Hey folks, so this essay is looking like it’s going to be as long as the Westerlands essay if not longer, so I decided to pre-emptively break it up into pieces so it’s easier to read (and write, to be honest). Part I covers the geography and prehistory of the Reach, Part II will cover the rise of House Gardener and the construction of the Reach as a polity, Part III will cover the arrival of the Andals and the Great Game, Part IV will cover the Reach during the Targaryens and possibly the internal divisions and strengths and weaknesses, although that may get pushed to a Part V.
In this series, it seems like the Reach is something of an inevitability – the Reach is such a prosperous and populous region, controlling literally a fourth of Westeros’ military capacity, that it seems like it would always be first among equals of the Seven Kingdoms. But as we’ve seen with the Riverlands, climate and demography are necessary but not sufficient qualities for a functional state.
Rather, as I’ll argue throughout this essay, the emergence of the Reach as we know it today is the result of generations of peerless statecraft, rather than the outcome of mere geography. More than almost any other House, House Gardener provides us with a master class in medieval and early-modern state-building carried out across thousands of years.
“THE LARGEST AND most populous of the six southern kingdoms (the North, vast in expanse though thinly peopled, being a land apart) is commonly referred to as the Reach…once and always a great realm, the Reach is many things to its inhabitants: the most populous, fertile, and powerful domain in the Seven Kingdoms, its wealth second only to the gold-rich west; a seat of learning; a center of music, culture, and all the arts, bright and dark; the breadbasket of Westeros; a nexus of trade; a home to great seafarers, wise and noble kings, dread sorcerers, and the most beautiful women in all Westeros. On a hill overlooking the Mander rises Highgarden, rightly hailed as the most beautiful castle in the realm. The Mander itself, which flows beneath its walls, is the longest and broadest river in the Seven Kingdoms. The great city of Oldtown is the equal of King’s Landing in size, and it is superior in all other respects, being vastly older and more beautiful, with its cobbled streets, ornate guildhalls, stone houses, and three great monuments: the Starry Sept of the Faith, the Citadel of the Maesters, and the mighty Hightower, with its great beacon, the tallest tower in all the known world.” (WOIAF)
When it comes to natural resources, physical beauty, and cultural refinement, the Reach is indeed “a land for superlatives,” a veritable Garden of Eden. And this is because, unlike many other regions of Westeros, the Reach is not meant to evoke a historically accurate incarnation of medieval France (which had its fair share of disease and famine and filth) as much as it is meant to evoke the idealized France that the troubadours of 12th century Aquitaine burned into our collective cultural imagination so strongly that it is hard for us to conceive of anything else. Thus, the Reach should be counted among such fictional realms of sunny vineyards and Epicureanism untainted by any conception of sin as 7th Sea’s Montaigne, the Witcher’s Touissant, Jacqueline Carey’s Terre d’Ange, Warhammer Fantasy’s Bretonnia, or Dragon Age’s Orlais.
But as the WOIAF explains in some detail, the mere fact of the Reach’s magnificence doesn’t mean that we can draw a straight line from natural abundance to national power:
“The domains of House Tyrell, the Lords of Highgarden, now largely correspond with those of the Kingdom of the Reach as it existed for thousands of years before Aegon’s Conquest, but that rich and fertile realm was, in fact, once comprised of four kingdoms: Oldtown and its environs, bounded by the Red Mountains to the east and the headwaters of the Honeywine in the north. The Arbor, the golden island beyond the Redwyne Strait, famed for wine and sunshine. The western marches, from Horn Hill to Nightsong. The Reach proper, a vast expanse of fields and farms, lakes and rivers, hills and woods and fragrant meadows, mills and mines, dotted with small villages, thriving market towns, and ancient castles, stretching from the Shield Islands in the Sunset Sea, up the mouth of the Mander, past Highgarden, to Red Lake, Goldengrove, and Bitterbridge, as far as Tumbleton and the Mander’s headwaters.” (WOIAF)
This historical reminder that there were no less than four kingdoms within the current boundaries of the Reach raises an important rejoinder to any argument about geographic inevitability: the three kingdoms that were rivals to the Gardeners of the Reach enjoyed the same climate, the same fertile soil, and indeed many of the unique features of what we called the Reach and could have parlayed these resources into permanent independence. At the very least, they could have put up such a fierce resistance to unification that the nascent kingdom of the Gardeners could have been pulled down, much as the Justmans and the Teagues were in their own time. Indeed, their very existence meant that the early Gardeners could not have called upon the huge numerical advantages in military manpower and economic might that we associate with the Reach today – they had to build their kingdom with only a fraction of the resources, while facing fierce competition from rivals equally provisioned.
