Politics of the Seven Kingdoms: The Stormlands (Part I)

stormlands

credit to Ser Other-in-Law

Introduction

The Stormlands is something of an odd duck among the Seven Kingdoms neither one of the powerhouses like the Reach or the Rock, nor a failed state like the Riverlands, it putters around somewhere in the middle. At the same time, it is a kingdom which has enormous hidden potential, if only because something must explain how it managed to temporarily seize control, first of the largest pre-Targaryen empire that Westeros had ever seen, and second of the Iron Throne itself.

Sadly, much of this potential remains hidden. To be frank, the Stormlands is my least favorite chapter of the Seven Kingdoms section of the World of Ice and Fire. For all I’ve complained about the Ironborn chapter playing merry hell with comparative timelines, it cannot be said to lack for imagination or a bloody, grim drama; the Stormlands chapter by comparison feels half-hearted and last-minute and more than a little repetitious.

So part of my project in this essay is to sift through the dross to find the gold underneath, and to try to imagine from there what the Stormlands could have been.

Geography: A Kingdom Divided

“THE STORMS THAT blow up the narrow sea are infamous throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and in the Nine Free Cities as well…More than half continue north by northwest, according to the archives at the Citadel, sweeping over Cape Wrath and the rainwood, gathering strength (and moisture) as they cross the waters of Shipbreaker Bay before slamming into Storm’s End on Durran’s Point. It is from these great gales that the stormlands take their name.” (WOIAF)

While I am normally quite skeptical of arguments that the political destinies of the Seven Kingdom are driven by their geographies, the Stormlands seems to be an exception that proves the rule. Here, three factors seem to have been involved: climate, regionalism, and shifting borders.

As we see in the quote above, the Stormlands’ climate is best known for huge rainstorms – the omnipresent force of nature at the heart of the myth of Durran Godgrief, the cause of Robert, Stannis, and Renly’s orphaning, and so forth. However, there’s a contradiction between the climate and its supposed consequences:

“Yet even at their greatest extent, the realms of the Durrandons and their successors have always been thinly peopled when compared to the Reach, the riverlands, and the west, and thus the might of the lords of Storm’s End was diminished. Those who do choose to make their homes in the stormlands—whether along the stony shores of the narrow sea, amidst the dripping green forests of the rainwood, or on the windswept marches—are a special breed, however. The people of the stormlands are like unto their weather, it has oft been said: tumultuous, violent, implacable, unpredictable.”

There’s no good reason why the Stormlands should be thinly populated, however: while long periods of rain can be bad for some form of crops (especially your less hardy cereals like wheat), in general rainfall is good for agricultural productivity, as the rain-starved Dorne (and the quite rainy but agriculturally productive British Isles) could well attest to. Likewise, the fact that the Stomrlands are known for their natural resources (timber, hardwood, furs can all be found in the Rainwood, but the plains north of Storm’s End are clearly good for cereals (hence Haystack Hall of House Errol), and the waters seem to support many fishing villages) suggests that there’s more than enough food to support human settlements. Thus, there’s no climate-based reason why the Stormlands ought to have a low population density – indeed, given the fact that it can raise 25,000 men suggests a population density not that much less than the Vale…which in turn suggests that it would be more plausible to say that the Stormlands’ modest manpower is due to the relatively limited landmass of the Stormlands, just as the Vale’s limited manpower is due to the limited size of the Vale proper.

stormlandsregions

More influential in the Stormlands’ political development is the sharp separation between its component regions, each of which has a quite distinct environment. As the WOIAF puts it:

“The heart of this ancient kingdom was Storm’s End, the last and greatest of the castles raised by the hero king Durran Godsgrief in the Age of Heroes, which stands immense and immovable atop the towering cliffs of Durran’s Point. South, beyond Shipbreaker Bay with its wild waters and treacherous rocks, lies Cape Wrath. The moist green tangle of the rainwood dominates the northern two-thirds of the cape. Farther south a broad plain opens up, rolling gently down to the Sea of Dorne, where numerous small fishing villages dot the shoreline. A thriving port and market, the Weeping Town (as it came to be known because it was where the body of the slain hero King Daeron I Targaryen returned to his kingdom after his murder in Dorne), stands here, and much of the region’s trade passes through its harbor.

