Let me begin by saying how much I've enjoyed reading your "Song of Ice and Fire" series. I was first drawn to them by a comparison to the Wars of the Roses, having always been a Yorkist (even having a fondness for Hunchback Richard!).
Me too. Shakespeare's Richard is a great character, even if he doesn't have much to do with the real historical Richard.
A brief question about Valyrian steel - is it the metal that makes the sword so special (provenance, age, etc), or is it the forging (spells, techniques)
Forging techniques and spells, actually. There is magic involved in the making of Valyrian steel.
In other words, if a smith knew how, could he take some fresh, high-quality steel and produce an equally fine sword?
Not unless he could work the magic.
Or is it something like Aragorn's Anduril in the Lord of the Rings, which could be re-forged but not made from scratch, or so it seemed to me.
That's pretty much been the situation since the Doom of Valyria.
Having suffered through one of the coldest Decembers - and I live in Winnipeg - in well over a hundred years, I have a great deal of sympathy for any person, fictional or not, who faces several *years* of winter. Am I right in thinking that by the beginning of your next book, Westeros will be buried in snow? Brrr...
The really bad weather won't be along until THE WINDS OF WINTERS, but yes, there will definitely be a chill in the air come next book.
I know you are busy, so you can give me a one word answer to my question, which is: when you were writing about the direwolves, did you intend for them to be like our grey wolves (but larger)? I ask because Shaggydog has a black coat, which would mean he is an alpha male if he were a grey wolf in North America.
Direwolves were an actual species of prehistoric wolf. They have long been extinct, of course, so there is much we can't know about them... but I have used much of what we =do= know for my own direwolves. Of course, I have also claimed a fantasist's prerogative to make everything bigger and more spectacular. Direwolves were larger than modern wolves, but not as large as my versions.
[Note: The first part of this entry is an excerpt from a mail in response to a note that there seems to be a continuity error in SoS, concerning the date of the death of the outlaw Simon Toyne and Rhaegar's defeat of him at the tourney at Storm's End, as reported by Ser Barristan early in the book and as recorded in The White Book.]
Ooops. Good catch...
As to this glitch... I think my defense in that the account in The White Book is correct. Ser Barristan is an old man, after all, recounting things that happened in his youth. You ought to see me and my friends sitting around at a con:
ME: Hey, remember Torcon 2, when Joe Haldeman found two naked girls in a bathtub of grape jello. Alice and Angela, wasn't it?
SOMEONE ELSE: It was lime jello, you idiot, and it was Big Mac, not Torcon. Three were three girls -- Betty, Veronica, and Lee.
JOE: Lime jello, two girls, it was Applesusan and Avedon, and it was Discon.
In other words, Ser Barristan is undoubtingly conflating events that happened at two or three different tourneys. Any way, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
[On a more humorous note, the analogy GRRM uses refers to an actual event. After I suggested I should really get to a con if naked girls in bathtubs of jello was a common feature, he replied: "You're twenty years too late. It happened in 1974. Fandom was livelier then... well, it was still the 60s..."]
On another minor inconsistency, someone on the message boards (Moreta) noted that Tyrion describes Dancy as being a honey blonde to Oberyn (p.437-438). She's a redhead in CoK, though. Maybe the honey blonde is the girl named Jayde, in the appendix of SoS? She was only mentioned once, by Anguy the Archer in one of Arya's chapters.
Maybe Dancy dyed her hair? If Daario can have a blue beard and Greenbeard a green one, going from redhead to blonde shouldn't be too hard.
And one question: interesting about the Liddles and Norrey and so on, these mountain "clans." I think everyone expected them to be rather like the clansmen of the Mountains of the Moon, but they're more like the Scottish highlander clans it seems. We're wondering if perhaps we should move them to something of a separate section in the heraldry listing - like the Skagosi - because it doesn't look like they quite fall under the ** (landless swords and lances) as others do?
That might be appropriate. They do have lands and holdfasts, so at the least they would *** houses and not ** houses. Some may have fastnesses big enough to be called castles, even, though they would be small and rude by comparison to the great castles of the south.
