is one of the three continents described in George R. R. Martin
's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire
. It is loosely based on medieval Europe
The story of A Song of Ice and Fire takes place mainly on the continent of Westeros. It is roughly equivalent in area to South America. However, there is a large amount of land to the far north that remains unmapped, due to the extremely cold temperatures and hostile inhabitants known as wildlings. The northern lands of Westeros are less densely populated than the south despite its roughly equivalent size. The five major cities of Westeros are, in order of size: King's Landing, Oldtown, Lannisport, Gulltown, and White Harbour.
Two other continents share the world in which Westeros resides. A vast, unnamed continent lies in the east, across the narrow sea. The closest foreign nations to Westeros are the Free Cities, a collection of independent city-states along the western edge of this eastern continent. The lands along the southern coastline of the eastern continent, collectively called the Lands of the Summer Sea, include Ghis and the ruins of Valyria, the former home of Westeros's Targaryen kings.
To the south of Westeros lies the continent of Sothoryos. Little is known about the continent save that it is inhabited by dark-skinned people and is "jungly, plague-ridden and largely unexplored".
Regions of Westeros
Westeros was originally divided into several independent kingdoms before the consolidation of the War of Conquest
. After this war the different regions were united under the rule of House Targaryen in what is known as the Seven Kingdoms. After it was conquered, House Targaryen divided it into four principal regions -- North, South, East, and West, and named one of its bannermen as the Wardens and Lord Protectors of each region. As of the beginning of the series, House Lannister
is the Warden of the West, House Stark
is the Warden of the North, House Tyrell
holds the south and House Arryn
holds the East.
The North is the area north of The Neck, and has been ruled by House Stark
from Winterfell, first as Kings of the North and later under Aegon, for thousands of years. It is colder and much less populated than the South. Most of its residents still follow the Old Gods, but some, mainly around the area of White Harbor, have taken the faith of the Seven. Its northern border is the Wall, home of the Night's Watch
. The North is separated from the South by the Neck, an isthmus
of swampland. The Neck is home to small, marsh-dwelling crannogmen
and ruled by House Reed, bannermen of Winterfell. The narrowness of the region and the difficulty of the terrain make it a natural border for the North, protecting it from invasion. Bastards born in the North are given the surname Snow.
The Iron Islands
The Iron Islands are a group of seven islands in Ironman's Bay, which are Pyke, Great Wyk, Old Wyk, Harlaw, Saltcliffe, Blacktyde and Orkmont lying off the western coast of the continent. The inhabitants of these harsh isles are known as Ironmen in the rest of Westeros, 'The Ironborn' amongst themselves. They are ruled by House Greyjoy
of Pyke, chosen to rule the Ironmen after Black Harren's line was extinguished during the Conquest. Prior to the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror, the Ironmen ruled over the Riverlands and much of the western coast of Westeros. The Ironmen are men of the sea, and their naval supremacy was once unmatched. The Seven of the Andals find small favor with the Ironborn, as their allegiance is given to their native Drowned God. Bastards born in the Iron Islands are given the surname Pyke.
The Riverlands are the fertile areas between the forks of the Trident. They are the domain of the Tullys
of Riverrun.The Riverlands have had a turbulent history after the fall of the old Riverkings at the hands of the other southern kingdoms being ruled by one of them at one time or another. At the time of the conquest the Riverlands were ruled by House Hoare of the Iron Islands, and thus the Tullys were never kings of the Riverlands, but were rebel riverlords who left Harren the Black in favor of Aegon the Conqueror. Bastards born in the Riverlands are given the surname Rivers.
The Vale of Arryn
The Vale is the area surrounded almost completely by the Mountains of the Moon. The Vale is under the rulership of House Arryn
, one of the oldest lines of Andal nobility and, before Aegon's conquest, Kings of Mountain and Vale. Their seat, the Eyrie, is a castle high in the mountains, small but unassailable. The only way to the top is a treacherous goat path. Due to the Vale's harsh winters, travel is only possible through the mountains in summer. Rebellious mountain clans
make travel even more dangerous. Notable Houses of this region include Hunter, Corbray, Redfort, and Royce. Bastards born in the Vale are given the surname Stone.
The Westerlands are the lands to the west of the Riverlands and north of the Reach. They are ruled by House Lannister
of Casterly Rock, formerly Kings of the Rock. People of this region are often called 'Westermen'. Lannisport, lying hard by Casterly Rock, is the chief town of the region and one of the great ports and cities of Westeros.The Westerlands are rich in precious metals, which is the source of their wealth. Bastards born in the Westerlands are given the surname Hill.
The Reach is the fertile ground ruled by House Tyrell
from Highgarden. The Tyrells were stewards to House Gardener, the Kings of the Reach before Aegon's conquest. After the last Gardener King was killed on the Field of Fire, the Tyrells surrendered Highgarden to Aegon and were rewarded with both the castle and the position of overlords of the Reach. Bannermen of the Tyrells frequently fight with the Dornishmen of the south. The borderlands between the two regions, called the Dornish Marches
, are populated on the north side by marcher
lords loyal to the Tyrells. The most prominent city in the Reach is Oldtown. It is the oldest city in Westeros, home to the Maester's Citadel
, and the previous seat of the Faith. Bastards born in the Reach are given the surname Flowers.
