Houses of Westeros
A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic fantasy series by New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin. While the books do contain fantastical elements such as dragons, magic, and mystical creatures, the main story revolves around the wars and intrigues of the noble houses fighting for control of the Iron Throne of Westeros.
A “house” is a family who is seated in a castle and controls the lands around it. The house could be as small as an impoverished landowner with little land and vassals, or as grand as a family with a noble lineage, vast territories, and strong military power. Small or “minor” houses are ruled by the Great Houses, who answer to whoever sits on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing.
At the beginning of the series, four Great Houses are the dominant players in the game of thrones, namely: House Stark, House Baratheon, House Targaryen, and House Lannister. Despite being exiled across the seas, House Targaryen forms an alliance with the fierce warrior tribe Dothraki in the hopes to reclaiming their seat in the Iron Throne.
There are a total of nine Great Houses in Westeros. Each of these houses has its own sigil and motto. Due to Martin’s unique and exemplary writing style, each family also has a rich culture and historical background. There are also over 100 minor houses throughout the land with varying degrees of power and influence.
Great Houses of Westeros:
House Arryn is the oldest and purest line of Andal nobility. Their family has ruled over the Vale and its houses for millennia. Their castle sits atop a mountain in the Eyrie. The house has recently been named Warden of the East by King Robert Baratheon. The head of the house, Jon Arynn, also had the privilege of being Robert’s Hand – the King’s right hand. Upon Jon’s death, he was succeeded by his only child and heir, Robert Arynn, though it is Jon’s widow, Lady Lysa of House Tully, who rules until her son comes of age. The sigil of House Arryn is a white falcon and moon against a dark blue field and their family motto is “As High As Honor”.
House Baratheon has been the ruling house of Westeros since Robert’s Rebellion. The head of the family is King Robert Baratheon, who rules from King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms. Since King Robert’s untimely demise, the family has been split into three factions supporting their own claimants to the throne. The three contenders are Joffrey, Robert’s son and heir; and Robert’s younger brothers, Stannis and Renly. The family sigil is a black stag on a golden field. Their motto is “Ours is the Fury”.
The Greyjoy family rules over the Iron Islands and Ironborn in the Western coast of Westeros, from their family’s castle in Pyke. After rebelling against King Robert’s rule, the family experienced a crushing defeat, in which Lord Balon Greyjoy’s fleet was burned, his eldest sons were slain, and his youngest son was taken hostage by House Stark. Since then, House Greyjoy prefers to keep to themselves and have gone back to their practice of raiding nearby coastlines. They are primarily a seafaring people. Their sigil is a golden kraken against a black field and their motto is “We Do Not Sow”.
One of the richest and oldest families, House Lannister rules over the Westerlands from their seat in Casterly Rock. Although backed by a great military force, they did not choose sides in Robert’s Rebellion until the very end. It was Jaime Lannister who slew the Targaryen King, gaining him the title of “Kingslayer”. The Lannisters all seem to have the same traits and characteristics. Most of them are blond, beautiful, and deadly – save for the Lannister dwarf, Tyrion. Since marrying into the royal House of Baratheon, the family has enjoyed elevated status and power. The family sigil is a golden lion against a crimson field and its official motto is “Hear me roar!”.
House Martell rules over the peninsular of Dorne. Their family seat is in Sunspear. Although originally a tiny, obscure noble house, it was the only Great House that refused – quite successfully – to give in to the Targaryen invasion despite the onslaught of their dragons. The violent rebellion only ended when a marriage alliance was formed with House Targaryen. History repeats itself when Prince Maron Martell chose to marry to Daenerys Targaryen, the sole survivor of House Targaryen. House Martell’s sigil is a golden sun pierced by a spear. Their motto is “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”.
House Stark has ruled over the North for eight thousand years. The family boasts of an impressive lineage that goes back all the way to the First Men, the first human culture to step foot in Westeros. Their key personalities and traits exude a directness and practicality born from surviving the harsh cold weather that pervades the Northern lands. Their sigil is a grey direwolf on a field of white and their motto is “Winter is Coming”.
House Tully has ruled over the Riverlands for centuries. Its family seat is in Riverrun and the present head of its house is Lord Hoster Tully. His daughters, Catelyn and Lysa married Eddard “Ned” Stark and Jon Arryn respectively, thereby joining their houses with that of the powerful Starks and Arryns. After the death of Jon Arryn and the eventual downfall of the Starks, the Tullys were exiled from Riverrun by Lord Petyr Baelish. The sigil of House Tully is a silver fish on a blue field. Their motto is “Family, Duty, Honor”.
House Tyrell rules over the Reach, a vast and fertile land. Its castle lies in Highgarden. The house is currently led by Lord Mace Tyrell, whose son, Loras, is a renowned tournament knight known as the “Knight of Flowers”. House Tyrell also serves as the Warden of the South. They have recently tried to form an alliance with the royal family by marrying Margaery Tyrell to King Joffrey Baratheon. Their sigil is a golden rose on a green field and their motto is “Growing Strong”.
This powerful house of Valyrian descent ruled over Dragonstone island until Aegon Targaryen invaded the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. House Targaryen controlled the Iron Throne for 300 years, until Robert’s Rebellion. They are the only family that is able to forge bonds with dragons. Their predominant traits are silver hair and the ability to withstand high temperatures. Since their exile from Westeros, the house has been trying to find a way to return and reclaim the throne. The family’s sole survivor, Daenerys Targaryen, is determined to uphold this mission. House Targaryen’s sigil is a red, three-headed dragon against a black field. The house motto is “Fire and Blood”.