they rule the richest, most populous territory in the North. If the Boltons can raise 4000 men or more, House Manderly must approach 6000 men in strength.

Really? Can you name the passage in the books that states they rule the most populace territory in the North?

If the Manderlys 'must' approach 6k then why did Robb not ask them to help and attack the Ironborn for him? Why did Robb accept so few soldiers from the Manderlys if they has so many? Why did they not send more than a few hundred to help the Northern capital when it was captured? Why is Roose not more concerned that Wyman only brought 300 men when he has 3-4k hiding somewhere else?

I'm sorry dude, but nowhere is it stated that the Manderlys command more soldiers than the Boltons and ruling a populated city does not translate into having more soldiers.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So, just by looking at the above more powerful Northern Houses, we already get to an armed strength of:

Karstark - 3000

True

 

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Umber - 2500

Maybe, though we are talking about soldiers. None of the Umber army we see in ADWD seem capable of fighting any wars South.

"Mors took the green boys and Hother took the greybeards. All the real men went with the Greatjon and died at the Red Wedding. Is that what you wanted to know, Your Grace?"

Though for the sake of argument I'll accept it.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Mountain Clans - 3000

Like the Umbers I'll accept it despite the fact that many seem to not actually be soldiers.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Bolton - 4000 (minimum)

Nope, 3k is a minimum.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Dustin - 3000 (minimum)

Not that we know of but sure, have it.

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Ryswell - 2000

No evidence has shown it to be that many so far. 1k

7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Manderly - 6000

There is zero indication in the text that they have that many. 1,500 with Robb, 300 with Wyman, a few hundred sent to Winterfell with Rodrik. Just were is this mysterious 4k?

I'm sorry but there is actually going to have to be more evidence from the books. You really wanting them to have 6k simply does not cut the mustard.

The Freys are the most powerful Houses in the Riverlands and have 4k.

The Royces, the most powerful vassals in the Vale, have around 4-5k as we are told that he and his friends can raise almost 20k. 

"He means to come in force. Symond Templeton will join him, do not doubt it. And Lady Waynwood too, I fear."
"And Lord Belmore, Young Lord Hunter, Horton Redfort. They will bring Strong Sam Stone, the Tolletts, the Shetts, the Coldwaters, some Corbrays."
 
Based on this I figure the Manderlys, as one of the two most powerful vassals in the North, may have around 4k.
7 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Total - 23500

Except it is not. It is around 19k.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

That is from 7 of the 19 Northern territories, bringing us to 23500 men already. Surely House Stark themselves must be at least in the Karstark category, so add another 3000 for them. That gives us 26500.

Call it 4k when we include their Materly Houses Glover and Tallhart.

23k

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Lord Mormont says that even the weakest Northern lord can raise more than 1000 men. So even if all of the remaining 11 lords are at the absolute minimum strength of 1000, that still takes the North to 37500 men.

Except there is not 11 remaining Lords. Locke, Hornwood, Cerwyn, Reed, Mormont, Flint and Flint.

So 30k.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

But we know that the remaining lords will not all be at the minimum strength. Instead, they will range from weak to strong, with a few perhaps at 1000 men, but a number of them at more than that.

We actually don't know that. It could well be that 8 of the Northern Lordly Houses can only raise 1k. 1k is still an impressive amount of soldiers, I'm not sure why you belittle that amount. For example the Florents a prestigious House in the Reach are said to be able to raise

"House Florent can field two thousand swords at best."

Lord Westerling certainly had nowhere near 1k men and Lord Tarbeck initially had far fewer than 1k in his ranks (though that changed after marrying Ellyn) The truth is many of the Lords of Westeros will have less than 1k.

Until further evidence about their numbers can be brought forward (as 5 books have shown the reader scant evidence that any of those Houses can raise more than 1k) then I will go with Jeor's estimation.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

For example. All the Flints are not of equal strength. House Flint of Widow's Watch is considered the strongest of the Flints. So even if House Flint of Flint's Finger is at the rock bottom number of 1000 (which we don't know if they are), House Flint of Widow's Watch must be stronger. Perhaps at 1500. Perhaps at 2000. Perhaps at 2500.

More wishful thinking. Until we are told otherwise they both sit around 1k.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Similarly, House Mormont must be at least at 1000.

Nope, 1k unless you can provide actual evidence rather than wishful thinking. Can you?

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 

Skagos is on the same latitude as Bear Island, but is at least three times as large. Possibly four times as large.

