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Real life Cultural/Geographic parallels to GRRM's world

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There's been several threads surrounding this topic but I'm still somewhat indecisive in regards to the theoretical pararells between ASIOAF and real life history. Many claim Westeros is a super sized British Isles, whereas others tend to liken each of the seven kingdoms and different Western European countries I think it it a cross between the two sentiments: Westeros as a whole clearly alludes to Great Britain historically, culturally, and geographically, while the autonomous regions draws inspiration to various  European states and peoples. Although, the second part suggests more vague comparisons, in my mind the parallels can be drawn like this:

The North= Combination of Scotland, Northern England, Scandinavia, and Siberia.

Reasons for Scotland and Northern England-

1.The disctiveness of the regions Great Britan

2.House Stark=House York of Yorkshire in Northen England 

Reasons for Scandinavia- 

1.Similar Climate and geography.

2. Northmen and the real life Norsemen are  reminscinet to me (more so than Ironborn and the Norsemen).

3.Also, the Northern English connection has Norse roots there's an inherent connection there 

Siberia=Beyond The Wall

This is mostly due to the similar geography and biome.  This comparison gets a little fuzzy because this would imply wildings are in essence equivalent to the indigenous people of Siberia, although the wall  is equivalent to Hadrian's Wall, leading others to  believe the wildings are Scots. However, of the wildings are akin to Siberians, that implies the North is  European Russia. This would work  because Russia  have been hard to invade throughout history due to its severe winters, and has a distinct Slavic culture as opposed to Western Europe.

The Riverlands=Low Countries mixed with Central Europe

The Reach= France 

The Vale = Switzerland

Dorne=Spain, Portugal, possibly Turkey 

King's Landing=London+Rome 2.0 (I'll come back to this)

Crowlands=Italy

Iron Islands= Isle of Man

Now, out of all the regions, I am  especially ambiguous on where to place the Stormlands and the Westerlands.

The Westerlands- Reminds me of Germany, but everyone seems to say it is mEngland

The Stormlands- The Balkans being the Stormlands makes sense geographically. And the Baratheon look reminds me of Eastern Europeans, however the  Storm King history is says to parallel that of the Holy Roman Empire and Prussia. Could the kingdom be a cross between the Baltic countries  in the North and Balkan pensiula in the south?

Essos:

Valyrian Freehold= Ancient Rome (Roman Republic specifically)

Ghiscari =Cathragian Empire

Slaver's Bay=Phonecian city states 

Free Cities= Ressiance Italy city-states Bravos=Venice x Amerstdam climate

 People groups:

First Men= Celtic Britons

Anglo-Saxons=Andals

Targaryens= Normans 

King's Landing explanation: The Targs are analogous to the Normans, yet share a secondary analog to the Romans by virtue of being Valyrian. 100 years after the Doom of Valyria, Aegon I conquerored Westeros and united the Seven Kingdoms under the Iron Throne (apart from Dorne who we all now was never conquered). Therefore, King's Landinng is in essence the Valyria of the West, Old Valyria restored, Valyria 2.O etc. Likewise to how after the Fall of Rome, Constinapole aka Byzantium was still strong. Akin to  King's  Landing being Valyria of the West  during the time of Targaryens, Byzantium was the Rome of the East. 

In all respects, I'm aware each people or region does not 100% pure analogs but many are loosely based on certain civilizations and ethic groups in western history. Is there any information that you guys know of that could help support the areas of I'm unclear of? Feel free to share alternative suggestions too.

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I agree that the 7 kingdoms are a mash of Europe and British Isles. I recall I posed this question on another forum and got some good answers as to parallels in the British Isles from Brits. A couple of additional ideas, based on that conversation:

Riverlands = Welsh Marches. Apparently the geography/climate is dead on.

Vale = Ireland + Pyrenees/Alps. 

Reach = Southwest England, Southern France, Italy references (masquerades, fruit, wine...)

Westerlands = Southeast England, with gold mines and lions thrown in.

Iron Islands = Viking lands, some ancient Ireland.

Braavos = Netherlands in the golden age. Bank, climate, shipping, etc. D&D also modeled their Braavos on the Netherlands, apparently. 

Slaver's Bay = mash of Mesopotamian empires with shades of Egypt. Ghiscari pyramids are Mesopotamian.

