the damphair

Euron Greyjoy's Kingsmoot Speech
  • What GRRM wrote: "Who knows more of gods than I? Horse gods and fire gods, gods made of gold with gemstone eyes, gods carved of cedar wood, gods chiseled into mountains, gods of empty air... I know them all. I have seen their peoples garland them with flowers, and shed the blood of goats and bulls and children in their names. And I have heard the prayers, in half a hundred tongues. Cure my withered leg, make the maiden love me, grant me a healthy son. Save me, succor me, make me wealthy... protect me! Protect me from mine enemies, protect me from the darkness, protect me from the crabs inside my belly, from the horselords, from the slavers, from the sellswords at my door. Protect me from the Silence." He laughed. "Godless? Why, Aeron, I am the godliest man ever to raise sail! You serve one god, Damphair, but I have served ten thousand. From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray."
  • what D&D wrote: Lol I have such a big dick, let me make a bunch of dickjokes to Theon and tell the entire Ironborn (or at least the 20 extras HBO could afford) about my entire plan lolololoooo

Sharp as a swordthrust, the sound of a horn split the air.

Bright and baneful was its voice, a shivering hot scream that made a man’s bones seem to thrum within him. The cry lingered in the damp sea air: aaaaRREEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

All eyes turned toward the sound. It was one of Euron’s mongrels winding the call, a monstrous man with a shaved head. Rings of gold and jade and jet glistened on his arms, and on his broad chest was tattooed some bird of prey, talons dripping blood.

aaaaRRREEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

The horn he blew was shiny black and twisted, and taller than a man as he held it with both hands. It was bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled.

aaaaaaaRRREEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

It was a terrible sound, a wail of pain and fury that seemed to burn the ears. Aeron Damphair covered his, and prayed for the Drowned God to raise a mighty wave and smash the horn to silence, yet still the shriek went on and on. It is the horn of hell, he wanted to scream, though no man would have heard him. The cheeks of the tattooed man were so puffed out they looked about to burst, and the muscles in his chest twitched in a way that it made it seem as if the bird were about to rip free of hisflesh and take wing. And now the glyphs were burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire. On and on and on the sound went, echoing amongst the howling hills behind them and across the waters of Nagga’s Cradle to ring against the mountains of Great Wyk, on and on and on until it filled the whole wet world.

Samwell Tarly stood shaking, his face the same color as the snow that swirled down all around them. “Three,” he squeaked to Chett, "that was three, I heard three. They never blow three. Not for hundreds and thousands of years. Three means—”

“—Others.”

The Symbolism of the Silence

Getting a full sense of Euron’s character requires an appreciation for the symbolism of his ship. Long before he was a king or a warlock, Euron was the captain of the Silence. The Silence, as befits its name, is a ship of stealth and secrets. The Damphair remembers how “[t]he decks of Euron’s ship were painted red, to better hide the blood that soaked them” (FfC Aeron I). Later, Victarion observes that the Silence’s sails are “black as a starless sky,” which is to say, black as the darkest night imaginable (FfC Victarion I). Then there is the ships very unsettling iron figurehead:

On her prow was a black iron maiden with one arm outstretched. Her waist was slender, her breasts high and proud, her legs long and shapely. A windblown mane of black iron hair streamed from her head, and her eyes were mother-of-pearl, but she had no mouth. (FfC Victarion I)

The Silence reveals nothing and tells no tales, it is a quiet predator and mute witness.

When Euron returns from the East he brings a foreign crew that perfectly matches his ship’s ‘overtly secretive’ motif by being tongue-less mutes. Throughout the story the absence of tongues has been intertwined with secrecy. Varys has his little birds’ tongues cut out in order to prevent them from accidently divulging his secrets. Jaime Lannister practices his feeble one handed swordplay with the tongue-less and illiterate Ilyn Payne so that no one else may find out how terrible he now is. Roose Bolton, after discovering that the peasant woman he’d raped and fathered Ramsay on had been turned out by her brother, took the tongue of said brother “to make certain he did not go running to Winterfell with tales that might disturb Lord Rickard” (DwD Theon III). Theon knows that if he doesn’t mind his tongue about Barbary and Roose’s intrigues then he will lose it (DwD Theon V). Then there is a certain, passing remark made by Salladhor Saan whilst amiably bantering with Davos:

“A certain Lysene pirate once told me that a good smuggler stays out of sight,” Davos replied carefully. “Black sails, muffled oars, and a crew that knows how to hold their tongues.“

The Lysene laughed. "A crew with no tongues is even better. Big strong mutes who cannot read or write.” (SoS Davos V)

Notably it is in that same book Euron reappears, sailing into Lordsport on a ship with black sails and a mute crew. Later, when Asha confronts Euron about Balon’s death the Crow’s Eye taunts her by intentionally highlighting the secrecy his mute crew provides him with:

“The Silence was at sea when Balon died. If you doubt an uncle’s word, I give you leave to ask my crew.”

