From the nerds at Foreign Policy, who finally found a way to mix their Game of Thrones obsession with work:
George R.R. Martin’s world did not start with a map, however. The author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of books adapted for TV as Game of Thrones, envisaged the opening scene of the first book, and from there on, as Martin liked to say, borrowing from J.R.R. Tolkien, “the tale grew in the telling.”
One of many similarities with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cycle is not just the reliance on maps as guides to the story, but even the look and feel of them. Like Tolkien, who created the maps that illustrated The Hobbit and the Ring trilogy, Martin himself assumed the role of First Cartographer, and his own maps appear in the books. Even though Martin is a Bayonne-born New Jersey boy, his anglophilia is evident in his reverence for Tolkien’s trailblazing tale — maps and all — and the inspiration by certain key moments in British history.
Most of the action takes place on the continent of Westeros, which looks a bit like Great Britain. Some fans protest this, and they’re right if you compare Westeros with the actual island; but place it next to a mirrored version of Britain, and it’s a good fit. The main man-made feature of the island-continent is the Wall in the North, at 700 feet high and 300 miles long clearly an extrapolation of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England (itself, a mere 73 miles long, and never higher than 20 feet).
(via – free registration required)