The great island of Tarth, with its waterfalls and lakes and soaring mountains, is considered part of the stormlands as well, as are Estermont and the myriad lesser isles found off Cape Wrath and the Weeping Town.

To the west the hills rise hard and wild, pushing against the sky until they give way to the Red Mountains, the border between the stormlands and Dorne. Deep dry valleys and great sandstone cliffs dominate the landscape here, and it is true that sometimes at sunset the peaks gleam scarlet and crimson against the clouds … yet there are those who say these mountains were named not for the color of their stone but for all the blood that has soaked into the ground. Farther inland, beyond the foothills, lie the marches—a vast expanse of grasslands, moors, and windswept plains stretching westward and northward for hundreds of leagues.”

Just as the Reach was once made of up of four kingdoms, the Stormlands are made up of distinct regions. Cape Wrath is distinguished both by its Rainwood but also by its superior harbors that ensure that “much of the region’s trade passes through” the Weeping Town as opposed to Storm’s End because of the harsh weather of Shipbreaker Bay. The islands, from Estermont in the south to Tarth (and arguably up to Massey’s Hook), are at a remove from the mainland. The Marches are a unique region, both in terms of their rugged terrain but also the hyper-focus on the geopolitical conflict with the mountain lords of Dorne. And finally, we have this broad region to the north that includes open plains, the Kingswood, and Massey’s Hook, and Storm’s End itself.

But unlike the different kingdoms of the Reach which all shared common ancestry and culture from the beginning, the regions of the Stormlands are both markedly different and sharply separated by geography from one another, promoting separatist identities. The residents of Massey’s Hook, for example, are much closer to the islands of Blackwater Bay than they are to any part of the Stormlands and thus have historically been drawn into the political orbit of the Crownlands to the detriment of the central authority, whereas the residents of Cape Wrath would be more concerned with trade with Essos. Likewise, the Marcher Lords are hyper-focused on their conflict with Dorne and thus have more in common with the Tarlys of Horn Hill or the Peakes of Starpike than they do with the Tarths or the Estermonts, whose concerns about pirates and slavers they would find foreign. And Storm’s End, the seat of the kingdom, sits somewhat uncomfortably in between these regions but not of any of them, trying to hold the whole together.

Speaking of regional differences, I haven’t yet talked about that broad region to the north, because it is here where the Stormlands’ chief problem lies, namely its shifting borders. I titled this section “A Kingdom Divided” because I don’t think we can really understand either the history of or the present conditions of the Stormlands without first understanding that the kingdom currently known as the Stormlands is a shadow of its former self:

“North of Storm’s End, however, the borders of the kingdom have fluctuated greatly over the centuries, as Storm Kings strong and weak gained and lost lands in a succession of wars both great and small. Today, the writ of House Baratheon runs to the south bank of the Wendwater and lower reaches of the kingswood, and along the stony shores of the narrow sea up to the base of Massey’s Hook …but before Aegon’s Conquest, before even the coming of the Andals, the warrior kings of House Durrandon pushed their borders considerably farther.

Massey’s Hook was part of their realm then, and all the kingswood as far as the Blackwater Rush. In certain epochs, the Storm Kings even ruled beyond the Blackwater. Towns as far-flung as Duskendale and Maidenpool once paid homage to Storm’s End, and under the redoubtable warrior king Arlan III Durrandon, the stormlanders took dominion over the entire riverlands.”

Before the coming of Aegon the Conqueror to Westeros, the Stormlands’ borders extended well into the present Crownlands – not just Massey’s Hook (and probably many of the islands in the Bay) but also extending into the rich lands across the Blackwater Rush. In geopolitical terms, this would have meant that the Stormlands would have been able to raise close to 40,000 men, putting it well up there with the Westerlands or the Riverlands or the Vale. It is this factor that I believe explains the Stormlands’ historical ability to punch above their weight, competing for power and influence with the other contenders of the Great Game, and how they were able to conquer and then hold the Riverlands for three hundred years.

Thus, when Aegon first claimed the Crownlands for his own and then divided the Stormlands – taking the Kingswood north of the Wendwater and Masseys Hook beside – as punishment for Argilac’s insult to his envoys, he created a polity much reduced in power and influence.

