Iron Islands

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The main grouping of the Iron Islands in Ironman's Bay

The Iron Islands is one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms. Until the War of Conquest it was ruled by the Kings of the Iron Islands and then the Kings of the Isles and the Rivers.

The Iron Islands are home to a fierce seafaring people who call themselves the ironborn. 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.[1] 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".[2]

The isles are ruled by House Greyjoy from their castle of Pyke. Notable houses have included Blacktyde, Botley, Drumm, Goodbrother, Greyiron, Harlaw, Hoare, Merlyn, Stonehouse, Sunderly, Tawney, and Wynch.[3][4] Noble bastards from the Iron Islands receive the surname Pyke.

Geography

Fleet from Pyke. - by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games.

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.[1] The islands are ruled from Pyke, the seat of House Greyjoy on the island of the same name.

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.[5]

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.

People

Main article: Ironborn

The inhabitants of these harsh isles are known as ironmen,[2] especially by the rest of Westeros,[3] but they also call themselves the ironborn.[2] The ironborn are a seafaring people, and some do not like to be far from the sea.[6] The Drowned Priests of the ironborn likewise seldom stray far from the sea.[1] The ironborn 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. Because of the scarcity of the Faith, there are few knights in the islands; known knights include Ser Harras Harlaw and Ser Aladale Wynch. Many ironborn believe in returning to the Old Way of reaving and paying the iron price.[citation needed]

Economy

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.[7] While their mines do not produce the precious metals of the westerlands,[2] iron is abundant on the isles.[1] 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.[1]

Military strength

According to a semi-canon source from 2005, the Iron Isles can raise approximately twenty thousand men and five hundred longships.[8] The Iron Fleet alone consists of one hundred ships which are three times larger than the standard longship.[9] A longship such as Sea Bitch has fifty oars, while Great Kraken and Iron Victory are larger.[7] George R. R. Martin has indicated that the major lords of the ironborn can each float around a hundred ships.[10] The only fleets comparable to those of the Iron Islands are the royal fleet in the crownlands and the Redwyne fleet at the Arbor.[11]

History

Kingsmoot era

Every Ironborn Captain is a King - by artist Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games.

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.[7] 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. Some also suspect that the isles were originally inhabited by the Deep Ones, and that they are the ones who left the Seastone Chair behind. Even most ironborn, however, generally believe that their ancestors were an offshoot of the First Men who simply crossed to the isles on boats, where their culture developed differently from their mainland cousins.[1] Another piece of evidence the maesters point to is that the ancient First Men are recorded as keeping thralls, but they apparently abandoned the practice of thralldom soon after they spread across the continent - hinting that the ancient ironborn were also First Men, who retained the practice in their isolation.[1]

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 constantly fought with each other, and raided the First Men of mainland Westeros for timber, crops, and thralls. The Iron Islands were first unified into one kingdom when a powerful priest of the Drowned Men named Galon Whitestaff rose to prominence, who decreed that it was sinful for ironborn to make war upon other ironborn. The other Drowned Men preached his word throughout the isles, until all the rock kings, salt kings, and longship captains agreed to convene on Old Wyk at Nagga's Bones for the first Kingsmoot, to select one High Kings of the Iron Islands to rule over all of them. Galon also decreed that the title was not hereditary, but upon the death of each High King a new kingsmoot would be convened to elect another. The new High Kings were given simple crowns made of driftwood, which had to be broken up and returned to the sea upon their deaths, as a sign of submission to the Drowned God. Thus these High Kings were also called the Driftwood Kings.[1]

The kingsmoot put an end to the petty wars between each of the Iron Islands, and with their new unified strength, the High 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.[3] 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.[12][4]

The Greyiron dynasty

Upon the death of King Urragon III Greyiron, his younger sons rushed to convene a kingsmoot while their elder brother Torgon was away raiding the Reach, each hoping to gain the crown ahead of him. Instead, the kingsmoot elected Urrathon IV Goodbrother, who ruled as such a cruel tyrant for the next two years that he is popularly remembered as Badbrother. When Torgon at last returned to the isles, the declared that the kingsmoot had been invalid, because he was not present to make a claim as was his right. The Drowned Men had grown upset with Badbrother's harsh rule and impiety, so they supported Torgon's claim. They rallied the lords and smallfolk alike to rise all across the isles, until Urrathon's own captains killed him to save themselves. Torgon the Latecomer, as he became known, then became the new High King, and reigned for forty years - despite the fact that he had never been elected by a kingsmoot. Torgon did prove to be just and wise, and was strong relative to the position he inherited, but even so the ironborn had been in decline for generations and even he could do little to halt it. It was during Torgon's reign that the ironborn even lost the Cape of Eagles (to the Mallisters of Seagard).[13]

