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Balon Greyjoy

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This Article Contains Spoilers - WARNING: This article contains major spoilers. If you do not wish to know vital information on plot / character elements in a story, you may not wish to read beyond this warning: We hold no responsibility for any negative effects these facts may have on your enjoyment of said media should you continue. That is all.

I am the Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke, King of Salt and Rock, Son of the Sea Wind, and no man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price. I will take my crown, as Urron Redhand did five thousand years ago.
~ Balon to Theon Greyjoy

Balon Greyjoy is a recurring character in the series Game of Thrones and it novel counterparts A Song of Ice and Fire. He is initially Lord of the Iron Islands, head of House Greyjoy and Lord Reaper of Pyke. He's the son of Lord Quellon Greyjoy and a Lady of House Sunderly. His wife is Lady Alannys Harlaw and they have four children: Rodrik, Maron, Asha, and Theon. His younger brothers are Euron, Victarion, Urrigon, and Aeron. Urrigon died during Robert's Rebellion. Balon had 3 half-brothers, all died as children, from his father's previous marriage: Harlon, Quenton, and Donel, as well as a younger half-brother from his father's last marriage, Robin, died as a child as well. He rebelled against the Iron Throne aproximately nine years before the story begins.  His rebellion failed and as a result he lost his only surviving son, Theon, who was captured by Eddard Stark.

He's originally the secondary antagonist of the Stark POV storyline in book 2, but later he turns out to be a much bigger enemy to Robb Stark, as he's indirectly responsible of many disasters that led Robb to lose the war: the marriage between Robb and Jeyne Westerling, the release of Jaime Lannister, the discontent between the northmen who lost interest in the war against the Lannisters and wanted to return in the North and reclaim their homes. King Balon and Theon's actions eventually led King Robb to leave his campaign in the Westerlands for Riverrun and start a plan to retake the North, but he needed more men so he had to beg forgiveness from Lord Walder Frey resulting with the Red Wedding.

In the TV series however this was changed by keeping Tywin Lannister the main cause of Robb's defeat, and change Robb's plan to retake the North with a plan to conquer Casterly Rock as long as him and his mother Catelyn not knowing Bran and Rickon's "fate" while in the novels they're aware of it.

He is portrayed by Patrick Malahide in the televisions series and is considered one of the quaternary antagonists of Season 2. He only makes one appearance in Season 3 and therefore cannot technically be considered a villain in the season, he returns in Season 6 as a minor antagonist.

History

Early life

Balon is the eldest surviving son of Lord Quellon Greyjoy and a lady of House Sunderly, Quellon's second wife. He is the fourth child of Lord Quellon. It is not clear when he was born.

Balon learned to sail when still young and was a very skilled captain. Balon scaled the Flint Cliffs to the Blind Lord's haunted tower when he was ten. By his thirteenth year, he had become an expert oarsman. At fifteen he sailed with Dagmer Cleftjaw to the Stepstones on a reaving, killing his first man and taking his first two salt wives, women kidnapped to be used for sex, but can't be used as slaves or whores and their sons can iherit. By seventeen he captained his own longship. Later he often went raiding and was known for his fierceness and fearlessness.

Balon and two of his brothers, Euron and Victarion, wanted their father Quellon to join Robert's Rebellion. Quellon was peaceful and cautious, however, and desired neutrality. After Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was slain in the Battle of the Trident, however, Quellon was convinced by his sons to join the rebellion or else gain nothing from the war. The ironmen's contribution to the war turned out to be minimal. Quellon was slain fighting the longships of the Shield Islands in a battle at the Mander, after which Balon brought the Greyjoy ships back to Pyke so he could claim the Seastone Chair.

When Balon returned to Pyke he found out his younger brother, Urrigon, had died of gangrene after being injured in the finger dance. The maester had tried to save the hand of the boy, but his potions had failed and the fourteen-year-old Urrigon lost his life instead. Balon commanded the same treatment be used on the maester, who died along with Balon's stepmother.

Balon is married to Alannys Harlaw, who gave him three sons and a daughter: Rodrik, Maron, Asha, and Theon.

Greyjoy Rebellion

In the past the ironborn raided their neighbors and practiced the Old Way. They used to attack, killing any who resisted, taking thralls and salt wives, and leaving before an army could assemble. An ironborn man took pride in not having to pay for jewelery, but taking it from those too weak to hold it ("paying the iron price"). They ruled large parts of Westeros, including the riverlands, Bear Island and the Arbor. After Aegon's Conquest, however, they lost their independence and were not allowed to raid other territories of Westeros.