File:Durran and Elenei.jpeg

credit to Roman Papsuev

Historical Development:

As I said in the introduction, the WOIAF’s coverage of the Stormlands leaves something to be desired. Especially in the early going, it starts with a bang and ends with a whimper. At the very outset of First Men history, the legend of Durran Godsgrief, crafted to a Wagnerian level of epic drama, can’t help but impress:

 “…His friends and brothers and wedding guests were crushed beneath collapsing walls or blown out to sea, but Elenei sheltered Durran within her arms so he took no harm, and when the dawn came at last he declared war upon the gods and vowed to rebuild.

Five more castles he built, each larger and stronger than the last, only to see them smashed asunder when the gale winds came howling up Shipbreaker Bay, driving great walls of water before them. His lords pleaded with him to build inland; his priests told him he must placate the gods by giving Elenei back to the sea; even his smallfolk begged him to relent…” (ACOK)

“The legends surrounding the founder of House Durrandon, Durran Godsgrief, all come to us through the singers. The songs tell us that Durran won the heart of Elenei, daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind. By yielding to a mortal’s love, Elenei doomed herself to a mortal’s death, and for this the gods who had given her birth hated the man she had taken for her lord husband. In their wroth, they sent howling winds and lashing rains to knock down every castle Durran dared to build, until a young boy helped him erect one so strong and cunningly made that it could defy their gales. The boy grew to be Brandon the Builder; Durran became the first Storm King. With Elenei at his side, he lived and reigned at Storm’s End for a thousand years, or so the stories claim.”(WOIAF)

Especially in GRRM’s version, it’s a tale of Tragic Love that brings destruction in its wake (with the collapse of the first castle happening during Durran and Elenei’s wedding, no less), an origin story for the legendary stubbornness of the Durrandon bloodline, a direct allusion to the Arthurian legend of Merlin, Vortigern, and the dragons, and a story of a Telemonian Ajax-like defiance of the gods themselves. It also speaks to the interconnection of the Age of Heroes, with Brandon the Builder once again taking up the role of the continent’s only general contractor.

Image result for bob the builder can we build it

However, when it comes to the early history of the Stormlands, things go down-hill very quickly due to some interesting decisions made by the creators:

“Much of the early history of Westeros is lost in the mists of time, where it becomes ever more difficult to separate fact from legend the further back one goes. This is particularly true of the stormlands…in the stormlands oft as not the First Men carved the tales of their victories and defeats into the trunks of trees, long since rotted away…

Moreover, a tradition developed amongst the Storm Kings of old for naming the king’s firstborn son and heir after Durran Godsgrief, founder of their line, further compounding the difficulties of the historian. The bewildering number of King Durrans has inevitably caused much confusion. The maesters of the Citadel of Oldtown have given numbers to many of these monarchs, in order to distinguish one from the other, but that was not the practice of the singers (unreliable at the best of times) who are our chief source for these times.” (WOIAF)

When one starts with a disclaimer that there’s not going to be very much history because the written records of the First Men was lost and then compound that with a tacit admission that they couldn’t think of any new names so they kept using Durran over and over again, it doesn’t exactly signal that the authors have much confidence in this chapter. It’s also a creative choice that makes the work of analysts and critics far more difficult, so I can’t say that there isn’t a personal frustration involved.

Expansion and Contraction

So once again, we have a legendary founder of a seat of power that becomes the center of a proto-state. The early Durrandons likewise used the same playbook of diplomacy, dynastic marriages, and conquest that we’ve seen the Starks, Arryns, Mudds, Justmans, Teagues, Lannisters, and Gardeners use to build their realms outward:

“Whether he was one man or fifty, we know that in this time the kingdom extended its writ far beyond Storm’s End and its hinterlands, absorbing neighboring kingdoms one by one over the centuries. Some were won by treaty, some by marriage, more by conquest—a process that was continued by Durran’s descendants.

But where in previous cases, this began a process of state formation, in the case of the Durrandons, we actually see a process of continual back-and-forth that resulted in stagnation for the state. The model was established very early on:

The Godsgrief himself was first to claim the rainwood, that wet wilderness that had hitherto belonged only to the children of the forest. His son Durran the Devout returned to the children most of what his father had seized, but a century later Durran Bronze-Axe took it back again, this time for good and all.” (WOIAF)

By expanding his reach over Cape Wrath, Durran Godsgrief gave himself a power base that would allow his nascent kingdom to successfully challenge the other powers of the northern plains or the western marches, similar to how the first Starks’ early alliance with the hill clans allowed them to expand into the wolfswood, or how Benedict I used his support from both the Brackens and Blackwoods to unite the Riverlands. The difference is that Durran’s son gave back most of the territory in question; thus, Durran Bronze-Axe spent his reign retaking it rather than expanding the kingdom further outwards.

