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Wikimedia Commons

There really are not many Great Houses left in Westeros after seven seasons of nonstop war and bloodshed. The few that are left standing have been whittled down considerably. Oddly enough, one of the few houses remaining is House Greyjoy. The Greyjoys never enjoyed much time in the limelight on “Game of Thrones,” unless one counts Theon’s ever-worsening circumstances, but that has not stopped this stubborn family from lasting until the end.

The Greyjoy motto is “we do not sow.” This fits in with their lifestyle. They do not do much farming or growing themselves. Instead, they steal from everyone else. At the beginning of the show, Theon, then the only Greyjoy viewers knew, seemed to live up to this motto well enough. He lived off the Starks’ money and food, but he never seemed to give anything back to the family. Later, he went even farther and betrayed Robb Stark. This led to Theon’s capture by the Boltons and subsequent torture.

When viewers first meet Yara, Theon’s sister, she similarly embodies the motto of “we do not sow.” She is happy to continue the Greyjoy lifestyle of raiding the coastline. She also has limited interest in her brother’s return. This, however, begins to change after she learns of Theon’s torture. She attempts to rescue him, but Theon is too terrified and brainwashed to go with her.

After Theon escapes Ramsay Bolton with Sansa Stark, Theon returns to the Iron Islands and reunites with his sister. He also begins to buck the family motto. He attempts to grow his relationship with his sister by supporting her bid to become queen of the Iron Islands. The return of their lost uncle, Euron, however, changes things. It also accelerates the end of the Greyjoy family’s adherence to their motto. Euron usurps Yara’s throne, and after attempting to murder Yara and Theon, plans to seek an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen.  Yara and Theon, however, escape Euron and reach Daenerys first. During their bargaining for an alliance, the Greyjoy siblings agree to give up the traditional lifestyle of thievery in exchange for Daenerys’ help reclaiming their home. Euron, in the meantime, creates a massive fleet of ships and seeks an alliance with Cersei Lannister.

By dedicating themselves to creating alliances and new futures, the Greyjoys bucked their family motto. They did, however, continue to live up to the second phrase that is associated with them. The Greyjoys follow the Drowned God whose followers proclaim “what is dead may never die.” To follow this god, the Greyjoys are held underwater and then revived so that they may be considered to have “died.” The idea that this will keep them from dying later seems to have held up throughout the show. Theon survived fighting against the Lannisters, betraying the Starks, being held captive by the Boltons, leaping from the walls of Winterfell to escape the Boltons and a blind flight through the snowy woods. Yara, meanwhile, survived a lifetime of dangerous raids including one where she broke into Winterfell itself when the Boltons were holding both the castle and Theon hostage. Once Yara and Theon were reunited, they managed to escape Euron’s clutches. When the two Greyjoy factions met on the seas for a deadly night battle, all three managed to survive despite every one of them being targeted by the other side. In the first episode of season eight, Yara is shown to have survived her capture by Euron and is rescued by Theon. While Theon is saving his sister, Euron manages to keep his head attached despite repeatedly mouthing off to Cersei even after she warns him “I’ve killed men for less.” Whether this miraculous survival streak will continue is unclear. Yara is headed back to the dubious safety of the Iron Islands to reclaim her throne. Euron has largely outlived his usefulness to Cersei, so he might be facing that threatened execution soon. Theon, meanwhile, is planning to return to Winterfell once more, but the castle is preparing for a siege by the Night King’s army of the dead. Only time will tell whether or not the Greyjoy’s symbolic death will be enough to protect them from those who would dearly love to make that “death” permanent.

 

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