TWOIAF has provided us with a much deeper understanding of history and legend and one of the legends that caught my eye was the Curse of the First King. According to those in the North, he was the First King of the First Men who led his people over the land bridge to Westeros. In TWOIAF, Passages of the Dead by Kennet mentions a curse placed on the Great Barrow which prevents no living man from rivaling the First King. I believe the curse might have in fact been real and the result of a feud between Garth the Gardener and the Grey King.”
“The North” chapter of TWOIAF retells the legend of the First King and the Great Barrow which states:
“a curse was placed on the Great Barrow that would allow no living man to rival the First King. This curse made these pretenders to the title grow corpselike in their appearance as it sucked away their vitality and life.”
TWOIAF also relates that many in the south believe the First King to be Garth the Greenhand who is strongly connected to fertility, life and vitality as the First King of the First Men who led them across the arm of Dorne. It was said that he lived thousands of years and some claim he was a god. This got me thinking, is it possible that the First King who is Buried in the Barrow lands and Garth the Greenhand are the same person?
The Curse of the First King is fascinating as there is little mention of actual specific curses in the series. As I was perusing The Iron Isles chapter, I was reminded of this curse every time the Grey King was mentioned.
“His hair and beard and eyes were as grey as a winter sea, and from these he took his name.”
“he ruled the Iron Islands for a thousand years, until his very skin had turned as grey as his hair and beard.”
Similar to Garth the Greenhand, the Grey King had an abnormally long lifespan of “a thousand years”, who was said to also be godlike and rule the sea itself. In contrast to Garth’s green hair and skin which is a color associated with life, and fertility, The Grey King contrastly had grey skin, and hair which is associated with old age and death.
Garth’s greatest feats were making the land bloom, showing the First Men how to farm, and planting seeds wherever he went from an inexhaustible bag of seeds which contained the beginnings of all the world’s trees, grains, flowers etc. Some of the most arcane tales of Garth are more sinister and tell of blood sacrificesrequired to ensure good harvests and yields.
“Garth made the corn ripen, the trees fruit, and the flowers bloom,” the singers tell us.
Contrasting with the great feats of Garth the Green, among the greatest feats of the Grey King many included killing trees. The Grey King’s greatest feats related in TWOIAF include discovering fire via a burning tree, carving the first longship from the “pale wood” of demonic tree that “fed on human flesh.”, and slaying Nagga whose bones are theorized to actually be petrified wierwood trees. The culture of the Old Way also shuns the practice of farming and considers the lifestyle a disgrace. The Greyjoys are descended from the Grey King and their words are “We do not sow“. The Lord of the Iron Isles is also referred to as “Lord Reaper” of Pyke. Again the word “reaper” can be used to describe death or the cutting down/taking of crops.
Now let’s take a look at a more contemporary descendant of the Grey King, Balon Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke:
“He was smaller than Theon remembered him. And so gaunt. Balon Greyjoy had always been thin, but now he looked as though the gods had put him in a cauldron and boiled every spare ounce of flesh from his bones, until nothing remained but hair and skin. Bone thin and bone hard he was, with a face that might have been chipped from flint. His eyes were flinty too, black and sharp, but the years and the salt winds had turned his hair the grey of a winter sea, flecked with whitecaps.“
What are your thoughts?