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There are three problems with the setting of Game of Thrones:

  1. Because if the continent of Westeros in the show (and books) are probably set on either a parallel Earth or a very Earth-like alien world.

  2. But the problem is that we find out that there are roughly forty years of winter for every ten years of summer (it could be more or less) so this planet is obviously not Earth because it must have a very different orbit to our world. It obviously takes fifty Earth years to orbit their sun and the planet is only positioned for summer for a short period of that time.

  3. But we see in the opening credits that Westeros is inside the shell of a planet and at the centre is their large mechanical artificial sun, I don't think the opening credits of the show show us what is literally happening, I think it's an artists representation, so it's good to bear this point in mind but safe to ignore it.

So any ideas?


I believe I have confused some people with this question, first of all the story tells us something along the lines of "The summers last years and the winters last lifetimes!" I'm not sure what the exact wording is, but whether the tilt of the planet or the distance from the sun or the atmosphere is responsible is irrelevant, I think we can agree that it's not Earth or at least not our version of Earth.

What I was hoping for was a little specific info on what this planet is for example, Lord of the Rings happens in a lost age in Europe, back when Elves, Hobbits and Dwarves shared the world with man, so we know Middle Earth, is Earth. Also we know Masters of the Universe happens on Eternia, Transformers happens on Earth and Cybertron so what planet does Game of Thrones happen on?

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    Creating entirely new worlds or realities isn't exactly a new phenomenon in fantasy literature. What kind of answer are you looking for here? – Anthony Grist May 22 '12 at 11:49
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    The opening credits are just for a better visual effect, that was discussed elsewhere here. And I remember that I also read in another question that GRRM revealed that the reason for the seasons is magical. And besides: The length of the seasons varies, that would not happen because of the orbital behaviour of the planet. Where did you read that winters are 40 years? – Till B May 22 '12 at 11:56
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    The orbit of the planet isn't the main cause of seasons, but rather the tilt of its axis(i.e. the angle of the sun). – NominSim May 22 '12 at 13:39
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    I'm not sure your insistence on "planet" is relevant for a pre-modern setting. While it's true that the word "planet" is from ancient Greek and even the Babylonians knew about Mars and Jupiter and Saturn, the concept of "planets" you use here, as habitable worlds orbiting suns, is a relatively modern, one (17th century, according to Etymonline), and not necessarily relevant to the setting. It's a world. Not necessarily a planet. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 22 '12 at 17:22
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    In that case, your question makes even less sense. What world is it set on? It's just "the world". Giving it a name, like "Cybertron" or "Earth", is only relevant when you're comparing it to other worlds. Until then, it's only the world. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 23 '12 at 5:51

11 Answers 11

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G.R.R. Martin is very keen on basing invented things in real ones, such as names (Geoffrey turns to Joffrey, for instance) or even food. Therefore, a planet which seems quite similar to Earth but its definitely not, is most likely the answer.

And for the Seasons length, as Till B says, Martin has stated that the explanation is magical, and will be given in the last book.

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    No, the name of the Planet is never used or stated in the books. – Thecafremo May 23 '12 at 7:18
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    Its called "The World". As in "The stallion who will mount the world" – Nick Sep 4 '12 at 7:34
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    Every planet is a world. That's like saying my name is the human. – Rob Jul 18 '13 at 13:57
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    "will be given in the last book." - oh good, so not long to wait, then? … sigh – David Thomas Aug 18 '14 at 10:13
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    @thegreatjedi Where did you get that from? – Thecafremo Feb 23 '16 at 16:25
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The planet is not named in the books or in the series. We see the world of the Song of Ice and Fire through the eyes of its inhabitants who are about the level of the middle ages in terms of scientific knowledge. IIRC, they don't even know that their world is round, not to mention that there are other planets orbiting around stars, so it is plausible that they may not have a name for their planet. Also, none of the religions described in the books seem to have a concept of heaven or paradise, which may explain why there is no term for earth as opposed to heaven.

