The North

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The lands surrounding Winterfell and the Kingsroad

The North is one of the constituent regions of Westeros and was a sovereign kingdom before the War of Conquest. The region covers the entire area south of the Wall and north of the Neck. The North has been ruled by House Stark for thousands of years from the castle known as Winterfell. Other notable houses of the region include Bolton, Umber, Karstark, and Manderly. Bastards born in the North are given the surname Snow.

Contents

Geography

The North is vast in size. It is the largest of the Seven Kingdoms' regions, nearly as large as the the other territories combined. The region is sparsely populated, with vast wilderness, forests, pine-covered hills and snow-capped mountains, speckled with tiny villages and holdfasts. Its climate is cold and harsh in winter and occasionally it will snow in summer.

The North has two major land barriers. First, to the north is the Wall, home of the Night's Watch, who defend its northern border from the wildling threat from beyond the Wall. Second, to the south is the triangle of impassable bogs and marshes of the Neck. The narrowness of the region and the difficulty of its terrain make it a natural border for the North, and Moat Cailin, a formidable fortress, overlooks the only causeway through and protects it from invasion. It is here the Kings in the North held off southron invasions.

The North is bound on each side by major seas, the Shivering Sea to the east and the Sunset Sea to the west. Scattered along the eastern and western shores are numerous islands, both inhabited and uninhabited. Two major rivers cut through the lands, the White Knife that runs to the bustling port of White Harbor, allowing trade up-river to Winterfell, and the Last River that runs near Last Hearth.

Notable locations

See also: Places in the North

People

Northmen are sometimes referred to as "wolves" because of the sigil of House Stark - art by Tiziano Baracchi. © Fantasy Flight Games

The northmen are nearly all descended from the First Men. They are known as a straight-forward, hardy, tough breed who hold the comforts of the south in disdain. Most of them still follow the old gods and their heart trees, and have little inclination for the new gods. There are a few houses who instead follow the Faith of the Seven, including House Manderly of White Harbor, who are of Andal origin, House Whitehill, and House Wells.[1] Most knights of the North live in the region's southern lands.[2]

The constant cold and the iron grip of winter set apart the northerners from the people of the kingdoms south of the Neck. Their whole life rests on the fact that winter is coming and they have to prepare themselves in order to survive it. The North's terrain and climate do not easily yield the necessities of daily life. In such an environment there is no place for hollow courtesies, courtly rituals, nor fancy culture and tourneys. The northmen have long memories. A lord who does not seek his rightful vengeance threatens to have his own men turn on him.

Some of the northmen live in remote, distant areas where they act as little more than clans and tribes. These remote folk, such as the crannogmen, the northern mountain clans and the Skagosi, are still vassals of the Starks, however, and are allowed to maintain their own ways and traditions as long as they remain loyal to Winterfell.

Heraldry in the North is significantly simpler than that in the South, showing the lesser influence that chivalry has had there; and due to its religious aspect, most northmen refuse to take holy orders and thus cannot become knights. Nevertheless, northmen do hold the Night's Watch in high regard.

Seasons

The North is particularly badly affected during the long winters, with thousands of people killed and famine not an uncommon occurrence due to poor harvests before winter or the inability to raise crops during the longer winters that last for for years on end, outside of special "glass gardens" and castles built on or near hot springs, like Winterfell.

Once autumn is declared by the maesters, the lords of the North store away a part of the grain they have harvested. How much is a matter of choice; between one fifth and one fourth seems prudent, however. Additionally food is smoked, salted, and otherwise preserved ahead of winter. Coastal communities depend on fish, although even in winter ice fishing is common on the rivers and Long Lake. Poor harvests before winter will mean famine, however.

In winter, snows can fall forty feet deep. Rain falls cold and hard, and sometimes turns into hail that can send men running for cover and ruin crops. Even during summer, snowfalls are not unusual but tend to be brief and not particularly damaging to agriculture.

Commerce

As the North is largely uncultivated, there are few roads of import there. Most of the inland trade passes by either the kingsroad or the rivers. Trade items from the North include wool,[3] hides, and timber.[4] There are silversmiths at White Harbor.[5]

History

The peoples of the North are nearly all descended from the First Men, who settled the land nearly 12,000 years ago. Little is known of that time, but cryptic runes carved in old stones and the barrows the First Men lived in can still be found in the barrowlands. Ancient forts of the First Men are scattered throughout the North, including a ringfort atop Seal Rock near White Harbor and ruins in Sea Dragon Point. The children of the forest also made weirwood circles.[6]

About 8,000 years ago, the Long Night occurred, when the Others invaded. The event defined and shaped the North, leading to the founding of the Wall, the order of the Night's Watch, the castle of Winterfell and the first Stark kings.

When the Andals invaded Westeros, the Stark Kings of Winter resisted them successfully, stopping them at Moat Cailin, the only kingdom in Westeros to do so.[7]

King Jon Stark founded the Wolf's Den at what is now White Harbor after driving out sea raiders.[8] His son, Rickard Stark, conquered the Neck from the Marsh King and married his daughter.[7] King Rodrik Stark is said to have won Bear Island from the ironborn in a wrestling match.

For many centuries the Boltons were bitter rivals of the Starks of Winterfell. The practice of flaying their enemies gave the Boltons a sinister reputation. Approximately a thousand years ago, the Boltons finally swore fealty to the Kings in the North and agreed to abandon their practice of flaying their enemies.

A thousand years before the Conquest, the Manderlys were driven from the river Mander by House Gardener of the Reach and fled to the North, where they were welcomed by the Starks of Winterfell as their own bannermen.[9] The Manderlys received the Wolf's Den and developed White Harbor, one of the five cities of Westeros and the main northern port for commerce and naval transport. The Manderlys are the most prominent of the few northern noble houses of Andal origins and customs.