Lord Quellon Greyjoy had desired stronger ties with mainland Westeros, forbade most reaving, brought maesters to the islands, and outlawed the taking of thralls. His son Balon, however, wished to return to the older customs, which he considered a better way for the ironborn. After becoming Lord of the Iron Islands, Balon reversed most of his father's reforms. Over five years he oversaw the construction of the Iron Fleet to serve the Seastone Chair.

Balon was quick to seize the chance to revert to the ways of old when he thought that King Robert I Baratheon's recently-gained rule, through conquest, was unstable. Believing Robert would not have the support, the men, or the will to resist, Balon launched his own rebellion and declared himself King of the Iron Islands.

The ironborn won early success when they attacked Lannisport and destroyed its fleet, and after they started to raid all the western coast. During one of these raidings, Balon's eldest son, Rodrik, was slain by Lord Jason Mallister at the walls of Seagard, but the raidings were still going strong. King Balon's realm was short-lived. His defeat started when his fleet and forces were later defeated and destroyed near Fair Isle by Lord Stannis Baratheon.  Stannis almost killed Balon's brother, Aeron, who was lost in the sea and nearly drowned to death. He survived and was held captive at Lannisport for the rest of the rebellion. The experience in the sea turned the cheerful and joyful Aeron Greyjoy into a fanatic priest devoted to the Drowned God, cold and humourless religious zealot. Euron and Victarion managed to escape from Stannis' fleet, while Rodrik Harlaw, Balon's brother-in-law, lost all his sons in the Battle off Fair Isle.

Later King Robert I Baratheon and Lord Eddard Stark attacked the island of Pyke, while Lord Stannis took Great Wyk, and Ser Barristan Selmy took Old Wyk. Balon's second son, Maron, died while defending Pyke. Balon was forced to accept defeat and bent the knee, re-swearing fealty to the Baratheons, allowing his sole surviving son, ten-year-old Theon, to be taken hostage by Lord Eddard Stark to Winterfell. After the rebellion many castle and towns of the Iron Islands suffered serious damage, and the castle of Pyke was almost destroyed. It took years to rebuild the places and the Greyjoy castle is now smaller than before. Balon and his wife, Alannys, grew apart after the deaths of Rodrik and Maron and the taking of Theon. In fact Alannys was deeply devastated by Theon being taken hostage and the deaths of her two eldest sons in the, and began wandering the halls at night shrieking out their names. She had five ironborn boys brought to be fostered at Pyke after Ned Stark brought Theon to Winterfell including Tristifer Botley, a childhood love of Asha's. During the years she left Pyke to return to Great Wyk, at Ten Towers, the seat of her brother Lord Rodrik Harlaw, who also lost all his sons in the rebellion. Her psychosis worsened greatly and she's now unrecognizable. She's dying and wishes to see Theon again before her death.

Due to the fact he's not a POV character, Balon's feelings are unknown. He became extremely cold and hateful. It's possible that deep inside knew that his rebellion was a foolish idea that costed the life of many of his people, including his two families, almost the complete destruction of his islands, and his wife's sanity. Even Aeron became a religious fanatic from this experience. Balon found himself to be the laughing stock of the Great Houses of Westeros. He always blamed Robert and Eddard for his failure, instead of himself, and Theon was a reminder of that failure. He, along with his brothers, never got over this and never forgive that. He thought he had lost Theon as well, and because of that he hated the Starks. He also accuses Ned Stark to have killed his sons Rodrik and Maron. While the latter is indirectly true, Theon and everyone else know Rodrik died before Robert's invasion of the Iron Islands; he was slain by Lord Jason Mallister at Seagard, and despite this Theon and Patrek Mallister have been friends during their time in the riverlands, in the War of the Five Kings. In 297 AC one of Balon's brothers, Euron, seduced the wife of another brother, Victarion. To prevent bloodshed between the brothers Balon sent Euron into exile and swore he would be killed if he returned. To keep his honor Victarion killed his wife and Balon told to never speak about her again.

War of the Five Kings

Balon never truly gave up on his lifetime desire to become King of the Iron Islands. As soon as chaos and the War of the Five Kings start, Balon assembles his fleet and orders all ships which visit the Iron Islands to remain so he will have the element of surprise. He sends Dagmer to Old Wyk to raise the Stonehouses and the Drumms, while Asha goes to Great Wyk, taking messages for her father. After Eddard Stark is killed by Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark declares himself King in the North and the Trident, and sends Theon to his homeland to try and persuade his father to join Robb's cause in exchange of the independence of the Iron Islands. Insulted, Balon rejects the proposal, and blatantly says he believes his only son has changed loyalty and gone green. Theon denies this, and reverts to the Old Ways of faith, the faith of his family. Shortly after this, Balon once crowns himself King of the Isles and the North.