And so when we look at a lot of the early history of the Durrandons, there’s a lot of similarities to other early regimes, but with the addition of a consistent undertow seeping away at their accomplishments:

“Maldon Massey built the castle Stonedance and established his lordship over Massey’s Hook under another King Durran, called the Ravenfriend, but his dates and number remain in dispute as well. It was Durran the Young, also known as the Butcher Boy, who dammed the river Slayne with Dornish corpses, after turning back Yoren Yronwood and the warrior maid Wylla of Wyl in the Battle by the Bloody Pool … but was he the same king who became besotted with his own niece in later life and died at the hands of his brother Erich Kin-Killer? These, and many similar questions, will most likely never be resolved.

Somewhat better sources exist for later centuries, however. We can say with fair certainty that the great island kingdom of Tarth fell under the sway of House Durrandon when Durran the Fair took to wife the daughter of its king, Edwyn Evenstar. Their grandson, Erich the Sailmaker (most likely Erich III), was the first to claim Estermont and the lesser isles farther south. It was another Durran (Durran X, most scholars agree) who extended the kingdom northward to the Blackwater Rush, and his son Monfryd I (the Mighty) who first crossed that great river, defeating the petty kings of House Darklyn and House Mooton in a series of wars, and seizing the prosperous port towns of Duskendale and Maidenpool.” (WOIAF)

While the Ravenfriend’s creation of feudal links with the northeastern coast (possibly through diplomacy, since ravens were used to carry messages, and possibly through magic) and the Butcher Boy’s expansion of Durrandon authority to the southwest (probably through a defensive military alliance with the Swanns of Stonehelm, which overlooks the Slayne) are relatively novel, there’s a fair bit of stock characters in this list. You could easily swap Durran the Fair for Alester II Arryn or Garland the Bridegroom, or Erich the Sailmaker for John the Tall or Hugh and Hugo Arryn. However repetitive these figures might be, they do give us important information about the second wave of Durrandon expansion, which incorporated the eastern islands on the one hand and pushed well into the modern-day Crownlands on the other. (This last part is especially important for demonstrating that Durrandon presence in the Crownlands goes all the way back to around three hundred years after the Godsgrief and thus quite early in the Age of Heroes.)

Thus, by the third century post-Durran, the Stormlands had grown and surpassed its modern-day borders. Despite this track record of success, the Durrandons squandered their inheritance due to a succession of weak kings:

“Monfryd’s son Durran XI (the Dim) and his own son Barron (the Beautiful) yielded up all he had gained and more besides. During the long years when Durwald I (the Fat) ruled in Storm’s End, the Masseys broke away, Tarth thrice revolted, and even upon Cape Wrath a challenge arose, from a woods witch known only as the Green Queen, who held the rainwood against Storm’s End for the best part of a generation. For a time it was said Durwald’s rule extended no farther than a man could urinate off the walls of Storm’s End.” (WOIAF)

In two generations, the Storm Kings lost all of their rich territories in the Crownlands, significant territories in the northwest by the Blackwater Rush, “and more besides.” Sensing weakness at the center, the constituent parts of the Stormlands began to rebel, with the northeast (Massey’s Hook), the islands (Tarth), and even Cape Wrath (the Green Queen) not only successfully rebelling but keeping their rebellions going for extended periods of time. Thus, by the reign of Durwald I, all of the work of state-building that had been done since the time of the Godsgrief himself was basically undone.

Thus, however interesting the story of Morden II’s unwise staffing decisions, Ronard the Bastard’s prodigious luck with women and warfare, there is a certain lack of consequence to it all:

“The tide turned again when Morden II named his baseborn half brother Ronard as his castellan. A fearsome warrior, Ronard became the ruler of the stormlands in all but name and took King Morden’s sister to wife. Within five years, he had claimed the kingship as well. It was Morden’s own queen who placed Morden’s crown on Ronard’s head. If the songs be true, she shared his bed as well. Morden himself, deemed harmless, was confined to a cell in the tower.

