The Greyjoy family started off as little more than an obnoxious footnote; now, they are one of the most popular houses in the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire universe. And no wonder–besides being the “vikings” of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world, several Greyjoys are massively popular with fans. Theon has had one of the most fascinating character arcs in the entire series, Yara is one of the few LGBTQ characters to appear on the show; and Euron is quickly on his way to taking Ramsay’s place as the resident mega-villain. With characters like these, it’s hard not to love the Greyjoys, or to be invested in their storylines. Asha and Theon have both become Stannis’s prisoners in the books, but Yara and Theon have thrown in their lot with Daenerys in the show and are helping her take the seven kingdoms. Which leads fans to wonder- what is the endgame going to be for the Greyjoys?
Unfortunately, since season 7 won’t be coming out until the summer of 2017 and since we still have no word on a release date for The Winds of Winter, we can only speculate about what’s going to happen to the Greyjoys. Will Asha and Theon stay Stannis’s captives? Will they join their show counterparts and help Daenerys take the iron throne? Or, in true “Evil Santa” fashion, are they going to die now that Martin has made us emotionally invested in them? While we’re waiting on Martin and/or HBO to assuage our fears (or perhaps confirm them), let’s take a look at some of the other reasons we love House Greyjoy. Spoilers abound, so take care when reading and sharing!
15. Iron Islands
The Greyjoys, like all ironborn, live on the Iron Islands, a cluster of thirty-one islands off the western coast of Westeros. Seven large isles house most of the ironborn while the remaining smaller isles are small and often used for raising sheep. The Greyjoys rule from Pyke, an ancient stronghold that was once built on a cliff. Over time, the cliff face eroded, so all that was left were the castle towers built on stacks of rock, all connected by bridges. The castle consists of the Great Keep, the Bloody Keep, the Kitchen Keep, the Sea Tower, and the gatehouse. To get to the Sea Tower, one must cross three bridges, the last one of which is made of rope.
Though the Iron Islands are currently inhabited by ironmen, that wasn’t always the case. When the First Men came to the Iron Islands, they found a chair made of oily black stone, indicating that someone had been living there long before the First Men. Who these people might have been, the maesters have no idea; but we do know that both the First Men and the Andals inhabited the iron islands, and their descendants live there as the ironborn today.
14. Seastone Chair
When the First Men came to the iron islands thousands of years ago, they found an oily black stone chair on the shores of Old Wyk, one of the major seven Iron Islands. The chair was carved into the shape of a kraken and given the name the Seastone Chair. The ironborn are sworn to whoever sits on the iron throne, but the Drowned Men–priests of the Drowned God–claim that only a godly man may sit on the throne.
Several maesters have speculated on the origins of the Seastone Chair. Some believe it was left by people from across the Sunset Sea. Others believe that it was left by the Deep Ones, an odd, misshapen race of half-humans sired by sea creatures upon human women. This figures prominently into ironborn mythology; the ironborn believe that they are descended from the Deep Ones, and that the Grey King took a mermaid to wife.
It’s unlikely the ironborn are truly descended from the Deep Ones, given that the Iron Islands were devoid of human life at the time the First Men found the islands (and the Seastone Chair), but the chair is intrinsically linked to ironborn culture. The kraken carved into the chair is the reason why the Greyjoys have taken a kraken as their sigil, and its mysterious roots are the reason the ironborn believe themselves to be more than human.
13. Drowned God
There are many religions in Westeros, but the religion of the Drowned God is apparently only found in the ironborn. The Drowned God is considered the progenitor of the ironborn; he created them to reave and rape, to become kings amongst men, and to have their deeds sung in songs long after they died. The ironborn believe that the Drowned God was able to conjure fire from out of the sea and sailed the world with flame and sword as his weapons.
When an ironborn dies, it is believed that it was because the Drowned God needed another oarsmen, and he will be feasted in the Drowned God’s watery halls with mermaids to attend his every want. The ironborn believe that even if a person does not believe in the Drowned God, if they are a worthy enough adversary they will still be feasted in the Drowned God’s halls.
Priests of the Drowned God are known as Drowned Men. These Drowned Men believe in an intense baptism where an individual is held underwater and literally drowned. The ironborn frequently use the refrain “What is dead may never die”, and they believe that if a man drowns at least once, he has already “died” and therefore cannot die again; instead, he will simply be summoned to the Drowned God’s watery halls.