“A crew of mutes? Aye, that would serve me well.” (FfC Victarion I)

The Silence might be a pirate ship but it is outfitted and crewed like Saan’s ideal smuggler’s vessel. It is clearly smuggling something into Westeros.

Completing the whole setup is the black eye patch worn by the ship’s captain. Euron’s heterochromia is unusual, but there is nothing wrong or inherently magical about his infamous black “crow’s eye.” Yet he covers it anyway. The best explanation for this is that Euron Crows Eye wears an eye patch over his “crow’s eye” for the same reason he captains a ship named the Silence. He wears it as an intentionally ostentatious symbol of his secrecy. While other manipulators put up a false front to disguise their inner nature, Euron not only hides himself in plain sight but creates a whole public persona around symbols of things clearly being hidden in plain sight. The blood red deck, the pitch black sails, the mouth-less iron maiden, the tongue-less crew, and the unnecessary eye patch all indicate that something is not only being hidden but hidden openly and boastfully at that. Euron’s whole public persona therefore amounts to a gigantic refuge in audacity. He keeps his secrets by distracting and intimidating people with the imagery of secrecy. Lost in this imagery, the Ironborn (and quite a few readers) never think to ponder and question what lies behind it (and hence so many captains at the Kingsmoot think he’s awesome and so many readers think he’s a shallow character).

On an even more disturbing level, a fundamental part of being Euron’s victim is being forced to stay silent about what he has done to you. All of Euron’s victims are silent; they are in a sense marked by their silence, literally in the case of the Dusky Woman and Euron’s unnaturally mute crew. After Euron raped/enslaved the Dusky Woman he cut out her tongue so she couldn’t tell anyone who she is and what happened to her. Euron similarly removed the tongue of each member of his crew. In this they are stripped of their identity and agency, becoming not unlike the Silence’s figurehead. Being voiceless, Euron can define who and what they are and use them as he sees fit. The way the Silence is set up, the only story that matters is the one Euron tells, the only reality the one Euron creates. His crew is nothing but extensions of his will and their stories do not matter.

Those who have not lost their tongues are terrified or shamed into silence, even if they are powerful, well born men. Aeron tells no one of his molestation and Victarion is for the most part quiet about Euron’s actions (his third wife meanwhile is dead, so she’s not talking either). In this case it is the taboos and patriarchal shame culture of Ironborn society as much as fear of Euron that keeps them silent. One wonders how many silent victims Euron has amongst the smallfolk.

Although he would not admit it, Victarion clearly holds his tongue in Euron’s presence lest he anger his older brother:

The sharpness in Asha’s voice made Victarion frown. It was dangerous to speak so to the Crow’s Eye, even when his smiling eye was shining with amusement. (FfC Victarion I)

Aeron however does no such thing and this is what makes him the stronger personality. For most of his life he drowned his silence with alcohol and empty bravado, but after Balon’s First Rebellion he was born again and found a new identity through the voice of the Drowned God. It is the powerful, divine voice of the sea that brings him solace and the ability to strike back at Euron. Unable to attack Euron as a rapist, he loudly denounces him for his impiety and pride, as it is these defects of character that Aeron’s blames for Euron’s earlier abuse. Aeron’s formidable voice, its strength, its depth, its oceanic quality, and its supposedly divine inspiration are consistently highlighted in the text:

“Lord God who drowned for us,” the priest prayed, in a voice as deep as the sea…

[Aeron’s] own voice rang in that smoky hall, so full of power that neither Gorold Goodbrother nor his maester dared a reply. The Drowned God is with me, Aeron thought. He has shown me the way.

[Aeron’s] voice was as deep as the ocean, and thundered like the waves.

“The god took me deep beneath the waves and drowned the worthless thing I was. When he cast me forth again he gave me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a voice to spread his word, that I might be his prophet and teach his truth to those who have forgotten. I was not made to sit upon the Seastone Chair… no more than Euron Crow’s Eye. For I have heard the god, who says, No godless man may sit my Seastone Chair!” (FfC Aeron I)

Aeron speaks with the Drowned God’s voice, Victarion reminded himself, and if the Drowned God wills that I should sit the Seastone Chair… (FfC Victarion I)

Aeron’s voice thundered like the waves.

