Mance Rayder

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Night's Watch.svgMance RayderNight's Watch.svg
Mance Rayder by Gisbert Llorens ©
Mance Rayder by Gisbert Llorens©
Title King-Beyond-the-Wall
Personal Information
Born beyond the Wall
Culture Free folk
Spouse Dalla
Issue Aemon Steelsong
Played by Ciarán Hinds
TV series Game of Thrones:
Season 3 | 4 | 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 a slender man and of middling height,[2] but broader in the chest and shoulders and taller than Rattleshirt.[3] His long brown hair has gone mostly to gray,[4][5] and laughter lines appear at the corners of his mouth.[1] Mance has a sharp face with shrewd brown eyes.[4]

Mance has a fondness for music, especially wildling songs.[6] Some consider his voice passable and his playing fair.[7] He also has a passion for free folk women.[6]

Mance wears wool and leather,[4] over which he drapes a slashed cloak of black wool and red silk from Asshai. He armors himself with black ringmail and shaggy fur breeches. Mance's helm is bronze and iron and has raven wings at each temple.[8][9] Although recognized as King-Beyond-the-Wall, he does not wear a crown[4] or carry a scepter.[8] Mance's great tent is made from the white pelts of snow bears and is topped with the antlers of a giant elk.[4][9]


Mance Rayder by graikfaik ©

According to Selyse Florent, Mance's parents were a common woman of the free folk and a man of the Night's Watch.[10] After a group of raiders were put to the sword when Mance was a child, he was taken by the Night's Watch and raised as one of them.[6] According to a semi-canon source, his last name of "Rayder" comes from this origin.[11]

A ranger of the Shadow Tower, Mance often sang of Bael the Bard after returning from rangings beyond the Wall.[6] Some time between 286 AC and 288 AC,[12] Lord Commander Qorgyle traveled to Winterfell to meet with Lord Eddard Stark, with Mance among the black brothers escorting him. In Winterfell, he encountered the young Robb Stark and Jon Snow playing a prank, and promised not to tell.[4]

Years later,[12] Mance was attacked by a shadowcat while ranging, and was healed by a wildling woman, a wisewoman's daughter. While he recuperated, she mended his torn cloak with swatches of red silk. 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[6] and live with the free folk in the way he wished.[4]

Mance spent years gaining gathering various tribes into one host, seeking support from clan mothers and magnars. He made peace between Harma Dogshead and the Lord of Bones, the Hornfoots and the Nightrunners, and the men of the Frozen Shore and the ice-river clans.[8] Opposed by five other would-be Kings-Beyond-the-Wall, Mance gained the support of Tormund of Ruddy Hall and Styr of Thenn and slew the three rivals who refused to submit.[9]

Mance is familiar with hiding places east of Long Lake from his secret expeditions into the north.[1]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

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

Hearing of King Robert I Baratheon's planned visit to Winterfell to see 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.[4]

Mance's presence is unbeknownst to both Eddard, who does 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 upon his return to the lands beyond the Wall.[4]

Osha suggests capturing Bran Stark in the wolfswood and delivering him as a hostage to Mance, but Osha is instead captured by House Stark.[13]

A captured wildling tells Qhorin Halfhand that Mance is gathering wildlings to a secret stronghold.[14]

A Clash of Kings

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.[15] Craster informs Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, that Mance is gathering wildlings in the Frostfangs. Jeor fears that Mance intends to strike south against the Seven Kingdoms.[16]

Mance sends Alfyn Crowkiller to scout along the Wall, but he is slain by Qhorin's men.[17]

A Storm of Swords

Mance playing the lute, with Val in the background, by Amok ©

Mance has his followers dig in graves along the Milkwater[18] in search of the legendary Horn of Winter, said to be capable of toppling the Wall, but the horn is not found.[19]

When Jon Snow meets with Mance in the Frostfangs under pretext of joining his campaign, the bard sings "The Dornishman's Wife". Jon mistakes the more distinctive Tormund and Styr as Mance.[4] Mance sends Styr to climb the Wall and attack Castle Black from the south.[20] He sends Jon with Styr's group,[8] but Jon escapes at Queenscrown and manages to warn the black brothers about the upcoming attack.[21]

After Styr's attack fails,[22] Mance attacks the Wall with his main force. Despite his better numbers, the Night's Watch under command of Jon Snow are successful in keeping Mance's forces at bay.[23][24] Aware of the low numbers of the Night's Watch, Mance eventually sends a request for a parley to Castle Black, requesting an envoy is sent to him. Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt send Jon, secretly tasking with assassinating the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Displaying a huge horn in his tent, Mance threatens to use the Horn of Winter if he is not allowed to pass through the gate. 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.[9]

During the parley, rangers from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and the southern force of Stannis Baratheon unexpectedly arrive. Although Mance personally leads a wedge of mounted free folk against them, the disorganized wildling army breaks once Mance's horse goes down.[9] Mance's wife, Dalla, goes into labor during the battle[9] and dies giving birth to their son.[25]

