Not long after we posted our video discussing all Dorne, its people, and its history, George R.R. Martin weighed in on the topic of the Dornishmen as a people, in relation to the casting of actor Pedro Pascal in the role of the Red Viper, Prince Oberyn Martell. Here is Martin on his vision of the “salty Dornishmen”, with our thoughts afterward:
Martin goes on to clarify some of the terms used, but the basic upshot is this: his view of the salty Dornishmen in relation to the rest of Westeros is not much different from the relation of southern Europeans to northern Europeans. The climate of Dorne, combined with an influx a thousand years ago of some tens of thousands of Rhoynar, has led to a darker pigmentation—the olive skin and black hair—but otherwise it seems every native to Westeros would be considered to be of the same race in a modern, genealogical understanding of the term (without knowing the origins of the First Men, we might surmise that they and the Andals have a common ancestry, since there are no distinct or obvious differences between the two groups to indicate anything else).
Going further, it seems to us that the difference between a northman and a Dornishman is really more a difference in ethnicity than it is a difference of race. As it is, the setting is one which has a rather pre-modern view of such matters: skin color and race matters less than culture, and the most damning, sweeping epithets in the setting are “savage” and “barbarian”, which are cultural judgments that are applied variously to the Dothraki (by just about everyone), the wildlings (as seen by the more civilized men south of the Wall), and the Westerosi (as seen from the Free Cities).