Welcome to the second installment of this multi-part series documenting the important houses from HBO’s Game of Thrones. If you have read the first part, “Houses of Westeros: The North”, you will already be familiar with my format and style. However, if you are new here, I will outline a few things before I begin. These articles are aimed at fans of the HBO show (hence them being published on this site) who have seen, and are familiar, with the first two seasons. While I do draw a lot of information from A Song of Ice and Fire, I only draw so much as to add more flavor to the houses as they are portrayed in the show. I include no spoilers, but there are some very vague hints as to plot lines and events to look forward to in season 3. Now that the introduction is over, let’s delve into the Riverlands, Vale and Iron Islands!
Words: “Family, Duty, Honor”
Title: Lord of Riverrun; Lord Paramount of the Trident
Not unlike House Stark, House Tully is an ancient and noble house, its roots dating back to the Age of Heroes. The Tullys have never ruled as kings, and this is perhaps due in part to the geographical location of their stronghold of Riverrun, a prime location for siege at the heart of the Trident. Instead, they have ever sought allegiance, and have loyally served as a vassal house to their rulers, protecting the vast Riverlands from attack. Their sigil is that of a leaping trout, symbolizing their deep connection with their homeland, and their house motto reflects their nobility. Again, similar to the Starks, their words are not a personal boast, but rather a statement of what they hold most valuable to themselves as a house and people.
The elderly Lord Hoster Tully, being bedridden by illness, has since left his responsibilities to his son Edmure, brother of Lysa and Catelyn. Brynden Tully is the younger brother of Lord Hoster, and an old quarrel between the two over a marriage arrangement has resulted in Brynden being widely referred to as “The Blackfish”. Nevertheless, Brynden is a kind, honorable, loyal man, and a steadfast warrior. Catelyn and Lysa had a healthy relationship growing up together with their friend Petyr Baelish, a ward of Lord Hoster. Petyr fell in love with Catelyn, and when she was betrothed to Brandon Stark, elder brother of Eddard, Petyr challenged him to a duel. Upon losing (Brandon was an excellent swordsman, and Petyr a love stricken youngster), Petyr was exiled from Riverrun. After Brandon and his father, Lord Rickard Stark, were murdered by the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, Lord Hoster decided to support the ensuing rebellion. Catelyn was then betrothed to Eddard Stark, the new lord of Winterfell, and Lysa to Jon Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie and Defender of the Vale. After the war had been won by the forces under Robert Baratheon, the Tully daughters travelled to their respective new homes, Lysa being accompanied by the Blackfish who wished to serve as Knight of the Gate.
More recently, Lord Hoster has been left bedridden with an illness, and is on the eve of death. As such, Brynden has returned to Riverrun to see his estranged brother through his final moments, while young Edmure prepares to face the responsibility of becoming lord of Riverrun. It is all but confirmed that this is where we will meet the Tullys in the upcoming Season 3.
Seat: The Twins
Title: Lord of the Crossing
House Frey inhabits the strategically placed Twins, two identical towers built on each bank of the Green Fork of the Trident with a sturdy bridge joining them. The importance of this bridge is not to be sniffed at, as it has been the main location for crossing the Trident for centuries. The Freys have grown considerably wealthy over the years, as their location and defenses allow them to exact a heavy toll on those wishing to cross, and as a result, this has caused them to be looked down upon by many other powerful houses. House Frey has served House Tully since Aegon I Targaryen’s War of Conquest.
The current Lord of the Crossing is Walder Frey, under whom the house has continued to rapidly grow in size, as he continuously fathers children, sometimes with his own kin. Lord Walder has gained an ill-favored reputation as “The Late Lord Frey” since he took advantage of his strategic position during Robert’s Rebellion and the War of the Five Kings, delaying his response to his liege lords in order to minimize losses. Walder secured a marriage contract for one of his daughters with Robb Stark, the King in the North, which would join their houses and promise great things for House Frey. However, despite being warned by his mother, Catelyn, Robb broke his vows, and married Talisa Maegyr (Jeyne Westerling in the books). Walder Frey’s reaction to this turn of events remains to be seen.
Words: “As High as Honor”
Seat: The Eyrie
Title: Lord of the Eyrie; Defender of the Vale; Warden of the East
Ever since the noble House Arryn of the Vale bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror, they have remained as Defenders of the Vale and Wardens of the East, not an idle boast. Lord Jon Arryn, although twice married, fathered no children, and as such came to love his young wards Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark as both sons and dear friends. Following the kidnap of Lyanna Stark by Rhaegar Targaryen, and the subsequent murder of Rickard and Brandon Stark for their protesting at the abduction of their kin, the Mad King commanded Lord Arryn to surrender his two wards for execution. Jon, a noble and honorable man, refused and rallied his banners in preparation for revolt. The resulting war was referred to as Robert’s Rebellion and spearheaded by Houses Arryn, Baratheon and Stark. This war resulted in Robert taking the Iron Throne. During the war, Lord Arryn married Lysa Tully, securing the allegiance of Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun.