Size does matter, otherwise Canada would have a larger population than America.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

And it is on the warmer side of Westeros, where the treeline extends 800 miles further North than on the Sunset Sea side.

Bear Island rests on the Sunset Sea, Skagos resides on the Shivering Sea. I'm guessing those names mean something.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 

Skagos must surely be able to raise 2-3 times the number of men that Bear Island can.

Based on more wishful thinking.

8 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

This is bolstered by the information we get about the Skagos rebellion 100 years ago, which took years and thousands of Stark troops to quell. It seems highly unlikely that Bear Island could have presented a similar difficulty for the Starks to conquer. Clearly Skagos must be able to raise at least 2000 men, and possibly more.

Nope, not clear at all. We have no idea the details of that war and competency of the Stark or Skagos leaders.

You are basing your estimates on zero evidence.

We got to around 30k. I'm guessing there is probably a few thousand more given the North, at maximum capacity, an fighting capacity of just under 35k.

 

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2 hours ago, thelittledragonthatcould said:

Yup just under 3k

Greater than the Karstarks? Clearly not. There was 12k at Winterfell. Now the Karstarks brought 2,300 of that and I'd say the Boltons and Starks (including Glovers and Tallharts) had at least 6k between the two of them. That leaves 3,700 between the Umbers, Hornwoods, Mormonts, Cerwyns and Mountain Clans.

It seems very unlikely that the Umbers had as many men as the Karstarks did.

Sure 3k, many of whom are not trained or equipped and have merely left to sacrifice themselves because its winter and don't have the resources to fight in the South. I'm really not sure you can call them soldiers. Every adult male in Kings Landing could fight if they were out of options (like the Mountain Clan members are) but I would not say that they have a 150,000 army.

But for the sake of argument you can call them 3k.

Sure, seems reasonable.

That 600 with Ramsay may well have been the force that was fighting in the Hornwood lands.

What evidence do you have that the men with Ramsay were separate to the soldiers fighting in the Hornwood lands? It was not a simultaneous battle

You know this how? Maybe Roose took many of his raw recruits South and left his lands strongly protected with decent soldiers. Something that Robb should probably have done.

Sorry, that is not clear at all.

Nope the signs don't point to that.

 

The only trend we have seen is you exaggerate your estimates.

How do you know their territory is larger? Where is that said in the books? Which maps have the Dustins and Karstarks borders in them? When did GRRM reveal the populations of their various regions?

You seem to be making a lot of assumptions based on nothing more than that the Dustins are a little more South than the Karstarks.

Sure possibly equal and possibly wealthier.

Of course they can.

How many thousands of years ago was this? Can you not see how they could have changed in all that time?

Nope. 1k is the lowest estimate for them as that is what Jeor states in relation to Lordly Houses in the North. Any other 'lowest estimation' is wishful thinking trying to prove an agenda.

Really? Can you name the passage in the books that states they rule the most populace territory in the North?

If the Manderlys 'must' approach 6k then why did Robb not ask them to help and attack the Ironborn for him? Why did Robb accept so few soldiers from the Manderlys if they has so many? Why did they not send more than a few hundred to help the Northern capital when it was captured? Why is Roose not more concerned that Wyman only brought 300 men when he has 3-4k hiding somewhere else?

I'm sorry dude, but nowhere is it stated that the Manderlys command more soldiers than the Boltons and ruling a populated city does not translate into having more soldiers.

True

 

Maybe, though we are talking about soldiers. None of the Umber army we see in ADWD seem capable of fighting any wars South.

"Mors took the green boys and Hother took the greybeards. All the real men went with the Greatjon and died at the Red Wedding. Is that what you wanted to know, Your Grace?"

Though for the sake of argument I'll accept it.

Like the Umbers I'll accept it despite the fact that many seem to not actually be soldiers.

Nope, 3k is a minimum.

Not that we know of but sure, have it.

No evidence has shown it to be that many so far. 1k

There is zero indication in the text that they have that many. 1,500 with Robb, 300 with Wyman, a few hundred sent to Winterfell with Rodrik. Just were is this mysterious 4k?

I'm sorry but there is actually going to have to be more evidence from the books. You really wanting them to have 6k simply does not cut the mustard.

The Freys are the most powerful Houses in the Riverlands and have 4k.

The Royces, the most powerful vassals in the Vale, have around 4-5k as we are told that he and his friends can raise almost 20k. 

"He means to come in force. Symond Templeton will join him, do not doubt it. And Lady Waynwood too, I fear."
"And Lord Belmore, Young Lord Hunter, Horton Redfort. They will bring Strong Sam Stone, the Tolletts, the Shetts, the Coldwaters, some Corbrays."
 
