“A lion may be fierce enough on land, but at sea the kraken rules supreme”–Victarion Greyjoy
The men of the Iron Islands have constantly plagued the other regions of Westeros in their long history. These pirates and raiders have been ruled by House Greyjoy for hundreds of years, either as kings or lords. With such belligerent and violent people as the ironborn for their subjects, the Greyjoys had to be just as harsh and dedicated to the Drowned God. Those who know the show will doubtless have a good idea of what kind of people the Greyjoys are, but how much more did readers learn in the books? What went into constructing the Greyjoys in both the books and show? Find out more with this list of 42 facts about one of Westeros' most brutal houses.
41. Gosh, They’re Seriously a Bunch of Jerks…
Contrary to popular belief, the words of House Greyjoy are not “What is dead my never die.” This phrase is associated with all ironborn and their culture rather than just one house. House Greyjoy’s words, mentioned once or twice in the second season of the show, are “We do not sow,” referring to the fact that the Greyjoys don’t farm land for themselves. Rather, they take what they want from others, thus “paying the iron price.” In other words, why be productive when you can steal from the productive people?
40. Gramps the Great
In the early days of the First Men, also known as the Age of Heroes, the Greyjoys’ ancestor was known as the Grey King. This legendary figure is said to have accomplished a number of feats, such as slaying a dragon, marrying a mermaid, living for centuries, and fathering a hundred sons, sixteen of whom were said to have founded the houses of the Iron Islands, including House Greyjoy. Sounds like a busy dude.
39. Good Times…
As you might remember, Theon Greyjoy spent years growing up as a ward in the North, raised by Ned Stark alongside his children. This was because he was a hostage to ensure his father’s good behavior after his defeat by Ned and Robert Baratheon in the Greyjoy Rebellion.
38. New Neighbors
Like most other houses on the Iron Islands, the Greyjoys intermarried with the Andal invaders who made the journey to conquer the Iron Islands like they were trying to do with the rest of Westeros.
37. Ironborn Religious Wars
Despite this success, the Andals never fully succeeded in replacing the ironborn religion of the Drowned God with the Faith of the Seven. Some houses, particularly the Hoares of Orkmont, embraced worship of the Seven, but most, including the Greyjoys, continued to worship the Drowned God.
36. Finders Keepers
The Greyjoys’ castle is named Pyke, just like the island on which it stands. The castle, in fact, is so old that nobody knows who built it, or who ruled it before the Greyjoys came along.
35. Slave Priest
Remember Pyat Pree, that crazy warlock from the second season of Game of Thrones who tries to ensnare and kill Daenerys and take her dragons? Maybe not, but it turns out that he had a rather chilling epilogue in the books. He and the rest of the warlocks of Qarth are forced to flee after being foiled in their plots, only to be captured by none other than Euron Greyjoy. Euron keeps them prisoner and forces them to show him the ways of their magical arts to enhance his own powers.
34. She Needs a Name Makeover
One of the most dynamic characters from the Iron Islands in both the books and TV show is Theon Greyjoy’s sister. However, she has a different name in each. Originally named Asha Greyjoy, the TV production worried that audiences might confuse her and Osha, the wildling woman who looks after Bran and Rickon Stark during their exile. Therefore, her name was changed to Yara in the show.
33. The Truth Comes Out
Another difference between the books and the TV show in their depiction of Asha/Yara (as we’re forced to call her now in this article) is her sexual orientation. According to her actress on the show, Yara Greyjoy is bisexual, though George R.R. Martin has confirmed that Asha Greyjoy is heterosexual.
32. Living Life on the Edge
Constructed on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, the castle Pyke used to be a much greater in older times. However, over time, the cliff on which the castle stood eroded, and whole parts of the fortification collapsed into the sea. The castle is now divided between individual islands which are connected by bridges made of stone or even rope.
31. Choose Your Chief
When Aegon the Conqueror made Westeros his own kingdom, he overthrew and wiped out House Hoare of Orkmont, who had previously been ruling the Iron Islands for quite some time. Aegon flew to the Iron Islands and ordered them to choose a new lord to manage them while also serving the Iron Throne. This lord, chosen by the ironborn themselves, turned out to be none other than a warrior named Vickon Greyjoy.