And that only takes into account the Reach’s internal divisions. When we consider the Reach’s geography, it has none of the natural defenses of many of the other Kingdoms: no Neck or Mountains of the Moon, not even the more modest hills of the Westerlands. Instead, it has wide-open borders to its west, its north, its east, and even the Red Mountains to the south have proved dangerously porous throughout its history. As a result, the wealth of the Reach has often proven to be as much a lure for invasion as a cause for celebration.
“The bounty of these green and fertile lands did not make men more peaceful, nor less grasping. Here too the First Men strove against the children of the forest, rooting them out from their sacred groves and hollow hills, hewing down their weirwoods with great bronze axes. Here too kingdoms rose and fell and were forgotten, as petty kings and proud lords contended with one another for land and gold and glory, whilst towns burned and women wailed and sword rang against sword, century after century…”
“…during these dark and bloody centuries, seaborne reavers from the Iron Islands dominated almost all of the western shore, from Bear Island to the Arbor. With their swift longships, the ironborn were able to strike and depart before any response came. Their raiders oft came ashore at unexpected places, taking their enemies unaware. Though the ironmen seldom ventured far inland, they controlled the Sunset Sea and exacted cruel tribute from the fisherfolk along the coasts. Having established themselves upon the Shield Islands by killing all the men they found there and claiming the women as their own, the ironborn even raided up the Mander with impunity.” (WOIAF)
Between internal divisions and external threats therefore, we can see that geography along cannot explain the rise of the Reach, or indeed why the state that formed was centered around Highgarden as opposed to any of its rivals. And to understand that, we have to delve into the historical development of the Reach from its earliest days, and the roles of both symbolic and practical politics in the ascendancy of House Gardener.
Historical Development of the Reach:
“The story of the Reach begins with Garth Greenhand, the legendary progenitor not only of the Tyrells of Highgarden, but of the Gardener kings before them … and all the other great houses and noble families of the Green Realm as well.” (WOIAF)
Compared to many regions of Westeros, we have an unusual degree of information about the prehistory of the Reach – and no small part of that is due to the presence of Garth Greenhand in the mythology of the Reach. As I will demonstrate shortly, Garth Greenhand is key to understanding how House Gardener made themselves ideologically hegemonic in the Reach in a way that no other House save the Starks of Winterfell have managed to do,
Thanks to the World of Ice and Fire, we have far more information about Garth Greenhand, and the outsize role – or more precisely, roles – he played in the culture of the First Men of the Reach:
“A thousand tales are told of Garth, in the Reach and beyond. Most are implausible, and many contradictory. In some he is a contemporary of Bran the Builder, Lann the Clever, Durran Godsgrief, and the other colorful figures of the Age of Heroes. In others he stands as the ancestor of them all. Garth was the High King of the First Men, it is written; it was he who led them out of the east and across the land bridge to Westeros. Yet other tales would have us believe that he preceded the arrival of the First Men by thousands of years, making him not only the First Man in Westeros, but the only man, wandering the length and breadth of the land alone and treating with the giants and the children of the forest. Some even say he was a god.”
In these legends, we see Garth in no less than four distinct and important roles: first, he is “the High King of the First Men,” the indisputable leader of all First Men who (like Moses) “who led them out of the east and across the land bridge to Westeros.” Second, Garth is the ancestor of all the legends of the Age of Heroes – as we saw last time with Lann the Clever. Between these two, we see a semiotic argument for the Manifest Destiny of House Gardener to rule all of Westeros: if Garth Greenhand was acclaimed rightfully as the High King of the First Men, then as his heirs House Gardener can lay claim to the allegiance of all of the First Men. Likewise, as Bran the Builder founded the dynasty that forged the Kingdom of the North, Lann the Clever the Kingdom of the Rock, and Durran Godsgrief the Stormlands, as younger siblings to Garth the Gardener their descendants owe a natural fealty to House Gardener.
