There is something that has been bothering me from the resources standpoint in Game of Thrones:

House Greyjoy is the chief house that leads the Iron Islands, a place that Euron Greyjoy himself states in Episode 1 of Season 7:

"a place full of rocks and bird shit"

so I suppose that they have trouble growing stuff there. And as Jaime himself puts it:

"The Greyjoys are a bunch of small people that take things because they can't grow them."

So how come the Greyjoys have so many ships? Where did they come from? How did they get the resources to build so many?

Clarification: I edited to clarify what I meant, and edited the part where it made you think I was asking at how fast the ships were built. I've always been interested at what each house has to offer.. something just seemed off and imbalanced at what Euron has. I opened the question with "From a resources"standpoint? I always meant what I asked and I simply edited to clarify.

  • 3
    are you asking how Euron was able to built so many ships so fast or how Greyjoys have so many ships in general?
    – HBhatia
    Sep 18, 2017 at 5:47
  • 2
    @HBhatia not really how fast he built them, but where did he get the resources to built it given the Iron Islands is barren
    – Malky.Kid
    Sep 18, 2017 at 6:47
  • related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/169868/…
    – RickyA
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:39
  • 1
    Better that we don't know where they got all that wood and canvas and metal and stuff. Since if we knew, we'd ask ourselves "but when did they have time to build all those ships, and paint them and everything?" . Honestly, this is another question which amounts to "Why did GoT develop gross inconsistencies and deus ex-machina situations over the past few seasons?"... and as I've argued elsewhere, I chalk it up to incompetent/negligent writing, not some clever idea(s).
    – einpoklum
    Sep 18, 2017 at 16:43
  • Best of all, why were his people on board with it when their stated MO was not to build or sow, but to conquer and take?
    – user40790
    Sep 19, 2017 at 16:07

4 Answers 4


They built them; off-screen, and very very quickly - it's what they do

Look, this whole thing of time and space is negligible when it comes to the Game of Thrones (show only) universe. The producers and various directors as well as writers have mentioned this on multiple occasions, most notably in relation to the top-speed of the dragons.

Now, having said that there can be some excuses made for the apparent insta-build that Euron seems to have unlocked (along with his insta-travel and the ability to read Cersei's mind).

  1. They are shippies, and are very efficient at building ships
    The Ironborn are a sea-faring nation, it is said that they are more at ease on a ship than on solid ground. As such, they are very equipped and experienced at building ships.

  2. They are devoted to this cause
    The Iron Fleet can consist of up to 1,000 ships even in 'peace times'. It is not entirely unfeasible to picture them building nearly 1,000 more in a short(ish) amount of time given that at that time they would have dedicated all of their efforts in the crusade.

  3. The 'Arsenal'
    No not that one, this one:

    It is said that a war galley can be built in a day there.

    Given that, it isn't fully unfeasible to consider that [if Euron had an Arsenal of his own] 1 ship a day keeps the doctor away could get you 1,000 ships in 3 years. So perhaps that inordinate amount of time that has passed between seasons has given him enough time to build those ships.

Either way, there is nothing 'official' about how this has happened and you are supposed to take it as it is and make up your own explanations.

  • 5
    I didn't realize the speed he built these ships were ridiculous. I still upvoted but, my question was about how he got the resources for it.
    – Malky.Kid
    Sep 18, 2017 at 6:49
  • 5
    Build? I think "We do not sow" would also extend to "We do not build ships". I expect the Iron Islanders pay the iron price for their ships, by capturing them in battle.
    – Mike Scott
    Sep 18, 2017 at 6:58
  • 4
    Off-Screen Ship-Wrights are the most effective.
    – Aegon
    Sep 18, 2017 at 7:17
  • 4
    This is an interesting answer but it absolutely does not answer where they get the wood and other resources, so it's entirely failing to answer the question. Sep 18, 2017 at 9:35
  • 3
    @Pierre I understand, just so you know, the part question about the resources was added after my answer. I can address the resources tomorrow.
    – Möoz
    Sep 18, 2017 at 10:46

They don't - most of the time.

If we go back to Season 2 Episode 1 and watch the scene where Catelyn and Robb are discussing bringing the Greyjoys into their alliance, we note the following dialog:

CATELYN: You don't want Balon Greyjoy for an ally.

ROBB: I need his ships. They say he has 200.

The figure for ships of the Iron Islands, pre-Season 6, is therefore a more realistic 200.