The Starks led the North to war during the War of Conquest. After the Field of Fire, however, King Torrhen Stark knelt to Aegon the Conqueror rather than face his dragons. The North was included in the Seven Kingdoms and owed allegiance to the Iron Throne of House Targaryen. The Stark Kings in the North became the Lords of Winterfell and Wardens of the North.

During the Dance of the Dragons, the Starks supported the blacks against the greens. Lord Roderick Dustin led two thousand northern soldiers, known as the Winter Wolves, during the war, while the Manderlys had knights from White Harbor also support the claim of Rhaenyra Targaryen.[10]

The people of the North must be vigilant against wildlings who manage to bypass the Wall. One King-beyond-the-Wall, Raymun Redbeard, was defeated by the Starks and Umbers at Long Lake.[11]

A century ago the Skagosi unsuccessfully rebelled against the Starks, costing the lives of the Lord of Winterfell and hundreds of his supporters.[12]

The northmen composed much of the rebel forces during Robert's Rebellion, also known as the War of the Usurper. After King Aerys II Targaryen caused the deaths of Lord Rickard Stark and his heir, Brandon Stark, their successor, Lord Eddard Stark, led armies alongside Lord Robert Baratheon, who was chosen king at war's end.

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

King Robert Baratheon travels from King's Landing to Winterfell to offer the position of Hand of the King to his old friend, Lord Eddard Stark, which the Warden of the North reluctantly accepts.[13][14] When Eddard is later imprisoned in the Red Keep after the death of Robert, his heir, Robb Stark, calls the northern banners to Winterfell and marches south to rescue Eddard.[15] After hearing that King Joffrey Baratheon ordered the execution of Eddard, the assembled northern and river lords in Riverrun reject the sovereignty of the Iron Throne and proclaim Robb to be King in the North.[16]

A Clash of Kings

With Robb campaigning south of the Neck, his younger brother Bran remains as the Stark in Winterfell. Bran hosts various bannermen at Winterfell's harvest feast.[17][18] Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton, abducts the widowed Lady Donella Hornwood and claims the lands of the Hornwoods. After hearing that Ramsay starved Donella, the Manderlys skirmish with the Boltons.[19][20]

The Iron Islands also declare their independence from the Iron Throne.[21] With most of the northern soldiers fighting alongside Robb in the south,[22] King Balon Greyjoy claims the North and sends the ironborn to raid the Stony Shore and capture Deepwood Motte, Torrhen's Square, and Moat Cailin. Theon Greyjoy captures Winterfell,[23] but the northern capital is later sacked by Ramsay Snow and the Bolton garrison from the Dreadfort.[24]

A Storm of Swords

Robb Stark, King in the North and King of the Trident, intends to march north from the Riverlands to expel the ironborn.[25] However, he is betrayed and murdered at the Twins by his bannermen, Lords Walder Frey and Roose Bolton,[26] who have their forces slaughter most of the northmen in the south.[27] In return for his services to House Baratheon of King's Landing, Roose is named the new Warden of the North for the Iron Throne.[28]

King Stannis Baratheon sails from Dragonstone to the Wall to aid the Night's Watch in defeating the wildling army of Mance Rayder, King-beyond-the-Wall, in the Battle of Castle Black.[5]

A Feast for Crows

While south of the Neck, Roose attempts to consolidate control over the North.[29]

A Dance with Dragons

The Ryswells and Dustins defeat the ironborn at the Fever River,[4] while the Boltons recapture Moat Cailin and thereby allow Lord Roose Bolton to march north with his Frey allies.[30] [31] Roose has a tenuous grasp over the North, considering only the Ryswells and Dustins to be loyal allies because of marriage ties. The Cerwyns, Tallharts, Umbers, and Manderlys are reluctant supporters or are outright plotting against Roose.[32] Lord Wyman Manderly secretly tasks Davos Seaworth with bringing Rickon Stark back from Skagos.[8] Ramsay Bolton marries "Arya Stark", who is actually Jeyne Poole, at Winterfell in order to claim the ancient capital of the North.

Stannis gains the northern mountain clans for his cause and liberates Deepwood Moote for the Glovers,[6] although the Karstarks plan to betray him for Roose.[33] Stannis marches through the wolfswood to take Winterfell from Roose. His march is slowed, however, by strong blizzards which hamper the armies of both Stannis[34] and Roose.[35]

Quotes

In the south, the way they talk about my Seven Kingdoms, a man forgets that your part is as big as the other six combined.[36]
Robert Baratheon to Eddard Stark


The north is hard and cold, and has no mercy.[37]
Eddard Stark


The north remembers.[38]
Robb Stark


The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers, and the mummer’s farce is almost done. [39]

Wyman Manderly to Davos Seaworth

References and Notes

  1. A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide
  2. So Spake Martin, July 14, 1999, The Drowned God and More
  3. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 15, Davos.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride (Asha I).
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran.
  8. 8.0 8.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos.
  9. The Sworn Sword
  10. 'The Princess and the Queen
  11. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon.
  12. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell.
  13. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys.
  14. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn.
  15. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran.
  16. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 71, Catelyn.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran.
  18. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran.
  19. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran.
  20. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 35, Bran.
  21. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 24, Theon.
  22. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon.
  23. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran.
  24. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon.
  25. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn.
  26. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 51, Catelyn.
  27. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 52, Arya.
  28. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime.
  29. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei.
  30. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 20, Reek.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell (Reek IV).
  32. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek.
  33. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon.
  34. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 62, The Sacrifice (Asha III).
  35. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell (Reek VI).
  36. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard.
  37. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn, p 226.
  38. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn, p 229.
  39. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos, pages 382-394.
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