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How does raven post work? A raven knows to fly to one particular castle. But what happens after that? Kept at its home castle, a raven is useless.

The only solution I can think of is that ravens are redistributed by ground, carted in cages (or shipped by sea). That'd work, although slowly—Westeros takes weeks to traverse. This'd explain why raven post is so costly.

Is this ever discussed in the books? Of all the characters travelling between castles, I don't recall any moving ravens, or seeing others doing it.


The system above is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attack. Suppose a man arrived at Winterfell with a trout on his coat and a cage of ravens "from Riverrun". It's entirely possible that the man and the ravens came from Casterly Rock, and that letters sent with them find their way to Tywin Lannister.

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    Carrier pigeons can be trained to fly between two points apparently. Maybe something similar is done with the ravens. – Xantec Jun 13 '13 at 20:45
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    When the big group went north from the Wall, Sam was tasked with carting a big cage of ravens with them. They were sent back to Castle Black and the other two castles as the group progressed. – Zoe Jun 13 '13 at 21:12
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    The raven doesn't always have to be returned to the same place it took the message from. It can be sent to a different castle or city as part of a regular trip by e.g. visiting nobles. – user8719 Jun 13 '13 at 21:13
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    Yes, carrier pigeons are vulnerable to man in the middle attacks. We know this from Jules Verne's novel Mathias Sandorf. – b_jonas May 2 '14 at 18:26
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According to a sample chapter from the Winds of Winter, most ravens can only fly to one place, although there are rare exceptions:

"A maester's raven flies to one place, and one place only. Is that correct?"

The maester mopped sweat from his brow with his sleeve. "N-not entirely, Your Grace. Most, yes. Some few can be taught to fly between two castles. Such birds are greatly prized. And once in a very great while, we find a raven who can learn the names of three or four or five castles, and fly to each upon command. Birds as clever as that come along only once in a hundred years."

Other than those rare birds, presumably once a raven is back at its home castle it would then have to be transported to a new location in a cage in order for it to be of any practical use. The clearest example of this is, as Zoe mentioned, when the Night's Watch took a cart of ravens with them on the Great Ranging. There may be other examples as well.


Regarding a "man-in-the-middle" attack. To prevent such an attack you would either have to cipher your messages using a code only the intended recipient knows how to decode, or you would have to know/trust the person(s) bringing you the ravens.

Neither contingency is discussed in the books, although in chapter 6 of GOT Catelyn mentions that a letter sent by Lysa was written using a secret language only the two of them shared. And it is not unreasonable that the people bringing/receiving ravens would expect to know each other.

In "our" universe (IE outside of the books), RFC 1149 briefly discusses security considerations for secure transmission of data via avian carriers:

Security is not generally a problem in normal operation, but special measures must be taken (such as data encryption) when avian carriers are used in a tactical environment.

  • Is that sample chapter the real deal? If I follow the link to GRRM's website, I get a different chapter about House Martell. – Andres F. Jun 14 '13 at 2:23
  • That sample chapter is indeed real. It was GRRM's website until the newer Arianne sample was uploaded. I'm not sure why they took it down. Here's an snapshot of GRRM's website with that sample: archive.is/eoIl – user12784 Jun 14 '13 at 4:00
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    +1 for referencing RFC 1149 for a proper (albeit fictional) application of the standard. – Codes with Hammer Jun 9 '14 at 13:23
  • Just to be completetly clear so so I don't open a new question for this: Raven communications are encrypted in Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire. – user32191 Sep 7 '14 at 17:18
  • Not always it depends on the message. – Justin Ethier Sep 7 '14 at 20:18
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In A Dance with Dragons we have learned (from Lord Brynden the Greenseer) that:

Centuries before, ravens could not only be told where to fly, but they could actually speak the message to the recipient. Evidently with time, ravens have been losing their magical abilities.

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    @Moogle: Lord Brynden the Greenseer. He also says it's the men who lost their magic, not the ravens. “It was the [Children of the Forest] who taught the First Men to send messages by raven ... but in those days, the birds would speak the words. The trees remember, but men forget, and so now they write the messages on parchment and tie them round the feet of birds who have never shared their skin.” – EldritchWarlord Jun 19 '14 at 19:54

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