His usurper ruled for nigh unto thirty years as Ronard the Bastard, smashing rebel bannerman and petty kings alike in battle after battle. Never a man to confine himself to a single woman, he claimed a daughter from every foe who bent the knee. By the time he died, he had supposedly fathered nine-and ninety sons. Most were bastard born (though Ronard had three-and-twenty wives, the songs say) and did not share in their father’s inheritance but had to make their own way in the world. For this reason, thousands of years later, many and more of the smallfolk of the stormlands, even the meanest and humblest amongst them, still boast of royal blood.” (WOIAF)

However great a lover or a fighter he was, ultimately Ronard the Bastard didn’t accomplish anything new – all his conquests in the bedroom or the battlefield did was to restore what previous monarchs had spent their lives doing. Those intervening centuries could not be recovered as easily as the strongholds of the Stormlands, so House Durrandon had lost its opportunities to bank its early victories, to learn something from the Age of Heroes before the Andals came.

And then, like they always do, the Andals came.

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37 thoughts on “Politics of the Seven Kingdoms: The Stormlands (Part I)

  1. Steven Xue says:

    Although the Stormlands history isn’t as in-depth or interesting compared to the other kingdoms. I have to say that its Age of Heroes fable is in my opinion the best and most captivating tale of them all. Say what you will of the Stormlanders but they sure know how to spin a pretty tale about gods and heroes.

    I’ve always thought the story of Durran Godsgrief and his war with the gods was kind of like the Three Little Pigs with the wolf blowing down each of the houses they built but couldn’t no matter how hard he tried destroy the last one. But the story is also an allegory of man overcoming the forces of nature through sheer determination and will power as well as a lot of money and labor. I suppose this is why the Stormlanders in their character are mostly stubborn and aggressive but can also be dauntless and determined. Because just like Durran Godsgrief they are at the mercy of the intemperate weather and have to cope with the very storm that made their region famous all the time.

  2. Bail o' Lies says:

    By how it looks so far it seems the Stormlands relied far more on the individual competence of each king far more then any other kingdom. Normally for the other kingdoms they would normally lose lands briefly because of a very competent enemy but would gain it back eventually (especially if that enemy is the ironborn.) Here they loses land frequently due to incompetent kings.

    Even the Ironborn look better at the moment. At least with them they start out with a King of Rock and a King of the Sea for each island and then the priest made it one King of Rock and Sea for all the islands they didn’t backtrack.

    Though this does fit to how they behave in the books as well. Robert had to beat three armies in one day to prove his mettle enough for them to follow them. Renly was only able to get half the Stormlords to tepidly follow him even with the Reach backing him. Who then quickly went over to Stannis once he died. Then the Lannisters after the Blackwater. Soon in the six book they will be giving Aegon their lukewarm support; after he has the armies of Drone and the Reach march through their lands.

    • Yeah that’s something I’m going to tackle when I get to Part 3 – the Stormlands’ lack of unity goes a long way back and a long way forward.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        Just had a though but would it be fair to say that Ronard sowing his own wild oats might have helped form a national identity in the Stormlands as Garth Greenhand did for the Reach or created a potential cause of greater disunity and instability like Aegon IV?

  3. gbajithedeceiver says:

    “And so when we look at a lot of the early history of the Durrandons, there’s a lot of similarities to other early regimes, but with the addition of a consistent undertow seeping away at their accomplishments”

    Gotta go with “eroding” here.

  4. I agree, the Stormlands really isn’t as developed. It does feel a bit like an afterthought, with a less varied history then the Reach or Vale. There may be a bit of a realistic edge there, while the other Kingdoms are too large to exist realistically, the SL power has ebbed and flowed, like the tide. It has not been as established, and when the Durrandons tried to increase their power… it just didn’t work as well. They more resemble the Dark Ages Kingdoms, such as Germany, never really able to consolidate their power, and with a collection of different peoples under one ruler. Though their population could be higher, it seems it needs to remain small so the SL can’t be more of a threat to the Reach or the Riverlands.

    Though I would like to know how the Marcher Kingdom fits into this, as I think I mentioned before, mayhaps the Durrandons joined the Carons who split off from the Tarlys, and the Tarlys were forced to do homage to Highgarden to prevent being swallowed up by Storm’s End.

