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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
- Petyr Baelish - fostered at Riverrun with Lord Hoster Tully's children
- Princess Myrcella Baratheon - fostered by Prince Doran Martell
- Robert Baratheon - fostered by Lord Jon Arryn
- Tristifer Botley - fostered at Pyke by Lady Alannys Harlaw, then sent away to be a ward of Lord Baelor Blacktyde
- Big Walder and Little Walder Frey - fostered at Winterfell by Lady Catelyn Stark
- Merrett Frey - fostered with House Crakehall
- Sandor and Cynthea Frey - fostered with Lady Anya Waynwood
- Gyles Grafton - fostered in the Eyrie by Lord Petyr Baelish
- Theon Greyjoy - fostered by Lord Eddard Stark (though not as just a ward, but also a hostage)
- Harrold Hardyng - fostered by Lady Anya Waynwood
- Harmund II Hoare - fostered with House Lannister at Casterly Rock
- Jaime Lannister - fostered with House Crakehall
- Terrance Lynderly - fostered in the Eyrie by Lord Petyr Baelish
- Prince Doran Martell - fostered in Salt Shore, the seat of House Gargalen
- Prince Oberyn Martell - fostered in Sandstone, the seat of House Qorgyle
- Prince Quentyn Martell - fostered by Lord Ormond and Lord Anders of House Yronwood, whom he served as a page and squire
- Larence Snow - fostered at Deepwood Motte
- Brandon Stark - fostered at Barrowton with old Lord Dustin
- Eddard Stark - fostered by Lord Jon Arryn
- Edric Storm - fostered by Renly Baratheon at Storm's End, then by Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone
Characters who were not fostered, though plans were made
- Robert Arryn - Jon Arryn planned to foster him with Stannis Baratheon, and Robert Baratheon planned to foster him with Tywin Lannister, but Jon died and Robert's mother Lysa Arryn took him back to the Eyrie
- Samwell Tarly - was supposed to remain at the Arbor as a page, but it did not work out and he returned home instead
- Prince Aegon and Prince Viserys Targaryen - were to be fostered by the Prince of Pentos, but their ship was attacked by the Kingdom of the Three Daughters; Aegon escaped home, but Viserys was made captive
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
- ↑ So Spake Martin: Numerous Questions (February 28, 2002)
- ↑ So Spake Martin: Some Questions (March 16, 2000)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 40, Princess In The Tower.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 21, The Queenmaker.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 18, Catelyn IV.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 11, The Kraken's Daughter.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 4, Bran I.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Epilogue.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Appendix.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 23, Alayne I.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard I.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 41, Alayne II.
- ↑ The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Black Blood.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 67, Jaime VIII.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 2, The Captain Of Guards.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 10, Davos II.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 40, Catelyn VII.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
- ↑ The Princess and the Queen.