Balon personally favors his daughter Asha, who's also loved by the ironmen, and also wants her to become queen when he dies. The line of succession and the gender priority on the male don't really matter on the Iron Islands, even if the ironborn have never been ruled by a woman. this creates a rivalry between her and Theon. Both Balon and Victarion grin with the other lords' laughter when she humiliates Theon during the feast at Pyke.

With King Robb fighting in the westerlands and the riverlands, the north is left in a weak position and surrounded by enemies (the Lannisters and Stannis in the south, the wildlings beyond the Wall). King Balon sends his brother, Victarion, the Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet, to to lead most of the fleet to the Neck and capture Moat Cailin to hold the entire north. Balon ignores Theon's advice to ally with the Starks against the Lannisters in exchange of Casterly Rock with Theon as its lord. Balon claims that Robb wanted to give him a crown and what is given can be retaken.

Victarion successfully takes Moat Cailin and fights in the Neck against the Crannogmen. The ironborn's taking of the Neck cuts off Robb's army, which has been campaigning in the riverlands and the westerlands, from the North. Balon sends other ironborn forces, led by his daughter, Asha, Theon, and Dagmer Cleftjaw, to ravage the western coastline of the North, including the Stony Shore. Asha takes 30 and captures Deepwood Motte, while Lord Galbart Glover and his brother Robett Glover are fighting for Robb. She holds hostages Robett's wife, Sybelle, and his children Gawen and Erena. Meanwhile Theon raids the northern coast in the west, raiding the Stony Shore with 8 ships helped by Dagmer Cleftjaw and his uncle Aeron Greyjoy to supervision him since Balon doesn't think Theon would succeed alone. Theon wanted to go to Deepwood Motte since he's been there a lot of times, but Balon did not listen. Later, wanting to compete against Asha and earn respect from the Greyjoy family, Theon captures Winterfell while Dagmer attacks Torrhen's Square and Aeron finishes to raid the western coast. The ironborn also take several other northern castles, causing Robb Stark's army to lose faith and interest in their war against the Iron Throne and the Lannisters. The news of the deaths of Bran and Rickon Stark cause Catelyn Stark to free Ser Jaime Lannister and send him back to King's Landing, nullifying the efforts made by the northmen in the war and angering Robb and Ser Edmure Tully.

With the entire north believing that Theon has really murdered Bran and Rickon Stark, the northern army marches to Winterfell to liberate the castle and kill Theon. He sends ravens to King Balon, Asha, and Victarion for reinforcements to hold Winterfell. He's ignored by his father and uncle and refused by his sister, who gives him only 10 men and leaves after urging him to burn Winterfell and flee before the northmen can kill him for the murder of the Stark boys. Theon thinks it was a bad move by Balon and the rest of the family, as Moat Cailin is what really matters to hold the north, but until Winterfell is occupied the military forces in the north would have to focus only on the Stark seat. After the Boltons burn Winterfell, Dagmer's force captures Torrhen's Square.

After the Battle of the Blackwater, the proud King Balon Greyjoy styles himself the Ninth of His Name Since the Grey King, King of the Iron Islands and the North, King of Salt and Rock, Son of the Sea Wind, and Lord Reaper of Pyke. Theon failed to hold Winterfell and was captured by Ramsay Snow. This doesn't matter to Balon, for as long as his brother Victarion keeps holding Moat Cailin, the north belongs to the ironborn and Robb's tired and decimated army cannot hope to return north without having to fight in the Neck. By destroying most of the military force that Robb had left behind in the north, the Boltons did Balon a huge favor, even if they are trying to use Theon as a hostage against Balon.

