Ironborn

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Ironborn and the Iron Fleet, Art by Rene Aigner ©

The ironborn are the natives of the Iron Islands off the west coast of Westeros. They are also known as ironmen,[1] especially by those they raid.[2] They are fierce men of the sea, and their naval supremacy was once unmatched, their dark legacy of raids and pillage of the hinterlands of the western and southern regions granting them, to this day, a fearsome reputation. Ironborn women may fight as well as a man, and may crew a longship or even captain their own ships. It is said that the sea gives them the appetites of a man. Bastards born in the Iron Islands are given the surname Pyke. The men from the green lands also call the ironmen squids because they are ruled by House Greyjoy.

Contents

History

The Iron Islands were settled by the First Men many thousands of years ago. Somewhat isolated from the rest of Westeros, they did not take up the worship of the old gods of the forest, instead creating their own religion based around the Drowned God and the Seastone Chair, which they allegedly found already standing on the shores of Old Wyk when they arrived. When the Andals overran Westeros and conquered the Iron Islands, they intermingled with the natives. Whilst a few locals converted to the Faith of the Seven, it did not fully take hold and worship of the Drowned God continued.

Under the rule of House Hoare, the ironborn reached the zenith of their power approximately four centuries ago. They ruled over the riverlands as Kings of the Isles and the Rivers. After the War of Conquest the ironborn were thrown back to their islands with Harren the Black and all his line extinguished. The ironborn were subjects of the Seven Kingdoms and the king's peace for almost three hundred years, until nine years after Robert's Rebellion, when they revolted in Greyjoy's Rebellion in an attempt to restore the Old Way.

Archmaester Haereg recorded the history of the ironmen in his exhaustive History of the Ironborn, while Archmaester Hake also wrote of their history.[3]

The Old Way

Main article: Old Way

The Old Way is still highly regarded on the Iron Islands. The Old Way embodies the remembered values of a culture based on raiding. A man's worth was judged primarily on his skill as a raider, as evidenced in the disdain jewelry and ornament bought with coin. Men on the Iron Islands wear no tokens unless they have "paid the iron price," i.e. won by combat and taken from the corpses of they have slain.

During raids, the ironborn also took captives. Many of their captives would work as thralls, slaving away on the farms and mines of the Iron Islands since the true sons of the Iron Islands are meant for more than such drudgery. Women were also taken captive to act as bed warmers; a man could have several "salt wives" but only one true ironborn wife, his "rock wife".

Religion

Main article: Drowned God

The ironborn follow the Drowned God, a harsh deity said to dwell beneath the oceans. They believe the Drowned God made them to take what they wanted by right of strength, to rape, reave and carve out kingdoms and to make their names known in fire, blood, steel, and song. From birth they commit their bodies to the sea and join their god when they die. The clergy of the Drowned God are the Drowned Men, who are drowned and then resuscitated.

Military

Ironborn raiders – by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games

The ironborn ways and legacy of raiding has left them particularly suited for the task. Their swift shallow wooden longships allow them to mount raids on the coasts of Westeros and further inland via river and streams. They are still remembered for this over three hundred years since their last major raiding and pillaging streak.

The ironborn are daring masters of the sea, fearless of drowning and thus tend to wear heavier armor than other sailors. In battle they will try to board enemy ships and slaughter the crew. On land they strike fast and move on before local forces can muster.

The mighty Iron Fleet commanded by Lord Captain Victarion Greyjoy consists of larger longships which can stand against the warships produced elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms. However, the ability of the ironborn to build larger ships is compromised by a lack of natural resources.

Customs

It is forbidden for ironborn to spill the blood of other ironborn; drowning, however, is acceptable by some.[4] The finger dance is a common and dangerous game played between the ironborn.

Similar to the northern mountain clans, some heads of noble houses in the Iron Islands do not use the title "lord", but are referred to only by their house name, such as "the Sparr" and "the Stonehouse". Amongst his many titles, Balon Greyjoy includes "the Greyjoy".[1] Aeron Greyjoy refers to Meldred Merlyn as "the Merlyn", while Meldred styles himself "Lord" in the manner of the green lands of mainland Westeros.[4]

Quotes

The man who owns a boat need never be a thrall, for every captain is a king upon the deck of his own ship.[5]
- writings of Archmaester Hake


You may dress an ironman in silks and velvets, teach him to read and write and give him books, instruct him in chivalry and courtesy and the mysteries of the Faith, but when you look into his eyes, the sea will still be there, cold and grey and cruel.[6]
- writings of Archmaester Haereg


... my lord father once told me that hard places breed hard men, and hard men rule the world.[1]
- Theon Greyjoy to the captain's daughter


War was an ironman's proper trade. The Drowned God had made them to reave and rape, to carve out kingdoms and write their names in fire and blood and song.[1]
- thoughts of Theon Greyjoy


It was said that the ironmen of old had oft been blood-drunk in battle, so berserk that they felt no pain and feared no foe.[7]
- thoughts of Theon Greyjoy


Cruel places breed cruel peoples, Bran, remember that as you deal with these ironmen.[8]
- Maester Luwin to Bran Stark


The ironborn are a race of pirates and thieves.[9]
- Denys Mallister to Samwell Tarly


The ironborn shall be waves. Not the great and lordly, but the simple folk, tillers of the soil and fishers of the sea.[10]
- Aeron Greyjoy to Victarion Greyjoy


I had forgotten what a small and noisy folk they are, my ironborn.[10]
- Euron Greyjoy to Victarion Greyjoy


The ironmen live their whole lives at sea.[11]
- Aurane Waters to Harys Swyft

References and Notes

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