First Men

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First Men cut down weirwood trees and burned them, leading to war. Screenshot from Game of Thrones Blu-ray content.

The First Men are one of the three major ethnic groups from which the humans of Westeros descend, the others being the Andals and the Rhoynar. The First Men were the culture of humans who first set foot on the continent. The influence of the First Men is still felt in Westeros, most strongly in the north. The Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, the king on the Iron Throne, claims to be the King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men.[1]

History

Arrival in Westeros

Some maesters believe that the First Men originated in the grasslands of Essos -- in the lands now known as the Dothraki Sea -- before beginning their long westward migration to Westeros.[2] Around twelve thousand years[3] before Aegon's Landing, during the Dawn Age, the First Men came to Westeros from Essos by crossing the land bridge called the Arm of Dorne. The First Men crossed the Arm under the leadership of the First King, according to legends from the north, or Garth Greenhand, the High King of the First Men, according to some legends from the Reach.[4][5]

The First Men supposedly found the Seastone Chair upon the shores of Old Wyk when they first came to the Iron Islands.[6] It was the First Men who named those who sing the song of earth "children".

War with the Children of the Forest

Main article: War of the First Men and the children of the forest

The First Men came with bronze swords and great leathern shields, riding horses. As the men settled in the new land, carving out holdfasts and farms, they chopped down the carved weirwoods that were sacred to the children of the forest's gods and burned them. This provoked a war between the children and the First Men.[7] Though the children had powerful magic, and, according to the old songs, used dark magic[8] to shatter the Arm of Dorne into the Stepstones island chain, the First Men were larger, stronger, and more technologically advanced. Whenever the First Men warred upon the children they cut down the trees as they correctly believed that the greenseers could see through the eyes of the weirwoods.[9]

Moat Cailin was raised roughly ten thousand years ago[10] by the First Men.[11] According to myth, the children attempted to use Moat Cailin to hold back the flood of invading First Men by calling upon their nameless gods from Moat Cailin's Children's Tower to send down the "hammer of the waters" to break the lands of Westeros in two by shattering the Neck and separating the north from the south, in the same manner they shattered the Arm of Dorne centuries earlier. However, the children failed in the attempt and only succeeded in flooding the Neck, creating bogs and swamps.[12]

The wars went in the First Men's favor until the two sides reached a peace agreement, called the Pact, on the Isle of Faces. The First Men gave dominion of the deep woods to the children and promised not to put any weirwood trees to the axe anywhere in the realm. In return, they received claim to the rest of the Westeros.[8]

Four Thousand Years of Friendship

The Pact began four thousand years of friendship and peace between the two peoples.[8] The years that followed the forging of the Pact is known as the Age of Heroes. The First Men eventually set aside their religion to worship the children's secret gods of the wood, and like the children they carved faces into the weirwoods, creating heart trees. The children of the forest taught them to use ravens to communicate over long distances, but in those days the birds would speak the words, and the greenseers of the children could change their skins and speak through the birds.[13]

When the Long Night came to pass and the Others began to invade from the far north of Westeros, the First Men and the children joined forces. The legendary last hero is said to have led the coalition against the Others.[14] The Others were driven back and the Night's Watch was created to keep them at bay. Six thousand or eight thousand years ago[14] the First Men built the Wall,[15] which still stands to this day.

Invasion of the Andals

Main article: Andal invasion

Roughly between two thousand to four thousand years before Aegon's Conquest,[16] the Andals crossed the narrow sea and began their invasion of Westeros, ending the Pact.[17] For several hundred years[17] the First Men and the Andals warred, fighting for control of the continent. Eventually, the Andals conquered or married into the kingdoms in the southern half of the continent, while the First Men Kings of Winter stopped all Andal incursions through the Neck at Moat Cailin.[17]

Culture

Language

The First Men spoke the Old Tongue, a harsh, clanging language that is still spoken by some wildlings and the giants. Names originating from the Old Tongue tend to be short, simple, and descriptive.