Although he claims that no man gives him a crown, Balon secretely sends a letter to Lord Tywin Lannister, trying to negotiate with him in exchange of the North: the Lannisters secured power on the entire south, commanding the power of Casterly Rock, Highgarden, Sunspear, and most of the stormlands and wish to attack Dragonstone before Stannis can rebuild his strength, but their fleet has been destroyed; Balon offers his own Iron Fleet and support to fight Stannis and Salladhor Saan's fleet and give siege to Dragonstone, provided that Joffrey recognizes the Iron Islands as an independent kingdom and lets Balon keep the north as part of his realm. Tywin is aware that the Iron Islands are like the North, loyal to their own, and he also does not mind letting Balon remain king. But refuses to make deals with Balon or help Robb to liberate the north. Tywin says that Balon and Robb are now kings and since they have no reason to be friends, the protection of their kingdoms is their own problem. He declares that no help from the Lannisters will come to support the ironmen or the northmen in their war for the North. And Bowen Marsh sends letter about another faction preparing to invade the north: the Free Folk, led by Mance Rayder. Tywin then decides that the best thing to do with King Balon is nothing and refuses to give support for the Night's Watch anymore, hpoing that the wildlings will manage to destroy the Watch and invade the north, causing a northern conflict between the 3 kings Balon, Robb, and Mance. Instead Tywin wishes to take back Robb's current kingdom, the riverlands, and plans to find a way to have Lord Walder Frey prevent Robb Stark from crossing his bridge back to the north, while the Iron Throne deals with Stannis Baratheon.

When Aeron Greyjoy returned from his raidings in the north, he went to Pyke to speak with Balon about his heritage. Balon despaired when he received news about Theon's fate at Winterfell and accuses the Starks of making him weak, so weak that he failed to hold a castle. He had hoped for Theon to die so that Asha would meet no opposition in taking the Seastone Chair. Aeron thinks that Balon made the Iron Islands great again and believes that it's now time to "listen to the sea" as they once did about chosing Balon's successor for the Seastone Chair. But Balon refuses to let the people chose his heir because he wants his daughter Asha to be queen. Aeron argues that no woman has ever ruled the isles and never such thing should happen, for only strong godly men should rule their lands. The priest favors Victarion Greyjoy, but the king remains stubborn and keeps Asha as his heir.

King Balon Greyjoy dies shortly before the Red Wedding, falling off a bridge of the castle of Pyke during a fierce storm in the year 299 AC. He was actually assassinated by a Faceless Man hired by his exiled brother Euron Greyjoy, who means to claim the Seastone Chair and take over the entire Westeros. The assassin destroyed the bridge as Balon was crossing it. His body washed up 2 days later, all bloated and broken.

Kingsmoot

After King Balon dies in a fall while crossing a bridge at Pyke during a storm, his exiled brother Euron Greyjoy returns the day after (his timely return leads a speculation that Euron may have murdered Balon using a Faceless Man from Braavos, which it proves to be correct, as Euron reveals to his brother Aeron Damphair). He claims the Seastone Chair and drowned Lord Sawane Botley when the lord objected, but his brother Aeron, better known as Damphair, believes him to be godless and doesn't want him to rule the ironborn. As he travels with his army to the Twins, Robb Stark is not pleased to learn that he has to face Euron instead of Balon, but Lord Greatjon Umber is just amused by Balon's death. No war between Robb and Euron ever happens as Robb is murdered during the Red Wedding shortly after Balon died.

Upon hearing about Balon's death, Victarion abandons his post at Moat Cailin and only leaves a small garrison under Ralf Kenning; Asha does the same and leaves Deepwood Motte to stop Euron after visiting the ruins of Winterfell where she failed to find Theon's body.

Aeron Greyjoy, who's a priest of the Drowned God, hopes to stop Euron from becoming a king, and brings a kingsmoot election in which are candidates Victarion Greyjoy, Euron Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy and many other ironborn lords. Any land owner of the Iron Islands have the right to claim the throne, unlike the ways of the green lands, for the ironborn follow strength before a noble house. Euron wins and becomes the new King of the Isles and the North. He wants to conquer all of Westeros using his dragonbinder horn on Daenerys Targaryen's dragons and take Daenerys as his own salt wife.

Trivia

  • In books, Balon died shortly before the Red Wedding occured, being the second of the five kings to die. While travelling to the Twins Robb Stark receives news about Euron Greyjoy declaring himself King of the Isles and the North, while Victarion and Asha are still in the North.
  • In TV series' third season Balon remained still alive and well even after Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, and Stannis Baratheon were killed, making him the last survivor of the Five Kings. This until Euron personally appeared to kill him in the second episode of the sixth season. Balon's death occured a lot of time later unlike the original version, as the Ironborn storyline has been cut from season 4. In season 5 the showrunners wanted to introduce Euron and his storyline, but director Bryan Cogman convinced them to do the Dornish storyline, though they weren't really interested by it. This caused the Greyjoy storyline to start a lot of time later, when other events have already took part, unlike the book version.

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