Based on this I figure the Manderlys, as one of the two most powerful vassals in the North, may have around 4k.

Except it is not. It is around 19k.

Call it 4k when we include their Materly Houses Glover and Tallhart.

23k

Except there is not 11 remaining Lords. Locke, Hornwood, Cerwyn, Reed, Mormont, Flint and Flint.

So 30k.

We actually don't know that. It could well be that 8 of the Northern Lordly Houses can only raise 1k. 1k is still an impressive amount of soldiers, I'm not sure why you belittle that amount. For example the Florents a prestigious House in the Reach are said to be able to raise

"House Florent can field two thousand swords at best."

Lord Westerling certainly had nowhere near 1k men and Lord Tarbeck initially had far fewer than 1k in his ranks (though that changed after marrying Ellyn) The truth is many of the Lords of Westeros will have less than 1k.

Until further evidence about their numbers can be brought forward (as 5 books have shown the reader scant evidence that any of those Houses can raise more than 1k) then I will go with Jeor's estimation.

More wishful thinking. Until we are told otherwise they both sit around 1k.

Nope, 1k unless you can provide actual evidence rather than wishful thinking. Can you?

Size does matter, otherwise Canada would have a larger population than America.

Bear Island rests on the Sunset Sea, Skagos resides on the Shivering Sea. I'm guessing those names mean something.

Based on more wishful thinking.

Nope, not clear at all. We have no idea the details of that war and competency of the Stark or Skagos leaders.

You are basing your estimates on zero evidence.

We got to around 30k. I'm guessing there is probably a few thousand more given the North, at maximum capacity, an fighting capacity of just under 35k.

 

Let's cut to the chase. You think I over-estimate the North's strength. I think you willfully ignore reasonable evidence to the point of extreme stubborness, due to some weirdly motivated desire to allocate the minimum possible strength to the North.

Whenever in doubt, you assign the minimum possible strength to a Northern House, until proven otherwise. Why the desire to take that position? Can  you not see that it is biased to the lower end of the spectrum?

When one has no idea what the strength of a House is, but you know what the absolute minimum possibility is while also knowing the maximum possibility based on the strength of other similar Houses, why not instead take the middle ground and assign a reasonable median number to the unknown House in question? That is far more likely to get one to number close to the truth. It is illogical to assume the lowest possible number until proven otherwise, unless it is your specific agenda to arrive at as low an overall total as possible.

If there are some Northern Houses at 4000, with the minimum strength being 1000, then it is reasonable to assume that the average strength falls rougly halfway between those two extremes. Unless you have specific evidence to the contrary. If you instead assume that a House is at 1000 until proven otherwise, then you are the one with the bias and an agenda.

More examples.

In every instance where green boys or old men are drafted into an army, they are the dregs that are left after better men have fallen. We see it in the case of the Umbers and the Karstarks, and with the Lannisters at Oxcross. When green boys and old men make up a large part of a House's strength, we see it specifically remarked upon as being something out of the ordinary.

And yet, in the case of the Boltons, you prefer to assume that they used their green boys and old men in their original army, while leaving their crack troops behind. You do so simply to avoid a situation where the Boltons have 600 quality soldiers left on top of the men that went with Roose to the South. Because that would force you to accept a situation where the Boltons have in excess of 3000 quality troops, BEFORE raising their reserves, which in turn would mean that their reserves would take them to 4000 or above.

You do the above not from a position of logic, but again, from a position of bias. This despite the narrative logic of the Boltons being more powerful than either the Karstarks or Umbers. That's bias, informed by an agenda.

Take the Ryswells. In the absence of other information, why assume the lowest possible number for them? Unless you have an agenda. Sure, don't assume the highest possible number for them either, because that too would be informed by an agenda. But a median number, halfway between the lowest (1000) and the highest (4000) is a logical position to take. So 2000-2500, in other words.

By doing that, you will avoid significantly under estimating strong Houses, while also avoiding significantly over estimating weak Houses. There is no logical reason to assume the minimum possible strength until proven otherwise. And that's before we come to supporting evidence like the Flints, Ryswells, Slates, Lockes etc. all being located far to the South of strong Houses that have already been confirmed to be at 3000.

As for the Manderlys, well, what's the point. With the Boltons at 4000, it is really difficult to logically place the Manderlys below 6000. But then, your agenda does not even allow you to acknowledge the Boltons as having 4000 men, despite the Karstarks having 3000 proven. So what's the point of continuing that argument.

