Of the main cast of characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, none has covered more ground than Daenerys Targaryen. In her opening chapter in the first novel in the series, A Game of Thrones, she is living in the manse of Magister Illyrio Mopatis just outside the Free City of Pentos. By the end of that novel alone she has crossed the Forest of Qohor and the Dothraki Sea, visited Vaes Dothrak and journeyed to the borderlands of the Lhazareen. The following books take her even further afield before she turns west and eventually arrives in Slaver’s Bay.
The above map divides Daenerys’s journey between the five published novels in the series so far:
A Game of Thrones
After a year living in the abode of Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos, Daenerys marries Khal Drogo outside the city. Drogo’s khalasar departs Pentos using the Valyrian straight roads. This allows it to travel from Pentos to Qohor, via Norvos, relatively quickly. From Qohor the khalasar follows the Valyrian road eastwards through the vast Forest of Qohor (taking a fortnight, which seems a bit long considering how relatively narrow it is, but okay) to the edge of the Dothraki Sea. The Valyrian road terminates at the ruins of Essaria, Valyria’s old trading post with the kingdom of Sarnor to the north and east before both Sarnor and Essaria were destroyed by the Dothraki during the Century of Blood.
After this point the Dothraki cross almost the entirety of the Dothraki Sea. There are the remains of the old Sarnori trade routes but, not infused with alleged sorcery like the Valyrian roads, these have almost disappeared after the passage of four centuries. Back on their home ground, the Dothraki are much more comfortable moving through the open grasslands anyway. Some time later, after Daenerys learns she is pregnant, the khalasar reaches Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki city on the shore of the Womb of the World, in the shadow of the Mother of Mountains. There they stay for a time, until an attempt is made on Daenerys’s life and thwarted by Ser Jorah Mormont. Khal Drogo learns that the assassin was sent on the order of King Robert Baratheon. Furious, Drogo swears to conquer the Seven Kingdoms and put his son on the Iron Throne. The khalasar strikes south, Drogo planning to take a horde of slaves in Lhazar and herd them down the Skahazadhan to Meereen to sell in return for the ships and supplies the Dothraki will need to invade Westeros.
Of course, this plan goes awry. Drogo takes a wound in battle which festers. Daenerys employs the Lhazareen maegi Mirri Maz Duur to heal Drogo, but instead she renders him insensible at the cost of Daenerys’s child. Drogo’s khalasar splits to the winds. Daenerys burns Mirri Maz Duur and Drogo alive on a pyre along with her dragon eggs, a gift from Illyrio who claims they came from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai. However, the description of the eggs matches some of the eggs left behind in Westeros after the Dance of Dragons. The true origin of the eggs remains unknown. It is known that, thanks to a fusion of heat, blood and maybe magic, the eggs hatched and three dragons come into the world.
Daenerys therefore crosses the following distances in A Game of Thrones alone:
- Pentos to Norvos: just under 600 miles.
- Norvos to Qohor: approximately 550 miles.
- Qohor to Vaes Dothrak: approximately 2,200 miles.
- Vaes Dothrak to Lhazar: approximately 800 miles.
- Total: approximately 4,150 miles.
A Clash of Kings
After the hatching of the dragons, aware the neither the Lhazareen nor the Dothraki will give her succour, Daenerys and her small band of followers head south and east into the forbidding Red Waste, the former homeland of the Qaathi people before it was destroyed by the encroaching desert. The khalasar, battered by disease and starvation, eventually finds some relief in the ruins of Vaes Tolorro, the City of Bones, where they find a clean well and some hardy fruit-growing trees. Daenerys’s bloodriders go searching for help and eventually locate the great city of Qarth to the south-east.
Daenerys makes her way to Qarth and allies herself with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a merchant prince. Ultimately, Xaro proves an unreliable friend and Daenerys is betrayed by the Undying, an order of mages. The House of the Undying is destroyed by Drogon, the largest and fiercest of Daenerys’s dragons. Daenerys and her followers vacate the city quickly by sea, thanks to three ships sent by Magister Illyrio to find her.
- Lhazar to Vaes Tolorro: approximately 525 miles
- Vaes Tolorro to Qarth: approximately 525 miles
- Total: approximately 1,050 miles
A Storm of Swords
Daenerys’s small fleet is heading west from Qarth to Pentos when Daenerys decides to take it north into Slaver’s Bay. Jorah’s suggestion is that Daenerys hires an army of the Unsullied, the greatest soldiers in Essos. Daenerys does indeed acquire an army of Unsullied in Astapor, the southern-most of the slaver cities, but is so disgusted by the slavers that she uses her new soldiers and her dragons to seize control of the city. The army then marches north to Yunkai. Daenerys fails to take the city but she does convince the Yunkai’i to surrender their slaves to her. Then she marches to Meereen and, thanks to the bravery of Ser Jorah Mormont and Ser Barristan Selmy, takes that city as well. Her advisors urge her to march on Westeros with her newly-acquired forces but Daenerys decides to remain and learn how to rule in Meereen first, fearing that the city will descend into bloodshed, chaos and slavery once more if she leaves.
- Qarth to Astapor (by sea): approximately 2,325 miles
- Astapor to Yunkai: approximately 375 miles
- Yunkai to Meereen: 163 miles
- Total: approximately 2,863 miles
A Dance with Dragons
Daenerys’s attempts to bring peace to Meereen founder on cultural differences, economical problems and the resentment of the ruling class. Daenerys attempts to overcome some of these by marrying a local noble, Hizdahr zo Loraq and winning the allegiance of the religious leader, the Green Grace, but ultimately these moves only result in a reprieve whilst those opposed to Daenerys’s liberation of the slave cities attack and destroy Astapor and then besiege Meereen. Daenerys is eventually carried off from the city by her dragon, Drogon, who flies north and east far into the Dothraki Sea and leaves her on a hill she names Dragonstone, in memory of the ancestral Targaryen island fastness in the Narrow Sea. She and Drogon are then surrounded by Dothraki, the khalasar of Khal Jhaqo, one of Drogo’s bloodriders who splintered off after Drogo’s death and formed his own khalasar.
- Meereen to Dragonstone Hill: very approximately 550 miles
- Total distance travelled from Pentos in A Game of Thrones: approx. 8,613 miles
The Winds of Winter
Daenerys’s fate in The Winds of Winter is unknown, of course, although some things seem likely. It is probable that Daenerys will return to Vaes Dothrak to the north-east and use Drogon to impress the Dothraki into following her. With a vast Dothraki horde at her back, she can then do what she long ago vowed to do: returning to Westeros to claim her rights by fire and blood. How this will be achieved, and whether it will be in time to address the threat of the onrushing winter and the rising dead that come with it, is something that for now only George R.R. Martin knows for sure.
