The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

Correspondence with Fans

Philcon Plans and Phyllis Eisenstein

Hi George! This is Al, aka Trebla from Worldcon. I'd like to say that the Con was great and it was a real pleasure to meet you and Parris. You are both wonderful people.

I enjoyed meeting you folks as well, although sometimes I got the frightening feeling that you all know my books better than I do.


You did mention in Philly that you would be doing a reading in St. Louis. Do you know what day that would be?

Not as yet. Still waiting to get my schedule from the con. I might end up reading one of the same chapters I read in Philly, depending on how much an overlap there is in the audience. Or maybe not. I have just finished revising the two Cersei chapters I read at Philcon, by the way -- one of the good things about readings is that they allow me to see all the stuff I need to cut, change, or polish. At least one change I made is fairly substantive.

I will also be interviewing Robert Jordan in St. Louis, incidentally.

P.S. I met the Phyllis you dedicated A Storm of Swords to on my flight back to Chicago

That's Phyllis Eisenstein, a very dear friend and a fine fantasist in her own right, author of SORCERER'S SON, BORN TO EXILE, and some other terrific books. You should give them a try. Besides the dedication, there's a homage to Phyl in SOS if you're sharp enough to spot it...


Just got some more exciting news about Philcon.

It seems that John Howe has finished his cover painting for the Meisha Merlin limited edition of A CLASH OF KINGS. The painting is on its way from Switzerland to Meisha Merlin's art director even as I type. If everything goes according to plan, we will have it in time for the worldcon in Philadelphia. It is too late to get the piece into the art show, unfortunately, but Ice and Fire fans will be able to check it out at the Meisha Merlin table in the huckster's room.

The painting is a landscape / seascape of the great Greyjoy castle of Pyke perched upon its rocks and stacks. I have seen some of John Howe's rough sketches, and the finished painting ought to be magnificent.

Another reason for all my readers to come to Philadelphia...

Sandkings on

Steve Pendergrast of writes me to say:

You also might be interested to know that your story "Sandkings" has become the number one all-time highest rated ebook at That's no small achievement since we have five other hugo/nebula double winners as well as some famous stories by asimov, niven, le guin, silverberg, ellison, and others.

See, I did write a few things before A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.

Publication News

I wanted to bring you all up to date on some on some of the latest publication plans for A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.

Bantam Spectra has just informed me of their plans to issue the first three volumes (and presumably the later ones as well) as trade paperbacks. This will be the first time that the books have been available in this format in the American market. All three volumes will be released simultaneously in trade paperback in June, 2002. This will also be the first American edition of A STORM OF SWORDS.

The mass market paperback of A STORM OF SWORDS will be postponed until some time in 2003. The exact pub date has not yet been set.

For those of you unfamiliar with publishing jargon, a "trade paperback" is the same size as a hardcover, but with soft covers, while a "mass market paperback" is the smaller paperback you see at grocery stores and on spinner racks.)

In addition, Bantam will also be releasing a new hardcover edition of A GAME OF THRONES, something that many readers have been requesting, since the first edition hardcover has become so expensive and hard to find. This new second edition will feature a cover design incorporating the Steve Youll art from the paperback, which will bring it into line with the current hardcover look of A CLASH OF KINGS and A STORM OF SWORDS. The new hardcover edition has also been scheduled for June, 2002.

The series is also doing quite well overseas, and I have been signing a lot of contracts for foreign editions. Italy and Israel will both be continuing with the series, I am pleased to say, and Japanese, Portugese, Chinese (Taiwan), and Korean editions of A GAME OF THRONES are now in the works. This will be the first time that any of my work has been translated into Portugese, Chinese, or Korean, to the best of my knowledge.

On the personal front, I had a wonderful three weeks in Spain, where I visited some old friends and made some new ones, drank too much sangria and ate too many tapas, saw some fantastic museums, Roman ruins, and castles, and enjoyed some wonderful Spanish and Catalan hospitality. And in about a week I will be heading east, for a visit to New York City and my family in Bayonne, followed by the World SF Convention in Philadelphia. I hope I will see many of you there.