30. Freedom of Religion?
In gratitude to Aegon I Targaryen for giving him the chance to rule the Ironborn, Vickon Greyjoy permitted priests of the Seven to return to the Iron Islands to preach their religion to anyone who’d listen. This move was highly opposed by the majority of the ironborn, but they were more scared of offending Aegon’s dragons than their Drowned God.
29. No Heretics Allowed!
Vickon Greyjoy’s son, Goren, helped the Aegon's son, Aenys, deal with several pretenders to the throne. In gratitude to Goren Greyjoy, he offered the ironborn king to pick the reward he wanted. Goren immediately demanded the right to expel any priests of the Seven. Aenys I was forced to agree, and the ironborn proved once again how far stubbornness can go.
28. Time to Stand out
Unlike the rest of his family, Euron Greyjoy doesn’t actually use the traditional kraken as his sigil. Instead, he has a grey banner upon which is painted a red eye (in reference to his bad one) beneath a black crown supported by two crows.
27. Age Differences
When it comes to the TV show, the actors they cast wildly contradict the established ages of the book characters. Pilou Asbæk, who plays Euron Greyjoy, is a full 36 years younger than Michael Feast, who plays Aeron Greyjoy. But in the books, Euron is older than Aeron (though to be fair, he strangely ages very slowly compared to the rest of his brothers). In addition, Asbæk is actually a year younger than Gemma Whelan, who plays his niece, Yara.
26. I Have a Saltwater Dream
One of the most progressive leaders of House Greyjoy was Quellon Greyjoy. Although the ironborn still raided the mainland, especially in the Westerlands due to the weak rule of Tytos Lannister (Tywin’s father), Quellon wasn’t really about that lifestyle. Despite his incredible size and strength, Quellon became known for his wisdom in sensing that the ironborn needed to get away from their old habits. As a result, he welcomed maesters of the Seven to the islands, he freed slaves (known as thralls), and he discouraged having salt wives in favor of marrying women from the mainland of Westeros.
25. Here We Go Again
King Aerys I Targaryen was not mad like the second Aerys later was, but he was a weak ruler who proved unable to curb his wilder subjects. Lord Dagon Greyjoy was one of the wildest ones, and he got a hankering to do some raiding if he could get away with it. Under his rule, the ironborn raided Westeros from the North to the Reach. After he was eventually stopped, the ironborn wouldn’t raid the Reach for another hundred years.
24. Davy Jones is Gonna Sue…
The banners of House Greyjoy are black, decorated with a golden kraken. It’s fitting that the seafaring Greyjoys would decorate their flags with a fearsome sea monster.
23. Maybe I Knew Too Much
Alfie Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy in the TV show, originally auditioned to play Jon Snow. To be fair, we’re sure he’d have done a great job as Jon, but his complex portrayal of Theon’s gripping character arc throughout the show has consistently been considered a high point of the show, so we’re sure Allen doesn’t mind missing out on playing Ned Stark's bastard.
22. Minimal Contribution
By the time of Robert’s Rebellion, Quellon Greyjoy was an old man, and he was hesitant to plunge into war with the rest of Westeros. It didn’t help matters that Tywin Lannister was staying neutral for most of the war, and Quellon didn’t want to leave the Iron Islands vulnerable in case Tywin sailed over and attacked. However, after Robert’s victory at the Battle of the Trident, Quellon’s three eldest sons convinced him to join the rebels for a piece of the victory pie. Taking a small force to the Shield Islands, Quellon died at sea in battle with the Reach’s forces and the ironborn retreated, having done almost nothing.
21. Really Brave and Really Stupid
In the TV series, Theon’s uncles Aeron and Euron are depicted, but we have yet to see Victarion Greyjoy. Victarion is the middle brother between Euron and Aeron, and he is the most accomplished warrior. Not known for being very smart, Victarion is fearless and devoted to the Drowned God, wearing full plate armor in battle because he doesn’t fear drowning. George R.R. Martin himself doesn’t mince words by describing Victarion as a “dullard” and a “brute.”
20. Can’t Say I Miss Him
Balon Greyjoy’s eldest son, Rodrik, is remembered by Theon as a drunkard. During Balon’s Greyjoy Rebellion, Rodrik held high command when he led a massive assault upon the fortress of Seagard in the Riverlands. Lord Jason Mallister proved too tough to be beaten, though, and he drove the assault back, killing Rodrik in the process. Theon actually has such little regard for his oldest brother that he even tells Jason Mallister that it’s all cool between them!
