The Iron Islands is an archipelago located in Ironman’s Bay, one of the regions of the Seven Kingdoms. It is separated from the mainland of Westeros and populated by the ironborn, a group of sea-faring people. Before the arrival of Aegon Targaryen the Conqueror, the Iron Islands got ruled by Kings, and due to poor soil and lack of resources, the people took to plundering. Though the Andals and Faith of the Seven are predominant throughout Westeros, the ironborn kept their worship of the Drowned God. Noble bastards from the region adopted the surname, Pyke.
Iron Islands Details
- Name: Iron Islands.
- Location: Ironman’s Bay, Westeros.
- Year of Founding: The Age of Heroes.
- Founder: Grey King.
- Culture: Ironborn.
- Religion: Drowned God.
- Notable Houses in Region: House Greyjoy, House Hoare, House Drumm, House Greyiron, House Harlaw, House Goodbrother, House Crakehall, House Blacktyde, Grey King, Sylas Flatnose, House Stonehouse, House Sunderly, House Tawney, House Merlyn.
- The Seat of Power: Pyke.
- Notable Towers: Pyke, Ten Towers, Hoare Castle.
- Leaders and Lords: Balon Greyjoy, Euron Greyjoy.
The Iron Islands is an archipelago located in Ironman’s Bay in the Sunset Sea on the western coast of Westeros. It is west of the Riverlands and south of the North. As an archipelago, it has thirty-one islands, with seven major ones. The primary islands in the Iron Islands include Pyke, Great Wyk, Old Wyk, Harlaw, Blacktyde, Orkmont, and Saltcliffe. Because of the lack of resources on many islands, some got abandoned.
Being the smallest region in the Seven Kingdoms, the Iron Islands lacked crucial resources like wood and fertile soil; this is why the ironborn resorted to raids on the mainland. Bear Island was once a part of the Iron Islands. However, it got lost in a wrestling match.
Culture and Economy
The inhabitants of the Iron Islands are called the Ironmen by the rest of Westeros, but they call themselves the ironborn. The Ironmen have a culture rooted in sea life and do not like being far from the sea. The people of the Iron Islands worship the Drowned God and consider those on the mainland of Westeros weak and green. Because of the lack of the Faith of the Seven, there are barely any maesters, knights, and septs in the Iron Islands, and instead, priests of the Drowned God are the most prominent religious leaders.
The Iron Islands have a poor economy. Because of the lack of natural resources in the archipelago, there is little to no source of revenue for the rulers. The most abundant resource is iron, lead, and tin.
The Iron Islands have a strong military force. It can raise about 20,000 men and five hundred longships. The Iron Fleet, the official fleet of the Iron Islands, is one of the mightiest in the Seven Kingdoms. The only fleets that match its might are the Royal Fleet in the Crownlands and the Redwyne Fleet at the Arbor. Because every captain is unofficially a King on his ship, the Iron Islands became known as the land of ten thousand Kings.
Maesters of the Citadel believe the First Men, who found the Seastone Chair on the shores of Old Wyk, discovered the Iron Islands. Because of the archipelago’s poor soil, there were no Children of the Forest in the region. Contradicting the master’s theory is that of the priest of the Isle, who believed that the Ironmen were not of the First Men and got created in the image of the Drowned God. According to their theory, the Ironmen relate to the merlings, a hybrid race of half men and human women. However, the Ironmen were originally First Men who began worshiping the Drowned God.
The Iron Islands got governed by petty Kings who fought each other and raided the mainland for wood and crops. However, Galon Whitestaff, a powerful priest of the Drowned God gathered the Kings in a Kingsmoot; this ended the wars and led to the unification of the Iron Islands.
The Greyiron Era
After the death of King Urragon III Greyiron, a Kingsmoot got conveyed to determine the next King of the Iron Islands. Though Urragon III’s son, Torgon, was way raiding, Urrathon IV Goodbrother got chosen as King. When Torgon returned, he declared the Kingsmoot invalid; this led to Urrathon getting removed. Later, Urragon IV ascended the throne, becoming one of the High Kings who became King without a Kingsmoot.
Upon his deathbed, Urragon IV wished that his great-nephew, Urron Greyiron, was the next King. However, when the priests asked for a Kingsmoot at Old Wyke, Urron ordered his men to kill every King present; this led to the hereditary rule of House Greyiron over the Iron Islands. Though House Greyiron became the rulers of the Iron Islands and killed others who tried to oppose them, there was disunity among the lords leading to them getting defeated by the Kings in the mainlands.
With the arrival of the Andals, technology advanced throughout the Reach, Riverlands, and Westerlands; this led to better defenses against the ironborn. With their source of wealth gone, the Greyirons faded into irrelevance.
Replacing the Greyirons were House Hoare, who intermarried the Andals. Because of their intermarriage, the priests of the Drowned God declared the Hoares false ungodly Kings. Soon, a rebellion sparked, leading to a long battle between Harmund the Handsome and the priests of the Drowned God. Though the priests overthrew Harmund, the resulting conflict led to the desolation of the Iron Islands during the Famine Winter.