Agree the Stormlands are a bit ambiguous.

 

Edited by rhoynestar

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  • Dorne = Spain/Northwest Africa
  • Iron Islands = Viking Islands
  • Reach = France
  • Riverlands = Central Europe (especially Germany)
  • Vale = Switzerland/Austria
  • Westerlands = South England
  • North = Scotland
  • Stormlands = Balkan + Netherlands
  • Crownlands = Central Italy
  • King's Landing = Rome + London (London at least in geography)
  • Oldtown = Alexandria (with parts of Ephecus and Jerusalem)
  • Beyond the Wall = Siberia
  • Free Cities = a mixture of Rennaisance Italy cities, ancient greek colonies in South Italy
  • Summer Islands = Carribean
  • Slaver's Bay = ancient Mesopotamia (with some ancient egyptian elements)
  • Valyria = the parallel of the myth of Atlantis along with Rome and Byzantium
  • Dothraki Sea = Central Asia

 

 

Edited by Endymion I Targaryen

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The North: Scotland/Northern England (climate, geography, mindset, accent)

The Vale: Switzerland (mountainous, pretty and neutral)

Riverlands: Germany during the Holy Roman Empire period (flat lands located between important rivers - the Rhein and the Elbe - in the center of the continent, and the stage of numerous wars and invasions, i.e. Thirty Years’ War, Napoleonic Wars)

Iron Islands: Viking age Scandinavia/Iceland (great navigators and fearless warriors/raiders, who carved out domains on the continental mainland)

Westerlands: England (wealthy, cunning, ambitious, ruthless, self centered);

The Reach: France (large and centrally located territory; mild weather; powerful; massive food and wine production, home of chivalry and sophistication; the Mander = the Loire);

Stormlands: Wales (coastal, mountainous and rainy; one of its natives unexpectedly won the throne by force and began their own dynasty (Henry VII/Robert Baratheon); 

Dorne: Medieval Spain/Al Andalus + Medieval Sicily (weather, landscape, architecture; southernmost location in the continent, with its northern regions having a closer resemblance to the rest of Europe/Westeros; spicy foods, lots of citric fruits; the famed Dornish temper, akin to the Spanish “Black Legend”);

King’s Landing: London + Rome

Oldtown: Paris + Oxford/Cambridge

Braavos: Amsterdam + Venice

Lys: Sardinia

Free Cities as a whole: Italian City-Republics with a touch of post-Ottoman Balkans (huge power vacuum and plenty of conflict after the doom of Valyria); 

Valyria: Ancient Rome

Slavers’ Bay cities: ancient Near-eastern and Egyptian kingdoms + Carthage;

Qarth: Byzantium

Dothraki Sea: Central Asian steppes

Yi Ti: China

Leng: Japan

Shadow Lands: India (very ancient, evoking mystery and mysticism; “Saffron Straits”; even the shape of the peninsula itself)

Sothoryos: Africa

Summer Islands: a Medieval version of the Caribbean

 

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On 8/1/2016 at 7:46 AM, Wyman Manderly's Meat Pies said:

Isn't it fact that Dorne is Spain? Or maybe I'm misremembering.

An excellent quote from GRRM himself regarding the inspiration for Dorne, from So Spake Martin (February 29, 2000)

Quote

In the case of Dorne, yes, Wales was definitely an influence, for all the reasons you cite. But there's also some distinctly unWelsh elements down there. South of the wall of mountains you have a hot, dry country more like Spain or Palestine than the cool green valleys of Wales, with most of the settlements along the seacoast and in few great river basins. And you also have the flavor given the culture by the great Rhoynar influx led by Nymeria. I suppose the closest real life equivilent to that would be the Moorish influence in parts of Spain. So you could say Dorne is Wales mixed with Spain and Palestine with some entirely imaginary influences mixed in. Or you could just say it's Dorne....

 

On 1/1/2018 at 0:36 AM, ShadowlandsBound said:

Westerlands: England (wealthy, cunning, ambitious, ruthless, self centered);

 

1

I'm not sure about this comparison; up to the Elizabethan period, England was a weak power, inferior to France and Spain. For centuries after the Norman Conquest it was essentially ruled as an afterthought by the Norman nobility, and only really rose to power after the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the colonisation of the Americas and other lands. 

