Seven Kingdoms of Westeros
In the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, noble families contend for control of the Iron Throne. In the first book, A Game of Thrones, it is understood that whoever sits on this throne will rule over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The names, locations, and boundaries of these kingdoms, however, are not clearly defined early on in the series since Martin is not the kind of writer who is apt to spend a chapter or so describing the world. Instead, everything is seen through the eyes of point-of-view characters.
Before Aegon Targaryen conquered Westeros, the continent was composed of seven independent holdings. After Aegon’s invasion, which came to be known as the War of Conquest, six of these kingdoms were unified under the Targaryen rule. The seventh and last holding, Dorne, would join the unified kingdoms around two centuries later. The resulting empire would be known as the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
Below is a brief guide to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, for the benefit of readers who would like to have a birds’ eye view of the territory that everyone is fighting – and dying – for.
The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros:
The North is a vast territory on the northern side of the continent. It is larger than any of the other kingdoms, but is sparsely populated due to its harsh, cold weather conditions. The influence of the First Men, the first human culture to occupy Westeros, is strong in this holding and most of its occupants still worship the Old Gods. At the northernmost part of its border, a Wall separates the kingdom from the land beyond, the only part of the continent that does not fall under the rule of the Iron Throne. The North is ruled by House Stark from their castle at Winterfell.
The Vale lies to the east of the continent. Its holdings are located within its numerous mountain ranges, making its people slightly isolated from the rest of the continent. It is ruled by House Arryn, whose people descend from the Andals, adventurers who invaded the continent, wrestling control from the First Men some 6000 years ago. The people of the Vale follow the Faith of the Seven.
Formerly the domain of the Storm Kings, the kingdom of the Stormlands is situated along the coast between the capital city, King’s Landing, and the sea of Dorne. It is named for the great storms that frequent its coast. The holding and its castle, Storm’s End, presently fall under the rule of House Baratheon.
The Reach is one of the largest and most fertile lands in Westeros. Aegon awarded the Reach to the Tyrells following their surrender of its castle, Highgarden, during the War of Conquest. Knighthood and chivalry are highly regarded within this holding.
As its name implies, the Westerlands lie to the west of Westeros. It is ruled by House Lannister, who also descends from the Andal invaders. The Lannister family gained their wealth from the numerous goldmines in their region. A large part of their territory is covered with mountains and hills.
The Iron Islands / Riverlands
Off the western coast of Westeros are seven small islands known as the Iron Islands. It is populated by the Ironborn, a fierce, seafaring lot who tend to look down on the people of the mainland. They worship the Drowned God. At the time of Aegon’s conquest, the islands were ruled by House Hoare, who also controlled the Riverlands. Under the present rule of the Baratheon family, House Tully rules the Riverlands while House Greyjoy dominates over the Iron Islands.
The only kingdom that did not succumb to the Targaryen invasion, Dorne is situated in the southernmost part of Westeros. It is a hot, dry land and features the only desert in the continent. Apart from Andal influences, they also follow the customs of the Rhoynish people, due to their history of mass immigration into Dorne. Around two hundred years after the War of the Conquest, Dorne joined with the Targaryens through a marriage alliance, and completed the unification of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.