All the great houses of the ironborn claim descent from the Grey King and his sons save, curiously, the Goodbrothers of Old Wyk and Great Wyk, who supposedly derive from the Grey King’s leal eldest brother.”
Hello everyone. I am cross posting this essay to the Last Hearth forum. I’ve had some assumptions for a while now and have found evidence that will cause you to second guess how you have been viewing the Grey King, House Goodbrother, and Garth the Greenhand. I would like to put forth the suggestion that the Grey King and Garth the Green were rivals of one another in the same time and space, and that they were……..brothers. Dun Dun DUN!
Special thanks to LmL for some excellent ideas on the Grey King.
Garth the Green
As we all have seen, there are some peculiar descriptions of our famous early First Men progenitor, Garth the Greenhand.
“the oldest tales he is named Garth Greenhair, or simply Garth the Green. Some stories say he had green hands, green hair, or green skin overall. (A few even give him antlers, like a stag.)”
When we see the description of Garth with all his greenness and antlers, we quickly see a very likely linkage to the Old Gods and the CotF as there is an eerie similarity to the description of the antlered Green Men of the God’s Eye:
” The nursery tales claiming that they are horned and have dark, green skin is a corruption of the likely truth, which is that the green men wore green garments and horned headdresses.” “In Old Nan’s stories, the guardians had dark green skin and leaves instead of hair. Sometimes they had antlers too”
So in addition to possibly being green with antlers, TWOIAF gave us a HUGE information dump on Garth which detailed some heavy connotations with nature and trees. Garth was famous for making the land bloom, showing the First Men how to farm, and the planting seeds which contained the beginnings for all the world’s trees, grains, fruits and flowers. His descendants of House Gardener wore crowns of vines and flowers and even sat upon a living tree throne known as the Oakenseat, which grew from an oak Garth the Green is said to have planted himself. Garth is also said to have planted the intertwining weirwoods of Highgarden known as “The Three Singers”.
Besides all the tree guy/Green Man symbolism, Garth is also associated with fertility, life and virility. Some tales argue he was more God than man and lived for a thousand years. Garth was said to not only bring about fertility upon the landscape, but also increased fertility in women. Tales mention maidens would flower in his presence, old women regained fecundity, and mothers would bring forth twins and even triplets.
Knowing these little tidbits, we quickly see the mythological inspiration for Garth the Green is most certainly the Wiccan/Pagan fertility god Cernnunos. Cernnunos is best known as the Horned God of the animals and the Green Man, Guardian of the Green World. This Horned Lord, is portrayed with an antler crown. Though he has this animalistic antler wearing aspect, Cernnunos is also a tree, forest, and vegetation god in his foliate aspect and is also depicted as The Green Man. In addition to Cernnunos, the horned fertility god is a theme in many European cultures which GRRM has also drawn from.
The Wiccan/Pagan holiday closely associated with Cernnunos is Beltane, which celebrates the changing of seasons where summer overcomes winter. It is a day in which the May Queen and the Queen of Winter battle for supremacy. The masculine version of this Beltane struggle is portrayed in the Oak King (summer) and the Holly King (winter). In the tales, one king defeats or kills the other each year to bring about the changing of the seasons. The defeated king later regenerates in the off season and comes back to defeat the other so that each may reign for his own time. In some tales, Oak and Holly are each aspects of Cernnunos, in other tales they are separate kings, sometimes brothers and they are portrayed as rivals battling endlessly as the seasons turn. Is it possible GRRM also drew from the Oak and Holly King when he had developed the Garth lore? Absolutely.
A few of the very oldest tales of Garth Greenhand present us with a considerably darker deity, one who demanded blood sacrifice from his worshippers to ensure a bountiful harvest. In some stories the green god dies every autumn when the trees lose their leaves, only to be reborn with the coming of spring. This version of Garth is largely forgotten.
***Remember Oak and Holly were also said to be brothers in some tales, and read on.
Garth the Green and the First King
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.” Wow. This First King guy seems as though he has some sort of magical control over life and vitality. Does that sound like someone we know? I was very intrigued after realizing there are also legends that recount Garth the Green as the First King of the First Men.
“Garth was the High King of the First Men, it is written; it was he who led them out of the east and across the land bridge to Westeros. Yet other tales would have us believe that he preceded the arrival of the First Men by thousands of years, making him not only the First Man in Westeros, but the only man, wandering the length and breadth of the land alone and treating with the giants and the children of the forest. Some even say he was a god
So being that Garth was the fabled first king by many accounts, I had quickly realized is it very possible the First King who is buried in the Great Barrow and Garth the Green are the possibly the same guy.