  • Alright that's the answer I was looking for, that the planet or world on which the story happens, has no name. – Nobody May 22 '12 at 21:23
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    @HappyBirthdayRoboto you should change your answer then because this was the answer i was looking for too. – Skooba Feb 18 '16 at 3:06
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    Not exactly on the afterlife... "he Dothraki believe in the "great grass sea" where they "ride with the great stallion" after death, "it is known". – Skooba Feb 18 '16 at 13:12
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    "... they don't even know that their world is round" -- Are you sure it is? – Keith Thompson Feb 23 '16 at 17:45
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    There are "seven heavens" and (much more often mentioned) "seven hells" in the Faith of the Seven, and the faith of the Drowned God believe they will "feast beneath the waves" after they die. So triply wrong regarding the afterlife. – ApproachingDarknessFish Aug 3 '17 at 22:10
22

Look to the Stars

In The Sworn Sword from the Dunk & Egg stories, Dunk looks up at the sky and spots a star which sounds remarkably like the 'North Star':

But there were clouds to the north, and the blue eye of the Ice Dragon was lost to him, the blue eye that pointed north.


There are many instances of the word 'earth' being used within the books to refer to the plane of their existence.

Examples

Says Melisandre of the looming doom of the Others' appearance:

“It means that the battle is begun,” said Melisandre. “The sand is running through the glass more quickly now, and man’s hour on earth is almost done.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Davos.

Kraznys mo Nakloz says to Dany:

The Unsullied are the purest creatures on the earth.”

and later...

Tell her they are like Valyrian steel, folded over and over and hammered for years on end, until they are stronger and more resilient than any metal on earth.”
-A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Daenerys.

Ygritte tells Jon:

“The gods made the earth for all men t’ share.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Jon.

There are more examples, but you get my point.


Earth or earth?

Please note the use of the un-capitalised version of the word 'earth' as opposed to 'Earth'.

What is the difference?

Dictionary.com states that when referring to the celestial body or planet as a proper noun then you need to either capitalise the word or use an article (the).

The word 'earth' is never capitalised in any of the examples (which I've found), but it is used with an article; note Ygritte's "The gods made the earth..." and Kraznyz's "...purest creatures on the earth..."

Whether is it specifically intended by the author (GRRM) to make this distinction I have no idea.

This could also be a hangover from the way he speaks when he refers to his plane of existence - as mentioned in this article:

It can also mean the land surface of the world or the realm of mortal existence without becoming a proper noun.

So GRRM may have written 'earth' or 'the earth' to denote that that is how its inhabitants see the world; as their earth or plane of existence.

In fact he has recently stated that if you asked a Maester what planet they live in:

He would probably call it Earth.
Of course, it would not be that word, since he'd be speaking the Common Tongue, not English.
But it would mean Earth.
George R. R. Martin, Not A Blog, 2017-05-15

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    GRRM said in a recent interview that he uses a wordstar word processor because he hates it when MS Word capitalises his words. "If I wanted a capital letter, I would have typed a capital letter", etc. – Valorum May 15 '14 at 17:12
  • @Richard Interesting... Thanks for that! – Möoz May 19 '14 at 2:30
  • Exactly what I thought. GRRM writes from the POV of the characters. He will probably only reveal things as known by the characters themselves. Anything else might look very unorthodox after 5 books singing a similar song. – Chani Jun 27 '14 at 10:50
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    Another one: when, during the trial, Pycelle calls Joffrey the "most noble child the gods ever put on this good earth." – Rob Sobers Jul 3 '14 at 12:41
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    I have not read the Dunk and Egg stories. The blue eye of the ice dragon is interesting. Theban, a blue star in Draco (Latin for dragon), was the North Star about 3000 years ago. – Generic Geek Mar 5 '15 at 4:36
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In this chat, GRRM confirms that the story does not literally take place on our earth, but rather a secondary world:

With references to aurochs, direwolves, and "winter is coming," are we to read any Earth prehistory into these books? Like the ice ages?

George_RR_Martin - No, it's a secondary world, like Tolkien's Middle Earth. No link to "our" earth.

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    GRRM is incorrect here in this case. Tolkien's Middle Earth is a prehistoric Earth. The Red Book of Westmarch was actually found by Tolkien and translated as historical events on our own planet (or so he tells us). – John Bell Oct 6 '15 at 10:58
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    Well, Tolkien also says that his work is set on Earth at a "different stage of imagination," or some such. I think what we can take from this is that GRRM hasn't given much thought to where the ASoIaF planet is, or whether it's different from Earth, just as JRRT presumably didn't spend much time trying to make the geography/geology of Middle Earth align precisely to a specific area on the prehistoric Earth. In other words: "the world exists to serve the plot and there simply isn't a more in-depth explanation." – Wolfie Inu Oct 21 '15 at 6:46
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From the mouth of the creator himself;

"It's Earth. But it's not our Earth"

[JH] This may be a silly question, but: When you think of the world you’ve created, where seasons last for years, where is it? It is another planet?