Mance himself is captured by Stannis and held captive at Castle Black, where his wounds are treated by Maester Aemon.[26] Stannis Baratheon speaks with him, but feels he has no other choice but to sacrifice Mance to R'hllor[25] once he is strong enough.[26] At Castle Black, Mance's son is given over to Val, Dalla's sister, while the girl Gilly serves as his wet nurse.[26] Val requests to be allowed to see Mance and let him hold his son once.[26] Jon Snow presents the request to Stannis Baratheon, but is denied.[25]

A Feast for Crows

Fearing that Stannis Baratheon will allow his red priestess, Melisandre, to sacrifice Mance's son in the belief that Mance's title of "King-Beyond-the-Wall" could be construed as his child having royal blood, Jon Snow, the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, sends Gilly away from Castle Black and forces her to leave her own son behind and secretly take Mance's son instead.[27][28] Gilly later suggests the name Aemon Steelsong for Mance's son.[29]

A Dance with Dragons

Melisandre glamours Mance to appear as Rattleshirt, 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.[30] In actuality the man killed is Rattleshirt, who is glamoured by Melisandre's magic to appear like Mance. Meanwhile, the actual Mance is glamoured 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.[3]

Word reaches the Wall that Arya Stark is to wed Ramsay Bolton at Barrowton, and Melisandre has a vision of a girl in grey on a dying horse.[3] Melisandre offers to send "Rattleshirt" to retrieve Arya, 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 Mance's son with Gilly's son.[1] Lord Roose Bolton, the new Warden of the North, later decides to move his son's wedding to Winterfell.[31]

No longer appearing as Rattleshirt, the brown-bearded[5] Mance takes six spearwives with him to find Arya:[32] Rowan, Holly, Squirrel, Willow Witch-eye, Frenya, and Myrtle. He arrives at Winterfell as a bard under the assumed name Abel,[7] an anagram for "Bael", and claims the women are camp followers and relatives to him.[33] Mance performs throughout the wedding and subsequent feasts at Winterfell.[7][33][34] His songs include "Two Hearts That Beat as One",[7] "Fair Maids of Summer"[7], "The Dornishman's Wife",[33] "Iron Lances",[34] "The Winter Maid",[34] "The Queen Took Off Her Sandal, the King Took Off His Crown",[34] "The Bear and the Maiden Fair",[34] "The Maids That Bloom in Spring",[34] and an unnamed sad song.[5]

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.[34][5] 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.[5]

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.[10]

Quotes by Mance

Mance Rayder by Joshua Cairós © Fantasy Flight Games

The Wall can stop an army, but not a man alone.[4]

—Mance to Jon Snow

I know every bawdy song that's ever been made, north or south of the Wall.[4]

—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.[4]

—Mance to Jon Snow

Jon: Are you a true king?
Mance: I've never had a crown on my head or sat my arse on a bloody throne, if that's what you're asking. My birth is as low as a man's can get, no septon's ever smeared my head with oils, I don't own any castles, and my queen wears furs and amber, not silk and sapphires. I am my own champion, my own fool, and my own harpist.[9]

Jon Snow and Mance

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.[35]

—Mance to Jon Snow

Quotes about Mance

Mance Rayder by Amok ©

Mance thinks he'll fight, the brave sweet stubborn man, like the white walkers were no more than rangers, but what does he know? He can call himself King-beyond-the-Wall all he likes, but he's still just another old black crow who flew down from the Shadow Tower. He's never tasted winter.[36]

I knew Mance Rayder, Jon. He is an oathbreaker, yes ... but he has eyes to see, and no man has ever dared to name him faintheart.[16]

Jon: Why did he desert?

Qhorin: For a wench, some say. For a crown, others would have it. He liked women, Mance did, and he was not a man whose knees bent easily, that's true. But it was more than that. He loved the wild better than the Wall. It was in his blood. He was wildling born, taken as a child when some raiders were put to the sword. When he left the Shadow Tower he was only going home again.
Jon: Was he a good ranger?

Qhorin: He was the best of us, and the worst as well.[6]

Mance has cunning. He was raised a crow, you know, and the crow's a tricksy bird.[4]

The king was plainly a man who liked the sound of his own voice.[4]

—thoughts of Jon Snow

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.[5]

—thoughts of Theon Greyjoy


Man of the
Night's Watch
Free folk


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
  2. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 78, Samwell V.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 28, Jon VI.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 51, Theon I.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 53, Jon VII.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
  10. 10.0 10.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.
  11. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Mance Rayder.
  12. 12.0 12.1 See the Mance Rayder's visit to Winterfell and desertion from the Night's Watch calculation.
  13. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran V.
  14. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 43, Jon V.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 30, Jon IV.
  20. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
  21. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  22. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 55, Jon VII.
  23. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
  24. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 69, Jon IX.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 76, Jon XI.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 75, Samwell IV.
  27. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  28. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
  29. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 35, Samwell IV.
  30. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
  32. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 34.5 34.6 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell.
  35. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 21, Jon V.
  36. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
Title last held by
Raymun Redbeard
?–300 AC
Succeeded byas King of the Wildlings