Hey, will Daenerys be travelling east to reach Westeros via Asshai?
This again? No. To do so, Daenerys would have to travel approximately 22,480 miles right around the planet, almost completely circumnavigating it. This is instead of travelling west just 3,000 miles to get back to Westeros. Given the limitations of sailing technology (and, without known islands for the dragons to fly and hop across whatever ocean lies east of Essos, she would have to sail), this will take several years and likely remove Daenerys from the story until long after the ultimate victory of the Others.
The reference of going east to go west is likely referring to what we’ve seen already: Daenerys going back to Vaes Dothrak to complete what she started before, and travelling in a huge circle around Slaver’s Bay and the Dothraki Sea before she can finally strike for home.
In our previous post, I looked at the Wonders Made by Man, the nine greatest artificial structures of the world as chronicled by Lomas Longstrider. Lomas also wrote an additional book about which we know much less, simply entitled Wonders. This book explored seven natural wonders of the world. As of A Dance with Dragons and The World of Ice and Fire, we know only of one of the natural wonders: the immense underground cave system in the hills and mountains north of Norvos. The others remain unknown.
We can, however, made good, educated guesses on what at least some of the others might be. We know that Longstrider never visited Asshai or the Shadow Lands, otherwise the forbidding shadowed valleys would likely feature heavily. It’s also unlikely he visited Ulthos or the Saffron Straits. We also know he didn’t travel east of Ib in the Shivering Sea, so the Thousand Islands, N’Ghai and Mossovy are likely also not included on his list. From the discussions of his visit to the Summer Islands, it also sounds like he avoided travelling to Sothoryos after hearing of its extremely lethal jungles.
Other possibilities are as follows, arranged in order of likelihood.
The Highly Probable List
- Casterly Rock: one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, its fame known even in Asshai. Casterly Rock has been measured at between 2,100 feet and 2,400 feet in height, three times the height of the Wall or the High Tower of Oldtown. It is six miles long from east to west. To put this in context, the Rock of Gibraltar (on which the Rock is loosely based) is only 1,398 feet and measures about two miles in length. If this isn’t one of the natural wonders of the world, I’d like to know what Lomas thought was better.
- The Fourteen Flames: although few sailors dare sail within sight of the Valyrian coastline or the ash-bleeding mountains known as the Fourteen Flames today, at one time the situation was different. An immense chain of hills, mountains and volcanoes stretched across the neck of the Valyrian Peninsula and down to the great city of Valyria, with its towering dragon abodes divided by rivers of lava. The Fourteen Flames were immense mountains riven by volcanic vents, spewing lava and clouds into the sky. Whilst a question remains if Lomas would have been allowed to visit Valyria itself, it’s much more likely he could have seen the Fourteen Flames. They were immense, visible from both the sea and the land. And when the Doom came, the simultaneous eruption of the peaks caused the greatest cataclysm the world has ever seen. It’s pretty likely these made the list.
- The Rhoyne: there are many great rivers in the world, but none quite like the Rhoyne. Starting as streams and tributary streams forming in the highlands, hills and mountains between Norvos and Braavos, these soon combine into one colossal waterway. Already hundreds of feet wide even before it winds its way out of the Flatlands, the river still has a thousand miles and more to run until it empties into the sea through four immense deltas. The river mouth at Volantis alone is five times the width of the Blackwater Rush at King’s Landing, and that’s only one of them. The Rhoyne is in fact so wide in places you can barely see the other side, making it more than a match for some of its inspirations, namely the Amazon, the Nile and (of course) the Mississippi, the waterway George R.R. Martin previously studied in depth for his classic horror novel Fevre Dream.
- The Bone Mountains: several hundred miles to the east of Vaes Dothrak and the Womb of the World stand the Bones, a colossal series of mountain ranges which start off being big and then get even bigger, each range giving way to an even more massive one beyond it. The Bones stretch for over 2,100 miles from north to south and are almost 300 miles across at their widest point. Compare this to the Himalayas, which extend in an arc for only approximately 1,500 miles and are about 200 miles wide at their widest point. It is possibly, on this basis and given the greater size of the planet, that the tallest peaks of the Bones are even taller than Everest. The Bones are so dangerous to cross that even the Dothraki have rarely dared to attempt the passage, and the few khalasars that survived were destroyed against the walls of Samyriana, Kayakayanaya and Bayasabhad. Lomas Longstrider was so dismayed by seeing the Bones that he lost heart and almost gave up on his journey (he either steeled himself to resume his trip, or took ship instead for Yi Ti and Leng). I think we can safely say that these make the list.
- The Great Sand Sea: just beyond the Bones and along the far north-western border of Yi Ti lies a series of cliffs that drop sharply into the largest canyon system in the known world. The Great Sand Sea was possibly once an inland sea that dried up thousands of years ago, maybe the result of the same process that is affecting the Shrinking Sea a few hundred miles to the east. The Great Sand Sea is full of spectacular vistas as the ground drops away hundreds or even thousands of feet at a time. This seems a reasonably likely entry for Lomas’s list.
Beyond these obvious entries, things get a bit more speculative.
The Speculative List
- The Forest of Qohor: located just east of the Free City of Qohor, the great forest of the same name sprawls for hundreds of miles. It divides the entire Free City region of Essos from the Dothraki Sea beyond, and provides an immense source of lumber for western Essos. The forest is vast, rich in wildlife and, although somewhat dangerous due to the animal life and the proximity of the Dothraki Sea, somewhat easy to reach given the Valyrian roads that pass straight as an arrow through it. Larger forests exist, but it is unclear if – apart from the jungles of Yi Ti – Longstrider ever visited them.
- The Giant’s Lance: this is the tallest mountain in the Mountains of the Moon, on a shoulder of which sits the castle known as the Eyrie, seat of House Arryn. The Giant’s Lance is certainly an imposing mountain, 17,000 feet high and possibly the tallest mountain on the continent of Westeros. However, I suspect that the sight of the Bones – which may be as much as twice the height of the Giant’s Lance – may have displaced this from the list. Lomas may have been tempted to keep it on the list, however, due to the Eyrie itself, making the Lance likely the highest habited point in the known world. The tremendous sight of the partially-frozen waterfall of Alyssa’s Tears may also have helped keep it on the list.
