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Unrealistic things and events in the books? (Disregarding magic, ice zombies, and dragons)


Vaolor
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So we already know Asoiaf is fantasy and despite many people's claims that it is "realistic" George R.R. Martin has said he is not a historian and it clearly shows as such in his writing especially his depiction of feudalism, and the way societies of Essos operate(Remember Yunkai's circus of slave soldiers and their commanders?) and so much more.

One of the things that really stuck out to me was the destruction of the Riverlands and how unbelievably unrealistic it was. So, throughout the books the way the war in the Riverlands is described it's as if every village has been plundered, every town razed, every man killed and woman raped and then killed but the thing is that the Riverlands are fucking massive and encompass a land area greater than France or Germany.

My main gripe is that the Riverlands are devastated so quickly. To put into perspective how unrealistic it is, imagine the 30 years war in the HRE and how millions of people died with some regions suffering a drop of 50% in population and having similar destruction and death happen in a greater area condensed in only months or at most a year. The 30 years war was so devastating due to extreme famine and disease outbreaks over the course of three decades of brutal war that would see many villages razed which would only exacerbate famine due to less food production and less men working fields due to them being used as soldiers and due to widespread malnutrition outbreaks of disease were also much deadlier.

The Westerlands somehow achieve this devastation with a measly 20-35,000 men in an area larger than France which would have millions of people living there and somehow with that amount of men they can devastate so much in only months or at most a year during the War of Five Kings. If such devastation happened in a smaller subregion of the Riverlands or over the course of a decade or two then it would be believable but so many of the POV characters show that this much destruction has encompassed the entirety of the Riverlands is so unrealistic to me.

What else in the books is as unrealistic as this?(Disregarding obviously supernatural things)

Edited by Vaolor
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Indeed, quite a few of the problems with realism come from Martin's decision to make Westeros be apparently "the size of South America". That may have sounded good in his head, but in reality it doesn't feel like that in the slightest. Characters travel across the continent too quickly and events happen too closely together. There's never really a true sense of scale in the landmass. Arya's criss-crossing of the riverlands in particular made the region feel very small. A lot of the time, Westeros seems to be more the size of Britain, of which the map is copied from, rather than South America. 

In connection to the above point, there seems to be a lack of settlements, too. In the travelogue chapters it always seems like there's barely any villages or towns. Certainly not enough to sustain a population that is supposedly in the tens of millions, unless most of them are focused in the Westerlands and the Reach. 

A final note of geographical realism - it's bizarre where Winterfell is situated. It's not on a river or a coast, so travel to it is limited compared to every other capital. Historically speaking, capitals/important towns and cities were also built on coasts or rivers, to more easily facilitate travel and trade. Every other major capital in Westeros is like that, except Winterfell. It would have made more sense for White Harbor to be the capital of the North, for that reason.

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2 hours ago, WhatAnArtist! said:

 

A final note of geographical realism - it's bizarre where Winterfell is situated. It's not on a river or a coast, so travel to it is limited compared to every other capital. Historically speaking, capitals/important towns and cities were also built on coasts or rivers, to more easily facilitate travel and trade. Every other major capital in Westeros is like that, except Winterfell. It would have made more sense for White Harbor to be the capital of the North, for that reason.

I think we can firmly place winterfell in the fantasy category

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A thread have been made on this particular topic

Westeros is way too large for the story told in the saga, the size of France would be much more realistic. The overall time span is too extended, especially for the evolution of societies and languages, I have proposed a realistic chronology that would bring the overall time span to 2300 years. The entire plot should be rewritten if we want realism actually.

 

 

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4 hours ago, WhatAnArtist! said:

A final note of geographical realism - it's bizarre where Winterfell is situated.

No, it's not. It was build on the place where the Children had their previous "headquarters".

The Last Hero went deep into the North

(which at that point in time wasn't yet inhabited by humans. The human settlements ended below The Neck, where the Children tried to separate The North from the rest of Westeros by using the Hammer of the Waters magic, which was only partially sucessful

https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Hammer_of_the_waters

"At some point, the greenseers attempted to use the hammer of the waters, working from the Children's Tower of Moat Cailin, to break the lands of Westeros in two.[1][3] However, this created the boggy Neck instead of separate landmasses."),

and found there the Children of the Forest. After he made the Pact with the Children and together they created The Wall, he (the Last Hero, the founder of House Stark, Bran the Builder) build Winterfell around the "heart of winter". In the past it was in the cave that is now located on the lowest levels of Winterfell's crypts, undernear the Godswood of Winterfell and it's heart tree. The corpses of those Children that made the Pact with Bran the Builder are underground, below that tree, and same as the Children in the "Bloodraven's cave" they are binded by the roots of the Weirwood tree. Bran build Winterfell around their cave, to protect them and to worship the tree and to feed it with blood and souls. And then for some reason Bran's successors stopped feeding the heart tree and thus the Children that were binded to that tree all died. And then all the other Children migrated further north, behind The Wall, and relocated to their current cave. So now the "heart of winter" is there and not at Winterfell's crypts.