19. I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Gonna Take it Anymore!
Unlike his father, Quellon, Balon Greyjoy was obsessed with the old ways of the ironborn, and in the aftermath of Robert Baratheon being crowned king, he figured that the Iron Throne’s power was divided enough that he could declare himself King of the Iron Islands. As a result, he launched the Greyjoy Rebellion, launching attacks against the Westerlands and the Riverlands. In the case of the former, his brothers Euron and Victarion successfully destroyed the Lannister fleet at their city of Lannisport. It was, however, the high point of the rebellion, as things would just go downhill from there.
18. Here’s My Story
In the books, four members of House Greyjoy provide POV perspectives in various chapters, especially starting with A Feast for Crows. They are Theon, Asha, Aeron, and Victarion Greyjoy.
17. Deal with the Devil
One reason why men continue to follow Euron Greyjoy, which isn’t really brought up in the TV show, is that he is incredibly generous with gifts. Disinterested in material wealth, Euron takes very little plunder for himself and instead lavishes his own followers. However, as his brother Victarion notes, his gifts are often double-edged and cursed. An example is when the ironborn attack the Shield Islands and conquer them in A Feast for Crows, Euron hands out the islands to former captains of his rivals. This way, they are bound to him in loyalty, and if they end up losing control of the Shield Islands, then it’s their own fault for not holding them, and Euron loses no prestige.
16. Another One Bites the Dust
Theon Greyjoy does not remember his brother Maron, Balon Greyjoy’s second son, very fondly. Theon only remembers that Maron was a liar and a bully. During the Greyjoy Rebellion, the forces of King Robert Baratheon besieged the castle of Pyke and breached the South Tower with siege equipment. In the ensuing collapse, Maron was killed, leaving nine-year-old Theon as Balon’s last living son.
15. Vote for Me!
In the days when the ironborn would choose their own kings through the “kingsmoot,” House Greyjoy produced more kings than all the other houses of the Iron Islands except for House Goodbrother and House Greyiron.
14. The Bear Conqueror
One of the more successful Greyjoy kings was Loron Greyjoy. Known as the Old Kraken, Loron famously sailed against the North and took Cape Kraken and Bear Island (home of the Mormonts) for himself and the ironborn. However, after his death, the ironborn lost Bear Island to King Rodrik Stark. Can't win 'em all I guess.
The sixth season of Game of Thrones features a kingsmoot where Yara Greyjoy tries to be crowned leader of the Iron Islands, only to lose the bid to her uncle Euron and flee with Theon to Daenerys. In the books, however, Theon is still a prisoner of Ramsay Bolton when the kingsmoot is happening. Rather than find Daenerys, Asha Greyjoy goes back to Deepwood Motte in the North, only to become a prisoner of Stannis Baratheon when he takes it back for House Glover (the show briefly hints that the Glovers took back Deepwood Motte on their own before the kingsmoot rather than after).
12. Too Much for the Show?
Aeron Greyjoy has a very small role to play in the TV series, and he basically serves to crown his brother Euron the new King of the Iron Islands after Balon’s death. However, in the books, Aeron loathes and fears Euron and desperately tries to prevent Euron from becoming king. This might have to do with the fact that when Aeron was a child, Euron would sneak into his room and sexually abuse him. His trauma is so strong that he associates Euron with nightmares of a door with rusted hinges.
11. That’s Just Metal
The most famous member of the House would have to be Dalton Greyjoy. Starting young, even for an ironborn, Dalton was sailing and raiding with his uncle at just ten years old. When he was 15, he plunged into a battle to avenge his uncle’s death. When he emerged triumphant, he was covered in both the blood of his enemies and blood from his own injuries. This led to his nickname; the Red Kraken.
10. The Family Black Sheep
You might be wondering why Euron Greyjoy was banished from the Iron Islands in the first place. It turns out that he either seduced or raped a woman who was salt wife to his younger brother, Victarion. Victarion would have killed Euron for that, but there is no man more accursed than one who kills his own family, so instead, he killed his salt wife to defend his own honor. Balon, their eldest brother, told Euron to leave the Iron Islands and never return while Balon was alive. Euron ultimately kept his word, and only returned after Balon died under mysterious circumstances.
