Why it would suck to live in Westeros

If you were given the choice, which fictional place would you choose to live in? The rolling hills of the Shire, perhaps? Or by the sparkling lakes of Naboo? Maybe you'd go for something a little more exciting, like Hogwarts or Gallifrey or even Wonderland, if you're up for something kinda weird. Or maybe — just maybe — you'd elect to start your new fantasy life on Westeros, where winters last for years, blood and death magic runs rampant, and everybody seems to have taken their obsession with murdering people to the extreme. The list of reasons you'd never want to step foot on Westeros is basically endless, but if you're planning on making any foolish wishes to a genie anytime soon, here are the finer points. (Spoilers follow, obviously.) 

Almost every religion is right

Religion is never going to be anything but a tricky subject, but on Westeros the implications of choosing who to worship are far more complex than they ever could be on Earth. The crux of the issue comes down to this: there is no wrong choice, and there is no right choice.

Pretty much every faith is visibly present in the real world. Take R'hllor, the Lord of Light, whose worshipers — such as Melisandre and Thoros of Myr — practically relish the chance to prove the god's existence by burning or resurrecting everyone they come across. Then there's the Drowned God. The novels include a character known as Patchface, who, after being drowned, manages to predict the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords and the coming of the White Walkers in A Dance With Dragons. We also know the Old Gods are valid because of whatever the hell is going on with Bran Stark.

So what can you do? Choose the Lord of Light and you'll anger the Drowned God next time you're at sea. Choose the Old Gods and R'hllor won't be happy. Go for the Drowned God and you might incur the wrath of the Old Gods. It would seem the only real chance you have is to try to appease them all at once. Victarion Greyjoy attempts this in A Dance With Dragons by drowning and burning prisoners to appease two gods at once, but, honestly, who has time for that?

Those religions need human sacrifices

If you finally get around to picking the right faith, there's still a good chance that you'll give your life for that faith. The Faith of the Seven, which is most commonly practiced on Westeros, doesn't go in for blood sacrifice anymore, but the Old Gods certainly used to, according to The World of Ice And Fire, and both the Drowned God and R'hllor thrive on it. Countless characters have been burned at the whims of Red priests and priestesses, including Shireen Baratheon and Mance Rayder (in case you were wondering whether royal blood keeps you safe) and others, like Gendry, have only narrowly avoided the stake. The Drowned God is even worse. As per A Clash of Kings and the show's episode The Door, the Ironborn are drowned at birth and then a second time if they become priests. If you don't make it, well, hey — bad luck.

Practically every god demands blood, even ignoring those gods who are apparently openly psychopathic, like the Many-Faced God. What's more, there's no guarantee the gods won't want your blood. Going to church twice a year doesn't seem so bad now, does it?

You can't even enjoy the summertime

It's fairly common knowledge that seasons can last for multiple years in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. In A Game of Thrones, it's explained that Westeros is currently enjoying one of the longest summers in living memory. According to the show, however, there's a real worry that longer, better summers mean worse winters are bound to come soon after. The known seasons and their lengths, which are detailed briefly in the various books, would seem to back this up: after a seven-year summer under Maekar I Targaryen, a terrible, unusually long winter followed. At the current point in the narrative, so soon after a good summer, the coming winter (and the nasty undead things coming with it) seem likely to be the worst since the Long Night.

The problem here is this: winter sucks. We all know that. You've got famine, storms, conflict, and a whole host of other ways to die. But the worst thing about it all is that even in summer, when things aren't actually so bad, each day is a curse — because every extra day of summer means your winter is going to be just that little bit worse. Really puts a downer on those bright and sunny days.

The postal service is just a load of ravens

Westeros has one pretty significant advantage over the actual medieval period on Earth: magic. It may not be widespread, but it certainly exists and, as of the events of Game of Thrones, is becoming more and more prevalent in the world. So with all that magic, all those gods, and all that great technology available, is it really necessary to be relying on birds as postal workers?

Ravens are used across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond to deliver scrolls and messages quicker than a rider can travel. According to Maester Aemon in A Game of Thrones, they're strong, bold, and clever enough to be trusted with handling the correspondence of the aristocracy and military. Try to look past what the Westerosi see in them, however, and see the big picture. You think a slow internet connection is frustrating? Just wait a week for a response to every single message you send and remember that response comes with the possibility of being defecated on from above. No, thanks.

Mythical beasts exist and all want to kill you

What's the scariest animal you've come across in your life? For some of us, it's probably nothing more terrifying than a particularly large dog or a cat who glares just a little too much. At the absolute worst, it could be a bear (hello, Siberia), a lion (hello, sub-Saharan Africa), or maybe an alligator (hello, far too many places). Well, that's not the case on Westeros. Among the fabled creatures that have been outright confirmed to exist in the books and show, you've got dragons, direwolves, and mammoths, each of which has its own unique way of bringing you to a grisly and untimely end. The Season 7 episode Spoils of War made it crystal clear how unpleasant death by dragon can be, while enough people have been torn apart by direwolves to make you never want to step into the north for as long as you live.