The Grey King
The curse of the First King has fascinated me for years. As I was perusing The Iron Isles chapter of TWOIAF, I was reminded of this corpselike curse every time the Grey King was mentioned. “he ruled the Iron Islands for a thousand years, until his very skin had turned as grey as his hair and beard.”, […….]”His hair and beard and eyes were as grey as a winter sea, and from these he took his name.” Similar to Garth, the Grey King had an abnormally long lifespan of a thousand years and was said to be godlike. From the description, it seems the Ironborn were ruled by a guy who was more corpse than man who just kept getting old. In stark contrast to Garth’s green hair and skin which is a color associated with life, and fertility, the Grey King is the visual polar opposite with grey skin, eyes and hair; a color associated with old age and death. These two are basically set up as inverse parallels of each other, but not just in the physical sense.
The Grey King and the Drowned God religion are easily identified with death, “what is dead can never die” is a mantra of the Ironborn religion itself. In contrast to the great feats of Garth the Green, the greatest feats of the Grey King included literally killing trees. He is said to have carved the first longship from the pale wood of a demonic tree that fed on human flesh, this of course is an obvious reference to weirwood. The Grey King brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God who answered with a thunderbolt causing a tree to burn. The Grey King is also credited with the slaying of not just a demonic weirwood, but also he is claimed to have killed the sea dragon Nagga whose bones are again, most likely petrified weirwood. As I was mentioning, the grey King did not think too highly of the demonic tree.
So, the Grey King is said to have made a throne of Nagga’s teeth and other tales recount it was a driftwood throne he sat. I believe the answer is both. Driftwood is wood that has been washed ashore by the tides and waves, a form of marine debris; basically, floating dead wood. Or to put it another way, The Grey King sat upon the bones of a dead demonic weirwood he had conquered, most likely from a ship much like one the Grey King had carved. I have provided a link from LmL with some logical ideas that support this ship-like origin.
Right from the get go, we start to see an inverse parallel between Garth and the Grey King. We see Garth was a planter of not just weirwoods, but of the makings of all the trees and plants. Even Garth’s descendants sat on a living tree throne whom Garth is said to have planted. Basically when we see Garth we should be imagining a guy associated with planting and nurturing trees and plants. Then on the other hand we have this guy the Grey King who is literally going around killing trees in multiple versions of his myth, and sitting on washed up weirwood bones.
In addition, the culture of the Old Way also shuns the practice of farming and considers the agrarian lifestyle Garth had taught to be disgraceful. In fact, the direct descendants of the Grey King we are most familiar with, House Greyjoy, is endowed with the famous house words: “We do not sow”. The Lord of the Iron Isles is also referred to as “Lord Reaper” of Pyke. The use of the word “reaper” can be used to describe both death or the taking of crops where the Ironborn are concerned.
Whenever autumn waned and winter threatened, the longships would come raiding after food. And so the Iron Islands ate, even in the depths of winter, whilst oft as not the men who had planted, tended, and harvested the crops starved. “We do not sow,” became the boast of the Greyjoys, whose rulers began to style themselves Lords Reaper of Pyke.
What is this saying? This is saying the House words “we do not sow” is more of a defiant response to the agrarian culture of the greenlands. This is saying despite the greenlander’s efforts during the summer, come winter, the Ironborn will raid their livelihoods and leave them to starve. The culture founded by the Ironborn progenitor was a direct threat to the culture founded by Garth the Green
Additionally, the Ironborn are notorious for their tree killing; I mean big time. These guys had cut down so many trees on the Iron Islands, they then turned to the greenlands for wood. This would have been a huge violation in the eyes of the greenseers especially if they were using weirwood as the Ironborn legends suggest. I would say this is bad news all around for the tree worshiping green land folk and their greenseers on so many levels, bad news indeed.
“You told me that the children of the forest had the greensight. I remember.” “Some claimed to have that power. Their wise men were called greenseers.” “Was it magic?” “Call it that for want of a better word, if you must. At heart it was only a different sort of knowledge.” “What was it?” Luwin set down his quill. “No one truly knows, Bran. The children are gone from the world, and their wisdom with them. It had to do with the faces in the trees, we think. The First Men believed that the greenseers could see through the eyes of the weirwoods. That was why they cut down the trees whenever they warred upon the children. “
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Ironborn reave because they lack fundamental resources. Life on the Islands is bleak, tough, and short. The Grey King responded to his surroundings by adapting a culture that could survive on this landscape which was most likely caused by the drowning of the waters. What you see in the overall symbolism of the Ironborn is very much an opposing force to fertility, life and warmth. Instead you see grey, death, iron, coldness, bleakness, reaping.
As LmL has pointed out, The Wayward Bride chapter really illustrates this Ironborn versus trees symbolism. George went out of his way to show the trees as somehow menacing to the Ironborn. He constantly gave the surrounding trees the illusion of being their foes.
