Children of the forest
The children of the forest, sometimes referred to simply as the children, are a mysterious non-human race that originally inhabited the continent of Westeros during the Dawn Age long before the arrival of the First Men thousands of years ago. The giants call them woh dak nag gram (little squirrel people). They call themselves those who sing the song of earth in the True Tongue. The children have not been seen by men for hundreds of years.
- See also: Images of the Children of the Forest
The children are smaller than humans and have nut-brown skin, dappled like a deer's with paler spots. They have large ears that can hear things that no man could hear.
They usually have large gold and green eyes slitted like those of a cat, allowing them to see in dark passages. Children with mossy green or blood red eyes have the gift of greensight and are known as greenseers.
Their hands have only three fingers and a thumb, with sharp black claws instead of nails. The children are slight, quick, and graceful.
The children may have lived in clans. They did not use metal, weave cloth, or build cities. The children lived off the land, using stone implements, wearing bark leg-bindings and shirts of woven leaves, dwelling in caves, crannogs, and hidden tree villages. Males and females both hunted side by side as wood dancers. The children had no books, no ink, no parchment and no written language. They were a people with a deep connection to the land. The children wielded obsidian weapons and weirwood bows in battle, but also used powerful magic.
Legends say the children of the forest were gifted with supernatural powers. These included having power over the beasts of the wood, the ability to wear an animal's skin, the skill to create music so beautiful as to bring tears to the eyes of any who heard it, the greensight ability and the ability to speak to the dead. It was the children who carved faces on weirwoods to keep watch over the woods. The children of the forest believed that the weirwood trees were gods, and when they died they became a part of them. Septon Barth believed that the children could communicate from afar with ravens.
It is unknown if there is a connection between the children of the forest and the Ifequevron, or "woods walkers", of northern Essos; Vaes Leisi is a ruined settlement of carved trees and haunted grottoes in the Kingdom of the Ifequevron.
It is unknown where the children of the forest came from, nor for how long they were in their land before humans arrived. For thousands of years during the Dawn Age the children and the giants shared the landmass that later became known as Westeros. The two races are believed to have sometimes fought, since Maester Kennet found a giant's barrow near Long Lake with obsidian arrowheads in the ribs. The children lived throughout Westeros, from the Summer Sea to the Land of Always Winter. They called Dorne the "Empty Land", however, and maesters doubt that the children lived on the Iron Islands.
Eventually between eight thousand and twelve thousand years ago, the children came in contact with the First Men, the first outsiders. Legends of the Reach claim they were led by Garth Greenhand. Crossing the Arm of Dorne, the land-bridge connecting Westeros and Essos, these invaders built permanent settlements and brought with them bronze weapons, great leathern shields, the first horses, and their own gods.
The children initially welcomed the newcomers, but they disliked the First Men's harvesting of trees from forests, such as the rainwood. Fearing that the children used heart trees for spying, the First Men burned and cut down the great weirwoods as they came, leading to war between the two races.
For thousands of years the two races fought a desperate war for dominance. The legendary Brandon of the Bloody Blade slew numerous children at Red Lake. In a futile attempt to end the invasion, the children used the hammer of the waters to shatter the Arm of Dorne, creating the Broken Arm and the Stepstones. The histories say that some of the First Men, the crannogmen, grew close to the children of the forest in the days when the greenseers at the Children's Tower of Moat Cailin tried to bring the hammer of the waters down upon the Neck.
Eventually the First Men and the children fought to a standstill. The two races agreed to peaceful coexistence and signed the Pact on the Isle of Faces, granting the open lands to humanity and the forests to the children, who had been greatly diminished. The children taught worship of the old gods to the First Men.
Age of Heroes
The Age of Heroes followed the Pact between the children and the First Men, four thousand years of relative peace between the races. Eventually the enigmatic Others invaded from the uttermost north, bringing death and destruction to children and First Men, during an extended period of winter known as the Long Night. The children joined with the First Men, led by the last hero, to fight against the Others in the Battle for the Dawn. Eventually the Others were driven back into the Lands of Always Winter. Bran the Builder, the legendary founder of House Stark, is said to have enlisted the magical aid of the children during the construction of the Wall.
The children began their slow withdrawal from the lands of men, retreating deeper into their forests and beyond the Wall. It was recorded by the Night's Watch that the children of the forest gave the black brothers a hundred obsidian daggers every year during the Age of Heroes. The free folk believe that Gendel and Gorne once mediated between rival children and giants.