That's not all, though. Among the unconfirmed species, there are giant spiders, kraken, basilisks, whatever a lizard-lion is, and many more. All it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and you've got a good chance of coming face-to-face with something that has crawled out of your own nightmares.

Greyscale is a very real danger

Disease is a common worry for the inhabitants of both Westeros and our own world, and while we have our fair share of mortifying illnesses and ailments, we're lucky to not have to face anything quite as bad as greyscale. The disease itself is, essentially, a death sentence. It disfigures you by turning your skin flakey and grey, and as it spreads across your body it goes on to cause blindness, organ failure, and madness.

Pretty much anyone is a potential victim of greyscale, though according to The World of Ice and Fire and A Dance with Dragons, it's particularly common in Sothoryos, the Iron Islands, Dragonstone, and down the length of the Rhoyne. If you're lucky enough to contract it (which is ridiculously easy), you're guaranteed to be an outcast, and there's a good chance you'll either be euthanized or sent into exile to live with the Stone Men. You don't want any of those things to happen.

Anybody could be a Faceless Man

Ah, the Faceless Men — what's not to love? Expert, magic-wielding assassins who have a creepy obsession with their death god and who are easily among the most powerful people in Westeros and Essos. Doesn't every single word of it fill you with warm fuzzies?

Well, the best thing about their face-changing ability is that it means you can trust literally no one over the course of your entire life, and that goes doubly if you think someone's out to get you. Any person you see could be one: your friends, your family, and even random passers-by are all potential suspects. And what with Arya Stark proving it's possible to gain their power and then go off the grid, who's to say how many rogue Faceless Men there are out there, settling scores and killing for fun?

There's a very good reason why the characters who refer to them in the novels do so in awed respect or downright terror. At least in our world, you know the face of your friends and enemies.

If you're a bastard, you're screwed

Were you born out of wedlock? If so, you might not want Westeros on the top of your fantasy must-visit list. Even though George R.R. Martin himself once said he loves writing about bastards, that doesn't mean they get an easy ride in Westerosi culture. If you're born a bastard (which, considering the promiscuity of many of the aristocracy, isn't rare), you're immediately condemned to a life of indignation and contempt.

The best you can hope for as a bastard is begrudging acceptance into your house or legitimization if you're lucky, as happens in Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords to Ramsay Snow (later Bolton). Otherwise, according to the text of A Storm of Swords, you're probably going to be regarded as a spawn of lust and weakness, seen as treacherous, and generally treated pretty nastily all around. You can give the Night's Watch a go (oh, joy) or go to the Citadel to train as a maester (oh, more joy), but if those don't sound like fun options, you could always drink yourself to death in the alleys of King's Landing. So you have options, at least.

You can't even trust your pets

Who doesn't love a pet? Be it a cat, dog, fish, lizard, bird, or whatever, having a trusty companion who's loyal and loving is great for your mental health and makes your quality of life that little bit better.

Imagine how devastating it would be, then, for your pet to have its mind obliterated and taken over by some wildling or northerner who's having fun testing out his new skinchanging abilities. There are about a dozen known skinchangers in the novels, and three or four of the show equivalent, called wargs. While it's difficult for a skinchanger to inhabit the body of an animal they don't share a bond with, it's not impossible, meaning that your cute little pet — maybe the only thing keeping you sane in this world of magic, disease, and war — is absolutely at risk of being hijacked and turned into a walking puppet for some sick magic-user you've never met.

Oh, and that's not even mentioning the fact that some skinchangers can possess humans. You don't even want to go down that particular road.

Your own shadow could kill you

If you can't trust your pets, can't trust your friends or family, and certainly can't trust your god, what can you trust? Hard to say, but if you want to add something else to that list, there's always your own shadow.

Shadow assassins are created by the shadowbinders of Asshai — rare on Westeros itself, but hey, Melisandre made it over the sea — and are used to perform killings and other clandestine tasks. Most famously, King Renly is murdered by one in A Clash of Kings and Game of Thrones' second season. In the novel, Brienne, who witnessed Renly's death, explains that it seemed like it was Renly's own shadow that killed him.

Remember that when you're imagining your newfound life in George R.R. Martin's world. Remember the thought of being betrayed by everyone you know, left to rot in a winter that lasts a decade, and hunted by direwolves and giant ice spiders. Remember in those last moments that it could well be your shadow on the wall that comes to finish you off at last. It's not a good thought, is it? Stick to the Shire.