“The gold of Casterly Rock and the Golden Tooth has made House Lannister the wealthiest of the Great Houses.” – A Game of Thrones
The Westerlands are located on the western edge of Westeros, south of the Neck. The lands there are mountainous and sparsely populated. Whereas King’s Landing is the heart of the Seven Kingdoms, the Westerlands could be called the purse of Westeros. The mountains and hills there are rich with gold and, to a lesser extent, silver. And the Lords of Casterly Rock use their riches to extend their influence not only over the local nobles, but also to prop up the Seven Kingdoms as a whole, thereby making themselves all the more powerful and indispensable.
The Westerlands lie near the upper central-western portion of the Seven Kingdoms, just below the Neck. It is west of the Trident, north of The Reach, and spreads from Lannisport on its southern edge to Ironman’s Bay in the north. The Goldroad and the Red Fork make for useful southern and eastern boundary lines.
The land in this area is mostly mountainous and hilly, with rich valleys and farms providing food to the rest of the Westerlands, mostly nuts, berries, turnips and similar crops as well as sheep, cattle, deer and goats. The fisherfolk add to the Westerlands’ self-reliance by providing bountiful catches.
Gold mines dot the landscape of the Westerlands. In addition to the mines at Golden Tooth and Casterly Rock, there are also working mines at Castamere, Nunn’s Deep and the Pendric Hills. Many of the people who’ve made their living working the lands of the region have been slowly moving into the cities that spring up around their mines. While there’s no shortage of smallfolk to farm and fish, the work and fortunes available in the cities may eventually draw so many people it will negatively effect the Westerlands as a whole. The small towns sometimes dry up when the gold does, which means that there are fewer castles and forts in the Westerlands compared to the other regions of the Seven Kingdoms.
Little is known of who claimed the Westerlands before the coming of the Andal adventurers. Some of the oldest legends point to Lann the Clever as their founder. An adventurer and trickster during the Age of Heroes, it’s said he tricked the Casterlys out of Casterly Rock and stole gold from the sun in order to brighten his hair. Whether or not the tales are true, the Lannisters and their extended family point to this hero as their progenitor, and the mischievous and often treacherous tales associated with him seem to fit the Lannisters in their present form.
About six thousand years ago, the Andals invaded Westeros and purged much of the lands of the influence and culture of the Children of the Forest and the First Men who were their allies. They swept accross the lands, settling into the holdfasts of those who came before, cutting woods and uprooting weirwoods for their new homes. The cleansing of the First Men and the Children of the Forest in the Westerlands was total and little remains in history or ruin of the people that dwelt before them. As the Andal kings forged their kingdoms in the ashes of the old, a group laid claim to the Westerlands founding the Kingdom of the Rock, presumably with Casterly Rock as their seat.
From the Andal conquest onward, The Lannisters sat atop Casterly Rock and controlled all the Westerlands. Until the Targaryens came, that is. As with many of the Andal Kings, the Lannisters mustered their armies to fight the new invaders. King Loren of the Rock joined with King Mern of the Reach, combining their armies into one massive host, remembered as the Host of the Two Kings. The mighty force crushed the Targaryen army, which was dwarfed by the forces of The Reach and Westerlands. But then Aegon and his sisters unleashed all three of their dragons at the same time. The result instantly turned the tide, washing the lands with dragon fire and roasting four thousand men, including King Mern Gardener. Remembered as the Field of Fire, this engagement spelled the end of the Gardener line and the Lannister’s reign as Kings. King Loren bent his knee and became one of the first vassal lords to Aegon the Conqueror.
Henceforth, the Lannisters have ruled The Westerlands as Lords paramount and as Wardens of the West, though their larger influence has waxed and waned over the generations. The city of Lannisport has grown to be one of the largest cities on the continent, placing third behind King’s Landing and Oldtown. This port city has always been a center of commerce for the region and it attracts travelers from all over the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.
Because mining has been so important to the history of The Westerlands, many cities and towns have grown up around mines only to then be deserted when they stop producing ore. This has left the mountains and valleys dotted with various ghost towns as nobles and their smallfolk move on to new mines and new cities. That pattern continues, but the Golden Tooth, Casterly Rock and other major mines still produce ore enough to keep the Lannisters and their nobles wealthy and busy.
Under the recent leadership of the Lannisters, the Westerlands have prospered, but this has not always been true. Although the Lannisters have made sure they stand as one of the paramount houses in the Seven Kingdoms through the vigilance and discipline of Tywin Lannister, his father was deemed a weak and ineffectual Lord and nearly brought ruin to House Lannister as lesser lords took advantage of his kindness and naivety. This period of decline ended with the ascent of Tywin Lannister. After destroying the most unruly houses contesting his family’s primacy, all the lords of the Westerlands came to heel and support House Lannister without question, thus pushing the Westerlands into the fore of Westerosi politics once more. Tywin had the distinction of being named Hand of the King for a time under the reign of King Aerys II, and since the fall of the Targaryen Dynasty, he has successfully maneuvered his daughter to become the Queen and installed a number of Knights and agents loyal to Casterly Rock throughout King’s Landing.