After reading this question Why is it that after 8,000 years, technology in Westeros has not evolved in the world of the Game of Thrones?, and of course reading the books, I asked myself if we could say the Westerosi civilization is ending.

Some elements :


They seem to not be able to build great castles as well as they used to, or even repair destroyed castles like Harrenhal. Most of the castles were built hundreds of years ago (maybe thousands) and I don't think they could manage these projects today.


People have lost Magic knowledge and its usage is discouraged; for example Qyburn as the Citadel avoids this knowledge and denies its efficiency. Another example is Skinchanging, only known for a few people in the North but most of Southerners is unaware of this magic.


Again, I'm not sure, but it seems they are not able to print books anymore. The books that are stated seem old and about old and almost forgotten or boring subjects. While sailing to Braavos, Sam brings rare books to the Citadel, noting that they are in urge of books, collecting all books they can. Some guy even dislikes books.


Many species have disapeared. Leaf said :

"Now [the Sun] sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us."

Also, I would like to ask if there are other exemples of forgotten knowledge.

  • 3
    Probably it is a trope of fantasy, and some sci-fi fiction after all, the previous generation was always greater than the last Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:14
  • 2
    We see a similar trope in Lord of the Rings, particularly in the world of men, where everyone seems to metaphorically feel they're in the shadow of great men, heroics and feats (incl. fortress building) of generations past. I think it's supposed to give more depth to the feeling of a darkness or evil plaguing the world, give a sharper sense of despair. Also, GRRM might be hinting at the "dark ages", a nickname given to the medieval era to imply a technological radio silence. OR your observations are wrong. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:30
  • 3
    Something worth mentioning is that while things might be stagnant in Westeros itself, it's not so in the rest of the world; I don't remember which book but someone marvels at a telescope from Yi Ti (?) and faster, more advanced ships from (I think) the Summer Isles. Then there are cultural innovations like various attempts at proto-democracy in some of the free cities and proselytising religions like the red priests. Much like some real-life periods when medieval Europe went through periods of stagnation while other eastern civilisations developed fast or expanded. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:17
  • I don't believe the decline of harrenhal is about Technological decline. When Harrenhal was built, it was seat of King of the Iron Isles who could have afforded the maintenance. It is simply not possible for a simple Lord financially. The magic is in decline because of lack of dragons and orchestrated effort by the Citadel to make it sound like something which doesn't exist. As for writing books, that would be because of low literacy.
    – Aegon
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 7:16
  • Indeed, Whitewalls castle is more recent than other, bluit arount 171 AC.
    – Bebs V
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


I agree that technology and progression in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire does seem stagnant - which as @Cearon O'Flynn mentioned in the comments, is a very common fantasy trope.

There are some in-universe explanations for the way things currently stand though:


Harrenhal is a particularly good example for this.
It was built by Harren the Black purposefully built Harrenhal to be the biggest, most impressive fortress that had ever been created, as a not-so-subtle challenge to the authority of Aegon Targaryen. And Aegon burned him and his family alive inside it for his impudence.
This is related to Arya by Tywin here. The lesson here is that the ruling nobility have made a conscious effort to keep those under their authority in line by force - this stifles too much defensive construction, as it could be seen as an effort to refuse their rule, and would be treated with great displeasure.
You might also look to the Wall as an example of lost construction ability, but this involved a great deal of magic to build in addition to mundane building, which leads me to...


Your examples surrounding magic are unfortuantely a little incomplete.
Skinchanging is a magic that was used by the Children of the Forest - one of the indigenous peoples of Westeros who had a great connection to the land and to nature - and were not human.
Those who currently have the ability are those who have blood of the First Men, who likely interbred to a greater or lesser degree with the Children after the Pact was formed.
The First Men had the greatest concentration in the North, and so the remnants of their bloodlines also lies there.

Qyburn was expelled from the Citadel for any number of practices seen to be distasteful - magic, yes, but also science. He conducts experiments on cadavers and performs other questionable practices, exploring darker knowledge than the Citadel aims to disseminate.
Worth noting is that the Citadel itself studies magic - Maester Lewin and Bran discuss this, and Lewin notes that he himself attempted to study magic, but found he did not possess the aptitude for it.

