Game of Thrones Lore - The First Men
The First Men were the original human inhabitants of Westeros, and they ruled the continent for thousands of years before the Andals invaded from the eastern continent of Essos. The Andals overrun most of southern Westeros, but failed to take the North. Although the blood of the First Men and the Andals intermingled over the centuries, the inhabitants of the North had the greatest amount of First Men blood in their veins and kept alive many of their traditions…
Around 12,000 years before the War of the Five Kings, the First Men invaded Westeros by crossing a land-bridge that connected the neighbouring continent, Essos. Their arrival met resistance from Westeros’ native inhabitants, the Children of the Forest and the giants. The Children used magic to destroy the land bridge, but were pushed back over the course of many years of warfare. Eventually, the First Men and the Children came together on the Isle of Faces to sign the Pact. Subsequently, the two races peacefully coexisted for millennia, and the First Men even converted to the Children’s religion, worshipping the Old Gods of the Forest. The Old Gods were nameless and uncountable spirits of nature. Their worship centred around sacred heart trees, which were weirwood trees with faces carved into them. The fortresses and the strongholds forged by the First Men soon began to feature Godswoods - wooded areas designated for worship to the Old Gods. Around 4,000 years later, both races were attacked by the White Walkers. The First Men and the Children of the Forest, alongside the giants, united together to push back the mysterious race of ice and cold from the uttermost north. Before building Winterfell and claiming the title of King in the North, Bran the Builder constructed the Wall. That combined with the formation of the Night’s Watch ensured that the White Walkers never returned. What the First Men never knew, however, was that the Children actually created the White Walkers to repel the First Men when they first invaded, only to lose control of the near-mythical race.
After the War for the Dawn, the Children of the Forest’s numbers began to dwindle, and they disappeared altogether by the time the Andals invaded Westeros around 2,000 years afterwards. Sailing across the Narrow Sea, the Andals began their massive migration to Westeros by invading the Vale. From there they conquered most of the continent. However, they were repelled by the North, which was partly due to the fact the narrow lands of the Neck that separated the North from the rest of the continent were ideal strategic choke points. Mirroring the previous conflict with the Children, the First Men and the Andals eventually made peace, as individual Andal kingdoms became more concerned with fighting each other rather than uniting to crush the First Men of the North. The results of the Andal invasion varied from region to region. In the Vale of Arryn, the First Men were all but wiped out, making it one of the purest Andal bloodlines in all of Westeros. In many other regions, the Andals established themselves as the new aristocratic class ruling over the First Men, though the ethnic lines became rather blurred after thousands of years. Some of the noble First Men Houses survived by intermarrying with the Andals. Even House Lannister, as a result, possessed some First Men blood, through the female line. House Lannister actually descended from the marriages of the Westerlands’ invading Andals and the female descendants of Lann the Clever, a legendary hero of the First Men. Houses Blackwood and Bracken also survived through marriage with the Andal Invaders, resulting in a mixed ethnicity.
Many of those who lived in Westeros had at least some blood of the First Men in their ethnic makeup, though it was more common among the lower classes. However, the south of Westeros became so thoroughly dominated by the Andals and their culture that those living in Essos regarded the neighbouring continent as “the Land of the Andals”. The Northmen and the wildlings still claimed majority descent from the First Men, embracing the old ways and religions of their ancestors as a result. The wildlings that lived north of the Wall descended from the First Men who were unlucky enough to find themselves on the wrong side of the Wall when it was constructed. They had an even purer bloodline than the North, with very little, if any, Andal blood. Even in the Stark-held North, the usage of the Old Tongue, the language of the First Men, was eventually discontinued in favour of adopting the language of their Andal neighbours to the south. The Old Tongue saw continued use north of the Wall, especially amongst the Thenn, but a large number of wildlings were also fluent in the Common Tongue of the Andals.
Now it’s time for this week’s question: what race do you prefer, the Andals or the First Men? Let me know in the comments below.