Sunday, August 9, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 89

Thursday is court day! We're late this week, sorry!
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from A Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
Casting Call: We need more judges! If you are interest in being judge, even if you have been already, please write us. 
And now, up to ruling 89! Our guest judge this week is Alex, a communications consultant in Washington, D.C. He has studied politics and history and is an anguished member of #TeamStannis.

What will become of Jorah Mormont?

Main Opinion: Amin
One possibility is that he goes to the Wall, to fulfill his father’s dying wish. That may happen in the end, but right now he is still devoted to and obsessed with Dany, so he will try to enter her service again. He is an expendable character and might not live long enough to get back to Westeros, but it does seem that GRRM is not quite done with him yet. He told Dany that all he wanted was to go home to Bear Island, but I think he has outgrown his home now and would not be content with merely that.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Jorah won’t live to see the end of the series. He’s pretty much poised to die for Dany as soon as he gets the possibility to do so in her view, and he’s not necessary for the rest of the story. He’s been with us for a long time, and killing him at some point will have an impact for sure.

Concurring Opinion: Alex
I agree that Jorah has outgrown Bear Island. I don’t foresee any narrative reason to visit Bear Island, and Jorah is important enough that whatever end befalls him should happen “on-screen.” Amin is right: he will fight for his khaleesi whether she will have him or not, and that will be his end. I expect he will die in her service, perhaps in a war against fAegon. I hope he makes it to Westeros but I don’t see him lasting long enough to fight the Others.

Final Verdict: He will probably die before the end of the series.

Why are wars so short in “A Song of Ice and Fire”, compared to medieval ones?

Main Opinion: Amin
I wouldn’t say they are shorter than medieval ones, except for some of the more lengthy examples in medieval history. We are also focussing on the last couple hundreds of years of at least a semi-united Westeros, where one side could often decisively defeat another or there was more of an impetus to negotiate an end to conflict. When Westeros had Seven Kingdoms, and before that, when there were hundreds of kingdoms, there were certainly long wars that lasted decades and ongoing border conflicts that kept flaring up over centuries.

Dissenting Opinion: Stefan
Wars are so short because for some reason, sieges are uncommon in Westeros. Martin mentions the storages of the castles all the time, oftentimes sufficient for one or two years each (!), but the wars are all decided on the open battlefield. This of course seems to be the result of the feudal problematic: since all wars since the Targaryen Conquest tend to encompass all houses of several regions, no lord can demand for them to serve longer than necessary in order not to bankrupt their lands. A decisive battle is therefore something both parties want to achieve, and usually, they accept defeat after that.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Alex
I don’t think it’s accurate to say that all wars in ASOIAF are noticeably shorter compared to historical conflicts. The Andal invasion lasted for generations, similar to the Anglo-Saxons in Britain. We see smaller examples of long-lasting disputes as well, like the conflict between the Brackens and Blackwoods. However, it is true that certain wars are much shorter than their closest historical equivalents. The War of Conquest stands out -- two years to conquer Westeros (minus Dorne) is surprisingly quick. But Aegon’s Conquest was fast for one reason: his side had dragons. Adding a potent weapon to only one side of a war is going to shorten it considerably.

Final verdict: It's a misperception that the wars are generally shorter. In Westeros' history, there are many examples of really long wars. 

Which Westerosi castles are “realistic”?

Main Opinion: Amin
Riverrun seems realistic in terms of scale and location, though it has a level of control over the water that may be idealistic for Westerosi technology (though not the greatest stretch either). Moat Cailin, if it counts as that, is also realistic in that it protects a very crucial bottleneck (and probably was better maintained in the past than it is now). The Twins are an example of a very realistic though small fortress, protecting a key crossing point while still being built realistically. Many of the larger castles are not that realistic, even Winterfell is a bit large compared to the population in the area.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Most of the smaller castles are ok. Darry is a prime example, Coldmoat serves, Torren’s Square, Deepwood Motte, Riverrun and, of course, Harrenhal. Ok, just kidding. But really, most castles are no problem, there are relaively few but prominent big and unrealistic ones.

Concurring Opinion: Alex
The smaller castles are generally more realistic – we’ve already seen that the Tower of Joy has some compelling real-world counterparts from the show’s location scouting. Whether or not you believe that’s what Castillo de Zafra will stand in for, it’s an exciting parallel. I also want to mention Raventree Hall: “Two huge towers flanked the castle's main gate, and smaller ones defended every angle of its walls. All were square. Drum towers and half-moons held up better against catapults, since thrown stones were more apt to deflect off a curved wall, but Raventree predated that particular bit of builder's wisdom” (Jaime I, ADWD). This is accurate – later medieval castles opted for rounded towers to deflect siege weapons and make them harder to undermine. It’s also noteworthy as a rare example of technological progression in Westeros. 

Final Verdict: The smaller castles tend to be more realistic than the bigger ones. 


  1. Hello,

    I have a question for the court. Do you think we will see anyone else "transfer life" the way Beric did for Catelyn?

    Keep up the good work.


  2. What is the likelihood of the series ending with the Others succeeding it conquering Westeros and wiping out humanity? I know GRRM has said the ending will be "bittersweet", but this could refer to something such as characters reconciling in the face of certain defeat, rather than a victory with great sacrifice. And ASOIAF has consistently tried to undermine traditional fantasy concepts. On the other hand, I've heard some commentators suggest this would be impossible because it would undercut the series' popularity if it ended in such a cynical manner. Thoughts?

  3. George RR Martin wrote on his blog that it was good that Book-Shae was already dead or Show-Shae was so good she may have made him rethink things. Which Show-character is most likely to influence the fate of a Book-character?