The sea was stirring too. The waves grew larger as the wind rose, sending plumes of spray to crash against the longships. The Drowned God wakes, thought Aeron. He could hear his voice welling from the depths of the sea. I shall be with you here this day, my strong and faithful servant, the voice said. No godless man will sit my Seastone Chair. (FfC Aeron II)

When Euron wins the Kingsmoot despite Aeron’s best efforts, the divine voice within him goes momentarily silent from doubt:

Even a priest may doubt. Even a prophet may know terror. Aeron Damphair reached within himself for his god and discovered only silence. As a thousand voices shouted out his brother’s name, all he could hear was the scream of a rusted iron hinge. (FfC Aeron II)

However, this state of doubt filled silence does not last past Euron’s coronation. By the time night has fallen Aeron is more determined then ever, plotting to use his voice to raise the people against the new king:

“I have my voice and the god is with me. Mine is the strength of the sea, a strength the Crow’s Eye cannot hope to withstand.” (FfC Victarion II)

Immediately afterwards he vanishes and is nowhere to be found. Euron was not blind to the danger posed by this powerful and revered voice, so he threw Aeron into the belly of the Silence and cut out his tongue.

Note: edited for clarity.
2

“Who knows more of gods than I? Horse gods and fire gods, gods made of gold with gemstone eyes, gods carved of cedar wood, gods chiseled into mountains, gods of empty air … I know them all. I have seen their peoples garland them with flowers, and shed the blood of goats and bulls and children in their names. And I have heard the prayers, in half a hundred tongues. Cure my withered leg, make the maiden love me, grant me a healthy son. Save me, succor me, make me wealthy … protect me! Protect me from mine enemies, protect me from the darkness, protect me from the crabs inside my belly, from the horselords, from the slavers, from the sellswords at my door. Protect me from the Silence.” He laughed. “Godless? Why, Aeron, I am the godliest man ever to raise sail! You serve one god, Damphair, but I have served ten thousand. From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray.” (A Feast for Crows).

April 2015: George RR Martin releases a new Sansa chapter from TWOW one week before the GOT s5 premiere, the season that would bury the Sansa storyline.

May 2016: George RR Martin releases a new Arianne Martell chapter a couple of weeks after GOT Season 6 throws the Dorne plotline in the trashcan and refuses to even show Arianne as a character.

May 2016: George RR Martin reads a new Aeron Damphair Greyjoy chapter from TWOW at a Con right after Season 6 derails the Greyjoy/Ironborn plotline.

If you’re still skeptical about Euron as the new Night’s King, even after the evidence that he’s Bloodraven’s bad seed, his icy-cold dick in Dany’s dream, his terrifying pale bride in Damphair’s vision, “all of Westeros is dying,” and Sam bringing the Horn of Joramun into a city Euron is invading, let me ask ya this. 

How does the Night’s Watch signal the arrival of the Others? Three horn blasts.

And how does Euron signal his arrival at the kingsmoot? Three horn blasts.

Winter is coming. 

A Clash of Kings - Daenerys IV

… mother of dragons, slayer of lies … Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness… . mother of dragons, bride of fire …

Aeron’s latest chapter

This time the mutes did not drag him below. Instead they lashed him to the prow of the Silence beside the figurehead, a naked maiden, slim but strong, with outstretched arms and windblown hair, but no mouth below her nose. They bound Aeron Damphair tight with strips of leather that would shrink when wet.

!!prophecy shit !! my guy!! So. The crazy Valyrian steel armored, war fleet owning, night shade drinking, warlock killing, kinslaying pedophile rapist is on his way to try and wife dany and oh my god i need TWOW like. yesterday.

"Why are you angry with hbo game of thrones?"

Asha Greyjoy - mentioned in agot, playing a major role in acok, PoV character in affc and adwd, the Kraken’s Daughter, conqueror of Deepwood Motte, captain of the Black Wind and heir to the Iron Islands - has been in 6 episodes over the course of 5 seasons. 4 episodes in season 2, 1 in season 3 and 1 in season 4. Severely humiliated in season 4.

Victarion Greyjoy - mentioned in agot and asos, minor role in acok, PoV character in affc and adwd, Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet - hasn’t even been mentioned. Ever.