Tall soldier pines and gnarled old oaks closed in around them. Deepwood was aptly named. The trees were huge and dark, somehow threatening. Their limbs wove through one another and creaked with every breath of wind, and their higher branches scratched at the face of the moon. The sooner we are out of here, the better I will like it , Asha thought. The trees hate us all, deep in their wooden hearts.
“Fire will bring the northmen down on us.” Asha cursed beneath her breath, wondering if it had been a mistake to leave the castle. No. If we had stayed and fought, we might all be dead by now. But it was no good blundering on through the dark either. These trees will kill us if they can. She took off her helm and pushed back her sweat-soaked hair. “The sun will be up in a few hours.”“beside him Lorren Longaxe sprawled with one leg twisted under him, and the shadows kept on coming, shouting and rustling. We are fighting shrubbery, Asha thought as she slew a man who had more leaves on him than most of the surrounding trees.
Let’s ride on the momentum of these quotes and look at a particular Ironborn sigil for a moment. The sigil is that of House Orkwoood of Orkmont. House Orkwood’s sigil is very peculiar for an Ironborn house because it is a sigil of trees. Now, give yourself a moment and ponder on this house’s name for a bit–Orkwood. If you love fantasy you probably already know an Orc is essentially another way of saying demon or monster. I think the most popularly referenced idea of an Orc can be found in Tolkien’s writings where he describes Orcs as a race of grotesque flesh eating savage fighters. Etymologists also reveal orc is synonymous with “ogre”, as well as “hell devil”. So, having an Ironborn House Orkwood is really the same as saying “Orc-wood” or “demon-wood” which is exactly what the Grey King myths are saying the weirwood trees were… demons trees. So what the sigil of House Orkwood is doing is cleverly hinting at what the real demon is in Ironborn lore.
As we have learned from TWOIAF, all the major Ironborn houses claim to be descendants of the Grey King. All except for House Goodbrother, who claim to be descendants of the Grey King’s leal eldest brother. When I read this curiosity I truly found myself asking why? It’s a subtle and seemingly unnecessary bit of information that had been snuck. First, we learn the grey king had a brother. Second, there is a surviving house descended from this brother. When I began my analysis, I had expected the familiar death symbols of the Ironborn, but instead found something different. I found fertility and some other ideas that hint at fratricide. See for yourself how the senior branch of House Goodbrother is introduced for the first time in the series:
Lord Goodbrother of Great Wyk had come in the night before with his main strength, near forty longships. His men were everywhere, conspicuous in their striped goat’s hair sashes. It was said about the inn that Otter Gimpknee’s whores were being fucked bowlegged by beardless boys in sashes
So when the Goodbrothers are introduced in the series, the Goodbrothers are ‘everywhere’. Then, in the same passage, the beardless boys (aka greenboys) are engaging in a whole lot of sexy time. Right from the get go, I had found the goat’s hair sashes completely bizarre. “goat hair” is not mentioned to be worn by any other characters in the books; so it is chiefly unique to this house, and this house alone. Sure enough, the goat is a fertility symbol of the horned lord. As previously mentioned Garth was heavily inspired by Cernnunos who has counterparts in many European cultures one of which is the horned Greek Pan who was a half-man/half-goat figure. Basically, the goat man is another approximation of the stag man.
Both sexes of the goat symbolize fertility, vitality and ceaseless energy. The he-goat (buck) is the epitome of masculine virility and creative energy, while the female (doe) typifies the feminine and generative power and abundance. Symbolically, the goat can be interchanged with the gazelle or the antelope. theikga.org/goat_symbolism.html
In addition to depicting the Goodbrothers as being everywhere, and having lots of sex, we also learn they all wear a symbol of fertility. Now, I am not the symbolism expert, but it seems to me the Goodbrothers are supposed to be associated with fertility. It seems like this fertility symbolism is really trying to be pounded home from the get go in their introduction.
The next time we see House Goodbrother, Aeron is on the shores of Great Wyk drowning people and is given news of King Balon’s death. Balon’s death is symbolically an example one brother killing another and at the same time, in a sense is a symbol of the Storm God vs the Lord Reaper. Aeron must then travel to the holdfast of the Goodbrother senior branch where he learns of Euron’s is attempts to claim the throne. Let’s Look at how the location of the Goodbrother holdfast is described:
” The way was rough, up hills and woods and stony defiles, along a narrow track that oft seemed to disappear beneath the horse’s hooves. Great Wyk was the largest of the Iron Islands, so vast that some of its lords had holdings that did not front upon the holy sea. Gorold Goodbrother was one such. His keep was in the Hardstone Hills, as far from the Drowned God’s realm as any place in the isles. Gorold’s folk toiled down in Gorold’s mines, in the stony dark beneath the earth. Some lived and died without setting eyes upon salt water. Small wonder that such folk are crabbed and queer.”