    Actually on the subject of the Marches I wish we could hear more about what’s going on in the Marches currently. Who is ruling at Blackhaven, is Foote having trouble getting Nightsong, are the Marcher Lords divided, with some hoping to join Aegon as they lost kin at the Blackwater, as must have happened? But at least with Aegon’s campaign we’re getting a better look at the Stormlands.

    I am interested to know where Morden and his scheming siblings fell in the family tree. Were the new ruling couple related through blood, because if the union was actually incestuous it probably would have been mentioned. If the Durrandons continued in the legitimate line, was Morden’s sister royal and Ronard from the affair of a Queen, a sort of Hagen figure? Was Morden’s sister (GRRM not naming a woman, I know, incredible) from a Durrandon marrying a cousin, meaning she had a claim but Ronard was still the son of a King, meaning they could put together their claims with Morden removed? Did Morden mayhaps make his brother legitimate at which they pounced? And this claim of Ronard’s prowess… it might be a similar attempt to claim some royal descent from many Houses.

    And the story of Godsgrief is interesting because it sounds the sort of Folk Tale we should hear more off, with Pre-Andal Gods. I wonder how they figure into stories of the Seven. Is it the sort of folk tale or old mythology people like to hear and just doublethink into their history, such as History of the Kings of Norway having Pagan Pantheons existing even in a Christian world, or Dante having a Hell populated with Classical figures? The Wagner allusion fits considering the SL is sort of Germany.

    • Steven Xue says:

      I do wonder if the story of Godsgrief was concocted by the Durrandons themselves. Maybe just like the way the Gardeners might have paid bards to spread stories about their great ancestor the sagely Garth Greenhand founding the kingdom of the Reach as well as being the great primogenitor of all the great houses of the Reach. The Durrandons could have decided to try and one up the Gardener kings by raising themselves to demi-godhood. The Durrandons did claim a ‘divine right to rule’ and probably saw themselves as ‘divine’ also (makes me wonder why the Baratheons who have married into and coopted their family’s cult don’t boast about having the same ‘divine rights’). Its no different than say the Spartan kings claiming decent from Hercules with the two royal houses founded by Hercules twin sons, or Romulus and Remus being sired by Mars.

      • Sean C. says:

        We know from Melisandre that Storm’s End actually does have magical wards, though.

        The fanciful founders of these various houses do have a basis in reality, since ASOIAF is a series where the old myths were real.

    • It is more like Germany, but unlike say England or France or Spain.

      The Marcher Kingdom is an odd case – we get good internal description (definitely get a sense of rivalry between the Carons and Swanns, for example), but not much in the way of explanation about how they interact with Storm’s End.

      I think Ronard married his half-sister.

      • I see. I suppose the Carons may have been overmighty vassals to the Tarlys who brought in the Durrandons to try and supplant them. Though I wish we knew some more about the Marcher Lords.

  5. Murc says:

    “THE STORMS THAT blow up the narrow sea are infamous throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and in the Nine Free Cities as well…More than half continue north by northwest, according to the archives at the Citadel, sweeping over Cape Wrath and the rainwood, gathering strength (and moisture) as they cross the waters of Shipbreaker Bay before slamming into Storm’s End on Durran’s Point.”

    We get some additional information on the weather systems in TWOW, it would appear, and it looks like it isn’t just the Narrow Sea, it is also the Sunset Sea. From Arianne II:

    Prince Doran and the maester inclined more toward wind and water, and spoke of how the big storms that formed down in the Summer Sea would pick up moisture moving north until they slammed into Cape Wrath. For some strange reason the storms never seemed to strike at Dorne, she recalled her father saying. “I know your reason,” the septon had responded. “No Dornishmen ever stole away the daughter of two gods.”

    So we don’t have just the weather systems blowing up the Narrow Sea, we’ve got weather systems forming in the Sunset Sea (and that’s a wide, deep, warm ocean; tropical cyclones ought to form in it on the regular) blowing right across Dorne without dropping any of their moisture, and just hitting Cape Wrath hard. And if they’re colliding with other frontal boundaries as they come over the Cape, I bet things get real interesting real fast.

    It’s also a little interesting how you have a septon of the Faith of the Seven openly advocating for the existence of non-Seven deities and their continuing, ongoing effect on the natural world. I doubt the High Sparrow would approve, but this speaks highly to the cultural currency the Durran Godsgrief myth has, I think.

