While I had initially planned on dividing my assessment of The World of Ice and Fire into three parts, I realize now that four parts would be more appropriate. As I mentioned in Part 1, the format of this blog differs from that of my previous posts. Mainly, I’ve decided to compile a list of observations, questions, and discussions regarding the history of Westeros. Due to the complexity and detail of George R. R. Martin’s writing style I’ve decided to break my assessment of The World of Ice and Fire into various parts. Part 1 comprises Ancient History to the conclusion of Robert’s Rebellion. Part 2 is an overview of the Seven Kingdoms and their founding. Part 3 is a closer look at the nine Free Cities and their history. Of note, there are many, many SPOILERS throughout the following text, alongside several of my own theories. I’ve highlighted in RED several of my theories, as well as interesting insights garnered from the novel. Please let me know what you think! I’m early looking forward to hearing your theories, however you’d better be able to back them up with references to the text.
The Free Cities
There are nine Free Cities of Essos, eight of which are daughters of Valyria. The exception is Braavos, which finds its origin from escaped Valyrian slaves. The first three discussed, Lorath, Norvos and Qohor, are similar due to their origin being founded by religious sects from Valyria, as well as their isolation from the West. The following three, Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh are called the Quarrelsome Daughters and find common ground with their lack of established faith and being slave and mercantile cities.
- The smallest, poorest, least populated and most isolated of the Free Cities.
- Founded by the mysterious Mazemakers with several of their mazes littering the islands and even one on the mainland. No one knows what happened to the race of Mazemakers, however Lorath legend claims that the people died off as a result of a conflict with enemies from the sea.
- From Valyria, the religious sect, Boash, who worship the Blind God settled on Lorath. The Boash Priests value abnegation, to the point of even setting aside their own names as a way to show their selflessness.
- Today the city is ruled by a council of three Princes, the Fisher, Streets, and the Harvest.
- There are cavern systems near Norvos, specifically one is rumored to be an entrance to the underworld. This cave system is one of Lomas Longstrider’s Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
- A religious faction from Valyria founded Norvos. Their religion is incredibly secretive, with the name of their God revealed only to initiates. They are known as the bearded priests due to their rules forbidding them to shave or cut their hair.
- The Beards Priests still rule Novos, with three bells, Noom, Narrah, and Nyel being responsible for telling all residents when to eat, pray, sleep, work, and even have sex. Lomas Longstrider named these bells one of the Nine man-made Wonders of the World.
- Similar to Norvos and Lorath, Qohor was founded by a religious group from Valyria who worship the dark deity, the Black Goat, which demands daily blood sacrifices.
- The city is known as a City of Sorcerers due to the dark arts practiced.
- Metalworkers are still able to rework Valyrian steel and infuse colors in the metal. They closely guard that secret and refuse to divulge it to any outsider.
- Guarded by the Unsullied, Qohor is the gateway to the east resulting in it being one of the most exotic and rich Cities.
- Lys is the most beautiful of the free cities with the old Valyian blood still being strong.
- Their pillow houses have world renowned.
- The city is ruled by a conclave of magisters.
- Myr also ruled by a conclave of magisters.
- With mysterious origins, Myr is an ancient city which was founded before the Dawn Age.
- The city is mainly known for the skill of their artisans.
- The origins of Tyrosh have beginnings as a military outpost for Valyria. Tyrosh became a trade city once a specific variety of sea snail was found which secreted a dark red color which could be used for dye.
- When Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh fight they either have Trade Wars, where the fighting takes place completely at sea or they hire sell swords to battle in the Disputed Lands.
- Many of the Free Companies were born in the Disputed Lands. Of note: The Company of Rose was comprised of northern men/women who left the North after Torrhen bent the knee to Aegon the Conquer.
- Pentos is the nearest Free City to King’s Landing with trade between the two cities being common.
- The city is ruled by the Prince of Pentos who rules for life, however in times of famine, drought or lost battles of war the Prince will be sacrificed. A new Prince is then selected with the hope that the gods have been appeased.
- There are no slaves in Pentos due to a lost war with Braavos, however this rule is overlooked by the existence of bondservants.
- Volantis is the oldest of the Free Cities and the farthest south. The city lies on either shore of one of the mouths of the Rhoyne. A bridge connects both sides of the city and was named by Lomas Longstrider as one of the nine man-made Wonders of the World.
- Politically comprised of the Elephants and the Tigers. The Elephants value peace whereas the Tigers seek war. After the Doom Old Volantis desired to be the new Valyria and tried to conquer the Free Cities, however they failed and the Elephants have kept Volantis at peace.
- Volantis is a slave city, which utilizes the practice of tattooing the faces of their slaves to indicate their profession.
- Braavos is the newest of the Free Cities after being founded by slaves who had overtaken their slave ship. It is the most powerful and wealthy of the Free Cities.
- It is the northern most of the Free Cities. Among the initial escaped slaves, a group of women who priestesses called Moonsingers from Jagos Nhai prophesied the location of Braavos and the location of the city remained a secret even after the city had begun trading with the other Free Cities. The captains kept false logs and lies about their homeports to keep Braavos safe. The city is ruled by a Sealord and at the 111th anniversary of the city’s founding, the Braavosi revealed their location to the world.
- Based on the wide variety of the founders’ backgrounds, all religions are embraced.
- Similar to the sea snails found in Tyrosh, Braavos has its own unique variety of snail which produces a purple dye.
- No form of slavery is allowed in Braavos.
- The Titan of Braavos overlooks the natural lagoon entrance of Braavos and stands 400’ high. It was one of Lomas Longstrider’s man-made Wonders of the World.
- Unfortunately the city is sinking with the weight of the buildings.
- The Iron Bank was established in the Braavos when the city was founded and has an impact throughout the known world.
- The Faceless Men, that Arya has found herself among, have origins in Valyria and are mysterious assassins.