Mance Rayder

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Mance Rayder
Night's Watch.svg
Night's Watch.svg
Mance Rayder by Amok©
Mance Rayder by Amok©
Biographical Information
Alias The Mance
The Unburnt King
Other Titles King-Beyond-the-Wall
Born in , at Beyond the Wall
Culture Free folk
Wife Dalla
Issue Aemon Steelsong
Books A Game of Thrones (mentioned)
A Clash of Kings (mentioned)
A Storm of Swords (appears)
A Feast for Crows (mentioned)
A Dance with Dragons (appears)
Played by Ciarán Hinds
TV series Season 3 | Season 4 | Season 5

Mance Rayder was once a man of the Night's Watch before breaking his vows and abandoning his post. He has since become extremely influential among the free folk, and is called the "King-Beyond-the-Wall". In the television adaptation Game of Thrones he is portrayed by Ciarán Hinds.

Appearance and Character

See also: Images of Mance Rayder

Mance is of middling height, long legged and lean, broad in the chest and shoulders, and sharp-faced with brown eyes and long brown hair gone mostly to gray,[1][2] and laughter lines appear at the corners of his mouth.[3] He has a sharp face and shrewd brown eyes.[1] Mance is an unremarkable-looking man in his middle years, with a fondness for music. Some consider his voice passable and his playing fair.[4]

Mance wears black ringmail and shaggy fur breeches, over which he drapes a slashed cloak of black wool and red silk from Asshai. His helm is bronze and iron and has raven wings at each temple.[5][6]


Mance Rayder by graikfaik ©

After a group of wildling raiders were put to the sword, Mance was a wildling child taken by the Night's Watch and raised as one of them.[7] According to a semi-canon source, his last name of "Rayder" comes from this origin.[8] When Lord Commander Qorgyle traveled to Winterfell to meet with Lord Eddard Stark, Mance rode escort and met the young Robb Stark and Jon Snow.[1]

Mance was a loyal member of the Night's Watch for much of his life until he was attacked by a shadowcat while ranging, and was healed by a wildling woman. While he recuperated, she mended his torn cloak with swatches of red fabric. Upon returning to the Wall, Ser Denys Mallister required Mance to replace his mended cloak with one of uniform black. This infringement of freedom caused Mance to abandon the Shadow Tower[7] and live with the free folk in the way he wished.[1]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Mance wears a raven-winged helm. Art by Patrick McEvoy. © Fantasy Flight Games

Hearing of King Robert I Baratheon's planned visit to Winterfell to see his old friend Lord Eddard Stark via sources in the Night's Watch, Mance, inspired by the legend of Bael the Bard, decided to partake in the event. He scales the Wall near Long Barrow, purchases a horse south of the New Gift, and journeys to Winterfell.[1]

Mance's presence is unbeknownst to both Eddard, who did not remember Mance from his previous visit with Lord Commander Qorgyle, and Benjen Stark, who had never met Mance despite being in the Watch for a few years. Under the disguise of a musician, Mance plays the lute during the feast for Robert. He meets Dalla during his return to the lands beyond the Wall.[1]

A Clash of Kings

Mance resumes the monumental task of uniting the notoriously individualistic free folk under his guidance to invade the Seven Kingdoms. They assemble in the Frostfangs. Following the rumors about Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, and the wildlings deserting their villages, the Night's Watch assembles in force in a great ranging beyond the Wall.

A Storm of Swords

Mance Rayder - Art by Joshua Cairós. © Fantasy Flight Games

When Jon Snow meets with Mance in the Frostfangs under pretext of joining his campaign, the bard sings "The Dornishman's Wife". Mance explains that he has taken possession of the magical Horn of Winter, said to be capable of toppling the Wall, and will use it as a last resort if he cannot bypass the Wall militarily. However, Mance reveals that the free folk, including his own people, have been hunted by the Others and their wights, and are unable to stop them. His true aim therefore is not to destroy the Wall, but to use it as a shield against the Others.

Mance undertakes his assault of the Wall while it is manned by a skeleton crew commanded by Jon Snow. Despite overwhelming odds, Jon successfully holds Mance's forces at bay long enough for Stannis Baratheon's unexpected reinforcements to arrive. Although Mance personally leads a wedge of mounted free folk against rangers from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the disorganized free folk army is demolished by Stannis's knights.[6]

A Feast for Crows

Mance's wife, Dalla, dies giving birth to their son during Stannis's attack on the wildling camp.[9] Jon smuggles Mance's son away from the Wall in the care of Samwell Tarly because he suspects that Stannis's red priestess, Melisandre, is looking to sacrifice a child of royal blood, and that Mance's title of "King-Beyond-the-Wall" could be construed as a royal lineage.[9] Gilly later suggests the name Aemon Steelsong for Mance's son.[10]