It is during Aeron’s trek we learn the holdfast of the Goodbrother senior branch is so far away from Drowned God’s realm and their people are considered “crabbed and queer”. Many do not even set eyes on the sea their entire lives and did you notice this is also the first mention of “woods” on the Iron islands, a place known for their lack of trees. Heck, this is about the closest approximation of the Green Lands possible. Basically, the writer is trying to portray there is something a little unique about this place and people.
It was long after dark by the time the priest espied the spiky iron battlements of the Hammerhorn clawing at the crescent moon. Gorold’s keep was hulking and blocky, its great stones quarried from the cliff that loomed behind it. Below its walls, the entrances of caves and ancient mines yawned like toothless black mouths. The Hammerhorn’s iron gates had been closed and barred for the night.
Here we have Gorlod’s battlements clawing at the crescent moon which is an echo of the trees in the Wayward Bride chapter and later echoed again with the weirwood of the Nightfort which we will also review. Below the keep we find the entrances of caves. GRRM has outwardly taken the time to mention caves and hollow hills under certain old places that have connections to the Old Gods. This has been the case so much. In fact, there has been some healthy discussion and cataloguing of this phenomena in some of the forums. And to that list, you can add Hammerhorn keep.
LmL gets the lemoncake for this: “Hammerhorn” is a clue about the Hammer of the Waters, the Hammerhorn’s spiky iron is clawing at the moon, connecting the idea of the moon being attacked and pulled down with hammers and horns. Essentially, hammers have been associated with Storm Gods quite a lot; Thor is probably the most recognizable example of this. Also, there is the belief that horns are connected to the drowning of the waters. If the moon cracked and poured forth dragons then dragonbinder=cometbinder, the horn of Joramun is also said to “wake giants from the earth”. LmL explains this much more detailed and in depth, and comes to fairly logical conclusions so I am on board with this imagery. One thing I would like to add is that horns are also universally recognized as a symbol of fertility which ties into the horned lord mythos. The sigil of House Goodbrother is of course, a warhorn.
The use of horns as a symbol for power dates back to the ancient world. From ancient Egypt and the Ba’al worshipping Cannanites, to the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and various other cultures. Horns have ever been present in religious imagery as symbols of fertility and power. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horned_deity
We also learn in this chapter the head of House Goodbrother, Gorold Goodbrother, was given 12 daughters and 3 sons who are triplets. Fifteen kids are quite a lot of children even for Westerosi standards, and triplets are almost unheard of. In fact, triplets are not seen anywhere else in the books, well except triplets are mentioned in TWOIAF where it states: “mothers brought forth twins or even triplets when he (Garth) blessed them”. Later, when Aeron enters the keep, he is offered a horn of ale by one of Gorold’s twelve daughters and is met by both Lord Goodbrother and his maester. They discuss succession, then Aeron is escorted back to the sea by Gorold’s son Greydon. I would like to add that the only other character in ASOIAF with the name Greydon, is Greydon Gardener, an old Gardener King.
As I was mentioning, with House Goodbrother, the fertility symbolism is there, and so are the greenland references. Knowing this much, would you be surprised to see some brother versus brother stuff?
As Aeron is escorted back to the sea he drifts to sleep and wakes to think of his brother Urri who died of a hand wound he had obtained while playing the finger dance that festered. It seems Aeron had inadvertently blamed himself for his brother’s death as it was his throwing axe that maimed him.
“It had been his axe that sheared off Urri’s hand, whilst they danced the finger dance together, as friends and brothers will. It shamed him still to recall the years that followed Urri’s death.”
Then after thinking about being the cause of the death of once brother, his mind instinctively turns to Euron. Greydon Goodbrother interrupts his thoughts and asks:
“Will it come to war?” asked Greydon Goodbrother as the sun was lightening the hills. “A war of brother against brother?” “If the Drowned God wills it. No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair.” The Crow’s Eye will fight, that is certain.
Aeron then arrives on the shore and Greydon departs. Aeron goes on to preach to the smallfolk of the Island who “threw down their hoes and picks to follow”. What happens the very next time we see the Goodbrothers? Oh yes, we see two brothers fighting.
Take a look at how the Goodbrothers are used in the books, you will see a message is trying to be sent about fertility and brother’s fighting. When they are not given kinslaying or fertility symbolism, you see allusions to the hammer of the waters, maesters, talk of sending ravens. House Goodbrother also has a ton of cadet branches, another nod to abundance with tell-tale names of places such as “Crow Spike Keep,” “Downdelving,” “Corpse Lake,” and “Shatterstone” which are again allusions to the hammer of the waters. In the Kingsmoot, the Goodbrothers do not support the conventional Ironborn suitors, but instead supported the unconventional claimants of Asha and Euron (we will get to Euron in a little bit, but believe me he is the kind of guy a “Goodbrother” would support).
