- "We are ironborn. We're not subjects, we're not slaves. We do not plow the field or toil in the mine. We take what is ours."
- ―Balon Greyjoy
Like the Northmen, they are descendants of the First Men, but while their mainland cousins adopted the Old Gods of the Children of the Forest, the ironborn worship a deity known as the Drowned God. The Drowned God is said to have created the ironborn to reave and rape and carve out their names in blood and song. When the Andals invaded Westeros, they conquered the Iron Islands as well, but instead of converting the ironborn, the Andals that settled on the Islands were absorbed into the local culture, adopting their religion and way of life as their own.
Culture and Economy
- See also: Old Way
The traditional ironborn way of life, known as the Old Way, is centered on piracy and raiding. An ironborn is considered a man only when he has killed his first foe, while his personal wealth is expected to be obtained by "paying the iron price" - that is, seizing it from enemies he has personally killed. An ironborn is also expected to abstain from working the land or toiling in the mines, since such tasks are reserved for thralls - men captured in raids and forced into servitude.
The Iron Islands are ruled by House Greyjoy from the castle and island of Pyke. Lord Balon Greyjoy rules the Islands. His only surviving son and heir is Theon Greyjoy who was formerly a ward and hostage of Lord Eddard Stark at Winterfell.
In the books
The ironborn are an intermingling of the blood of the original First Men settlers of the islands and the Andals who followed six thousand years later. While the Andals and the Faith of the Seven came to dominate everywhere else below the Neck, they found less purchase on the Islands. While a few converts to the Faith of the Seven may be found there even in the present day, most of the Andal invaders converted to the native deity, the Drowned God, instead. The Andal invaders completely acculturated to the distinct "ironborn" culture, and their invasion had relatively little impact upon the Iron Islands. In the present day, the ironborn generally think of their distinct culture as stretching back without interruption to the Dawn Age, long before the Andals arrived. Thus the ironborn are ethnically composed of the same First Men/Andal mix as most of the rest of Westeros: they are culturally, not ethnically distinct.
The ironborn consider reaving and piracy to be their birthright, and fear that three centuries of peace under the Iron Throne is destroying their heritage and removing their edge, especially as the Seven have found more purchase on the Islands since the Targaryen invasion. Nine years before the War of the Five Kings, to reverse this trend, Lord Balon declared independence in the Greyjoy Rebellion but was soundly defeated. Since then the ironborn have remained quiet vassals of the Iron Throne.
George R.R. Martin has frequently compared the ironborn to Vikings from the real-life Middle Ages. Given the analogy that the entire continent of Westeros is supposed to be an oversized version of the British Isles, the ironborn also loosely correspond to celtic raiders from medieval Ireland, as well as raiders from other outer islands in the group (the Isle of Mann, the Orkneys, the Sheltlands, etc.).
Fauna and Flora of the Known World
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