- The Summer Isles: we know that Lomas visited the Summer Isles, possibly on his shipborne trip to the Jade Sea and back, so that makes this a more likely candidate. The Summer Isles are islands of balmy beaches, a friendly (but determined and hardy) native culture and beautiful scenery. If there was such a thing as tourist industry in Westeros, the Summer Isles would probably be the most popular holiday destination. Whether the islands just being pretty would be enough to make the list is debatable, however.
- Marahai: Located in the Jade Sea on the way to Yi Ti and Leng, this is a possible candidate for the list. The island of Marahai is apparently peaceful and tranquil, but there are two volcanic isles located in the great bay of Marahai with occasionally become active and spew fire into the sky. Apparently it’s an impressive sight from the mainland. But as nice as it is, the volcanoes are dwarfed by the Fourteen Fires and the scenery is likely outstripped by the Summer Isles. So this is less likely.
- The Mother-of-Mountains: this towering peak isn’t actually all that high, especially not given the colossal peaks of the Bones just a few hundred miles away. However, the mountain may make the grade for the fact that it’s a single peak, totally alone, sitting on the endless green plains of the Dothraki Sea, with the great lake known as the Womb of the World wrapped around its flanks. It’s certainly an impressive sight, and the reason that the Dothraki assembled their only city (Vaes Dothrak) around it.
- The Jungles of Yi Ti: the vast and powerful nation of Yi Ti is divided into mountainous regions in the east, vast plains in the north (giving way to the Plains of the Jogos Nhai) and, along the coast, immense, thick jungles. Despite the foliage and humidity, the bulk of Yi Ti’s immense population can be found living in these jungles, in cities and towns linked by road network, tradeways and shipping routes along the Jade Sea. Lomas Longstrider was much taken with Yi Ti, noting that even its ruined cities were more impressive than the extant cities of western Essos and Westeros. Whether the jungles themselves were impressive enough to make his list of wonders is unknown.
- Leng: the island of Leng lies in the Jade Sea off the south coast of Yi Ti, and is the last major stop for merchants and travellers before forbidding Asshai-by-the-Shadow. Even Lomas’s courage failed him at the thought of pressing on, and Leng marks the eastern-most stop on his journey around the Jade Sea. Leng itself is covered by impressive jungles and forests, not to mention immense cavern systems dropping deep into the earth beneath the island. However, the government of Leng has sealed most of these off for safety. Lomas was most impressed by Leng’s wildlife, calling it the land of a thousand tigers and ten million monkeys.
As with the list of manmade wonders, we’ll have to wait and see if George R.R. Martin will expand on this list in future books. In the meantime, we are free to speculate.
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, two of the most famous books were written by a long-dead adventurer named Lomas Longstrider. A possible homage to Robert Jordan’s Jain Farstrider (from The Wheel of Time books), Lomas roamed the world investigating foreign cultures and writing accounts of his travels that proved hugely popular back in the Seven Kingdoms. His two major works were Wonders, which detailed nine natural wonders of Westeros and Essos, and Wonders Made By Men, which detailed nine amazing structures built by men. Thanks to A Dance with Dragons and The World of Ice and Fire, we know of eight of the nine Wonders Made By Men but the identity of the final one remains elusive.
To identify the final structure, we need to know when Lomas lived. There aren’t too many clues here, except that both Tyrion and Barristan Selmy, when he was younger, had read the two books. This puts Lomas’s life and death at least a few decades before the events of A Game of Thrones. He also lists the Palace With a Thousand Rooms in Sarnath (capital of Sarnor) as one of the Nine Wonders. Considering that Sarnath was levelled by the Dothraki shortly after the Doom, between 300 and 400 years before the events of A Game of Thrones, that puts Lomas’s life at least that far back. If this is so, this rules out any construction newer than that from being eligible. So, Harrenhal, the Red Keep of King’s Landing, the Great Sept of Baelor or any newer structure is likely not amongst the number. Lomas lists the Titan of Braavos on his list, which was built, at maximum, 800 years ago but probably a century or two under that. This gives a likely window for Lomas Longstrider’s life and times being between 400 and 800 years ago (which also means, unlike Jain Farstrider, he isn’t likely to show up in future ASoIaF novels).
Let us look at the existing list, arranged by age of the structure:
- The Wall: built by men (and possibly giants and children of the forest) 8,000 years ago, the Wall is 300 miles long and 700 feet high. It is the largest artificial structure in the world, and clearly a shoe-in for the list.
- The Great Pyramid of Ghis: built by the Ghiscari Empire in their capital city well over 5,000 years ago, the Great Pyramid was 800 feet tall and divided into 33 levels. The Great Pyramid of Meereen is a copy of it. The Great Pyramid of Ghis was destroyed by the Valyrians when they defeated Ghis for the fifth and final time. Lomas visited the ruins of the Great Pyramid and was able to declared it a great wonder (possibly by comparing it with its copy, the still-extant Meereenese Great Pyramid).
- The Valyrian Roads: a network of impossible, straight-as-an-arrow roads were built by the Valyrians shortly after the Freehold began rising to power. This network consists of several extremely long roads of fused stone, with no chink or break in them, running all the way from Pentos in the north-west to Bhorash and Sarnath in the east. The sheer length of this network (running to many thousands of miles) and its incredible hardiness, with some of these roads being over 5,000 years in age, impressed Lomas into including it in his book.
- The Palace With a Thousand Rooms: located in Sarnath, the capital of Sarnor. This palace was so huge, lush and ornate that Lomas felt that he had to include it in his book. Sarnor was a mighty power of Essos for over 2,000 years prior to its destruction, powerful enough that even the Valyrians chose peaceful coexistence (though the nearby trading post of Essaria). The Palace With a Thousand Rooms is probably dated to the early to mid period of Sarnori dominance.
- The Triple Walls of Qarth: the Qaathi people were a rival to the Sarnori, struggling for control of the Essosi Grasslands (later called the Dothraki Sea). The Qaathi lost those struggles, gradually being displaced south and east of the Skahazadhan. They established some towns and cities here, but the land grew desolate and dead, starving the cities into ruins. The Red Waste, as it became known, consumed the towns of the Qaathi until only the ports were left. Qarth, on the Jade Gates, was by far the largest and greatest of these. Qarth endures today as one of the greatest cities in the world. Although the Red Waste is a formidable barrier to anyone seeking to attack the city from the land, its greatest defence are its triple walls. The walls are 30, 40 and 50 feet tall and emblazoned with images of tremendous artistic skill.