Oh... yes, I'm still working on that pesky fourth book as well. I hope to read a few chapters from it at Philcon.

Yet More Questions

Being both a fascinated medieval scholar and a long time fantasy reader, I proved an easy victim for your captivating talents. Here at last is what I've been waiting for so long - the fantasy novels that are in fact a history of an alive and true, though imaginary, world. Actually, the first real example of this sort since the great Tolkien. That's how the fantasy must be written nowadays! That's, in fact, what it was always really meant to be.

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I set out to give A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE as much of the flavor of a good historical novel as of traditional fantasy. I am glad you feel I've succeeded.

Well, I have some questions for you, Mr. Martin, concerning the details of your world. Please forgive me if I put down too lengthy an account for them, taking too much of your precious time to read it, but I thought it would be better to present them in a single list.

So many questions, and so detailed, is a little daunting... which is part of the reason that it took me close to a year to get around to this reply. In future, fewer questions might get you a quicker answer.

Question 1: Philological. The names of the Targaryen dynasty have a rather peculiar sounding to them comparing to the other Westeros names. Are these names of Valyrian origin? If so, do they have some specific meaning? Do the "ae" sounds simply occur frequently in Valyrian language, or do these syllables mean something? Also, does the "rys" syllable mean something (as in Viserys, Daenerys)? It reminds me somewhat of the Celtic "rig" (Latinized "rix"), meaning "king".

Tolkien was a philologist, and an Oxford don, and could spend decades laboriously inventing Elvish in all its detail. I, alas, am only a hardworking SF and fantasy novel, and I don't have his gift for languages. That is to say, I have not actually created a Valyrian language. The best I could do was try to sketch in each of the chief tongues of my imaginary world in broad strokes, and give them each their characteristic sounds and spellings.

Question 2: Military. What is a typical Westeros knightly armour like? Is it actually a true full plate, resembling European suits of second half 15th - 16th centuries, or a composite suit of plate and mail, like European suits of the previous period (at the time of Agincourt, for example)?

Westerosi armor does not correspond one to one with any single period in European history, but I suppose it is closest to the armor of the Hundred Years War. Not only Agincourt, but also Crecy and Poitiers before that. Of course, there were important changes in armor between each of those battles, but there were also holdovers, individuals who had used or older armor, styled from the earlier period. I took that trend considerably further in Westeros, and felt free to mix armor styles from several different periods. You will also note that Westerosi armor tends to "later" styles as you go south. Plate is more common in the Reach say, while mail is more the rule in the North, and beyond the Wall the wildlings have very crude primitive stuff.

It seems that in Westeros knights still use their shields actively, but in Europe the true full plate was rarely combined with a classical hand-held shield.

That's true. Again, I was looking for to Crecy and Poitiers... and to the Crusades, even earlier. I wanted shields for aesthetic reasons. Shields are cool, as are heraldic surcoats. Alwhite plate, the traditional "knight in shining armor" look so beloved of film directors, strikes me as visually boring, except in the highly elaborate Milanese style, which is gorgeous to look at in a picture but pure hell to try and describe in words.

Also, is the helmet more like an armet of the 16th century (that is, a true close-helm with a closely fitting round visor and close protection of the chin), or like an end-of-the-14th- -century pointed-visored basinet?

I have mixed and matched helms from different periods, though I don't believe I have mentioned any armets. The "halfhelms" I mention are classic Norman helms from the Hastings era, conical helmets with open faces and a nasal bar. I also have knights in greathelms, both visored and closed, and a few that could be described as basinets, though I don't believe I use that term. To the mix I have also added a few pure fantasy constructs -- the elaborately shaped "beast" helms worn by Jaime Lannister, Sandor Clegane, and a few other champions of note, wrought in the shape of maned lions, snarling dogs, or what have you.

Question 3: Cultural. Are the Westeros the only place with the developed knightly culture? Is it their own invention, or was it imported from somewhere else (from Valyria, perhaps)? Are their any countries that share a common (or at least relative or similar) culture with Westeros?

There's some overlap with the Free Cities across the narrow sea, but no, it is not a common culture. The knightly tradition probably derives from the Andals, but while there is still a place called Andalland on the maps, repeated waves of invasion and conquest has left little of the original culture.

