The north or the North is one of the constituent regions of Westeros and was a sovereign nation ruled by Kings in the North before Aegon's Conquest. The largest region of the Seven Kingdoms, the dominion of House Stark extends from the border of the New Gift, which is controlled by the Night's Watch, to the southern edge of the Neck far to the south.
The north has been ruled by the Starks for thousands of years from the castle known as Winterfell. Notable bannermen of the region include Bolton, Cerwyn, Dustin, Flint, Glover, Hornwood, Karstark, Manderly, Mormont, Reed, Ryswell, Tallhart, and Umber. Bastards of noble origin raised in the north are given the surname Snow.
The north is vast in size. While some say it is nearly as large as the the other territories combined, in actuality it is roughly a third of the landmass controlled by the Iron Throne. 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, the Wall to the north and the Neck to the south. The north is bound on each side by major seas, the Shivering Sea to the east and the Sunset Sea to the west.
Winterfell, the ancestral seat of House Stark, is a large castle centrally located in the north. Nearby is the winter town. The vast wolfswood, the largest forest of the Seven Kingdoms, extends northwest to the Bay of Ice and Sea Dragon Point. Deepwood Motte, the seat of House Glover, and Ironrath, the seat of House Forrester, lie in the wolfswood. House Mormont rules Bear Island in the Bay of Ice. The northern mountains extend from the wolfswood to the Wall and are inhabited by northern mountain clans. Between the mountains and the wolfswood is Highpoint, the seat of House Whitehill.
South of the wolfswood is hilly terrain with several large lakes. Torrhen's Square, seat of House Tallhart, is located by the largest of these lakes. Farther west along the Sunset Sea is the Stony Shore, which contains fishing villages. Southeast of the Stony Shore and north of Blazewater Bay is the Rills, plains which are ruled by House Ryswell. East of the Rills and south of Winterfell are the barrowlands, hilly plains dotted with the barrows of the First Men. House Dustin rules the large town of Barrowton. There are unnamed rivers which flow south from Barrowton and near Torrhen's Square into the Saltspear, while another unnamed river divides the Stony Shore from the Rills.
South of the barrowlands is the Neck, an isthmus forming the border with the riverlands to the south. A vast swamp and the source of the Green Fork, the Neck is home to the crannogmen; House Reed rules from the moving castle Greywater Watch. The ruined castle of Moat Cailin, located on the causeway near the Fever River, controls access to the north from the Neck. It is here the Kings in the North held off southron invasions.
A large peninsula is located west of the Neck and south of the Saltspear and Blazewater Bay. Flint's Finger, home of House Flint of Flint's Finger, is located on its northern shore, while Cape Kraken and and the Flint Cliffs are located along its western and southern shores, respectively. South of the peninsula are Ironman's Bay and the Iron Islands.
East of the barrowlands is the White Knife, a major river of the north which has its source at Long Lake northeast of Winterfell. Castle Cerwyn, the seat of House Cerwyn, is located near a tributary south of Winterfell. The White Knife runs south to White Harbor, one of the major cities of the Seven Kingdoms and the main port of the north. Southeast of White Harbor is Oldcastle, the seat of House Locke, while farther east are Ramsgate and the Broken Branch, which has its source in the Sheepshead Hills northeast of White Harbor. Widow's Watch, the castle of House Flint of Widow's Watch, is built on an isolated peninsula east of Ramsgate in the Shivering Sea. The Bite separates the southeastern North, much of which is influenced by House Manderly of White Harbor, from the Vale of Arryn.
Hornwood, the seat of House Hornwood, is located in the Hornwood forest north of White Harbor and south of the Dreadfort, the seat of House Bolton. The Dreadfort lies near the Weeping Water, which flows east to the Shivering Sea. Northeast of the Dreadfort are the forested lands of House Karstark. East of their castle, Karhold, are the Grey Cliffs. Located in the Bay of Seals are several islands, including Skagos and uninhabited Skane. The largest, Skagos, is said to be inhabited by cannibals and unicorns and is only nominally controlled by the Starks of Winterfell.
North of Winterfell and the Dreadfort and northwest of Karhold are the lands of House Umber, whose castle of Last Hearth is located in a forest. The Umbers control the Lonely Hills and land along the Bay of Seals. Beginning near Last Hearth, the Last River flows southeast between Karhold and the Dreadfort.
The Wall is a colossal fortification that protects the north from threats beyond the Wall, such as wildlings. It is separated from the northern lands owing allegiance to Winterfell by the Gift, which are lands of the Night's Watch north of the Umbers' lands.
Most northmen are descended from the First Men, although there have been centuries of intermarriage with the Andals who conquered south of the Neck. The Old Tongue spoken by the First Men of antiquity has been replaced in the north by the Common Tongue, with the earlier language now only spoken beyond the Wall. Northmen are sometimes referred to as "wolves" by ironborn and southrons, and northern accounts can be considered "frosted".
