The Stories Maps Tell

Entertain the Elk talks about the history of real world maps and the design of the fantasy maps for Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Game of Thrones.

Throughout history, maps have always communicated ideas and stories to its audience, but what about maps of fictional worlds? In this video, I examine the maps of Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), and The Known World (Game of Thrones) in order to find the tiny details the mapmakers chose to include that point to their larger stories.

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How realistic are the fantasy castles from films and games?

Shad M Brooks is a huge, huge fan of swords and castles, amongst other geeky subjects, all of which he enthusiastically explores on his YouTube channel, Shadversity. I’ve been really enjoying his castles playlist.

Skyhold from Dragons Age Inquisition apparently gets quite a lot right…

However, he’s less complimentary about the ‘castles’ of Skyrim, which get some basics right but completely fall apart when you look at the details…

There’s some praise for The Lord of the Rings, but also a lot about the castles that doesn’t make sense…

It’s worth starting at the beginning of the playlist with the first two videos on fantasy vs. reality and the names and terms of a medieval castle parts.

Honor Guard castle

In those videos Shad shows off and explains his own rather cool design for a more realistic fantasy castle he calls ‘Honor Guard’.

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Game of Thrones: Anatomy of A Scene: The Battle of Winterfell

SPOILERS, obviously. Game of Thrones’ biggest pitched battle to date, the Battle of the Bastards is brutal and terrifying and this wasn’t even the only major conflict in episode nine!

Update: This VFB breakdown shows a lot more of the effects work from the episode.

Update: Another addition to this post on The Battle of the Bastards to include this interesting CineFix piece on 3 Brilliant Moments from the Battle of the Bastards.

CineFix: We hope we’re not too late to the party, but as it turns out, we just can’t get enough of this episode! So today we’re talking about 3 of the best, most brilliant little moments from this amazing on screen battle.

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George R.R. Martin
Use your words

George R.R. Martin on Tolkien

Mikal Gilmore has a great interview with George R.R. Martin for Rolling Stone. This answer sums up one of the reasons why I’m a fan of the Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire series:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple.

Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

In real life, real-life kings had real-life problems to deal with. Just being a good guy was not the answer. You had to make hard, hard decisions. Sometimes what seemed to be a good decision turned around and bit you in the ass; it was the law of unintended consequences. I’ve tried to get at some of these in my books.

My people who are trying to rule don’t have an easy time of it. Just having good intentions doesn’t make you a wise king.
George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview


Concept art for the Game of Thrones (2011) opening title sequence:

Our goal was to try to replicate something that looks and acts like a physical object. Art Director Rob Feng referenced Leonardo’s machines which have a timeless sense of design.
Angus Wall, creative director

And here’s a detailed look at the astrolabe from the centre of the world:

We show three close-ups of those bands that tell the pre-history of the world in relief-sculpture form. They tell about dragons attacking Westeros. They tell about how the different houses on Westeros got together and defeated those dragons, and how those houses, represented by their respective animals, bowed in allegiance to the Baretheon stag.
Angus Wall, creative director

I’m on a bit of a Game of Thrones kick at the moment, so expect more on this blog!

Light-based media

Game of Thrones opening titles

Concept art for the Game of Thrones opening title sequence.


Game of Thrones characters reimagined as 80s/90s stereotypes by Mike Wrobel.

I love the depiction of Khaleesi.

It’s hard to imagine being a fan of a show like Game of Thrones without all the magnificent fan art on Tumblr, or access to a dedicated wiki or chat on Twitter.

Update: Three more!

Craft and creativity

Game of Thrones, reimagined

What would “Game of Thrones” have looked like if the action had been set in a contemporary period such as the 80s and 90s?