The Iron Islands are home to a fierce seafaring people who call themselves the ironborn and are ruled by House Greyjoy from the castle of Pyke. While some say the archipelago is named after the abundant iron ore on the islands, the ironmen claim it is instead named after their own unyielding nature. It is often said that every captain is a king aboard his own ship, so the islands are also called "the land of ten thousand kings".
The Iron Islands is an archipelago in Ironman's Bay, located in the Sunset Sea off the western coast of Westeros. They are roughly west of the riverlands, northwest of the westerlands, and south of the North.
The main grouping of islands numbers thirty-one, with the seven major isles being Pyke, Great Wyk, Old Wyk, Harlaw, Saltcliffe, Blacktyde, and Orkmont. Eight days sail northwest of Great Wyk is a smaller grouping of thirteen clustered around the Lonely Light. Some of the Iron Islands are used for sheep grazing or are uninhabited.
The Iron Islands is the smallest of the regions of the Seven Kingdoms. Dorne is the least populous of the Seven Kingdoms according to Doran Martell, but it is unclear if he is also including the Iron Islands in this estimate.
The Iron Islands are small, barely-fertile rocks with few safe harbors. The seas around the islands are stormy, frequently wreaking havoc with their considerable force.
The islands are ruled from the island of Pyke, the seat of House Greyjoy. Pyke bears an ancient fortress of the same name built atop several natural rocky towers jutting out of the sea. Connected by treacherous rope bridges, it would be a major challenge for any invading army. Pyke once extended as a spur of land like a sword out of the sea, but that outcropping has long since shattered, and it is now in essence three separate isles.
- Main article: Ironborn
The inhabitants of these harsh isles are known as ironmen, especially by the rest of Westeros, but they also call themselves the ironborn. They are men of the sea, and their naval supremacy was once unmatched. They are considered independent, fierce and sometimes cruel. They live in a harsh land and they hold no love for the peoples of the mainland and their soft green ways. The Faith of the Seven of the Andals and the old gods find small favor with the ironborn, as their allegiance is given to their native Drowned God. Many ironborn believe in returning to the Old Way of reaving and paying the iron price.
According to a semi-canon source from 2005, the isles can raise approximately twenty-five thousand men and five hundred longships. The Iron Fleet alone consists of one hundred ships which are three times larger than the standard longship, however, and George R. R. Martin has indicated that the major lords of the ironborn can each float around a hundred ships. A longship such as Sea Bitch has fifty oars, while Great Kraken and Iron Victory are larger. The only fleets comparable to those of the Iron Islands are the royal fleet in the crownlands and the Redwyne fleet at the Arbor.
The islands are sparse and rocky with a thin, stony soil that makes it hard for the smallfolk to farm, often having to do without the animals that might make their job easier, such as oxen or horses. While their mines do not produce the precious metals of the westerlands, iron is abundant on the isles. Lead and tin can also be obtained. Most ironborn feel the dangerous and backbreaking labour required to mine these metals is work suitable only for thralls. With so little wealth on the islands themselves, it is not difficult to understand why the ironborn of old turned to raiding. Archmaester Haereg suggests that need for wood was what first drove the ironborn to raid the mainland.
Maesters believe the Iron Islands were settled by the First Men many thousands of years ago. Legends claim that the First Men discovered what would be called the Seastone Chair upon the shores of Old Wyk. There is no evidence the islands were inhabited by children of the forest or giants, and humans worshipped the Drowned God instead of the old gods. The drowned men, the priests of the isles, claim the ironmen are not First Men but were created in the image of the Drowned God, and they therefore may have a connection with merlings.
For much of their history, each island was its own kingdom and had its own two kings, a rock king who ruled the land and a salt king who commanded at sea. These petty kings, who were chosen by kingsmoot, raided the First Men of mainland Westeros for timber, crops, and thralls.
In time, High Kings of the Iron Islands were chosen by kingsmoot on Old Wyk by the rock kings, salt kings, and longship captains. These high kings or driftwood kings began to conquer other lands instead of just raiding them. Under the rule of King Qhored the Cruel, the ironborn managed to bring much of the western coast of Westeros under the rule of the Iron Island, including lands as far as Bear Island, the Arbor, and Oldtown. They were gradually lost by his successors, however, as mainland houses such as the Hightowers, Gardeners, and Lannisters increased in strength. The high kings came from numerous houses, with most coming from Houses Greyjoy, Goodbrother, and especially Greyiron.
Five thousand years ago, Urron Redhand slaughtered the rival claimants at a kingsmoot and established a hereditary throne. Instead of being a high king, Urron claimed the shorter title King of the Iron Islands, with all rock kings and salt kings becoming his lords and vassals. His Greyiron dynasty lasted a thousand years, until the Andals swept over the Iron Islands.
The Greyirons were replaced as hereditary Kings of the Iron Islands by House Hoare, who intermarried with the Andals. The drowned men, the priests of the Drowned God, considered the Hoares ungodly and false kings, which Archmaester Hake agreed with. Archmaester Haereg, however, believed that the Hoares were disliked for tolerating the Faith of the Seven, discouraging reaving, and promoting trade. The drowned men eventually rebelled against King Harmund the Handsome and mutilated his mother, Dowager Queen Lelia Lannister, which led to a long war with the westerlands which left the Iron Islands impoverished and ill-prepared for the Famine Winter. It took centuries for the islands to recover, during which ironmen began to trade along coastal Westeros and the Free Cities. They also reaved in distant places such as the Basilisk Isles, Stepstones, and Disputed Lands, since mainland Westeros was increasingly fortified.
