Friday, 14 June 2013

An Unreliable World: History and Timekeeping in Westeros

Last year I contributed to the book Beyond the Wall, a collection of commentaries and essays on A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation. My essay is this week's 'Free Essay' over at Smart Pop Books, so it can be perused for free right now.

The essay discusses the often-dubious measures of time given in the series and how the ancient backstory of the books is fluid and unreliable as a result.


alabrava said...

Well, it's no Malazan Book of the Fallen at least. Love that series, but attempting to puzzle out the various time idiosyncrasies would've broken my brain.

Brett said...

The Maesters feel recent to me. They probably predate the Targaryen Conquest, but I would be surprised if it was by more than two or three centuries before - and for most of that, they would have just been a gradually emerging group in Oldtown, much like how universities coalesced in medieval Europe in real history.

For the rest, I liked your idea over at Westeros, about roughly halving the dates. ~2000 years back to the arrival of the Andals seems reasonable if we're figuring that the original Andals were just waves of Iron Age migrants with a common religious faith, like the equivalent of Germanic Tribal migrations. ~4000 years back for the Long Night would be like the different between Europe in 1200 CE and the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt in 2800-2600 BCE (or late Sumeria in Mesopotamia). There might be some artifacts and records from the Ghiscari, but everything else would just be blatant myth.

The real interesting one for me is with the long dynasties in the formerly independent Seven Kingdoms. We don't know much about they actually coalesced, aside from hints that the main families were contested by some of their Houses Minor (such as the contest between the Starks and Boltons not being settled until a few hundred years ago if you halve the dates), and that Dorne was a merger of the Rhoynish migration and the existing Andal population.