For all we know, there is a Northern House that is renowned for its weakness, and that is the only House at 1000, with all the others much higher. Or not. We don't know. Until we do, a reasonable assessment would be that 1000 is the weakest, 4000 seems to be the strongest (ignoring the Manderlys as an outlier at 6000 due to their wealth, city and unique White Knife trade network). So 2000-2500 seems a reasonable average strength, in the absence of anything else.

Certainly, we know of at least the Mountain Clans, Karstarks, Boltons, Starks and Manderlys who lie above that number, with the Dustins very likely to be in that higher category too. So 2000-2500 as an average strength for a Northern House does not appear unreasonable in the slightest.

 

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I tend to agree with Free Northman on a lot of points.

Though with the quote from the Old bear about Northern Lords having at least a 1000 men. The problem with this quote is the lack of distinguishing ranking to tell lords of different levels apart like in our real world. This is especially egregious in the North where they don't even have the distinction of someone being a Landed Knight. Rather the vague title "Master". I'm not sure if we've seen what one addresses a Master as? Is it Master? Or Lord? (like how some nobles are called Lord out of courtesy despite not being the current lord or heir and all females appear to be call Lady) 

I tend to think for example Lord Cerywn probably doesn't have a 1000 men. With his lands being so close to Winterfell. I imagine he is more of a similar level to say House Webber (who were lesser Lords sworn to another Lord (House Rowan).

The Lords he referred to are those who are not the Stark's immediate bannermen and levies (Tallhart, Glover, Cerwyn), but those ruling over further away lands. Like the Mormonts of Bear Island. The Boltons, Umbars, Karstark, Ryswells, Flints of Widows Watch, Ryswells, Dustins, Manderlys, Lockes etc.

I wonder about whether the Flints of the Fingers are more of a Masterly or lower Lordly house.

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1 hour ago, GallowsKnight said:

I tend to agree with Free Northman on a lot of points.

Though with the quote from the Old bear about Northern Lords having at least a 1000 men. The problem with this quote is the lack of distinguishing ranking to tell lords of different levels apart like in our real world. This is especially egregious in the North where they don't even have the distinction of someone being a Landed Knight. Rather the vague title "Master". I'm not sure if we've seen what one addresses a Master as? Is it Master? Or Lord? (like how some nobles are called Lord out of courtesy despite not being the current lord or heir and all females appear to be call Lady) 

I tend to think for example Lord Cerywn probably doesn't have a 1000 men. With his lands being so close to Winterfell. I imagine he is more of a similar level to say House Webber (who were lesser Lords sworn to another Lord (House Rowan).

The Lords he referred to are those who are not the Stark's immediate bannermen and levies (Tallhart, Glover, Cerwyn), but those ruling over further away lands. Like the Mormonts of Bear Island. The Boltons, Umbars, Karstark, Ryswells, Flints of Widows Watch, Ryswells, Dustins, Manderlys, Lockes etc.

I wonder about whether the Flints of the Fingers are more of a Masterly or lower Lordly house.

An interesting point.

Let's consider House Cerwyn. They are not petty lords. They are principal bannermen to House Stark. There is even a Cerwyn married to a Stark daughter in the recent Stark family tree, something you are unlikely to do with a petty lord. The Stark Prinicipal Bannermen are clearly listed in the Appendix, and the Cerwyns, Glovers and Tallharts are among them. These houses have petty lords sworn to them in turn.

I just checked the wiki page on house Cerwyn, to see if there are any references to their troop numbers in the books. It turns out there are. I will copy the references directly from the wiki, and add my personal remarks in italics:

The Cerwyn blazon is seen by Bran Stark at Winterfell when Robb Stark calls his banners. So a significant force of House Cerwyn is likely part of Robb's army. Note that not a single banner of petty lord present in Robb's army is mentioned (of which there must be dozens). But the Cerwyns are distincly mentioned, along with the other major Houses.

When Robb's army split at the Twins, Lord Cerwyn marches with Roose Bolton's eastern army. Tyrion Lannister sees the Cerwyn battleaxe among the northern forces at the battle on the Green Fork, at which Lord Cerwyn is wounded and taken prisoner.[7]

Now lord of his House, Cley brings three hundred men to join Ser Rodrik Cassel on his march to clear the ironmen from the Stony Shore[11] and Torrhen's Square.[  (Note that these 300 men are in addition to the main force of men that went with Robb.)