Euron “Crow’s Eye” Greyjoy - mentioned in agot, acok, asos and adwd, major role in affc, actual King of the Iron Islands - hasn’t even been mentioned. Ever.

Aeron “Damphair” Greyjoy - mentioned in agot, asos and adwd, minor role in acok, PoV character in affc, priest of the Drowned God - hasn’t even been mentioned. Ever.

Balon Greyjoy - died around the time that Robb Stark did - IS STILL ALIVE?

“I had forgotten what a small and noisy folk they are, my Ironborn. I would bring them dragons, and they shout out for grapes.”

“Grapes are real. A man can gorge himself on grapes. Their juice is sweet, and they make wine. What do dragons make?”

“Woe.”

Tbh most criticisms of the Feastdance don’t ring true for me, but the idea that the Greyjoy brothers are poorly or shallowly written utterly baffles me, especially as it’s endured as one of the most widespread of said criticisms both in the fandom and among critics. IMO the author manages with immense effort and craft to both immerse us in the trio’s lives and maintain a firm critical distance, so appalled and frustrated and bemused by watching all three stumble towards oblivion (each in their own special way) that he can’t decide whether to plead with them to stop or just laugh at them because they won’t, ever. (Rodrik the Reader’s pretty clearly GRRM’s surrogate here.) 

Now, IMO Damphair’s sufficiently more tragic and sympathetic than his big brothers (including Balon) that he belongs in a different category from Euron and Victarion, both among the story’s tonally/thematically definitive villains. But they’re very different kinds of villains, and GRRM expertly engineers their dialogue to reflect that, as we see in the passage above. On the one hand, Euron and Victarion have known each other since the latter’s birth, and indeed the former violates the latter’s boundaries in ways big and small. On the other, their values, desires, and worldviews are so different that they’re really just talking past each other. Look at the bolded lines of that passage: far from being silly pirate talk, this is two philosophies of villainhood circling each other. Victarion sees the world and thinks “take,” and doesn’t frame it beyond that except within the (revanchist, hypocritical, self-serving) confines of the Old Way. He just plows through the world axe-first, other humans and their concerns bouncing off his armor. I don’t think Vic’s quite dumb so much as the pure avatar of incuriosity and intellectual laziness. 

Euron, to put it lightly, is not. Like Oberyn, he’s small-c catholic in his education, and accordingly his toolbox as well: pirate, politician, and (meta)physicist. Vic never changes under his own steam; he only gets more powerful because Moqorro makes it so. Euron affirmatively wants to get much, much, much more powerful, and while I think he’ll ultimately fail because hubris, he’s taking all the right steps while Vic just circles the drain. 

So Victarion Greyjoy is the kind of villain out purely to “gorge himself on grapes” (as @boiledleather put it, you may as well be furniture to him), and Euron Greyjoy is the kind out to achieve personal and metaphysical catharsis in “woe” (for him, your pain is very much the point, the source of his satisfaction rather than a by-product as it is for Vic). GRRM’s talent is in writing both kinds equally well, structurally and (even more importantly) tonally. 

Because there is apparently nothing I like more in life than talking about Euron

One of the reasons I take him so damn seriously, as the would-be new Night’s King and as a character crucial to the story’s structure and themes, is an incredible monologue he gets in his first scene. His first words in the story are declaring himself king (of everything), and then: 

“We shall have no king but from the kingsmoot.” The Damphair stood. “No godless man—”

“—may sit the Seastone Chair, aye.” Euron glanced about the tent. “As it happens I have oft sat upon the Seastone Chair of late. It raises no objections.” His smiling eye was glittering. “Who knows more of gods than I? Horse gods and fire gods, gods made of gold with gemstone eyes, gods carved of cedar wood, gods chiseled into mountains, gods of empty air…I know them all. I have seen their peoples garland them with flowers, and shed the blood of goats and bulls and children in their names. And I have heard the prayers, in half a hundred tongues. Cure my withered leg, make the maiden love me, grant me a healthy son. Save me, succor me, make me wealthy…protect me! Protect me from mine enemies, protect me from the darkness, protect me from the crabs inside my belly, from the horselords, from the slavers, from the sellswords at my door. Protect me from the Silence.” He laughed. “Godless? Why, Aeron, I am the godliest man ever to raise sail! You serve one god, Damphair, but I have served ten thousand. From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray.”

The priest raised a bony finger. “They pray to trees and golden idols and goat-headed abominations. False gods…”

“Just so,” said Euron, “and for that sin I kill them all. I spill their blood upon the sea and sow their screaming women with my seed. Their little gods cannot stop me, so plainly they are false gods. I am more devout than even you, Aeron. Perhaps it should be you who kneels to me for blessing.”