Runes

The First Men wrote with runes, which they carved on rocks and into metal, but the meanings behind most runes became lost in time.[18]

Structures

The ancient First Men built ringforts,[19] ruins of which can be found at the Fist of the First Men[20] and Seal Rock at White Harbor.[21] Sea Dragon Point also contains ruins of ancient strongholds of the First Men.[22] Later First Men and early Andals built square towers and keeps.[23] Eventually, the Westerosi changed to rounded drum and half-moon towers, which provided greater protection against projectiles.[16][23][24]

Armor and Weaponry

The First Men wielded bronze swords and large, leather shields.[8] They rode horses into battle.[25]

Laws

The First Men obeyed the laws of hospitality. Hosts were expected to serve guests bread and salt upon arrival, and guests received protection once they had eaten. Disputes were often handled by paying a blood price, even for crimes such as murder. If a man was to be executed for his crimes, the man delivering the sentence was expected to wield the killing blade himself, a tradition carried on by House Stark of Winterfell.[1]

Burial grounds

The ancient First Men interred their dead in barrows. There are barrows everywhere in the north, such as the Great Barrow of Barrowton, where the First King of the First Men is said to be buried.[26] The barrowlands contains wide plains of flatness which are relieved by long, low hummocks, the barrows of the First Men.[27] Later, the Starks buried the Kings of Winter in the crypts of Winterfell,[28][25] while Boltons are buried beneath the Dreadfort.[26] The Blackwoods bury their dead beneath the weirwood of Raventree.[16]

Religion

After the Pact the First Men set aside their previous religion to worship the nature gods of the children of the forest.[8] Like the children they carved faces into the weirwood trees. The Lady of the Waves and the Lord of the Skies were deities of old worshiped by First Men who lived on the islands of the Three Sisters. Sacred storms were the result of the Lady of the Waves mating with the Lord of the Skies.[29] Worship of the Lady of the Waves and the Lord of the Skies ended with the arrival of the Andals and the Faith of the Seven.[29]

Legacy

While much of their culture was lost over the millennia, the people of the north retained the spirit of the First Men and many carry the blood of the First Men in their veins, including those of House Stark. South of the Neck there are people that still proudly claim the blood of the First Men, such as the Blackwoods and Brackens,[30] the Daynes,[31] the Redforts,[32] the Royces,[33] the Westerlings,[34] and the people of Crackclaw Point.[35] Lord Yohn Royce possesses a suit of bronze, rune-covered armor dating back thousands of years.[36] The Vale mountain clans of the Mountains of the Moon are descendants of the First Men.[37]

During Aegon's Conquest, Aegon I Targaryen was proclaimed King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men by the High Septon in Oldtown,[38] and Aegon's successors on the Iron Throne have continued the usage. According to George R. R. Martin, hardly any Westerosi are pure Andal or First Man after thousands of years of interbreeding.[39]

Beyond the Wall the Thenns consider themselves the last of the First Men.[40]

Quotes

The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.[1]
Eddard Stark to Bran Stark


Some twelve thousand years ago, the First Men appeared from the east, crossing the Broken Arm of Dorne before it was broken. They came with bronze swords and great leathern shields, riding horses.[25]
Luwin to Bran Stark

See also

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
  2. The World of Ice and Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands.
  3. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 737.
  4. The World of Ice and Fire, The North.
  5. The World of Ice and Fire, The Reach.
  6. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 24, Theon II.
  7. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, 738.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 738.
  9. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV, p 440.
  10. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran V.
  12. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
  13. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
  14. 14.0 14.1 The World of Ice and Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
  15. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 48, Jaime I.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 739.
  18. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  19. The World of Ice and Fire, Ancient History: The Coming of the First Men.
  20. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 34, Jon IV.
  21. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 15, Davos II.
  22. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride.
  23. 23.0 23.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The North: Winterfell.
  24. The World of Ice and Fire, The Reach: Highgarden.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  26. 26.0 26.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
  27. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
  28. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  29. 29.0 29.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
  30. So Spake Martin: Blackwood-Bracken Feud and Coinage, August 13, 2003
  31. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 21, The Queenmaker.
  32. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 34, Catelyn VI.
  33. The Citadel: House Royce of Runestone
  34. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 14, Catelyn II.
  35. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 20, Brienne IV.
  36. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
  37. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Mountains of the Moon.
  38. The World of Ice and Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  39. So Spake Martin: Event Horizon Chat, March 18, 1999
  40. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III, p 299.

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