The Stormlands are the areas between King's Landing and the Sea of Dorne. In the east they are bordered by Shipbreaker Bay and the Dornish Sea to the south. Before Aegon's conquest they were ruled by the Storm Kings, and afterwards by Baratheons
, bastard relatives to the Targaryens. The Dornish Marches are located within this region, having been conquered by the Storm Kings, and are ruled by house Caron and lesser marcher lords. The marches were common battlegrounds between the Stormlands, the Reach and Dorne until the last century, when Dorne joined the Seven Kingdoms. Bastards born in the Stormlands are given the surname Storm.
Dorne is the southernmost land of Westeros. It stretches from the high mountains of the Dornish marches to the southern coast of the continent. It is the hottest kingdom in Westeros and features the only desert on the continent. Dornishmen have a reputation for hot-bloodedness as well. They differ both culturally and ethnically from other Westerosi due to the historical mass immigration
of Rhoynish people. Their food, appearance, and architecture resemble those of Mediterranean cultures such as Greece and Turkey more than the Western European feel of the other kingdoms. They have adopted many Rhoynish customs as well, including equal primogeniture
. Dorne was the only kingdom in Westeros to successfully resist Aegon's conquest. It joined the Seven Kingdoms through marriage over a century after the Targaryen invasion. This accomplishment has allowed Dorne to retain a small measure of independence. Lords of the ruling House Martell
still style themselves "Prince" and "Princess" in the Rhoynish fashion. Bastards born in Dorne are given the surname Sand.
The Crownlands are lands ruled directly by the crown on the Iron Throne. These lands include King's Landing and the surrounding areas including the town of Rosby and Duskendale. They are south of the Vale, southeast of the Riverlands, east of the Westlands, and north of the Reach and Stormlands.The Crownlands overlook Blackwater Bay and contains the largest city in Westeros which is Kings Landing. Bastards born in the Crownlands are given the surname Waters.
- Dragonstone is an island fortress located in the Narrow Sea. It rules a few other islands in the Narrow Sea which are The Driftmafk and Claw Isle, it also controls the fortress of Sharp Point which is located on the mainland.These Islands where originally annexed by the Valyrian Freehold and ruled by a Valyrian noblehouse House Targaryen. After Aegons conquest it became a princedom for the Dragon Princes who were heirs to the Iron Throne and indirectly part of the Crownlands.After the War of the Usurper it became the seat of Stannis Baratheon.
Westeros is at the mercy of erratic seasons that may last for many years, but whose duration is unpredictable. At the beginning of A Song of Ice and Fire the continent has enjoyed a decade-long summer, and many fear that an equally long and harsh winter will follow. It is unclear to which degree the eastern continent is subject to the same conditions. George R. R. Martin explicitly and more than once stated that the explanation of the Planet's climate will be revealed at the end of the series, so he cannot disclose any further details on the issue before that point. He also stated that the explanation will be magical in nature and will not involve any sci-fi elements..
- 209 AL - Spring
- 209 AL – Great Spring Sickness
- 211 AL - Summer
- 254 AL – Winter
- 281 AL – the Year of the False Spring
- 288–298 AL – the long summer
Biology and Anthropology
- Humans - appear to be mostly equivalent to humans on Earth. Some noticeable differences include the propensity for families in noble houses to share a common trait; for example, the Lannisters appear to have all been blondes for thousands of years, although this could be a result of genetic inbreeding. Also, humans in Westeros are often larger than would be expected from a roughly medieval civilization. Many men are over six feet tall, and abnormally large men frequently approach and exceed seven feet. Some bloodlines of humans are known for having unusual physical traits. Targaryens often have platinum hair and violet eyes, while descendants of the Ghiscari often have both red and black hair. Natives of Westeros have predominantly European features, with regional variations. Natives of the Summer Islands and the continent of Sothoryos have predominantly African features. Natives of other areas have a variety of features from many real-world populations.
- Giants - huge, shaggy humanoids of slightly below human intelligence, vaguely resembling bipedal apes. Giants are a dwindling species found only in the lands to the extreme north, beyond the Wall. They ride mammoths into battle, wielding crude clubs that are little more than logs. They speak the language of the First Men, but at least some can understand common Westerosi speech.
- Children of the Forest - the original inhabitants of Westeros are frequently mentioned, but have not been seen in thousands of years. They are thought to be diminutive humanoid creatures; dark and beautiful, with mysterious powers over dreams and nature. They are said to have used obsidian weapons and weirbows in battle. Little of their legacy exists at present beyond their worship of nameless nature gods still practiced by some in the North, and the remaining Weirwoods. George R. R. Martin has stressed repeatedly that they are not elves. He said: "The children are... well, children. Elves have been done to death."