Winterfell was build around the heart tree, and some of the Children were binded to that tree by its roots, and thus that's where Bran had to build his castle - around that underground cave and the tree above it.

Winterfell was the first human settlement of The North, and thus that's where went all the other people that migrated from below The Neck, after the First Long Night ended. Starks had obligations to send people to The Wall, to help the Children to guard it from the Others (who were still alive and active on the other side of The Wall). So they (the Starks and the Children) allowed humans to go above The Neck into what was previously strictly Children's territory and allowed them to populate those lands, if as a payment for that permission they will be sending some of their people to serve in the Night's Watch.

That's why the capital/heart of The North is there - in a middle of nowhere (around the previous "heart of the winter" and near The Wall) - and not somewhere near the coast or a big river, like all the other capital cities of the 7K.

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9 hours ago, Vaolor said:

So we already know Asoiaf is fantasy and despite many people's claims that it is "realistic" George R.R. Martin has said he is not a historian and it clearly shows as such in his writing especially his depiction of feudalism, and the way societies of Essos operate(Remember Yunkai's circus of slave soldiers and their commanders?) and so much more.

One of the things that really stuck out to me was the destruction of the Riverlands and how unbelievably unrealistic it was. So, throughout the books the way the war in the Riverlands is described it's as if every village has been plundered, every town razed, every man killed and woman raped and then killed but the thing is that the Riverlands are fucking massive and encompass a land area greater than France or Germany.

My main gripe is that the Riverlands are devastated so quickly. To put into perspective how unrealistic it is, imagine the 30 years war in the HRE and how millions of people died with some regions suffering a drop of 50% in population and having similar destruction and death happen in a greater area condensed in only months or at most a year. The 30 years war was so devastating due to extreme famine and disease outbreaks over the course of three decades of brutal war that would see many villages razed which would only exacerbate famine due to less food production and less men working fields due to them being used as soldiers and due to widespread malnutrition outbreaks of disease were also much deadlier.

The Westerlands somehow achieve this devastation with a measly 20-35,000 men in an area larger than France which would have millions of people living there and somehow with that amount of men they can devastate so much in only months or at most a year during the War of Five Kings. If such devastation happened in a smaller subregion of the Riverlands or over the course of a decade or two then it would be believable but so many of the POV characters show that this much destruction has encompassed the entirety of the Riverlands is so unrealistic to me.

What else in the books is as unrealistic as this?(Disregarding obviously supernatural things)

It wasn't the entire riverlands, just wherever Tywin's army marched. So initially, most of the destruction was across the central region, which Catelyn saw on her way to Bitterbridge. This is why lords Derry and Vance went to the king to seek justice. Then, it was in and around Harrenhal and the God's Eye. Tywin's march to Riverrun, though, I think saw less destruction because he was in more of a hurry. 

Plus, Tywin only did the villages and holdfasts. Most of the crops were burned by the retreating lords to deny food and fodder to Tywin's army.

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44 minutes ago, Moiraine Sedai said:

Tyrion’s effectiveness in battle. He needs to fight his own size. Tyrion should fight Arya.

 

I feel like if Martin was to rewrite the first two books, he'd almost certainly "nerf" Tyrion's battle skills to be more in-line with the relatively more grounded approach to fighting seen in the "recent" books (Feast and Dance).

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3 hours ago, Moiraine Sedai said:

Tyrion’s effectiveness in battle. He needs to fight his own size. Tyrion should fight Arya.

I don't like Tyrion and consider him a villain or at least a borderline villain.  But I had no problem with his success in battle, which seemed to me like 80% luck anyway.

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12 hours ago, Vaolor said:

What else in the books is as unrealistic as this?(Disregarding obviously supernatural things)

Melting gold in a cooking pot, and then handling the pot with horsehair mitts.  It's gold, not lead.

The ridiculous Westerosi bedding ceremony.

The Dothraki, who consider every wedding a disappointment unless at least 3 warriors are killed.  Either the Dothraki have very few weddings or are very wasteful of their manpower; which ought to ensure conquest by a more-efficient tribe with less wasteful customs.  In general, most of the non-Westeros cultures are too over-the-top to be entirely credible.

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I’ve always had a problem with Varys being kept as a holdover from the last regime.  That bit makes no sense at all to me.  Especially since we’re told that Varys last apparent act was to counsel Aerys not to open the gates for the Lannisters.  We don’t even have a good betrayal of the old regime to explain it.

 

ETA: along the same lines, Jaime not telling anybody about Aerys’ attempt to blow up King’s Landing is also a head scratcher.  Especially since old Lord Varys was apparently in on the plot, a lot of the alchemists that helped prepare it are still employed, and there is a whole bunch of wildfire around that could still blow up King’s Landing if lit on fire.

