The size of Westeros

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Mordomin, Oct 8, 2004.

  1. Mordomin

    Mordomin Registered User

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    Ever wonder how big Westeros is? Sure you have! So, if you’ve read one or more of the books (and you have, else what are you doing on this forum?) tell me: how big is it?

    The books have maps in the front, but they don’t have a scale on them. But there is a feature on the map of the North that can be used as a makeshift scale: the Wall. It’s a nice straight line that the text tells us (in a number of places) is three hundred miles long. So we can use the Wall as a sort of unit of measurement.

    Using this method, we find that the distance from the Wall to Dorne is a bit over 3,000 miles, while the distance west to east from Casterly Rock to King’s Landing is about 900 – 1,000 miles. Sounds reasonable, right?

    It would be…except it contradicts other parts of the text. Specifically, Jon Snow says early in ‘A Storm of Swords’ (pg 96 of the Bantam paperback) that the distance from where he is (north of the Wall) to the red mountains of Dorne is ten thousand leagues. That’s 30,000 miles, not three thousand. Later (pg 199), Robb says that the distance from Casterly Rock to King’s Landing is a thousand leagues, not miles. What gives?

    For one thing, the length of the Wall may not be 300 miles. On pg 640 (in SoS), Sam notes that Castle Black is the only way through the Wall for a hundred leagues. That can’t be right if Castle Black is in the middle of a Wall that is ‘only’ 300 miles (=100 leagues) long unless Castle Black is at one end, which we know it isn’t; it’s in the middle. Perhaps then the Wall is 300 leagues long?

    [GRR Martin was asked, btw, about the length of a league in Westeros, and he confirmed that one league = three miles. So this is not a terminology issue.]

    If the Wall is 300 leagues long, then it is consistent with the distances given by Robb and Sam mentioned above (and other references, such as pg 806 of ‘A Clash of Kings’, where it is said that Winterfell is hundreds of leagues inland). This makes Westeros about 3,000 miles wide, and 9-10,000 miles long.

    But what about Jon’s eye-popping ten thousand leagues? That’s a real problem. For one thing, that makes the distance between north and south in Westeros greater than the entire circumference of the Earth! But it also doesn’t fit the map as drawn; proportionally, even if the Wall is 300 leagues long, the length of Westeros can’t be more than about 3 –4,000 leagues.
    Is the map severely compressed from north to south? I don’t think so. On page 806 of CoK, Theon is told that every man for a thousand leagues is against him (due to his ‘killing’ Bran and Rickon). Using the Wall = 300 leagues and no compression, this would cover from Winterfell to the Wall in the north and the Neck in the south, the approximate area of the Northern kingdom. That seems about right, given the context of the statement. But if the map is not compressed, then we must conclude that Jon is rather grossly exaggerating. Given the other evidence against him, and his situation at the time, this seems more likely to me.

    As to the Wall, in order to be consistent with other statements of distance throughout the text, we must either conclude that that section of the map is greatly exaggerated for purposes of visual clarity (in which case an inset map would have been preferable, IMO) or that characters have repeatedly understated its size (except Sam).

    In summary, my conclusions regarding the size of Westeros are: it is approximately 1,000 leagues wide and 4,000 leagues long, with a Wall in the north that is 300 leagues long. I conclude that Jon is out of his reckoning when he mentions ten thousand leagues, and that the Wall’s actual length is not properly understood (or else deliberately misrepresented) by the characters referring to it.

    This is how I reconcile the inconsistencies concerning distance that I find in ASoIaF. While not entire satisfying (for one thing, it raises other size and climatic issues), it serves. Other solutions could be devised; what’s yours?
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2004
  2. Bregalad

    Bregalad The Hasty Ent

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    Nice post :D

    Actually I haven't really thought about it, though other people have, and they've asked the author himself about it. Martin's answer is that he hasn't figured out some of the distances himself yet, which is why the maps are not to scale (it's on www.westeros.org somewhere; will try looking for the reference later, and edit it in).

    But you've got plenty of good points there. Maybe when the series is done (or before), GRRM will sit down and put all this data together so we can get the map in proper scale. I'd like to see that happen too. For now, we probably have to make do with the obviously-imperfect map though.

    EDIT: did a search of westeros.org and found some stuff:

    www.westeros.org/Citadel/SoSpakeMartin/SoSpakeMartin02a.html
    Mail #18
    Jon is most probably very inexact with his estimate of ten thousand leagues, so thankfully, the Wall can't be that long.

    www.westeros.org/Citadel/SoSpakeMartin/SoSpakeMartin02e.html
    Mail #202
    Darn... i was hoping... :(

    The stuff on the same page, in Mails #201 and #202, confirm that Westeros is indeed round, and the approximate geographical location of Valyria relative to Westeros. There's more, but you can check out the link yourself.