    Arianne II also seems to undercut this a bit:

    Farther south a broad plain opens up, rolling gently down to the Sea of Dorne, where numerous small fishing villages dot the shoreline.

    Now, the official map, the one in Lands of Ice and Fire, does back that up; the Rainwood there is much smaller than on, say, the map pictured above, and does indeed only cover the northern two-thirds of the Cape. But Arianne manages to get from the Weeping Town to the Rainwood in a days worth of easy riding, and there she stays basically until they get to Griffin’s Roost. That broad coastal plain doesn’t seem that broad at all.

    And Storm’s End, the seat of the kingdom, sits somewhat uncomfortably in between these regions but not of any of them, trying to hold the whole together.

    A question for the hive mind: am I the only one who thinks Storm’s End is curiously isolated and even desolate for an administrative center and seat of kings and lords paramount? Those places attract courtiers, hangers-on, folks who come to service the courtiers and hangers-on, etc. Sunspear is surrounded by a town. Highgarden likely has a significant castle town as well. Casterly Rock has Lannisport, which serves that function, and the Rock is practically a town in itself. Winterfell has the winter town, which even in the summer months has folks in providing goods and services and industry in the service of House Stark. Pyke is within spitting distance of Lordsport. The Eyrie… is a special case.

    But Storm’s End has jack shit. It’s just this enormous castle, the heart of a great realm, sitting in the middle of nowhere. There is no castle town. There is no harbor, not enough of one to do significant trade or anchor a fleet. There’s… nothing. Did the Durrandons and Baratheons not keep a court? Did people not want to come to them with petitions and needs and business to conduct, and did not establishments spring up to serve those folks?

    It seems weird and off. I have something of the same problem with Riverrun; a lord paramount is not a king, but Riverrun is at the junction of two navigable, important-to-trade rivers and has easy access to the Westerlands. There ought to be a significant town there. Hell, there ought to be shipyards there, but at the very least a whole apparatus to serve traders coming over the Golden Tooth who want to get on the water heading east.

    • Summer Sea != Sunset Sea. Sunset Sea is off the west coast of Westeros, the Summer Sea is the area east of Dorne, south of the Stepstones and the Narrow Sea, and directly north of the Summer Islands from which it takes its name.

      And yeah, Storm’s End is a great place for a castle but a weird place for a capitol.

      • Murc says:

        Ugh, I of course meant to type Summer Sea, WHICH I HAD JUST TYPED WHEN I TRANSCRIBED THE QUOTE, only I didn’t, because I am dumb and bad and also dumb.

        That said, the question of where precisely the Sunset Sea ends and the Summer Sea begins is interesting, not that I think about it. The official map is somewhat unclear; it could very well be that the ocean immediately south of Dorne is Summer rather than Sunset.

  6. Andrew says:

    1. Ronald the Bastard is clearly where Robert gets it from.

    2. Given, according to Melisandre, Storm’s End is warded like the Wall, Brandon the Builder likely might have played a role in its construction with help from the Children of the Forest, who no doubt were involved by the sound of it.

    3. The continual back-and-forth makes its way to the Iron Throne. The Durrandons keep making gains only to lose them from the rest of the Stormlands to the riverlands. This passes on to their descendants, the Baratheons, who gain the entire continent only to lose it all.

    • Murc says:

      Given, according to Melisandre, Storm’s End is warded like the Wall, Brandon the Builder likely might have played a role in its construction with help from the Children of the Forest, who no doubt were involved by the sound of it.

      Man, that would make Durran Godsgrief one colossal asshole, wouldn’t it?

      “Thanks for helping me build my impregnable, god-proof castle, Children of the Forest! Imma conquer you now. That’s cool, right?”

    • 1. Probably.

      2. Eh…I don’t super-like the Children of the Forest being everywhere after the Age of Heroes.

      3. Yep.

      • Murc says:

        If there’s one place they’re justified being, though, it is the rainwood and environs. The Rainwood is one of the great forests of Westeros.

        I am generally of the mind that the Children lingering for a long time in the Rainwood, the Kingswood, the forested hills of the Riverlands, and the Wolfswood is pretty okay.

