The First Men are one of the three primary human races in Westeros. They entered the continent through a land bridge called the Arm of Dorne and divided themselves into many ethnic groups with different Kings. After the coming of the Andals, the influence of the First Men waned until their only stronghold was the North and beyond the Wall.
The First Men are the first humans to reach Westeros. Some claim they came from the Dothraki Sea, as they spoke a harsh language called the Old Tongue. On reaching the western continent from Essos, the First Men met mythical creatures like the Children of the Forest and Giants. After burning some of the sacred weirwood trees of the Children of the Forest, a conflict arose between both races. Eventually, a pact got signed to end the fighting, and the Age of Heroes began, leading to the construction of Winterfell and the Wall by Bran the Builder.
The First Men clans had different religions. Different factions followed their belief systems. The Sistermen believed sacred storms were the mating between the Lady of the Waves and the Lord of the Skies. The people of the Kingdom of the Storm worshipped the Sea god and the Goddess of the Wind, and the ironborn worshipped the Drowned God.
On reaching Westeros, the First Men and Children fought a great war but eventually settled with a pact; this led to most of the humans accepting the deities of the Children of the Forest, the Old Gods of the Forest, as theirs. Though some First Men, like the ironborn, never changed their faith, others changed after the Andal invasion.
There are no formal religious books, rites, or songs to worship the Old Gods of the Forest. All prayers get silently made in godswood, holy grounds containing a weirwood tree. After the Andal invasion, the only places where weirwoods existed were in godswood, in the Seven Kingdoms, and beyond the Wall.
Many groups of the First Men practiced the electoral system of choosing a leader. In Dorne and the Iron Islands, High Kings got selected by members of different noble families. The electoral system never lasted as conflict led to houses seizing power and making themselves kings in a hereditary fashion.
The Free Folk get governed by different chiefs. However, sometimes they got joined together by a single leader who they call the King-Beyond-the-Wall. The Vale Mountain Clans also get governed by heads.
The First Men also practiced the Lord’s Right to the First Night, where a warlord slept with a maiden on her wedding night. If she got pregnant, it was seen as a blessing as she and her husband could raise a child of a hero like theirs. However, the practice got abolished.
The First Men were primitive and spoke a harsh language called the Old Tongue. They had no formal history recording system as they used runes to convene information. However, the meaning of the runes still gets debated by maesters.
The First Men bury their dead in barrows like the Great Barrow of Barrowtown, where the First King allegedly got buried. The Starks bury their dead in the Crypts of Winterfell, and the Boltons rest their dead beneath the Dreadfort. Other noble houses have their specific burying locations and traditions.
The Guest Right is one of the most sacred practices in the North. To initiate it, one could eat bread and salt. The right ensured that guests could not get harmed while in the home of another person, even their enemy. To end the right, a lord could give a gift on the day the guests depart. To many First Men, breaking Guest Right is worse than treason.
On reaching Westeros, the First Men cut trees and constructed many buildings, including ring forts, like the one found at the Fist of the First Men. They also built Seal Rock at White Harbor, the Stormlands, and square keeps and towers.
Origin and Westeros
The First Men are said to have come from the Dothraki Sea about twelve thousand years before Aegon Targaryen’s arrival, during the Dawn Age. According to legends, they crossed the Arm of Dorne under the leadership of the First King. Some of the First Men arrived on the shores of Old Wyk to find the Seastone Chair.
Upon reaching Westeros, the First Men found mysterious creatures calling themselves “Those Who Sing the Song of the Earth.” they called these creatures the Children of the Forest.
Reaching the new continent with their bronze swords and leather shields, the First Men began cutting trees to use in creating settlements; this created a rift between them and the Children of the Forest, and eventually, a war began. Though the Children used greenseers, moon dancers, and magic, they were no match for the technologically-advanced mankind.
Believing weirwood gave greenseers an advantage, the First Men cut the trees. Fed up and desperate, the Children gathered their greenseers at Moat Cailin and used dark magic to destroy the Arm of Dorne, creating the Stepstones and the Broken Arm and flooding the Neck.
After many years of fighting, the Children and First Men made a Pact of peace on the Isle of Faces, marking the beginning of the Age of Heroes. The First Men abandoned their religions for the Old Gods of the Forest, and the Children taught them how to use ravens for sending messages.
The Long Night
As the peace reigned between men and the Children, a great winter overshadowed Westeros, and mysterious creatures called Others invaded from the Land of Always Winter. However, the Last Hero arose and led the Battle for the Dawn with the aid of the Children of the Forest. After the fight, the Night’s Watch and the Wall got created.
Thousands of years after the Long Night, the Andals came to Westeros and gained much of Westeros, Except the North, where they got repelled by the Kings of Winter. Stories of the First Men continued through songs from descendants.
Relevance in A World of Ice and Fire
Even thousands of years after the First Men arrived in Westeros, their legacy remained in some parts of the Seven Kingdoms. Many families claimed to have the blood of the First Men, and some of their laws, like Guest Right, continued. An uproar started in the North when the Starks got killed in ‘A Storm of Swords,’ as the Boltons and Freys violated the ancient law of Guest Right.
Relevance in Adaptation
In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the First Men were a crucial race of people that explained a dark part of Westeros’s history. When the Children of the Forest fought men for the continent, they retorted to using dark magic and created the White Walkers and the Night King; this led to future problems as a battle between the living and the dead occurred.
First Men: The Ancient Race
Though they were not the first humans in the known world, as people had already existed in Essos and probably the Africa-like continent of Sothoryos, the First Men undoubtedly changed the course of Westeros’s history. They brought humanity to a world where nature got worshipped and tarnished the land. Though they reconciled with the Children of the Forest, they started an event the Andals continued.
Did the First Men have any creation stories?
The First Men’s history before they reached Westeros is lost in time, as they had no recording system. They only gave their history through songs and stories, many of which got lost.
Who are the descendants of the First Men?
The people of the North, the Free folk, and the Mountain Clans of the Vale are descendants of the First Men. They still worship the Old Gods of the Forest and practice old customs.
Who is Bran the Builder?
Bran the Builder was the legendary hero who built the Wall and Winterfell. He was the first King of Winter.
What happened to the First Men?
After crossing the Arm of Dorne, the First Men entered a war with the Children of the Forest over cutting trees. They eventually formed a pact and later fought together against creatures called Others.