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Crowfood's Daughter

The Curse of the First King (spoilersTWOIAF)

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TWOIAF has provided us with a much deeper understanding of history and legend and one of the legends that caught my eye was the Curse of the First King. According to those in the North, he was the First King of the First Men who led his people over the land bridge to Westeros. In TWOIAF, Passages of the Dead by Kennet mentions a curse placed on the Great Barrow which prevents no living man from rivaling the First King. I believe the curse might have in fact been real and the result of a feud between Garth the Gardener and the Grey King."

"The North" chapter of TWOIAF retells the legend of the First King and the Great Barrow which states:

"a curse was placed on the Great Barrow that would allow no living man to rival the First King. This curse made these pretenders to the title grow corpselike in their appearance as it sucked away their vitality and life."

TWOIAF also relates that many in the south believe the First King to be Garth the Greenhand who is strongly connected to fertility, life and vitality as the First King of the First Men who led them across the arm of Dorne. It was said that he lived thousands of years and some claim he was a god. This got me thinking, is it possible that the First King who is Buried in the Barrow lands and Garth the Greenhand are the same person?

The Curse of the First King is fascinating as there is little mention of actual specific curses in the series. As I was perusing The Iron Isles chapter, I was reminded of this curse every time the Grey King was mentioned.

"His hair and beard and eyes were as grey as a winter sea, and from these he took his name."

"he ruled the Iron Islands for a thousand years, until his very skin had turned as grey as his hair and beard."

Similar to Garth the Greenhand, the Grey King had an abnormally long lifespan of "a thousand years", who was said to also be godlike and rule the sea itself. In contrast to Garth's green hair and skin which is a color associated with life, and fertility, The Grey King contrastly had grey skin, and hair which is associated with old age and death.

Garth's greatest feats were making the land bloom, showing the First Men how to farm, and planting seeds wherever he went from an inexhaustible bag of seeds which contained the beginnings of all the world's trees, grains, flowers etc. Some of the most arcane tales of Garth are more sinister and tell of blood sacrifices required to ensure good harvests and yields.

“Garth made the corn ripen, the trees fruit, and the flowers bloom,” the singers tell us.

Contrasting with the great feats of Garth the Green, among the greatest feats of the Grey King many included killing trees. The Grey King's greatest feats related in TWOIAF include discovering fire via a burning tree, carving the first longship from the "pale wood" of demonic tree that "fed on human flesh.", and slaying Nagga whose bones are theorized to actually be petrified wierwood trees. The culture of the Old Way also shuns the practice of farming and considers the lifestyle a disgrace. The Greyjoys are descended from the Grey King and their words are "We do not sow". The Lord of the Iron Isles is also referred to as "Lord Reaper" of Pyke. Again the word "reaper" can be used to describe death or the cutting down/taking of crops.

Now let's take a look at a more contemporary descendant of the Grey King, Balon Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke:

"He was smaller than Theon remembered him. And so gaunt. Balon Greyjoy had always been thin, but now he looked as though the gods had put him in a cauldron and boiled every spare ounce of flesh from his bones, until nothing remained but hair and skin. Bone thin and bone hard he was, with a face that might have been chipped from flint. His eyes were flinty too, black and sharp, but the years and the salt winds had turned his hair the grey of a winter sea, flecked with whitecaps."

What are your thoughts?

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I think it is clear that Garth Greenhand was a fertility deity of the First Men who was abandoned after they embraced the Old Gods. The original religion of the First Men was probably darker than the religion of the CotF. This fertility/blood sacrifice aspect of Garth can be traced to Pentos where a prince is sacrificied if the harvest goes bad. This is something I posted in another thread:



Qohor and Norvos were founded following religious schisms. Others, such as Old Volantis and Lys, were trading colonies first and foremost, founded by wealthy merchants and nobles who purchased the right to rule themselves as clients of the Freehold rather than subjects. These cities chose their own leaders rather than receiving archons dispatched from Valyria (often on dragonback) to oversee them. It is claimed in some histories that Pentos and Lorath were of a third type— cities already extant before the Valyrians came whose rulers paid homage to Valyria and thus retained their right to native rule. In these cities , what influx of Valyrian blood there was came from migrants from the Freehold, or political marriages used to better bind these cities to Valyria. Yet most of the histories that recount this take as their source Gessio Haratis’s Before the Dragons. Haratis was himself from Pentos, and at the time, Volantis was threatening to restore the Valyrian empire under its control, so the notion of an independent Pentos with origins distinct from Valyria was a most politic convenience.