12. Storm God
Technically, the ironborn believe in two gods, not one. The Drowned God has an eternal enemy known as the Storm God. The Storm God has a hall in the clouds- literally as far away as possible from the Drowned God’s halls deep below the waves. The Storm God surrounds himself with ravens, and as a result the ironborn believe ravens are creatures of evil, which raises some interesting questions when Euron calls himself “The Storm.” Perhaps he is only comparing his strength and anger to an actual storm, or perhaps he is implying something far more sinister. There is even a rumor that Euron made a sacrifice to the Storm God to sail farther than any ironborn had before him- it is possible he asked for other things, too.
11. The Grey King
The Grey King is a legendary figure in ironborn culture. Said to be the first “high king” of the Iron Islands, he was the first to unite all of the Iron Islands under one rule rather than have a handful of petty kings. So named because of his hair, beard, eyes, and even skin, the Grey King slew a sea dragon called Nagga; afterwards, the Drowned God turned Nagga’s bones and teeth into stone and the Grey King fashioned his hall out of Nagga’s skull. Some say the Grey King wore a crown made out of Nagga’s teeth, others claim it was a driftwood crown like the ones the ironborn rulers traditionally wore. He married a mermaid so that his children could live on land or under the sea, and all noble ironborn (save House Goodbrother) claim descent from the Grey King.
According to legend, the Grey King brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God, who released a bolt of lightning in fury. He taught men to weave nets and catch fish, and he even built the first longship. The Grey King ruled for 1,007 years; his reign only ended because he walked into the sea to join the Drowned God. After he died, his one hundred sons fought for the crown. Only sixteen survived, and they divided the Iron Islands amongst themselves.
10. The Old Way
Ironborn in A Song of Ice and Fire often refer to “The Old Way.” The Old Way was the ironborn way of life before Aegon the Conqueror forced the Iron Islands to submit to Targaryen rule. The Old Way refers to the reaving and raping the ironborn used to commit on the mainland. Ironborn would carry goods and women back to the Iron Islands, keeping the goods for themselves and turning the women into their salt wives. A man could have as many salt wives as he was wanted, so long as he could financially support them; salt wives were different from rock wives, who were considered a “true” wife. A man could only have one rock wife, but he could have as many salt wives as he pleased, and if he had no sons by his rock wife, his sons by his salt wives could be made his heirs.
The Old Way also meant that ironborn must barge headfirst into a battle rather than starve out a foe–waiting was cowardly. The Greyjoy words, “We do not sow”, reflected the anti-farming sentiment of the Old Way, where men were expected to take goods from other men rather than produce their own. This was called paying the iron price. This also included wearing jewelry or ornaments; ironborn could only take the jewelry and ornaments of men they had killed rather than buy them as a woman would.
Before the Andals came to the Iron Islands, the ironborn chose their king via a kingsmoot like the one seen in season six. Thousands of years ago, each island had a rock king and a salt king. The rock king governed the island while the salt king commanded that island’s fleet. These were typically a father and son duo, but occasionally they were members of rival houses. Each island would have its own kingsmoot, and the kings were decided by the longship captains residing on each island. The ironborn believe that a captain is a king on his own ship, and only kings have the authority to choose new kings.
At some point, the prophet Galon Whitestaff called all the rock kings and salt kings and longship captains to Nagga’s Hill on Old Wyk and commanded them to choose a high king to rule over all the islands. The gathering chose Urras Ironfoot, the first king to rule all the Iron Islands since the Grey King. The other rock and salt kings became lords.
Some years later, a high king named Urras Greyiron killed all other candidates for the throne and ruled that the title of high king was hereditary. When Aegon and his sisters conquered Westeros, they named Aegon’s aide Vickon Greyjoy as the lord of the Iron Islands. The kingsmoot that names Euron King of the Iron Islands is the first kingsmoot to have been held in thousands of years- and it may not be the last.
8. Quellon Greyjoy
Quellon Greyjoy was the father of Balon and Euron Greyjoy and grandfather of Asha and Theon. Unlike most ironborn, Quellon wanted to reform the ironborn and integrate them into Westerosi culture. He freed many thralls–slaves captured by the ironborn–and discouraged reaving and raping, as well as the taking of any salt wives. He supported marrying “mainlanders” and bringing maesters to the Iron Islands, practices that had previously been looked down upon. There is no record of what the ironborn thought of his reforms, but it is likely that they weren’t very popular.