What about the Braavosi? They leave the impression of being culturally related to Westeros (like medieval Italy to France, for example), or is it just my illusion?

Braavos is the odd duck among the Nine Free Cities, but still more Valyrian than Andal in its origins. You'll learn more of its history next book.

Question 4 and last: Administrative. Just how strict and direct was actually the power of the Targaryen kings of old?

Strict? Varied with the king. Direct? The king always had the power to intervene, but after Jaehaerys the Targaryens tended to rule through their lords.

The territory of Westeros is huge, and the fact of survival of the local royal houses (like the Starks) suggests a relatively loose connection (more loose than that of a 14th century France, for example, where the Dukes - as independent and selfish as they were - were all in fact blood relatives of the Crown). The position of a Targaryen king reminds me somewhat of that of a Holy Roman Emperor - a monarch of course, but ruling over the more or less cohesive federation of territories with their own local ruling dynasties. It doesn't mean that such a monarch has no power - it means that his power is much more dependent on the strength of his personality than that, say, of a king of France.

There's a certain amount of truth to this, yes. Although the early Targayens also had the advantage of dragons, which the Holy Roman Emperor lacked.

Thank you very much for your time spent reading this, and excuse me again if I took too much of it. I would of course be greatly honoured if you would choose to answer some or all of my questions, but as I understand the probable scarcity of your time, I wouldn't strongly mind the contrary. Thank you also for your great books, and good luck to you and all your characters!

You're most welcome. Thanks for all the time and thought you have obviously lavished on the books. Do keep reading.

Readers and Realism

I want to thank you so much for your series, which i have read several times with great enjoyment. A Storm of Swords is in my opinion the single finest volume ever published in the fantasy genre, and I have long been an avid reader of epic fantasy.

Thanks for the kind words.

I can't wait for the next installment!! :-)

Fall 2002, I hope.

Anyway... my question. My younger brother is also an avid fantasy reader.... perhaps not so much as myself, but he does read quite a bit. He has read the first three volumes of your series, and enjoyed them greatly.... but won't re-read them. His standard response when I pester him, and tell him that he gains much more understanding of the subtleties of the story with each reading, is: "Why should I re-read it? All that happens in this series are that bad, terrible things happen to good people. If you're good, then you either die or you're destroyed."

You might point out that the story isn't finished yet. If all the problems are solved in the first chapter, there's nothing left for chapter two.

Do you find that people are not so much interested in the realism of the series, and want a "happy ending?"

Some people, sure. But thankfully there are also many thousands who prefer a more complex, adult, and realistic flavor of fantasy. What can I say? Tastes vary. Some people like to eat at McDonald's.

Personally I think that Robb Stark dug his own grave, and I didn't shed too many tears. Same with Eddard to a certain extant - why did he have to be so hard-headed??

If he had been otherwise, he wouldn't have been the man he was.

History is full of people who made similar mistakes.

But my brother points out that everyone from Winterfell is dead - I tell him that's not certain. We don't know what happened with Old Nan, for instance.

Most of the women and children from Winterfell are still alive, though they are not in a good place by any means.

He points out that Ygritte is dead. And the Old Bear (my brother ignores me when i tell him that Jon Snow couldn't have been made lord of the night's watch without Mormont's death, so this had to happen). And the Onion Knight's sons.

The Onion Knight has three surviving sons.

Is this a frequent response? Or do most of your readers appreciate the gritty realism, and the knowledge that in this series, anything can happen at anytime....?

Some do. Some don't. The ones who do read me. The ones who don't find other books to amuse them.

Thanks for your time! And thanks for many hours of enjoyment!!!!

You're welcome. Keep reading.

SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and More

"The Stone City" was actually one of the best SF stories I ever did. Nice that it's still remembered. I published it myself in NEW VOICES I, which perhaps doomed it to obscurity. To tell the truth, I don't recall what a Damoosh looked like. A Hrangan Mind, on the other hand, I remember very well... but whether I will ever bring one on stage, I don't know.

As to whether I'll ever finish AVALON... well, perhaps. Hard to say. Just now I am not looking past A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, which is likely to occupy me for five more years at least.

