- "The other Free Cities are known for what they make...Norvos, its axes..."
- ―Ser Jorah Mormont
Norvos is one of the Free Cities located to the east of Westeros. It lies in the interior plains of Essos on the Noyne, a tributary of the massive Rhyone River. The Free City of Pentos is located to the southwest and Qohor to the southeast. Norvos is on the route leading from the Narrow Sea to the Dothraki Sea, and as such pays tribute to passing Dothraki khalasars. People and things from Norvos are known as Norvoshi.
- Areo Hotah - moved to Westeros many years ago, now serving as captain of the guards for Prince Doran Martell of Dorne.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Norvos is described as a city in two parts. The low city sprawls along the river with numerous docks and wharves, while the high city extends along the hilltops. The two parts are linked by a massive stone staircase known as the "Sinner's Steps" and both are walled and fortified. Norvos was founded as a colony by religious dissidents from Valyria, who wanted the freedom to practice their strict religion without the influence of outsiders - they became the Bearded Priests of Norvos. Today the city is still a theocracy ruled by the Bearded Priests - nominally it is ruled by a council of magisters, but they have no real power, and are appointed and removed at whim by the Bearded Priests.
The Bearded Priests promote an austere and conservative religion. While the exact nature of the faith is unknown (except to initiates), the priests instruct the populace that sex should be engaged in only rarely, expressly for the purpose of bearing children and not for pleasure. Due to its location far away from any coast and the oceans' moderating temperatures, Norvos actually experiences great extremes of continental climate - namely freezing winters and very hot summers. The combination of highly restrictive rulers and a difficult climate has given the city a very dour and reserved aspect overall. This is in sharp contrast to some of the southern Free Cities such as Lys, with its warm coastal climate, religious diversity, and pleasure houses filled with scantily clad prostitutes. Away from the stern watch of the Bearded Priests, however, the lower city of Norvos still has mirth enough to be found in the taverns of the working class commoners. Bears are used as entertainment in the city, and are known to dance up and down the Sinner's Steps.
The most distinctive feature of Norvos are its three bells. An integral part of life in the city, these bells ring out at different times of the day to signal various activities- they tell the Norvoshi when to rise, sleep, work, rest, when to take arms, when to pray (often), and even when they are permitted to have carnal relations (according to the tales, rather less often). The bells are so important to the functioning of Norvos that they even have their own names; Noom, Narrah, and Nyel. Each bell also has a distinctive sound, and these "voices" can be recognized by all true Norvoshi. Lomas Longstrider included the three bells of Norvos in his book Wonders Made by Man.
The city is mercantile, its wealth based upon its strategic position on the trade route from Pentos to Qohor and the Dothraki sea. Minerals are mined from the Hills of Norvos, which stretch from the city to the Shivering Sea. The city is famous for the axes it produces, as well as for high-quality textiles. Myr is also famous for its textiles and produces fine lace and carpets, but Norvos is world-renowned for its fine tapestries. Politically, Norvos usually has peaceful relations with Qohor to the east and they are allied more often than not - despite the fact that the Bearded Priests loathe Qohor's main religion, which worships the Black Goat.
Soldiers and warriors are trained in the city, recruited by the Bearded Priests when they are just boys. Some Norvosi prefer the use of axes in battle to the more common choice of swords.
Areo Hotah is the only significant character from Norvos to appear within the first five novels (though he is a POV narrator). Only two other named characters from Norvos are even mentioned. Lady Mellario herself is important to Areo and Doran's backstory, but because she moved back to Norvos she is mentioned but does not appear within the narrative. The only other named Norvoshi was Byan Votris, captain of the trade caravan to Vaes Dothrak which contained the Wineseller who tried to poison Daenerys.
It is not yet clear if the TV-version of Areo will still be from Norvos, or if the TV series will give the explanation that he is from the Summer Islands but grew up in Norvos, or if he was simply living in the Summer Islands immediately before he came to Dorne (and never lived in Norvos). When other characters such as Xaro Xhoan Daxos or Salladhor Saan were changed to be black in the TV series, the writers introduced the explanation that they were originally "from" the Summer Islands before moving to their current home (i.e. Xaro directly states that he was originally from the Summer Islands). The Summer Islands are very close to Dorne, being located directly south from Dorne across the Summer Sea, so it actually isn't implausible to find Summer Islanders living in Dorne. Then again, the Free Cities are ethnically very mixed and Areo could very easily just happen to be a black man from Norvos (also, given that he was sold by his poor family into the service of the Bearded Priests of Norvos in the novels, he might just be a freed slave). Actor DeObia Oparei has himself stated in interviews that Areo is from Norvos, but no official TV materials have ever mentioned it, so Oparei might just be going by the character in the novels - leaving it unclear if this is also the case in the TV continuity. Thus TV-Areo is assumed to still be from Norvos, unless stated otherwise.
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