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. 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 and most wildlings.
The Old Tongue is the language spoken by the First Men of old, the current giants, and free folk tribes such as the Thenns. 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 ... 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.
Several names of terms and names are described in the published material:
|Skagos||Stone||Because of the definition of skagos, the people from the island of Skagos call themselves stoneborn.|
|Woh dak nag gran||The squirrel people||"The squirrel people" is the name the giants have given the children of the forest.|
Characters familiar with the Old Tongue
- Bael the Bard
- Tormund Giantsbane
- Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg
- Mance Rayder, who can also sing in the language
- Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon VI.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
- Not A Blog: Klaatu Barada Nicto…, April 12, 2010
- So Spake Martin: Yet More Questions, July 22, 2001
- So Spake Martin: Event Horizon Chat, March 18, 1999
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Stoneborn of Skagos.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 55, Jon VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 21, Jon V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 39, Jon VIII.