Because Torgon wasn't elected by a kingsmoot in his youth, he didn't feel compelled by the institution in old age either, instead calling upon his son Urragon to act as co-ruler for the final five years of his rule - and, as Torgon apparently planned, this smoothed the transition to his son directly succeeding him without another kingsmoot. No strong drowned priest rose in this generation to challenge him. Torgon's son Urragon IV Greyiron therefore ruled as king in his own right, and had a long but undistinguished reign (neither glorious nor openly tyrannical).[13]

When Urragon IV passed, however, his dying wish that the high kingship pass to his great-nephew Urron Greyiron, salt king of Orkmont. Angered over their prior inactivity in allowing two kings to rule over more than two generations with no kingsmoots, the priests of the Drowned God were now determined to make a stand, and demanded that a new kingsmoot be held on Old Wyk. They preached across the isles so the gathering was fully attended by all of the salt and rock kings, and hundreds of ship captains. No sooner had they convened, however, than Urron Greyiron loosed his axemen upon the entire assembly, and the ground ran red with blood - forever after earning him the name Urron Redhand. Among the slaughtered were all thirteen other kings and half a hundred priests. Redhand continued to rule for twenty-two years afterwards, and the drowned priests never made and unmade kings at their word, as they once did.[2][13]

Afterwards the Greyirons ruled for a thousand years, and abandoned the driftwood crowns of the kingsmoot for a black iron crown that they passed down from father to son, by right of primogeniture. Instead of being called High Kings, they adopted the shorter title King of the Iron Islands, and they were called the Iron Kings for their crowns. They abolished the system of rock kings and salt kings and reduced all other Houses to lords only, and many families who would not bend the knee were utterly extinguished, their names now only known in history books.[13]

Yet in many ways the Greyirons had a weaker hold over the Iron Islands than their forbearers: each Driftwood King was elected by consent of the majority of lords and ship captains, so they could count on their support, but with the end of this kingsmoot this support passed as well. The ironborn began to war against each other again as they did before the days of Galon Whitestaff - and the drowned priests no longer had the power or the inclination to command the lesser lords to stop fighting the Greyirons. While the Greyirons did manage to rule for a thousand years, their hold over the isles was constantly challenged: during this millenia, they faced half a dozen major rebellions, numerous smaller insurrections and insubordinations, and at least two major thrall uprisings.[13]

Meanwhile, this only accelerated the decline the ironborn were already experiencing due to facing stronger and larger kingdoms aggregating in the rest of Westeros. They took advantage of the ironborn's disunity to take back the absolute last footholds the ironborn still had on the mainland; the final humiliation was when Garth VII the Goldenhand, King of the Reach, even drove the ironmen from the Misty Islands at the mouth of the Mander, renaming them the Shield Islands and resettling them with a permanent defensive force so the ironborn could never raid up the great river with impunity as their forefathers once did.[13]

All of this occurred before the Andals even reached the western coasts of the continent. The First Men were not much of a seafaring folk but the Andals were, and they built much stronger ships capable of fighting ironborn longships on equal terms. Once the Andals reached the westerlands, the Reach, and even the riverlands, they also replaced the old wooden stockades of the First Men with strong castles made of stone and steel, which would never yield as easily to the lightning raids of the ironborn.[13]

All of their possessions lost, the Greyirons barely held on to power, and the isles increasingly divided into civil wars. Eventually, Andal mercenaries and warbands were recruited into these conflicts against the Greyirons by rebel lords in the Iron Islands - much as they had been invited into the Vale and the Riverlands. Just as in these previous encounters, once the Andals succeeded, they wouldn't leave.[13]