Needless to say, these legends are a little bit too politically convenient to be original; I suspect that some savvy Gardener king or queen hired some singers to come up with some useful additions to the canon at some point where they were trying to press some dubious claims to land in the Westerlands or Stormlands. By contrast, the third and fourth roles that Garth Greenhand plays in the legends feel more authentic to the early First Men culture of the Reach:
“There is disagreement even on his name. Garth Greenhand, we call him, but in the oldest tales he is named Garth Greenhair, or simply Garth the Green. Some stories say he had green hands, green hair, or green skin overall. (A few even give him antlers, like a stag.) Others tell us that he dressed in green from head to foot, and certainly this is how he is most commonly depicted in paintings, tapestries, and sculptures. More likely, his sobriquet derived from his gifts as a gardener and a tiller of the soil—the one trait on which all the tales agree. “Garth made the corn ripen, the trees fruit, and the flowers bloom,” the singers tell us.”
“A few of the very oldest tales of Garth Greenhand present us with a considerably darker deity, one who demanded blood sacrifice from his worshippers to ensure a bountiful harvest. In some stories the green god dies every autumn when the trees lose their leaves, only to be reborn with the coming of spring. This version of Garth is largely forgotten. Many of the more primitive peoples of the earth worship a fertility god or goddess, and Garth Greenhand has much and more in common with these deities. It was Garth who first taught men to farm, it is said. Before him, all men were hunters and gatherers, rootless wanderers forever in search of sustenance, until Garth gave them the gift of seed and showed them how to plant and sow, how to raise crops and reap the harvest. (In some tales, he tried to teach the elder races as well, but the giants roared at him and pelted him with boulders, whilst the children laughed and told him that the gods of the wood provided for all their needs). Where he walked, farms and villages and orchards sprouted up behind him. About his shoulders was slung a canvas bag, heavy with seed, which he scattered as he went along. As befits a god, his bag was inexhaustible; within were seeds for all the world’s trees and grains and fruits and flowers.” (WOIAF)
The oldest and likely the most authentic version of the Greenhand is his role as a pre-Pact of the Isle of Faces fertility god. Similar to the Prince of Pentos, this cult closely resembles the idea of the sacred king cult as theorized by Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough and carried forward by writers like Robert Graves and the Cambridge Ritualists: first, Garth who “dies every autumn…only to be reborn with the coming of the spring” is clearly a dying-and-rising god; second, Garth is inextricably associated with the fertility of the natural world, whether we consider his horns (which borrow from historical fertility gods like Cernunnos and Herne the Hunter), his green garb which evokes the Green Man of English folklore (who in his incarnation as the Green Knight of Arthurian myth is also a dying-and-rebirth figure), his teaching of the arts of agriculture and wine-making suggests Dionysus, or even his Johnny Appleseed–like bag of seeds.
Garth’s fourth and final role – as the bringer of human as well as agricultural fertility – allowed Garth to make the transition from the Dawn Age to the Age of Heroes to the adoption of the Faith of the Seven. Whether as man or god, Garth could be venerated as the ancestor-figure of the entire Reach:
“Garth Greenhand brought the gift of fertility with him. Nor was it only the earth that he made fecund, for the legends tell us that he could make barren women fruitful with a touch—even crones whose moon blood no longer flowed. Maidens ripened in his presence, mothers brought forth twins or even triplets when he blessed them, young girls flowered at his smile. Lords and common men alike offered up their virgin daughters to him wherever he went, that their crops might ripen and their trees grow heavy with fruit. There was never a maid that he deflowered who did not deliver a strong son or fair daughter nine moons later, or so the stories say.
…God or man, Garth Greenhand fathered many children in this new land; on this all the tales agree. Many of those offspring grew to be heroes, kings, and great lords in their own right, founding mighty houses that endured for thousands of years.” (WOIAF)
And here we see the one factor that makes the Reach different from all other regions in Westeros: many of the Seven Kingdoms had Houses descended from some great figure of the Age of Heroes, but nowhere else than the Reach could all the Houses of a kingdom trace their ancestry back to the same legend. As a result, from its very earliest days the political class of the Reach shared a common kinship that could provide the basis for a national identity. In Westeros, the only other thing that comes close is much smaller in scale, namely the fictive kinship practiced by the hill clans of the North and the mountain clans of the Vale. In our own history, if we look to something larger-scale than tribal societies, the only thing that would seem to come close is the Athenian myth of autochthony – the belief that the people of Athens literally sprang up from the soil and were thus not only the indisputable original occupants of Attica but also were all equal as “brothers of the soil,” buttressing the institution of Athenian democracy.