    Another link: www.westeros.org/Citadel/SoSpakeMartin/SoSpakeMartin02d.html
    Mail #193 [POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR A STORM OF SWORDS]

    The last link is a reply to a guy who's asking about a possible chronological error in A Storm of Swords. To quote it would make this post unnecessarily long, but the gist of it is that Martin makes distances and times vague on purpose, though he's quite happy to tell people about the relative geographical locations of places.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2004
  3. Richardb

    Richardb I like what I like...

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    Being a map guy... the whole thing keeps driving me nuts... But, I think that the fact is that the statements of distance are not meant to educate the reader on the size and reality of Westeros, but more to show us just how the characters percieve the distances. 10,000 leagues is obviously like my saying 'its a million miles away'.
    Or else, it would take about 3 years to get from the wall back to kings landing in a large wheelhouse...
     
  4. saintjon

    saintjon Illustrious Gambler

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    I never even thought of it myself, but I think it's pretty obvious Jon wasn't talking literally when you lay it out like that.
     
  5. N.S. Barrett

    N.S. Barrett Registered User

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    Sounds like someone needs a better language complier.

    Anyway, how long is a league? No one really knows.

    How long does it take from one character in a novel to get acros 1,000 leagues? Maybe 400 pages. Maybe 1.

    The real question would be in the following form: Geez, it took as long for Stannis' army to reach King's Landing as it did for boats to sail from Pyke, disembark troops, and then to walk to Winterfell. Is this realistic?

    But then there's always the cop-out that Stannis was having logistical problems, he was indecisive, etc. The author is always going to have a cop out for things like this, and ultimately, things happen in the sequence that the author says they do. No amount of measuring will get around that.
     
  6. Evil Agent

    Evil Agent Saturn Comes Back Around

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    I thought it was fairly well established that a league was about three miles...
     
  7. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    The Wall is 100 leagues or 300 miles long. Westeros is about 1,000 leagues or 3,000 miles from the Wall to the south coast of Dorne, which matches GRRM's statement that Westeros is as long as South America (which is about 4,100 miles from the Panama Canal to the southern tip of Chile, leaving about 1,000 miles north of the Wall for Westeros to come close).

    All other statements are the product of hyperbole, exaggeration or lack of education (some characters confused leagues for miles and vice versa). The planet is slightly larger than Earth, but not so much larger than characters traverse ten thousand miles without thinking' that's a long distance.

    The timeline in the books is not as straightforward as in the text. Like Wheel of Time one chapter may precede another but might happen weeks or months later. Stannis's army also had to march overland from Storm's End to King's Landing and pick up bannermen along the way, which slowed his progress, whilst the ironborn were able to sail a lot of the way to their target (and the ironborn chapters began a lot earlier, whilst Catelyn was still on her very long journey from Riverrun to Bitterbridge).
     
  8. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    I'd like to see some more close-up maps of Westeros in future books. The current map makes it look about the size of Florida.
     
  9. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    There's an excellent map of Westeros (with scale) here.

    Also check out this size comparison map. It's a bit out-of-scale (if the Wall was on the North Cape of Norway, the south coast of Dorne would actually be further south in Morocco, around Rabat) but gets the general idea across pretty well, particularly Dorne being about the same size as Italy. I get the impression some people think Dorne is too powerful given it's small size, but if it's the size of Italy or a bit bigger, that becomes a lot more convincing:

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Sehestedt

    Sehestedt Registered User

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    Martin said in an interview that Westeros is "about the size of South America."
     
  11. N.S. Barrett

    N.S. Barrett Registered User

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    Well, I always understood a league to be the distance that a person could walk in an hour. About as imprecise of a measurement as an inch, which was once defined as the width of the King's thumb. And of the two, I think more efforts were made at standardizing the inch than the league.

    I remember reading a sci-fi story, not very good quality admittedly, where we were told that the average life span was about 500 years. Then at some point we're told that the planet they're on just orbits its sun more quickly than the Earth orbits ours.

    Authors can do this kind of thing, and doing it well, they can get away with it. So, I personally don't put much stock in things of this nature.
     
  12. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    At different times in English history a league has been measured at anything between 2 and 17 miles.

    However, in traditional fantasy usage a league is 3 miles, as that was what was defined by Tolkien. Martin also confirms this is the case, both in and out of the text. There is also the assumption that Erikson uses the same measurement, but Jordan uses 4 miles to the league (and his miles are slightly larger than ours, to add to the confusion).
     
  13. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Ha, this thread got referenced over on a story I had reposted on io9. Cool stuff.