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"In the Summer Isles they worship a fertility goddess with sixteen teats."
Varys[src]

The Summer Islands (or Summer Isles) are an archipelago in the Summer Sea. Located southeast of Westeros and southwest of Volantis, the island of Naath lies to the east, between the Summer Islands and mainland Sothoryos.

The inhabitants of the Summer Islands are among the greatest seafarers in the known world. Their "swan ships" (so-called because their prows are carved to resemble the birds' heads, and their sails resemble wings) sail faster than even the longships of the Ironborn, and are contsucted from rare hardwoods that can withstand any assault. The islanders are also famed as expert archers, and their bows made of goldenheart wood are capable of firing arrows hard enough to pierce steel plate armor, even from a very far distance. Ship crews make use of these archers to drive off pirates and raiders at long range, before they can attempt to board their vessels.[1]

Known Summer Islanders

History

Season 2

Xaro Xhoan Daxos was born in the Summer Islands, but has since become resident in the eastern city of Qarth."[2]

According to Varys, the Summer Islanders worship a fertility goddess with sixteen teats. Tyrion jokes that they should sail there immediately.[3]

Season 4

The Unsullied commander Grey Worm says that he was taken from the Summer Islands by slavers as a baby. Missandei, who is from the neighboring island of Naath, asks if he remembers anything of the Summer Islands or his life before becoming an Unsullied, but he says that "Unsullied" is all he remembers. He does not even remember when the slavers castrated him at the beginning of his forced training to be one of the Unsullied."[4]

In order to craft the poison known as The strangler, the base plant must be aged and soaked in a wash containing, among other things, a number of rare spices from the Summer Islands.[5]

Season 8

During her speech after the Battle of King's Landing, Daenerys Targaryen promises her army that they will free the world from tyrants from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea.[6]

Image gallery

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Summer Islands are among the southern-most explored parts of the known world. An ancient and advanced civilization, Summer Islanders are quite distinct- ethnically and in many ways culturally- from the peoples of both Westeros and Essos.

Culture and People

People from the Summer Islands are dark-skinned and tend to wear colorful clothes, including cloaks made of interwoven tropical bird feathers. They are famed sea-farers, as they have to rely on extensive maritime transport due to the archipelago nature of their homeland. Many Summer Islanders re-applied these skills to take part in international shipping: the islands are rich in natural resources- spices, gemstones, hardwood timber, and exotic animals- and possess a large merchant fleet which operates across much of the known world. Swift and well-crewed, Summer Islander merchant ships can be found in most major ports across both Westeros and the Free Cities, from Oldtown to King's Landing, and from Braavos to Volantis. Many crews also make the long trade route around the Jade Sea far to the east, visiting Qarth and distant Asshai.

Summer Islander culture is very much what might be called "sex-positive" in real life. Although many gods are worshipped on the islands, the god and goddess of love and beauty are held in particualrly high esteem. Sex is believed to be a gift from the gods for humanity to enjoy, and is regarded as a joyous and life-affirming act. Even prostitution is considered a very respectable profession in the Summer Islands. Nearly all islanders also spend a period of time serving as sacred prostitutes in the temple of the love gods. After that period, those deeemed the most skilled stay on at the temple in the same capacity, effectively becoming priests and priestesses in all but name. Funerals are not somber occasions mourning the dead but celebrations of the lives they led, with wine and lovemaking. Summer Islanders also have great respect for their elderly. Being warm islands, the diet of the islanders consists mostly of fruit and fish.

In the novels, an exiled Summer Islander prince named Jalabhar Xho has taken up residence in the Red Keep for the past several years. He repeatedly asked King Robert Baratheon for military aid in retaking his principality, Red Flower Vale, but has been repeatedly turned down with "Next year" (somehow next year never came). Cersei believes that the reason Robert never simply said "No" to Jalabhar was that the idea of invading the Summer Islands intrigued him; he probably dreamed about their brown-skinned women.

Other minor characters in the books that hail from the Summer Islands are Chataya, a madame, and her daughter, a prostitute named Alayaya. During his tenure as acting Hand of the King, Tyrion pretends to visit Alayaya while having secret encounters with Shae instead, and Cersei has Alayaya arrested to spite Tyrion. This last development is fulfilled by Ros in the TV show.[3]

Grey Worm's backstory and ethnic origins are not given in the books: when directly asked, George R.R. Martin said he had no specific plans to develop it. The TV series invented the backstory that he was taken from the Summer Islands by slavers as a baby - though Grey Worm also says in the TV series that he has no memory of the Summer Islands or of life before being an Unsullied. While it is invented for the TV series, this backstory is entirely plausible within the books.

The World of Ice and Fire reveals that Princess Nymeria did not lead the Rhoynar refugees directly from the Rhoyne River (the region now occupied by the Free Cities) to Dorne in Westeros: When they were fleeing from the advance of the Valyrian Freehold, Nymeria's fleet attempted to find sanctuary in a number of locations. In the Summer Islands, they regrouped on what later became known as the Isle of Women (most of her surviving followers were women and children, because many of the Rhoynar men had been killed in battle against the Valyrians). The Rhoynar refugees stayed there for some time, before leaving the Summer Islands to migrate into Dorne.

Geography

The Lands of Ice and Fire, a companion map collection for the novels released in 2012, revealed for the first time a full map of the Summer Islands and their orientation to the main continents in the story. The Summer Islands are a large island chain curving along a northwest-to-southeast axis: the northwestern-most of the islands is located due south from the Narrow Sea between Westeros and Essos, roughly at the same latitude as the southernmost tip of the Valyrian Peninsula to the east. Observing from a map, the northernmost of the Summer Islands is roughly the same distance south of the Stepstones as the distance that Braavos is north of the Stepstones.

