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How Did Balon Greyjoy Die? Was He Murdered?

In Storm of Swords, Lord Balon Greyjoy dies under rather mysterious circumstances. What makes the issue even more confusing is the fact that none of the main characters are present to witness the event, and all the information we learn about it is through second-hand sources. Still, we can glean some facts out of Balon’s death, and enough to shed light on another underlying mystery.

The first news of Balon’s death comes from the Ghost of High Heart, on SoS, pg. 491, but the only detailed account we have comes from the captain of the Myraham, on page 524:

“Balon Greyjoy?” Catelyn’s heart skipped a beat. “You are telling us that Balon Greyjoy is dead?”
The shabby little captain nodded. “You know how Pyke’s built on a headland, and part on rocks and islands off the shore, with bridges between? The way I heard it in Lordsport, there was a blow coming in from the west, rain and thunder, and old King Balon was crossing one of them bridges when the wind got hold of it and just tore the thing to pieces. He washed up two days later, all bloated and broken. Crabs ate his eyes, I hear.”

This death, while certainly grisly, sounds like nothing more than a natural accident. However, some light is shed on the situation as the captain continues to speak.

“Aye, but that’s not all of it, no!” He leaned forward. “The brother’s back.”
“Victarion?” asked Galbart Glover, surprised.
“Euron. Crow’s Eye, they call him, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail. He’s been gone for years, but Lord Balon was no sooner cold than there he was, sailing into Lordsport in his Silence. Black sails and a red hull and crewed by mutes. He’s been to Asshai and back, I heard. Wherever he was, though, he’s home now, and he marched right into Pyke and sat his arse in the Seastone Chair, and drowned Lord Botley in a cask of seawater when he objected.”

This is interesting. Euron has not been seen anywhere near Westeros for two years. (CoK, pg. 387). It seems a bit coincidental that he happens to arrive at Pyke the day after Balon dies, allowing him to claim the Seastone Chair.

All this might be dismissed as happenstance if not for one more clue. On SoS, pg. 249, the mysterious Ghost of High Heart tells the Brotherhood Without Banners about some of her prophetic dreams:

“I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings.”

The ‘man without a face’ sounds suspiciously like a Faceless Man assassin. (See ‘What Do We Know About Faceless Men?’ for more details.) And the crow on his shoulder may be symbolic of Euron, whose nickname is Crow’s Eye. The swaying bridge seems remarkably similar to the way in which Balon met his death.

So what does all this mean? Euron’s timely arrival, along with the dream, certainly suggest that Euron hired a Faceless Man to bump off his brother in order for him to claim the throne. Euron has spent time sailing around the east, so he certainly had the opportunity to hire a Faceless Man.

One suggestion has been that Jaqen H’ghar was the Faceless Man that killed Balon. His conversation with Arya implies that he is on some kind of mission. (“I have duties, too.”; “I have promises to keep.”) {CoK, pg. 691}. However, the evidence for this is no more than the fact that Jaqen is (most likely) the only Faceless Man character we have met so far in the series.

In conclusion, there are clues pointing toward the fact that Euron hired a Faceless Man to kill his brother Balon, but none of them are conclusive, and they could be just coincidental.