- The Long Bridge of Volantis: Volantis was founded by the Valyrians over 2,000 years ago on one of the four major mouths of the Rhoyne, the greatest river of western Essos. The city, originally located to the east of the river mouth, actually existed for some considerable time without a bridge over the river until Triarch Vhalaso decreed it built to ease ferry traffic and allow swifter expansion of the newer, western districts. This puts the age of the bridge at probably less than two thousand years. The bridge was included in Lomas’s book due to the engineering achievement of building such a long structure. Although a firm length is not given in the books, it is five times the width of the mouth of the Blackwater Rush at King’s Landing, and the Blackwater is probably close to a mile wide (as multiple galleys battle one another across the mouth simultaneously in A Clash of Kings).
- The Three Bells of Norvos: the date of Norvos’s founding is not known, save that it is likely older than 2,000 years (Lorath, the youngest of the Free Cities, was founded 1,736 years ago). The city is divided into two distinct districts, a high one on the hills overlooking the River Noyne and the low city with its port along the river. Lomas was impressed by the three great bells of the city, Noom, Narrah and Nyel. These bells ring out at different times and in different combinations, informing the Norvosi of times to start and end the work day, have meals and attend religious worship. The size of the bells and the efficiency of their reverberations (they can be heard anywhere in the city, high or low) impressed Lomas into including them in his book.
- The Titan of Braavos: the youngest of the Nine Wonders. Braavos was founded 800 years ago as a secret redoubt by religious refugees fleeing persecution at the hands of the Valyrians. Some theorise that the Titan was built to serve as a defensive fortification against dragons. The height of the Titan has not been officially given, but rough estimates based on illustrations suggest possibly over 400 feet (the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet, for comparison, but that’s including the pedestal and the torch), given the statue has to be large enough for galleons to comfortably pass between its legs. Arya also notes that it could easily step over the 100-foot-tall walls of Winterfell.
So then, what is the ninth structure? I think we can rule out Harrenhal, the Red Keep or anything else built after the Doom of Valyria. Lomas also never visited Asshai or the Shadow Lands, so the dark and disturbing “wonders” of Asshai and Stygai would not be included. The likely candidates are as follows:
- The Towers of Valyria: in the heart of the Valyrian Freehold, long before the Doom, lay immense cities where incredibly tall towers existed, separated by rivers of lava. The Lords Freeholder flew on dragonback from one tower to the other, never deigning to touch the ground. It’s likely Lomas would have counted these as a wonder if he’d seen them. However, whether an outlander would have been permitted to see such a sight is unknown.
- The High Tower of Oldtown: built over a period of many thousands of years and topping out at well over north of 800 feet, the High Tower is the tallest artificial structure in Westeros and probably the world. Easily visible from the city of Oldtown, this has to be a front runner for the position, especially since it’s clearly inspired by the Lighthouse at Alexandria, one of the real Seven Wonders of the World.
- The Five Forts: these are five massive fortifications located between the Bleeding Sea and the Mountains of the Morn, on the far north-eastern border of Yi Ti. The forts consist of walls of fused black slabs, each one being almost a thousand feet high. The forts and associated defences (which may be inspired by the Great Wall of China, although for once Martin’s version is rather smaller and less elaborate overall) defend Yi Ti from the wastelands beyond, and may form an eastern equivalent of the Wall (the Forts and their defences stretch for over 300 miles, so are similar in extent). We know Lomas visited Yi Ti, Leng and the cities of the Bone Mountains, but we don’t know if he came this far east, or if the reports of the size of the Five Forts are accurate or exaggerated.
- Winterfell: the oldest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, sprawling across a huge amount of space which is defended by two massive walls, the inner one being 100 feet high and the outer being 80 feet high. Prior to the construction of Harrenhal, it may have been the largest castle complex on the continent, with numerous ruins speaking to its tremendous age. If the smaller walls of Qarth counted as a wonder, then perhaps Winterfell did as well. However, Lomas’s count may have been affected by Qarth’s much greater size (so the walls, being shorter, are far larger overall) and by the works of art adorning the surface.
- The Cities of Yi Ti: we know that Lomas visited both Yi Ti and Leng, and was amazed by the vastness of their cities and the richness of their culture. Yi Ti is (probably) the most populated nation in the known world and also makes credible claims to the oldest. It is likely that there are many amazing structures, wonders and buildings in Yi Ti, and the final Wonder Built By Man may rank amongst their number.
It seems likely that Martin will reveal the location of the ninth wonder at some point, but until then we can speculate on which Westerosi or Essos megastructure fits the bill.
Moving away from cartography, this feels like a good moment to talk about the histories and timelines in A Song of Ice and Fire. Westeros and Essos have a grand history stretching back for well over 12,000 years…or so we are told. This is a colossal period of time, almost three times the age of the Egyptian pyramids, and some readers have difficulty in giving such vast spans of time credence. However, A Dance with Dragons and The World of Ice and Fire pour cold water over the idea that the “traditional” dates we are given in the earlier books are in any way reliable, and the margins of error in the calculation of dates may be enormous.
From A Game of Thrones the traditional dates given for the major events in the history of Westeros and Essos can be summed up as follows:
- 12,000 years ago: Invasion of the First Men, War of the First Men and Children, signing of the Pact.
- 8,000 years ago: The Long Night, the invasion of the Others, defeat of the Others, adventures of the First Hero and Azhor Azhai, building of the Wall, founding of the Night’s Watch and Winterfell by Brandon Stark, the (maybe) First King in the North.
- 6,000 years ago: Invasion of the Andals begins, apparently displaced by a fear of Valyria. However, Valyria’s eye turns eastwards to Ghiscar.
- 5,000 years ago: The Andals conquer the Iron Islands, completing the conquest of southern Westeros. The North remains free. In Essos, Valyria defeats Ghiscar and begins expanding in earnest.
- 2,000 years ago: A meteor falls in western Dorne, from which the Daynes forge the sword Dawn.
- 1,000 years ago: The Valyrians destroy the Rhoynar. The survivors flee to Dorne in a thousand ships, led by Queen Nymeria. House Martell allies with the Rhoynar and conquers Dorne. According to George R.R. Martin, most dates after this point are more reliable and solid than what came before.
- 800 years ago: Braavos is founded.
- 500 years ago: The Targaryens leave Valyria and settle on Dragonstone.
- 400 years ago: The Doom of Valyria.
- 300 years ago: The Targaryen Conquest of Westeros.
