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"Riverrun" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature in the Blu-ray of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. It is narrated by Clive Russell as Ser Brynden Tully.

Synopsis

Brynden Tully explains the history of Riverrun, House Tully's ancestral castle.

Narration

Brynden Tully: In the long and glorious history of men butchering each other, we riverfolk make the best meat. How else can you explain why anyone would stay in a land of constant carnage for thousands of years. If it wasn't the First Men killing the Children of the Forest here, it was the Andals killing the First Men, and then each other. Even when the Riverlands finally united under the kings of House Justman, the unusual silence of peace attracted the Stormlords, Westermen and those bloody Ironborn to try and take our grain, gold and women.

The problem is, and has always been, that the Riverlands have no natural defenses. Unlike the North, we don't have the Neck to keep invaders waist-deep in muck. Unlike the Vale, we don't have mountains with narrow passes easily defended by stable-boys with slings. Unlike Dorne, we don't have a blazing sun and... well, the Dornish.

My ancestors may have had a funny taste in sigils, but they knew one thing: if you plan on staying in the Riverlands, you'd better have a strong castle. My ancestor, Axel Tully, bright man that he was, realized that most soldiers can't swim, and raised his castle of Riverrun where the Red Fork and the Tumblestone rivers meet. He built right up to the water on each side, daring attackers to force a crossing. If they wore armor, they'd drown. If they didn't, our archers would feather them from the battlements as they paddled.

An army could still assault Riverrun from the west, however, so my ancestors dug a wide moat along our western wall, connecting the rivers on either side of the castle. When any would-be conqueror showed up, we opened a series of gates and flooded the moat, transforming Riverrun into an island fortress with enough stores to last years. As the invaders starved in their camps, they'd watch us fish off our walls, just for variety. And because we were bored. Eventually, they all skulked home. In the thousand years that Riverrun has stood, not once has it been taken by force. It's a proper castle. You want it? You have to marry into it.

Even the damned Freys knew that much. Upjumped toll-collectors living on a bridge instead of beneath it like the rest of their kind. But finally, a Lord of the Crossing passed off one of his brood to his liege lord, House Tully. My nephew Edmure. People say Lord Walder arranged the Red Wedding to punish Robb Stark. I say, he did it just as much to steal Riverrun. They'd always envied our castle. Maybe they think two rivers can wash off the filth that coats them.

They'll never know. The Lannisters could grant Riverrun to the Freys for a thousand years, but that doesn't mean they can have it. Do you think it was hard to convince Tully soldiers to turn against the Freys? Do you think we won't enjoy watching them simper as winter bears down on their pitiful camp? I even carved a new fishing rod for the occassion. When the starving Freys look up at our walls, we'll wave our trouts at them.