After crossing the ruby ford, Lord Roose Bolton leaves six hundred men to guard the crossing. Many of them are Cerwyn men under the command of Ser Kyle Condon, who was Lord Cerwyn's right hand. Here we get a first indication of the number of Cerwyn troops that must be in Robb's army. Note that these are survivors from the battle of the Green Fork, and therefore likely to already be a whittled down portion of the original strength, after suffering losses at the Green Fork. It seems that at least the majority of the 600 men were Cerwyn forces. So let's call it 300 men, although it could be much higher.

Brienne of Tarth spots the badge of House Cerwyn among those that have been collected from the dead after the battle at Duskendale. This is interesting, as it signifies additional men beyond those left at the Ruby Ford. So likely another few hundred.

Lady Cerwyn swears fealty to the new Warden of the North, Lord Roose Bolton, and the Cerwyns contribute troops to Ramsay Bolton's siege of Moat Cailin.  Here we have more troops, beyond the men with Robb or the men lost in Ser Rodrik's host. Likely another few hundred.

Cerwyn survivors from the earlier battle at Winterfell rally to the side of King Stannis Baratheon.  These we can discount, as they have previously been counted as part of Cley's 300 men in Ser Rodrik's host.

End quote

So what we see in summary, as far as House Cerwyn is concerned, is that they sent enough men with Robb to form a major part of the 600 men guarding the Ruby Ford, after already having suffered losses at the Green Fork, and had more men left to form part of the host that is defeated at Duskendale.

On top of the above, Cley Cerwyn had 300 men to provide to Ser Rodrik at short notice to retake Torhenn Square, and Lady Cerwyn had more Cerwyn men to contribute to the Bolton host that retook Moat Cailin from the Ironmen.

If you add up all of the above, it is very difficult to get to a number below 1000. And we don't know how many men they currently have left. Clearly, House Cerwyn is part of the group of Houses that Jeor Mormont referred to that is stronger than the entire Watch.

 

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@Free Northman Reborn

The Cerwyn scenario sheds light on an interesting problem. Are there any men sworn directly to Winterfell outside of Winterfell? Castle Cerwyn lies very close to Winterfell, and if the Cerwyns have men of their own they will also have to have land to support those men. But the fact that they would be living this close to Winterfell should mean that Winterfell itself doesn't have much (or any) land under its immediate control in the southern region where Cerwyn is.

I've thought about that once but when thinking where hypothetical borders in the North between the fiefs might be and in regards to any lands directly controlled by Winterfell you really end up with very crooked lines. Especially in light of the fact that most of the Wolfswood seems to be controlled by the Glovers.

The other point is that you would have to subtract any Cerwyn men essentially from the number you set for the people Winterfell can field directly.

Whether the Cerwyns have any petty lords of their own isn't confirmed. They might have retainers and men-at-arms, but I'd actually be surprised if there was a very complex feudal hierarchy in the North. And the fact that you are styled 'Master' rather than 'Lord' doesn't mean you don't have the same amount of power. The Glovers obviously control vast quantities of lands and they seem to have quite a few bannermen of their own.

As to the Manderlys:

Feeding a city should be very difficult task in the North. The Manderlys have to have enough fertile lands/peasants to produce enough surplus food to actually feed all the people living in their city who do not plant or harvest any crops. This means that no Lord of White Harbor can afford to draft too many of his peasants into an army unless he wants to risk a famine in his own city. If the peasants on the fields no longer can harvest enough crops to feed the city they will eat all their grain themselves and no longer deliver anything to the city.

In that sense it is actually very likely that the Manderlys can field less troops than any other Northern Lord despite the fact that more people live on their lands than anywhere else in the North. Gulltown, Lannisport, Oldtown, and King's Landing would be somewhat different, because the lands surrounding those places should be a lot more fertile than the lands around White Harbor (this should be especially true for Oldtown and Gulltown which lie in very fertile lands indeed).

In general I don't think anyone has an agenda to downplay or underestimate the strength of the North. I'd actually like the idea if the North were stronger but there is really no reason to believe that it is. Regardless of the exact numbers (which we might never be able to get because George is not providing us with any) it is pretty obvious that the Northern hosts we see in ADwD are neither large nor made up of great fighters.

And you have to keep in mind that we actually could play this same game with the other regions, too. Perhaps there is a lot of untapped potential in the Riverlands as well? Or the West, after all their apparent strength is spent? While those regions are considerably smaller than the North Tywin and Edmure didn't have all that much time to prepare when they called their banners, right?

