How Do The Ravens Work On 'Game of Thrones,' Anyway?
On the last Game of Thrones, Jon received a raven from Daenerys (via Tyrion) to join her side, and Sansa asked some very reasonable questions about the message, specifically how does Jon know it’s not an impostor or a trap.
Other than beginning to move a couple of our favorite pieces toward each other, this was not a particularly noteworthy moment; after all, these sorts of messages are exchanged throughout Westeros all the time. It did remind me, however, that seven years in, I still have some questions about how this whole raven message service (or RMS) works.
Look, I know we have to accept that long-distance communication just kind of happens in Westeros. After all, there are many extraordinary things within Game of Thrones that are outside our personal frameworks of reality; so many that if we try to question the logic of all these little pieces, we’re going to end up going back and forth all day like Bruce and JGL dissecting time travel theory in a diner.
But what can I say? I love thinking about the weird bits of infrastructure we take for granted almost as much as George Takei loves monorails. Which means I would really love to get answers to the following questions:
1. Do messages ever get dropped?
This seems like it could happen in a number of ways: ravens could be lost or killed, the message could be damaged by inclement weather, or even dislodged (and thus literally dropped). I’m just wondering what the error rate is for RMS, because this seems like it has the potential to lead to some serious communication gaps, kind of like when my friend Steve told me that he wasn’t getting any of my texts.
2. If you wanted to disrupt communication throughout Westeros, wouldn’t you keep an eye out for ravens and try to shoot them?
It seems like a person could learn quite a bit by doing this, especially since this is a communication method preferred by the heads of various factions.
And look, I’m happy to admit that capturing or killing a bird is no easy feat. It would certainly require a very particular skillset. But given how many extraordinary killers we’ve met thus far, are you honestly going to tell me that not one of them has specialized in shooting down ravens? There’s no Borron the Ravenkiller out there in the wilderness, intercepting some of the chatter? Couldn’t this be how some people like Littlefinger seems to know everything?
Speaking of Littlefinger, if he hadn’t sent the Knights of the Vale to save Jon and company, wouldn’t “Raven? What raven? I received no raven, perhaps somebody shot the messenger,” be, I don’t know, at least a semi-reasonable excuse? It would certainly be a better excuse than the one my supposed friend Steve gave me when he said that texting had completely stopped working on his phone and I should call him, but then when I did the call went to voicemail after like one and a half rings which YOU KNOW means he hit the ‘ignore’ button.
3. If white ravens are so much better, why would you only use them for special messages from The Citadel about the weather?
Why is The Citadel purposefully neglecting to roll out the latest and greatest in ornithologically-based communication technology? Are they too expensive? Too hard to breed? What’s the downside to fully deploying the kingdom’s most trustworthy RMS network around? Are the maesters the Westerosi equivalent to Sprint?
4. How long does it take to train a raven, anyway?
We know that the maesters in residence tend to them at the various castles, but what does training them actually require? Can you just show the ravens a map? Or do they actually have to travel the route first?
And even if the raven can be taught the route without being guided, can they make the journey in both directions? Or are they like homing pigeons, trained to return to their “home” regardless of where they begin their journey? And if that’s true, then does that mean there are perpetually a number of raven transporters out in the world, moving ravens from one castle to another? Are they just forever on the road, struggling to keep up with the Sisyphean task of keeping the kingdoms stocked with ravens? What’s their delivery window like? Will they be there between two and five fortnights? Or will they just say they’ll be there and then never show up, like my former friend Steve, who always responds “Yes” to Facebook events and Evites and Papersless Post but never shows, only to text later and say “sorry bro things got crazy” and now I’m like wait not only did you not show up to Dina’s surprise party but also now you’re texting me after YOU LITERALLY SAID YOU COULDN’T TEXT?
Basically, what I’m saying is I know there are precious few hours left for us to spend in Westeros. But I wouldn’t mind if we got to see Samwell spending a few minutes reading “Intermediate Raven Care” or whatever, you know those maesters have a thousand-page book on it somewhere in that library.
Also, Steve, if you’re reading this, please call me, I left my good tupperware at your housewarming party two years ago and I’d really like to get it back.
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