House Greyjoy

 Jesse Brauner
House Greyjoy

The sigil of House Greyjoy from Game of Thrones.

Based on George R.R. Martin’s famous series of novels (collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire”), the television series “Game of Thrones” premiered in 2011 on the channel HBO. It is set in a fantasy world heavily based on the society and culture of the European Middle Ages. Two large continents, Westeros and Essos, make up most of the visible landmass in this world, with the former being featured in storylines much more frequently. While typical elements from fantasy stories, such as dragons and various forms of magic, are seen throughout the series, they generally take a backseat to much larger themes, such as military conflicts, political machinations, and family dynamics.

The continent of Westeros is made up of many different regions, each of which has its own culture and history. Most of these regions form constituent parts of a single political realm, which is presided over by a ruling monarch. While they hold ultimate power over the realm, local governance of each region is handled by a “Great House”, a noble family whose members answer directly to the monarch. House Greyjoy is one of these Great Houses, and their ancestral home is known as the Iron Islands. Located off the western coast of the continent, these seven small bits of land- rocky, agriculturally unproductive, and swept by harsh winds- are governed from the Greyjoy castle of Pyke on the eponymous island. The sigil of House Greyjoy is a golden kraken on a field of black, and their motto is “We Do Not Sow”.

Both the sigil and motto of House Greyjoy reflect the way of life on the Iron Islands. The Ironborn (as the natives call themselves) are famously skilled mariners as well as fierce warriors; they disdain farming and other manual labor as work fit only for thralls (slaves captured in battle) and acquire many of their resources by carrying out seaborne raids against mainland Westeros (as they have done for thousands of years). As an immensely powerful sea creature with long, grasping tentacles, the kraken is an appropriate image for the leaders of the Ironborn, but there is a flip side to its meaning; since it has no bones, a kraken on dry land is hardly very threatening. Throughout their history, the Ironborn have tried on many occasions to establish a permanent foothold on the mainland, and at times they have nominally controlled much of the western coast. However, these outposts have rarely lasted more than a few generations before being retaken and the raiders driven out.