In the Reach, however, the common ancestor-veneration of Garth Greenhand provided not for democracy, but rather a stable hierarchy that enjoyed consensus legitimacy throughout the political class:
“Of all these, the greatest was his firstborn, Garth the Gardener, who made his home on the hill atop the Mander that in time became known as Highgarden, and wore a crown of flowers and vines. All of Garth Greenhand’s other children did the Gardener homage as the rightful king of all men, everywhere. From his loins sprang House Gardener, whose kings ruled the Reach beneath the banner of a green hand for many thousands of years, until Aegon the Dragon and his sisters came to Westeros.”
“…And yet there was a difference, in degree if not in kind, for almost all of the noble houses of the Reach shared a common ancestry, deriving as they did from Garth Greenhand and his many children. It was that kinship, many scholars have suggested, that gave House Gardener the primacy in the centuries that followed; no petty king could ever hope to rival the power of Highgarden, where Garth the Gardener’s descendants sat upon a living throne (the Oakenseat) that grew from an oak that Garth Greenhand himself had planted, and wore crowns of vines and flowers when at peace, and crowns of bronze thorns (later iron) when they rode to war. Others might style themselves kings, but the Gardeners were the unquestioned High Kings, and lesser monarchs did them honor, if not obeisance.” (WOIAF)
The ideological hegemony of House Gardener over the various Houses of the Reach had as its foundation the simple principle of primogeniture; having inherited their own fiefs through the same principle, the lords of the Reach could not help but accept. As Garth the Gardener was the firstborn of Garth Greenhand, he was the rightful heir of their common father and his younger half-siblings owed him a natural obligation of fealty. (Think of Stannis’ comment in the Season 2 History and Lore video on Robert’s Rebellion that “there are deeper, older laws; the younger brother bows before the elder.”) At the same time, we can see that House Gardener was tireless in its efforts to emphasize this link to Garth Greenhand: their “banner of a green hand” is a clear heraldic allusion, their use of the Oakenseat as a sign that Garth had blessed the monarchy itself, their custom of wearing a “crown of flowers and vines” to ape the Greenhand’s depiction in visual media.
At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression that the prehistory of the Reach was a time of harmony under the benevolent reign of the Gardeners – after all, I’m about to discuss at length how the Gardeners gradually unified four kingdoms into one, and the many difficulties involved in doing so – as much as the troubadours of Highgarden would like us to. Instead, I would like to emphasize that the Reach’s prehistory actually shows a plethora of independent state-building efforts by all of the children of Garth Greenhand, in an atmosphere of profound mystical strangeness:
“JOHN THE OAK, the First Knight, who brought chivalry to Westeros (a huge man, all agree, eight feet tall in some tales, ten or twelve feet tall in others, sired by Garth Greenhand on a giantess). His own descendants became the Oakhearts of Old Oak.
GILBERT OF THE VINES, who taught the men of the Arbor to make sweet wine from the grapes that grew so fat and lush across their island, and who founded House Redwyne.
FLORYS THE FOX, the cleverest of Garth’s children, who kept three husbands, each ignorant of the existence of the others. (From their sons sprang House Florent, House Ball, and House Peake).
MARIS THE MAID, the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros. (The victor was the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin, but Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her, and Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.)
FOSS THE ARCHER, renowned for shooting apples off the head of any maid who took his fancy, from whom both the red apple and green apple Fossoways trace their descent.
BRANDON OF THE BLOODY BLADE, who drove the giants from the Reach and warred against the children of the forest, slaying so many at Blue Lake that it has been known as Red Lake ever since.
OWEN OAKENSHIELD, who conquered the Shield Islands, driving the selkies and merlings back into the sea.
HARLON THE HUNTER and HERNDON OF THE HORN, twin brothers who built their castle atop Horn Hill and took to wife the beautiful woods witch who dwelled there, sharing her favors for a hundred years (for the brothers did not age so long as they embraced her whenever the moon was full).
BORS THE BREAKER, who gained the strength of twenty men by drinking only bull’s blood, and founded House Bulwer of Blackcrown. (Some tales claim Bors drank so much bull’s blood he grew a pair of shiny black horns.)
ROSE OF RED LAKE, a skinchanger, able to transform into a crane at will—a power some say still manifests from time to time in the women of House Crane, her descendants.
