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Highgarden's briar maze defence


Falcon2909
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On 11/6/2021 at 7:07 PM, Falcon2909 said:

Why would you use a maze of scrambling shrubs as a defence mechanism? Invaders could just set fire to the maze and it would burn down allowing them to proceed closer into the castle.

It's not walls of stone is it.  George must have meant thorny hedges.  With poison.  

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If I understand the Tyrells, their brier labyrinth would be a particularly thorny one, and even if the foliage was scorched away and the branches were charcoal, their thorns would remain.

So your question reads more like "why would you use barbed wire as a defence mechanism"

The obvious answer is that, even after it was burnt, pushing through the maze would be harmful for the horses, and slow work even for men. 

Where I live there is a thorny shrub called wait-a-while that has fine dangling whips of recurved thorns that catch on to your pack or clothing fast, and you have to carefully unpick each thorn to get yourself free, or your hat or whatever. At least it isn't poisonous, as some thorns are. But it is very effective at slowing you down. And when you see it, you avoid it.

Thorns were enough of an issue in the Vietnam war to be used as a justification for napalm. A flimsy pretext, maybe, but most US army ordnance works better on open desert plains. And pitched battles with cavalry and siege engines also work better without acres of thorns and false paths and booby-traps.

Another advantage of the maze - if you know the way, you can get horses and yourself through safely, undetected. 

Burning the maze would ruin any element of surprise. Invaders would have to wait until the fire burnt out before they could cross. The wood in the maze could be green and require a lot of starter fuel to catch. There is a high wall to negotiate before you could light it. You can't navigate it while it is burning, or just producing lots of smoke. It will still be a hinderance when it is burnt.

Some mazes (eg. Louis XIV one at Versailles) incorporated water features, which could make it harder to burn and even if the hedge part was thoroughly burnt, the maze of irrigation channels would still stand (minus any wooden bridges that would normally allow a crossing.)

Elaborate water features are a renaissance thing, but GRRM has a number of post-medieval technologies and these include the elaborate fountains, canals, and waterworks of Qarth, Ghoyan Drohe, Asatapor, Meereen, Braavos, and Highgarden.

So I would suppose the Highgarden labyrinth would have irrigation features, just like the other parts of the garden. 

There would be at least one entrance to the castle that wasn't through the maze. Renly brought his great host of the chivalry of the South to Highgarden. The normal activities of a castle require cart access (although the King's wheelhouse was too large to fit through the main gates of Winterfell). I would expect that horsemen would be able to enter the gates two by two if not four by four.

Highgarden also has tourney-mad horse-breeding inhabitants. It would be too tedious to have to navigate a maze every time one of the boys wanted to attend a tourney.

More than any of these considerations, house Gardener built Highgarden as a centre of government, not as a defensive outpost. The point of the castle was to draw envoys in and impress them with pomp. Not to keep invaders out and distress them with fire. That is why they have a huge sept and elaborate groves and collonades full of strolling players. 

That is why their defensive labyrinth is also an entertainment feature. 

Also, the difference between a labyrinth and a maze - a labyrith implies tunnels, dead ends, and monsterous beasts confined within it. It is not just a maze, but a maze intended to confine beasts while allowing the keepers in and out.

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On 11/7/2021 at 12:49 PM, Trigger Warning said:

In reality siege engineers would probably dig it up.

It was behind the outermost wall of Highgarden. I don't know if it was or could be guarded, or how, but they would have to get past the wall first.

Then, there was the second wall. Maybe they could hope it wasn't or couldn't be used to decimate the diggers.

Two walls with only a moat between them seemed to work for Winterfell, until they were scaled by Theon, who opened the gates for the Flayed Men.

I guess the same could happen if Highgarden was poorly defended, but at least the thorns would slow them down. And Highgarden has a third wall.

Edited by Walda
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Highgarden would be a nightmare to lay siege to. 

 

You'd have to get rid of the maze, somehow. Preferably dig a trench or two to protect the siege weapons being built. If you were using siege towers, you'd have to clear and level the ground. If you're desperate, you build ladders (ladder assaults nearly always failed, FYI). You'd have to get rid of the crenellations to prevent archers from having a place to take cover and loose arrows. 