- Others - a mysterious and apparently malevolent race of creatures found beyond the Wall. They have only been seen at night, and seem to bring unnatural cold with them. They appear as tall, gaunt humanoids with eyes of blue so deep it burns like fire. They wear armor that shifts in color with every step, and wield thin crystal swords that are so cold they can shatter iron. Others move silently, but their voices sound like cracking ice. Creatures they kill reanimate as wights, undead zombies with glowing blue eyes. The Others exhibit a weakness to weapons made of obsidian (also known as dragonglass), which will pierce their armor easily. In death, they seem to melt into a pool of extremely cold liquid. Wights exhibit less vulnerability to obsidian because many still wear armor of some kind that can block it.
Some species of animals inhabiting the planet are very similar to Pleistocene megafauna
- Aurochs - large relatives of the bull. They are frequently used as a symbol of size, strength, and stupidity. An aurochs was used as a mount by the mythical Clarence Crabb as a display of his prowess.
- Direwolves - relatives of the wolf, but unlike their real-world equivalent they are much larger and stronger than regular wolves, reaching the size of a pony when fully grown. They are almost never seen south of the Wall.
- Lizard-Lions - massive, swamp-dwelling reptiles found in the Neck, these creatures are most likely large crocodilians.
- Mammoths - inhabitants of the far north and apparently the only pachyderm in Westeros other than the elephants mentioned in a book describing the Dornish Wars. They are used as mounts by Giants.
Other animals appear to be altered versions of contemporary animals or have no real-world equivalent.
- Krakens - huge squids said to be able to pull down whaling ships.
- Manticores - small creatures that look like scarabs when folded up. Their faces are malign and vaguely human. They have a poisonous sting that is fatal to humans. Manticores are probably from across the narrow sea.
- Ravens - physically similar to common ravens of Earth, ravens in Westeros are used to carry messages between castles. The maester of each castle usually tends to its stock of ravens. The Citadel raises a breed of large, white ravens that are said to be more intelligent. Ravens sometimes imitate human speech.
- Shadowcats - large predatory cats with black fur and white stripes who seem to be native to mountainous regions. Their pelts are prized.
- Zorses - Black and white-striped horses, most likely similar to zebras, brought over and used as mounts by some foreigners in Westeros. (Note: "Zorse" is the name used for zebra-horse crossbreeds in real life. They are sterile, like mules.)
lived once all over the world but had become extinct in Westeros before they were brought back during Aegon's Conquest by the Targaryens from Valyria via Dragonstone, and raised in captivity. Dragons are scaled, reptilian creatures with animal-level intelligence. They have leathery wings for forelegs, like bats, though some accompanying artwork for A Song of Ice and Fire
portrays them with four legs and a detached set of wings. They have long necks and tails, with spiny crests running down their backs. Great heat emanates from their bodies, to the point that they steam during cold nights. They breathe extremely hot fire and cook their meat before eating it.
Dragons have no gender differentiation, but lay large, scaled eggs to reproduce. They grow throughout their lives, and the limits of their size and age are unknown. The largest and oldest Targaryen dragon, Balerion, lived about 300 years and could swallow an aurochs whole, but dragons raised in captivity at the Targaryen's Dragonpit are thought to be smaller than their wild brethren. In Feast for Crows, it is revealed that keeping a dragon in captivity limits its size. Archmaester Marwyn suggests that maesters of the citadel used false counsel to gradually kill off the dragons.
By the beginning of A Song of Ice and Fire, dragons had been extinct from Westeros, and possibly the world, for over 100 years. It is thought that magic faded and winters grew colder while they were gone.