The Hoare dynasty

The Greyirons were replaced as hereditary Kings of the Iron Islands by House Hoare, who intermarried with the Andals when they came to the isles 4,000 years ago. 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, led by a ruthless priest remembered only as the Shrike. They overthrew Harmund within a fortnight 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. For the next 3,000 years and more after they overthrew the Greyirons, the Hoares continued to rule the Iron Islands - but the ironborn were only a shadow of what they once were, and no longer held territories on the mainland. They began to reave in distant places such as the Basilisk Isles, Stepstones, and Disputed Lands, since mainland Westeros was increasingly fortified.[14]

Centuries later, King Qhorwyn the Cunning was peaceful but built a strong fleet to deter attack.[14] His ambitious son, King Harwyn Hardhand, conquered the Trident from the Storm King Arrec Durrandon.[3] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] Most of Harren's supporters were killed at Harrenhal or by river lords as they retreated back to the sea,[4] 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.[4]

The Greyjoys under the Iron Throne

Vickon Greyjoy had sense enough to realize that only a fool would dare rise against the Targaryens and their dragons, a lesson his son Goren Greyjoy remembered. When Lord Vickon died in 33 AC, Goren succeeded him as Lord of the Iron Islands, and easily put down a conspiracy to crown Qhorin Volmark and declare independence from the mailand (as House Volmark claims descent in the female line from House Hoare). Goren faced a more serious challenge four years later when Aegon the Conqueror died of a stroke on Dragonstone in 37 AC, and four major rebellions broke out against his weak successor Aenys I Targaryen. One of these rebellions was in the Iron Islands, led by a man claming that he was the priest-king Lodos returned from the sea (the real Lodos had apparently commited suicide four decades before, by walking into the sea when Aegon Targaryen conquered the isles). Goren dealt with the revolt decisively, and sent the would-be priest-king's pickled head to Aenys - who was so pleased that he promised to grant Goren any boon it was in his power to grant. Goren wisely asked Aenys to give him permission to expel all the septs from the Iron Islands. The weak-willed Aenys agreed, further straining his relations with the Faith of the Seven (there weren't many septs in the isles, but it was the principle of the thing). No sept would be built in the isles again for another century. Goren's expulsion also apparently helped him win favor with the Drowned Men to solidify Greyjoy rule. After Goren, the Iron Islands kept to themselves, their power broken, and remained aloof from mainland politics for the next hundred years, until the Dance of the Dragons.[18]

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.[4] 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.[19][20][18]

The Iron Islands supported the Iron Throne during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, sending their longships to the Narrow Sea to ferry the royal armies to the Stepstones.

Lord Quellon Greyjoy was a peaceful ruler who outlawed thralldom and wanted to integrate the Iron Islands into the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. He didn't want to get involved in Robert's Rebellion, and only picked a side after Rhaegar Targaryen's defeat and death at the climactic Battle of the Trident. Quellon had wanted to remain neutral to the end, but his young sons urged that he make some token display of support against the Targaryens, both to win favor with the Baratheons after they took the throne and because it was their last chance to get a share of plunder. As a result the aged and ailing Quellon launched a few raids against the coasts of the Reach, culminating in the indecisive and relatively small Battle at the Mander in which he was killed - generally considered a footnote in the history of the war, having no significant impact on its outcome, and typically forgotten by all participants.

Quellon was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Balon Greyjoy, who rejected his father's works and wanted to return to the Old Way of paying the iron price. Balon spent the next five years rebuilding the Iron Fleet, until he judged that he was strong enough, and hoped that Robert I Baratheon's hold over the other kingdoms as a usurper was still weak. In 289 AC, Balon openly declared himself king of the Iron Islands in a bid for independence from the Iron Throne.[18] Greyjoy's Rebellion had some early victories, destroying the Lannister fleet at anchor and raiding the western coasts, but Balon had misjudged Robert's position: not only was it stronger than he had hoped, but the mainland kingdoms only rallied their support for Robert even more than before to fight off the external attack. Robert crushed the rebellion, along with his brother Stannis, Eddard Stark, and Barristan Selmy. Balon lost his two eldest sons in the war, and though Robert pardoned him in return for bending the knee, another condition of his submission was to hand over his only surviving son as a political hostage. Theon Greyjoy was thus sent to Winterfell to be the ward of Lord Eddard.[citation needed]