The figure of a thousand ships is strictly Season 6 and after, only, and can be traced to Euron's orders in Season 6 Episode 5:

Go back to your homes. Chop down every tree you can find. Quarter-saw the timber and start building. I want every man bending planks. I want every woman spinning flax for sails. Build me a thousand ships and I will give you this world.

So it's evident that the thousand ships were:

  1. Only built after Theon's and Yara's defection to Daenerys,
  2. Built on the explicit orders of Euron, and,
  3. Build on a war-footing and by devoting the entire resources of the Iron Islands to the task, perhaps to the extent that the population is now no longer viable.

Let's consider few realistic examples :

In our reality, France had to plant huge forests (Colbert) of certain trees in order to build a decent number of ships. It required special efforts, and you had to plan a long time in advance if you wished to have enough wood. At this time, France was able to fight almost evenly the Royal navy.

Moreover a poor land, did not mean they can't grow trees. England (Westeros is based upon it), is not really a fertile land since the middle age. But nonetheless they got a really great navy for centuries.

Another example of small country with a huge fleet was the Netherlands. England had to wage three wars in order to reduce their naval power. They had a decent warfleet and a huge commercial fleet.

So considering the size of the Grey Joy navy. It is already surprising than they are able to man a fleet of one thousand ships. So it is rather unlikely that there is much wilderness or forest on the iron island. And anyway, it doesn't seem realistic to expect such small territory to grow enough wood for such a war fleet.

However the iron islands have direct access to some of the greatest forests of Westeros. They are close of the Twins. There is a huge forest between the Twins and Moat Caitlin. There is not many cities on the coastal lines but they may provide some of the wood.

Moreover the Greyjoys are know to been frequently seen next to the Bear Island, which is close to The Wall. There is also a huge forest next to Winterfell and the West Coast.

So we don't definitely know how they got it. But they can easily buy it, chop it themselves (but I think it is unlikely), maybe stole it. But there is only small cities so if you kill the lumber guys, it is your loss.

If we think about the Free cities, they do not seem to have huge inland territories. So naval powers like Braavos that are known for their trade, also more than likely buy woods from the North in Westeros.

Update : There seem to be a canon answer :

Archmaester Haereg suggests that need for wood was what first drove the ironborn to raid the mainland.

I got it from here

  • 2
    One thing to note, re: Manpower of Iron Islands, most of Greyjoy navy consists of Long ships which take a smaller crew than your Dromonds and Galleys.
    – Aegon
    Sep 18, 2017 at 10:44
  • +1 This answer partially the manpower problem. This is also a logical choice because longships are faster (hydrodynamics). And galleys are only efficient on still waters.
    – xrorox
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:35
  • 2
    Ironborn would not buy lumber with gold. They pay the iron price. Sep 18, 2017 at 13:13
  • Mat's Mug seem you were right. But I think that under the Targaryen rule, they had to plunder less and buy more.
    – xrorox
    Sep 18, 2017 at 17:57
  • 1
    @Mat'sMug Paying the Iron Price for wood from Greenlands means breaking the peace. Woods are property of the respective Lord and if one Lord attacks another to steal their resources, they are breaking the King's Peace. Ironborn did loot and pillage Westeros but only when weak Kings sit the Iron Throne e.g. Aerys I, otherwise they hunted Essosi shipping, not Westerosi coasts.
    – Aegon
    Sep 19, 2017 at 6:22

If you are asking, where they got all the resources for their ships, you are right to raise this question, because the Iron Islands couldn't possibly provide enough wood for all the ships, the iron fleet would need over the centuries. We know from real world history, that every seafaring culture, like the Vikings or the Romans "consumed" almost all their forests and they had far more land.

However, consider this: If you look on the map, the Iron Islands are located in a huge bay. The surrounding land seems to be covered with thick forests and are probably not very populated in some parts. And the distance doesn't seem to be too far to cross. So I guess, they could have just traveled to the shore with a bunch of ships fully loaded with men, then quickly harvested some of the woods and built lots of ships.

The Greyjoy ships I have seen so far seemed to be quite simple and could probably be maneuvered by 1/10th of the men the ships could carry, taking into account that the Greyjoys are very skilled sailors.

So they could have went to a lesser populated part of the continent with about 100 ships, quickly steal some of the wood and build an armada ten times larger.

Its neither mentioned in the books, nor in the series, so it's up to your imagination, but maybe my explanation makes sense?

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