Notes

  • An on-screen map depicts Riverrun, then Raventree Hall north of the Red Fork, then Seagard to the northwest. The novels haven't specifically confirmed the location of Raventree Hall; it's relatively near Riverrun, and House Blackwood's lands border those of House Bracken, which are confirmed to be centered around Stone Hedge south of the Red Fork and just east of Riverrun. The depiction here matches prior official HBO website maps for the TV series, which similarly place Raventree Hall just north of Riverrun and Stone Hedge.
  • The video doesn't specify this, but the way Riverrun castle can be surrounded by water on three sides is what made Jaime Lannister's siege so difficult during the first Siege of Riverrun, which occurred off-screen in Season 1. In the novels, Jaime doesn't try to storm the castle once the River lords flee inside, but simply surrounds the castle to wait them out, given that making a river crossing would be very difficult. Moreover, being surrounded by water on three sides meant that Jaime had to split his army into three parts, with each one unable to cross the river water in between to aid the other two. As a result, after Robb Stark lured Jaime's cavalry away and destroyed them in the Battle of the Whispering Wood, the Stark army immediately advanced to attack the Lannister army in its own camps (this phase was called the "Battle of the Camps" though they're often thought of as one big battle). Due to Jaime splitting his forces across all three sides, the Starks were able to defeat them one at a time, preventing the Lannister army from bringing its superior numbers to bear. When the Lannister generals in Tywin's camp hear of it, Harys Swyft scoffs that Jaime was a fool and bad commander for dividing his men like this, but Jaime's uncle Kevan accurately defends him by explaining that Jaime had no choice: Riverrun was specifically constructed at the fork in the river for the express purpose of forcing any besieger to split their forces into three parts across each river front, to make a thorough encirclement difficult.
  • In the Histories & Lore videos from prior seasons, Brynden previously said that the Riverlands used to be ruled by House Mudd - not House Justman. This confusion arises from the novels themselves, in which several different Houses were at various points said to be the prior rulers of the Riverlands. This was finally straightened out by the World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014): first, it was rare for the Riverlands to be fully united and many of its lords were petty kings at one time or another (i.e. the Blackwoods and Brackens), and some rose to dominate much of it, but few ever ruled all of "the Riverlands" and even when they did it wasn't for long. Most historians don't consider the Riverlands to have ever truly been the eighth "kingdom" in Westeros, just a contested border region. Second, there were a series of local dynasties which did manage to at least establish hegemony over most of the Riverlands: in order, they were House Fisher, House Mudd, House Justman, and then House Teague, which was itself conquered by the Stormlands:
    • House Fisher is semi-legendary and ruled in ancient times, long before the Andal Invasion.
    • House Mudd later ruled, last and greatest dynasty of the First Men who ruled in the Riverlands. The Mudds were wiped out by the Andal Invasion 6,000 years ago.
    • House Justman was an Andal house, whose founder was a bastard born of a tryst between a Blackwood and Bracken. The Justmans expanded to rule all of the Riverlands and much of the future Crownlands to the east, but their line was extinguished during the great ironborn invasions led by Qhored Hoare, plunging the Riverlands into succession wars which lasted a century.
    • House Teague reunited the Riverlands after the fall of House Justman, about 5,000 years ago. They ruled for 4,000 years but had a weaker grip than the previous dynasties, facing constant invasions and civil wars.
    • Ultimately it was the Teagues who were conquered by the Stormlands 400 years before the Targaryen Conquest; then about 300 years later the ironborn under Harwyn Hoare captured the Riverlands from them, and then the Hoares were wiped out by the Targaryens, who rewarded the Tullys for revolting against the ironborn by making them overlords of the Riverlands under them.
    • The video isn't explicitly in error if Brynden is speaking loosely: he says that the Riverlands were finally united by House Justman, and they were reunited by the Justmans after the Mudds. He says that the unification by the Justmans made greedy neighbors such as the Storm lords, Westerlands, and ironborn attack them - yet the exact line of dialogue claims they tried to invade all or some of the Riverlands but not when they did, and the Westerlands never even succeeded in conquering the Riverlands. Surely, the Riverlands' powerful neighbors like the Stormlands, Westermen, Iron Islands, the Reach, etc. were trying to invade the Riverlands since the time of the Justmans.
  • The exact wording of the video actually does indicate that the Justmans were an Andal house: Brynden says that the Andals came and slaughtered the First Men, then Andals slaughtered each other, then the Justmans united them.
  • Brynden says that Riverrun was built by his ancestor Axel Tully. When the Andals were invading the Riverlands and defeating the Mudds, their last great king was Tristifer IV Mudd. After he died his son Tristifer V was weak, so Axel's father (named "Edmure Tully") switched sides and joined the Andals. The Tullys then intermarried with the Andal invaders. The Andal chieftain, Armistead Vance, rewarded Edmure by granting his son Axel lands along the Red Fork of the Trident, where he built Riverrun castle. Thus Riverrun actually predates the Justman dynasty, and is in fact about 6,000 years old (though like Winterfell it has been expanded over the centuries).

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