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Harenhal by MarcSimonetti.jpg
Artwork by MarcSimonetti ©
Location Riverlands, Westeros
Government House Baelish , Feudal Lord.
Religion Faith of the Seven
Founded 2BC
Named for King Harren Hoare, its founder
Notable places Kingspyre Tower, Tower of Dread, Tower of Ghosts, Wailing Tower, Widow's Tower
The riverlands and the location of Harrenhal
The riverlands and the location of Harrenhal
The riverlands and the location of Harrenhal

Harrenhal is the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms and is the seat of House Whent in the riverlands, on the north shore of the Gods Eye lake. Since the War of Conquest, however, it has become a dark and ruinous place.



See also: Images of Harrenhal

The castle has five towers of dizzying size, with equally monstrous curtain walls. The walls are incredibly thick and its rooms are built on a scale that would be more comfortable for giants than humans. The castle's holdings are some of the richest in Westeros, claiming vast tracts of green fertile land.

Harrenhal covers three times as much ground as Winterfell and its buildings are so much larger that they can scarcely be compared. Its stables can house a thousand horses, its godswood covers twenty acres, and its kitchens are as large as Winterfell's Great Hall. When it was built it could have potentially garrisoned a million men.

However, much of Harrenhal has far gone into decay. The Whents use only the lower thirds of two of the five towers, letting the rest go to ruin, and many places in the castle have not been entered in decades. Bats infest the tops of some of the towers.[1]

Walls and Towers

Harrenhal, on the north shore of the Gods Eye lake. By Lino Drieghe. © FFG
Harrenhal in Game of Thrones

Harrenhal is built on a gigantic scale; its colossal curtain walls are sheer and high as mountain cliffs while atop the battlements the wood-and-iron scorpions seem as small as their namesakes when seen from the ground. Harrenhal's gatehouse is as large as Winterfell's Great Keep, and its stone is discolored and fissured. From outside the gatehouse, only the tops of five immense towers can be seen because the height of the walls obscure the view of them.

Of the castle's five towers, the shortest is half again as high as the tallest one in Winterfell, yet none of the towers are proper, being bent, lumped, and cracked from the melting of the stone during the burning of Harrenhal by the Targaryen dragons centuries earlier. Their original names were lost with the death of Harren the Black.[1]

The Five Towers:

Known Gates:



Harren the Black

Balerion destroys Harrenhal
art by Marc Simonett
Harrenhall by Cris Urdiales ©

The seat of King Halleck Hoare, Harren the Black's father, was a modest tower house at Fairmarket.[5] Harren, King of the Isles and the Rivers, built Harrenhal as a monument to himself, intending it to be the greatest of all castles in Westeros and for it to dwarf any other.

The construction of his dream took forty years. Thousands of captives from the other realms died in the quarries chained to sledges or laboring on the five huge towers. Men froze by winter and sweltered in summer. Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down to provide rafters and beams. Harren beggared the riverlands and the Iron Islands alike to ornament his dream.

Upon its completion, Harren boasted that his new fortress was impregnable. However, he did not account for Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons invading Westeros. On the very day Harren took up residence, Aegon came ashore at what would become King's Landing. The dragons were not obstructed by high walls and forbidding towers and roasted Harren alive in the tallest of the towers, now known as the Kingspyre. Harren and all his line perished in the burning of Harrenhal. Due to the extreme heat of dragonflame, the castle took on a charred, melted appearance.[6]

After the War of Conquest

Since the Conquest, the castle became something of a white elephant. It is too big to garrison effectively and too expensive to maintain. Since Harren's death, the castle has passed through a number of noble houses, including Houses Qoherys, Harroway, Towers, Strong, and Lothston. Every one of them met with misfortune. It is believed the castle is cursed and haunted due to Harren's hubris and the horrors that have occurred within the castle's walls. Harren allegedly mixed human blood into the mortar for the stonework.[4] The curse is thought to prevent any lord from holding Harrenhal indefinitely.

Lord Lord Lyonel Strong and his heir Harwin died in a fire at Harrenhal in 120 AC. The fire was blamed on the curse of Harrenhal. Other non-mystical suspects included Daemon Targaryen, Corlys Velaryon, Lyonel's younger son Larys Strong, and even King Viserys I Targaryen.[7]

The Dance of the Dragons

The Great Council of 101, in which Prince Viserys was chosen king, was held at Harrenhal.[8]

Prince Daemon Targaryen took Harrenhal from Ser Simon Strong early in the Dance of the Dragons and used it as a base for the blacks to launch attacks in the nearby area. Prince Aemond Targaryen and Ser Criston Cole led an army of greens to retake the great castle, but found it abandoned by the blacks when they arrived. After the Battle by the Lakeshore, Criston led his soldiers south along the Gods Eye. Aemond rode Vhagar and ravaged the riverlands, including burning all wooden structures in Harrenhal. Daemon and Aemond later fought above Harrenhal and the Gods Eye in a duel which killed both princes and their dragons, Caraxes and Vhagar, although Daemon's body was never found.[8]

Tourney at Harrenhal

House Whent hosted a great tourney at Harrenhal in 281 AC. The famous tourney resulted in the crowning of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen as its champion, and is also noted for the participation of the mysterious Knight of the Laughing Tree. Ser Jaime Lannister was named to King Aerys II's Kingsguard during the tourney.