Let me answer some of your questions about the fantasies...

[Note: Some time later, in separate correspondence, GRRM described Blackfyre as a hand-and-a-half sword rather than a greatsword.]

Targaryen bastards have been given a number of different names over the years. The Blackfyres are one specific branch, descended from Daemon Blackfyre, a bastard son of Aegon IV the Unworthy by one of the three sisters that Baelor the Blessed imprisoned in the Maidenvault. Blackfyre was also the name of Aegon the Conquerer's greatsword, a fabled blade of Valyrian steel passed from king to king... until Aegon IV chose to bestow it on Daemon instead of his legitimate son, Daeron, whom he suspected was actually fathered by his brother, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. Some felt that the sword symbolized the monarchy, so the gift was the seed from which the Blackfyre Rebellions grew. None of this is in the books as yet, but it will be revealed gradually in future volumes.

The Freehold of Valyria is correct. Valyria at the zenith of its power was neither a kingdom nor an empire... or at least it had neither a king nor an emperor. It was more akin to the old Roman Republic, I suppose. In theory, the franchise included all "free holders," that is freeborn landowners. Of course in practice wealthy, highborn, and sorcerously powerful families came to dominate.

[GRRM is asked about Sansa misremembering the name of Joffrey's sword.]

The Lion's Paw / Lion's Tooth business, on the other hand, is intentional. A small touch of the unreliable narrator. I was trying to establish that the memories of my viewpoint characters are not infallible. Sansa is simply remembering it wrong. A very minor thing (you are the only one to catch it to date), but it was meant to set the stage for a much more important lapse in memory. You will see, in A STORM OF SWORDS and later volumes, that Sansa remembers the Hound kissing her the night he came to her bedroom... but if you look at the scene, he never does. That will eventually mean something, but just now it's a subtle touch, something most of the readers may not even pick up on.

[Note: Compare the remarks on Nymeros Martell to this later statement.]

You ask about names. Several different questions here. Maege Mormont is called Mormont because no one knows her husband's name, or even if she has one. There is all the talk that she beds with a bear. She prefers to keep her own counsel. Most of the ladies of Westeros do change their names when they wed, although usage varies. If the wife's family is significantly higher born than the husband's, she may use his name little, if at all. The Dornish have their own customs. The full surname of the ruling house of Dorne is Nymeros Martell, and the ruling pricesses keep that in its female form. They do not take the name of their consorts.

Bastard names are given only to bastards with at least one parent of high birth. So the bastard child of two peasants would have no surname at all.

Thus a bastard name like "Snow" or "Rivers" is simultaneously a stigma and a mark of distinction. The whole thing with bastard names is custom, not law.

The highborn parent can bestow the usual name, a new one of his/her own devising, or none at all. Most legitimate sons of bastards keep the bastard name, but there are cases where a later generation fiddles with it to remove the taint. There's one such case that you will meet in the next book, a minor character descended from a Waters (a bastard name along the shores of Blackwater Bay) whose great grandfather changed the name to Longwaters for just that reason.

Maester Aemon is doubly sworn, to both Citadel and Night's Watch. That is true of the maesters at Eastwatch and the Shadow Tower as well.

[GRRM is asked about Shae being in Tywin's bed.]

I won't comment on the Tyrion / Tywin issue. Perhaps future volumes will throw more light on it.

Estermont and the Stepstones

Hey Mr. Martin, I met you at the signing in Menlo Park.

I recall. Come to Philadelphia and we can meet again. Or failing that, San Jose next year.

I usually don't ask question of you, because whatever question I have is usually on the message boards, but I've got two for you.

1. Soon after Tyrion comes out of his coma, he and his father are talking about fighting on the Stepstones. I didn't know that the fighting was so widespread. But anyhow, isn't the Stepstones where House Estermont resides?

No, not exactly. The Stepstones are islands in the narrow sea, beyond the Broken Arm of Dorne. House Estermont also has its stronghold (Greenstone) on an island, but not one that is part of the chain.

and if so, we see in the indexes that some stayed with Stannis, while others went to Joffrey. Is there some sort of civil war going on in that house?

