Tony Black on the mystery of Euron Greyjoy…
Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 2 ‘Home’…
All eyes were on Jon Snow during ‘Home’, the second episode of Game of Thrones this week, but as I discussed in my earlier review it was an episode packed with incident. One element that may have been overlooked by many with all the deaths and dragons and resurrections was the arrival of, arguably, one of the most fascinating characters in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series: the Crow’s Eye, aka Euron Greyjoy. Returning to Pyke on the Iron Islands after years away goodness knows where, Danish actor Pilou Asbaek (known previously for roles in Lucy and A Hijacking) made an immediate impression on a rope bridge, amidst a crazy Northern storm, by throwing the King everyone forgot about, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), to a very watery demise. As we almost immediately skipped to events involving characters we’ve spent six years with, many may not have stopped to ask the question – who is this guy? Why haven’t we seen him amidst the politics of Pyke before? And just how important is he at this late stage to the Game itself? Truthfully, he could end up being crucial.
Euron Greyjoy is of course the brother of King Balon, Aeron ‘the Damphair’ (Michael Feast) who we briefly saw rebuke niece Yara (Gemma Whelan) following Balon’s death, and in the books to Victarion Greyjoy – a boorish, warring Admiral who sadly seems to have been omitted from David Benioff & DB Weiss’ TV adaptation, likely folded into jointly Yara and indeed Euron himself. He is also the uncle of Yara and, of course, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) – who having saved the life of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) following his insanely traumatic experience at the hands of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon)–though if you think it was bad in the show, Christ read the books!–is now heading back to Pyke with what tail he has left between his legs. What he’s going to find is Pyke in the throes of a ‘Kingsmoot’, which likely will happen in the next episode ‘Oathbreaker’; an ancient Iron Islands tradition of succession for King–which in the lore hasn’t happened for between two and four THOUSAND years–with candidates among the Ironborn chosen by longship captains to be High King – given their people’s connection with the oceans, as a seafaring nation of raiders, it’s an appropriate way of choosing their leader. In Martin’s books, the vote doesn’t come down to traditional election or even battle (as in other cultures), but rather the power of oratory; any captain can put themselves forward, but they must then prove their prowess via a speech proving their generosity in sight of the Drowned God they worship, and only when a majority call out a candidate’s name does the Kingsmoot end and a new King takes power. You can bet Benioff & Weiss will not stray too far from these rules in the show.
So how exactly does this relate to Euron? In the books, his return to Pyke is suspiciously timely given Balon’s ‘off-page’ death drowning in a storm, and Martin strongly hints that the two may be connected. Benioff & Weiss don’t have time for such allusion any more and cut right to the quick – if Euron probably killed Balon to trigger a Kingsmoot in A Feast For Crows, then he definitely does that in the show. There’s no coincidence – Euron has come back explicitly to gain power over the Ironborn. Which begs the question – where has he been? Where was he when Balon was fighting the War of Five Kings? And why has he chosen now to return? In Martin’s source material, following his father Quellon Greyjoy’s involvement & death in Robert’s Rebellion–the game changing geo-political events that directly led to the status quo as A Song of Ice & Fire begins–Euron and brother Victarion end up backing their eldest brother Balon, who succeeded Quellon, in the ‘Greyjoy Rebellion’, where Pyke attempted to gain independence from the Seven Kingdoms. After the forces of Robert Baratheon quashed Balon’s attempts, Euron was banished on his ship–ominously called the Silence–for raping brother Victarion’s ‘salt wife’, and subsequently where he went and what he did has become the stuff of legend. Euron boasts that the Silence raped & pillaged its way across the known world, and he has visited as far afield as the mysterious city of Asshai (Melisandre’s yards), sailed the Smoking Sea and walked through the ruins of Valyria, now abandoned and bloody scary if Tyrion & Jorah’s sail down the river in Season Five’s ‘Kill the Boy’ is anything to go by. All that matters is Euron was a wrong’un before he left, and he’s come back with an eyepatch, some unnerving stories, and a badass moniker: the Crow’s Eye.
Characters have of course been changed or tweaked between Martin’s books and the TV show but let’s assume Euron has the same backstory in Game of Thrones – that makes him not only highly dangerous but extremely knowledgeable about the wider world beyond Westeros. He’s also known to be wildly unpredictable, a warrior, hated by his brothers, and skilled at psychological manipulation. It’ll be especially interesting to see if one element from Martin’s books survives in the Euron interpretation – his dragon horn. In the novel lore, during his voyage through Valyria, Euron discovers a ‘dragonbinder’, a presumed ancient dragon horn fused with Valyrian glyphs and forged out of its unique steel. The mythology of A Song of Ice & Fire sees the Targaryen dynasty trace their roots back to the Valyrians–who suffered basically the fate of the ancient people of Pompeii–and crucially the Valyrians lived among dragons which they rode as commonplace. This is how dragons trickled down into Targaryen history after the Doom of Valyria, and how we now have Daenerys Targaryen’s believed mythical trio of dragons. The dragon binder, importantly, is believed to be able to bind dragons to the will of whoever blows it. Euron Greyjoy really shouldn’t be in possession of such a powerful piece of arcanum, for want of a better term. If the show Euron has the dragon horn, this positions him as a key player in events to come – should the show follow the books, and Euron assume power over the Ironborn, will he seek out Daenerys as he attempts to do in A Dance of Dragons? If and when the White Walkers come over the wall, a time those dragons will be at their most needed, will Euron’s power end up being a key piece of the end of the Game?
Given how fast events now seem to be rolling in this season of Game of Thrones, it may not be long until Euron’s intentions, and his actions, become clear. If they’re anywhere near to the road he’s travelling down in Martin’s unfinished book series, we could be about to see one of the show’s most powerful, fascinating characters change the balance of Westeros forever.
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.