Recent Events

Arya in Harrenhal. © FFG

A Game of Thrones

During the early stages of the War of the Five Kings, Lady Shella Whent yields Harrenhal to Lord Tywin Lannister, who holds it with his own troops. Queen Cersei grants the castle to Janos Slynt in return for his service.

A Clash of Kings

Tyrion Lannister, acting as Hand, revokes Janos Slynt's title of Lord of Harrenhal and sends him to the Wall.

The castle is seized several times throughout the War of the Five Kings and harbors a number of atrocities. Tywin Lannister's garrison include bannermen lead by Ser Amory Lorch and Ser Gregor Clegane. They are bolstered by the Brave Companions mercenary company. The men treat the smallfolk of the castle cruelly. Amory's men and the Brave Companions feud, resulting in more deaths.

Tywin departs, leaving Amory as castellan. Arya Stark, who had been hiding at the castle, convinces Jaqen H'ghar to help her free the castle's northern prisoners and revolt against the Lannisters. The Brave Companions butcher the Lannister bannermen and all who are loyal to them, then hand the castle to Lord Roose Bolton. Amory is killed within the bearpit for entertainment. Arya serves Roose incognito as his cupbearer.

Following the Battle of the Blackwater, King Joffrey Baratheon awards Harrenhal to Petyr Baelish for his role in securing an alliance between the Lannisters and Tyrells through the engagement of Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell. Petyr is also named Lord Paramount of the Trident, making Harrenhal the new seat of the riverlands in place of Riverrun. However, the castle remains occupied by Roose Bolton's northern force.

A Storm of Swords

Roose Bolton rules over Harrenhal for only a short time. Vargo Hoat of the Brave Companions suspects that Roose will switch sides to the Lannisters, and maims his captive, Ser Jaime Lannister, in an attempt to prevent this. The ruse fails and the northerners abandon Harrenhal, leaving it to the Brave Companions.

With Lannister reprisal dangling over their heads, the Companions indulge in wanton sadism and keep the castle's bearpit well-stocked with victims. Eventually, Ser Gregor Clegane's men return to the castle and butcher the mercenaries who had not already fled, including Vargo Hoat. Gregor departs to King's Landing to participate in the trial by combat of Tyrion Lannister, but leaves a garrison in the castle.

Though he has never set foot within Harrenhal's walls, Petyr Baelish remains its lord. The castle's large dominion elevates Petyr's social position enough to marry Lysa Tully, the Lady Regent of the Vale of Arryn.

A Feast for Crows

It is reported that Harrenhal's former lady, Shella Whent, has died, as has Gregor Clegane.

Jaime Lannister returns to take control and learns it is leaderless. Gregor had appointed Polliver as its castellan, but Polliver was killed by Sandor Clegane at the inn at the crossroads. Jaime clears out Gregor's men and replaces the garrison with the pious regiment known as the Holy Hundred. Their leader, Ser Bonifer Hasty, is named castellan in an attempt to bring peace to Harrenhal.


Harrenhal's reputation for a curse may be justified. Many Houses and individuals who have held Harrenhal have eventually come to bad ends.

Houses to have held Harrenhal

Individuals who have held Harrenhal since 298 AC


And King Harren learned that thick walls and high towers are small use against dragons. For dragons fly.[6]
- Old Nan to Catelyn Tully's children

Alayne: The castle is yours.

Petyr: Ah, and what a castle it is. Cavernous halls and ruined towers, ghosts and draughts, ruinous to heat, impossible to garrison ... and there’s that small matter of a curse.[9]

- Alayne Stone and Petyr Baelish

Harrenhal had witnessed more horror in its three hundred years than Casterly Rock had witnessed in three thousand.[10]
- thoughts of Jaime Lannister

Jaime: This castle has an ill repute, and one that's well deserved. It's said that Harren and his sons still walk the halls by night, afire. Those who look upon them burst into flame.

Bonifer: I fear no shade, ser. It is written in The Seven-Pointed Star that spirits, wights, and revenants cannot harm a pious man, so long as he is armored in his faith.
Jaime: Then armor yourself in faith, by all means, but wear a suit of mail and plate as well. Every man who holds this castle seems to come to a bad end. The Mountain, the Goat, even my father ...[10]

- Jaime Lannister and Bonifer Hasty

Chapters that take place at Harrenhal

References and Notes

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Strongholds of A Song of Ice and Fire. The list of authors can be seen in the page history of Strongholds of A Song of Ice and Fire. As with A Wiki of Ice and Fire, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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