Before moving on, I would like to touch on the name of the head of the senior Goodbrother branch, Gorold Goodbrother. I had already mentioned his son Greydon and the name he shares with a Gardener King. First off, the Goodbrothers obviously follow with the same alliteration pattern as Garth the Green and his descendents of House Gardener. Additionally, there was also a specific historical sect of Wicca (HUGE Cernnunos followers) called “Gardnerian Wicca” named after the sect’s founder Gerald Gardner which is where I believe GRRM took inspiration for House Gardener. I also believe GRRM chose the name Gorold for the head of House Goodbrother because of its similarities to Gerald. Another son, Gran Goodbrother, sounds very similar to Bran. We don’t have any other characters with the name Gran, but what we do have is something in the Old Tongue, “woh dak nag gran”. This is the name the Giants used for the original tree huggers themselves, the Children of the Forest.
Victarion and Euron
I would like to take a moment to mention Victarion and Euron. In this brotherly dynamic, Victarion despises his brother. In fact, I personally feel this guy holds more enmity and hattred toward his sibling than any other character in the present timeline and that is saying quite a bit. Really, from the moment Euron returns, the only thing on Victarion’s mind is killing his brother.
Victarion would not speak of kinslaying, here in this godly place beneath the bones of Nagga and the Grey King’s Hall, but many a night he dreamed of driving a mailed fist into Euron’s smiling face, until the flesh split and his bad blood ran red and free.
What holds Victarion from killing Euron? His thoughts on kinslaying, they say it is accursed.
“and the only good wind is that which fills our sails. Would you have me fight the Crow’s Eye? Brother against brother, ironborn against ironborn?” Euron was still his elder, no matter how much bad blood might be between them. No man is as accursed as the kinslayer. Victarion’s hands closed into fists. He had beaten four men to death with those hands, and one wife as well. Though his hair was flecked with hoarfrost, he was as strong as he had ever been, with a bull’s broad chest and a boy’s flat belly. The kinslayer is accursed in the eyes of gods and men, Balon had reminded him on the day he sent the Crow’s Eye off to sea.
The above passage is Victarion’s inner mantra being played out again, but just before it is mentioned, he ponders his own life, virility and vitality.
“He drank in the darkness, brooding on his brother. If I do not strike the blow with mine own hand, am I still a kinslayer? Victarion feared no man, but the Drowned God’s curse gave him pause. If another strikes him down at my command, will his blood still stain my hands?
Ah, we see a curse again, and it has to do with kinslaying. Victarion describes it as the Drowned God’s curse, but we see mention of this saying among other Westerosi quite often: “No man is as accursed as the kinslayer”. Could the saying have actual historical significance that has been lost through time? Could this saying stem from an ancient battle between two brothers?
The Curse of the First King= a good reason not to kill your brother
Yes. That is right. I believe the curse of the First King had to do with Garth and the Grey King. The Grey/Holly King slew his brother the Green/Oak King causing Garth to force a hex on his vitality, and as a result the Grey King’s hair, beard and skin became the color of the winter sea. An excellent hint and allusion of this curse is the death of Renly Baratheon. In this passage, George is giving Renly the personification of Garth. As we can see, Renly is an obvious summer/oak figure in green armor and antlers who is soon killed by his brother.
the helm crowned by a great rack of golden antlers. The steel was polished to such a high sheen that she could see her reflection in the breastplate, gazing back at her as if from the bottom of a deep green pond.
The face of a drowned woman”
Now, for some really great parallelism after Renly’s death, the very next time we see Stannis he is wearing grey and becomes noticeably older and corpselike to Davos.
The king was often occupied, Davos learned from his son Devan, one of the royal squires. Now that Stannis Baratheon had come into his power, the lordlings buzzed around him like flies round a corpse. He looks half a corpse too, years older than when I left Dragonstone. Devan said the king scarcely slept of late. “Since Lord Renly died, he has been troubled by terrible nightmares,”
In this next passage we have Theon Turncloak, and although he did not actually kill his foster brothers, he did forsake the Stark family that had raised him. Theon overran Winterfell and became a pretender to the King of the North sitting in the high Stark seat. Later, he was cast down and through various deprivations became very much corpse-like himself. Also pay close attention to the mentioning of hammering and Barrowton.
his cloak pinned to his shoulder by a crude iron kraken that a smith in Barrowton had hammered together for him. But under the hood, his hair was white and thin, and his flesh had an old man’s greyish undertone.