Over the course of his life, Quellon had three wives, one of whom was from the Riverlands, and he had nine children by them. None of the three sons from his first marriage lived to adulthood; the only one who survived infancy, Harlon, suffered from greyscale, and was later murdered by Euron. By his second wife, Quellon had Balon, Euron, Victarion, Urrigon, and Aeron. Quellon only had one child by his third wife, a boy named Robin who Euron also killed. When Quellon died, his son Balon became the Lord of the Iron Islands, and Balon spent much of his life undoing his father’s work.
7. Balon Greyjoy
Balon Greyjoy was the oldest surviving son of Lord Quellon Greyjoy. He learned to sail at a young age; at ten, he was able to scale the Flint Cliff to the Blind Lord’s Tower, an impressive feat at any age. At thirteen he became an expert oarsman, and at fifteen he went on his first reaving, where he killed a man and took two salt wives. At seventeen, he captained his own longship.
Balon and his brothers, Euron and Victarion, urged their father to join Robert’s Rebellion; though Quellon was a pacifist, he did eventually join the fray and died fighting at the Mander. Balon and the iron fleet returned to Pyke so that Balon could claim the Seastone Chair and rule the Iron Islands. Balon disapproved of his father’s pacifism, which he viewed as weak. Balon not only worked to undo all of his father’s reforms, but he also wanted to reinstate the Old Way. Discontent to be a pawn in other lords’ games, Balon attempted to raise a rebellion against King Robert and become his own king.
6. Greyjoy’s Rebellion
When Balon became Lord of the Iron Islands, he was determined that he would be the last man to bear that title; he desired to become King of the Iron Islands. For five years, Balon built up the strongest iron fleet he could muster, and when he deemed the time right, he struck. He believed that Robert’s reign was still new and unstable enough that a surprise attack would have the upperhand. The iron fleet did have a brief success when they torched the Lannister fleet at Lannisport, but it didn’t take long for the seven kingdoms to rally together and defeat the iron fleet. In addition to losing every subsequent battle, Balon’s two oldest sons, Rodrik and Maron, died fighting.
His every hope dashed, Balon was forced to surrender and take the knee for Robert, pledging fealty to the iron throne. To ensure he would not raise another rebellion, Robert Baratheon commanded that Balon’s only surviving son, ten-year-old Theon, live in Winterfell as Ned Stark’s hostage; if Balon attempted to raise another rebellion, Theon’s life would be in his hands.
5. Alannys Harlaw
Alannys Harlaw is the rock wife of Balon Greyjoy; while we know Balon has had several salt wives, Alannys is his only “true” wife. House Harlaw is one of the noble houses of the ironborn, their primary residence being the island of Harlaw. As such, Alannys was considered a highly suitable match for Balon-unlike Quellon’s ill-fated marriage to a woman from the mainland. Together, Alannys and Balon had four children: Rodrik, Maron, Asha, and Theon.
What Alannys was like before Balon’s rebellion, we do not know, but it is clear that she changed a great deal after the loss of her sons. Both Rodrik and Maron’s deaths and Theon’s captivity in Winterfell made her a shell of a woman. She is described as having once had a strong face that is now frail and sickly. She is called half-mad, often forgetting that Rodrik and Maron are dead. Balon’s death only further maddens her, making her unrecognizable from the woman who would have been Balon’s queen.
4. Euron “Crow’s Eye”
There are a lot of bad guys in Westeros (and Essos), but Euron “Crow’s Eye” is quickly on his way to becoming the baddest of them all. Euron is largely absent from the beginning of the series; his first appearance in the books is in A Feast for Crows, and he does not appear in the show until season six. Unlike Ramsay, his predecessor in villainy, there is no subtle build-up to Euron’s cruelty; his first appearance in the books is heralded by his brothers’ distrust of him, and his first appearance in the show is literally him killing his older brother. Book fans will know that this is not the first time he has killed a brother, and also likely not the last. In the Aeron chapter of The Winds of Winter, Euron confesses to killing two of his brothers: Harlon, their older brother by Quellon’s first wife- Euron killed him by pinching his nose shut so that he couldn’t breathe- and Robin, their youngest brother.
