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?

  • 8
    Shouldn't this be three separate questions ?
    – Kalissar
    Jul 4, 2014 at 16:51

3 Answers 3


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

  • 1
    The white raven was "launched" by the citadel in order to announce winter
    – Vinz243
    Jul 4, 2014 at 19:32
  • 22
    Do the Starks change their motto during winter? Is it "We told you so!" or something like that? :-)
    – user24620
    Jul 6, 2014 at 4:45
  • 3
    @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.
    – Möoz
    Jul 6, 2014 at 20:58
  • 3
    @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, 2014 at 11:25
  • 5
    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. Aug 11, 2014 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!
  • 2
    Is this speculation on your part? Care to cite references (books, HBO series or author interviews)?
    – Andres F.
    Sep 7, 2015 at 21:19
  • 1
    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, 2015 at 23:12
  • Sure, but links to what? Basic planetary mechanics? For the 10% calculation: web.stanford.edu/group/anthropocene/cgi-bin/wordpress/… 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, 2015 at 3:00
  • Has the weak annual cycle been confirmed? I agree that the world seems to behave as if there is an annual cycle (although this could just be an oversight on Martin's part), and also it makes no sense that the Westerosi would have a concept of "year" (or birthdays and other anniversaries) unless there was some annual cycle (could also be an oversight) but has it ever actually been said in the books or interviews that this is the case?
    – Superbest
    Jun 26, 2016 at 0:30
  • In Epi 10 of the current season ("Winds of Winter"), we see globes made of bands of metal hanging from the ceiling of the Citadel library, apparently the same ones we see in the opening of every episode. These bands are not aligned and might show the ecliptics of several suns. If so, the question is where these suns are. Maybe there's only one visible sun and a bunch of dark ones?
    – Alveric
    Jun 27, 2016 at 3:45

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.

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