Old Tongue

From A Wiki of Ice and Fire
Jump to: navigation, search
Mance Rayder can sing in the Old Tongue, art by Allen Douglas © Fantasy Flight Games

The Old Tongue is a language brought to Westeros by the First Men during their migration over twelve thousand years ago. It is a coarse language, harsh and clanging.[1] The language is all but extinct in the Seven Kingdoms, where the Common Tongue has become dominant. In the lands beyond the Wall, however, the Old Tongue is still spoken by giants[2] and most wildlings.[1]


The Old Tongue is the language spoken by the First Men of old,[3][4] the current giants,[3][5] and free folk tribes[1] such as the Thenns.[6] Only a few terms and translations are known from this language, as George R. R. Martin has not developed the actual language. On the developing of languages for A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin has explained:

... I don't have a whole imaginary language in my desk here, the way Tolkien did[7] ... Tolkien was a philologist, and an Oxford don, and could spend decades laboriously inventing Elvish in all its detail. I, alas, am only a hardworking SF and fantasy novel, and I don't have his gift for languages. That is to say, I have not actually created a Valyrian language. The best I could do was try to sketch in each of the chief tongues of my imaginary world in broad strokes, and give them each their characteristic sounds and spellings.[8]

Houses descended from the First Men tend to have simple, short names, often descriptive.[9] Examples include the northern names Stark, Wull, Umber, and Stout.[4]

The First Men had their own writing system of the Old Tongue. In addition, they also had a runic writing system.[10]

Known translations

Several names of terms and names are described in the published material:

Old Tongue Translation Notes
Magnar Lord[11][12]
Skagos Stone[13][14] Because of the definition of skagos, the people from the island of Skagos call themselves stoneborn.[14]
Sygerrik Deceiver[3]
Woh dak nag gran The squirrel people[15] "The squirrel people" is the name the giants have given the children of the forest.[15]

Characters familiar with the Old Tongue