Let’s be honest here: the fictional country of Westeros, as we’ve seen it portrayed in books and HBO’s Game of Thrones, is kind of a shithole. Not only that, it’s currently on the brink of invasion by hundreds of thousands (perhaps more) undead warriors. Most people seem to think this is Bad News for Westeros. But not me. If played the right way, the White Walkers and their army of the dead could be the path to Westeros finally getting cars and many other benefits of modernity. I better explain.
I’ll assume that anyone who bothered to click this link is at least somewhat familiar with Game of Thrones and all the goings-on therein; but just in case you’re fuzzy, here’s a reminder of a few key points:
Westeros is a country with technological development roughly on par with our world in the 1300 or 1400s or so, minus gunpowder, and with some magic and dragons. They have a recorded history (well, fictional, but play along) that suggests their people had bronze weapons over 12,000 years ago; by comparison, our reality had a very nice Bronze Age about 4,000 years ago, and now we have global-access dirty-picture machines in our pockets and airplanes and candy bars with cookie crunches, while the Westerosi have barely managed to make steel in three times the length of time.
I have a theory as to why Westerosi technological development is so slow, but for now let’s just accept that these people suck at technological innovation.
This is a shame, because the quality of life of most of the people shown in Game of Thrones sucks, richly and deeply. An industrial revolution of sorts sure would help things out, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for some drunk maester at the Citadel to figure out a steam engine.
Luckily, the biggest problem Westeros is facing could also be their biggest salvation: the White Walkers and their army of the dead.
I’ll leave our sister sites to get into the deeper investigations of the White Walkers, but for our purposes all you need to know is that the White Walkers are hostile magical beings that are capable of re-animating dead people and animals into powerful soldiers, pack animals, workers, and so on.
They’ve raised a massive army of these dead beings, and we’ve seen that these wights, as they’re called, are formidable foes: clumsy, sure, but fast and strong, and even when cut into parts, the individual limbs continue to move and attempt to fight independently.
Most just see them as ghoulish warriors; I see them as the key to Westeros’ industrial revolution.
I mean, come on, what the White Walkers have really made here is a massive supply of seemingly perpetual motion machines. Why would you need a steam engine when a few wights could, properly harnessed, provide all the power you’d need?
The squabbling Westerosi kings and queens are looking at this White Walker situation all the wrong ways. All they see are the problems, when they should be looking at the opportunities.
Since this is still an automotive site, let’s take as an example the problem of starting a Westerosi motor industry, using wight-powered vehicles that could be built even with the (comparatively) limited technical skill of Westerosi craftsmen.
Essentially, a Westerosi car would use one or more captured wight’s lower halves (all we need are the legs—why bother with some creepy skull and arms?) to drive a crankshaft via pedals.
In the Game of Thrones finale we saw that a captured wight retains its otherworldly strength and aggression even when stored and transported hundreds of miles from where it was first made, beyond the wall. It seems that its urge to attack comes from just sensing, somehow, where people are; it would stand to reason that a wight trapped in a cage, with a living human in front of it, would be constantly attempting to reach that human.
That’s why we have to assume any captured wight limbs will be in constant motion, which is why we need that clunky engagement mechanism to engage/disengage the wight-powered power wheel from the drive wheels.
Of course, cars are just one possible use of wight-power, and by no means even the most important. Farm machinery could be driven by wights, with large harvesters and seed broadcasters and mowers and more, all helping to finally mechanize Westerosi agriculture and dramatically increase the production of food for its hungry people, especially important because of that world’s inconsistent season lengths.
All manner of factories could be powered with armies of wights, connected to crankshafts and other power-delivery mechanisms. Textile mills, grain mills, powered blast furnaces for improved metallurgy, trip hammers and lathes and other machine tools to produce more and more sophisticated machines and tools, which later help the production of even more precise and advanced machines, producing more and more goods for people, providing better jobs, and increasing everyone’s quality of life.
Imagine communication networks formed of miles of wight-arms transferring Morse-code-like physical gestures from one part of the country to another!
Hell, eventually, a wight-powered analytical engine could even launch Westeros into an information age! And all this without the need to find and exploit energy sources! It could be an industrial utopia!
Of course, there’s a catch: the White Walkers have to be in on it.
Now, that may seem impossible to many, considering how generally hostile the Walkers have been to the living, but, I don’t think getting them to play ball is impossible at all. Consider this:
What seems to be the goal of the White Walkers? The takeover of Westeros? Okay, let’s say that’s not even off the table. As it is, the actual population of Walkers compared to their undead army is pretty miniscule. There don’t seem to be all that many Walkers, so we just need to insure that the Walkers can retain a position of power.
The good news is, that’s easy! This scenario would allow the White Walkers to control Westeros, but not as conquerers—as businesspeople.
See, when you kill a White Walker, every wight that walker made dies with it, meaning that any given walker could be controlling thousands and thousands of wights. What if instead of controlling thousands and thousands of warriors, that Walker was controlling thousands of cars and elevators and HVAC systems and mechanical computers and a whole steel mill? Which one do you think would have greater life (and job) security?
If humans and the White Walkers go to war, there’s a good chance White Walkers will die, just like humans. Even if they think they can win, there’s a risk. But if the Walkers partner with humans to exploit magical wight technology, the Walkers become the sole provider of a whole nation’s (maybe world’s?) energy needs, and that gives them a far more secure power base than any army ever could.
The White Walkers could reap the benefits, in power, influence, and wealth, of being the crucial element of all Westerosi technology, while at the same time making the whole of Westeros far more wealthy, developed and powerful than ever before, with a quality of life that surpasses anything ever seen in that world.
Sure, there’d be some odd cultural changes, like everyone agreeing to become part of the global power grid when they die, but that’s a small price to pay for what is effectively perpetual motion.
And if the Walkers still want to fight and conquer, there’s a whole world outside of Westeros to seize. A Walker-Human alliance powered by millions of wight-driven machines would easily mow down any foe.
All I’m saying is that the White Walkers could have a really sweet monopoly if they wanted to, and could help make Westeros into an industrial powerhouse. There’s other ways to win than war, and with the power of a million decaying limbs, I believe that peace is not just possible, but profitable.
Winter is coming, my friends, and it’s gonna be great.