The Featured Image for August of 2017 is a beautiful view of the palace and surrounding lands belonging to House Tyrell. The piece is titled ‘Highgarden’ and created by artist Felix Sotomayor.
When one considers The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros it is necessary to take into account all of the following: the Lords that rule the lands, the violence that these lands have seen and the ways those Lords handled conflict, the weather of particular regions, the resources found in these regions, and perhaps most importantly, the snapshots readers of ASoIaF and viewers of GoT are given of the lives of smallfolk that live in these lands.
These considerations provide a competent and thoughtful idea of what life in Westeros is like for both nobility and the small folk. The question ‘Where in Westeros is the best place for smallfolk to live?‘ has been raised a few times in the fandom. The answer must be Highgarden.
The wealth of House Tyrell and its vassals in The South is known by all with any familiarity of ASoIaF or GoT. This wealth is a result of the wise rule of The Lords of The Reach, an abundance of resources native to the region, near perfect weather that isn’t as extreme as the sands of Dorne nor the cold winds and snow of The North. To say all the smallfolk that live in the lands sworn to Highgarden are well-off financially would be silly but the amount of those lacking and without is small. A limited number of desperate smallfolk minimizes violence and theft and leads to a safer way of life all around.
The foremost responsibility of a Lord is to provide a safe and peaceful land for his people to live on. Highgarden is surrounded by natural defenses that make the castle and the lands its people live on to likely be the safest in all of Westeros. The greatest enemy throughout House Tyrell’s Wardenship is House Martell of Dorne and its vassals. Separating these two kingdoms are The Dornish Marches and The Red Mountains to The South and Southeast. To The West and Northwest are The Sunset Sea and The Mander which offers up the most natural of protection from enemies. The Mander, the widest river in The South and perhaps in Westeros, flows North of Highgarden and then East through its lands and properties. This provides not only opportune options for travel but another very natural defense that makes Highgarden’s seat most fortunate. In addition to these natural defenses, there is The Reach itself and the keeps located throughout provide protection for Highgarden if possible threats marching South and West from The North and East emerge. Perhaps Winterfell and The North are more safely situated from enemies within The Seven Kingdoms but The Wilding raids from those enemies beyond The Wall, the preternatural tendencies of House Bolton, and the challenging nature of the remaining Northern Houses makes it less safe and far less civilized.
Civilization is another factor that should be considered to decide where the best place for smallfolk to live in Westeros is. The safety, the natural resources, and the wealth of Highgarden and The Reach lead to a feeling of safety and security in everyday life for the smallfolk. Not having to worry about survival and defense of property creates a lifestyle different than those of smallfolk in other regions of Westeros. The smallfolk of Highgarden and The Reach are able to pursue a life with the pursuit of happiness. They are able to consider the future and plan for it. Their children will have whatever opportunities a commoner in Westeros can possibly have and aspire to more. This summation can also be called a cultured and civilized existence. Culture and civility further fuel safety and resource thus becoming a burning fire becoming a raging inferno of prosperity, endeavor, and humanity.
These ideas are difficult to capture within a single piece of artwork; one image crafted by one artist. To communicate the successes of Highgarden, the civility, and prosperity begot by the location of the ruling House and the resources found on their lands is a test of both message and creativity.
Felix Sotomayor delivers an epic picture of the well-off palace of The Tyrells from a great distance away. The framing of the image is in itself a message of wealth and success. The lush and full forest living upon rolling hills that surround Highgarden tells a story of nature taken advantage of only so much as necessity dictates, thus speaking to The Tyrells respect for their lands and for the natural blessings that they find themselves living among. The sky is clear and almost whimsical, the sort of sky that is found on the most perfect of spring weather. The mountains in the distance of the snugly situated Castle attest to the natural defenses vital to the culture that The Reach, its rulers, and its inhabitants have been able to develop in thanks to the shelter and protection. The castle itself is palatial and its splendor is representative of the wealth of Highgarden and the Tyrells.
More of Mr. Sotomayor’s work can be found on his DeviantArt page. He has a great many pieces depicting the great keeps of Westeros.