Finally, the reason for the theft of Daenerys's dragons in Qarth is that the presence of dragons in the world strengthens the power of magic - while dragons were seen to be extinct magic largely disappeared as a result. It's not as well covered in the show, but in the books there is mention that Melisandre's visions likely started with the hatching of Daenerys's dragons, as with Thoros of Myr's ability to revive Beric Dondarrion, and the warlocks in Qarth themselves being able to perform magic above simple parlour tricks.


This one should be able to be attributes simply to their technology - they are at a technological level roughly equal to that of our Medieval Age.
Literacy and availability of books didn't take off in our own world until the invention of the printing press - until that point books had to be produced individually by hand by scribes, making them incredibly painstaking to distribute. It also meant that it was unusual for there to be more than one copy of a given book, giving rise to great libraries (like the Citadel itself).

As said, their technology is stagnant, for fantasy handwavium reasons, as well as in-universe oppression, but surrounding that your given examples are explainable in and out of universe.

I'm going to add in a category of my own here as well:


As is stated in both the show and the books, Westeros is heavily in debt to various lenders, both in the forms of Houses like the Lannisters and the Tyrells, but also to the Iron Bank of Braavos.
So, simply put, there isn't the budget for massive works to be constructed when the country as a whole (at least in terms of the government as a whole) is poor.

When you get outside Westeros there are plenty of notable constructions - the Pyramid of Meereen, the Titan of Braavos, even the Dothraki have the great bronze horse statues at the Horse Gate of Vaes Dothrak - and there is no evidence given that these couldn't be replicated given time and motivation, the only difference here is money.

EDIT: Worth noting as well, is that a lot of the technological development that was carried out may have been lost along the way due to certain events - the one that springs to mind first and foremost is the secret to forging Valyrian Steel.
Nobody has been able to reproduce the process to outright create it since the Doom of Valyria, and there is no record of what other knowledge was lost in the same cataclysm - it's entirely possible that advanced methods of construction and other technological leaps were also lost in the same way.

  • More than stagnant, I find it regressing... meaning that they are not able to do stuff they used to.
    – Bebs V
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:22
  • 1
    @Bebs Well like I said, efforts towards meaningful development were quashed - violently. Meaning that the person who did it was likely killed (destroying the knowledge) and the next person in line wouldn't want to try because they quite like being alive. So that leads to one-offs like Harrenhal. There is other knowledge that has been lost though, which I'll add into my answer now.
    – Strongo
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:26
  • @Strongo One note about Qyburn. He did work on cadavers, but it's specifically mentioned iirc in both book and show that the reason he was expelled is that he moved on from cadavers to experimenting on the living.
    – DariM
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 22:05
  • @DariM: Yeah, that's what I was kind of aiming for with the "other questionable practices", but I suppose I could have been clearer!
    – Strongo
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 9:41
  • @Strongo Yeah, the only reason I mentioned that is because I don't recall if the Citadel actually had any rules against experimentation on dead bodies per se. They certainly had knowledge about things like the effects of certain poisons that could not have been obtained without examining cadavers.
    – DariM
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 2:33

In a large part, it's because of what a lot of their accomplishments and achievements are based upon. There's a natural ebb and flow, and very often advancements eventually arise from need.

It's a common theme in a lot of magic-based fantasy. There was a period of greatness, based upon the ascendant power of magic, and as magic gradually wanes and fades, the civilizations also undergo a period of decline. Since the non-magical times to come are decidedly less interesting to author and reader, we don't see that part of the story.

The magic wanes, civilization fades, and then, eventually, it's replaced by reason, science and non-mystic mechanisms, which would take decades and centuries to develop.

You see the theme in Lord of the Rings, as mentioned in the comments, Merlin talks about it in Authurian-based stories, the character of Aurelianis (who is actually Merlin) in one of my favorite books, the Drawing of the Dark, talks about the old magic and gods fading to make way for the new God and science.

Humanity and civilization doesn't always just march forward in a linear fashion. It ebbs, flows, leaps forward and falls back, usually as the dominant civilizations fall, chaos ensues, and others rise to replace them. What was the state of western civilization after the sack of Rome? The Dark Ages in Europe were so-named because they were an extended period of deterioration for that society.

And when you have a world/society where violence and conflict are the norm, and the world goes through cycles where life teeters on the edge of being snuffed out altogether (winters), it's quite plausible that things might stagnate or move backwards.

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