Well, divided allegiances... I wouldn't say a civil war. They have blood ties to both Stannis and Joffrey. Some went one way, some the other, rather like the sons of Lord Swann, but they aren't killing one another.

Keeping a foot in both camps during rebellions was actually a fairly common ploy of some medieval families, in order to ensure that the family holdings were not wiped out should the wrong side win.

2. The appendix shows Galbart Glover as Master of Deepwood Motte, but Robetts infant son as the heir. From this, I would assume that Galbart is both wifeless and childless? Is this true, or was a mistake made in regards to the Master of Deepwood Motte?

I'd need to consult my notes to be sure, but off the top of my head I believe Galbart is a widower, and childless. He may very well have designated his brother's son as heir while that condition endures.

Military Questions

I'd like to ask you a few more questions related to A Song Of Ice And Fire: Are the archers from the eastern continent generally more skilled than their Westerosi counterparts?

No, though they have different fighting styles. Horse archers are more common in the east.

How about their bows? (effective/theoretical range, strength, etc.)

The best bows are made of the golden wood from the Summer Isles. The Summer Islanders are probably the best archers in my world.

I presume the mounted mercenaries from the eastern continent aren't as heavily armored as the Westerosi knights? What about their skills and discipline compared to the Westerosi knights?

It varies. Some of the sellsword companies are very disciplined, and some are nothing but rabble joined together in search of loot. At one end there would be the Golden Company, at the other the Brave Companions. The Second Sons and the Stormcrows are in the middle.

What is the general composition of the Westerosi armies? My impression is that the knights or mounted men represent the back-bone of their armies.

They are certainly the most feared component, yes.

What is the relative composition of archers (or horse-archers), infantry and cavalry?

Infantry outnumbered cavalry by a considerable margin, but for the most part we are talking about feudal levies and peasant militia, with little discipline and less training. Although some lords do better than others. Tywin Lannister's infantry was notoriously well disciplined, and the City Watch of Lannisport is well trained as well... much better than their counterparts in Oldtown and King's Landing.

Will they be able to support their armies with larger groups of archers (say, thousands of archers) in an effort to withstand or prevent attacks from flying dragons?

If they can find thousands of archers... depends on the season, of course...

Dany's planned invasion of Westeros looks very interesting from a military standpoint. Do you perchance model battles, tactics or campaigns in ASOIAF after historical battles or campaigns, or do you mix ideas from different battles/campaigns?

I make it up as I go along. Mix and match actual battles from history, but with a certain amount of imagination and invention thrown in.

Have you studied the campaigns of, say, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon, Scipio Africanus or Alexander the Great?

To a certain extent, yes. I wouldn't call myself an expert, by any means, but I've read all the biographies, I've got a lot of Osprey books, and I have read Keegan and Norman Dixon and Fletcher Pratt.

Will Dany continue to strengthen her 'army' of mercenaries and Unsullied by adding more cavalry and archers? I read in one of your officially published emails that a larger merc group will appear in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. Is this group related to Dany? (I guess this is a potential spoiler-question, so I understand that you might not be willing to answer this question.)

You'll need to wait and see.

I'm a bit concerned about Dany's skills as a commander. To succeed with the invasion of Westeros, I believe she will need a lot of sound military advice (both tactically and strategically). What's your thoughts on this issue?

She will need counsel, yes... she will also need to learn to tell the good counsel from the bad, which is perhaps the hardest task of all.

The Effects of Winter

I'd like to greet you on behalf of our group of Russian fans of your work, and to thank you sincerely for your wonderful books. Special thanks from me personally, as a great lover of Medieval history and lore - it is so rare a thing to see such a beautiful and vivid image of Medieval world in literature. Thank you again:).

You're most welcome. I appreciate the kind words. Are you reading the books in English or in Russian? In either case, I am glad you're enjoying them.

But I'd also like to ask you a couple of questions - of course, if it doesn't take away too much time and attention. The first and main of these questions we've been discussing for some time now, and weren't able to come to a clear answer by ourselves. It's the question of agriculture in the North. From what we've seen in the books so far, it looks like even in summer the snow covers most of the lands in the North, and it surely does cover all in winter, doesn't it?

