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]

Culture

Language

Main article: Old Tongue

The original language of the First Men was the Old Tongue, a harsh, clanging language[2] that is still spoken by the free folk[2] and the giants[3] north of the Wall.

The First Men had a runic writing system.[4] First Men left their runes on rocks in most of the Seven Kingdoms; Only in the Stormlands, where races older than the First Men were dominant, did the First Men carve their tales into the trunks of trees, which have since rotted away.[5][6][7] The exact meaning of the runes of the First Men are disputed at the Citadel to this day.[8]

Religion

Main article: Old gods

The First Men practiced numerous religions. These included the Lady of the Waves and the Lord of the Skies, worshiped on the Three Sisters.[9] It was believed that sacred storms were the result of the Lady of the Waves mating with the Lord of the Skies.[9] Their worship ended with the arrival of the Andals, who introduced the Faith of the Seven.[9] In the Kingdom of the Storm,[10] the sea god and his wife, the goddess of the wind, were worshiped.[11][7] The ironborn, who are considered by most to descent from the First Men, worshiped the Drowned God prior to the arrival of the Andals, and continue to do so still.[4] In addition, they also continue to believe in the Drowned God's eternal enemy, the Storm God.[12]

However, following the Pact between the First Men and the children of the forest, the majority of the First Men eventually set aside their own gods and adopted the gods of the children as their own.[13] These nameless deities[14] of stream, forest, and stone[15] are referred to as the "old gods" because the gods of the Andals, referred to as the "new gods" replaced them in all but the north of Westeros.

The worship of the old gods is not accompanied by priests, holy texts, songs of worship, and barely any rites.[14][16] Prayers are done in silence.[16] Worshippers of the old gods visit godswoods, groves contained within castles throughout the Seven Kingdoms, where a heart tree can be found. These trees, which have faces carved into them, are considered to be sacred. Worshipers believe the old gods watch through the trees.[17][18] The heart trees are usually weirwoods, and godswoods are often the only places where living weirwoods still remain[19] until one goes north of the Wall.[17] Once all noble houses had a godswood with a heart tree in its center; However, the First Men, in their wars against the children of the forest, cut down many of the trees, as did the Andals later on, replacing the old gods with their own in the southern kingdoms.[13]

Although the views of the First Men on polygamy are not known, thralldom used to be a common practice amongst the First Men before the arrival of the Andals.[4]

Military

The First Men wielded bronze swords[13] and great bronze axes.[20][21] They were armored in bronze as well, [22][23] carrying large, leather shields.[13] At the time of the Andal invasion, the First Men still fought in bronze;[24] However, in time, Andal blacksmiths taught the First Men to arm and armor themselves in iron instead.[22] The First Men rode horses into battle.[13][23]

Although not a seafaring people, the First Men did use fishing boats and trading cogs, though these were no match for longships with great sails and banks of oars. [4]

Architecture and infrastructure

When the First Men first settled in Westeros, they cut down the forests, began to plow the fields, and constructed roads through the hill country.[21] The farms and villages the First Men built were protected by stout motte-and-bailey forts, which were later on replaced by stone castles.[21] The First Men also raised up ringforts,[25] ruins of which can still be found at numerous places, including the Fist of the First Men,[26] and Seal Rock at White Harbor,[27] and the stormlands.[28] On Sea Dragon Point still stand ruins of ancient strongholds of the First Men.[29] The First Men, and later on the early Andals, built square towers and keeps.[30] In the Reach, Andal stonemasons taught the First Men how to further strengthen the defenses of their castles and holdfasts.[22]

Some of the barrow fields contain monuments.[31]

Guest right

The custom of guest right is both a sacred rule and an ancient one.[32] The guest rights are taken very seriously, both beyond the Wall,[33][32] and in the Seven Kingdoms, and although it looms less in the southron kingdoms, it is held most dear in the north.[34] There, breaking guest right is punished similarly to the direst of treasons.[34]

The most common way of receiving the hospitality called "guest right" is by eating "bread and salt".[35] Once guest right has been offered and accepted, the guests and hosts are protected from harm by one another for the length of the stay.[34] Guest gifts can be given on the day the guests depart,[36][37] possibly as a means of ending the protection of the guest right. Guest gifts are no longer given by all lords, however.[36]