Although Yandel dismisses the idea that Pentos and Lorath existed before Valyria, we know that there are strange structures of unknown origins in Lorath. But later in Pentoshi section, Yandel again mentions the pre-Valyrian existence of Pentos.


Today it is the council of magisters that rules Pentos, for all practical purposes; the prince’s power is largely nominal, his duties almost entirely ceremonial. In the main, he presides over feasts and balls, carried from place to place in a rich palanquin with a handsome guard. Each new year, the prince must deflower two maidens, the maid of the sea and the maid of the fields. This ancient ritual— perhaps arising from the mysterious origins of pre-Valyrian Pentos— is meant to ensure the continued prosperity of Pentos on land and at sea. Yet, if there is famine or if a war is lost, the prince becomes not a ruler but a sacrifice; his throat is slit so that the gods might be appeased. And then a new prince is chosen who might bring more fortune to the city.



The only thing that is similar to this ancient ritual is given in the Reach section:



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.


Indeed, a harvest deity being sacrificed and reborn to ensure a bountiful harvest seems like the original religion of the First Men and Pentos still has the remnants of that religion.


Therefore, I think Pentos existed before the Valyrians.


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Two great posts above. 1 thing I noticed in the quotes from TWOIAF in the op is that the theory of Naggas bones being an ancient weirwood grove seems to be more supported. "Pale wood of a demonic tree that fed on human flesh", sounds an awful lot like a weirwood where human sacrifice was practiced


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^^ Definitely agreed. The curse of the First King is exactly what happened to Bloodraven. He grew corpselike and there are roots coming and going out of his body.



Perhaps this curse is not a curse but a gift, i.e. greensight.


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^^ Definitely agreed. The curse of the First King is exactly what happened to Bloodraven. He grew corpselike and there are roots coming and going out of his body.

Perhaps this curse is not a curse but a gift, i.e. greensight.

I am seeing this curse as the result of an ancient feud.

Let's look at how Garth is described one more time:

Some stories say he had green hands, green hair, or green skin overall. (A few even give him antlers, like a stag.)"--The Reach Chapter

Now lets take a look at the similar description of the Green Men on the Isle of Faces (aka wierwood epicenter):

The nursery tales claiming that they are horned and have dark, green skin is a corruption of the likely truth, which is that the green men wore green garments and horned headdresses."--The Coming of The First Men chapter

Bran also also specifies the horns of the Green Men as antlers when speaking to Meera about the tale of the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

“Maybe he came from the Isle of Faces,” said Bran. “Was he green?” In Old Nan’s stories, the guardians had dark green skin and leaves instead of hair. Sometimes they had antlers too,"

The Ironborn are most likely Selkies decended from the same ilk as the Walrus Men of the Frozen Shore

I have provided a link to show my reasoning (which also discusses ties to Lorath) for believing the Selkie heritage but some additional support that I have found which I haven't yet updated to the topic is listed below.

  • "He found his father seated beside a brazier, beneath a robe of musty sealskins that covered him foot to chin."
  • "until the moonlight transformed the dark shape into a man in a sealskin cloak. Another ghost. “Tris. I’d thought to find you in the hall.” [...] he had the same unruly hair that she remembered , and eyes as large and trusting as a seal’s."
  • "Or do you mean to rule over a realm of seals and otters?” She gave a rueful laugh. “Otters might be easier to rule than men, I grant you. And seals are smarter."
  • “And enjoyed a good belly laugh too. Tris Botley said that the Crow’s Eye had used a seal to stand in for her at her wedding.”

Alright so now that we have tied Garth to an Antler wearing group of Weirwood caretakers and the Ironborn to the Walrus Men, lets take another look at The Walrus men of the Frozen Shore who are filing in through the wall with an apparent antler wearing rival tribe:

"Some of the men wore antlers on their hats, and some wore walrus tusks. The two sorts did not love each other, he soon gathered. [...]“Be wary o’ that lot, Jon Snow,” Tormund warned him . “A savage folk. The men are bad, the women worse.”

Here is another excerpt which shows imagery of Renly wearing an antlered helm and a green suit of armor. Catelyn sees the reflection of a "drowned" woman in his green suit.

"the helm crowned by a great rack of golden antlers. The steel was polished to such a high sheen that she could see her reflection in the breastplate, gazing back at her as if from the bottom of a deep green pond. The face of a drowned woman, Catelyn thought. Can you drown in grief?"