See also: Wars in A Song of Ice and Fire
The rough timeline here is given in relation to Aegon's Landing, using negative numbers for events before Aegon's Landing. Dawn Age (before -12,000)
- In the Dawn Age, Westeros is inhabited by the fairy-like Children of the Forest, and possibly by Giants in the far North. ca. -12,000
- The First Men come to Westeros from the eastern continent, via a land bridge then connecting the two land masses. The First Men introduce bronze, leather shields, and horses. After initial fights, which include the destruction of the land bridge, they reconcile with the Children and sign the Pact on the Isle of Faces, which brings about a four thousand year peace in Westeros. The First Men adopt the gods of the Children, the nameless gods of the forest. The fortress of Moat Cailin is built circa 10,000 years ago. The Long Night (Age of Heroes, ca. -8000)
- At the time of a terrible winter that seems to last for a generation, a demonic race called the Others invade from the north and nearly destroy all men in Westeros. The Others are finally defeated at the War for the Dawn by an alliance of men wielding fire and obsidian weapons led by a great hero, who in an eastern tradition is named 'Azor Ahai', and wields a great sword of fire, Lightbringer. This is the time when the Wall is built, a giant fortification in the north of the continent protecting the races of men from the menaces of the north. The Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch is created to man and guard it. According to other legends, this is also the time when the castle of Storm's End is built in the south, and the designer of the Wall, Bran the Builder, also constructs Winterfell and becomes the first King in the North. After ca. -8,000
- The thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is seduced by a wildling woman from beyond the Wall and becomes the Night's King, with the Watch as his personal army. The Starks in Winterfell and the King-beyond-the-Wall, Joramun, join forces to defeat the Night's King and restore honour to the Watch. This may be the same Joramun who also finds the Horn of Winter, which it is said he uses to awaken giants from the earth. ca. -6,000
- Seven holy beings appear in the Hills of Andalos on the eastern continent, apparently avatars of a supreme god. The people of the hills become their worshippers. The Andals, as they become known, invade Westeros with steel weapons and the new religion of the Faith of the Seven. They fight both the First Men and the Children of the Forest, finally extinguishing the latter everywhere south of the Wall. After centuries of fighting, the Andals establish six kingdoms in the south, while the north remains in the hands of the First Men, due in large part to the strategically located fortress of Moat Cailin resisting multiple attempts to take it and thereafter serving as the door between North and South. ca. -5,000
- The shepherds of the lands of Valyria on the eastern continent discover dragons lairing in the Fourteen Fires, a great ring of volcanoes across the neck of the Valyrian Peninsula. They tame the dragons and use them to forge a great empire, throwing down the eastern rival of Ghis in warfare five times before it finally capitulates. The Valyrian Freehold is forged. ca. -1,700
- A warrior of Dorne forges a great and powerful sword from a fallen meteorite. The sword, Dawn, becomes the greatest heirloom of House Dayne. The castle of Starfall is named for this occasion. ca. -700
- The Valyrian Freehold's slow westward expansion brings it to the lands watered by the great River Rhoyne, a vast waterway near the west coast of the eastern landmass. They destroy the city of Arnar when it refuses to surrender. Nymeria, warrior-queen of the Rhoynar city-states, evacuates her people in ten thousand ships that cross the Narrow Sea and land in Dorne. Winning an alliance with Lord Mors Martell, the Rhoynar unify the fractious land under the rule of Sunspear and establish House Martell as the ruling house of Dorne. Mors adopts the Rhoynish title 'Prince' rather than 'King'. The Rhoynar bring no greater political turmoil, though the southernmost kingdoms are heavily influenced by their customs, including equal primogeniture. ca. -500
- The Valyrian Freehold conquers much of what is now the area of the southern Free Cities. A religious sect, the Moonsingers, lead many thousands of refugees north to a remote northern lagoon protected by encircling mountains and mists, and there found the Secret City of Braavos. They later build the Titan of Braavos, a great statue which also serves as defensive fortification. ca. -200
- The Valyrian Freehold annexes the island of Dragonstone in the narrow sea between the western cities and Westeros. A Valyrian noble family, the Targaryens, take control of the island. ca. -100
- The Doom of Valyria takes place. The nature of the Doom is unclear, save that heavy volcanic activity is involved. The Valyrian Peninsula is shattered and the city of Valyria is laid waste, although not completely destroyed. The dragons of Valyria are virtually wiped out. The Valyrian Freehold fractures apart. The western coastal cities become independent, naming themselves the Free Cities. Braavos reveals itself to the other cities, eventually becoming the most powerful of them through their vast fleet and economic power. The cities of Slaver's Bay become independent again, although Ghiscari power begins building again in the south. The warrior-nomads of the vast eastern plains become more emboldened by the fall of Valyria and their dominant tribe, the Dothraki, begins raiding the surrounding lands. The Targaryens remain safe on Dragonstone, the guardians of possibly the last three dragons in the western world. 1 After the Landing - The War of Conquest