Death

The First Men believed that the person who condemned another to die should be the one who wields the sword.[38] House Stark practices this believe still.[1]

The First Men interred their dead in barrows, which can be found everywhere in the north, e.g., the Great Barrow of Barrowton, where the First King of the First Men is said to have been buried.[39] The barrowlands contains wide plains of flatness which are relieved by long, low hummocks, the barrows of the First Men.[40] The Starks of Winterfell bury their deceased family members in the crypts of Winterfell,[41][13] located beneath the castle. The Boltons of the Dreadfort similarly bury their deceased beneath their castle.[39] The Blackwoods, originally from the north, bury their dead beneath the weirwood of Raventree.[42]

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.[43] Around twelve thousand years[13] 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.[34][44]

The First Men supposedly found the Seastone Chair upon the shores of Old Wyk when they first came to the Iron Islands.[45] 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.[46] Though the children had powerful magic, and, according to the old songs, used dark magic[13] 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.[47]

Moat Cailin was raised roughly ten thousand years ago[48] by the First Men.[49] 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.[50]

The Pact

The wars against the children of the forest 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.[13]

The Pact began four thousand years of friendship and peace between the two peoples.[13] 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.[51]

The Long Night

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.[52] The Others were driven back and the Night's Watch was created to keep them at bay. Six thousand or eight thousand years ago[52] the First Men built the Wall,[14] which still stands to this day.

Invasion of the Andals

Main article: Andal invasion

Thousands of years after the Long Night,[N 1] the Andals crossed the narrow sea and began their invasion of Westeros.[13] For several hundred years[13] 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.[13]

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,[53] the Daynes,[54] the Redforts,[55] the Royces,[56] the Westerlings,[57] and the people of Crackclaw Point.[58] Lord Yohn Royce possesses a suit of bronze, rune-covered armor dating back thousands of years.[59] The Vale mountain clans of the Mountains of the Moon are descendants of the First Men.[60]

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,[61] 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.[62]

Beyond the Wall the Thenns consider themselves the last of the First Men.[63]

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.[13]
Luwin to Bran Stark

See also

Notes

  1. The time when the Andal invasion occurred is disputed; some sources indicate it took place six thousand years ago (A Game of Thrones, Catelyn VII and The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: The Eyrie); True History states it was four thousand years ago (A Dance with Dragons, Jaime I); Some maesters, like Denestan, claim it was two thousand years ago (A Dance with Dragons, Jaime I and The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: The Eyrie).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
  3. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
  5. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  6. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Durrandon.
  8. The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
  10. The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: Andals in the Stormlands.
  11. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
  12. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 1, The Prophet.
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
  15. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Dawn Age.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 53, Tyrion VI.
  17. 17.0 17.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
  18. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  19. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  20. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: The Gardener Kings.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Andals in the Reach.
  23. 23.0 23.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: The Breaking.
  24. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Arrival of the Andals.
  25. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Coming of the First Men.
  26. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 34, Jon IV.
  27. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 15, Davos II.
  28. The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: Storm's End.
  29. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride.
  30. The World of Ice & Fire, The North: Winterfell.
  31. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Age of Heroes.
  32. 32.0 32.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
  33. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
  35. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
  36. 36.0 36.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos IV.
  37. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell.
  38. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 43, Eddard XI.
  39. 39.0 39.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
  40. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
  41. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  42. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 48, Jaime I.
  43. The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands.
  44. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach.
  45. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 24, Theon II.
  46. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, 738.
  47. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
  48. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  49. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran V.
  50. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
  51. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
  52. 52.0 52.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
  53. So Spake Martin: Blackwood-Bracken Feud and Coinage, August 13, 2003
  54. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 21, The Queenmaker.
  55. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 34, Catelyn VI.
  56. The Citadel: House Royce of Runestone
  57. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 14, Catelyn II.
  58. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 20, Brienne IV.
  59. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
  60. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Mountains of the Moon.
  61. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  62. So Spake Martin: Event Horizon Chat (March 18, 1999)
  63. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.

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