After the war, Jon was appointed as Robert’s Hand and his household relocated to King’s Landing. While in this position, he was approached by King Robert’s brother, Stannis Baratheon. Stannis had suspected that Robert actually had no trueborn heirs, and that his children were in fact fathered by Queen Cersei and her twin brother Jaime. After secretly investigating and confirming these suspicions, Jon was poisoned and killed before he had a chance to reveal the truth. Suspecting it to be a Lannister plot and fearing for their lives, Stannis retreated to the ancient Targaryen stronghold of Dragonstone while Lysa fled back to the Eyrie with her sworn swords and household.
Jon fathered but one son with Lysa before his death, Robert (Robin in the HBO series). However, their son is a sickly child and in no state to successfully assume lordship over the Vale. Ever since Jon Arryn’s murder, Lysa has grown increasingly paranoid, continuously babying her son. Despite calls to arms from both Robb Stark and Stannis Baratheon during the War of the Five Kings, she has maintained the Vale’s neutrality for fear of the Lannisters. The truth of Lord Arryn’s murder, however, remains to be disclosed.
Seat: The Fingers
Title: Lord of the Fingers
Although not specifically a “great house”, House Baelish is nevertheless a very recently established family residing in the Vale. Hailing from the Fingers, a small set of islands at the edge of the Vale, Petyr Baelish is the only notable member of the house. House Baelish goes back only a few generations, as it was Petyr’s great-grandfather, a sellsword from Braavos, who established their lineage in the Vale. His son (Petyr’s grandfather) took as his sigil the head of the Titan of Braavos, in memory of his father. Petyr, also commonly known as Littlefinger, grew up as a ward in Riverrun, the seat of House Tully, and was thus absent from his holdings for much of his life. Upon rising in society by being appointed Master of Coin on King Robert Baratheon’s Small Council due to his skill with managing finances, Petyr took his own sigil, that of a mockingbird. This directly reflects his shrewd and ambitious nature. Petyr has also recently been appointed as Lord of Harrenhal by former “acting” Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister.
Words: “We Do Not Sow”
Title: King of Salt and Rock; Son of the Sea Wind; Lord Reaper of Pyke
House Greyjoy is descended from the Grey King, a legendary figure from the Age of Heroes. Ever since the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror in Westeros, the Greyjoys have ruled over the Iron Islands from their seat in Pyke. Six years after Robert’s Rebellion, Lord Balon Greyjoy began a rebellion of his own against the Iron Throne, declaring himself King of the Iron Islands. However, his forces were crushed, his fleet burned, and two of his three sons slain in battle. His remaining son, Theon, was taken by Eddard Stark to Winterfell, to ensure Balon would not attempt rebellion again.
Balon has three brothers. Victarion is the Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet, a feared and respected warrior among the Ironborn. Aeron, known as the Damphair, is a priest of the Drowned God, a religion exclusive to those living on the Iron Islands. His third brother is Euron, also known as “Crow’s Eye”. When Euron raped the wife of his brother Victarion, Victarion was forced to murder her to retain his honor, as is customary on the Iron Islands. Balon then exiled Euron, who has spent the years since aboard his ship, the Silence, pillaging and reaving, unwelcome in his home as long as Balon still draws breath.
Despite being held in Winterfell as a ward for most of his life, Theon and Robb Stark grew to be close friends. When Robb sent Theon back to the Iron Islands during the War of the Five Kings, both of them hoped to secure the allegiance of Lord Balon. However, upon arrival, Theon was scorned by his father and sister, Asha (or Yara in the show, as much as it grieves me to say it). He faced constant reminders that he had forgotten the ways of the Ironborn, and had been brought up as a Stark rather than a Greyjoy. Theon’s mind grew conflicted, as he was torn between a close friend he had grown up with, and his own blood. His mind finally made up, he was baptized in the faith of the Drowned God. Upon being designated a small force, he decided to take the Stark seat of Winterfell as a gesture of good will towards his father. However, not fully realizing what he was doing, Theon unintentionally made himself a sworn enemy of his former friend, as he was forced to commit darker acts to maintain his authority. When last we saw him, Theon was the victim of a mutiny by his own small force, and his fate is unknown. However, Lord Roose Bolton has assured Robb that his bastard son will return with Theon so that he may face justice.
Outlined above is some basic background information for the main houses of the Riverlands, the Vale, and the Iron Islands. Check out the full series here:
1. The North
Cian is a student of Theology and History. He frequently confuses the real world with Westeros, and if he’s not talking about A Song of Ice and Fire…he’s talking about Game of Thrones. Mainly interested in old HBO classics such as Rome, Deadwood and The Wire, he currently maintains a vested interest in Treme and Game of Thrones. He also runs a personal blog detailing his writing endeavors.