Do You Think This Game of Thrones – ASOIAF Theory Makes Sense?
If you read Tech Scorpion regularly, you may have noticed that we quite enjoy Game of Thrones. Well, last night I was thinking about it, and an idea struck me. Because me and fellow Tech Scorpion editor Laura are prone to discussing theories about A Song of Ice and Fire and the HBO series, I was quite proud to have come up with one of my own that we hadn’t already seen. I doubt very much I am the first person to think of this, but I’m going to write this before I start researching it so I can at least believe I thought of the reasoning all by myself before I see it discussed on forums from five years ago…
My theory is this:
- A year in the ASOIAF universe is around 4 months longer than a year as we know it, making each character’s age in what I’ll call ‘our years’ a third higher than their age in ‘name days’
- This has never been explained in the books because:
- It doesn’t fit with George RR Martin’s narrative style, which never references things in terms of the world the reader knows.
- It is tied to the reason for the weird seasons in the ASOIAF world, which Martin has stated will be revealed before the end of the seasons, and is magical rather than natural (so they’re not on some crazy planet with a bizarro orbit or something) – explaining it from the start would take away from that reveal.
- The producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones knew about this, and so made their versions of characters the right age in ‘our years’. Of course, where ages are mentioned they had to convert the ages to ‘our years’ otherwise it’d be bloody odd looking.
- HBO didn’t, therefore, make the characters older than the books – they all actually look the age they should.
OK, so why do I think this? Surely we all know the producers just made the characters older so the sex scenes would be less creepy, and the heroic acts of young boys more believable? And the characters in the books are younger because of all that being standard in a Medieval setting?
Let’s look at these points one at a time:
Aging The Characters on Game of Thrones To Fit Better With Modern Standards
HBO are known for liking to make the most of the fact that as a premium channel in the US, they’re allowed to show all the nudity, violence and swearing the other networks can only dream of. ASOIAF’s sex scenes and gruesome bits are all included in the show, and in some cases dialled up to 11, with a few extra added on because it’s cool. Of course, it wouldn’t be so cool to be showing Dany naked all the time if she was 13, and I don’t think most viewers would be interested in seeing Jon Snow with his kit (see what I did there?) off if he was 14 either. So, to make things generally less eepy-cray and make it possible to cast sexier actors, the youngest characters who do stuff like bang and go into battle like Robb, Jon Snow, Daenerys and Sansa were all aged by a few years. That is the way it is accepted to be.
However, if that is the case, why when Robb Stark was aged by maybe five years from 14 to say 19 or 20 at the start of GoT, were his parents, Ned and Catelyn, who are 35 and 34 respectively at the start of the ASOIAF, aged by more like 15?
You’d think yes, you’d have to age the parents if you age the kids or the whole thing stops working, but by the same amount – that would have meant making Ned and Cat around 40. HBO could have had some MILF type playing Cat and shown us even more bewbs that way.
Also, why were the very young characters like Rickon who are not likely to be involved in anything that would seem weird for their age aged too – by that same proportion of around a third?
Then there are characters whose ages didn’t need to be modified for television at all. Tyrion is 25 in the books, and doesn’t have any children, so why age him by around a third too? Surely if you were just doing it to make things more suitable for television you’d only modify the ages you had to (i.e. teens and their parents), allowing other characters to remain more as people imagined them from the books.
OK, you could argue that it was because the actors they wanted were older than the characters (who else but Peter Dinklage could possibly be Tyrion, and Ned Stark is a seemingly important character who dies early on so it had to be Sean Bean), but that can’t be the case for every character cast.
Marriage At 13 Was Normal in Medieval Times
So, having discussed the reasons we tend to think HBO aged the characters, let’s look at how the theory fits with the reasons we tend to think for GRRM making them so young in the first place: stuff happened to people at younger ages in Medieval times, and ASOIAF has a quasi Medieval setting.
This does stand up when it comes to things like marriages, and therefore sex and pregnancy – Dany getting married at 13 wouldn’t be that strange by Medieval standards, but equally, a Dany aged by a third would hardly have been seen as a withered old spinster.
However, the ‘it was normal in Medieval times’ point only stands up for that particular topic. It would not be normal in Medieval times or otherwise, for Robb Stark to have sprouted a beard at 15 and for it to be even conceived of that he might lead an army in anything other than name.
It would not be a matter of question as to whether or not Catelyn was too old to have any more children at 34.
It also would not be normal to consider someone of over 30 to be a fairly old man who had lived a full life before taking the black (like one brother of the Night’s Watch Jon remembers in A Game of Thrones – being over 30 is actually described as old a few times, trust me, I remember each one because I’m 32 and they each made me sad).
Life expectancies were indeed shorter than today’s, but people still lived to their 70’s fairly commonly (if they were destined to die of natural causes of course), and as we see in Martin’s world, there are plenty of ‘grandfatherly’ older people like Tywin (who is 55 in the first book, by the way) and Olenna, and then those even more ancient like Maesters Pycelle and Aemon. 30 of ‘our years’ would still be young and spritely, and 55 young rather than old for a patriarch and military leader like Tywin (yet he is described as still looking strong and powerful, like this is something that would be surprising of someone as old as 55).
OK, so some of this could be the point of view thing – to 14 year old Jon Snow maybe 30 is really old, as 55 is to 25 year old Tyrion, but that doesn’t explain the early puberties and menopauses (and we know how much Martin loves talking about periods).
Measurements of Time
In the various civilizations of our world, lots of different calendars have been used, and even now not all use the one we do in the West. September, October, November and December are named that way because they were once the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th months – but then another two got added in before them.
Why, then, would we assume people in a fictional world would have similar calendars to ours? Of course, the concept of a year is based on our orbit of the sun, and if we assume Westeros is on a planet equivalent to Earth or an alternate version of Earth (which we pretty much can, given aside from the supernatural stuff everything works basically the same), its technical years would be the same length as ours, and maesters would be able to tell by the stars when a year had passed fairly accurately. But what if they use something different to mark the passage of a year? We know they have the concept of a year (though they are not numbered or if they are it is not mentioned, they are referred to by events – for example ‘the year of the false spring’), we know from the much discussion of periods and the use of the term ‘moon’s blood’ that they know the correlation between a moon and a month, and other units of time like fortnights are mentioned, but in their world you can’t use the seasons to distinguish the passing of a year, so would an orbit of the sun actually be important to them? Would they mark their years by that, even though it in no way affects or allows them to predict the conditions in their world?
In short, this theory makes a lot of sense to me – the fact that every character whose age is ever described in ASOIAF has been aged, even though only a few of them really needed to be for ‘TV’ reasons. The fact that rather than aging everybody the same number of years, they all seem to have been aged by around a third. The fact that it’d actually be kind of weird if they did use the exact same calendar as us.
The more I’ve been thinking about it the more compelling I find this Game of Thrones theory. Do you know of anything that disproves it? Anything else that supports it? If you do, let us know in the comments!
Image by twipzdeeauxilia