- Two centuries after the Doom of Valyria, Aegon Targaryen invades, subdues, and unites Westeros under his banner and constructs a new capital city at King's Landing. He is unable to conquer Dorne and allows it to remain sovereign. With the destruction of the Storm King, Argilac the Arrogant, and the death of the last King of the Reach, control of the castle of Storm's End passes to Aegon's bastard half-brother Orys Baratheon, and of Highgarden to Lord Harlen Tyrell. Edmyn Tully of Riverrun is named Lord of the Riverlands and Vickon Greyjoy of Pyke becomes Lord of the Iron Islands. 37
- On Aegon's death, the Faith of the Seven revolts against the Targaryens. King Aenys assigns his brother and heir, Maegor, to deal with the crisis. 48
- Death of King Maegor, the Cruel. King Jaehaerys ends the rebellion through diplomacy, promising amnesty if the Faith Militant disbands. They agree. Jaehaerys becomes known as 'The Conciliator'. 129-131
- The Dance of Dragons, the first major Westerosi civil war, between Aegon II Targaryen and his half-sister Rhaenyra Targaryen for control of the Iron Throne. Many lesser branches of House Targaryen and most of their dragons are extinguished in the conflict. After Rhaenyra's death, the war continues in the name of her son, Aegon III. When Aegon II dies without issue, the war ends by default with Aegon III being crowned. The last Targaryen dragon dies during Aegon III's reign, earning him the name 'Dragonbane'. The dragon leaves behind three stone eggs, which the Targaryens fail to hatch. 157-161
- The reign of King Daeron I, the Boy King, who conquers Dorne, but is unable to hold it. Forty thousand die during the war. Daeron's brother, King Baelor, makes his peace with Dorne by walking the Boneway barefoot and rescuing his cousin Aemon the Dragonknight from a viper pit. 161-171
- The reign of Baelor the Blessed, septon and king. Baelor builds the Great Sept in King's Landing, which afterwards is called the Great Sept of Baelor. Baelor locks his sisters in the Maidenvault of the Red Keep so the sight of them will not tempt him to carnal thoughts. Despite this, his sister Daena the Defiant has an affair with her cousin Aegon (later Aegon IV) and gives birth to a bastard son, Daemon Blackfyre. ca. 170
- Prince Daeron, second cousin of King Baelor, and Princess Myriah Martell of Dorne are married and have their first son, Prince Baelor. 172-184
- Reign of Aegon IV Targaryen, the Unworthy. On his deathbed Aegon IV legitimises his 'Great Bastards': Daemon Blackfyre, Aegor 'Bittersteel' Rivers, Brynden 'Bloodraven' Rivers and Shiera Seastar. He is succeeded by his son, King Daeron II, but his legitimacy is called into question due to his mother's close relationship with Aemon the Dragonknight. 195-196
- The Blackfyre Rebellion is fought, which ends at the Battle of Redgrass Field. Daemon Blackfyre is killed by Bloodraven, but several of his sons escape to the Free Cities with Bittersteel. 197
- Dorne formally joins the Seven Kingdoms through the marriage of Daeron II's sister to Prince Moran Martell. 209
- The events of The Hedge Knight take place. Prince Baelor 'Breakspear' Targaryen, the heir to the throne, is killed in a tourney mishap. A few months later, King Daeron II and Baelor's two sons die in the Great Spring Sickness. Daeron II's second son, Aerys I, becomes king. Prince Baelor's nephew Aegon becomes squire to a hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall, in the hope of improving his mettle. ca. 211
- The events of The Sworn Sword take place. House Webber and House Osgrey of the Reach become allies. Bloodraven has become the King's Hand by this time, angering Prince Maekar, brother to Aerys and the late Baelor. 221-233
- The reign of King Maekar after Aerys dies with no issue. During Maekar's reign his eldest son Daeron dies of the pox and his second son Aerion 'Brightflame' dies after drinking wildfire. His third son, Aemon, journeys to Oldtown to become a maester. Maekar dies battling an outlaw king. Aemon refuses the crown and removes himself to the Wall. Prince Aegon becomes Aegon V, the Unlikely as he is the fourth son of a fourth son. Bloodraven is exiled to the Wall, later becoming Lord Commander. ca. 255-260
- The War of the Ninepenny Kings erupts when the Band of Nine, including Maelys Blackfyre, conquers the Free City of Tyrosh and the Stepstones before plotting an attack on the Seven Kingdoms. Ser Barristan Selmy kills Maelys. Ser Brynden Tully distinguishes himself in the war. 259-262
- The Tragedy of Summerhall. The Targaryen summer palace burns down. King Aegon V and others are killed. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is born to Aegon's grandson Prince Aerys and his sister-wife Rhaella. Jaehaerys II succeeds Aegon but dies only a few years later. Aerys II becomes king, naming the young Tywin Lannister as his Hand. ca. 270-280
- King Aerys spurns Tywin Lannister's offer of his daughter Cersei for Prince Rhaegar, instead marrying Rhaegar to Princess Elia Martell of Dorne. The Defiance of Duskendale takes place when House Darklyn refuses to pay taxes to the Iron Throne. Aerys, eager to sort out the situation himself, ends up being taken prisoner. Duskendale is besieged for six months before Ser Barristan Selmy manages to free the king. House Darklyn is destroyed and House Rykker takes over the town. It is said that it was the Defiance that began Aerys' descent into madness. Around this time Prince Rhaegar begins corresponding with Aemon Targaryen, maester of Castle Black, and ponders if he is 'The Prince Who Was Promised', who shall be reborn to fight the great darkness when it returns. Later they conclude the prince is actually Rhaegar's baby son, Aegon. 281