ELLYN EVER SWEET, the girl who loved honey so much she sought out the King of the Bees in his vast mountain hive and made a pact with him, to care for his children and his children’s children for all time. She was the first beekeeper, and the mother to House Beesbury.
ROWAN GOLD-TREE, who was so bereft when her lover left her for a rich rival that she wrapped an apple in her golden hair, planted it upon a hill, and grew a tree whose bark and leaves and fruit were gleaming yellow gold, and to whose daughters the Rowans of Goldengrove trace their roots.” (WOIAF)
Now it’s a little hard to see what’s exactly going on here due to the multiple layers of myth-making (right off the bat, we know that there’s no way that John the Oak could have brought chivalry to the Reach since the Andal custom of knighthood didn’t arrive in the Reach until thousands of years later), but we can see land-grabbing in all directions. Gilbert travels to the Arbor and becomes its king as a reward for his wine-making prowess, Owen Oakenshield conquers the Shield Islands, and Florys, Foss, Harlon and Herndon, Bors, Rose, Ellyn, and Rowan all get into the House-founding game.
There’s also some common threads that speak to how weird the early Reach was: first, the pre-historic Reach seems to have been a world characterized by both war and co-existence between the First Men and non-human species. John the Oak is the son of a giantess (which suggests that not all the giants rejected the Greenhand’s offers of friendship), whereas Brandon of the Bloody Blade made war on them 150 miles to the east. Owen Oakenshield makes war on “selkies and merlings” on the Shield Islands (more on this in a bit), while his sister Ellyn is making pacts with the King of Bees at Honeyholt. Second, it seems to have been an era marked by magic, often but not exclusively the realm of powerful sorceresses: Harlon and Herndon (the ancestors of House Tarly) are granted eternal youth by their joint marriage to a woods witch; Rose of Red Lake is a “skinchanger, able to transform into a crane at will,” Ellyn Ever-Sweet can talk to animals, and Rowan grows a magical golden tree from her hair; and Bors the Breaker uses blood-magic to turn himself into a quasi-minotaur complete with “the strength of twenty men.” (WOIAF)
But perhaps the strangest and most ominous aspect of Reach pre-history has to do with the Deep Ones and Battle Isle, and Uthor of the High Tower and Maris the Maid. According to the legends of the Reach, Maris “the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros,” (a later addition, given that Andals introduced tourneys to Westeros) was supposed to marry “the victor…the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin,” but instead “Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her.” Outraged, “Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.” (WOIAF) On the face of it, this seems like a slightly strange and somewhat anachronistic just-so story to explain how House Hightower fits into the broader family tree (kudzu?) of Garth Greenhand, but there are several details that are puzzling to say the least.
To begin with, giants are uniformly described as hairy and brown, which doesn’t exactly jibe with Argoth’s description. On the other hand, titans are described in ASOIAF as being made of “grey stone” (ASOS, Sansa VI) and in Old Nan’s stories are described as living “giant[s] as tall as a mountain.” (AFFC, Arya I) Likewise, Argoth’s continual “roaring for his bride” is quite similar to the Titan of Braavos, who roars to warn of approaching ships and to count the hours. And while the Titan of Braavos is normally understood as a statue, a human construction, there are stories from Braavosi culture about the Titan of Braavos being “the last Titan,” who “yet stands, astride the stony shoulders of his brothers,” suggesting that there might have been many titans, and that they had an association with the sea.
What makes this incident interesting is how it might link in with the pre-history of Oldtown, House Hightower, and Battle Isle, which goes all the way back into the Dawn Age. We are told of Oldtown itself that “the origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend,” and that “men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age.” Scholars disagree as to whether the settlement was of First Men or a “trading post, where ships from Valyria, Old Ghis, and the Summer Isles” came to conduct commerce, but all sources agree that “the stony island where the Hightower stands is known as Battle Isle even in our oldest records,” that the “great square fortress of black …predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years,” and that “at some point we know that Battle Isle and its great stronghold came into the possession of the ancestors of House Hightower….when first glimpsed in the pages of history, the Hightowers are already kings, ruling Oldtown from Battle Isle.” (WOIAF) Indeed, the Uthor of the High Tower who shows up in the legends of Maris the Maid was the first of the Hightowers, who commissioned the construction of the first stone tower on top of that stone fortress from Brandon the Builder.