Goddamn there is just so much going on here…first of all, as many have noted, his utter contempt for Aeron is breathtaking, even for a dude who respects precisely nobody. He doesn’t even let his brother finish a sentence, and given the abuse history, “it should be you who kneels to me for blessing” resonates hideously, and Euron definitely knows it. I’d argue Euron feels that much contempt for all Ironborn; he just feels no need to hide it with Aeron. (I think how the Crow’s Eye feels upon seeing Damphair again can be summed up by this bone-chilling line from In a Castle Built of Snow: “He turns and is greeted by the sight of his masterpiece.”)

But he mostly covers that contempt well, because second, what we are seeing here is a political campaign, and a brilliant one. Another reason to take Euron seriously: he’s a damn fine politician, though certainly not a perfect one as we see at the Shields. “Glanced about the tent” is the clue here; Euron is making sure all eyes are on him. He then leans hard into his mythos–been everywhere, raped everybody, badass ship–and Damphair falls right the fuck into the trap, giving Euron an attempt to spin all that as his way of showing loyalty to the Ironborn. He’s out there taking the fight to everybody who doesn’t think and believe exactly like them. That’s a fiendishly clever way to spin his exile; I’ve been your cultural ambassador! Via rape, murder, and theft! His followers swallow it whole and cheer for more; they see a king, as Quellon Humble tells Damphair.

And yet third, as poor Aeron tries but fails to tell them, they have staggeringly, terrifyingly missed the point, and I would argue those who dismiss Euron as a silly cardboard cutout villain, an example of GRRM coming up empty in AFFC, have made the same mistake. What Euron is really communicating with this speech is that he is not culturally Ironborn at all. He is a fully integrated citizen of the global misery-economy; he is the epitome of the horrorshow-helix that we see throughout Dany’s chapters, which is why it works so well thematically that he’s pursuing her (including in her nightmares, ASOIAF’s own Freddy Kreuger). He belongs to the flux, the slipstream, the spaces he can exploit to achieve his personal catharsis in causing pain, in a manner untethered to the Old Way; as I’ve said before, the revanchist Ironborn ethos is but one of the many canons o’ evil Euron has built himself upon while binding himself to none. Euron conquers and absorbs ideologies, reaching into the story source code to bring meta-narratives to their knees and force them to work for him. He learns from and then abandons Bloodraven, forcing the latter to turn to Bran instead; the warlocks that menace Dany are his slaves, their religion reduced to getting him high; he takes over the Iron Islands because he needs ships and cannon fodder, but has naught but disdain for “his” people and their traditions, as we see at the kingsmoot.

“There are three [dragons], and I know where to find them. Surely that is worth a driftwood crown.”

The Crow’s Eye is, in short, a postmodern supervillain, what I call “a monster wearing a pirate suit,” and so benefits from being marginalized and put in a box; no one except Aeron and Moqorro sees the boundary-breaking dark tide coming, the “sea of blood.” (But the latter warned Tyrion, and will presumably warn Dany as well.) 

Finally, this contempt for ideology (and his followers’ failure to comprehend it, insistent as they are that he’s just another Dagon or Dalton) reaches into the religious as well as the cultural/political. As I said, his followers hear that speech and regard Euron as a global warrior for the Drowned God, whereas what does Damphair do but squat on the beach and bitch. But as with the kingsmoot excerpt above, Euron gives himself away:

“As it happens I have oft sat upon the Seastone Chair of late. It raises no objections.” 

That’s Euron’s way of saying the Drowned God is just another myth, like the old gods (or, y’know, morality), that is powerless to stop Euron from doing precisely whatever the fuck it is Euron wants, wherever and to whomever Euron wants. That’s Euron’s way of saying the one he worships, the One True God, is himself: anyone who drinks that much liquid LSD is trying to reach another plane of existence. Euron is hungry, and as I’ve said before, as far as he’s concerned everyone else in every imaginable dimension can either help feed him or be eaten. He’s Saruman, like I’ve said, but he’s also Randall Flagg. (And lbr, at his weakest moments, Euron talks like a bad Stephen King villain.) 

Maddest Of Them All

GRRM at Balticon: “The Greyjoys have it, you sick motherfuckers.” And as the self-declared king of said sick motherfuckers, my analysis of the Damphair TWOW chapter (“The Forsaken”) he then read aloud is below the cut.

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