- The Year of False Spring. Defeat of the Kingswood Brotherhood by a number of knights commanded by a detachment of the Kingsguard. Arthur Dayne kills the leader of the Brotherhood. Jaime Lannister distinguishes himself in the battle and is knighted. Lord Whent holds a great tourney at Harrenhal, where Prince Rhaegar Targaryen distinguishes himself in battle, but names Lyanna Stark of Winterfell (betrothed to Robert Baratheon) Queen of Love and Beauty rather than his own wife. Eddard Stark meets and befriends Howland Reed of Greywater Watch. Jaime becomes a member of the Kingsguard and is disinherited from being his father's heir. Tywin Lannister resigns the Handship in angry protest and returns to Casterly Rock. 282-283 - The War of the Usurper
- Rhaegar Targaryen abducts Lyanna Stark from King's Landing. Lyanna's brother, Brandon Stark, and her father demand that Aerys discipline his son, but instead the Mad King kills them both. Eddard Stark, Robert Baratheon and their mentor, Jon Arryn, raise the standard of rebellion. Robert claims the throne through his descent from his great-grandfather, Aegon V Targaryen. The War of the Usurper, also called Robert's Rebellion, begins. Hoster Tully agrees to join the rebellion as well. The Tyrells remain loyal to the king and besiege Robert's castle of Storm's End, held by his brother Stannis. The Hand of the King, Jon Connington of Griffon's Roost, is defeated in the Battle of the Bells and is sent into exile in the Free Cities. The rebel army defeats the royalists at the Battle of the Trident. Prince Rhaegar is killed. The Lannisters apparently march to the aid of King Aerys, but instead turn against him and sack the city. King Aerys is killed by Jaime Lannister. Princess Elia Martell and her children, Aegon and Rhaenys Targaryen, are brutally murdered by Lannister bannermen, causing a rift between Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon. Ned Stark and Howland Reed defeat the Kingsguard holding Lyanna prisoner, only to find her dying. Ned and Robert are reconciled. Robert becomes King of Westeros, marrying Cersei Lannister. Ned returns home to Winterfell with his bastard son, Jon Snow. Loyal Targaryen retainers carry Aerys' two youngest children, Prince Viserys and Princess Daenerys, to safety in the Free Cities. 289
- The Greyjoy Rebellion. Balon Greyjoy names himself King of the Iron Islands. He is defeated and two of his sons are killed. King Robert accepts his surrender and Balon's remaining son, Theon, becomes a ward and hostage of Eddard Stark. 298
- The events of A Song of Ice and Fire begin. The first four novels span a period of two years or more, concluding in the year 300 AL.
The Old Gods
The worship of numerous and nameless nature spirits was brought to the First Men by the Children of the Forest. After the introduction of the Andals' Seven to Westeros, the spirits were dubbed the Old Gods and the practice of their worship became limited to the North. The religion of the Old Gods has no organization, clergy, evangelical movements, or holy texts, but some traditions are passed down by their followers. Various actions, such as incest and kinslaying, are considered offensive to the gods. Weirwood trees with faces carved into them, called heart trees, are considered sacred. Prayer, oaths, and marriages are often performed in the presence of a heart tree. The faces were carved into the weirwoods by the Children of the Forest, but their meaning or purpose is not completely understood to humans. Once all noble houses had a godswood with a heart tree in its center, but many families that no longer follow the Old Gods converted their godswoods into secular gardens.
The Seven is/are a septune god, a single deity with the following seven aspects: Father, Warrior, Smith, Mother, Maiden, Crone
and Stranger. The religion is often simply called "The Faith." It includes a book of scripture called The Seven-Pointed Star.
Adherents of the Faith use seven-pointed stars, crystal prisms, rainbows, and the number seven to represent the deity, and rites of worship heavily involve the use of light and crystals. The Andals brought the Seven with them into Westeros, and through their conquest it became the dominant religion of the continent. The Faith of the Seven has a highly organized church structure that is strongly integrated into the government and culture of Westeros. It is headed by the High Septon, a figure of papal authority, and a council of yet-undetermined size comprising the "Most Devout", which seems to be a vague analogue of the College of Cardinals, by whom a High Septon is elected. A High Septon abandons his name when elected.
The places of worship of the Seven are called "septs", and every sept houses representational art portraying each of the seven aspects. In rural septs, they may simply be carved masks or simple charcoal drawings on a wall, while in wealthy septs, they are embodied by statues inlaid with precious metals and stones. The High Septon and the Most Devout are situated in the Great Sept of Baelor in King's Landing, a vast building of white marble with seven crystal towers, which serves as the seat of the Faith. Prior to being headquartered in King's Landing, before the advent of the Targaryens, the seat of the Faith was the ornate Starry Sept in Oldtown, constructed in black marble with stained glass windows set in pointed arches.
Male clergy of the Faith are called "septons" and female clergy called "septas", and there are various orders of devotion amongst them, each concentrating their devotion on one aspect of the Seven. For example, there are septons sworn to the Smith, and they wear small metal hammers on a thong around their necks. Monastic orders of septons can live in 'septries' (plural of 'septry'), self sustaining enclaves of sworn brothers who are called "Brown Brothers." Septons without a sept wander the countryside ministering to the smallfolk in exchange for food and shelter. They are sometimes disparaged as "begging brothers", and they wear a small metal bowl around their necks. The Silent Sisters, a special order of women with vows of chastity and silence, serve the Stranger, commonly understood to represent Death. Among their duties are handling the dead and preparing corpses for funerals and burials.
