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"The Old Way" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season. It is narrated by Pilou Asbæk as King Euron Greyjoy.

Synopsis

Euron Greyjoy explains the Old Way that used to be the Ironborn's way of life.

Narration

Euron Greyjoy: All across the Iron Islands, men sit around driftwood fires and drink to the Old Way. When the ironborn were feared wherever the waves were heard. When our strength was in our ships, not our stories. I don't blame them. Drinking to the Old Way is easier than living it. Our ancestors took to the sea because the Iron Islands were shit without the crops that grow from it. Thirty cold wet rocks off the coast of Westeros and a dozen more cluttered around the Lonely Light deep in the Sunset Sea. But hard places breed hard men.

The First Men feared the sea. They had walked to Westeros, and even their fishermen never left sight of shore. I wish I could have seen the face of the first watchman to see our ships climb over the horizon. He was not the last. No matter how dark the night, or how high the waves, come dawn our prows cut through the morning mist and struck the beaches and riverbanks. Before the sun reached its height we vanished again into the sea, our longships filled with gold, food, scared children and sobbing women. For thousands of years, the ironborn reaved up and down the Sunset Sea. driving the man of the green lands far inland or into walled castles where they paid us tribute. In the depth of winter we feasted, while the men had planted and harvested crops starved. Their sons worked our mines and their daughters warmed our beds. Stories claimed that the Old Way died with Harren the Black and his sons in Harrenhal. Our ships and axes were no match for Aegon's dragons, so our ancestors bent their steel into fishhooks and our kingdom into villages, and started telling the red tales around the fire of how we used to be strong and how one day we would be so again.

Generations later, a young boy listened to them. Dalton Greyjoy, the wild young heir to Pyke, was rowing at five and reaving at ten in the Basilisk Isles with his uncle. By fourteen, Dalton had sailed as far as Old Ghis, fought in a dozen battles and claimed four salt wives. In his fifteenth year, he avenged his uncle's death in battle, but he took a dozen wounds and emerged from the fight drenched head to heel in blood. From that day forth, men called him the Red Kraken. During the Dance of Dragons, the Red Kraken picked the side that was fighting the Lannisters and fell upon the Westerlands while the Lannisters were off at war. Casterly Rock itself proved too strong once the lady of the castle barred its gates, but the ironborn burned the Lannister fleet and sacked Lannisport carrying off gold, grain and hundreds of women and girls including Lord Lannister's favorite mistress and all his bastards. The Red Kraken now ruled the Sunset Sea as his forbears had and his longship once again brought the Old Way to the coast of Westeros. But then the war ended and the mainland armies came home. The Iron Throne commanded the Red Kraken to stop reaving and when he didn't, a mistress opened his throat as he slept. While his sons squabbled, the Lannisters sent their soldiers to the Iron Islands. Thousands of men, women and children were put to the sword and scores of villages and hundreds of longships were put to the torch.

The glorious return to the Old Way had lasted two years. My brother vowed to return us to the old ways while he sat on the Salt Throne and sent our reavers to the shores of Westeros, just as he remembered from the stories he heard as a child. An old way for an old man. But while he listened to the stories, I lived them. It was never the Old Way to me, it was the only way.

Notes

  • This video gives the story of Dalton Greyjoy, the Red Kraken, and explains what the ironborn did under him during the Dance of the Dragons - forming an entire western theater of the civil war. The previous 20 minute animated featurette on "The Dance of Dragons (Histories & Lore)" from Season 5 had to be condensed and focus mostly on the main eastern theater of the war.
  • Dalton never declared himself a king, he just functionally acted like one: he was more an ally of convenience to Rhaenyra than a subject, though he did grievously harm her shared enemies in the Westerlands and the Reach. This turned into essentially its own localized proxy war, which continued long after the actual Dance ended, because he refused to stop raiding.
  • The video says that Dalton Greyjoy's glorious new reign with the ironborn dominating the western coasts again only lasted two years - strictly speaking this is true, as Dalton was killed two years after the Dance began, apparently not long after Aegon II died. The video doesn't make this explicit, but the fighting on the western coasts continued for two full years during the heart of a bitter winter. Even as the ironborn were divided in their own succession conflict, the widowed Johanna Lannister rose to the occasion and rallied the surviving Lannister forces to push them back into the sea, then launch a final assault which devastated the isles.
  • This video gives information from the World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014) explaining that there are actually two major clusters of the Iron Islands: the main grouping of about "30 islands" and another a few days' sail east, composed of a dozen small islands, chief of which is Lonely Light. The World book does specify that there are seven primary islands, all the ones from the main cluster: while there are technically 30 "islands" most of them are so small that a man can walk across them in a single day - so administratively, they are just considered part of whichever of the main seven they are off the coast of (by comparison, the Isle of Wight could technically be said to be "an island in the British Isles", but wouldn't really be spoken of as in the same category as Great Britain and Ireland). The names of these 20 or so smaller islands haven't even been given. As for the smaller cluster farther west, it really isn't worth much mention: apart from Lonely Light itself, the other "dozen islands" are basically just glorified reefs and rocks, none of them inhabited except by seals and sea birds. Even Lonely Light itself isn't much to speak of, and would have been considered just one of the lesser 20 or so islands in the main chain if it weren't so far apart from all the others. Lonely Light isn't even considered one of the primary islands in the chain - administratively, it is still just ruled over by Great Wyk. Lonely Light, as the name implies, is extremely isolated, and indeed is farther west in the Sunset Sea than any other land - making it the absolute western limit of the Known World. The maesters suspect that if a ship sails west for long enough it will eventually reach Yi Ti, but after thousands of years, even the ironborn only report endless ocean to their west.
    • Lonely Light actually has been mentioned in the main novels, in the fourth book during the Kingsmoot. They are ruled over by House Farwynd of the Lonely Light - who aren't even a major House but a cadet branch of the main House Farwynd that lives on Great Wyk. Given how isolated they are from the main islands (and all other points of civilization like mainland Westeros), the other ironborn consider the inhabitants to Lonely Light to be the proverbial backwater country bumpkins (barely a step above House Codd). Living alone and isolated amidst such a vast stretch of sea is also suspected to have given them all ocean madness: when Lord Farwynd put forth his claim at Euron's Kingsmoot, he wildly claimed he would lead all the ironborn west across the Sunset Sea in a massive fleet to settle on a glorious new paradise land (his comments were waved off as insane, no one voted for him, and he quickly gave up).

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