Rachel Laudan

The Game of Thrones, The Store of Grain, and the Fate of Planet Earth


Not enough food in the castle?  What’s to be done?

A friend sent me a link to a mashable discussion of food shortages as threats to whole communities in Game of Thrones.

(I have to admit I have not followed Game of Thrones, so I’m flying blind and writing in haste as I’m preparing for a trip tomorrow. And my media uploader is not working so no images).


Bottom line

Every adult would have needed 2lbs of grain (wheat or more likely oats or barley in the north) every day.

Grain is the only thing you can rely on in a siege–dry, compact, storable, nutritious.

A bushel, which is a volume measure about the size of a medium wastebasket, contains about 60 lbs of grain (bushels and grains vary so we are talking rule of thumb here).

So a bushel of grain will feed one person for 30 days or one month.

5 bushels are needed to feed one person for the five months of winter.

The castle (Winterfell) has only 4000 bushels of grain, Sansa learns from Maester Wolkan in Episode 3.

If the granary had not been replenished, the castle could have fed 800 people for the winter.

The population of the castle cum town is, I learn, something of the order of a few thousands in summer, 14,000 in winter.


Someone needs to held accountable.


Calories per acre matter, granaries matter, grains matter.



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6 thoughts on “The Game of Thrones, The Store of Grain, and the Fate of Planet Earth

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      That’s because they also had other foods such as wine, cheese, oil etc. 2 lbs grain (rough average) is what societies around the world reckoned on when grain was providing 90% plus of the calories, as it did for the very poor, in sieges, in famines, etc. Just a single tablespoon of oil per day allows you to reduce this amount of grain. Vegetables not so much!

  1. Jonell Galloway

    I’m currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. His theory is that post hunter gatherer, sapiens started depending too much on grain and, in doing so, restricted their diet and left themselves exposed to periods of famine and hunger, whereas as hunter gatherers, they could simply move on to new parts where there was any lack of food. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Jonelle, a very quick reply as I am off for the day in just a few minutes. The research on this changes all the time. I think Harari buys in too much to the idea, much in fashion in anthropology in the past generation, that the hunter gatherer life was superior in many respects. Animals die of hunger regularly in times of drought, say. Why not humans too? This is much too quick and I will get to a fuller answer in the coming days.

  2. ganna

    You should consider some unpleasant variables, too. Storage conditions? Mold, mice, your very own moat invading the cellars during heavy rains. Ergot (see the nice angel urging us to jump from the battlements?). Good old human greed and stupidity (imagine the dolt tasked with checking the stores getting drunk down there and dropping his torch. Or filling all his pockets with grain every day as his family might start starving). So you need some extra to withstand a siege or an Ice Age.

    If you ever want enlightenment on the subject of The Game of the Thrones, skip the TV series, grab the books. One cannot tell what these people eat on the TV but the books describe their food in lovely loving detail. There are Game of Thrones recipe sites on the Net, all based on the books.

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