Do long winters occur on both Westeros and Essos?
June 2, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Game of Thrones: I haven't read the book, but I've been watching the HBO t.v. series. Do the long winters occur only on the Westeros continent? Or is it assumed that the long winters impact both Essos and Westeros, and/or is the result of some global phenomenon?

In the HBO series, many characters from the Westeros continent have mentioned the long winters and their impact. However, I've noticed that no one from the Essos continent seemed to be concerned about the winters. This has lead me to believe that the long winters occur on only the Westeros continent. Is it true? Do the people of Essos experience somewhat more regular seasons?

(Limit spoilers please!)
posted by nikkorizz to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's not really discussed. Melisandre is apparently a viewpoint character in the next novel, and may shed some light on the matter.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:37 AM on June 2, 2011

It's not really discussed, but the way I've always thought about it is that the Essos continent is much further south than Winterfell. The areas we've seen are roughly the same latitude (or south) as King's Landing, where winters are bad but are not nearly as bad as up north. The characters who give us the most information about long winters are the people from Winterfell and the Wall, where winter has a much harsher impact. People in Essos may not worry so much about long winters simply because they're not as awful in that latitude.

We don't know whether long winter cycles are natural phenomena or caused by something else. It's been awhile since I read the books, but I don't believe there were many (blindingly obvious) clues one way or another.
posted by lilac girl at 6:51 AM on June 2, 2011

Thanks guys!
posted by nikkorizz at 6:54 AM on June 2, 2011

GRRM has very strongly hinted that there is a supernatural explanation for the long winters, but no, the books have are yet to - and may well never - deal with the nuts and bolts of the matter.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:01 AM on June 2, 2011

I agree with nicolas léonard sadi carnot: It's just in the vibe of the story
posted by oxford blue at 8:14 AM on June 2, 2011

There's some dumb inconsistencies as well. I remember at some part of the story, the characters are way north of the wall and the local people (wildlings) are harvesting carrots and other vegetables there. Sort of hard to believe in a frozen wasteland. But -- MAGIC -- I guess.

I like the books, but reading them makes it pretty clear that he's telling a lot of the story off the cuff. His obsessive fans likely "know" more of the lore than he does.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:48 AM on June 2, 2011

One thought I've had while reading/watching -- in real life, a year is *defined* by seasons. The only reason a year is 365 (and a fourth) days is because that's how long it takes for the seasons to change and the earth to move around the sun. So how do they determine a "year" when there's no constancy in seasons?

Then my other question is about the permeability of the wall. The direwolves the Stark clan is raising are apparently from above the wall. The wildings that recently attacked Bran were supposedly from above the wall. How do people/animals keep crossing the wall? They aren't leaving the doors open, are they?
posted by lewedswiver at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2011

I don't recall there was anything that addressed years in the novels, but I thought they did address the fact that the wall isn't 100% impenetrable. The wall isn't entirely guarded and I thought there were supposedly some passages that the wildings could pass through in small numbers if no one was watching.

My best theory for the 'year' question would be that there are seasons they are just more mild and during those periods they are considered to be in the summer. And when the winter comes the opposite occurs. That's baseless speculation though, no idea how much support there is for it in the novels.
posted by Green With You at 12:00 PM on June 2, 2011

It's magic.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:01 PM on June 2, 2011

lewedswiver, the maesters have a system of determining years by stars, etc. Note that characters has a name day that occurs once a year.

The Wall is permeable in places--it's not a solid sheet of ice, there are a number of waystations and towers with doors and gates that have presumably deteriorated to allow wildings and animals.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:23 PM on June 2, 2011

Echoing what others have said, the wall would be effective at stopping an army, but not individuals (nor would they really care about individuals I'd imagine). With patrols they'd see any large forces coming and be able to defend wherever the large group was attempting to breach.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:38 PM on June 2, 2011

In either the first book or early on in the second, there's mention of rough mountainous areas in the west (on the way to the Shadow Tower from Castle Black) where the wall is either deteriorated or doesn't exist. This is explicitly told to the reader as a place where Wildlings and other things have gotten through.
posted by melt away at 12:34 PM on June 3, 2011

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