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Personally I find the selkie descent not true. Not uncredible, but Sansa often wears silk, and certainly isn't descended from silk selkies. Sealskins are just part of their clothing. It's the same as Dornish often mentioning snakes and scorpions.

The walrus men of the Frozen Shore are just another kind of wildling, who were on the wrong side of the Wall, or were criminals, and maybe even allies to the White Walkers. Wildling descent still isn't completely known, but if honey were FM, they didn't have boats, as FM are not a seafaring peoples.

Ironborn however, share similarities to First Men culture such as referring to leaders as the Sparr (Iron Islands) or the Wull (Northern FM) and that's what makes me think that they are descended from First Men who were captured as thralls (which remains in ironborn culture) by merlings or selkies or Deep Ones. Or whatever sea species their was.

As for Catelyn, the drowned woman is herself, foreshadowing her death by drowning. I don't know if a single sentence foreshadows more then one thing.

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Personally I find the selkie descent not true. Not uncredible, but Sansa often wears silk, and certainly isn't descended from silk selkies. Sealskins are just part of their clothing. It's the same as Dornish often mentioning snakes and scorpions.

The walrus men of the Frozen Shore are just another kind of wildling, who were on the wrong side of the Wall, or were criminals, and maybe even allies to the White Walkers. Wildling descent still isn't completely known, but if honey were FM, they didn't have boats, as FM are not a seafaring peoples.

Ironborn however, share similarities to First Men culture such as referring to leaders as the Sparr (Iron Islands) or the Wull (Northern FM) and that's what makes me think that they are descended from First Men who were captured as thralls (which remains in ironborn culture) by merlings or selkies or Deep Ones. Or whatever sea species their was.

I think your argument would be valid if my main argument was simply "I think they are Selkies because they wear seal skins". My argument is that the most common denominator (if you believe the deep ones legend) is a Selkie origin rather than a Merling origin. We see tales of Selkies in the Shield Islands, the Farwynds of the Iron Islands, Selkie like abilities in the women of Bear Islands, A queer tribe of Walrus Men who share the same reaving spots (Bear Island) as the Ironborn etc.

The comparing the ironborn to seals, the tradition of using seals as standins for absent brides, and of course the clothing were simply additional support I had found which I have yet to incorporate into the OP.

I see your argument against a deep ones origin is that the Ironborn culture is too similar to the First Men culture. I would reply that the Ironborn's culture of "the old way" is much more similar to wildling culture such as choosing their own king instead of following a family or name, stealing brides, women warriors, and reaving.

As for Catelyn, the drowned woman is herself, foreshadowing her death by drowning. I don't know if a single sentence foreshadows more then [sic] one thing.

I truly believe GRRM is smarter than us all. I don't believe Renly wearing armor described as such is coincidental, armored in all green and wearing an antlered helm is too much of a nod.

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If the selkies/deepones/merlings/mazebuilders did in fact rule the Iron Isles at one point, it seems to me that they were at war with the cotf, and that they in fact took the Iron Isles from them. If we consider that the weirwood grove was the original site of the cotf, then the selkies came and defeated them and built the seastone chair, then something else eventually took out the selkies. Perhaps the same event that broke Pyke up into pieces? Yet another catastrophic flood situation it seems.


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I think all of those inhuman races were stealing human children. All the stories include this element. There is children stealing stories around Harrenhal where Green Men are close. Squishers steal girls. Selkies steal ironborn. Others take human babies. There is Tormund's story in which a giant takes a human.


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I think all of those inhuman races were stealing human children. All the stories include this element. There is children stealing stories around Harrenhal where Green Men are close. Squishers steal girls. Selkies steal ironborn. Others take human babies. There is Tormund's story in which a giant takes a human.

good observation!

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I think your argument would be valid if my main argument was simply "I think they are Selkies because they wear seal skins". My argument is that the most common denominator (if you believe the deep ones legend) is a Selkie origin rather than a Merling origin. We see tales of Selkies in the Shield Islands, the Farwynds of the Iron Islands, Selkie like abilities in the women of Bear Islands, A queer tribe of Walrus Men who share the same reaving spots (Bear Island) as the Ironborn etc.

The comparing the ironborn to seals, the tradition of using seals as standins for absent brides, and of course the clothing were simply additional support I had found which I have yet to incorporate into the OP.