King Qhorwyn the Cunning was peaceful but built a strong fleet to deter attack. His ambitious son, King Harwyn Hardhand, conquered the Trident from the Storm King Arrec Durrandon. Harwyn's grandson, King Harren the Black, ordered the construction of Harrenhal, an enormous castle on the northern shore of the Gods Eye in the riverlands. The building of Harrenhal over forty years beggared both the Iron Islands and the riverlands.
The Hoare line, the Kings of the Isles and the Rivers, ended with the deaths of Harren and his sons during the Targaryens' War of Conquest. Inspired by Aegon Targaryen, Lord Edmyn Tully led the river lords in rebellion against the Hoares at Harrenhal. Harren refused to yield to Aegon and the castle was too strong to storm, so Aegon rode his dragon Balerion over the walls and roasted King Harren and his sons in their tower. With Harren's death the river lords threw the ironborn back to their islands, and Aegon granted the riverlands to House Tully. In 2 AC Aegon invaded the Iron Islands and defeated the various pretenders to Harren's throne. Aegon then allowed the defeated ironborn to choose Lord Vickon Greyjoy of Pyke to rule as the new Lord of the Iron Islands, a vassal of the Targaryens who now ruled the Seven Kingdoms from the Iron Throne.
Lord Dalton Greyjoy, the Red Kraken, raided the the western shores during the Dance of the Dragons, capturing land from the westerlands. In 134 AC Lady Johanna Lannister allied with Ser Leo Costayne to invade the islands in reprisal. During the reign of King Aerys I Targaryen, Lord Dagon Greyjoy, the Last Reaver, led the ironborn in again raiding the western coast of Westeros.
The Iron Islands supported the Iron Throne during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. Lord Quellon Greyjoy was a peaceful ruler who outlawed thralldom and wanted to integrate the Iron Islands into the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. His son, Lord Balon Greyjoy, rejected his father's works and wanted to return to the Old Way of paying the iron price. After constructing the Iron Fleet, he led an uprising of the Iron Islands against the Iron Throne in a bid for independence in 289 AC. Greyjoy's Rebellion was crushed by King Robert I Baratheon, however. Balon's only surviving son, Theon Greyjoy, was taken to Winterfell as a ward of Robert's friend, Lord Eddard Stark, the Warden of the North.
A Clash of Kings
When warfare erupts in Westeros after the death of King Robert Baratheon, Lord Balon Greyjoy takes advantage of the instability and declares independence for the Iron Islands. Rather than ally with King Robb Stark against House Lannister, Balon sends the ironborn to occupy key positions in the North and declares himself King of the Isles and the North.
A Feast for Crows
Aeron Greyjoy declares a kingsmoot as the proper way to raise the next King of the Iron Islands after the death of King Balon. This move is made by Aeron to end a potential civil war between the ironborn and to prevent Euron Greyjoy from taking the Seastone Chair. However, Euron is chosen king despite the efforts of Aeron, Victarion Greyjoy, and Asha Greyjoy.
Euron promises to conquer all of Westeros for the ironborn and expands their war. The castellan, Erik Ironmaker, rules the Iron Islands in Euron's absence while he is on campaign.
A Dance with Dragons
House Blacktyde of Blacktyde.
House Botley of Lordsport.
House Drumm of Old Wyk.
House Farwynd of the Lonely Light.
House Farwynd of Sealskin Point.
House Goodbrother of Corpse Lake.
House Goodbrother of Crow Spike Keep.
House Goodbrother of Downdelving.
House Goodbrother of the Hammerhorn.
House Goodbrother of Orkmont.
House Goodbrother of Shatterstone.
House Greyiron of Orkmont.
House Greyjoy of Pyke.
House Harlaw of Grey Garden.
House Harlaw of Harlaw Hall.
House Harlaw of Harridan Hill.
House Harlaw of the Ten Towers.
House Harlaw of the Tower of Glimmering.
House Hoare of Orkmont.
House Kenning of Harlaw.
House Merlyn of Pebbleton.
House Myre of Harlaw.
House Orkwood of Orkmont.
House Saltcliffe of Saltcliffe.
House Sparr of Great Wyk.
House Stonehouse of Old Wyk.
House Stonetree of Harlaw.
House Sunderly of Saltcliffe.
House Tawney of Orkmont.
House Volmark of Volmark.
House Wynch of Iron Holt.
|“||The islands are stern and stony places, scant of comfort and bleak of prospect. Death is never far here, and life is mean and meagre. Men spend their nights drinking ale and arguing over whose lot is worse, the fisherfolk who fight the sea or the farmers who and scratch a crop from the poor thin soil. If truth be told, the miners have it worse than either, breaking their backs down in the dark, and for what? Iron, lead, tin, those are our treasures. Small wonder the ironmen of old turned to raiding.||”|
References and Sources
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon I.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 40, Princess In The Tower.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones RPG and Resource Book, Guardians of Order
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 56, The Iron Suitor.
- ↑ So Spake Martin: Re: Greyjoy Fleet
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 24, Theon II.
- ↑ So Spake Martin: The Lannister Fleet
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon I, p 168.
- ↑ The World of Ice and Fire,The Iron Islands.
- ↑ The World of Ice and Fire, Driftwood Crowns.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 The World of Ice and Fire, The Greyjoys of Pyke.
- ↑ The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Kings.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Black Blood.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
- ↑ The World of Ice and Fire, The Conquest.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 26, Arya VI.
- ↑ The Sworn Sword.
- ↑ The Mystery Knight.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Old Way and the New.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 1, The Prophet.
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