What we are really looking at with this curse, if it is what I think it is, is the age-old brother versus brother archetype; basically, Cain and Abel. Fascinatingly, the Cain and Abel trope appears in various versions throughout literature and folklore. In the Bible story, Cain slew his brother, which was the first act of murder. In retaliation, God had cursed Cain and marked him so that no one would put him out of his misery. Still, other tales exist. One explanation for the blood betrayal floating around is that for Cain to be capable of murder he must have been the offspring of a fallen angel or Lucifer himself, rather than a son of Adam. Still another old tale from Celtic Folklore suggests Cain was forced by God to become “Ankou” the hooded Grim Harvester of Souls. Yes, Cain in some tales is the Grim Reaper himself. Now you know where all of the death and reaping symbols are coming from .
If the name Abel sounds familiar it is because this is the name Mance Rayder had taken when he went to Winterfell. Mance, you mean, the same guy with the antlers crowning his tent when he was introduced in the series? Yeah, that one. As we all know, Mance took the moniker “Abel” as a tribute to Bael the Bard.
In Middle Eastern Mythology, Mot was the Canaanite death god. Mot’s rival was the Storm and Fertility God Baʿal (pronounced Bael ). Ba’al is very similar to the horned lord and oak/holly king mythos as he is connected to the fertily life/death cycle we see in these types of mythology. In fact his death and resurrection is so key to his stories, it is even given the name, “the Ba’al Cycle”. In the Ba’al cycle, his brother Mot consumes Baʿal before being killed himself. After a time, both gods are restored and resume battle before the sun goddess prompts a truce.
So let’s look at the story of Bael the Bard. If this pattern holds true, we should see some hints. Right? Some hints at kinslaying or something similar to the symbolism I am suggesting.
it was young Lord Stark who met him at the Frozen Ford … and killed him, for Bael would not harm his own son when they met sword to sword.” “So the son slew the father instead,” said Jon. “Aye,” she said, “but the gods hate kinslayers, even when they kill unknowing. When Lord Stark returned from the battle and his mother saw Bael’s head upon his spear, she threw herself from a tower in her grief.”
What about some other Bael type characters? We know Baelor Breakspear was killed by his brother at Ashford Tourney. Additionally, our crown of flowers wearing Baelor the Blessed was rumored to have been poisoned by his uncle Viserys. Balon (get it, Baelon) was killed by Euron, Baelor Blacktyde was killed by Euron (which we will get to in a moment, just know that although Euron is not Baelor’s brother, Euron is the perfect guy to be killing another guy named Baelor). What about Baelon Targaryen? Now, I’m not saying this is for certain, but that burst belly is starting to look mighty suspicious.
In 100 AC, Baelon was named Hand of the King, succeeding the position after Ser Ryam Redwyne had been fired. Baelon served admirably, but tragedy struck a year later, in 101 AC, when, during a hunting trip, Baelon complained of a stitch in his side. He died within days, of a burst belly.
Basically, just about all Baels follow this pattern or provide an illusion to kinslaying in some form or fashion. So now you know what is up with all these Bael names.
In Celtic Mythology Arawn (pronounced Aeron ) was yet another death god who also fought his brother. In one tale, a rival of Arawn is Gwydion, a trickster and enchanter whose name means “Born of Trees”. The battle is caused by Gwydion taking a roebuck (stag). There is a very peculiar tale between Arawn and Gwydion, and that is, The Battle of the Trees. There is even a Welsh poem which details to this battle between the underworld and the trees detailing a character named Euron. This use of trees as warriors is even echoed by other fantasy writers such as Tolkien and CS Lewis.
So what we have in the Grey King, is by and large, the embodiment of a death God. A man with connotations to the moon, and the Grim Reaper. With the Grey King and the Ironborn we see so much of the reaping symbolism, we also know by the essays from LmL the supposition of the moon causing the drowning of the waters is a pretty good bet. We also notice implications to the life/death cycle of the fertility god, the storm god, and the enchanter of trees. We also see a curse for this kinslaying played out in the tales of Cain. Kind of a cautionary tale on why we shouldn’t kill our sibilings.
Brother versus brother is obviously a recurring archetype that can be seen throughout ASOIAF. Some examples include:
• Hound vs Mountain
• Bloodraven vs Bittersteel
• Maegor v Aenys
• Maekar vs Baelor Breakspear
• Daemon Blackfyre vs King Dareon
• Stannis vs Renly
• Ramsay vs Domerick
• Aemon the Dragonknight vs Aegon the Unworthy
• Euron vs Victarion
• Euron vs Balon
• Euron vs Aeron
• Euron vs (forsaken chapter spoilers)
• You see a pattern here with Euron?