[GRRM] It’s what Tolkien wrote was “the secondary world.” It’s not another planet. It’s Earth. But it’s not our Earth. If you wanted to do a science fiction approach, you could call it an alternate world, but that sounds too science fictional. Tolkien really pioneered that with Middle Earth[sic]. He put in some vague things about tying it to our past, but that doesn’t really hold up. I have people constantly writing me with science fiction theories about the seasons — “It’s a double star system with a black dwarf and that would explain–” It’s fantasy, man, it’s magic.

- A Dance With Dragons Interview, James Hibberd, July 12, 2011

It seems that George may have changed his mind or updated his theory on the style choice to compare it to Middle-earth as an earlier answer in 1999 stated something similar, but in a more ambiguous way. I believe this interview in 2011 clears up some of this ambiguity and clearly draws the "secondary Earth" parallel.

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"What I was hoping for was a little specific info on what this planet is for example, Lord of the Rings happens in a lost age in Europe, back when Elves, Hobbits and Dwarves shared the world with man, so we know Middle Earth, is Earth. Also we know Masters of the Universe happens on Eternia, Transformers happens on Earth and Cybertron so what planet does Game of Thrones happen on?"

It's not definitely not Earth. GRRM doesn't specify it anywhere too. I will admit that the narrative can be a little confusing, considering everything is defined in terms of our planet. Maybe GRRM should clarify exactly whose perspective the narrative is from?

  • Do you guys think it's possible that Game of Thrones happens on an alternate universe Earth but where some asteroid knocked the moon out of orbit and hence our planets orbit has become really bizarre so some years the seasons are normal some years we have a mini ice age? – Nobody Mar 31 '13 at 10:49
  • If the orbit of the Game of Thrones planet was as long as forty Earth years than Ned would be about one and a half GoT years old and his daughter would be a few months! But we're told the age of characters in Earth years, for instance Geoffrey is twelve, so they measure time in Earth years, so every year should have the same seasons. But some years are mini ice ages, so something weird is happening with this planet/world and since this weirdness happens on a regular basis it must have something to do with the planet's orbit. – Nobody Mar 31 '13 at 11:00
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    @HappyBirthdayRoboto Not really. Seasons have as much to do with axis tilt as orbit. It could have a very regular orbit with a wobbly axis that stabilizes and the falls out of whack. – Doc Jun 5 '14 at 20:34
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Personally, I don't think it is meant to be "another planet" necessarily. GRRM was a huge fan of Tolkien's "Middle Earth" which is just a mythological representation of our Earth in the distant past when there were magical and mythological figures and people. So, basically, in my opinion, GOT is just GRRM's own fantasy interpretation of our planet Earth (since the characters are clearly human) in the past OR possibly millions of years in the future after technology has been lost and our continents have shifted, and the seasons have changed drastically. Just my opinion based on the things I have read from the author's interviews.

  • Good reasoning. – Nobody Aug 16 '13 at 9:08
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Since an elliptical orbit of this nature would kill everyone and everything on the planet, this can't be the answer.

The story is most likely occurring on an earth sized moon orbiting around a Jupiter sized planet. When the lumbering Jupiter sized planet slowly made its orbit around its sun, the faster orbiting (assumption) earth sized moon would sporadically be blocked from the sun for years at a time. This mathematical combination of two different orbits, combined with two different possible processions of the two axis would also contribute to the seemingly chaotic and random length of seasons, days, and nights.

Well that is my theory, anyhow.

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    This is an interesting theory, but: 1) the author has stated that the explanation is magical and not astronomical 2) there are no references to the sun being gone during winter 3) being near a Jupiter-like planet would likely warm it anyway 4) the seasons are highly irregular such that even with two orbits someone would work out the pattern. – John O Mar 11 '13 at 5:14
  • Jeremy, your theory is very good, John, you are correct, the author has said the cause is magical. I hope one day the author will reveal the answer, we'll just have to wait and see. – Nobody Mar 12 '13 at 1:33
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It takes place on an alternative Earth. From the book here are the lyrics from the song Last of the Giants.