These dates seem pretty solid through, at least, the two books that follow. It is only in A Feast for Crows we get our first indications that the dates are unreliable when we learn that the maesters at the Citadel can’t seem to agree on anything and the dates given so far seem to come from only one interpretation of history. This is developed in A Dance with Dragons when Hoster Blackwood tells Jaime that the current theory is that the Andals invaded Westeros between anything from 2,000 to 4,000 years ago, ignoring the fact that the previously-accepted date was in fact 6,000 years ago. The World of Ice and Fire expands on this, mentioning that the invasion of the Others and the Long Night is supposed to have taken place 8,000 years ago, but some sources suggest 6,000, or even less.
The reasons for this unreliability are clear: the First Men left behind only runes on rocks, so any dates or histories given for their activities are second-hand, passed down through oral tradition and some of these rune-records to the Andals, who wrote the first proper histories. Other civilisations may have had more exact records, but unfortunately the annals of Ghiscar appear to have been lost when the Valyrians laid waste to the empire. The records of Valyria itself were destroyed (or rendered inaccessible) in the Doom. Some of Valyria’s client states such as Volantis may hold tomes of Valyrian origin, but those colony states themselves seem to be much younger than the Freehold (Volantis itself may not be much more than 2,000 years old) and of course the most valuable histories would have remained in the capital itself, to be buried along with it under several tons of ash.
The Citadel holds the most complete histories and texts in Westeros, but itself is ancient (dating back to the Andal invasion, according to some histories) and likely some records would have been lost or destroyed over the years. The Citadel’s independence is also suspect, given their apparent willingness to push their own agenda over a more neutral assessment of the facts (most notably the supremacy of science and reason over stories of magic or superstition).
Other powers such as Yi Ti and Asshai may also hold more ancient and reliable records, but these nations are distant from Westeros and their histories likely say very little about the Sunset Lands.
In addition this, the irregular length of the seasons also makes the count of years more problematic, and the harshness of a long winter can have a devastating effect on record-keeping in Westeros as people switched their priorities from writing chronicles of events to scrambling for food and firewood.
To what degree the unreliability of history in the setting has been George R.R. Martin’s intent all along, and how much was a later realisation that the dates and periods of time in the early books seemed unnecessarily long and he needed to course-correct, is unknown. But events in A Dance with Dragons provides Bran Stark with an opportunity to view historical events firsthand, and maybe glean some more reliable dates about when certain events took place.
The unreliability in date keeping therefore makes it hard to assemble a reliable history. The traditional dates given above in fact could be exaggerated by a factor of 100%; slashing them in half (prior to the Rhoynar invasion, anyway) certainly gives much more believable dates: 6,000 years for the First Men invading Westeros, 4,000 years for the Long Night, 3,000 years for the Andal invasion etc. But the true degree to which the dates are incorrect is difficult to pinpoint for certain.
This does address one of the key criticisms levelled at the series, one of technological stasis. In reality, the books do show a (slowly) changing evolution of technology and development. When the First Men invaded Westeros they brought bronze and fire. The Andals followed with iron and horseback riding. Knighthood, heavy armour and horse armour developed later, and castle technology also improved. Older castles, such as Raventree Hall and Winterfell, are shown with square towers whilst newer ones have rounded towers which help better deflect fire from siege weapons. In real life, the Bronze Age began circa 3200 BC and lasted to around 600 BC; the Iron Age overlapped with it, running from approximately 1200 BC to 400 AD. Halving the timespans given in A Song of Ice and Fire gives us a pace of technological development only twice as slow as in the real world, not unreasonable given that the harsh seasons substantially interfere with technological development and the transmission of information around the known world.
I explore this subject in substantially greater detail in An Unreliable World, my essay in the book Beyond the Wall (UK, USA). But in the meantime it’s worth bearing in mind the uncertainty regarding the history of Westeros and Essos when we begin looking at historical maps of the Dawn of Days, the Age of Heroes and the Long Night.
In the backstory of A Song of Ice and Fire, no nation plays more crucial a role than that of Valyria. Ancient and powerful, the Valyrian Freehold was the supreme power in the known world for nigh on five thousand years, until it was laid low in a single day and night of fire, ash and blood. Every attempt made to reclaim Valyria or rebuild the empire was defeated, either by hubris or rival kingdoms or by the land itself. The last hope of reforging the Freehold was lost when Aegon the Conqueror, his sisters and the last three dragons in the world set their sights on the Sunset Lands instead.
From a cartographic point of view, all of the canon maps showing Valyria show the land in ruins, utterly destroyed as the result of the Doom. The Doom was a volcanic supercataclysm, a series of eruptions of not just a single volcano but no less than fourteen peaks. Imagine Krakatoa, Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens, Etna, and Mauna Loa all erupting at the same time within a few dozen miles of one another and then throw in another nine volcanoes on top of that. Worse still, not only did the volcanoes erupt but the very hills and land split asunder for (according to legend) five hundred miles in all directions. Even allowing for artistic licence, this still indicates a catastrophe not like anything seen in the real world in recorded history.
The result of this was the neck of the Valyrian Peninsula, formerly a single landmass, collapsing into the sea, sending vast megatsunamis racing across the soon-to-be-well-named Gulf of Grief and Summer Sea. The destruction wrought by the Doom not just on Valyria but the surrounding lands for thousands of miles in all directions cannot be underestimated. The cities of Slaver’s Bay may have been shielded from the worst by the Isle of Cedars, which took the brunt of the tidal waves heading north-east, but it’s likely tremendous destruction was wrought on the shores of Sothoryos, the Basilisk Isles, Naath, Ghaen and potentially as far away as the Summer Isles. The 2005 Indonesian tsunami reached as far afield as the east coast of Africa, over 3,000 miles away, and the Doom would have been far worse with millions of tons of rock displaced into the Summer Sea. The ash thrown up into the atmosphere would have resulted in reduced sunlight and even more devastating-than-normal winters across south-western Essos for years, possibly decades. There would also have been some seriously spectacular sunsets and sunrises for a long time afterwards.
Rebuilding the Valyrian Peninsula (see map above) requires that the shattered islands be linked back together, remembering that some of the surrounding islands were likely still separate landmasses before the Doom anyway. The three big islands were part of the mainland (Valyria itself certainly was) and the neck of the peninsula, where the Smoking Sea now lies, is likely where most of the chain of the Fourteen Flames was located. In addition, the weakened parts of the peninsula, where the sea came rushing in, were most likely to be along rivers and fault lines. Although hard data is hard to come by – the book maps are hardly finely-detailed – this gave a working idea for what Valyria may have looked like before the Doom. And yes, there is a special feature on the Game of Thrones Season 1 Blu-Ray set which does hint at a pre-Doom map of Valyria, but it is 1) poor and 2) only applies to the TV canon, not the books.
