|The title of this article is conjecture based on information revealed in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels or related material and may be subject to change.
- "Legend has it that one day the Valyrians netted and butchered one of the giant turtles the Rhoynar held sacred."
Old men of the river are very large turtles that live in the Rhoyne River. The largest river system in the known world, the Rhoyne and its network of tributaries flows throughout the territories of the modern-day Free Cities.
According to legend, the centuries-long Rhoynish Wars first began when the Valyrian colonists in western Essos netted and butchered one of these giant turtles. This sparked a series of wars which lasted for generations, ultimately resulting in the Rhoynar city-states being destroyed by the might of Valyria.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Rhoynar called the giant river turtles by a name which translates as "Old men of the river". They were considered sacred in the Rhoynar religion, as the consorts of their primary deity Mother Rhoyne (the personified goddess of the river). Another deity in the Rhoynish pantheon, known as the "Old Man of the River", took the form of one of these giant turtles and was said to be the son of Mother Rhoyne.
The river turtles are described as "enormous", far bigger relative to normal turtles than a direwolf is relative to a common wolf. Despite their size, encounters with them are very rare. They are possibly few in number and certainly reclusive, as they seem to spend most of their time submerged underwater.
When Tyrion Lannister travels from Pentos to Volantis in the novels, he does so by riverboat down the Rhoyne (Season 5 of the TV series condensed this to just a long journey over land in a large horse-drawn wheelhouse). As they make their way down the Rhoyne past the ruins of the Rhoynar city Ny Sar, one of these giant turtles briefly surfaces near the boat, then disappears again. Tyrion judges that it was as big as the boat he was traveling on, the Shy Maid - which wasn't just a raft or fishing boat, but a one-mast poleboat large enough to have three internal cabins (though this was still described as a modestly sized boat for long-distance travel). Based on his description it would seem that old men of the river can grow to at least the size of adult elephants, possibly much larger.
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