I wouldn't say that snow "covers most of the lands" in summer. Rather than they have occasional summer snows. It never gets really hot in the north, even in summer, but it's not icy and snowing all the time either.

Winter is a different tale.

But quite a lot of people are living there. What do they eat?

A lot of food is stored. Smoked, salted, packed away in granaries, and so on. The populations along the coast depend on fishing a great deal, and even inland, there is ice fishing on the rivers and on Long Lake. And some of the great lords try and maintain greenhouses to provide for their own castles... the "glass gardens" of Winterfell are referred to several times.

But the short answer is... if the winter lasts too long, the food runs out... and then people move south, or starve...

Are there some areas without snow, which are suitable for agriculture, or are there significant temperature changes inside the "bigger seasons"? To grow a harvest, at least a couple of months' time of warm temperature (15-20 degrees by Celsius) is needed. Is it available in the North?

Sometimes. It is not something that can be relied on, given the random nature of the seasons, but there are "false springs" and "spirit summers." The maesters try and monitor temperature grand closely, to advise on when to plant and when to harvest and how much food to store.

And what happens when a winter comes - five, six years long?

Famine happens. The north is cruel.

Surely, the import of grain from the South alone can't cover the North's needs. And, by the way, does it snow in the South during the winter?

Yes, some times, in some places. The Mountains of the Moon get quite a lot of snow, the Vale and the riverlands and the west rather less, but some. King's Landing gets snow infrequently, the Storm Lands and the Reach rarely, Oldtown and Dorne almost never.

My second question is a small one, and probably quite stupid:). Perhaps, that's just a problem of language, but nonetheless... What is the origin of a term "hedge knight" and why are those people called so? I couldn't find any analog of this term is history, so the word must be a Westeros peculiarity. Why "hedge"?

The term does occur in history, and not just for knights. Hedge teachers, hedge poets, hedge wizards... basically they are itinerants who have to sleep in the hedges as often as not, since they don't have a roof over their heads. I have seen the term used most frequently in Irish history, which is where I swiped it.

Comments and Questions

Mr. Martin I would just like to say how much I've enjoyed your series A Song of Ice and Fire. I think it's the best writing out there now in the realm of Fantasy writing by a long shot. Your books have a sense of realism and honesty that can be sometimes brutal, but always keeps the reader on his toes. Like I've heard you say before, it makes the fans react differently when they can know anything can happen at any time.

I think the best books are the ones that keep the readers wondering what will happen next.

Thanks for the kind words.

I was checking online and was surprised to find out that people could actually get in touch with an author of your calibre. So here I am. :) The only Fantasy Author who I had met previously was Dave Duncan a few years ago. So on to my questions.

1. The first two books in the series, despite being full of harsh intrigue and sublety as SOS, seemed to have moments of joy for the good guys (Starks, Baratheons) but SOS to me lacked any of those same moments. Was it because you needed to wrap up some plot threads for the five year gap?

No, not really. The story has its own momentum. This is really one long story, just as Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS was, so the division into books in some ways is almost arbitrary. STORM was the darkest volume, but I wouldn't say it was joyless.

2. Was it difficult to you when you wrote Dany's scene with the slavers in SOS? Was that one of the moments where the character spoke to you and changer their direction? Cause for me that act of Dany's seemed out of character. I know she dislikes slavery, but she must have killed an awful lot of innocent people there, plus her motives to me seemed suspect. Yes she freed the slaves, but she also got a large army for nothing. And right after she left the slavery started up again.

Dany is still very young. She has lessons to learn. That was one of them. It is not as easy to do good as it might seem, no matter how noble your intentions.

3. When Lysa lost her virginity to Petyr, Littlefinger was drunk. Did the state he was in cause him to believe that he actually slept with Catelyn? Because of his numerous claims throughout the series that he took both of the Tully girl's maidenheads. I always suspected that he was lying through his teeth deliberately, but now I kind of think that Littlefinger thinks the deed actually happened, at least in his mind.

I think that's quite likely, yes.

