The ironborn are the natives of the Iron Islands in the Sunset Sea off the western coast of Westeros. They are also known as ironmen, especially by those they raid. The men from the green lands of Westeros also call them squids because the isles are ruled by House Greyjoy.
The ironborn are fierce men of the sea, and their naval supremacy was once unmatched, their dark legacy of raids and pillage of the hinterlands of the western and southern regions granting them, to this day, a fearsome reputation. Ironborn women may fight as well as a man, and may crew a longship or even captain their own ships. It is said that the sea gives them the appetites of a man.
The Iron Islands were settled by the First Men many thousands of years ago. Somewhat isolated from the rest of Westeros, they did not take up the worship of the old gods of the forest, instead creating their own religion based around the Drowned God. Their Seastone Chair, carved fromoily black stone, is said to have been found on the shores of Old Wyk when they arrived. When the Andals overran Westeros and conquered the Iron Islands, they intermingled with the natives. Whilst a few locals converted to the Faith of the Seven, it did not fully take hold and worship of the Drowned God continued.
The ironborn of antiquity were ruled by local rock kings and salt kings, and the High Kings of the Iron Islands were chosen by kingsmoot. Beginning with the reign of Urron Greyiron, however, the ironmen were ruled by hereditary dynasties from first House Greyiron and later House Hoare.
The ironborn control over the lands of the Sunset Sea waxed and waned over millenia. Three Hoares ruled over the riverlands as Kings of the Isles and the Rivers. After the War of Conquest, however, the ironborn were thrown back to their islands with Harren the Black and all his line extinguished.
Guided by House Greyjoy, the ironborn have been mostly-peaceful subjects of the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Throne for almost three hundred years, aside from reaving by Lords Dalton and Dagon Greyjoy. In 289 AC the ironborn revolted in Greyjoy's Rebellion in an attempt to restore the Old Way, but they were crushed by King Robert I Baratheon.
Archmaester Haereg recorded the history of the ironmen in his exhaustive History of the Ironborn, while Archmaester Hake also wrote of their history. Some maesters believe the blood of Cape Kraken's people is closer to that of the ironmen than the northmen.
The Old Way
- Main article: Old Way
The Old Way is still highly regarded on the Iron Islands. The Old Way embodies the remembered values of a culture based on raiding. A man's worth was judged primarily on his skill as a raider, as evidenced in the disdain jewelry and ornament bought with coin. Men on the Iron Islands wear no tokens unless they have "paid the iron price," i.e. won by combat and taken from the corpses of they have slain.
During raids, the ironborn also took captives. Many of their captives would work as thralls, slaving away on the farms and mines of the Iron Islands since the true sons of the Iron Islands are meant for more than such drudgery. Women were also taken captive to act as bed warmers; a man could have several "salt wives" but only one true ironborn wife, his "rock wife".
- Main article: Drowned God
The ironborn follow the Drowned God, a harsh deity said to dwell beneath the oceans. They believe the Drowned God made them to take what they wanted by right of strength, to rape, reave and carve out kingdoms and to make their names known in fire, blood, steel, and song. From birth they commit their bodies to the sea and join their god when they die. The clergy of the Drowned God are the drowned men, who are drowned and then resuscitated.
The ironborn ways and legacy of raiding has left them particularly suited for the task. Their swift shallow wooden longships allow them to mount raids on the coasts of Westeros and further inland via river and streams. They are still remembered for this over three hundred years since their last major raiding and pillaging streak.
The mighty Iron Fleet commanded by Lord Captain Victarion Greyjoy consists of larger longships which can stand against the warships produced elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms. However, the ability of the ironborn to build larger ships is compromised by a lack of natural resources.
The ironborn are daring masters of the sea, fearless of drowning and thus tending to wear armor, unlike most sailors. Victarion is even willing to wear heavy plate. In battle the ironmen try to board enemy ships and slaughter the crew. On land they strike fast and move on before local forces can muster.
There are few knights from the isles because most ironborn do not follow the Faith of the Seven. Known knights include Ser Harras Harlaw and Ser Aladale Wynch.
The ironmen consider reaving and fishing to be honorable work for free men, while farming and mining are lesser tasks to be performed by thralls.
It is forbidden for ironborn to spill the blood of other ironborn, but drowning is acceptable by some. The finger dance is a common and dangerous game played between the ironborn.
Similar to the northern mountain clans, some heads of noble houses in the Iron Islands do not use the title "lord", but are referred to only by their house name, such as "the Sparr" and "the Stonehouse". Amongst his many titles, Balon Greyjoy includes "the Greyjoy". Aeron Greyjoy refers to Meldred Merlyn as "the Merlyn", while Meldred styles himself "Lord" in the manner of the green lands of mainland Westeros.