Some regions in the Riverlands saw a lot of fighting. But not all of it. There would be still regions that remain completely untouched by war. The Frey and Mallister lands, for instance. The lands close to the Mountains of the Moon and the Neck. And so on.

If we tweak the approximate numbers that George has given us - assuming they are still correct - for the North, then we can also do that for the other regions, most likely leading to the conclusion that the North is right now still in the worst position when compared to all the other regions due to the losses it suffered during the war.

And come to think of it, do you remember the island Skane? The Skaggs killed them all and the island was never repopulated. That should give us a good estimate that very few people actually live on Skagos and the surrounding regions. If there were many people up there then somebody had already migrated to Skane and began repopulating the island. But apparently neither any Skaggs nor wildlings did any such thing.

The Skagos Rebellion might actually have been so costly because the Starks invaded their island to subdue them again. I expect the Skagosi to take a more Balon-like approach ('Just fuck those cunts at Winterfell! Skagos is ours!') rather than a 'We are independent now, lets go conquer the world' take. Sure, after the Starks tried to subdue them again there might have been counterattacks and raids on the easter shores but the Skagosi wouldn't have had the numbers to become a real threat to any Northmen leaving far away from those coastal regions. But they might have been willing to go to great lengths to defend their homes against those foreign invaders and taken a Dornish approach to deal with the Stark occupational forces.

Oh, and final positive comment:

Not all the Northmen that marched down south with Robb and did not return with Roose are dead. We know there are a lot of former Karstark men turned outlaws running around the Riverlands still, there would be survivors from many of the other battles (Duskendale, for example) that are still living somewhere, both Northmen and Rivermen. But those will most likely not make any impact on events in the North.

But I really think we'll see a pretty decent (and undead) Tully restoration in TWoW. All hail the Corpse Queen of Riverrun!

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13 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That depends how the population is spread. Are there many lonely farms and houses and the like, or is the population mostly concentrated in small settlements where people are living together to help and protect each other?

Most likely the latter. There will be the occasional hermit farm and the like but the people living in such places wouldn't answer the calls of their lord anyway. They would need every hand to keep their farm running. Only larger communities can spare men to go off to war. Isolated families can't.

The logistics would most likely not enable the Northern lords to conscript many of their levies - or rather only if they actually govern over people that are easily reachable. The best guess is that the most settlements/people of a given are in general concentrated near the lord's castle. That makes sense especially if we remember the historical purpose of all those castles - to protect the population when they are threatened by outside enemies.

This could also explain why the hell the Karstarks had such trouble getting in the harvest. They recruited men mostly from near their own castle where most of their peasants live anyway.

Indeed. Lonely farms are unlikely. They never existed in the Middle Ages either, not in meaningful numbers. But villages of 200-500 should be ubiquitous. Supporting one, two, maybe even five armed men. Please remember that there were a lot of cities, actual cities, with less than 1,000 inhabitants in Medieval Europe. For example, out of the 4,000 cities in latter Germany  in 1500, 2,800 had less than 1,000 - and Germany had 20 with more than 10,000 while the North only White Harbour, Barrowtown and Winterfell during the winter would qualify.

 

The logistics are the very reason why it takes the North so long to gather their strength. That's my point. Nevertheless, the villages at the backend of nowhere would still yield experienced soldiers if they could actually be notified - otherwise raiders and criminals would have a field day.

The Karstarks rule lands up to 300 miles away from Karhold - but transporting foodstuffs by land is only viable up to 50 miles (and that's already damn difficult). That's like 5-10% of their lands that could yield food for them, the same 5-10% they'd turn to for soldiers first.

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5 minutes ago, Bright Blue Eyes said:

The logistics are the very reason why it takes the North so long to gather their strength.

They are indeed the reason why it takes them so long to gather their 30k-40k men. 

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1 minute ago, John Doe said:

They are indeed the reason why it takes them so long to gather their 30k-40k men. 

...and their 20,000 men in barely enough time for for example the Umbers to actually march from Last Hearth to Wnterfell. A mere six to eight weeks from Robb calling the banners to march 600 miles. At an average of 12-14 miles per day, they have to have left basically the very first day after the raven arrived.

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1 minute ago, Bright Blue Eyes said:

...and their 20,000 men in barely enough time for for example the Umbers to actually march from Last Hearth to Wnterfell. A mere six to eight weeks from Robb calling the banners to march 600 miles. At an average of 12-14 miles per day, they have to have left basically the very first day after the raven arrived.