We can also glean some clues from Tad Nasmith’s drawing of Valyria’s capital city from The World of Ice and Fire. This shows the city sitting on rivers of lava channelled from the Fourteen Flames nearby, but still in a hilly/upland area. This accords with the maps, which show mountains and hills surrounding Valyria itself. This also hints at the location of the Fourteen Flames, with a spur of mountains reaching up from Valyria to the main chain across the neck of the peninsula. This neatly answers why Valyria was near-instantly destroyed despite lying about 180 miles south of the main chain. This supposition – that the Fourteen Flames contained solitary peaks as well as the central range – also helps explain how some of the volcanoes apparently survived the Doom and are still active, belching out the fires that Tyrion sees reflected off the clouds over Valyria in A Dance with Dragons.
So those are the fires of the Fourteen Flames we’re seeing, reflected on the clouds?”
“Fourteen or fourteen thousand. What man dares count them? It is not wise for mortals to look too deeply into those fires, my friend. Those are the fires of god’s own wrath, and no human flame can match them. We are small creatures, men.
We can therefore assume that the majority of the peaks were destroyed in the Doom (although possibly growing again under the Smoking Sea, as Krakatoa has done over the past 133 years), but several survived on the mainland and on the newly-formed islands. Indeed, with Valyria itself reportedly still intact and salvageable, it’s probable that the mountain shown in the illustration is still there as well.
Looking at the extant maps and geography, we can put together a good idea of what Valyria looked like before the Doom. The cities of Tyria and Oros now appear to be located at either end of the biggest pass through the Fourteen Flames, with a Valyrian straight road linking them together with Valyria itself to the south and Mantarys far to the north. The lands between the volcanoes and the Sea of Sighs are known as the Lands of the Long Summer, known for their balmy, warm days mixed with occasional rainfall. This resulted in what was formerly (but not now, as the landscape remains volcanically active) the most fertile landscape in the known world, with richer soil even than that of the Reach in the Seven Kingdoms. This area was therefore the breadbasket of the Valyrian Freehold, feeding the lands to the south and north alike. Valyrian roads linked this region to the Free City of Volantis to the north-west and the cities of Slaver’s Bay to the north-east.
The peninsula is dominated by the Fourteen Flames, fourteen massive, active volcanoes. According to legend, these volcanoes were the lairs for the Valyrian dragons and home to dangerous firewyrms. They were also a rich source of gold, silver, iron and other valuable ores. The Valyrians built great mines under the volcanoes, using magic (some say) to keep the terrible heat at bay so slaves could retrieve the precious metals. Indeed, the most common explanation for the Doom is that the Valyrian mages neglected their duties and let the safety spells lapse, causing the volcanoes to erupt. The alternate theory that a sect of slaves, exposed to the magic of the flames over generations, learned how to change their faces and used this skill to assassinate the mages, thus deliberately triggering the Doom as an act of volition, is interesting but unsubstantiated.
The next set of maps will start delving into the ancient prehistory of Westeros and Essos.
I recently updated the master map of Westeros and Essos (from which my others are derived) with mountain ranges. As mentioned in my first post, I am not a cartographer or digital map-maker, so fancy, shaded mountain ranges and individually-crafted peaks were not really a realistic option. Instead I settled for grey blobs.
The thicker grey blobs are the big mountain ranges and the thinner ones are hill chains. Forests and roads are also shown, but not (so far) the deserts, canyons or different terrain types.
The original underlying map was created by forum-member Galanix on the Cartographer’s Guild website some years ago (by overlaying it from the Lands of Ice and Fire map, I believe). I’ve extended it with the information from the WoIaF world map. Most of my additions and changes have been in MS Paint (oh yes) and GIMP2. I may start using the latter more for the layering functions, which will be easier than keeping multiple versions of each map for lettering, terrain, political factions etc.
This will help with the next phase of the atlas, which will be historical maps of the different periods of history in Westeros and Essos.
Borders delineate boundaries between nations, regions and cultures. They are sometimes obvious things – a towering mountain range or a huge river – but at other times they are simply arbitary lines drawn on a map that bear little reality to the situation on the ground. This was especially true in the medieval period, when the maps themselves were not tremendously accurate so working out where the borders were between one region and the next could be a difficult process. When this led to border violations and conflicts, this could have massive ramifications.
In the case of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the external borders are very easy to identify: the Sunset Sea to the west, the Summer Sea to the south, the Narrow Sea to the east and the Shivering Sea to the north-east. The Wall marks the northern border of the kingdoms. But more complex – until recently – was the task of working out the internal borders between the nine constituent regions of the realm.
The regions of the realm (as of the start of A Game of Thrones) are as follows:
- The Crownlands, ruled from King’s Landing by the King on the Iron Throne.
- The North, ruled from Winterfell by House Stark.
- The Riverlands, ruled from Riverrun by House Tully.
- The Vale, ruled from the Eyrie by House Arryn.
- The Iron Islands, ruled from Pyke by House Greyjoy.
- The Westerlands, ruled from Casterly Rock by House Lannister.
- The Reach, ruled from Highgarden by House Tyrell.
- The Stormlands, ruled from Storm’s End by House Baratheon.
- Dorne, ruled from Sunspear by House Martell.
The precise borders between the regions have been a matter of conjecture for some time, but The World of Ice and Fire finally revealed (bar a couple of continuity errors) the “canonical” borders between the Seven Kingdoms. For the most part these adhered to the borders worked out by fans years earlier, but a couple of surprises were included. Most notable was the addition of a large “salient” of territory along the southern shore of Ironman’s Bay. Previously assumed to be part of the Riverlands, this was instead given to the Westerlands for reasons that remain unexplained. The book also moved the borders of the Stormlands slightly further westwards into the Reach, perhaps to make the extension of the Dornish Marches in the south look somewhat less tenuous. However, this does also slightly contradict the previous suggestion that the Stormlands were very small and an unpleasant place to live.
The borders between the regions were established by King Aegon I Targaryen following the Conquest and seem to have remained pretty fixed for the 300 years since then. Even the chaos of the War of the Five Kings does not seem to changed the main regional borders, although the interior divisions (such as the Boltons seizing more land from the Hornwoods) have seen some changes.
We’ll take a closer look at the borders when we come to examine each region of Westeros in detail.
Working out the population of Westeros (estimated at 40 million) is possible thanks to the information and data given to us in the text of the Song of Ice and Fire novels. Unfortunately, Martin is much sketchier on the figures and populations of the lands of Essos. The military activity around Slaver’s Bay in A Dance with Dragons does give us a little bit of an idea for a population of that region (to be covered in a future entry), but for other areas we are in the dark.
