The Old Tongue is the language of the First Men, brought to Westeros during their invasion over twelve thousand years ago. It is a harsh, clanging language. The language is all but extinct in the Seven Kingdoms, where the Common Tongue has become dominant. In the lands beyond the Wall, however, the Old Tongue is still spoken the giants and most wildlings.
The Old Tongue is the language spoken by the First Men of old, the current giants and free folk. Only few terms and translations are known from this language, as George R.R. Martin has not developed the actual language. On the developing of languages for A Song of Ice and Fire, the author stated:
"I don't have a whole imaginary language in my desk here, the way Tolkien did."
Tolkien was a philologist, and an Oxford don, and could spend decades laboriously inventing Elvish in all its detail. I, alas, am only a hardworking SF and fantasy novel, and I don't have his gift for languages. That is to say, I have not actually created a Valyrian language. The best I could do was try to sketch in each of the chief tongues of my imaginary world in broad strokes, and give them each their characteristic sounds and spellings.
Houses descended from the First Men tend to have simple, short names, often descriptive.
The First Men had a runic writing system. 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. The exact meaning of the runes of the First Men are disputed at the Citadel to this day.
The writings of the First Men can be found on multiple locations and items. The Lords of Runestone wear the bronze armor of their forebears, etched with runes that are said to ward the wearer from harm. However, many members of House Royce have been defeated or died whilst wearing such runic armor. The ancient crown of the Kings of Winter was a bronze circlet incised with the runes of the First Men. The horn that Mance Rayder claimed was the Horn of Joramun had runes graven upon its golden bands. The wildling Tormund has thick golden bands in his possession, which are graven with the ancient runes of the First Men. The warhammer upon the tomb of Tristifer IV Mudd once had runes upon it as well, though they have worn away in time.
Several names of cities, lands and others are described in the published material:
|Skagos||Stone||Because of the definition of "skagos", the people from the island of Skagos call themselves stoneborn.|
|woh dak nag gran||The squirrel people||"The squirrel people" is the name the giants have given the children of the forest.|
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
- So Spake Martin: Yet More Questions (July 22, 2001)
- So Spake Martin: Event Horizon Chat (March 18, 1999)
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Durrandon.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: House Arryn.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Stoneborn of Skagos.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.