I'll let you get back to writing Dance with Dragons, and have yourself a merry christmas and a great new year. Thanks alot for creating such a wonderful world that all of us can enjoy. By the way I've converted several people to your books, with more to come. :)

Then keep up the good work, by all means.

Maester Chains and Valyrian Steel Links

Hopefully this is indeed the address for George R. R. Martin. If not, please ignore my incoherent ramblings.

Right address. Sorry for the delay responding. I do get a lot of emails.

First off, of course, thank you for writing the excellent books in A Song of Ice and Fire. I have enjoyed them immensely. Your books are currently vying with Tad Williams's Otherland books for my favorite current work of speculative fiction. Suffice it to say that your books are winning. :)

Thanks for the kind words. I like Tad's work as well, thought I haven't read his Otherland series yet, so that's good company to be in.

I hope that work on A Dance with Dragons is progressing well and that you are enjoying your work.

Enjoying? I don't know... I enjoy having written, but writing can be painful. But I am making progress.

Now the question. Do maesters fully forge the links of their chokers from raw metal, or do they take strips of existing metal and forge it into the links?

When he said a maester "forges" his chain, it is more metaphorical. They do study metals, but that doesn't necessarily include training as blacksmiths.

I had assumed the former, but the latter would be simpler. I ask, of course, because of the link of Valyrian steel in Maester Luwin's chain. Did he know the spells, or did he take an existing strip and beat it into shape?

He studied magical tomes and histories, and mastered enough of the arcane lore to impress an archmaester into granting him a link. He did not necessarily have to make the steel himself.

I thought that this was a simple enough question, that it might not be a major spoiler for being a maester, but still would give me food for thought.

Here 'tis. Nourishment enough for awhile, I hope.

Keep reading.

Historical Influences

Firstly I'd like to apologize for wasting your time, reading this email; and I often think that you must be St. Job reborn... Where do you find the patience to read and answer to all your fans?

Patience is not the problem. There's just too few hours in the day. Try as I might, I do find myself falling further and further behind. I still have letters in my box from 1998. Sigh. But I plug away when I can...

[Edited for clarity after this point. Ser Loras's question concerning whether GRRM borrows from history, particularly Spanish history, received the reply below.]

Well, yes and no. I have drawn on a great many influences for these books. I do use incidents from history, yes, although I try not to do a straight one-for-one transposition of fact into fiction. I prefer to mix and match, and to add in some imaginative elements as well.

Most of my borrowings, however, come from English and French medieval history, simply because I am more familiar with those than with the heroes, legends, and traditions of other countries. The Wars of the Roses, the Crusades, and the Hundred Years War have been my biggest influences... oh, and some Scottish history as well, such as the infamous Black Dinner that inspired my own Red Wedding. This isn't a matter of choice so much as it is one of necessity. I don't have any other language besides English, and there's a paucity of good popular English language histories about medieval Spain, medieval Germany, and the like. I was in Germany last fall, and looked everywhere for good reference books about the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which would be treasure trove, I suspect. There are a ton of them that looked likely... but all in German.

And in about a week I will be travelling to Spain, coincidentally enough, where I plan to search for some good popular histories as well. Whether I will find any I can read, however... well, it's doubtful.

As to your specific question, I have seen the film version of EL CID, of course, and the Osprey book about the Reconquest is on my sheld. Good, but not nearly detailed enough.

Also, the fight between the Baratheon brothers for the throne is similar to the one held by the Trastamaras: Pedro el Cruel (Peter the Cruel), King of Castile and León and his brother Enrique (Henry). Again, am I close?

I know a little more about that one since it impinged on the Hundred Years War, and there are plenty of references for that in English. As a matter of fact, I collect miniature lead and pewter knights in 54mm scale, and I have figures of both Pedro the Cruel and Enrique the Bastard in my collection.

More... I see a lot of Henry IV of Castile in Robert Baratheon, if I am right, you will now what I mean...

Sorry, Henry IV is not a fellow I know much about. If Robert is modelled on anyone, it is more Edward IV of England... though as usual, I rang in some changes.

Also, could Don Beltrán de la Cueva be similar to Ser Loras Tyrell. I mean, their histories do not fit perfectly but Don Beltrán (First Duke of Alburquerque) was reputed to be the best knight of Castile by then, and his sexuality raised many questions.