A Dance with Dragons

Mance playing the lute, with Val in the background - by Amok ©
Melisandre glamors Mance to appear as Rattleshirt. Art by Lukasz Jaskolski. © Fantasy Flight Games

Mance is supposedly burned alive by Stannis with surrendered free folk, members of the Night's Watch, king's men, and queen's men there to bear witness. Jon Snow orders him killed by archers of the Watch during the burning to give him a quick death.[11] In actuality the man killed is Rattleshirt, who is glamoured by Melisandre's magic to appear like Mance. Meanwhile, the actual Mance is glamored by a ruby worn at his wrist to appear as Rattleshirt. Sparring with "Rattleshirt" in the yard of Castle Black, Jon is shocked by the man's speed and skill, not knowing he is actually Mance.[12]

Later when word reaches the Wall that Arya Stark is to wed Ramsay Bolton, Melisandre offers to send "Rattleshirt" to retrieve her, but Jon refuses, not trusting the Lord of Bones. Melisandre reveals Mance's disguise to make Jon reconsider the offer. Jon holds Mance's son so Mance would do everything in his power to rescue Jon's sister for the sake of his son. However, Mance does not know that Jon has switched Mance's son with Gilly's son.[3]

No longer appearing as Rattleshirt, the brown-bearded[2] Mance takes six free folk spearwives with him to Winterfell:[13] Rowan, Holly, Squirrel, Willow Witch-eye, Frenya, and Myrtle. He arrives at Winterfell as a bard under the assumed name Abel,[4] an anagram for "Bael", and claims the women are camp followers and relatives to him.[14] Mance performs throughout the wedding and subsequent feasts at Winterfell.[4][14][15] His songs include "Two Hearts That Beat as One",[4] "Fair Maids of Summer"[4], "The Dornishman's Wife",[14] "Iron Lances",[15] "The Winter Maid",[15] "The Queen Took Off Her Sandal, the King Took Off His Crown",[15] "The Bear and the Maiden Fair",[15] "The Maids That Bloom in Spring",[15] and an unnamed sad song.[2]

With Winterfell snowbound from a blizzard, Mance's spearwives kill several northern men. Suspicion is cast on Theon Greyjoy at first, then Manderly knights, causing tension in the castle between Boltons, other northern houses, and Freys. They also receive the help of a reluctant and fearful Theon to help them free "Arya", though he knows she is really Jeyne Poole. Tensions explode in the castle when Little Walder Frey is murdered, though the spearwives claim it was not their doing. Theon assists Mance's spearwives in rescuing Jeyne, but when Jeyne gives their position away by screaming, Theon and Jeyne are forced to jump from Winterfell's battlements to the snow below.[15][2][16]

It is reported in a letter to Jon purportedly from Ramsay Bolton that Mance has been captured. Ramsay claims Mance has been thrown in a cage which is exposed to the elements and that the six spearwives that came with him have been killed and skinned. Mance is allegedly being forced to use their sewn-together skins in the cage, as it is his only source of warmth.[17]

Quotes by Mance

Mance Rayder - by artist Diego Gisbert Llorens © Fantasy Flight Games.
The Wall can stop an army, but not a man alone.[1]
- Mance to Jon Snow

I know every bawdy song that's ever been made, north or south of the Wall.[1]
- Mance to Jon Snow

The Halfhand was carved of old oak, but I am made of flesh, and I have a great fondness for the charms of women ... which makes me no different from three-quarters of the Watch.[1]
- Mance to Jon Snow

Free folk don't follow names, or little cloth animals sewn on a tunic. They won't dance for coins, they don't care how you style yourself or what that chain of office means or who your grandsire was. They follow strength. They follow the man.[18]
- Mance to Jon Snow

Quotes about Mance

He was the best of us, and the worst as well.[19]
- Qhorin Halfhand, to Jon Snow

Mance has cunning. He was raised a crow, you know, and the crow's a tricksy bird.[1]
- Tormund, to Jon Snow

The king was plainly a man who liked the sound of his own voice.[1]
- thoughts of Jon Snow

No pain Theon had ever known came close to the agony that Skinner could evoke with a little flensing blade. Abel would learn that lesson soon enough. And for what? Jeyne, her name is Jeyne, and her eyes are the wrong color. A mummer playing a part. Lord Bolton knows, and Ramsay, but the rest are blind, even this bloody bard with his sly smiles. The jape is on you, Abel, you and your murdering whores. You'll die for the wrong girl.[2]
- thoughts of Theon Greyjoy

Abel had doomed them. All singers were half-mad. In songs, the hero always saved the maiden from the monster's castle, but life was not a song, no more than Jeyne was Arya Stark.[2]
- thoughts of Theon Greyjoy

References and Notes

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