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Alyn Oakenfist

Thematic meaning of Westeros's stagnant society

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So something interesting I came across. In the Silmarrilion, the LoTR prequel book, one of the main ideas is that evil cannot create, it can only mar, corrupt or create mockeries. Orcs were twisted elves, Trolls are mockeries of the Ents while dragons were probably created as mockery of eagles. Now that's all well and good, but given the buttload of similarities between LoTR and ASOAIF, I was wondering, is this thematically ties to Westeros's technological and social stagnation? Like going on the idea, that the evil system of ambition and backstabbing Westeros lives in is what stifles any creation, innovation or move forward, and for Westeros to advance the Game needs to stop? Now I'm not the best at finding parallels and developing such ideas, @Seams is, so what are your thoughts on the matter?

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My two cents is that Planetos's whacky climate plays a role. Human societies depend on stability, and not knowing if summer will last a year, or a decade, and not knowing if winter will last 3 years or 13 is a real problem. It's one thing for civilization to be based on feudalism or a network of city states when the seasons are so out of whack. But having an industrialized society like ours in such circumstances doesn't seem possible.

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4 hours ago, Nathan Stark said:

My two cents is that Planetos's whacky climate plays a role. Human societies depend on stability, and not knowing if summer will last a year, or a decade, and not knowing if winter will last 3 years or 13 is a real problem. It's one thing for civilization to be based on feudalism or a network of city states when the seasons are so out of whack. But having an industrialized society like ours in such circumstances doesn't seem possible.

Maybe this and also magic. Valirya was more 'modern' than Westeros, but it all came crackling down. Ancient day Westeros was more advanced in some aspects, architecture and engineering at the very least, now this could be a comment on pre columbian America being superior architecturally to even 'future' (to them) societies. But it can also be the result of the fickle nature of magic, being advanced on Planethos means using magic, and magic seems to be coming and going as it pleases, so if you depend on it for technological growth, it's gonna take time.

There's also the fact that the people with the more ability to foment science (Valiryan rulers and the Targs, because of their positions of power and massive wealth) where the less inclined to do so. Why develop a cannon if it can be used to kill a dragon and you are the only one with dragons? Why develop a telegraph if you can use glass candles?

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10 hours ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

So something interesting I came across. In the Silmarrilion, the LoTR prequel book, one of the main ideas is that evil cannot create, it can only mar, corrupt or create mockeries. Orcs were twisted elves, Trolls are mockeries of the Ents while dragons were probably created as mockery of eagles. Now that's all well and good, but given the buttload of similarities between LoTR and ASOAIF, I was wondering, is this thematically ties to Westeros's technological and social stagnation? Like going on the idea, that the evil system of ambition and backstabbing Westeros lives in is what stifles any creation, innovation or move forward, and for Westeros to advance the Game needs to stop? Now I'm not the best at finding parallels and developing such ideas, @Seams is, so what are your thoughts on the matter?

I always worry that people hate my nattering on about symbolism and parallels, so thanks for this invite. 

GRRM seems to reject the idea that good and evil exist apart from each other in separate groups or even in separate individuals. His message seems to be that good or evil is in the eye of the beholder - if you support Tywin, you believe that Gregor Clegane is a good ally; if you support Joffrey, you believe that the Red Wedding was justified. 

But your LOTR theme also offers us a contrast between creating and destroying (or creators and destroyers): that is a duality that GRRM has established and explored in ASOIAF. 

Some of the big heroes in ASOIAF are smiths. And a character (is it Septon Meribald?) even explains to us at some point that the larger idea behind The Smith of the new gods isn't limited to men who smelt or weld or otherwise work with metal, but to all people who make things. 

One area to look for clues is, of course, sewing and fabric. I suspect that weaving is one of GRRM's foundational metaphors for ASOIAF because it requires both a warp and a weft - threads running perpendicular to each other are necessary to create useful fabric. Creating fabric requires a balance of forces in tension with each other. We see a number of characters described as ragged; we see Septas teaching girls to sew; we see Arya learning how to use a sword called Needle and - perhaps most telling for this metaphor - we see House Greyjoy declaring, "We do not sow." It's a pun, of course, although it address both the refusal to create fabric and the refusal to grow food; the Ironborn are all about taking and not about making (except ships, which is another interesting metaphor). 

