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Is it possible for the enemies of the Wall (wildlings etc) to light a fire so big that it will melt the Wall?

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I recall in one of the books a member of the Night's Watch mentioned a Wildling warrior who had melted/dug a tunnel partway through the Wall before being discovered. –  RobertF Apr 9 at 15:28
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Maybe a dragon? –  Paul D. Waite Apr 9 at 15:53
    
Aliens? puts hands up –  Marriott81 Apr 10 at 8:25
    
I recall the book says the wall is magical and cannot be melted.. –  matejkramny Apr 10 at 12:54
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@matejkramny The wall is magical, but there is nothing that says it cannot be melted. In fact, we see it melting on the surface, and also there is no one alive with knowledge of the magical nature of the wall that can say it cannot melt. –  TLP Apr 10 at 14:03

5 Answers 5

up vote 82 down vote accepted

Let's run the numbers:

So:

  • A 100m section of wall would contain about 213*50*100*1000 = about 1 billion kg of ice.
  • Burning 1 kg of wood can melt (at 70% efficiency) about 30 kg of ice.
  • Which means you'd need to burn about 2500 fully grown trees

In practice, efficiency would be lower, but you wouldn't need to melt the entire wall section to make it collapse. OTOH, the melting water as well as partial collapses would tend to extinguish the fire.

Given a force of many thousands of wildlings, as well as giants and Mammoths, it seems doable. But it would be a massive effort requiring many days, and giving the Night's Watch ample warning (via a gigantic smoke cloud, even if there were no patrols) and time for countermeasures.

Simply digging a tunnel would seem to be an easier and quicker alternative.

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@Dacio - I thought it was implied the Wildlings are content to dwell north of the wall, aside from the occasional raiding party which can scale the wall. Of course that changes when the White Walkers become a threat... –  RobertF Apr 9 at 16:28
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2500 trees would also feels like it should be plenty of wood to build nice scaffolding and luxurious staircases on both sides of the well. –  RemcoGerlich Apr 9 at 19:11
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There is a point in the Wall being made of ice: The Others cannot use fire. –  TLP Apr 9 at 21:30
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This reminded me so much of a what-if XKCD article. –  asteri Apr 9 at 23:07
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But does magic ice have the same heat of fusion as mundane ice? –  sjl Apr 11 at 1:47

It should be. In the very first sentences of the first book GRRM writes that the wall "was weeping", that is, it was dropping water from the ice. This means that during the Great Summer the ambient temperature is really near to the water melting point (0C).

A different question is if the Night Watch would allow it.

A third point would be that melting the wall in part will cause water enough to kill the fire!

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I just took an ice cube and held it near to a candles fire. It is still burning. I am sure with enough wood you can create a fire in a way that it still melts the ice while the water is flowing elsewhere. –  PlasmaHH Apr 10 at 8:50

Why not?

There are tunnels through the wall so we know that the wall isnt indestructable.

So, if the wildings could get enough raw material ( Wood, oil etc ) to the wall and they could light a fire and keep it going for a few days they could start making dents in the wall. I dont think that the entire wall could be melted but a hole through a wall could deff be done if done in secrecy.

Most of the rangers are dead. Only 3 forts on the wall are operable ( barely ) and the Black Brothers are very few in numbers.

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"if done in secrecy" is the key point. A fire big enough to do reasonable damage to the wall would be noticed quite easily. –  Kevin Apr 9 at 14:22
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Most of the rangers are dead. Only 3 forts on the wall are operable ( barely ) and the Black Brothers are very few in numbers. - This opinion is dependent on which book you're on –  danrhul Apr 9 at 16:10
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@danrhul But it has been more or less true for decades. The Watch was dwindling long before the start of AGOT, and the wildlings, we learn, vastly outnumber them. That situation doesn't arise ahem over night. –  Dacio Apr 9 at 16:23
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@Dacio Of course, but it's worth noting. The window of opportunity to attempt something like this is fairly small in the timeline of Westeros (a few hundred years) and there's also a pretty good reason current wildlings wouldn't want to melt down the wall –  danrhul Apr 9 at 16:26
    
“There are tunnels through the wall so we know that the wall isnt indestructable.” Or the tunnels have been there since the wall’s construction. –  Paul D. Waite Jul 31 at 9:35

Yes, no, but.

There are good answers on if it, as it stands, would be feasible. One point though is that a ice-construction like the wall would not remain with that shape. Put simply it would become more like a big heap of ice as the weight of the wall forces the construction to widen making it a slope of ice rather then a wall. A big one, but still.

From what I know there is no maintenance crew making sure the walls are steep etc. so in other words other forces has to be at work for it even to be standing as it is. As such once have to take into account that the wall itself is under some sort of protection or time-warp-anomaly.

By which the melting by fire also might prove futile.

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I think it's been stated that Brandon the Builder used some mystical elements when he designed/built the Wall in the first place, which could be why it's maintained it's shape for so long. –  Monty129 Apr 23 at 23:00
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@Monty129: Yes, also read that somewhere, and meant it indirectly, as such my point was that if it is protected from deforming then perhaps from (truly) melting as well ... even with a big "bonfire". As in it was not only built with, but also protected with mysticismical à la magic. –  user13500 Apr 28 at 16:16

As far as I know, (no sources at the moment, sorry) the wall is magically protected against melting completely, but partly the ice can melt ("The wall is weeping" from the prolog from the first book)

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weeping. "Whining" makes no sense. –  kundor Apr 9 at 15:43
    
Magic only lasts until some other magic comes along. Who knows what will happen to the wall in Book 12. (semi- smiley) –  Carl Witthoft Apr 9 at 20:32
    
@kundor: but kind of cute though :) Like a tantrum. –  user13500 Apr 28 at 16:13
    
@CarlWitthoft Book 12? What do you mean? Only Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring remain; 7 books in total. –  TylerH Sep 15 at 13:38
    
@TylerH That's why the smiley. Just because GRRM says there are 2 books to go doesn't mean that's how it'll work out. Ya just gotta hope it doesn't end up like the Asian Saga series (Clavell) -- he died with planned sequels lined up. –  Carl Witthoft Sep 15 at 13:59

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