This isn’t all by a longshot. Though it isn’t clear whether he raped or seduced Victarion’s salt wife, he dishonored his brother’s wife and in so doing, dishonored his brother. When Victarion discovered she was pregnant with Euron’s child, he beat her to death to preserve his honor. He would have killed Euron, too, had Balon not forbade it. Of course, Euron would later kill Balon, so he probably should have let Victarion do it.
Victarion is every bit the resentful little brother. The sixth son born to Quellon Greyjoy and only the third to survive to adulthood, Victarion feels that he has always been overlooked in favor of Balon and Euron. He has always done Balon’s bidding and it’s given him a chip on his shoulder.
When Balon dies, two of his sons are dead and the third is a tortured captive in Winterfell. His only child still in the Iron Islands is Asha, and no woman has ever ruled the Iron Islands before. Euron has been exiled for raping or seducing Victarion’s wife, and both Victarion and his brother Aeron feel that Victarion should lead the ironborn. Nevertheless, the kingsmoot decides that Euron should lead the ironborn. Euron sends Victarion to Meereen to woo Daenerys for him; if she becomes his wife, Euron can rule the seven kingdoms. Full of bitterness, Victarion decides not to woo Daenerys for his brother, but to woo her for himself.
On the journey to Essos, Victarion saves a red priest of R’hllor named Moqorro. Victarion’s men do not trust the red priest and want to kill him, but Victarion is seduced by Moqorro’s promises of power and victory. We can’t say for sure, but it doesn’t seem likely that Victarion will have much of either.
Like most of Quellon’s sons, Urrigon did not survive to adulthood. Quellon’s seventh son in total and his fourth son by his second wife, Urrigon was close to his younger brother Aeron. The two were close companions and especially enjoyed finger-dancing, a game comprised of throwing axes. They were likely playing this game during Robert’s Rebellion when Urrigon lost several fingers-hence the reason why the game is called the finger dance. The woman who was Lady Greyjoy at the time was a noblewoman from the Riverlands, and when she’d come to Pyke she’d brought a maester with her. Rather than treat Urrigon’s wound by burning it with fire and cleaning it with salt water as was the ironborn way, the maester insisted on sewing Urrigon’s fingers back onto his hand. This, however, only worsened the infection, and by the time they amputated Urrigon’s arm, it was too late. He died at the age of fourteen.
When Balon returned from Robert’s Rebellion (as the new Lord of the Iron Islands), he was furious to discover how his brother had died. He cut off the maester’s fingers and ordered that his stepmother sew them back on. The maester died raving- what happened to Lady Greyjoy we don’t know but it likely wasn’t pretty.
1. Aeron Damphair
The youngest surviving son of Quellon Greyjoy, Aeron was a typical ironborn in his youth. He drank often and got into many literal pissing contests–he once wagered that he could douse a hearth fire by peeing on it. Whether or not he managed that feat is not known.
When Balon rose against Robert in Greyjoy’s Rebellion, Aeron aided his brother by raiding the coasts. While he was off the coast of Fair Isle, he fell into a trap laid by Stannis Baratheon; his ships sank and he washed ashore. He was believed to be dead but in reality, local fishermen had brought him to Lannisport in chains. He spent the rest of the rebellion in Lannisport’s prison, where he continued holding pissing contests with anyone- or anything- who would take his challenge.
Some years later, another of Aeron’s ships sank with him on it, and once again he washed up onshore. This time, however, he had a spiritual awakening and decided to devote his life to the Drowned God. He became a drowned man and spent his life as a hermit on the beach. Because his devotion to the Drowned God leaves him somewhat soggy, men began calling him Damphair.
Although Aeron’s status as a priest means he is no threat to Euron’s reign, Euron still imprisons his brother in The Winds of Winter. The chapter released by George R.R. Martin is gruesome; beside the graphic details of Aeron’s watery imprisonment, it is revealed that Euron used to sexually abuse Aeron and Urrigon. When Euron’s lover, Falia Flowers, comes to feed Aeron, she reveals that she is pregnant and Euron is going to make her his salt wife. Aeron implores her to run away, but she scoffs at his warning. Later Aeron is tied to the prow of Euron’s ship with Falia tied beside him; naked and missing her tongue.