Again, don't know him. Wish I did. If I could find a good book...

and lastly, there could be a parallelism between Aegon the Conqueror, and the spanish "conquistadores". Let me explain: Hernán Cortés for example, with less than a hundred men conquered the Aztec Empire... (Dragons=gunpowder?)

I know about Cortez, but Aegon the Conquerer derives more from William the Conquerer.

I would love to become more familiar with Spanish history. Can you recommend any good English language popular histories? I stress "popular." I am not looking for academic tomes about changing patterns of land use, but anecdotal history rich in details of battles, betrayals, love affairs, murders, and similar juicy stuff.

Thank you very much for your time, and I await with illusion for a reply.

I hope you didn't wait too long. Here 'tis.

Keep reading.

Matters of Honor

Mr. Martin, please forgive me for disturbance. An interesting argument cropped up, one that only you can resolve.

Ahhh, but I don't like to resolve arguments, I prefer to stir them up. <G>

Namely: One of the posters claims that if Tyrion had been a honorable man (such as Ned), he would have used his position as the acting Hand to open the gates of KL to Stannis and would have subsequently testified against Cersei and Joff (if they got a trial, that is). He would have done so, because: "a lawful succession, and justice for the murders of Robert and Ned and many others should have been the major priority for a man of honor and responsibility". Would such a course of action be considered honorable and "right" in Westerosi society?

By whom? Westeros doesn't have the Gallup poll. This is a sort of question people would need to decide for themselves, just as in real life. Two thousand years after the assassination of Julius Caeser, people are still debating whether or not that was an honorable act. Dante put Brutus and Cassius in the lowest level of hell for what they did, right next to Judas Iscariot, but Shakespeare wrote that Brutus was "the noblest Roman of them all."

So argue on.

Now, Ned is dead and we will never know for sure unless you tell us, but what would his options as a honorable man be if he found himself brother to Cersei and son to Tywin?

Ned had his own siblings, and his own moral quandries. I don't know that he'd care to get involved in hypothetical ones.

I find it hard to believe that he would have accepted the position of acting Hand while knowing all the facts, but assuming that he learned about incest and Robert's murder only when he was already acting Hand in KL, would he have opened the gates to Stannis (with all implications)?

Probably would have tried to treat with Stannis first, work out some terms.

Well, the above mentioned poster also claimed that once Stannis had KL, Westeros would have shortly been at peace, because everyone except for Tywin would have flocked to Stannis as their rightful king, but I guess that we'll learn the truth of it in ASOS...

I don't know if the series will ever reveal the "truth" of things that never happened, only of those that did.

But keep reading, and some of these things may be resolved eventually.

Dorothy Dunnett and Samwell

It was not too long (though I only came to that opinion after reading it) and I have no idea how you do it, but with that huge character list, it's still amazingly easy to remember who is who, who did what and what is going on.

Glad to hear that. I try, but to tell the truth sometimes I have a hard time remembering all of them myself.

[About often seing ASOIAF English-language books in Lisbon]

Very interesting. I had no idea. I assume these are English copies? So far as I know, I am not published in Portugese. In Spanish, yes, but not Portugese.

Speaking of which, I am about to leave for three weeks in Spain. I am a guest at a festival called Semana Negra, held in Gijon in early July. Unfortunately, I will not be able to visit Portugal this trip, as much as I would love to. But if there are fans there who would like to meet me, they should come up to Semana Negra.

Does Sam still have the horn that Jon found with the obsidian?


And is the lord of Horn Hill really Sam's father? (I like Sam very much, BTW)

Well, so far as anyone knows. Why wouldn't he be?

Is Barristan, for his personality and for being a member of the Kingsguard and keeping the king's secrets, a good witness about Varys influence over Aerys?

A witness, certainly. A good witness? Well, there were things he was not privy to, and of course he saw events from his own standpoint.

About some characters being named Lymond and other possible references to Dunnett's books

The books are full of homages, but not, alas, to Dunnett. Sorry. I have read only a little of her work, though I have heard so many good things about her that I do want to read more.