• Arryk Cargyll vs Erryk Cargyll
I am just going to take a minute and want to point out the Arthurian tale of Sir Balan and Sir Balin. The names sound oddly familiar don’t they? In le Motre d’Arthur, these two brothers unknowingly kill each other. This tale is echoed by Martin in the Dance of Dragons where we have Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk who were famous Kingsguard knights who killed one another. Another interesting find with this death vs fertility pattern is the fact that Sir Balin was also the same character that dealt the famed Dolorous Stroke upon the Fisher King causing his kingdom to become an unfertile wasteland.
The Storm God = The Greenseers
I know what you are thinking, the Grey King and the Ironborn religion already have an arch nemesis in the Storm God. What is this new information I am getting about there being some ancient beef with Garth? Well, the Old Gods/Greenseers and the Storm God are very much interchangeable. Has anyone else noticed how Aeron mentions ravens are creatures of the Storm God? I definitely noticed this because ravens as we all know are most commonly associated with greenseers, the Old Gods and weirwoods. The Grey King’s multiple examples of the destruction of trees is another hint to the identity of the Ironborn’s malign Storm god. Examples such as the pale demonic tree ‘Ygg” he had used to carve his first longship and the petrified weirwood “bones” of Nagga whom the Grey King had slain point to the true identity of this malign deity.
We also know much of the Drown God/Storm God duality lore stems from the cosmic catastophic destruction caused by the hammer of the waters and the drowning of the islands. In a nutshell, the Ironborn see the drowning of the waters as a massive storm that was brought on by the Storm God. Knowing this, however, If the greenseers did indeed cause the hammer of the waters, then the malign God in question would in fact be the greenseers or Old Gods.
In fact, we already know the greenseers speak with the trees and the wind, therefore the greenseers must have at least some control over the wind. You will see time and time again throughout the series the wind, not just the trees, is trying to tell the characters something even as soon as the prologue. Just notice when a character like Jon is walking into danger, or when Catelyn is coming to Kings Landing in her ship, watch what the wind does. Here is a link to a really good analysis by westeros.org user evita mgfs as well as a healthy discussion of the wind and its connections to the greenseers.
“Tell me what you meant, about hearing the gods.” Osha studied him. “You asked them and they’re answering. Open your ears, listen, you’ll hear.” Bran listened. “It’s only the wind,” he said after a moment, uncertain. “The leaves are rustling.” “Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?” She seated herself across the pool from him, clinking faintly as she moved. […]“They see you, boy. They hear you talking. That rustling, that’s them talking back.”
The symbolism of Renly’s duality as a Storm King wearing the Garth armor is also a hint. Both Garth and the Storm King share antlers in their portrayal. I am not implying that Durran and Garth are the same guy, but the storm king is given the antlers for reasons beyond giving certain Storm Lords fertility and life/death cycle symbols that we can pick apart for each character. He gave the Storm King antlers to connect Garth to the storm visually. In fact, the idea of a horned god smashing the Iron Islands with a hammer is referenced all throughout the recounts of the attack on Pyke during the Greyjoy rebellion.
He saw the king as he had been in the flower of his youth, tall and handsome, his great antlered helm on his head, his warhammer in hand, sitting his horse like a horned god.…”
I am sure you have seen the posts and theories about the many faced god and the concept that there are probably a few gods in the series that are in reality the same so to speak. This is just a supposition that supports this. So, in my interpretation, when the Ironborn speak of the Storm God what they are referring to is a deity linked to Garth and greenseers, very much like the mythological god Ba’al who also symbolizes both fertility and storm.
The Ironborn Legacy
Another thing I noticed when I read TWOIAF was how much of a threat the Ironborn must have been back in the day. If there was any threat to the thread of the Greenland society it was the Ironborn. The Ironborn were all over the western coast of Westeros, and even the Summer Isles and the Port of Ibben. Their power at sea during these ancient times must have been tremendous, which would explain their voracious need for lumber.
The Greyjoys of Pyke claim descent from the Grey King of the Age of Heroes. Legend says the Grey King ruled not only the western isles but the sea itself, and took a mermaid to wife. For thousands of years, raiders from the Iron Islands— called “ironmen” by those they plundered— were the terrors of the seas, sailing as far as the Port of Ibben and the Summer Isles.
From that day to this, the singers have celebrated the deeds of knights like Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, Davos the Dragonslayer, Roland of the Horn, and the Knight Without Armor— and the legendary kings who led them, among them Garth V (Hammer of the Dornish), Gwayne I (the Gallant), Gyles I (the Woe), Gareth II (the Grim), Garth VI (the Morningstar), and Gordan I (Grey-Eyes). Many of these monarchs shared a common foe, for during these dark and bloody centuries, seaborne reavers from the Iron Islands dominated almost all of the western shore, from Bear Island to the Arbor. […] Though the ironmen seldom ventured far inland, they controlled the Sunset Sea and exacted cruel tribute from the fisherfolk along the coasts. Having established themselves upon the Shield Islands by killing all the men they found there and claiming the women as their own, the ironborn even raided up the Mander with impunity.