Because the island chain curves to the southeast, however, the southern islands are located farther away from Westeros: the southernmost is roughly at the same line of longitude as Dagger Lake in the Free Cities. The entire archipelago is spread across a large area, loosely the same size as the Valyrian Peninsula (in width and height on a map). The northwestern-most island is roughly equidistant between Westeros and Essos, while the southeastern-most island is roughly equidistant between Essos and mainland Sothoryos. The island of Naath is the closest other land to the Summer Islands, to the east between the archipelago and Sothoryos.

Further information was also given in the World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014). There are three main islands in the chain, from north to south: Walano, Omboru, and Jhala. Walano and Omboru are each less than half the size of Jhala - but either of those two are still larger than the total land area of the Stepstones (so at a rough guess, the combined land area of the Summer Islands is over four times that of all the Stepstones combined). There are about fifty islands in the whole archipelago, though many are so small that a man can walk across them in a single day and uninhabited. Other than the main three islands only about a half dozen other smaller islands are also settled - nine out of every ten people in the Summer Isles live on the three main islands.

While Jhala is the largest island, Walano has the largest population (both in total numbers and density), boasting three major cities: Tall Trees Town, Lotus Port, and Last Lament. The only other major city indicated is Ebonhead, at the southwestern tip of Jhala - though, as with Westeros, there are apparently numerous large market towns throughout them which are smaller than full-fledged "cities". All of the islands have a lush tropical climate filled with rainforests. Many precious hardwoods, however, particularly goldenheart, don't grow on Walano itself, only on Omboru and Jhala farther south. The sparsely populated interior of large Jhala is home to silverback gorillas, and various species of monkeys abound in the canopies of all the islands.

The half-dozen smaller islands of appreciable size include Koj and the Isle of Birds (between Walano and Omboru); Xon, Doquu, and the Bones (in Parrot Bay south of Jhala); and spread out a long distance west from Omburu and Jhala are Moluu, the Isle of Love, the Singing Stones, and the Three Exiles. Koj is disproportionately important because, while not one of the main three islands, three quarters of all of the large sea-going galleys in the Summer Islands are built in its dockyards. Each of the smaller islands is ruled by its own independent prince (or princess); the main three islands are large enough to be divided between several rival princedoms.

Official maps for the TV series, including the online HBO Viewer's Guide map, have not included the Summer Islands so far. The map which the TV series uses for Essos is actually slightly outdated, as it was produced before The Lands of Ice and Fire was released. The biggest differences are mostly in the far east, beyond Qarth and Vaes Dothrak: the TV series map assumed that Qarth is on the southern end of the Jade Sea, when Lands of Ice and Fire revealed that Qarth is actually located at the northern end of the Jade Sea.

Starting in Season 4, the astrolabe map which appears in the opening credits of the TV series finally portrayed the Summer Islands for the first time, as the camera swings from Westeros to Slaver's Bay in Essos. The design, which only briefly appears, does not correspond to the map of the Summer Islands revealed in The Lands of Ice and Fire, which revealed that the northwestern-most of the islands is located at the same longitude as Tyrosh, and the same latitude as the southern end of the Valyrian peninsula. The TV series's opening sequence depicts the northernmost island as being located further to the northwest, nearly as far west as the Red Mountains of Dorne, and nearly as far north as Volantis (which is located at the base of the Valyrian peninsula). This may have been done simply to fit them onto the screen, and not to specify actual distances, as the islands were viewed out of focus and at an angle as the "astrolabe" in the opening sequence swung around.

History

Due to the relative isolation of their archipelago, the Summer Islanders did not interact with other peoples for much of their early history. Indeed, the earliest maps produced by the islanders showed no other land on earth besides the islands themselves, and at that time they had not developed the sophisticated maritime technology that would allow them to sail any great distance from their own shores. When a ship belonging to the Ghiscari Empire was driven onto the shores of the Summer Islands during a storm, it marked the first known contact between the islanders and the outside world. This awakened their curiosity to discover what was beyond the waves.

Over the following years, the Summer Islanders began to send more and more ships across the sea to seek out foreign lands and map their coastlines. Eventually, the western coast of Sothoryos and the other islands of the Summer Sea, as well as the coasts of Westeros and Essos became known to the islanders, and they had established thriving trade connections with the Valyrian Freehold. While the dragonlords were largely interested in the many luxury goods the islands could provide, they also offered inducements for slaves, and this lead the various leaders of the islands to conduct raids against their neighbors, taking captives to sell in Valyria's markets.

This period, known in Summer Islander histories as the "years of shame" were brought to an end when Princess Xanda Qo of Sweet Lotus Vale united the islands under her rule in an attempt to break from Valyria's influence. Since the Freehold had a great technological advantage over the islanders - both in weaponry and armor - Xanda Qo introduced significant innovations to the arsenal of the Summer Islanders: It was at her initiative that they were armed for the first time with the great goldenheart bows for which they would later become famous, as these weapons could easily pierce Valyrian armor while keeping the archer at a safe distance. Xanda Qo also redesigned Summer Islander ships to be bigger and stronger than ever before, giving her archers a secure yet mobile platform from which to fire. The islanders were eventually able to shake off the Valyrian presence, and although the political unity of the islands did not last, their ships still sail all the world's seas, and even the most fearsome pirates and slavers generally steer clear of engaging them in battle.  

See also

References

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