Monday, 17 September 2012

A Game of Thrones History: The First Men

Who were The First Men
The First Men were the original human inhabitants of Westeros. They ruled in Westeros for millennia before the Andals invaded from Essos. The Andals overran most of southern Westeros, but did not take the North. While the blood of the Andals and the First Men has intermingled over thousands of years through marriages, the people in the North have the greatest amount of First Men blood in their veins.

Eddard Stark and Jon Snow are Northerners descended from The First Men 
The Invasion
The First Men invaded Westeros approximately 12000 years before the events of the series. They crossed via a land-bridge from Essos into the area of modern Dorne. The Children of the Forest resisted the invasion and using magic destroyed the land-bridge (which formed the modern peninsula of Dorne and the islands known as the Stepstones), however they were pushed back over the course of many years of war.

Eventually the First Men and the Children of the Forest stopped fighting and forged the Pact, signed on the Isle of Faces at the centre of the Gods Eye. The First Men were given the open lands and the Children of the Forest were given the woods and forests. The First Men then began to forge numerous kingdoms across Westeros.

The two races coexisted peacefully for four thousand years before they came under attack from the White Walkers. In the "War for the Dawn", the First Men and the Children came together to throw back the invasion. With the help of giants and the Children, Bran the Builder built the Wall to protect from anymore invasions. He then built Winterfell and ruled as the first King in the North.

The Andal Invasion of Westeros

About 2000 years after the "War for the Dawn" the Andals began to invade Westeros. The invasion spanned over a period of more than a thousand years. Their attempts to conquer the North were always defeated and eventually the Andals and the First Men made peace. 

The results of the Invasion varied from place to place. In some places the First Men were all but wiped out and in others some of the noble houses of the First Men intermarried with the Andals. In the Vale of Arryn the First Men were wiped out and today the nobility of the Vale are considered to have the purest Andal bloodlines in all of Westeros.

Descendants of the First Men

Many of the people living in Westeros have at least some blood of the First Men in their ethnic make-up, however the southern kingdoms of Westeros became so dominated by the Andals and their culture that Westeros is often referred to as "the Land of the Andals" by those living in Essos.

However there are two groups in Westeros that still claim majority descent from the First Men, and they still actively embrace the old ways and religion of their ancestors: the Northerners and the Wildlings.

Wildlings from North of the Wall of the purest First Men blood
Ties of dynastic marriage were made between the North and the southern kingdoms over the next 6000 years, so that the blood of both peoples mingled together. This process continued under the rule of the Targaryen kings. For example Ned Stark, of the ruling dynasty of the First Men of the North, married Catelyn Tully, of the predominantly Andal ruling dynasty of the Riverlands, resulting in all of their children having mixed blood. Still though the North is predominantly First Men and the South a heavily mixed ethnicity of Andal and First Men.

The wildlings that live north of the Wall are descended from those First men who were living north of the Wall when it was constructed, and have an even purer bloodline than the North. There is little if indeed any Andal blood north of the Wall.

To make it clear: the First Men were not the first humans who lived in the entire world. Humans were already living on the eastern continent of Essos and probably Sothoryos for untold millennia. "The First Men" were just the first humans to live in Westeros.

The Fist of the First Men

"The Fist" of the First men is a ring fort that was built by the First Men well over 6000 years ago, centuries before the Andals invaded Westeros. It is called "The Fist" because the hill looks like a fist thrust into the sky from the flat landscape surrounding it, and the jagged remaining stones around the top look like knuckles on a fist.
Rangers from the Wall camping on the Fist

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