What we have is a bit of history repeating itself in the present storyline. Now the Ironborn have some new blue lipped leadership who happens to have brothers that would love to see him dead. This brother is beginning to threaten the Reach, Garth’s land like they did of old. It was the Reader who told Asha, What has happened before will perforce happen again…
“Rocks?” gasped Margaery. “Did Your Grace say rocks?” The Knight of Flowers put a hand upon his sister’s shoulder. “If it please Your Grace, from those rocks the ironmen threaten Oldtown and the Arbor. From strongholds on the Shields, raiders can sail up the Mander into the very heart of the Reach, as they did of old. With enough men they might even threaten Highgarden.”
The news from the Reach seemed to grow more dire with every raven. The ironmen had not been content with their new rocks, it seemed. They were raiding up the Mander in strength, and had gone so far as to attack the Arbor and the smaller islands that surrounded it. The Redwynes had kept no more than a dozen warships in their home waters, and all those had been overwhelmed, taken, or sunk. And now there were reports that this madman who called himself Euron Crow’s Eye was even sending longships up Whispering Sound toward Oldtown.
So what do you think? Will history repeat itself? GRRM is already giving Euron a parallel with a pretty evil “Goodbrother”.
Euron is a really bad brother
So this Post could not be complete without touching on Euron. Euron is, in a sense, a corrupted Garth figure. This guy is very much like the malign deity aspect of the Storm God. He is rumored to practice blood sacrifice, has had visions of flying, has most likely found a way to control the winds and is associated with birds. When others warn of the Storm God’s wrath, Euron responds by stating, “I am the Storm”. Despite being older than Victarion, Victarion cannot help notice how he has no grey hairs and time hasn’t touched him. Euron also has quite a few bastards running around which he fathered. Euron also is inverse allusion to Bloodraven which westeros.org user Ser Creighton sums up perfectly.
The other parallel is Euron Greyjoy. I know you know I do inverse parallels and that seems to be the case with Euron and Bloodraven. Consider that Euron’s black eye is similar to Bloodravens missing eye, then Bloodraven has one red eye and Euron one blue. Euron speaks of flying just like Bloodraven. And then you have the sigil, Black Crown, Black Crow, and one red eye.
There is also a historical member of House Goodbrother Euron is likened to, Urrathon of House Goodbrother. Urrathon was an ancient Ironborn King known as Badbrother due to being a pretty rotten guy. Basically, the previous old king dies and all of the king’s sons believe they will become the next king. Unfortunately, Urrathon Goodbrother sneaks in and wins the driftwood crown at the Kingsmoot. In the end, none of the Old King’s sons win the driftwood throne and Badbrother has the old king’s sons put to death. Luckily, there was another son who was not present because he was off reaving somewhere along the coast. By the time this wayward son returns, the drowned priests had had enough of Badbrother’s crap and they deemed the kingsmoot unlawful because not all claimants were present. This is the only time in the history of the Ironborn when a Kingsmoot decision has been overturned. Similar to Urrathon, Euron shows up to the Kingsmoot and usurps the driftwood crown from the likely favorites much in the way Urrathon did at his Kingsmoot.
Euron shrugged. “I had heard the Storm God swept Balon to his death. Who is this man who slew him? Tell me his name, niece, so I might revenge myself on him.” Asha got to her feet. “You know his name as well as I. Three years you were gone from us, and yet Silence returns within a day of my lord father’s death.”
The Goodbrothers are the very fertile ancestors of the Grey King’s eldest brother Garth the Green. The symbolism of the Grey King, Garth and House Goodbrother point to some fratricidal connotations. Somewhere in the timeline the Grey King slew his brother and the greenseers attempted to decimate the Ironborn with the Hammer of the waters. Which happened first is uncertain. The result of the Hammer most likely brought about the long night.
Legend says that the great floods that broke the land bridge that is now the Broken Arm and made the Neck a swamp were the work of the greenseers, who gathered at Moat Cailin to work dark magic. Some contest this, however: the First Men were already in Westeros when this occurred, and stemming the tide from the east would do little more than slow their progress.
Outside the wind was sending armies of dead leaves marching across the courtyards to scratch faintly at the doors and windows. The sounds made him think of Old Nan’s stories. He could almost hear the ghostly sentinels calling to each other atop the Wall and winding their ghostly warhorns. Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well.