This means that working out the population of the Free Cities means delving into speculation and historical parallels even more than we did with Westeros. As a result, these figures should be taken with a much greater pinch of salt than the figures for the Seven Kingdoms.
Relative Sizes and Influence of the Free Cities
We do know a few things about the nine Free Cities of Essos that can help guide us towards an idea of their populations. We are told that Volantis is the oldest (at least two thousand years old, possibly longer), the physically largest and the most populous of the nine cities, so large that all of the islands of Braavos could fit in its harbour. It also appears to be the most corrupt and the most heavily dependent on slaves. Braavos is the youngest city but also the richest and most powerful. Lorath is the smallest, poorest and most remote of the nine cities. The others fall between those in relative size and population. So I would suggest we could order the cities as follows:
1) Volantis: 1.2 million (city), 5 million (surrounds)
Located at the mouth of the mighty River Rhoyne, Volantis sprawls for many miles along the coast of the Summer Sea. The city is bustling and crowded, with the older and richer districts located in the eastern half within the massive Black Walls (one-third the height of the Wall of Westeros but considerably wider). Slaves, outlanders and freedmen most dwell in the newer, poorer districts to the west of the Rhoyne. The colossal Long Bridge links the two halves of the city together. Although the city is massively populated, it is in decline with several areas abandoned and run-down compared to the city’s height under the Valyrians.
There are a few clues we have to the population of the city. In A Dance with Dragons Victarion Greyjoy estimates the strength of the Volantene fleet as being between 300 and 500 war-dromonds, each teeming with slave soldiers. The size of these ships is unclear – Byzantine dromonds could reportedly sport up to 300 crew (230 rowers and 70 marines) – but typically a dromond from the medieval or pre-medieval period would be sporting 100-200 crewmen. Of course, there could be additional ships accompanying the Volantene fleet bearing yet more soldiers.
More directly, Volantis is simply described as being huge in a way no other cities in the books are: it stretches for a massive distance, just travelling through the city takes hours and it is certainly presented as being several times (I would say at least three times) the size of King’s Landing. This is backed up by the fact that Volantis has three major supporting cities located upriver from it – Volon Therys, Valysar and Selhorys – each of which is allegedly bigger than King’s Landing whilst still being subservient to Volantis and far smaller than it. I would there submit that Volantis has a population of approximately 1-1.2 million, with about 1.2-1.5 million people living in the three river towns (combined) and yet more in the surrounding countryside. This is probably conservative: to support such a large urban population a much more colossal number of farmers and slave-workers really should exist just to keep the cities fed. One thing that is startling is that this very large population is divided between 20% freemen and nobles against 80% slaves, a striking and possibly highly unwise imbalance.
Is this size plausible? Well, Volantis certainly has enough supporting infrastructure (or enough space for the presumed existence of a theoretical supporting framework) to reach such a size. It controls all of the Rhoyne southwards from Chroyane, not to mention the Orange Coast to the west and a wide swathe of countryside extending westwards into the Disputed Lands. In the real-life medieval period, however, the city would be grotesquely massive. Hangzhou in China is generally regarded as the largest city in the world in 1300 AD, with a population of approximately 800,000 (1.5 million is occasionally cited, but the evidence is disputed). Cities in Europe were much smaller: 350,000 for Constantinople, 200,000 for Paris and 80,000 for London. However, with a population of 400,000 for King’s Landing and the general sizes of everything in Westeros and Essos being bigger (apart from general population, which is curiously much lower), 1.2 million for Volantis does not seem too unreasonable. It does beg the question of how much bigger the population was in its heyday under the Valyrians: possibly 2 million in the city and immediate surrounding area, which in turn suggests that Valyria itself was even bigger.
2) Braavos: 800,000 (city), 2-3 million (surrounds)
Braavos is the youngest of the Free Cities, founded just 800 years ago by escaped slaves from the Valyrian Freehold. The city sprawls across dozens of islands in a lagoon located at the very north-western tip of the Essosi continent, linked by bridges and barges. The city is entirely located on the islands, with the nearby mainland being too rugged, too mountainous and too far from the islands to allow for easy settlement. However, Braavos also controls a huge chunk of the surrounding territory, extending east to the shores of Lorath Bay (Braavos holds the entire western coast of the bay) and south through the mountains and hills to the borders of Pentos and Norvos. In particular, Braavos claims all the coast of the Narrow Sea southwards for about 450 miles. This gives the city an extensive hinterland which it could have colonised with mines, fishing villages and towns.
Estimating a population is difficult. Braavos is clearly inspired by both Venice and Amsterdam, but direct comparisons with the inspirations for them isn’t very helpful in this case: the city of Venice is geographically quite small (far smaller than Braavos) and its population was just 50,000 in the 14th Century. The city’s population reached a high of 200,000, but not until the late 16th Century. The city’s population today is only 260,000. There simply isn’t a lot of room there to live. Amsterdam is a relatively new city, only founded in the 13th Century. Martin seems to have taken influence from Amsterdam’s much more recent (17th Century) position as the centre of the world’s mercantile trading, but even then the city’s population was only 250,000, reaching 300,000 only during the mid-19th Century.
Braavos, on the other hand, is physically much larger than either Venice or Amsterdam in the medieval period. It directly controls a much vaster amount of surrounding territory and it is described as both being immensely wealthy and having formidable direct military power. Venice commanded formidable naval power and it did control colonial territories (through the Venetian Republic, which at one point dominated the shores of the Adriatic), but it was never described as being as massively dominant as Braavos is over the other Free Cities.
On this basis, giving Braavos a population of around twice that of King’s Landing (800,000) with 2-3 million more people spread through its territory seems reasonable.
3) Norvos: 600,000 (city), 1-2 million (surrounds)
For the title of third-most populous city, Norvos seems a reasonable conclusion. It is located safely inland and has very few border clashes with its neighbours (Pentos, Qohor and Braavos). It also has a significant number of small towns and villages subservient to it, with mines located in the surrounding hills and in the Axe giving it significant natural resources, easily transported down the Rhoyne or by Valyrian road to the coast. I put it over Pentos or Qohor due to the explicitly-mentioned (in A Game of Thrones) other settlements that are controlled by it.
4) Pentos: 500,000 (city), 1-2 million (surrounds)
Pentos sits on an enclosed bay of the same name, almost directly opposite King’s Landing on the eastern shores of the Narrow Sea. Pentos appears to be a reasonably-sized city but not massively huge. It is fed by immense farmsteads on the Flatlands, but it curiously appears to control no other cities or towns. From the sound of it, it may be that any other settlements that did exist were destroyed by Dothraki raids. This limits Pentos’s size and influence from what it could be. However, it’s position as an important port and effectively the gateway between Westeros and Essos for direct trade should make it a significant city.