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43 minutes ago, Mister Smikes said:

Melting gold in a cooking pot, and then handling the pot with horsehair mitts.  It's gold, not lead.

The ridiculous Westerosi bedding ceremony.

The Dothraki, who consider every wedding a disappointment unless at least 3 warriors are killed.  Either the Dothraki have very few weddings or are very wasteful of their manpower; which ought to ensure conquest by a more-efficient tribe with less wasteful customs.  In general, most of the non-Westeros cultures are too over-the-top to be entirely credible.

Yes, especially the first bit, the melting of the gold in the cooking pot.  Makes you realize that when George wrote science fiction, he leaned more heavily on the fiction as opposed to the science.

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https://acoup.blog/?s=Dothraki

Summary of these articles: GRRM says that the Dothraki are a mishmash of Plains Indians and Steppe nomads. However, with the least knowledge of history, you can declare that to be bullshit. 

 

Also, Westeros is pretty darn massive and people move around fairly quickly....the size of the North is such that it would take far longer than a month to get from KL to Winterfell. And how KL is fed.......you'd need approximately 312 tons of food coming in per day, something like that in order to feed the city and KL is massive for a medieval city. They say "wagons" come up, but the animals drawing said wagons need food, too. The worldbuilding in Planetos isn't great. 

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Cersei killing her husband by hoping that he'll get drunk enough during a hunt that when a large beast passes by, it'll take him out and none of the kingsguard will be able to stop it in time.

Sybell Spicer making an arrangement to betray the Starks by hoping that Robb will have sex with her daughter and then feel guilty enough about it that he'll marry her (isn't it more likely that he'd marry her off to one of his bannermen?) Maybe there was some kind of love potion involved, but the app makes it sound like she was just sort of hoping it would happen.

Arianne crowning a new queen and usurping the current king (and the Tyrells) by. . . just sort of proclaiming Myrcella queen? I never understood her plan.

Joffrey being the first person to think to dismiss a kingsguard due to age. 

The funny thing about the geography is that George said one problem he ran into was that the timeline didn't extend as far as he intended it to, which is why the kids are all written like little adults. But the sheer amount of time it would take to travel from point A to point B should have taken care of that. (Maybe I'm misremembering, but didn't it take Queen Alysanne half a year to travel North, and then another half to make it back to King's Landing?)

 

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1 hour ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

Sybell Spicer making an arrangement to betray the Starks by hoping that Robb will have sex with her daughter and then feel guilty enough about it that he'll marry her (isn't it more likely that he'd marry her off to one of his bannermen?) Maybe there was some kind of love potion involved, but the app makes it sound like she was just sort of hoping it would happen.

Yeah, this is definitely very Littlefinger-tier, and by that I mean "Base your entire plan on trying to predict the actions of other people, with no guarantee that any of it will work in the slightest". I honestly think that Martin shouldn't have even bothered including this little background plot, it doesn't really add anything to the story; Robb's motivations, and the consequences of it, are still exactly the same, and make logical sense without Sybell's scheming.

1 hour ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

Arianne crowning a new queen and usurping the current king (and the Tyrells) by. . . just sort of proclaiming Myrcella queen? I never understood her plan.

I think the implication was that Dorne would rise up in rebellion, and try to rally support to Myrcella among people that took Dornish law seriously (i.e. almost no one outside of Dorne). I don't think she wanted Dorne to just sit there and do nothing after crowning her. But how exactly she thought Dorne could beat the combined might of the Westerlands and the Reach is definitely beyond me. She never was the smartest person, anyway.

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10 hours ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

(Maybe I'm misremembering, but didn't it take Queen Alysanne half a year to travel North, and then another half to make it back to King's Landing?)

That's because she was stopping at every castle, keep, village and town on her way. And she was staying for days or even weeks at each of those locations, and listened to the people that came to her to share their laments. And then she was giving orders or advices how those problems could be solved. And on her way back she visited all those locations to check on those people, whether what she did before helped them, whether what she ordered to do was executed and whether her orders are still followed. That's why it took her that long. Also at that time she and her husband were going thru difficult place in their relationship, so she wasn't eager to go back home, and thus was stalling with her return.

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39 minutes ago, Megorova said:

That's because she was stopping at every castle, keep, village and town on her way. And she was staying for days or even weeks at each of those locations, and listened to the people that came to her to share their laments. And then she was giving orders or advices how those problems could be solved. And on her way back she visited all those locations to check on those people, whether what she did before helped them, whether what she ordered to do was executed and whether her orders are still followed. That's why it took her that long. Also at that time she and her husband were going thru difficult place in their relationship, so she wasn't eager to go back home, and thus was stalling with her return.

But shouldn’t Robert have been stopping along the way too?

This was when her first three kids were still little, so Alysanne and Jaehaerys hadn’t had their falling out yet (that started after Daella died). I actually found it a little weird that Alysanne was willing to be away from her kids for that long.

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