Westeros: Is Scandanavia the Real-Life Iron Islands? Are the Alps the Vale?

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March 27 2013 2:15 PM

Are the Lands of Westeros Inspired by Real-Life Countries?


This question originally appeared on Quora.


Answer by Lucas Mund, history teacher:


I love this question! As a history lover, I can see clear similarities between Westeros and Medieval Europe. GRR Martin has said that he does not like one to one comparisons, but that he was influenced by real life countries and people. A lot of his influences are very clear, others are more up to debate.

The North = Russia and Slavic Eastern Europe
Reason: Vast with sparse population. Ports hold the most population and power (White Harbor = St. Petersburg). Long and hard winters. Impossible to invade (just ask Hitler and Napoleon). One of the last parts of continent to leave the Old Gods = pagan/polytheistic religions and convert to the New Gods = Christianity). Moscow = Winterfell because they are in the middle of a vast frozen land.

The Vale = Alps
Reason: Very mountainous with rich valleys for farming. With a coast (The Fingers) on the sea. Mostly stay out of the conflicts of the continent.

Riverlands = Low Countries and the Rhineland
Reason: Great farming and many rivers. Easily conquered by other countries. Rhine River (indicated on the map) =The Trident.

Iron Islands = Scandinavia
Reason: By far the easiest comparison because the Iron Born are the Vikings. The Vikings and Iron Born are raiders in long boats. The land is cold, poor farmland (“We do not sow”) and has terrible storms. The land also is known for its iron mines.

Westerlands = British Isles
Reason: Have rich mines (Westerlands have gold and Britain has iron, silver, and tin). Rich, hill-covered country with many good ports. Both have the lion as their symbol. Divided from the rest of the continent by hills or English Channel.

The Reach = France
Reason: Excellent farmland with romantic people that love wine and flowers. Very powerful country when mobilized. Paris = Highgarden because they are large flamboyant cities up river from the ocean.

Stormlands = Italy
Reason: Rely on the heavy trade of the Narrow Sea = Med. Sea. Mountainous peninsula that sticks out into the sea. Has constant storms. Rome = Storm’s End because they are ancient fortifications that are based on sea trade.

Dorne = Spain and Portugal
Reason: Very hot and dry land. Makes great wine. Stays out of the business of the rest of the countries for the most part. Peninsula separated from the rest of the continent by mountains (Pyrenees = Red Mountains). Was not conquered until later in history (Spain and Portugal during the Reconquista and Dorne joined the realm with a marriage contract two centuries after the original Targaryen conquest).

Crownlands = Germany
Reason: Rich, largely forested land that is always fought over and is in the middle of the continent.

Dragon Stone = Malta
Reason: Small island in the middle of the sea (Narrow Sea or Med Sea). Gets hit with many ship-breaking storms. Great place for a navy because of its strategic location.

Other peoples:

Dothraki = Mongols and Huns
Nomadic, horse raiders that eat horse and drink horse milk. Children were taught to ride at a very young age. Warriors were lightly armored because they preferred speed over defense. Did not use a navy.

Valyria = Ancient Greece
Ancient, knowledgeable people that colonized and influenced lots of Westeros/Europe but over time most of their knowledge was lost. Their language formed the base for the continent’s language(s). Reasons why Valyria is not Rome: 1. Valyria was in a faraway land and Rome is in the center of Europe. Greece is in Europe but is on the edge. 2. Ancient Greece was further back in history than Rome. The gap between Medieval Europe and Rome is just a few hundred years. Whereas the time between Ancient Greece and Medieval Europe is around 1,000 years like the 1,000 gap between modern Westeros and the Doom of Valyria.

Free Cities (Lys, Braavos, Pentos, Norvos, Myr, etc…) = The various cities of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (Constantinople, Tyre, Alexandria, Baghdad, etc… )

Constantly fighting, but are rich and knowledgeable. Wealth is based on trade. Slavery is outlawed. Built on coasts or rivers.

Slavers Bay = Slave Coast of Africa
Bay that has many large ports that trade mostly in slaves.

Ibben = Iceland
Island far to the north that is often frozen. People rely on whale and seal meat and skins.

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