Children of the forest

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A child of the forest. © Kallielef

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.[1] The children have not been seen by men for hundreds of years.[2]

Appearance

See also: Images of the Children of the Forest
Their hands had only three fingers and a thumb, with sharp black claws instead of nails.

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.[3]

They usually have large gold and green eyes slitted like those of a cat,[1] allowing them to see in dark passages.[3] Children with mossy green or blood red eyes have the gift of greensight and are known as greenseers.[3]

Their hands have only three fingers and a thumb, with sharp black claws instead of nails.[3] The children are slight, quick, and graceful.

Culture

The children may have lived in clans.[4] 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[5] as wood dancers.[6] The children had no books, no ink, no parchment and no written language.[3] They were a people with a deep connection to the land.[5] The children wielded obsidian weapons and weirwood bows in battle, but also used powerful magic.[4]

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 (although maesters believe that the greensight was not magic, simply another kind of knowledge) and the ability to speak to the dead.[7] It was the children who carved faces on weirwoods to keep watch over the woods.[8] The children of the forest believed that the weirwood trees were gods, and when they died they became a part of them.[3] Septon Barth believed that the children could communicate from afar with ravens.[4]

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.[9][10]

History

Dawn Age

Child of the forest, in its natural habitat.

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.[4] 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.[4] The children lived throughout Westeros, from the Summer Sea to the Land of Always Winter.[4] They called Dorne the "Empty Land",[11] however, and maesters doubt that the children lived on the Iron Islands.[12]

First Men

Eventually between eight thousand and twelve thousand years ago,[6] the children came in contact with the First Men, the first outsiders. Legends of the Reach claim they were led by Garth Greenhand.[13] 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.[5]

The children initially welcomed the newcomers, but they disliked the First Men's harvesting of trees from forests, such as the rainwood.[14] 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.[4]

For thousands of years the two races fought a desperate war for dominance.[14] The legendary Brandon of the Bloody Blade slew numerous children at Red Lake.[13] 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.[15] 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[16][17] tried to bring the hammer of the waters down upon the Neck.[18]

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.[14]

Age of Heroes

A greenseer singing the song of earth.

The Age of Heroes followed the Pact between the children and the First Men, four thousand years of relative peace.[5] The Winged Knight in the Vale is said to have wed one of the children, but she died during childbirth.[19] Some maesters of the Citadel, such as Jellicoe, lived among the children.[20]

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.[2] 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.[4][21]

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.[22] The free folk believe that Gendel and Gorne once mediated between rival children and giants.[4] 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. During the reign of King Dorren Stark, the ranger Redwyn traded with children during a journey to Lorn Point and the Frozen Shore.[4]

Andals

Children slain and weirwoods burned by Andals.

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,[23] the Andals resumed the cutting down and burning of weirwoods.[24]

Children are said to have sent wolves against Andals at the White Wood.[24] The Storm King Durran XXI Durrandon formed the Weirwood Alliance with the remaining children in the stormlands against the new invaders.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] True History states that the children had already abandoned the riverlands before the arrival of the Andals, however.[24]

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,[28] however, so some children fled north.[5]

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[2] or thousands[29] of years, but the free folk believe they still live beyond the Wall.[5] Some scholars have suggested that children may have survived at the Isle of Faces or in the bogs of the Neck.[28] Some also theorize that the crannogmen of the Neck intermarried with the children.[30]

Recent Events

A Dance with Dragons

Bran Stark with the children of the forest by Conor Campbell ©

Although people in Westeros believe the children of the forest to be extinct there are a few that still live in the world of men. A dwindling remnant of their population is located far north of the Wall, in a cave system under a hill; the entrance is a warded cleft in the hillside.[3]

The caves are home to more than three score living singers and the bones of thousands dead, and extend far below the hollow hill. The children live with whom they refer to as the last greenseer, the three-eyed crow. One of the children, Leaf, tells Bran Stark that the children of the forest have not explored all of the caves, even though they have lived there for a thousand thousand man-years. A child named Leaf claimed at least "a thousand thousand of your man-years."[31] Bran hears them sing sad songs in the True Tongue so he cannot understand the words, but their voices are as pure as the winter air.[3]

Leaf tells Bran the children have:

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.[3]

Although Bran is saddened by Leaf's explanation and demeanor, he later thinks to himself:

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.[3]

Known children of the forest

Quotes

Bran, the children of the forest have been dead and gone for thousands of years. All that is left of them are the faces in the trees.[29]

Luwin, to Bran Stark


Osha: The children of the forest could tell you a thing or two about dreaming.
Luwin: The children ... live only in dreams. Now. Dead and gone.[32]

Osha and Luwin, to Bran Stark


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.[33]

Luwin, to Bran Stark


North of the Wall, things are different. That's where the children went, and the giants, and the other old races.[32]

- Osha, to Bran Stark


The children are gone from this world, and their wisdom with them.[8]

Luwin, to Bran Stark


The children of the forest are all dead. The First Men killed half of them with bronze blades, and the Andals finished the job with iron.[34]

- Jeor Mormont, to Samwell Tarly


Leaf and her people were far from childlike. Little wise men of the forest would have been closer.[3]

- Bran Stark's thoughts

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Dawn Age.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  6. 6.0 6.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Coming of the First Men.
  7. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 13, Jon II.
  8. 8.0 8.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
  9. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire.
  10. The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: Ib.
  11. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne.
  12. The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
  13. 13.0 13.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Garth Greenhand.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: The Coming of the First Men.
  15. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: The Breaking.
  16. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
  17. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 20, Reek II.
  18. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon IV, p 733.
  19. The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: House Arryn.
  20. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
  21. The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch.
  22. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  23. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  25. The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: Andals in the Stormlands.
  26. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Andals in the Reach.
  27. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 22, Arya IV.
  28. 28.0 28.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Arrival of the Andals.
  29. 29.0 29.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
  30. The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Crannogmen of the Neck.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III, p 496.
  32. 32.0 32.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 736.
  33. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII, p 737.
  34. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II, p 373.