Recent Events

A Clash of Kings

Warfare erupts in Westeros after the death of King Robert I Baratheon, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. Lord Balon Greyjoy takes advantage of the instability and declares independence for the Iron Islands. Rather than ally with Robb Stark, King in the North, against House Lannister and King Joffrey I Baratheon, Balon sends the ironborn to occupy key positions in the north and declares himself King of the Isles and the North.[21][22]

A Storm of Swords

Euron Greyjoy claims the Seastone Chair of the Iron Islands the day after Balon falls to his death.[23]

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.[24] This move is made by Aeron to end a potential civil war between the ironborn and to prevent Euron from taking the Seastone Chair. However, Euron is chosen king despite the efforts of Aeron, Victarion Greyjoy, and Asha Greyjoy.[25][26]

Euron promises to conquer all of Westeros for the ironborn and expands their war by attacking the Shield Islands,[27] the Arbor,[28] and the Mander.[29]

A Dance with Dragons

The castellan of Pyke, Erik Ironmaker, rules the Iron Islands in Euron's absence while he is on campaign.[30]

Lord Captain Victarion Greyjoy leads the Iron Fleet to Slaver's Bay to gain Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons for King Euron's cause.[9][31]

Houses

Blacktyde.PNG House Blacktyde of Blacktyde.
Botley.png House Botley of Lordsport.
House Codd.png House Codd.
Drumm.png House Drumm of Old Wyk.
Farwynd.png House Farwynd of the Lonely Light.
Arms unknown House Farwynd of Sealskin Point.
Arms unknown House Goodbrother of Corpse Lake.
Arms unknown House Goodbrother of Crow Spike Keep.
Arms unknown House Goodbrother of Downdelving.
House Goodbrother.png House Goodbrother of the Hammerhorn.
Arms unknown House Goodbrother of Orkmont.
Arms unknown House Goodbrother of Shatterstone.
Greyiron.png House Greyiron of Orkmont.
Greyjoy coat sigil.png House Greyjoy of Pyke.
Harris Harlaw.png House Harlaw of Grey Garden.
Sigfryd Harlaw.png House Harlaw of Harlaw Hall.
Boremund Harlaw.PNG House Harlaw of Harridan Hill.
House Harlaw.PNG House Harlaw of the Ten Towers.
Hotho Harlaw.png House Harlaw of the Tower of Glimmering.
Hoare.png House Hoare of Orkmont.
Arms unknown House Humble.
Arms unknown House Ironmaker.
Kenning.png House Kenning of Harlaw.
Merlyn.png House Merlyn of Pebbleton.
Arms unknown House Netley.
Myre.png House Myre of Harlaw.
Orkwood.png House Orkwood of Orkmont.
Saltcliffe.png House Saltcliffe of Saltcliffe.
Arms unknown House Sharp.
Arms unknown House Shepherd.
House Sparr.PNG House Sparr of Great Wyk.
Stonehouse.png House Stonehouse of Old Wyk.
Stonetree.png House Stonetree of Harlaw.
House Sunderly.png House Sunderly of Saltcliffe.
Tawney.png House Tawney of Orkmont.
House Volmark.png House Volmark of Volmark.
Arms unknown House Weaver.
Wynch.png House Wynch of Iron Holt.

Quotes

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.[2]
- Theon Greyjoy to the captain's daughter

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon I.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands: The Greyjoys of Pyke.
  5. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 40, Princess In The Tower.
  6. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 24, Theon II.
  8. A Game of Thrones: d20-based Open Gaming RPG.
  9. 9.0 9.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 56, The Iron Suitor.
  10. So Spake Martin: Re: Greyjoy Fleet (February 9, 1999)
  11. So Spake Martin: The Lannister Fleet (September 26, 1999)
  12. The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands: Driftwood Crowns.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands: The Iron Kings.
  14. 14.0 14.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands: The Black Blood.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  16. The World of Ice and Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 26, Arya VI.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 The World of Ice and Fire, The Iron Islands: The Old Way and the New.
  19. The Sworn Sword.
  20. The Mystery Knight.
  21. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 37, Theon III.
  22. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 49, Tyrion XI.
  23. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  24. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 1, The Prophet.
  25. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 18, The Iron Captain.
  26. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.
  27. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 29, The Reaver.
  28. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 45, Samwell V.
  29. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 36, Cersei VIII.
  30. A Dance with Dragons, Appendix.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 63, Victarion I.

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