"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Ecological Context of Eolyn's World

I need to start this post by correcting an error from last week.  In my July 30 post, I referred to the Wall in Westeros as having a location near a "polar latitude". One of the blog's readers brought to my attention that this was a rather careless statement; though unfortunately blogger didn't let him post the comment.  (By the way, I've had a few complaints lately about not being able to post comments on blogger.  If you have also had problems with this, please let me know at eolyn.of.the.south.woods(at)gmail.com.)

My use of 'polar' in this context stemmed from my habit of thinking of the planet as divided into six latitudinal regions defined by atmospheric circulation (blame it on my training as an ecologist).  North of the equator, we have three of these regions: a belt of northeast trade winds (from 0N to about 30N), a belt of temperate westerlies (from about 30N to 60N), and the belt of polar easterlies (from about 60N to the north pole). 

I've lapsed into the habit of calling this third region of polar easterlies 'polar', which is not an entirely accurate, and can lend to additional confusion when one takes into account that the Arctic Circle itself (what most people would probably call 'polar') is defined not by wind patterns but by the southern extremity of the 24-hour polar day.  The southern limit of the Arctic Circle is at about 66N.

So, all this to say, what I should have written last week is that the Wall, as I see it, is probably located somewhere around the earth equivalent of 60N. This seems to be more or less in agreement with what other folks who are better informed than I regarding Martin lore have concluded.  My apologies for any confusion my last post might have generated.

Now, back to the map of Moisehén...

This is a really good time for me to be thinking about maps.  I have been working for about a year now on the sequel to EOLYN, and just as our own world becomes bigger as we move through life, so Eolyn's world has grown in the second book to include kingdoms outside of Moisehén. Of course, I have always had a pretty solid idea as to where Moisehén fits in the context of the surrounding regions of Roenfyn, Galia, Antaria, the Paramen Mountains and the High Plains of the Syrnte, but reaffirming the details of climate and topography has been a very useful exercise for me.

Moisehén, as I've mentioned elsewhere, is a land-locked country that receives humid westerly winds, with water vapor coming not only from an ocean to the west, but also from a large inland sea known as the Sea of Rabeln.  The region also receives the influence of the equivalent of a 'Gulf Stream'.  (As a small aside, that means somewhere waaaay to the south west of the continent, there must be a structure similar to the isthmus of Central America, which upon its formation some 5-6 million years ago, generated the Gulf Stream, with significant impacts on the climate of Europe.)

a map of the Gulf Stream
The interior mountains of the continent, including the Paramen Mountains and the Eastern Surmaeg, are high, non-volcanic ranges.  But to the west and southwest of Moisehén, on the other side of Roenfyn, we have the Kingdom of Galia, a place of lordly wizards who for generations have intermarried with the Magas of Moisehen.  Galia is a coastal country with a volcanic mountain range.  In the novel EOLYN, we never visit Galia, but Eolyn learns about it through unusual means:

"On the western shores of Galia, fire springs from the earth and flows in burning rivers to the sea.  It is from this union of earth, fire and water that the Galian wizards draw their power."

Galian volcanos are important to Moisehén because the same winds that bring moisture to this inland country also pick up volcanic debris from Galia, which over geological time has settled on the landscape, particularly in the high valley of Moehn (Eolyn's home), resulting in very rich soils that, together with relatively heavy rainfall, have supported dense forests and -- where the forests have been cleared for farming -- very productive agriculture.

The South Woods of Moehn and the great forest of East Selen are actually remnants of vast expanses of woodland that once covered most of the Kingdom of Moisehen. The western portion of the country is somewhat drier than the eastern portion, and has also traditionally supported patches of grassland intermixed with woods. 

When drawing the map of Moisehén (embedded above), artist Ginger Prewitt was careful to indicate the transition from oak dominated deciduous forest in the south (which lose their leaves every winter) to coniferous evergreen forest in the north, Selen being on the whole a cooler region than Moehn, and therefore supporting a somewhat different ecosystem.

Prewitt was also kind enough to put a wolf in the South Woods for me.  I think that's my favorite part of the whole map. 

The map that was drawn up for the first novel does not include any of the surrounding kingdoms, but I mention them here to emphasize that Moisehén is an integral part of a greater whole.  As the author, it was important for me to have some vision of that greater whole in order to better understand the specifics of the landscape in which my characters lived -- which in turn allowed me a greater understanding the characters themselves.

For more thoughts on the relationship between characters, culture and landscape, stay tuned for a special guest post from Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of FINDER.  Coming soon!