At the same time, the nature of the High Tower’s foundations speaks to the nature of that unknown Battle which gave the island its name: while some scholars argue that the solid stone suggests the dragonlords of Old Valyria, others point to un-Valyrian features of the interior:
“The fused black stone of which it is made suggests Valyria, but the plain, unadorned style of architecture does not, for the dragonlords loved little more than twisting stone into strange, fanciful, and ornate shapes. Within, the narrow, twisting, windowless passages strike many as being tunnels rather than halls; it is very easy to get lost amongst their turnings. Mayhaps this is no more than a defensive measure designed to confound attackers, but it too is singularly un-Valyrian. The labyrinthine nature of its interior architecture has led Archmaester Quillion to suggest that the fortress might have been the work of the mazemakers, a mysterious people who left remnants of their vanished civilization upon Lorath in the Shivering Sea…”
“An even more fanciful possibility was put forth a century ago by Maester Theron. Born a bastard on the Iron Islands, Theron noted a certain likeness between the black stone of the ancient fortress and that of the Seastone Chair, the high seat of House Greyjoy of Pyke, whose origins are similarly ancient and mysterious. Theron’s rather inchoate manuscript Strange Stone postulates that both fortress and seat might be the work of a queer, misshapen race of half men sired by creatures of the salt seas upon human women. These Deep Ones, as he names them, are the seed from which our legends of merlings have grown, he argues, whilst their terrible fathers are the truth behind the Drowned God of the ironborn.” (WOIAF)
Now, this is a very significant ambivalence, because “Lorathi legend suggests they were destroyed by an enemy from the sea: merlings in some versions of the tale, selkies and walrus-men in others.” Battle Isle could well be a construction either of the Deep Ones, as Maester Theron suggests, given the commonality of the black stone, or of the Mazemakers who warred against the Deep Ones in the Dawn Age, judging form the interior architecture. Moreover, we know that the Mazemakers were “massively built and larger than men, though not so large as giants. Some have suggested that mayhaps the mazemakers were born of interbreeding between human men and giant women.” (WOIAF) Could the Mazemakers be to the Titans what the squishers and certain Ironborn were to the Deep Ones, creating a link between the Titans and Battle Isle?
To bring all of these threads together: we have a legend that speaks of Uthor of the High Tower, having claimed Battle Isle for his own and having ordered the construction of the High Tower, marrying into the broader clan of the Greenhand and thereby enraging what seems to be a Titan, suggesting a folk-memory of an early siege of Oldtown, perhaps the Battle for which the Isle was named, perhaps provoked by the seizure of one of the Mazemakers’ fortresses. At the same time, Maris’ brothers are described as warring against “merlings and selkies,” themselves likely folk-memories of the Deep Ones and squishers – the marriage between Maris and Uthor could have been part of a broader alliance of men against the non-humans who had dominated coastal Westeros, perhaps in the aftermath of a great war between the Deep Ones and the Mazemakers that had exhausted both empires.
Now, all of this could be nothing more than fevered speculation of an unhealthy mind, but it does suggest that the prehistorical Reach was a wild and dangerous place. To unify the kingdom against internal division and external threat would require not merely a Hero like Uthor or Maris but a line of heroes, pushing a policy with single-mindedness across thousands and thousands of years…
 Incidentally, this passage raises an interesting question: was Nightsong once a part of the Reach? After all, Horn Hill is very much part of the Reach, and Nightsong has always stood out to me as remarkably far west to have always been part of the Stormlands. (It’s less than 300 miles away from Highgarden and due south of Ashford, Longtable, and Bitterbridge; compared to at least 900 miles across really rough terrain to Storm’s End) Perhaps at one point, Nightsong was once a part of the “western marches” but quarreled with the Gardeners (likely over their desire to be recognized as undisputed Lords of the Marches) and were snapped up by some Durrandon who was happy enough to grab a strategically vital castle for the price of an empty title.
 Incidentally, this period also seems to have been a world of bigamy, whether we’re talking about Florys’ three husbands, Foss’ archery-based seduction technique, or Harlon or Herndon’s polyandrous marriage, suggesting that the Greenhand’s commitment to free love. It does make me wonder how the early septons and septas trying to spread the doctrines of the Faith of the Seven grappled with this ingrained cultural value.
 And if we believe that the Ironborn came from the sea, is it possible that the constant warfare between the Ironborn and the Reach over the Shield Isles stemmed from a desire to get revenge for their kinfolk who had been pushed into the sea by the son of the Greenhand?