- "The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight."
The Dornishmen, commonly referred to as "the Dornish", are the inhabitants of Dorne, one of the constituent regions of Westeros. Like the Northmen and the ironborn, the Dornish have a unique culture, law system, and ethnic background that sets them apart from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. In the case of the Dornish, this is due to the intermingling of Westerosi inhabitants of the region - predominantly of First Men and Andal origins - with Rhoynar refugees who fled Essos to escape conquest by the Valyrian Freehold and eventually settled in Dorne. Due to their Rhoynar blood, Dornishmen tend to possess olive skin, black hair, and dark eyes.
The Rhoynar who migrated to Westeros converted to the Faith of the Seven, but in many ways they simply picked and chose which rules they wanted to follow while ignoring those they disagreed with. As a result, the religion is interpreted more loosely in Dorne than in other parts of the Seven Kingdoms (though its followers are no less devout), with several unique variations and local customs. The Rhoynar also switched to speaking the common tongue of the Andals, but even in the present day, Dornishmen speak with a distinctive accent not heard elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms; this is acknowledged in the episode "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", when Jaime Lannister cautions Bronn against singing too loudly, for fear that his non-Dornish accent might give them away. Of course, Oberyn Martell remarks to Tyrion that from his Dornish perspective, it's the Lannisters and everyone else in Westeros who have an odd accent.
In the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the Dornish have a reputation for being hot-blooded and sexually licentious. Indeed, Dornishmen have more "relaxed" views towards sexuality and love than the rest of Westeros. Paramours are not shunned or kept in secret: instead they are held in a similar status as a lawful wife or husband, and it is not unusual for noblewomen as well as men to have paramours. The Dornish also have no particular stigma against homosexual behavior. Similarly, bastards do not carry the stigma of being born out of wedlock and are raised along their trueborn siblings and cousins, though they are still considered poor matches for marriage due to their inability to receive inheritance. Prince Oberyn mentions at Joffrey's wedding that his people do not despise bastards because they are born out of passion.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, present-day Dornishmen are the result of the Rhoynar migration, in which the Rhoynish people, led by Princess Nymeria, united Dorne with the aid of Prince Mors Martell, who brokered a marriage alliance with her.
The level of Rhoynar blood in the Dornish gene pool varies depending on proximity to the coast, becoming weaker as one moves further inland. King Daeron I Targaryen, during his Conquest of Dorne, classified the Dornish into three groups:
- "Salty Dornishmen", who live along the coasts, and in the densely populated river-valleys of eastern Dorne. They have the most Rhoynar ancestry and tend to be dark-featured, with smooth olive skin and black hair. They are typically short and lithe in build. House Martell is part of this group.
- "Sandy Dornishmen", who live in the harsh deserts of central Dorne. Their faces are burned brown by the hot Dornish sun, and their features are even darker than the Salty Dornishmen, even though they have a little less Rhoynar ancestry. Conversely, they are slightly taller than Salty Dornishmen. House Uller, of whom Ellaria Sand is a bastard daughter, is part of this group.
- "Stony Dornishmen", who live in the passes and heights of the Red Mountains in western Dorne, the only part of Dorne which has a land border with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. They have the most Andal and First Men blood, because few Rhoynar settled that far inland. As a result, they mostly resemble people from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms in looks, customs, and traditions: They are brown-haired or blonde and fair-skinned, with faces that are freckled or burned by the sun. House Dayne, including the famed swordsman Ser Arthur Dayne, is part of this group, as well as his sister Ashara Dayne.
- Additionally, there is a smaller, fourth group of pure Rhoynish blood. They call themselves the Orphans of the Greenblood. "Orphans" because they still mourn the loss of their distant homeland along the Rhoyne river, which they worship as "Mother Rhoyne ", and so continue to practice the traditions and religion of their river-faring ancestors. They are established along the Greenblood River, plying poleboats.
The Rhoynish influence extends to the laws and culture of the Dornishmen, which remains unique despite Dorne's unification with the Seven Kingdoms. Equal primogeniture is still practiced, with elder daughters standing higher in lines of succession than younger brothers and still bearing the family name.
Homosexuality and bisexuality are likewise tolerated by the Dornish and don't carry the stigma they do in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms.
The Dornish are often colloquially referred to as "vipers", both by themselves and outsiders (much as the Northmen are often called "wolves" because they were ruled for centuries by the Starks). This is due to the large number of venomous snakes in the deserts of Dorne and in the treacherous mountain passes that lead into it from the west. Oberyn Martell gained the nickname of "the Red Viper" due to his habit of coating his weapons in lethal poisons. The Dornish also enjoy hot spices in their foods, which do not grow in other regions of Westeros. Some of their hotter spices are said to use trace amounts of snake venom as an ingredient.
The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014) explains that while the modern Dornishmen are a variable mixture of First Men, Andal, and Rhoynar bloodlines, the Andals had less impact on Dorne than any other region of Westeros. The First Men migrated to Dorne over a land bridge (which previously connected Westeros and Essos), but the Andals crossed the Narrow Sea in ships, and thus could pick and choose where they wanted to invade (in a migration lasting several centuries). The Andals were aware that Dorne had a harsh desert climate with comparatively few resources, unlike the rich green lands of central Westeros. For that matter, it was also quite far away from their homeland by ship: Andalos is located due east from the Vale and Blackwater Bay, and indeed the Andals first landed in the Vale (this also explains why comparatively few tried to land in the North by ship, where they were beaten back into the sea by the Starks). After the migration period by sea ended, it was even more difficult for neighboring Andal kingdoms in the Reach or Stormlands to invade by land through the mountains and deserts. As a result there is very little Andal blood in the Dornish ethnic makeup, and even less than the First Men, all overlaid by the later Rhoynar migration.
Houses from the Red Mountains of the west, the Stony Dornishmen, date back to the time of the First Men: the Daynes, Fowlers, and Yronwoods. A few Andal adventurers did go to Dorne, and many of them intermarried with local noble families to create new ones: these include the Ullers, Qorgyles, Vaiths, Allyrions, Jordaynes, and Santagars. Even the Martells were founded by an Andal adventurer named Morgan Martell. Still, this was not a vast migration of an entire people, the way the Andals settled in some other regions: a handful of Andal sellswords went to Dorne, carved out names for themselves, and eventually intermarried with the local nobility. There were so few of them and they brought so few followers that soon afterwards their impact on Dorne's ethnic makeup was subsumed. Dorne was overwhelming First Men by blood by the time the Rhoynar migrated to Dorne a thousand years ago - Nymeria herself married Mors Martell, and their descendants frequently married the other mostly-Rhoynar families that settled in eastern Dorne, to the point that in modern times the Martells are held up as an example of a family with classic Rhoynar physical features. The only long-standing impact that few Andal adventurers had on Dorne was that they brought about the conversion of the land to the Faith of the Seven.
The background of the Blackmonts and Manwoodys has not been mentioned, but as Stony Dornishmen they are probably more First Men than Andal, like the Daynes or Yronwoods. In the east, no mention has been made about the background of the Tolands, Gargalens, and Dalts, though either way like the Martells these Salty Dornishmen now have mostly Rhoynar bloodlines.
Cultures and Peoples of the Known World
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