Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Room Where the Light Won’t Find You: What It Means To Be Ironborn

What went wrong with Ironborn society that led to its current arrested state? Why the unceasing belligerence and inability to forge real, lasting compromises with the present? To simply accept the purely religious explanation is to ultimately accept the viewpoint of the Ironborn’s own fundamentalist party. Regardless of how many caveats one adds, this is how their culture is and has always been and always will be. This is a viewpoint that utterly ignores social and religious change. The Northmen no longer sacrifice people to weirwoods after all, while the Dornish openly disregard many elements of the Faith of the Seven that they disapprove of. Geographic determinism, the argument that the Iron Islands are so poor that it’s no wonder reaving is important to their culture, is equally simplistic. The Sistermen, the Wildlings, the Vale Clans, and the Skagosi are also peoples with a warrior and robber culture, but they don’t fight and steal in ways that are quite so counterproductive to their own self interests. The Bear Islanders and the Northern Clans are also poor and they simply do not reave. There’s also the fact that very wealthy places like the Free Cities and Qarth regularly steal through their trade wars and fleets of pirates. Poverty doesn’t lead to robbery and wealth virtue. Both explanations are unsatisfactory in their own right, but have an additional problem in that they both reduce the Ironborn to a people who cannot change and are stuck as they are. This results in either a kind of misguided sympathy or the wholesale writing off of all sympathy, as well as a one note narrative presence for the reader. It is our intent to sympathetically delve into their mythology and history so that we might understand how they might have come about as a people, how they came to their current tormented condition, and where they seem to be headed. Continue reading

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