Hate to bother you but I have a question concerning Roose Bolton's betrayal. There are some that think that Roose had treachery in mind from the minute Robb left Winterfell. That his battle against Tywin was against Robb's wishes and meant to weaken the other Northern Houses. I believe he first thought of treachery after Stannis was defeated and Highgarden joined with the Lannisters. Could you clarify any of this or will is it something that is to be revealed later?
Lord Bolton may well have all sorts of things in mind. Whether or not he would act on any of those thoughts is another matter. Roose is the sort of fellow who keeps his thoughts to himself.
And the best sword is the one that cuts both ways, he might tell you. Take the Battle of Green Fork. Had his night march taken Lord Tywin unawares and won the battle, he would have smashed the Lannisters and become the hero of the hour. While if it failed... well, you see what happened. The only way he could lose there would be if were captured or slain himself, and he did his best to minimize the chances of that.
Hope ADwD is going well.
Slower than I would have liked. I have been moving to a larger office, and things have been in chaos. But I make progress...
I love the books, thanks for writing them, yadda yadda yadda [end perfunctory thank-you section :-) ]
Thanks for reading them, yadda yadda yadda [end perfunctory you're-welcome section]
Are all the Stark children wargs/skin changers with their wolves?
To a greater or lesser degree, yes, but the amount of control varies widely.
Yes I know that Lady is dead, but assuming they were all alive and all the children as well, would all the wolves have bonded to the kids as Bran and Summer did?
Bran and Summer are somewhat of a special case.
Did the queen of thorns really poison Joffrey?
Littlefinger says so. Would he lie? <g>
What was the poison?
I think the broken horn that Ghost found with all the obsidian is the real horn of winter. It hasn't been mentioned yet though. Any comments?
Nope. Keep reading.
Also, I believe that Coldhands is Benjen Stark. Can you confirm this?
See previous answer.
Second to last question. More of a comment really...I don't think you should have made a 5 year time lapse between ASOS and ADWD. There are many plotlines that you didn't resolve at the end of ASOS. It's not fair to resolve them "offscreen".
Nothing important will resolve offscreen.
Last comment (I swear! :). Oberyn the Red Viper should NOT have died. In him you had one of the coolest and most interesting off all your characters.
Wait till you meet his daughters.
There's no way that Clegane would have had the energy or strength to kill him.
That's what Oberyn thought too. Famous last words...
I very much enjoy the character of Brienne! A great portrayal of a strong woman with heart! Her athletic skill exceeds any existing female, but in fantasy writing, things can be exaggerated for the author's purposes, correct? At any rate, I thought her great physical strength was effective as part of her character.
I am fond of Brienne as well, and have a lot more in store for her. I'm glad that you've enjoyed the character.
Some people say that she suffers from giantism and other physical abnormalities, and is possibly not genetically a woman. They say she must be close to seven foot or perhaps past it. However, I often bring to mind the passage that describes her as "six foot of freckled, frowning, horse-toothed disapproval".
Am I out of line to claim that Brienne is likely six foot six or under, citing the "six foot" description?
I would go crazy if I measured all of my characters to the inch. Brienne is well over six feet tall, but not close to seven, no. Certainly not above it.
Actually, I think it is unrealistic to specify heights to an inch. Hell, even if real life I don't know =exactly= how tall anyone is except maybe a few close friends. When we meet people, we perceive them in general terms -- tall, short, of medium height, huge, fat, skinny, what have you -- and not in terms of inches and pounds. We frequently perceive them as they relate to ourselves.
Just off the top of my head, I would say Brienne is taller than Renly and Jaime and significantly heavier than either, but nowhere near the size of Gregor Clegane, who is the true giant in the series. Shorter than Hodor and the Greatjon, maybe a bit shorter than the Hound, maybe roughly the same height as Robert.
I'll admit that I am fond of her character and identify with her as a woman. Theories such as "she really has XXY chromosomes" are something I would like to ask about. Could you state that she is female?
She is female.
This is the Middle Ages. They don't know about DNA. Their knowledge of genetics revolves around theories about a person's "blood."
