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Fosterage in Westeros is the practice of a lord raising the child of another lord. The child is usually male. Fosterage helps to establish loyalty and ties between Houses and has a similar effect that an arranged marriage has between Houses, also based on dynastic or alliance calculations. Noble bastards are also commonly fostered.[1]


According to George R. R. Martin, fostering was common among noble houses, both in Westeros and in the real middle ages, especially for boys. It was considered both a means of education, and a way to cultivate friendships and alliances.[2]

In answer to a reader's question about Eddard Stark's fostering, Martin answered,

[Eddard] was fostered, not exiled. Yes, certainly he returned home. Less frequently the first few years, when he would have been performing the duties of a page and then a squire, more often and for longer periods later.

During his "squire" years (he wasn't a squire in the strict sense, since he wasn't training for knighthood, but he was acting as one), he would also have accompanied Jon Arryn on many travels out of the Vale. And once he reached the age of sixteen he was a man grown, free to come to go as he liked... which would have included both time at home and in the Vale, since Jon Arryn had become a second father. The same was true of Robert, who divided his time between Storm's End and the Vale after reaching manhood, not to mention dropping in on tourneys and whatever choice fights he could find.[3]

The custom of fostering can sometimes cause trouble, as it did between Lady Mellario of Norvos and her husband Prince Doran Martell, when their son Quentyn was fostered at Yronwood. Fosterage was not common in Norvoshi customs, and Quentyn was still very young. This was one of the strains on their marriage, and in the end, Lady Mellario returned to Norvos.[4] Years later Princess Arianne remembers,

Quentyn had been very young when he was sent to Yronwood; too young, according to their mother. Norvoshi did not foster out their children, and Lady Mellario had never forgiven Prince Doran for taking her son away from her. "I like it not more than you do," Arianne had overheard her father say, "but there is a blood debt, and Quentyn is the only coin Lord Ormond will accept."
"Coin?" her mother had screamed. "He is your son. What sort of father uses his own flesh and blood to pay his debts?"
"The princely sort," Doran Martell had answered.[5]

Fostering also featured in one of Prince Doran's plots in the game of thrones. He had planned to send his daughter, Princess Arianne, to Tyrosh to serve as the Archon's cupbearer, where she could meet her betrothed Viserys Targaryen in secret. However, as his wife threatened to harm herself if Arianne were also to be sent away, Doran did not follow through on this plan.[4]

Fostered characters

Characters who were not fostered, though plans were made

References and Notes

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