And now the Umbers have barely any men left to bring in the harvest. Seems like they mobilized in advance. 

 

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Before Robb (much less the Umbers) actually knew anything?

 

No, the Umbers have barely any men left to bring in the harvest because they took anybody who could be notified in a day or two. Leaving all the many men weeks from Last Hearth at home. Of course, those men can't bring in the harvest at Last Hearth either. They are weeks away and busy with their own harvest during the 14 days harvesting is actually viable.

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1 minute ago, Bright Blue Eyes said:

Before Robb (much less the Umbers) actually knew anything?

 

No, the Umbers have barely any men left to bring in the harvest because they took anybody who could be notified in a day or two. Leaving all the many men weeks from Last Hearth at home. Of course, those men can't bring in the harvest at Last Hearth either. They are weeks away and busy with their own harvest during the 14 days harvesting is actually viable.

So they sat on their asses for weeks and never requested additional help from their thousands of able bodied men to bring in the harvest at Last Hearth? Because surely this would be the most important fields the Umbers have?

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16 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So, let's look at the Northern lords' strength again, based on what we know.

We know House Karstark has raised around 3000 men to date (2740 precisely stated, and another unknown number in Ser Rodrik's 2000 strong host in which at last some Karstark banners are specifically mentioned, to give us roughly 3000 to date).

We know that the Umbers rule at least as large a territory as the Karstarks, and had at least as much prominence, if not greater, than the Karstarks in Robb's army. So their strength cannot be significantly weaker than that of the Karstarks, if weaker at all. Call it 2500, conservatively.

We know the Mountain Clans have raised 3000 men to date (roughly 2500 with Stannis and the men in Robb's army on top of that), and likely have some left, spread across the two score clans'  strongholds to guard their lands against the massive wildling army that is right on their doorstep.

So here we have 3 Northern territories, all in the coldest, northernmost part of the North, all able to raise 2500 men or more.

Then we get to House Bolton, who were the most powerful rivals to House Stark for thousands of years, and who logically should have more men than either House Umber or Karstark.

This premise is only strengthened by the fact that Bolton men formed the bulk of the 3500 strong force Roose brought to the Twins, that the Boltons still had additional men to fight the Manderlys in the Hornwood lands, and that they still had 600 prime soldiers (mostly trained cavalry as well) at the Dreadfort to attack Ser Rodrik with. So quite conservatively we can give House Bolton 2500 men with Roose and another 600 highly trained soldiers with Ramsay, bringing us well above 3000 soldiers without considering any additional forces that might have been fighting the Manderlys in the Hornwood lands. And all of this without having to tap into raw recruits like the Karstarks or Umbers had to. Clearly the Boltons were therefore able to easily exceed 3000 trained soldiers, without relying on lesser trained reserves like House Karstark did to get to their 3000 number.

All signs therefore point to the Boltons having a full strength between 4000 and 5000 men. Similar to House Frey, in other words. Note that none of the above is based on wild fantasy or generous exaggerations. Just on cold logic and a fair assessment of the text.

So now we see a trend. We have looked at 4 constituent territories of the North, and in each case the armed strength ranges from 2500 to 4500 or more. And we are yet to get to the warmer, more fertile southern half of the North, where the largest settlements are located, or to House Stark themselves, for that matter.

Now, given the above, it is very fair to place House Dustin in at least House Karstark's strength category, but given that they rule the second largest settlement in the North, and a territory significantly larger than House Karstark, 500 miles to the south, one should probably argue that they are stronger than House Karstark. Be that as it may. At the very least they are the equal of House Karstark, although clearly quite a bit wealthier, and therefore likely to have better equipped troops and possibly more cavalry.

House Ryswell can surely not be significantly weaker than House Dustin. They are located at the same southerly latitude, their territory is named after its plentiful water supply, and is renowned for the horse herds they breed, to the extent that their House sigil reflects it. Roose certainly considers Lady Dustin's link to House Ryswell as highly significant, and we know that the Rills in Theon Stark's day was powerful enough to rebel against House Stark in their own right. Something which I doubt a weak House would even dream of doing.

All things considered, House Ryswell must be a signficant House in the North. 2000 men is certainly the lowest estimate that seems reasonable for them.

I will not go through every House in such detail, but will just add House Manderly to the list. We know they rule the richest, most populous territory in the North. If the Boltons can raise 4000 men or more, House Manderly must approach 6000 men in strength.