        • Andrew says:

          Well, the terms of the Pact stated that the deep forests went to the Children so the Rainwood and other forests you mentioned would be likely places for them.

  7. Could the Stormlands’ lack of written records and low population density be a result of the fact that both the Children of the Forest and the Giants lived there in large numbers?

  8. Anders Bloomquist says:

    Steven I’m surprised you didn’t reference the idea that the Godsgrief legend is a bizarre combo of Job + Tower of Babel. But in a twist, the lesson for the human(s) isn’t humility in face of the divine but instead standfast defiance.

    • Steven Xue says:

      I’m not sure about the Bible but in my opinion the Godsgrief legend has more in common with Greek mythology. For me it reminds me of the story of Persephone. If you think about it Elenai is very much like Persephone in being the daughter of a powerful god, Demeter the goddess of harvest. Her abduction by Hades caused her mother so much grief that her sour mood caused intolerable winters and made nothing grow which almost doomed humanity. Both stories show that when the gods feel the loss of their children, they can lash out in ways that will have dire consequences for mankind. I guess the moral of these stories are, don’t mess with the children of the gods.

  9. KrimzonStriker says:

    I found the next section of the Stormlands dealing with the coming of the Andals among the more interesting sections of the kingdoms, despite more back and forth the struggle carried a lot of drama and it was a unique case of seeing what a united First Men Kingdom can do against the full might of the Andals for a long period of time

  10. Jason says:

    I figured the lower population was due not to rain, but to poor soils for growing crops. I guess when I think of a temperate rainforest I think of giant trees with shallow roots in rocky soil.

  11. John moore-vinals says:

    Wait, they keep gaining great territory only to lose it all by being irresponsible?

    Ah, so that’s where Robert Baratheon got it from!

  12. vulpes82 says:

    The one thing you have to give the Stormlands is they have the most romantic origin myth. It was founded on love, not a trick or conquest. A goddess who so loved a man she gave up immortality; a man who so loved his wife he refused to give her up even in the face of divine wrath. I’m a sucker for that kind of story, so I swoon a bit at Durran and Elenei.

  13. The Durran Godsgrief story always makes me think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the castle in the swamp

  14. thatrabidpotato says:

    It’s an open and interesting question just how accurate the origin myth of the Stormlands is- we know that Storm’s End is magically protected, and we know that it is thickest on the seaward face where no human threat could come from. But does that automatically mean that the gods really did keep blowing the place down? One might have thought that Durran’s vassals would have forcibly intervened after around the fourth destroyed castle.

    • fjallstrom says:

      I figured the story is a just so story that hides the real truth of why a magic castle with really thick seaward wall is needed. Which would be the threat from the Deep Ones.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        I refuse to believe in the Deep Ones. The White Walkers are bad enough.

        • Murc says:

          Martin has given us so many hints and so much information it seems just about as close to certain as things can be that the Deep Ones exist.

          They might not be up to anything. They might just be hanging out on the ocean floor, bein’ all squamous. But they’re definitely out there; they’ve left behind those various edifices of oily black stone and have almost certainly interbred with some lineages of man. I mean, for heaven’s sake: there is literally a character named Dagon Codd who has pop eyes, a wide frog mouth, and pale skin.

          • poorquentyn says:

            Indeed, and then there are the squishers…

            WOIAF makes it pretty damn clear that various magical races exist or have existed all over this particular planet, regardless of whether that’s your bag genre-wise.

  15. Another thought that crossed my mind.
    It seems to me that between the time of Ronard the Bastard and Erich the Unready the Durrandons finally cemented their control over most of the Stormlands given that the only bannermen known to still be rebellious by the latter’s time are the Masseys. Furthermore, during the Targaryen Era the only times we see the Stormlands divided is during RR and possibly the FBR (?).
    Thoughts, Maester Steven?

  16. Also, where does it say that House Baratheon fought for the reds in the FBR?

  17. […] Earlier, I discussed some of my frustration with the historical sections of the Stormlands chapter. In this section, we get to some of my biggest pet peeves with this section of the WOIAF – namely, that its account of the Andal Invasion of the Stormlands doesn’t really pass muster, especially when viewed in comparison to the other Seven Kingdoms. […]

  18. […] part because of the dismemberment of the Stormlands after the Conquest, a lot of the historical rivalries of the Stormlands – the oft-rebellious Houses Massey and Bar […]

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