 

TL;DR, you'd need thousands of men, quite a lot of food, and the know-how to build good siege weapons. And preferably know the layout. 

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“Green” (living) wood burns poorly and healthy green forests or hedgerows are often water sinks—they hold a great deal of water in the soil and in snags, fallen trees, etc. 

In short  I think you could burn the hedge but it would be terrifically smoky and difficult and charcoal thorns would remain everywhere. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 11/7/2021 at 10:52 AM, Walda said:

Also, the difference between a labyrinth and a maze - a labyrith implies tunnels, dead ends, and monsterous beasts confined within it.

Just learnt a little more about labyrinths and mazes. It is the mazes that have the dead ends.

Labyrinths are convoluted paths with no branches or alternate routes. You can get lost in a maze. There is no way of getting lost in a labyrinth.

So Ariadne's clew and Daedalus' advice ("Always forward and down, neither left nor right") were equally superfluous in Theseus' quest. And the Minotaur chose to live there. Which, like the legend as a whole, makes no sense at all.

Mind blown.

Although there is a parallel with Dany in the House of the Undying (Dany=Theseus, Pyat Pree=Daedalus/Ariadne, the Undying=the Minotaur).

In fact, Dany's arc in general might be based on the story of the labours of Theseus.

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Ideally, nobilty and royalty should have separate and multiple domains, not only one: multiple keeps, castles, chateus and most probably residences at important places, such as the capital. That the Red Keep is the single place KL doesn't smell makes absolute no sense. Great houses should have residences awaiting for them with an entire household and stuff. That most people only have a single castle is just dumb. Altough, Ned does tell Bran he will hold some castles for Robb at one point (meaning the existence of multiple domains), but then there were the Peakes, who were famous and somewhat exceptional for having 3 castles (which ain't supposed to be much).

I guess Highgarden is an oversized chateu from the late 13th century (it looks like one). That being said, the maze around it doesn't make much sense. 

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3 hours ago, Walda said:

Just learnt a little more about labyrinths and mazes. It is the mazes that have the dead ends.

Labyrinths are convoluted paths with no branches or alternate routes. You can get lost in a maze. There is no way of getting lost in a labyrinth.

This is an oversimplification and misleading.

The terms are used in modern times usually as synonymous, though the distinction of labrynths being unicircular has been promoted in some academic circles, and while what you said about classical labyrinths being uncircular is often true, it isn't always.

Be careful trying to draw hard lines between things which are poorly defined to begin with. I think the distinction you are siting is more of one for iconography, than actual ancient structures.

Just think about what you are saying, the entire legend of the minotaur doesn't make sense? All the ancient descriptions are wrong? Or, maybe you are not accurately interpreting an ancient word?

In Greek, labyrinth (labyrinthos) would be used to describe any mazelike structure, and isn't limited by the modern distinction you are siting. After all "maze" is a word that only dates back to the 13th century.

In reality, the labyrinth of Daedalus on Crete was said to be modeled after the Egyptian labyrinth of Hawara which was a described by Herodotus, who actually was there, as clearly having multiple paths/doors.

Edited by Mourning Star
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On 11/6/2021 at 7:07 PM, Falcon2909 said:

Why would you use a maze of scrambling shrubs as a defence mechanism? Invaders could just set fire to the maze and it would burn down allowing them to proceed closer into the castle.

It's part of a series of defenses. First, the castle is on a rise, so an invading army would be pummeled with arrows, rocks and fire just on the approach. Then they have to get over the outer wall, where they are even more exposed. Then they have to torch the maze -- pretty much all of it -- to get to the next wall, higher and steeper than the first. Again, all while arrows, rocks and fire are raining down on your head. Then finally at the castle itself, with walls that are even higher and steeper. And you have to climb over these by hand because the approach is too steeped and too cluttered with stone walls and burning briars to bring up a ram or siege tower.

Is it insurmountable? Of course not. But it's difficult and costly.

Besides, they had this expanse of ground between the first and second walls. What would be a more effective way to slow the attackers? And who knows what lies under the maze? If I were a betting man, I'd wager there are all kinds of traps just before the surface.

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9 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

Again, all while arrows, rocks and fire are raining down on your head. 