5) Qohor: 500,000 (city), 1-2 million (surrounds)
Qohor appears to be somewhat less notable than Norvos: it has no named or noted towns or villages subservient to it, and it does not appear to control significant resources such as mines. Its main resources seem to be the Rhoyne, which it controls as far south as Dagger Lake, and of course the vast Forest of Qohor that surrounds the city and provides excellent logging resources. Qohor should probably be smaller than it is, but it does sit athwart the main trade routes from the Narrow Sea to Vaes Dothrak, significantly enriching it. Qohor also appears to have at least a modicum of safety from the Dothraki due to its Unsullied garrison defeating Khal Temmo’s khalasar three-odd centuries ago. The Dothraki haven’t attacked it since, especially since the Qohoriks have no problem with the Dothraki simply riding past it. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Qohor was less powerful and populous than it once was, with the destruction of the Valyrian colony of Essaria and the mighty Kingdom of Sarnor at the hands of the Dothraki ridding it of several valuable trading partners.
6-8) Tyrosh, Myr & Lys: 400,000 each (cities), 1 million each (surrounds)
The Quarrelsome Daughters of Valyria are located around the Heel of Essos and are noted for being individually rich, powerful and also almost constantly at one another’s throats over control of the Disputed Lands that lie between them. The cities seem very well-matched in terms of numbers, influence and military power, since none has gained the upper hand over the others. The cities also have to be significantly weaker than Volantis, which conquered two of them during the Bleeding Years but then overreached when it tried to take the third. Fear of Volantis compelled the three cities to form the Kingdom of the Triarchy to resist it, suggesting they have to be individually much weaker than Volantis but a match for it when united.
Tyrosh and Lys are both located on islands, limiting their size, but both cities almost certainly have settlements on the mainland to serve as staging grounds for sorties into the Disputed Lands. Myr is located on the mainland and I suspect may have a more populous hinterland as a result, although this may be limited due to Dothraki incursions into its territory.
9) Lorath: 250,000 (city), 800,000 (surrounds)
Lorath is the smallest and poorest of the Free Cities. Located on an island in the Shivering Sea, east of Braavos, it is also the most remote. If it wasn’t for its position on the main shipping lane from Westeros and the Free Cities to distant Ib, it’s doubtful if the city could prosper at all.
Still, although not a patch on the other eight cities, Lorath isn’t totally worthless. It has a colony port at Morosh at the mouth of the Sarne, from where it trades with the Dothraki, the Omberi and the remnants of Sarnor, and it also holds the eastern shores of Lorath Bay (the west being lost to Braavos some time ago). The city’s bizarre mazes, built by a long-forgotten civilisation for purposes unknown, are also a curiosity that attracts the occasional scholar and adventurer.
The figures in this article are highly speculative, and I’ve probably grossly underestimated the populations needed to support each city. However, this may give at least an idea of how large and populous these cities might be.
After five seasons something rather peculiar has become apparent on HBO’s Game of Thrones. For unknown reasons, the continent of Westeros appears to be significantly smaller in the TV show than in the books.
This may not be immediately apparent, but three separate data points now confirm it. These are as follows:
It takes one month to get from King’s Landing to Winterfell.
In the first episode of the TV show Cersei says that it has taken one month to travel from King’s Landing to Winterfell. Although the royal party is mounted, the party has travelled using carriages which will slow them down. The ridiculously massive land-cruiser wagon from the novels is fortunately not present, but it’d still be slower going with carriages. The novels suggest that actually several months may have passed on the road. Using the book maps, the distance from King’s Landing to Winterfell by road can be calculated at approximately 1,500 miles. Even making 30 miles a day on good roads (as we can assume the Kingsroad is), it’d take 50 days (more than one-and-a-half months) for the party to travel from King’s Landing to Winterfell.
The distance from Torrhen’s Square to Winterfell.
In the Season 2 episode The Ghost of Harrenhal, it is stated that the castle of Torrhen’s Square is 40 leagues (120 miles) from Winterfell. However, the maps make it 76-80 leagues (230-240 miles). This distance is notable because it is quite specific, suggesting that the TV version of Westeros may only be half the size of the book version!
The size of the North.
In the Season 4 episode The Mountain and the Viper Roose Bolton legitimises his bastard son Ramsay just outside the recently-surrendered castle of Moat Cailin. They then discuss the size of the North. Roose states that the North measures, from Moat Cailin, more than 700 miles by 400 miles by 300 miles. This is at odds with the book maps, which suggest the territory is much larger. From Moat Cailin to the Wall, for example, is approximately 970 miles. Given that Roose is trying to impress Ramsay, this is indicative that the TV version of the North is again smaller than the book version. The other measurements are somewhat nonsensical: given Moat Cailin’s location it’s actually quite close to the sea in either direction (220 miles to the west, 140 miles to the east) and it’s unclear where Roose is pointing when he gives these directions.
The correct size of the North from the books is approximately 1,175 miles from north to south and over 1,400 miles from the western-most tip of Cape Kraken to the eastern-most island off Skagos (the actual widest point on the mainland is still about 1,190 miles). According to the calculations by Elio of Westeros.org, the North measures about one million square miles, or one-third the total size of the Seven Kingdoms (and about one-sixth the total size of the Westeros continent, including the lands beyond the Wall and offshore islands). The TV version of the North simply seems to fall short of that size.
I’d normally be inclined to dismiss such things as the TV writers not paying attention to details, but the very specific sizes given for the distance from Winterfell to Torrhen’s Square and for the size of the North suggest that a calculated decision has been made to make Westeros and Essos smaller on TV than in the books. This does also help explain Littlefinger’s ability to move extremely rapidly around the continent and the relative quickness of Tyrion and Varys’s journey from Pentos to Volantis to Valyria to Meereen, compared to the epic, lengthy grind in the books. It also appears that there has been no set scale for the size different: clearly the entire continent isn’t half the size as this wouldn’t make sense for the climate and would also make the journey from King’s Landing to Winterfell too long rather than too short.
Of course, just to make things awkward it has also been mentioned on TV (in the final episode of Season 3) that the Wall is still 300 miles long, just as in the books. Actually at one point it was said to be 500 miles long, although this appears to have been a script error.
It’ll be interesting to see if Season 6 gives us more clues as to what the TV producers have in mind for their version of Westeros and Essos.