My current summation of GRRM's theme for ASOIAF is "imbalance bad; balance good." I'm not sure GRRM is showing the imbalance of creation and destruction as a cause or symptom of technological and social stagnation in Westeros. I think he's showing that war causes destruction and that is bad. I also think he may be indirectly calling our attention to the small folk whose voices are almost never heard in POVs - low-born Davos and some prologue characters and some anecdotal evidence from the regular POVs give some voice to these long suffering laborers.

Small folk produce the food but we only hear about the high-born folks feasting upon the elaborate feast platters. I suspect there is food-production symbolism in House Stokeworth as the breadbasket of King's Landing and Lollys being raped by the mob and then (in her fertilized condition) disrespected by her high-born peers (except Sansa, who is kind when trying to bring her safely into Maegor's Holdfast). Falyse Stokeworth is also cruelly abused by Cersei. The baby of Lollys is biologically fathered by "half a hundred" small folk who rape her during the Bread Riot. The baby boy is accepted as a son and called Tyrion by Bronn, the new head of House Stokeworth. I think there may be a reckoning coming up in the last two books between food production and consumption. 

Edited by Seams

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Peace as we value and understand it has never existed in the history of Westeros.  Maybe cutting people open to feed the weir woods prevented large scale war but it’s not really peace.  It’s just trading one form of violence and cruelty for another.  The golden age for Westeros took place during the Targaryen rule.  

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1 minute ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

The golden age for Westeros took place during the Targaryen rule.  

That's way too vague. More like Jaehaerys's reign. That's it. Granted nowhere in Westeros's history (well except the Dance and the Wot5K) was as bad as what cam before the conquest.

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11 minutes ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

Peace as we value and understand it has never existed in the history of Westeros.  Maybe cutting people open to feed the weir woods prevented large scale war but it’s not really peace.  It’s just trading one form of violence and cruelty for another.  The golden age for Westeros took place during the Targaryen rule.  

A peace treaty brought 4,000 years of peace and friendship. Northerners invented the laws of hospitality. Greenhands made the land bloom. Starks built castles and defenses. 

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4 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

A peace treaty brought 4,000 years of peace and friendship

Ah, did you forget the part about the multiple warring states and the Riverlands changing hands every time someone sneezed in that direction.

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38 minutes ago, Seams said:

"We do not sow." It's a pun, of course, although it address both the refusal to create fabric and the refusal to grow food; the Ironborn are all about taking and not about making (except ships, which is another interesting metaphor). 

I was just thinking about this slogan and how over the top it is. "Planting stuff is for pussies!"

Of course, "We do not sow" = "dragons plant no trees" 

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Just now, Rose of Red Lake said:

"We do not sow" = "dragons plant no trees" 

Thing is "dragons plant no trees" is mostly ravings while Dany was orgasming on Drogon, or whatever it was that she was doing taking flight, while we do not sow are actual house words

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3 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Ah, did you forget the part about the multiple warring states and the Riverlands changing hands every time someone sneezed in that direction.

That started happening when the Andals invaded.

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3 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Thing is "dragons plant no trees" is mostly ravings while Dany was orgasming on Drogon, or whatever it was that she was doing taking flight, while we do not sow are actual house words

I find it interesting that she came to the same conclusion as a raping/reaving house.

Also the same sentiment as the Dothraki who make not farming part of their religion.

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Just now, Rose of Red Lake said:

That started happening when the Andals invaded.

Given all the stories of Lann the Clever and such I doubt pre Andal Westeros was any more peaceful than post Andal Westeros. On the contrary, at least after the Andals, Westeros did turn from countless petty Kings to 7 unified Kingdoms

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Just now, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Given all the stories of Lann the Clever and such I doubt pre Andal Westeros was any more peaceful than post Andal Westeros. On the contrary, at least after the Andals, Westeros did turn from countless petty Kings to 7 unified Kingdoms

Sure, some warring disputes could have been going on. I think it's mentioned that the Bloody Gate was attacked.

But it's still written in the World Book and the wiki that they enjoyed 4,000 years of peace. We can call that relative if we want.

It's important to point out. It challenges the evolutionary theory of history.

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4 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

It's important to point out. It challenges the evolutionary theory of history.

Look at the American South if you want to see why the evolutionary theory of history is wrong.

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1 minute ago, Rose of Red Lake said:
32 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Look at the American South if you want to see why the evolutionary theory of history is wrong.

I think it is wrong? 

Given how the post reconstruction era went, yes

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