I see your argument against a deep ones origin is that the Ironborn culture is too similar to the First Men culture. I would reply that the Ironborn's culture of "the old way" is much more similar to wildling culture such as choosing their own king instead of following a family or name, stealing brides, women warriors, and reaving.

I truly believe GRRM is smarter than us all. I don't believe Renly wearing armor described as such is coincidental, armored in all green and wearing an antlered helm is too much of a nod.

While now I understand, I can't say that there is any selkie resemblance to the bear Island women, that bears, not seals or sea lions. So selkies on the west coast and merlings in the east coast (Sisters, Crackclaw)?

So I think possibly you are onto something (although the seal bride was a joke, not tradition) I think selkies abducting FM.

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While now I understand, I can't say that there is any selkie resemblance to the bear Island women, that bears, not seals or sea lions. So selkies on the west coast and merlings in the east coast (Sisters, Crackclaw)?

So I think possibly you are onto something (although the seal bride was a joke, not tradition) I think selkies abducting FM.

Yes, The resemblance of the Bear Island skinchangers is the method of their abilities. Unlike skinchangers such as Bran, Bloodraven, Varamyr, and Jon who simply enter the minds of animals, the women of bear Island physically slip in and out of a bear skin much like the Selkies who slip in and out of the skins of seals/walruses.

"The warg stopped beneath a tree and sniffed, his grey-brown fur dappled by shadow. A sigh of piney wind brought the man-scent to him, over fainter smells that spoke of fox and hare, seal and stag, even wolf. Those were man-smells too, the warg knew; the stink of old skins, dead and sour, near drowned beneath the stronger scents of smoke and blood and rot. Only man stripped the skins from other beasts and wore their hides and hair. Wargs have no fear of man, as wolves do."

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I think it is clear that Garth Greenhand was a fertility deity of the First Men who was abandoned after they embraced the Old Gods. The original religion of the First Men was probably darker than the religion of the CotF. This fertility/blood sacrifice aspect of Garth can be traced to Pentos where a prince is sacrificied if the harvest goes bad. This is something I posted in another thread:

Qohor and Norvos were founded following religious schisms. Others, such as Old Volantis and Lys, were trading colonies first and foremost, founded by wealthy merchants and nobles who purchased the right to rule themselves as clients of the Freehold rather than subjects. These cities chose their own leaders rather than receiving archons dispatched from Valyria (often on dragonback) to oversee them. It is claimed in some histories that Pentos and Lorath were of a third type— cities already extant before the Valyrians came whose rulers paid homage to Valyria and thus retained their right to native rule. In these cities , what influx of Valyrian blood there was came from migrants from the Freehold, or political marriages used to better bind these cities to Valyria. Yet most of the histories that recount this take as their source Gessio Haratis’s Before the Dragons. Haratis was himself from Pentos, and at the time, Volantis was threatening to restore the Valyrian empire under its control, so the notion of an independent Pentos with origins distinct from Valyria was a most politic convenience.

Although Yandel dismisses the idea that Pentos and Lorath existed before Valyria, we know that there are strange structures of unknown origins in Lorath. But later in Pentoshi section, Yandel again mentions the pre-Valyrian existence of Pentos.

Today it is the council of magisters that rules Pentos, for all practical purposes; the prince’s power is largely nominal, his duties almost entirely ceremonial. In the main, he presides over feasts and balls, carried from place to place in a rich palanquin with a handsome guard. Each new year, the prince must deflower two maidens, the maid of the sea and the maid of the fields. This ancient ritual— perhaps arising from the mysterious origins of pre-Valyrian Pentos— is meant to ensure the continued prosperity of Pentos on land and at sea. Yet, if there is famine or if a war is lost, the prince becomes not a ruler but a sacrifice; his throat is slit so that the gods might be appeased. And then a new prince is chosen who might bring more fortune to the city.

The only thing that is similar to this ancient ritual is given in the Reach section:

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.

Indeed, a harvest deity being sacrificed and reborn to ensure a bountiful harvest seems like the original religion of the First Men and Pentos still has the remnants of that religion.

Therefore, I think Pentos existed before the Valyrians.

I agree - it makes sense on several levels. The FM clearly came from somewhere in Essos, and the upper Rhoyne and lands above have a lot of old ruins in general. The Axe, just to the east, is posited as one of the oldest civilization centers around.

I think Garth is definitely a player here in ancient Westeros. Couldn't believe how many Stark ties there were in the Reach.