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On 12/31/2017 at 7:36 PM, ShadowlandsBound said:

King’s Landing: London + Rome

I think King's Landing is clearly modeled after Washington, D.C. 

- Named for it's nation's founding father (KL isn't named after Aegon, but it's a reference to him)

- Built from scratch rather than using an existing city as a capital (Folks thought NYC or Philly would be the U.S. Capital originally)

- Much younger and smaller than its contemporary cites despite its clout.

- Set aside from existing entities (D.C. is specifically not in a state)

- Red Keep = White House

And to a lesser extent, 

- Giant awe-inspiring monuments towering over a pretty shitty city (D.C. is pretty slummy).

- Located on the eastern end of a major river mid-way up the coast (not exclusive to D.C., obviously)

I think a lot of people forget that GRRM is an American and not every influence has to be from The Old World. I mean, the man included references to 3 NFL teams.

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On 31.07.2016 at 1:10 PM, rhoynestar said:

I agree that the 7 kingdoms are a mash of Europe and British Isles. I recall I posed this question on another forum and got some good answers as to parallels in the British Isles from Brits. A couple of additional ideas, based on that conversation:

Riverlands = Welsh Marches. Apparently the geography/climate is dead on.

Vale = Ireland + Pyrenees/Alps. 

Reach = Southwest England, Southern France, Italy references (masquerades, fruit, wine...)

Westerlands = Southeast England, with gold mines and lions thrown in.

Iron Islands = Viking lands, some ancient Ireland.

Braavos = Netherlands in the golden age. Bank, climate, shipping, etc. D&D also modeled their Braavos on the Netherlands, apparently. 

Slaver's Bay = mash of Mesopotamian empires with shades of Egypt. Ghiscari pyramids are Mesopotamian.

Agree the Stormlands are a bit ambiguous.

 

Other than there are no clear parallels, I agree there are similarities like on this list.

The entire Seven Kingdoms could be regarded as parallel England, just different parts or versions of it, sometimes shifting in the Scottish, Welsh or Irish direction, and the houses looking more Norman, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or mixed, or totally foreign. All in all, it's a custom world and one can't really say the Reach is modelled on France, except perhaps in terms of climate, terrain, etc., so physical geography matches Southern France, plus the whole wine (Redwyne) thing, but not really culture. Dorne is obviously exotic, but you still have names like Starfall, Spearpoint, Godsgrace, etc., which hardly brings Spain, Portugal or Italy to mind, though it's obviously full of darker-skinned people who are culturally similar to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, so it's a bit like Southern Europeans. They share some (few) similarities with early-renaissance Southern Europe, but that's it. In terms of climate and plant life the area would fit anywhere around the Med, but it has deserts and some real nasty hot temperatures, so it's more Levantine than Italian or Spanish.

So it's more like:

North: snow, marshes, bogs

Trident: rivers everywhere, perhaps swamps, some decent fields, a town or two, no vast plains, no real ports

Rock: hilly land, good for mining, a port, presumably some farmlands

Reach: farmlands, farmlands, farmlands, basically endless plains and agriculture, but also culture (civilization, more like, without the Dornish artsy flair)

Vale: mountains, vales, some farmlands, plenty of cliffs

Stormlands: presumably stormy, otherwise not particularly standing out

Iron islands: islands, islands, islands and plenty of coastline, moderate but not pleasant climate, not that much different from the rest

Crownlands: whatever

All of it could basically be somewhere England (although in some cases Scotland, Wales or Ireland would be more appropriate). Apart from Dorne or the farthest North.

So it's basically England, because that's what GRRM grew up with, just like Sapkowski (the Witcher guy) took some mythical Poland/surroundings because that's what he knew, and a French author's world would presumably be more France-like.

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On 3/6/2018 at 8:27 AM, Corvo the Crow said:

Dornish marches are Breton marches; Roland storm is Roland from Song of the Roland

Dornish Marches are more like the Welsh Marches. The region boasts the best archers in Westeros, in part thanks to the Dornish Yew found there, similar to how the Welsh longbowmen became famous throughout the British Isles and France.

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On 3/7/2018 at 6:47 AM, Kandrax said:

Slaver's bay is full of oriental stereotypes, yet historically the slavery was almost nonexistent in the Orient. 

Not really. The Ottoman Empire was heavily dependet on slavery.

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