There are convents of septas called 'motherhouses,' including a large one in Oldtown. There are orders of septas, called white, grey or blue septas, but it is unrevealed to which aspect of the deity each of them is devoted. Septas often serve as governesses in the households of the high nobility. A trial of a woman conducted by the Faith will have septas sitting among the seven judges. High ranking septas are counted as members of the "Most Devout", revealing that they have a voice in the selection of a High Septon, but it is unknown if a septa can be raised as High Septon. The Silent Sisters are not regarded as septas.
Militant orders of the Faith have also existed at times in its history, the Warriors Sons, a knightly order comprised of the noble classes, and the Poor Fellows, drawn from the common folk. They are known as the "Swords" and "Stars" respectively, and were brutally repressed by Maegor the Cruel.
Believers in the Faith pray to specific aspects of the Seven for help and guidance depending on their circumstances: to the Warrior for courage and skill in battle, to the Father for justice, to the Mother for mercy, to the Smith for making whole what is broken, to the Crone for wisdom, to the Maid for innocence and pleasure in life, and to the Stranger for death. Candles are lit before the altars symbolizing each of the seven aspects, and hymns are often sung. Weddings are conducted standing between the altars of the Father and the Mother. Grandiose rites of worship contain choirs comprising seventy-seven septas.
During trials by combat, the Seven are expected to intervene on the side of the just combatant. In order to become a knight, a squire must spend a nightlong vigil in a sept and become anointed in the name of the Seven; for this reason, there are few knights in areas where the Faith is not kept (the North, for instance).
The Drowned God
Worshipped solely by the Ironmen
in Westeros, the Drowned God's domain is the sea. The religion of the Drowned God is old, dating back to before the Andal invasion. The Andal invaders of the Iron Islands converted to the local religion rather than supplant it with the Seven as they did in the South. The Drowned God religion supports the Ironmen's naval, Viking-like culture. They believe that the Drowned God created them to rape, reave, and carve out kingdoms. The Drowned God himself is believed to have brought flame from the sea and sailed the world with fire and sword. The eternal enemy of the Drowned God is called the Storm God.
Drowning and resurrection feature prominently in the prayers and rituals of the Drowned God religion. Drowning is the traditional method of execution for the Ironmen, but it is also considered a holy act, and the most faithful have no fear of it. Newborn are "drowned" shortly after birth, being submerged into or anointed with saltwater. Clergymen, called Drowned Men, are drowned a second time in earnest and brought back to life with a crude form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Drowned Men wear roughspun robes of mottled green, grey, and blue. They carry driftwood cudgels to use in battle, and skins of saltwater to perform ritual anointments. A common prayer is, "What is dead can never die, but rises again, harder and stronger."
In Dorne, the orphans of the Greenblood
continue to worship their Rhoynish gods from across the narrow sea. Their chief god is Mother Rhoyne, a personification of their ancestral home, the river Rhoyne. She is also called Mother River. The religion has other, lesser gods as well, including the Old Man of the River, a turtle god who fought King Crab to gain dominion underwater.
R'hllor is a prominent god across the narrow sea
, but has only a few followers in Westeros. He is also called the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, and the God of Flame and Shadow. His symbol is a fiery heart. The followers of R'hllor worship him as the god of light, heat, and life. His enemy is the "great Other", whose name is not spoken, the god of darkness, cold, and death. R'hllor and the great other wage an eternal war over the fate of the world. Followers of R'hllor believe that Azor Ahai, the messianic
figure prophesized to return in ancient books of Asshai
, will tip the balance of this war. Azor Ahai is also called the Prince that was Promised, the Warrior of Light, and the Son of Fire. Prophecy holds that he will wield a flaming sword called Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and raise dragons of stone.
Clergy of the R'hllor religion are called 'red priests,' due to the loose, crimson robes they wear. In the east, children are often given to temples of R'hllor to be raised into the priesthood. Every evening, red priests light fires and sing prayers at their temples, asking R'hllor to bring back the dawn. "The night is dark and full of terrors", is a common phrase in prayers to R'hllor. Priests believe that R'hllor will occasionally answer his followers' prayers by granting magical favors. They often gaze into flames in an effort to see visions of the future. Trials by combat are an accepted practice in the R'hllor faith; prayers before the combat ask R'hllor to give strength to the just party.
Some of the wildling
who live north of the Wall worship the ice-creatures known as the Others as gods. They often refer to the Others as the "cold gods" who come with the snows, and believe that they must appease them to ensure their own survival. One wildling, Craster, left all of his male children for the Others. Some of his wives claimed the Others were Craster's sons. Also, the infamous 13th commander of the Night's Watch, the Night King, was said to have sacrificed to the Others. The red priestess Melisandre
claimed the Others are servants of R'hllor's archfoe, "the great other".
See also: Cities in A Song of Ice and Fire, Strongholds of A Song of Ice and Fire
The Citadel is the place the order of Maesters call home, where they forge their chains with years of study. The Citadel is located in the Reach, in Oldtown, the oldest city in Westeros.