"Oh, I am the last of the giants, my people are gone from the Earth. The last of the great mountain giants, who ruled all the world at my birth."

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    No, earth is used in the sense that it is an English word (lowercase) referring to the ground. – Manishearth May 19 '13 at 11:39
  • Roughly agreeing with @Manishearth. Note that whenever a new people are found, and are asked what they call themselves, their answer is invariably something along the lines of "the people" (but of course in their own language). Just because their word for themselves translates the same doesn't mean New Guinea highlanders are the same as Amazonian tribesman. – T.E.D. Jul 12 '16 at 13:54
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After someone mentioned that they still use earth years to determine their age, we can assume that their planet has a relatively earth like orbit around it's sun. So if you were to purely base this on science and not magic, we could say that a number of geological factors play a role in longer winters and summers. Some possible reasons could be, volcanoes in other parts of the unknown planet that have unpredictable activity that could sometimes last for years. Ashes from the volcanoes would block out the sun in that part of the planet and cause planetary cooling. Likewise, there could be high mountain ranges as well which would also help cool planetary temperatures. Another could be solar activity. Our sun has periods of high and low activity. At the moment our sun is at it's high period which lasts about 11 years. So their sun could have solar activity that at low points can get low enough to cause mini ice ages. So with all that said and done, I think their world is our world just with differing variables.

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    As other answers point out, we have a "word of god" response from GRRM himself. It's because of "magic", not astronomy or climatology. Have to wait for the final books to learn the details. – John O Jun 26 '13 at 21:59
  • Zack's theory makes sense, but John O is correct in that the only word that counts is that of G. R. R. Martin himself so we'll just have to wait until he tells us! :( On Game of Thrones we've been told that on their world the winters last for years... so that suggests to me that they live on an Earth-like planet but technically not Earth itself! – Nobody Jun 27 '13 at 15:48
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OK in the most recent episode (which was season 4 episode 6) Small Council Grand Master Pycelle calls the now dead King Joffrey Baratheon "The most noble child the gods ever put on this good Earth!" He wasn't referring to soil he was referring to their world, which may not be our Earth but is still named Earth.

A few episodes prior Shireen Baratheon told Davos Seaworth not to pronounce knight "ker-nik-te" implying that the language they not on speak but read and write is English which is a language of the Earth we know.

It's reasonable safe to assume that Game of Thrones happens on an alternate timeline version of Earth.

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    OK, the way I see there are only two ways to interpret the phrase, put on this Earth; a) the "Earth" means soil and b) the "Earth" means the world that they live on/in. But if we go with the first definition of "Earth" the sentence makes no sense, what's so special about the patch of soil that the gods set him down on? If we go with the second meaning, that is the "Earth" is their world it does make sense, thus I conclude (but not definitively prove) that he was talking about their world which he calls "Earth" hence Game of Thrones happens on a world named Earth. – Nobody Jun 27 '14 at 15:46
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    “what's so special about the patch of soil that the gods set him down on” — what makes you sure he’s referring to just the patch that he was set down on? He could be referring to all of the soil, without meaning (or even necessarily having a conception of) the actual planet. – Paul D. Waite Jun 27 '14 at 16:19
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    I’m saying maybe he’s referring to all the soil as “earth” (no capital letter) in the sense of using “earth” as a synonym for “land”, distinguishing it from the sea (cos if the gods put Joffrey down on the sea, he would have drowned) and the sky (maybe they think that’s where the seven heavens are). I don’t think it’s necessarily proof of “Earth” being used as a name for their world (land and sea included) — your interpretation is certainly possible, but I don’t think it’s proven. – Paul D. Waite Jun 27 '14 at 18:58
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    Oops, my bad, I thought you’d said it proved it at some point, when in fact you specifically excluded “proved”. But with regards to your neighbour — sure, those phrases refer to the planet Earth when someone from the planet Earth says them. I don’t think that means that on a fictional world where the world isn’t referred to as “Earth”, the phrase “put on this earth” would be senseless. – Paul D. Waite Jun 27 '14 at 20:31
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    For example, in Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare refers to things “that on the earth doth live”. Although we knew we lived on a planet by then, I’m not sure if the world was yet commonly referred to as “the earth”, yet he’s talking about the general sense of things living on the earth. – Paul D. Waite Jun 27 '14 at 20:33

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