Modern day westeros
With the last season of Game of Thrones upon us, many are sad to see the world of Westeros go away.
But what if Westeros didn’t? What if it still existed? What would it look like today?
First, the stories and characters are reminiscent of England. The Lannisters and similar in name and essence to the Lancasters. The Wall is much like Hadrian’s Wall built by the Romans against the Celts. So, using contemporary British highway maps as visual style and reference, I reimagined a modern Westeros designing a massive 24” x36” map including as much detail, humour, Easter-eggs, nods to the fans and creators as possible.
WINTERFELL CITY CENTER
Below is a video of the Winterfell map. Subscribe to my Youtube channel to see more videos over this last season.
Designing the map
(If you’re into that kind of thing.)
The concept was fun and easy. The design was labor intensive. At first I designed a small section to get a taste. I liked it. But as I continued on, encountering more bits and bobs, I needed to establish some groundrules. This was font choices and size, color and weight, etc. It was looking good but everything was a bit off and horsey. The scale was wrong.
This was the toughest to grapple with. My first attempt was a false start as I treated the distance from East Watch to Shadow Tower as if is were the same distance from St. Louis to Kansas City. According to the books, the distance is closer to a 800-1,000 miles. At that scale, none of the easter-eggs—landmarks, cultural institutions—would be visible. So I had to be content with a ‘sliding scale’ that stretches areas to accommodate the content. I struggled but had to pull my head of the cartographer’s mindset an ignore true scale. This is a fantasy map of a fantasy world. Purists may object but there’s plenty of online maps of Westeros for that
As a U.S. citizen, I find European road maps confusing. In the U.S., highways are categorized by Interstate, US Highways, State Highways, County Highways and then everything else. As for interstates, the numbering is consistent(ish) with even-numbered highways running east-west, the lowest number on the southern border (I-10) going sequentially up to I-90 on our northern border. The north-south freeways are odd-numbered, going from lowest number on the West Coast (I-5) and going up to I-95 on the east coast. Then there’s the three-digit highways, even-numbered are perimeter or bypass highways, odds are connectors.
I didn’t notice the same numbering pattern with England. Their equivalent, the Motorway (e.g., M5) seems more haphazard. Furthermore, in many European and British roadmaps (depending on the publisher), there are highways of various colors. The Motorways are blue and then there are these spaghetti noodles of red, green and orange freeways with all sorts of numbers.
I chose to mimic that look as it feels more foreign and exotic to U.S. eyes. Then there was the hierarchy. Not knowing, I established one. Like English maps, I made the major Motorways (interstates) blue. The green highways are controlled-access Provincial freeways. Then red and yellow in descending importance. The grey roads are major streets/parkways and the yellow would be the equivalent of County roads in the U.S.
As for as numbering, I chose the following. The Motorways—named ‘W’ for Westeros—are numbered in the order I think they would have been constructed. So W1 was built first, W2 second and so on. The green Provincial highways are always double digits preceded by the first letter, or distinctive letter, of the region. Crownlands highways would be, e.g., C14, Dorne highways D44. The red highways are 3 digits, orange are 4 digits, each preceded by their Provincial letter..
This is the hardest nut to crack. Modern-day UK is jam-packed with tiny villages. It’s the congestion of cities and villages that makes it real. But looking at the maps of Westeros, there are cities, but not to the extent a modern country, much less continent would have. I made up some cities based on characters from the area or events that occurred. But that wasn’t enough. Then it struck me. The plethora of villages (in light italic type) are the names of the cast and crew that worked on the HBO series. Going through IMDB, I scraped the thousands of names affiliated with the show from lead actors to caterers, horse wrangler. and location scouts. Though an organizational headache, this made filling up the empty spaces easy
the fun bits
I have to credit the people behind blogs like the Interactive Game of Thrones Map and A Wiki of Ice and Fire. Admittedly, I’m a fan of the show and haven’t read the books. But the wikis offer so much information.
Here’s an example. According to the Long Lake entry in A Wiki of Ice and Fire: In 226 AC, the shore was the site of a battle at Long Lake, which saw Stark and Umber forces repel Raymun Redbeard, a King-Beyond-the-Wall who managed to bypass the Wall. Brothers of the Night's Watch buried the dead of the battle.
So Raymuns death and the hand of Lord William became the cities of ‘Raymuns End’ and ‘Willimas Point’—names that sound like actual locations but tell a story. And with King’s Landing, King Joffery’s delightful death (which we all anxiously waited for) is hinted at in one of the ‘points of interest’ in the King’s Landing map.
Thanks for reading!