If I start worrying about Brienne's chromosomes, the next step is trying to figure out the aerodynamic properties of dragons, and then the whole thing falls apart. Brienne is a huge, homely woman, a freak of nature by the standards of her own world and times... they can't explain her, and neither should I.
PS - - Go Giants!
Thanks for the good wishes, but... sigh...
Thanks for your note, as ever.
Thank you for your swift and concise reply to my Romeo and Juliet. I was wondering then, did you draw inspiration from the Illiad, particularly the Siege of Troy, when you drew up your saga of the War of the Usurper? Thank you very much for your time!
I draw inspiration from everywhere, like most writers. But THE ILIAD was not a direct influence, by any means.
Hello Mr Martin, sorry to take up your time, but I was looking at some of the parallels between the Ned and Ashara saga and the Romeo and Juliet play, and I was wondering if you had consciously drawn the story of Eddard Stark and Ashara Dayne directly from the Shakespeare play??
Sorry, but no.
Well, in A Storm of Swords it was mentioned by Catelyn that something momentous happened there--Barristan slew the last of the Blackfyre pretenders, Maelys the Monstrous on the Stony Steps at Summerhall. Also, when there is a mention during the discussion of raising the stone dragon, one of the Florents asked if they had "learnt nothing from Summerhall". It's a very intriguing mention, and since Dunk and Egg were there, I was wondering if we would ever see that written into a story...it sounds very intriguing. I presume that the events must revolve around Aegon V, Ser Duncan the Tall and the last of the Blackfyre pretenders.
You're confusing two different events.
Ser Barristan slew Maelys on the Stepstones, the island chain where the War of the Ninepenny Kings was fought. It had nothing to do with Summerhall.
Littlefinger was named Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Paramount of the Trident. The Freys got Riverrun. Are the Freys therefore bannermen to Littlefinger, or do they now have a "great house" status owing direct allegience only to the King. Ran and I have been trying to figure this one out and are stuck.
Technically speaking, the Freys are now bannermen of Petyr's yes... assuming that Tommen and Joffrey are regarded as legitimate kings, entitled to make such dispositions.
In practice, it remains to be seen how deferential the Freys will be.
Take care, and good luck writing A Dance with Dragons.
I'll need it...
I was wondering if you would comment on Benjen Stark's fighting ability. Is he on a level with Brandon, or is he more like Ned?
Depends on the kind of fight you had in mind.
Brandon was the best of the Starks with sword in hand, and the best jouster as well. But Benjen has other skills that serve him well as a ranger... and Ned was likely the best battle commander.
[Note: A picture of Haystacks Calhoun may be found here. Some research by your friendly neighborhood webguy reveals that he weighed in at about 600 lbs.]
I have somewhat of an inane question. I apologize in advance for the silliness of it but its been plaguing me. Here goes -
Gregor Clegane is a huge man. If you were to compare him to a professional wrestler, which would he be closest to in appearance? Attitude?
Sorry, I don't follow wrestling. The only wrestlers I know are Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, and mostly from movies.
I remember the wrestlers of my youth, though. I suppose Shagga could be compared to Haystacks Calhoun.
For some time I have had two "home pages" -- my SFWA page, which contained my biography and bibliography, and my "Books for Sale" page at Mandala.net.
I have finally taken steps to combine the two into a single new, expanded Official Home Page, and I have moved it to a domain of mine own at
The two old pages are gone now, so I would appreciate it if you would update your links ASAP.
And check out the new official page. It looks pretty good, and has some new features that I think will be of interest. We're adding more every day as well. I hope to able to update the page frequently.
1. For which Hand was dug the passage to Chataya's?
No comment. Feel free to theorize...
2. How could Lady Joanna Lannister have been a childhood friend of Prince Doran's mother? Doran is 50 in ASOS and Tywin, what, 57-58? Was he significantly younger than his wife?
The queen's companions weren't necessarily all of an age. Take a look at the group of ladies who attend Margaery Tyrell, for instance -- a mixture of girls her own age and some who are notably older and younger.
No, Lord Tywin was not significantly younger than his wife.