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^^ Definitely agreed. The curse of the First King is exactly what happened to Bloodraven. He grew corpselike and there are roots coming and going out of his body.

Perhaps this curse is not a curse but a gift, i.e. greensight.

I'm curious how you see BR as trying to rule more land than the First King. Know he "ran" the Kingdom, but he wasn't the ruler... And we see plenty of other greenseers grown into trees underground, obviously they didn't all try to be a bigger King than the First King.

It does make me think of the general Targaryen weakness and ailments though. They, if anyone, should be reaping this curse.

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Hey Crowfood’s daughter, just wanted to give the OP some credit. Very nice. We’re def on the same page here with Garth being the First King. Great job laying it out coherently.



Garth actually sounds quite a bit like the God of Naath, the Lord of Harmony, who is “oft showed as a laughing giant, bearded and naked, always attended by slender maidens with butterfly wings.” I think George has hidden the “True God” here, the only real good guy - harmony. That’s what the “song” of ice and fire is about, achieving balance between opposite forces. Also, doesn’t he sound a lot like the Jolly Green Giant I mean Garth the Green? It’s odd, but there it is. Also, the Naathi have large amber eyes with flecks of gold, they are described as both “beautiful” and “dusky-skinned,” and finally, they have taken to living in the hills and forests to avoid men (slavers). They also like to sing songs. Sound familiar? Not saying they are definitely interberd with CotF, but it’s certainly possible. The CotF may have been literally everywhere - I suspect they were the very first sentient race (this making their name, children, totally ironic).



Last oddity on Naath - there is an old abandoned “Valyrian” fort of fused black stone. Let’s not assume that’s Valyrian - it could be the work of the proto-Valyrians or GEofD people. Not really drawing any conclusions here but George may have hidden another fused black stone ancient structure under our noses, and he may be implying a wider dispersal for the CotF.



Thoughts? Any way to connect Garth to the LoH? I don’t think Garth was a mariner, so the only way to do it is to speculate a westerosi origin for the Naathi, and theres no evidence for that that I can see. But damn do they sound familiar.

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I disagree.



The so-called curse is placed on the Great Barrow specifically. This reminds me of the old tales of curses being placed on Egyptian pyramids. The pyramids are tombs of ancient pharaohs. Similarly, the Great Barrow is the tomb of some ancient figure of great power and stature. Whether it is a man, a giant or maybe even something else, is not actually known.



In my view, it is the location that is cursed, and the association with those trying to emulate the First King's greatness is simply one of coincidence, as anyone who tries to rule Barrowton, just happens to be living in a keep that is right in the shadow of the Great Barrow. Meaning that whatever "curse" affects the Great Barrow, would affect whoever lives in Barrow Keep first and foremost. Especially if it is something that is transmitted through a bloodline over time - say a cumulative effect that builds up over many centuries.



The servants that work in Barrow Keep will come and go and be sourced from many locations over the millennia. But the ruling family will stay put. Meaning that the mysterious disease/malady/curse will be transmitted from generation to generation and potentially manifest itself more visibly.



As to what this curse is? I think there is some great magical artifact buried with this being that is under the Great Barrow. It could even be some remnant of the oily stone builders, dating to a time long before the First Men arrived. And this thing has some kind of effect on those that live in its vicinity.



That's my view. Bran will soon know the full truth, as the Children would have been around back when this thing was first built. They have been in Westeros for a million years, after all. Whether it is something that will be revealed to us is a different matter. Only if it affects the main storyline, I guess. Otherwise it will just remain part of the background scenery.


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If "growing corpselike" like a greenseer (BR) is not a curse but the gift of greensight, it works well with how the Starks took the daughters of the enemies they defeated as prizes and imported their blood into their own bloodline. In fact, that is exactly how the war between the Starks and the Barrow Kings ended:



Runic records suggest that their struggle, dubbed the Thousand Years War by the singers, was actually a series of wars that lasted closer to two hundred years than a thousand, ending when the last Barrow King bent his knee to the King of Winter, and gave him the hand of his daughter in marriage.


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I would've thought Greyscale. (A poster on ASOIAF reddit had a theory about the Iron Islands once being a colony for Greyscale-infected folks that was pretty well-regarded over there).


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The ideas that the Starks brought warging into their bloodline by marrying the daughters of the Warg King are not consistent with the idea that Bran the Builder himself was a greenseer, centuries before that.



The Starks started out magical. They didn't only get it as a side gift from conquering some enemies many centuries or millennia later.


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