Children and their greenseers supported the Warg King at Sea Dragon Point, but they were defeated by the Starks of Winterfell, the Kings of Winter. The Winged Knight in the Vale is said to have wed one of the children, but she died during childbirth. Some legends claim that children helped Durran build the seventh castle of Storm's End. Some maesters of the Citadel, such as Jellicoe, lived among the children.
The children again warred with humans when the Andals began migrating from Andalos across the narrow sea to Westeros. Zealous in the Faith of the Seven and armed with steel, having learned of ironworking from the Rhoynar, the Andals resumed the cutting down and burning of weirwoods.
Children are said to have sent wolves against Andals at the White Wood. The Storm King Durran XXI Durrandon formed the Weirwood Alliance with the remaining children in the stormlands against the new invaders. Having seen the Andals overwhelm other kingdoms, Gwayne IV Gardener, King of the Reach, sent men to seek aid from the children, although it is unknown if any were found.
A hill, now known to the Westerosi as High Heart, was sacred to the children of the forest. There the Andal king Erreg the Kinslayer cut down the children's grove of thirty-one weirwoods. High Heart is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the children who died there, where the children's magic is said to still linger. True History states that the children had already abandoned the riverlands before the arrival of the Andals, however.
Because of the Andals' invasion and conquest of the First Men, the old gods were largely supplanted south of the Neck by the Faith of the Seven. Moat Cailin held back the Andals from the north, however, so some children fled north. During the reign of Dorren Stark, King in the North, the ranger Redwyn traded with children during a journey to Lorn Point and the Frozen Shore.
Relations between the children and humans grew distant over the years, until they ceased altogether. Maesters largely believe the children have been gone for hundreds or thousands of years, but the free folk believe they still live beyond the Wall. Some scholars have suggested that children may have survived at the Isle of Faces or in the bogs of the Neck. Some also theorize that the crannogmen of the Neck intermarried with the children.
Jenny of Oldstones always claimed that her woods witch friend was one of the children. Lord Eddard Stark taught his offspring in their youth about the Age of Heroes and the children of the forest.
A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
Tom of Sevenstreams tells Arya Stark how High Heart is shunned by smallfolk, who believe it haunted by children slain by Erreg the Kinslayer. Arya wonders if the ghost of High Heart is one of the children, but tom explains she is just a dwarf woman.
A Dance with Dragons
Coldhands leads Bran, Hodor, and Meera and Jojen Reed north of the Wall to the cave of the three-eyed crow, whom Coldhands calls the last greenseer. They are attacked by wights at the entrance, a cleft in the hillside, but they survive with the assistance of one of the children, a being who appears to be a girl child and can speak the Common Tongue.
Bran and his companions discover a dwindling remnant of children live in the warded cavern. The caves are home to more than three score living singers and the bones of thousands dead, and extend far below the hollow hill. Bran and Meera give names to the children, since they cannot speak the True Tongue. Bran hears them sing sad songs in the True Tongue which he cannot understand, but their voices are as pure as the winter air. Leaf, who saved the humans from the wights, explains that the children have not explored all of the caves, even though they have lived there for a thousand thousand man-years. 
Known children of the forest
They were a people of the Dawn Age, the very first, before kings and kingdoms. In those days, there were no castles or holdfasts, no cities, not so much as a market town to be found between here and the sea of Dorne. There were no men at all. Only the children of the forest dwelt in the lands we now call the Seven Kingdoms.
The children are gone from this world, and their wisdom with them.
- Bran Stark's thoughts
Bran: Where are the rest of you?
Leaf: Gone down into the earth … Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us.
Men would not be sad. Men would be wroth. Men would hate and swear a bloody vengeance. The singers sings sad songs, where men would fight and kill.
- Bran Stark's thoughts
References and Notes
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Dawn Age.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Coming of the First Men.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 13, Jon II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: Ib.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Garth Greenhand.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: The Coming of the First Men.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: The Breaking.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 20, Reek II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon IV, p 733.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Kings of Winter.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: House Arryn.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: Andals in the Stormlands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Andals in the Reach.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 22, Arya IV.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Arrival of the Andals.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Crannogmen of the Neck.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 23, Daenerys IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 4, Bran I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 737.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 736.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 9, Bran I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II, p 373.