Cartoon by Isabella Bannerman
As someone who grew up in snowy Buffalo, I feel well qualified to tell the people in Game of Thrones what they might be in for, now that “winter has come.” Many people in the Seven Kingdoms haven’t seen snow in thousands of years, since the evil Night King last invaded.
I’m not going to mince words—they are in for a world of hurt. Based on a careful reading of George R. R. Martin’s amazing books and long hours studying the HBO adaptation, I have come to the conclusion that Westeros is about as prepared for snow and ice as Atlanta.
For example, they have no snowplows or salters, not even in Winterfell. In Buffalo, we not only have them, they are operated by some of the most experienced men and women on the planet. Unless a full-out, Weather Channel-named blizzard hits, snow has little chance of lasting long on Queen City roads. If it does last, the mayor instantly becomes a lame duck. Kinda like getting your head chopped off in Game of Thrones, but unlike what happened to poor Ned Stark, everyone sees it coming.
Unlike in Westeros, there are no ice dragons to contend with in Western New York, but we do have lake effect snow, which is pretty much the same thing. Instead of coming from over “The Wall” at the kingdom’s northern border, it comes from over our border with Canada. The blasts of frigid air, picking up moisture from the unfrozen lake, turns us into our version of White Walkers, covered with snow from head to foot. But instead of declaring war, Buffalonians think about taking a dragon, I mean Delta, down to West Palm. Hey, maybe that’s where the Night King and his undead legions are headed.
Winter in Westeros can last an entire generation, when it finally comes. In Buffalo, it only feels like that. But at least we know the reason why: the ice boom that the Army Corps of Engineers places across the mouth of the Niagara River. Until it is removed and the ice imprisoned behind it can finally move downstream, the ice acts as a giant refrigerator keeping the city perpetually cold. If I were Daenerys Targaryen, I would check for any ice booms the Night King and the Army Corps of Engineers may have placed on Seven Kingdom rivers. Bring a bolt cutter made of Valyrian steel.
Also, bring some snow pants. My wife remembers wearing Easter dresses over snow pants as a girl. Perhaps the incredible costume designers on the show can give Daenerys a break when she rides Drogon, her dragon, and outfit her with a pair, and maybe some ear muffs. Look, it’s winter, you gotta be practical.
Another thing folks in Westeros may have forgotten about winter—it’s dark. Don’t count on the Lord of Light helping you out here. Instead, consider brightening things up around the holidays with a Festival of Lights, like we do south of the city. You may see a heavy-set man there in a red suit sitting on a throne-like chair. Don’t kill him, he’s just a guy who likes to bring toys to kids.
While the TV series is shooting its final season now, readers are patiently waiting for Martin to publish the last two books, ending with A Dream of Spring. Springtime? Keep dreaming. This is the reason for Martin having trouble finishing the novels. Before moving to Santa Fe, George spent years in Chicago and Dubuque. So, like any Buffalonian, he knows things aren’t likely to warm up in Westeros for a very long time.
Even in the Game of Thrones, you can only take fantasy so far.