Easter Sunday is set to be a momentous day for more reasons than just egg hunts. For fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the long wait for the third season is about to come to an end. Winter is coming for your TV screens no matter how brightly the sun happens to be shining. The Starks return to rant about climate change and dodge impending doom along with the rest of the colourful cast. Dragons and lions and direwolves, oh my. It’s best to go into the show free of spoilers to fully feel the impact of the massive twists so we will not be going into much of the plot here. Instead, we’ll be keeping with the theme of Sci-fi Sunday and putting a fantasy twist on it by trying to figure out how certain elements in the show would work in the real world.
The manner of the planet where the show is set has been the subject of much discussion. Westeros is one of many continents on this world and it experiences winters and summers that last for years. How is this feasible from a scientific perspective? George R. R. Martin mostly just explains it as magic but that doesn’t deter fans from trying to figure out. At least fans seem to have gotten to the bottom of how long a year is in Westeros. They speculate that it lasts roughly the same as an Earth year of twelve months. As for the months, those are determined by the lunar cycles. The calendar is pretty much cracked. It’s the seasons that require more speculation. Does Westeros experience short term ice ages followed by regular climate? Fans speculate that perhaps the planet has a strange axial tilt that shifts around due to the gravitational pull of a distant star. Unfortunately, astrophysics is far more complicated than saying “it’s magic” so we may never get a conclusive answer.
The flora and fauna are interesting though. They have “winter roses” that are blue and bloom in the frost. Direwolves are an actual species that existed on Earth during the ice age. Mammoths are mentioned as well along with shadowcats that are striped and may be analogous to Earth’s extinct saber-toothed tigers. These animals are entirely feasible in the context of our world’s past so it’s nice to see a shout-out to them. As for the roses, there are flowers that are known to survive the frost like “snowdrops” so again we have something within the realm of possibility in Earth’s nature. For a fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire seems intent on clinging to plausibility when it can. This probably adds to the charm of the narrative. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality rather than just hitting us with pure fantasy. This is probably because George R. R. Martin has background as a science fiction author. In a way, he’s managed to marry the two genres in a seamless manner through his most popular work. When you sit back to watch the Game of Thrones season 3 premiere, try looking into the details of the world and you might be surprised at how much of it is actually possible.