Sign up ×
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

So I have never read any of the books but am up-to-date with Season 4 of Game of Thrones TV show. I have a few questions about the concept of a super-long winter within the show. I hope the readers of the books will be able to better answer this if I have missed some points already discussed in the show:

  1. How long does the summer last? How long does the winter last? Multiple years? Decades?

  2. Is it right to suppose that none of the Stark kids have seen winter at all?

  3. As far as the latest book goes, has winter already started in Westeros in the latest book? Or do we know when it will start?

share|improve this question
Shouldn't this be three separate questions ? –  Kalissar Jul 4 '14 at 16:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

1. There isn't any specific duration. It varies. For example,the current summer has lasted 10 years; there has been a 7 year summer. Also, there is a mention of a 3 year winter etc. Usually they say that 'the longer the summer, the longer the winter'

2. If I remember correctly, none of the Stark children have ever seen a winter. In the books, the oldest kids (Robb and Jon) are 15 years old, so it is natural to not have seen one. I think they were born during the spring.

3. Winter starts at the Epilogue of the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons

share|improve this answer
The white raven was "launched" by the citadel in order to announce winter –  Vinz243 Jul 4 '14 at 19:32
Do the Starks change their motto during winter? Is it "We told you so!" or something like that? :-) –  user24620 Jul 6 '14 at 4:45
@LordSnow No. Winter is always coming. In this case, the way I interpret it is that winter is not the physical season which they are alluding to, it is more like the coming of the Others. –  Mooz Jul 6 '14 at 20:58
@Mooz: So what happens when the Others do manage to break through the wall, and turn half the northerners into something worse than dead? Do the Starks then change their motto to "They're heeerrreeee..." or something? :-) –  user24620 Jul 7 '14 at 11:25
I think it's more of a figurative thing where winter can be interpreted as "hardship". Whereas summer is a time of prosperity (in both the books and in our own history), winter is a time of darkness and struggle. Therefore, the Stark words always server as a reminder to the other families - things might be good now, but there will always be hardship on the horizon. In a way it's a lot like a brag in its own right. Saying that you need to be tough to survive the winter. A bit like the Starks saying the rest of the families need to tough it up a bit. –  Neuty Aug 11 '14 at 19:38

There are two sets of seasonal cycles, one predictable and weak and the other variable and strong.

The weak annual cycle has given Westeros enough annual seasonal variation that crops can grow in the temperate area from Highgarden to the Neck. It's probable the axis is less tilted than Earth's, but without some kind of season there could be no apples or wheat. In the North, there is not enough summer to notice, and in Dorne not enough winter to notice. (It's been calculated that the planet is 10% bigger than Earth, and the Wall is probably around the Arctic Circle.) So climate tends to be strongly associated with latitude. Characters talk about "the year of the false spring" and so on but this is not helpful, since ocean currents also can change climate from year to year.

The strong variable cycle, whatever the mechanism, brings colder temperatures overall. Summers are mentioned but don't seem to bother anyone or are considered the norm. Because even the Maesters can't predict winters, it's likely that there is no cycle at all. None of the theories out there can explain it: ---A second sun would work, but none has been mentioned. Possibly the sun orbits a dark dwarf---but even if it can't be seen, you'd think someone would have calculated its influence by now. ---A wobble in the axis could work, but people would notice when the stars move. ---The sun could be unstable. ---Magic!

share|improve this answer
Is this speculation on your part? Care to cite references (books, HBO series or author interviews)? –  Andres F. Sep 7 at 21:19
Heard that GRRM specifically told it's magic so no real point to speculate. Would be really nice if you could provide links. –  Mithoron Sep 7 at 23:12
Sure, but links to what? Basic planetary mechanics? For the 10% calculation:… Andres: I read the books. Anyway, since GRRM hasn't let us know the answer yet we don't know that physics makes zero contribution. But we can guess that the axis has little tilt because of the way the world is described. –  Alveric Sep 9 at 3:00

The current summer is 10 year… Robb Stark and Jon Snow are 15-16 depending on the book. That pretty much says at least these two have seen winter in their early years. Sansa is 12-13, so she has also seen winter in her very early years; as did Arya (10-11), when she was but a baby. Bran and Rickon were born at the start of the last summer.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.