What the Game of Thrones maps tell us about the struggle for power in Westeros
Share This Article:
Viewers of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be familiar with the map of the fictional world that accompanies the opening credits. This world is based on a set of books by George R R Martin – and across all seven series, the maps have played a pivotal role. But in the latest series, maps have taken on a whole new significance.Eagle-eyed watchers have long looked at the opening sequence for clues as the animated map reflects the geographical areas to be covered in that episode. The creative director behind the opening credits has said that he was asked to realise the maps for the titles to help viewers to understand where and when the action was taking place – Martin had already created maps, as well as genealogies for the noble houses, while he was writing the novels.
The shape of Westeros, the continent where most of Game of Thrones takes place, is based on the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. While there are other geographical similarities, such as lakes and rivers in familiar locations, the main difference is that Westeros is many times larger. Many books include maps – from the Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth to Winnie The Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. These fictional maps teach us about fantasy worlds and, as The Guardian’s Ciara Murphy wrote: “provide gateways to the imaginary lands which may otherwise only exist within our imaginations”. The Game of Thrones maps have helped audiences to visualise the sprawling world they are discovering. The map has even become so popular that fans can trace the stories of their favourite characters through an interactive version or buy it on a variety of products. Westeros can be bought etched into wallets, phone cases or as a Tube map version.
Shaping the worldGeographers are interested in the relationship between maps and power. Maps are not neutral representations of the world around us; instead they help to shape it. As the geographer J B Harley argued, historically “maps have been the weapons of imperialism”, allowing colonial powers to claim land and eventually exploit defined colonies. Maps help us to visualise space in ways that can be far from benign. As Christopher Marlowe wrote in Tamburlaine the Great:
Give me a map; then let me see how much is left for me to conquer all the world.Harley also argued that maps go hand-in-hand with the rise of the nation state. Maps allow rulers to define their existing territories and to plan military operations to claim others.
- Article continues below...
- More stories you may like...
- TV Review: This is Us (Season 2, Episode 2)
- The Doctor Who Series 11 trailer will air during the World Cup final
- 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' unveils new mobile game