After the conflicts, the Iron Islands began slowly recovering, and after centuries trade got established between Coastal Westeros and the Free Cities. Before the Wars of Conquest, King Harren the Black, a descendant of House Hoare, ordered the construction of Harrenhal; this took a toll on the Iron Islands as the castle took over forty years.
Upon his arrival in Westeros, Aegon I Targaryen began a conquest of Westeros. During his campaign, Harren the Black claimed not even the dragons could bring down Harrenhal. However, though his claims were legitimate, he and his children died from getting burnt inside their castle. After House Hoare’s destruction, the River Lord, led by House Tully, rebelled against the Iron Islands, and Aegon led an invasion of the Iron Islands. After defeating the ironborn, he chose Lord Vickon Greyjoy of Pyke to rule as the Lord of the Iron Islands.
After becoming the Lord of the Iron Islands, Vickon Greyjoy brought the Faith of the Seven to the Iron Islands to prevent provoking the Targaryens. Later, his son, Lord Goren Greyjoy, stopped a conspiracy plotted by a priest called Lodos to crown Qhorin Volmark King. For his actions, King Aenys I Targaryen allowed for the return of the ironborn religion.
During the War of the Ninepenny Kings, the Iron Islands supported the Iron throne by sending a hundred longships to fight in the Stepstones. After the war, King Aerys II Targaryen ordered the heads of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell and Robert Baratheon of the Stormlands; this led to Robert’s Rebellion.
Lord Quellon Greyjoy abstained from war and refused to support anyone. However, he eventually joined Robert and died in the battle of the Mander. Upon his death, his son, Balon Greyjoy, succeeded him. After Robert’s death, Balon declared himself King. However, he later died while crossing a bridge at Pyke.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
When Eddard Stark becomes the Hand of the King, he tells his wife, Catelyn, to watch his ward and hostage, Theon Greyjoy, as House Stark may need the Iron Fleet of Balon Greyjoy, Theon’s father. Later, Ned Stark gets arrested and killed on orders from King Joffrey Baratheon, Robert’s son; this leads to Robb Stark calling his banners and Theon serving as his close adviser.
With the death of King Robert Baratheon, war erupts in the Seven Kingdoms. Robb Stark, now King in the North, sends Theon to Pyke to ally with his father. However, on getting to the Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy declares himself King, and Theon turns cloak to support his father’s cause. Balon sends his men to take crucial parts of the North.
With the intensity of the War of the Five Kings, Theon connives with Dagmer Cleftjaw and tells him to attack Torrhen’s Square; this makes Ser Rodrik Cassel, Castellan of Winterfell, leave. Once gone, Theon takes over the castle and stages the murder of Bran Stark and Rickon Stark. Later, Ramsay Snow arrests him. When Balon Greyjoy falls to his death at a bridge in Pyke, his brother, Euronclaims the Seastone Chair and drowns Sawane Botley, Lord of Lordsport, for stating Theon is the rightful heir.
Aeron Greyjoy, Balon’s brother, declares a Kingsmot on Old Wyke to prevent Euron from taking the Seastone Chair. Though he backs his brother, Victarion Greyjoy, Euron eventually becomes King. He then sends Victarion to Meereen to meet Daenerys Targaryen and bring her along with her dragons back to the Iron Islands.
Relevance in Adaptations
In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Iron Islands were crucial to Cersei’s rise to power. It was located on the same latitude as the Eyrie in the Vale and the Twins. As warriors who believed in reaving and the Iron Price, the ironborn never believed in farming and used thralls, men forced into servitude.
The archipelago had rocky soil and gained most of its wealth from iron mines. There were many islets surrounding the seven major islands of the archipelago. The biggest of them is Lonely Light. After Aegon’s Conquest, many wished to return to the old ways of their ancestors of pillaging and raiding.
After Balon’s death, Euron becomes King and joins forces with Cersei Lannister. He captures Yara, Theon’s sister, but Theon frees her and takes over the Iron Islands. However, he dies.
The Iron Islands: A Desolate Place
The Iron Islands was a region that had little to no resources. Because of its poverty, it resorted to raiding others; this act mirrors the actions of real-world empires that raided and destroyed others to survive.
Was the Iron Islands important to the Iron Throne?
Not really. As the Iron Islands was the poorest resource region in the Seven Kingdoms, it was not necessarily a focus of the Iron Throne. However, its rebellion was a crime because it could be contagious, and if the Iron Throne did not counter the uprising, other regions might have followed suit.
Who ruled the Iron Islands after Balon Greyjoy?
After Balon Greyjoy’s death, Aeron Greyjoy called for a kingsmoot. During the meeting, Euron Greyjoy stepped forward and convinced everyone he was the best King because he was the bravest ironborn; this led to him becoming King.
What happened to Aeron after the Kingsmoot of the Iron Islands?
After Euron became King, Aeron went missing. Though many stated he went into hiding, some people began suspecting that Euron kidnapped him. According to unfinished sources from ‘The Winds of Winter,’ Aeron got imprisoned by his brother.
Why did Theon not become King of the Iron Islands?
Though he was to be the King, Theon could not claim his birthright because he was allegedly dead. After the Sack of Winterfell, many people thought that Theon got killed in battle.