King's Landing is the capital of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms. It is situated on the Blackwater river on the spot where Aegon the Conqueror
landed in Westeros to begin his conquest. The main city is surrounded by a wall, manned by a city watch known as the Gold Cloaks. Within the walls, the city's natural landscape is dominated by three hills, named after Aegon and his two sisters. Poorer smallfolk build shanty settlements outside the city. King's Landing is extremely populous, but rather unsightly and dirty. The stench of the city's waste can be smelled far beyond its walls.
The royal castle, called the Red Keep, sits on Aegon's Hill. The Keep holds the Iron Throne, the seat of the monarch. Aegon commissioned the throne's construction from the swords of his defeated enemies. According to legend, he kept the blades sharp because he believed that no ruler should ever sit comfortably. Centuries later, kings still cut themselves on the throne. It is a common belief that someone who cuts themselves on the throne is not fit to rule (thus the throne 'rejects' them).
The city also holds the Great Sept of Baelor, where the Most Devout convene with the High Septon. It is the holiest sept of the Seven.
The slums of King's Landing are called Flea Bottom, where residents are so poor they regularly subsist on "bowls of brown", a mystery stew that can include the meat of rats and murder victims.
King's Landing has an estimated population of more than 500,000, as stated by Tyrion when he meets Oberyn Martell on his arrival to King's Landing. George R. R. Martin has also stated that the city is larger than Medieval London or Paris but smaller than Medieval Constantinople or Ancient Rome (each had a population of about 1,000,000).
Located on the northern shore of Gods Eye, a lake in the central part of Westeros, Harrenhal was built by Harren the Black to be the greatest castle ever constructed. Made of black stone, with numerous massive towers and a great hall large enough to hold an army, the castle was a monument to Harren's hubris. But Harren had scarcely finished his work when Aegon the Conqueror began his invasion. Harrenhal's thick, high walls were useless against Aegon's dragons. Dragonfire cracked and melted the castle's stone, killing Harren and his sons. Harren's line was obliterated and his kingdom conquered.
Since Harren's disaster, the castle has been occupied by a variety of houses. Some residents over the ages have met bad ends, giving the castle the reputation of being cursed. This, combined with the logistical and economic difficulties inherent in keeping such an enormous castle maintained and garrisoned, has made the castle something of a white elephant.
At the start of the War of the Five Kings, the castle was in poor shape, with only a fraction of it maintained. After Tywin Lannister seized the castle his daughter, Queen Cersei, gave ownership to Janos Slynt, but her brother and the Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister quickly revoked the award and sent Slynt to the Wall. Tyrion gave the castle instead to Petyr Baelish, who has held nominal ownership of Harrenhal ever since, without ever setting foot in it.
Over the course of the war, Harrenhal changed hands numerous times, and was the site of many atrocities. After the Brave Companions mercenary company betrayed the castle's Lannister garrison, Roose Bolton took over. After Bolton abandoned the castle, Gregor Clegane demolished the Brave Companions and retook the castle for the Lannisters.
Winterfell is the name given to the ancient castle of House Stark
(and an aptronym
being the German
word for winter coat). It has been the seat of the Starks for thousands of years. Hot water from the spring beneath the castle is piped through its walls to heat various rooms. Some of the rooms and towers are abandoned and not upkept. Winterfell possesses a godswood of three acres, with an ancient weirwood tree marking its center. It is also surrounded by a moat. The castle has deep catacombs where the bodies of Starks are buried. Statues mark the crypts of the former lords of Winterfell and the old Kings of the North.
At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Lord Eddard Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Robb Stark, his oldest son, was his heir. Maester Luwin was a trusted counselor, healer and tutor to the Stark boys, and Septa Mordane was the family's priestess and governess to the Stark girls. Ser Rodrik Cassel was the master-at-arms, and his nephew Jory Cassel the captain of the guard.
During the War of the Five Kings, Winterfell was attacked, captured, and burned, its household killed. Jory Cassel was killed by the Lannisters in King's Landing while trying to protect Lord Eddard Stark, and Septa Mordane was also killed at King's Landing when Lord Eddard was executed in public at the king's command. Theon Greyjoy, heir to the Iron Islands, then betrayed the Starks. Theon had lived most of his life in Winterfell as a ward of Lord Stark, and raised with the Stark children later accompanying Robb Stark into battle. He then turned on Robb and lured out Winterfell's garrison and then took the castle by stealth with a small company of his ironmen. When the garrison returned, led by Ser Rodrik Cassel, Ramsay Bolton arrived and surprise attacked the garrison, killing it to a man. Maester Luwin was killed during the sack of Winterfell, but lived just long enough to see the two youngest Stark boys escape from the ruins. Ramsay had the castle burned and killed the remaining Stark household, blaming the entire incident on Theon, whom he captured. The great Stark castle is now an abandoned ruin, broken but not destroyed, though its godswood and the ancient Stark tombs still remain.