Really putting a huge amount of cover in your kill zone isn't ideal. I don't see why they'd attempt to burn it other than as a ready made source of kindling with which to weaken the walls. I really think everyone here is overestimating a bush and underestimating siege engineers. If armies throughout history can build huge earthen ramps to roll siege towers up under a hail of arrows then they can cut their way through or dig up a bush that's ironically giving them a load of cover in which to do it whilst also protecting them from the enemy sallying out. 

Highgarden sounds like an imposing fortress, the maze is the least relevant part of this. If an army is committed enough to breach the outer wall which is a much more difficult undertaking then a load of cover in what should be the next killzone is gonna help them rather than hinder them. Sieges are already slow, sapping, picking at the walls, starting fires to weaken their structural integrity etc etc. If they breach the outer wall they're gonna take just as much time with the next one. They're not gonna just rush into a load of brambles. 

Edited by Trigger Warning
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13 hours ago, Trigger Warning said:

Really putting a huge amount of cover in your kill zone isn't ideal. I don't see why they'd attempt to burn it other than as a ready made source of kindling with which to weaken the walls. I really think everyone here is overestimating a bush and underestimating siege engineers. If armies throughout history can build huge earthen ramps to roll siege towers up under a hail of arrows then they can cut their way through or dig up a bush that's ironically giving them a load of cover in which to do it whilst also protecting them from the enemy sallying out. 

Highgarden sounds like an imposing fortress, the maze is the least relevant part of this. If an army is committed enough to breach the outer wall which is a much more difficult undertaking then a load of cover in what should be the next killzone is gonna help them rather than hinder them. Sieges are already slow, sapping, picking at the walls, starting fires to weaken their structural integrity etc etc. If they breach the outer wall they're gonna take just as much time with the next one. They're not gonna just rush into a load of brambles. 

Ah, but the invaders are not the only ones who can set the maze on fire. Imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of men lost in the maze, caught up in the brambles, and then the Tyrells light it up. 

Siege engines are great, but the way the castle is constructed you can move catapults and trebuchets into position and bombard the heck out of the place, but you can't bring towers or battering rams up to the gates. Think about it, an earthen ramp would have to cover both the outer and inner walls, and the maze. That's a lot of earth to be moved by men who are being cut down with arrows and pitch. It will take a long time, and even if successful you now have to fight hand-to-hand with a diminished army. And remember, the Tyrells have historically had the largest army on the continent, so anyone who manages to lay siege to Highgarden first has to defeat that army, or armies.

Yeah, nobody ever said the maze was the sole defense for Highgarden. But there is this wide space between the two outer walls. Should they just leave it as open ground? And again, I suspect that there is more to the maze than just thorns.

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5 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

But there is this wide space between the two outer walls. Should they just leave it as open ground? 

 

You say this like it's some sort of gotcha when yes that's absolutely what they should do other than having an additional ditch or something. Unless you need that space for something you should absolutely not undermine your defence by providing additional cover from which the enemy can approach. They could probably start sapping right next to your walls and you'd never know it. You've completely missed my point about ramps, I didn't say they should build one I said if they can build them then cutting through a bush is not a particularly daunting task for siege engineers. 

Why would there be thousands of men lost in the maze? Again if they make a practicable breach they're gonna deal with the maze methodically and let's just be clear the idea of surrounding your walls with kindling to kill people trying to approach them is ridiculous and will absolutely harm your castle boxed in by fire more than it would the enemy. If the defenders start the fire the attackers will just leave because they won't be lost because they will have cut an approach into it and the fire's not gonna just consume it in minutes. Having it so you can see what they're doing, shoot arrows directly at them and most importantly sally out is incredibly more valuable than some sort of fire trap that will damage your own defences. 

Your talk about the strengths of Highgarden is just supporting my argument. I never argued about the defensive capabilities of Highgarden I argued about the benefits of a maze. The layout of the castle is smart, the presence of a maze is dumb. The area between one section of wall and another should be a killzone, filling it with bushes defeats that purpose. It's just some fantasy bollocks GRRM has come up with it's not practical, the reality is almost every major castle in ASOIAF is so ridiculously strong that you'd probably not even attempt to storm the fortifications but the maze isn't part of that. 

Edited by Trigger Warning
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