So, just by looking at the above more powerful Northern Houses, we already get to an armed strength of:

Karstark - 3000

Umber - 2500

Mountain Clans - 3000

Bolton - 4000 (minimum)

Dustin - 3000 (minimum)

Ryswell - 2000

Manderly - 6000

Total - 23500

That is from 7 of the 19 Northern territories, bringing us to 23500 men already. Surely House Stark themselves must be at least in the Karstark category, so add another 3000 for them. That gives us 26500.

That leaves 11 more Northern regions unaccounted for.

Lord Mormont says that even the weakest Northern lord can raise more than 1000 men. So even if all of the remaining 11 lords are at the absolute minimum strength of 1000, that still takes the North to 37500 men. But we know that the remaining lords will not all be at the minimum strength. Instead, they will range from weak to strong, with a few perhaps at 1000 men, but a number of them at more than that.

For example. All the Flints are not of equal strength. House Flint of Widow's Watch is considered the strongest of the Flints. So even if House Flint of Flint's Finger is at the rock bottom number of 1000 (which we don't know if they are), House Flint of Widow's Watch must be stronger. Perhaps at 1500. Perhaps at 2000. Perhaps at 2500.

Similarly, House Mormont must be at least at 1000. (They could be at 1500 for all we know, but let's leave them at 1000). Skagos is on the same latitude as Bear Island, but is at least three times as large. Possibly four times as large. And it is on the warmer side of Westeros, where the treeline extends 800 miles further North than on the Sunset Sea side. Skagos must surely be able to raise 2-3 times the number of men that Bear Island can. This is bolstered by the information we get about the Skagos rebellion 100 years ago, which took years and thousands of Stark troops to quell. It seems highly unlikely that Bear Island could have presented a similar difficulty for the Starks to conquer. Clearly Skagos must be able to raise at least 2000 men, and possibly more.

In any case, the point is we previously got to 26500 men, with 11 Northern regions still unaccounted for. These 11 are

House Mormont

Skagos

House Cerwyn

House Glover

House Tallhart

House Flint of Widow's Watch

House Hornwood

House Slate

House Locke

House Reed

House Flint of Flint's Finger

Even if you give each of them an average strenth of just 1500, this would add 16500 men to the 26500 we already had, giving a total strength of 43000 men for the North. I don't think that is unreasonable at all, based on just a little bit of logical extrapolation.

 

 

I honestly think 43000 is a very conservative maximum. Remove Skagos (They don´t count if they don´t see themselves as a bannerman) but add between 500-1500 for Boltons, Stark, Ryswell, Hornwood, Tallhart, Glover, Flints and maybe Locke and I don´t doubt 50000. Some houses, like Mormont, I have a hard time accepting a number significantly higher than 1000 due to Jorahs lack of cash for his wife (troops are expensive).

The Norths problem is not manpower - its logistics and money. Season matters as well and your troop quality will be lacking if you are forced to mobilize the "second batch", as the North is right now (except for the Bolton veterans of course - their presence should favor the Boltons even if down on 2:1 odds).

In addition, talking about a maximum is not particularly relevant if it´s completely unrealistic that some regions will send soldiers (Skagos), some leaders wont have the same support (Robb/Torrhen), some people hold grudges (Lady Dustin). In addition, there will be a difference between the numbers you can use in a defensive war and the numbers you are able to project outside your border. I can´t see the North projecting a strength over 35000 outside the North itself unless assuming an unrealistic abundance of money and food.

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43,000 is the bare minimum not outright disproven by the books. Going for the average, I say ~70,000.

 

As to Jorah's lack of cash, cash was indeed the problem with Lynesse. Hard currency comes almost exclusively from tariffs, tolls and taxes in trading ports. None of which Bear Island features - but soldiers can be (and were) paid for in kind. That's the entire reason for the feudal system, to spread troops all over the country close to the source of income in kind, when the structure for large-scale manufacture and bureaucracy wasn't available.

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7 minutes ago, Bright Blue Eyes said:

43,000 is the bare minimum not outright disproven by the books. Going for the average, I say ~70,000.

 

As to Jorah's lack of cash, cash was indeed the problem with Lynesse. Hard currency comes almost exclusively from tariffs, tolls and taxes in trading ports. None of which Bear Island features - but soldiers can be (and were) paid for in kind. That's the entire reason for the feudal system, to spread troops all over the country close to the source of income in kind, when the structure for large-scale manufacture and bureaucracy wasn't available.

Not this bullshit number again! Where do you even find those soldiers! You are 10-15000k higher than every other number I have seen.

Why do I bother...

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