The epic HBO television show Game of Thrones (based off of George R. R. Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire”) returned last night to great fanfare for its fourth season. The show is hitting its apex and is only getting better as the book material expands. The big problem for casual viewers is the sheer amount of people and places involved. We’ve taken the liberty of providing a quick explanation of nine Game of Thrones locations, and what their real life equivalent would be. You’ll have your geography down in no time.
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No spoilers below, read on with confidence good sir/madam!
The Wall is Greenland
The end of the world. Kind of. In Game of Thrones (hereon known as GOT) The Wall is guarded by a noble order known as The Night’s Watch. Guarding from what you ask? Well, from the wildlings who are as dangerous as they are uncivilized. They are also guarding the realm from the White Walkers who are basically zombies mixed with snowmen. The problem is the Night’s Watch has dwindled to only a few hundred members, the wildlings number in the hundreds of thousands and the White Walkers cannot be killed (Or can they? Stay tuned!) Greenland is much like The Wall. Cold, full of terrors (like the freezing cold) and HUGE glaciers dotting the landscape. Here’s the major difference: The Wall was made by man, while Greenland was made naturally, though in a cruel twist of fate it may be destroyed by man, but that’s another debate for another time.
Braavos consists of hundreds of islands in a vast lagoon. Sound familiar? There are many harbors within the area that sell goods to visitors, tourists, and locals. Their specialty dish is seafood, and they have been known to sail around the globe in their purple boats trading the local wares. The buildings on Braavos have domes with bright hues of grey, gold and red. If you’ve ever been to the Bahamas you can see the houses from far away due to their rainbow-like paint. Although the characteristics of Braavos and The Bahamas sort of diverge from this point, the geography and layout are pretty distinct similarities. Some stark (ha!) differences: Braavos is also well known for their prostitutes and their powerful banks. The water in the canals of Braavos is black and briny, which is in contrast with the Bahamas turquoise and clear blues.
Winterfell is the home of House Stark and they have been ruling there as Wardens of the North for most of this recorded, fake history. You can’t watch GOT and not imagine Winterfell as a cold, wooded place. The opening scene of the entire series focuses on the Stark group finding and adopting direwolves in the forest (aww!) The wildlife, mud, and constant references to “The North” make Canada a perfect doppleganger for Winterfell. The Stark’s are an outdoorsy sort and train for sword play and horseback riding in the yard. Couple that with the fact that around the castle gates are hot springs and acres of forest, you might as well be in Boreal forest.
Dorne is the Mojave Desert
Dorne is the hottest region of Westeros and its least populous. The region is rocky, mountainous, arid and dry, and features the only desert on the continent. This locale is also buffered by mountain ranges, just like the Mojave Desert that is between Nevada’s western border and California’s eastern. Geographically these two are quite a match, but Dorne plays a significant role in the books featuring some of the most colorful characters while the Mojave is just kind of an area to avoid. You should expect much more from this crew in the GOT world.
Close your eyes and imagine a castle on a mountain. Now imagine that mountain is higher. No, even more steep. Keep going. OK now add 1000 feet to what you’re imagining. That’s what the Eyrie is like. Ruled over by the semi-insane Lady Lysa Arryn (and her completely insane son Robin) this castle is a fortress in the sky, mostly due to the fact that it is so difficult to access. La Paz, Bolivia is the highest city by elevation in the world, skyrocketing in at a very steep 12,000 feet above sea level. The socio-geography of La Paz reflects the Eyrie’s wherein the poorer members live in lower elevations with the royalty living as high as possible.
“Qarth is the greatest city that ever was or ever will be.” said noted warlock Pyatt Pree and many others during Daenerys Targaryen’s time there. Qarth is the gateway to commerce and culture and is smack dab in the middle of the GOT world. The city’s extreme wealth lends itself to gargantuan (yet richly adorned) architecture as well as even bigger egos. It is home to merchant princes and is run by a council in an undemocratic fashion. Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state in eastern Asia. Ranking in the top 10 for both oil reserves and natural gas reserves, Saudi Arabia is one of the richest nations in the world and geographically is in the middle of a traditional map. The landscape is mostly desert which resembles the journey that Daenerys took to Qarth. There are virtually no lakes or rivers in the region either. The area has been a virtual monarchy since its inception too.
Dothraki Sea is the Eurasian Steppe
The Dothraki are a barbaric people who battle each other for power of a roaming band of horse-mounted warriors. Their “capital” is Vaes Dothrak which is a crude camp lined with tents and huts. Other than that, the area known as the Dothraki Sea is miles and miles of uninhabited grassland. The Eurasian Steppe is also miles and miles and uninhabited grassland, the largest in our world. Not quite sure if it has roaming groups of warriors, but let’s hope it doesn’t.
Dragonstone is an island in Blackwater Bay that is ruled by House Baratheon, more specifically Stannis, the brother of King Robert. Dragonstone Castle was created by House Targaryen and is rumored to have been forged with magic, strengthening its defenses. Mont St. Michael is one of France’s most recognizable landmarks. Its strategic fortifications rival those of Dragonstone and the island’s position (600 meters off of the coast) helps with defenses against man and sea too. It remained unconquered for the entire Hundred Years War.
The smallest region of the Seven Kingdoms is the Iron Islands, home to the fierce ironborn and ruled by House Greyjoy. They are expert sailors and they take what they want by force. Corsica, an island off the coast of France and the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, is a nice comp for the Iron Islands. Napoleon also took what he wanted by force, and ultimately failed, but will the same fate befall the Greyjoy’s? We shall see.
Images via HBO