9. What’s Your Offer?
When the Dance of the Dragons broke out in Westeros, pitting one side of the Targaryen family against the other, both sides courted Dalton Greyjoy to join their cause. The greens offered Dalton a position on the Small Council if he would sail around Westeros and attack the blacks’ fleet based around Dragonstone and King’s Landing. The blacks, meanwhile, kept it simple by just asking Dalton to attack their enemies. This would mean Dalton could raid the gold-rich Westerlands just next-door to the Iron Islands. Dalton chose the latter option, plundering the Westerlands and taking hundreds of women as concubines (also known as “salt wives” on the Iron Islands).
8. He Died as He Lived: Bloodily
Eventually, Dalton Greyjoy wasn’t killed in battle or in a storm. While he was sleeping one night, a slave girl named Tess took his own dagger and opened his throat with it, just before she threw herself into the sea. In the chaos and confusion (Dalton didn't leave any heirs), Lady Johanna Lannister avenged all the raids on the Westerlands during the Dance of the Dragons by sailing a huge fleet to the Iron Islands. Amazingly, despite his actions leading to a horrifying defeat and the devastation of their homes, the Red Kraken is still held up as a hero to the ironborn, which should tell you everything you need to know about their way of thinking.
7. Freud’s Busy, Can I Take a Message?
In the TV show, it’s safe to say that Balon Greyjoy has a very strained relationship with his son, Theon, since he lost Theon for years to his enemies as a hostage. In the books, though, it’s even worse, since Balon openly wishes Theon was dead so that he could name Asha his heir and be done with it, since Asha grew up a true ironborn while Theon was made soft by his years at Winterfell.
6. King Ragnar Greyjoy?
It’s easy to see how George R.R. Martin was inspired to create the Greyjoys and the rest of the ironborn. The culture of the Iron Islands shares a lot in common with the Vikings of Scandinavia. Like the ironborn, the Vikings were known to raid the rest of Europe, take slaves, and have women amongst their fighters (though arguably even more than the ironborn do, since Balon Greyjoy’s daughter is more of an exception than a rule). Of course, the ironborn don’t seem to share the Vikings’ fascination for exploration and discovery, or their artistic culture and oral traditions, but maybe Martin thought they’d be in danger of being likeable if that happened!
5. We Could Have Had a Mad Warlock
The TV show’s portrayal of Euron Greyjoy, Balon Greyjoy's brother, is certainly charismatic in a psychotic kind of way, but it doesn’t even touch on just how insane Euron is in the books. For one thing, in the books, he is missing an eye, leading him to be nicknamed “Crow’s Eye.” While the TV show portrays him as being a vicious warrior, the books focus more on Euron’s love for mental torture and mind games, as well as his cruelty. In addition, his years of exploring the world in exile led him to dabble in various forms of magic. He even claims to have gone to the cursed ruins of Valyria, to have found a dragon egg, and to have a magical horn which has the power to control dragons!
4. Book Canon
As of where the books have left off in 2018, Asha and Theon Greyjoy have both become prisoners of Stannis Baratheon as he prepares to besiege Winterfell, even as a force of Freys, Manderlies, and Ramsay Bolton himself are marching out to find them in the snow. Stannis is also preparing to execute Theon for his role in betraying the North by capturing Winterfell and supposedly killing Bran and Rickon Stark. It remains to be seen what happens from here, but it’s safe to say that it won’t end with Brienne randomly showing up and cutting Stannis’ head off.
We really can’t stress just how much insanity was left out of Euron Greyjoy’s portrayal in the TV show. In one of the preview chapters of The Winds of Winter, George R.R. Martin’s long-awaited follow-up to A Dance with Dragons, Euron gloats to his captured brother, Aeron, that he killed no less than three of his brothers. Two of them—Harlon and Robin—were killed by Euron when they were all still youths, while he admits that he arranged for Balon Greyjoy’s death. The show depicts the latter, portraying Euron as personally murdering his older brother on one of Pyke’s rope bridges.
2. An Indecent Proposal
In the books, it is Victarion who goes to find Daenerys, rather than Theon or Yara/Asha. He is charged by his brother, Euron, to bring Daenerys back as a bride for him, as well as winning the dragons to the Greyjoys’ allegiance with the dragon-binding horn. Victarion, however, plans to court Daenerys for himself, seeking to overthrow Euron. As of 2018, it remains to be seen how this plotline will go.
Euron Greyjoy’s ship is famously called the Silence. In keeping with this name, she is crewed by men whose tongues have been cut out on Euron’s orders. Safe to say it’s hard to complain about your job without a tongue to do it!