The constant cold and the iron grip of winter set apart the northerners from the people of the kingdoms south of the Neck. The north's terrain and climate do not easily yield the necessities of daily life. Northmen place less of an emphasis on courtly ritual and culture, and instead prefer hunting and brawling. Their tourneys are often melees and rarely feature jousting. Guest right is treasured in the north. Northmen have long memories, and a lord who does not seek his rightful vengeance threatens to have his own men turn on him.
Some 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.
Most of the north's people still follow the old gods and their heart trees, and have little inclination for newer religions. There are a few houses who follow the Faith of the Seven, including Houses Manderly, Wells, and Whitehill. Due to its religious aspect, most northmen refuse to take holy orders and thus cannot become knights, although some northern cavalry are knights who still follow the old gods instead of the Seven. Most knights of the north live in the region's southern lands, such as White Harbor and the barrowlands. Heraldry in the north is simpler than that in southern Westeros, showing the lesser influence that chivalry has had there.
According to a semi-canon source from 2005, the north can perhaps raise forty-five thousand soldiers, although it would take a long time to gather them from such a large region. Mail is the most common armor found in the north, while plate is used more frequently in southern lands such as the Reach. Northmen such as Karstarks and Umbers are often large in stature and have thick beards, long hair, and heavy cloaks of wool or fur.
The north is strongly affected during the long winters, with thousands of people killed and famine a common occurrence due to poor harvests before winter or the inability to raise crops during the longer winters that last for for years on end. Some greater lords maintain greenhouses at their castles, such as the glass gardens of Winterfell.
Once autumn is declared by the Citadel, 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 and inland 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.
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, hides, and timber. There are silversmiths at White Harbor.
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.
Kings of Winter
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 of Winter. The Starks gradually defeated rival kings, such as the Barrow Kings to their south and the Red Kings to their east.
King Jon Stark founded the Wolf's Den at the mouth of the White Knife after driving out sea raiders. His son, Rickard Stark, conquered the Neck from the Marsh King and married his daughter. King Rodrik Stark is said to have won Bear Island from the ironborn in a wrestling match. Two thousand years ago the north warred with the Vale of Arryn after the Rape of the Three Sisters, with the Arryns eventually gaining control of the islands in this War Across the Water.
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. 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 to follow the Faith of the Seven instead of the old gods.
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. Some northmen who refused to bend the knee fled into exile in Essos and formed the Company of the Rose.
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. Lord Cregan Stark led a great host of northmen to King's Landing, where he briefly ruled as Hand for King Aegon III Targaryen during the Hour of the Wolf.
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 crowned King Robert I Baratheon at war's end.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
The Iron Islands also declare their independence from the Iron Throne. With most of the northern soldiers fighting alongside Robb in the south, 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, but Ser Rodrik Stark assembles near two thousand men to retake the castle from the ironborn. Rodrik's loyalists are betrayed by Ramsay Snow and the Bolton garrison from the Dreadfort in a battle at Winterfell, however. The northern capital is then sacked by Ramsay and the Boltons.
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. However, he is betrayed and murdered at the Twins by his bannermen, Lords Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, who have their forces slaughter most of the northmen in the south. 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.
A Feast for Crows
While south of the Neck, Roose attempts to consolidate control over the north.
A Dance with Dragons
The Ryswells and Dustins defeat the ironborn at the Fever River, while the Boltons recapture Moat Cailin and thereby allow Lord Roose Bolton to march north with his Frey allies. 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.
Lord Wyman Manderly secretly tasks Davos Seaworth with bringing Rickon Stark back from Skagos. 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, although the Karstarks plan to betray him for Roose. Stannis marches through the wolfswood to take Winterfell from Roose. His march on Winterfell is slowed, however, by strong blizzards which hamper the armies of both Stannis and Roose.
House Blackwood of the Wolfswood.
House Bolton of the Dreadfort.
House Cerwyn of Cerwyn.
House Dustin of Barrowton.
House Fisher of the Stony Shore.
House Flint of Breakstone Hill.
House Flint of Flint's Finger.
House Flint of the mountains.
House Flint of Widow's Watch.
House Forrester of Ironrath.
House Glenmore of Rillwater Crossing.
House Glover of Deepwood Motte.
House Greystark of the Wolf's Den.
House Hornwood of Hornwood.
House Karstark of Karhold.
House Locke of Oldcastle.
House Magnar of Kingshouse.
House Manderly of White Harbor.
House Mormont of Bear Island.
House Redbeard (at the Wall).
House Reed of Greywater Watch.
House Ryder of the Rills.
House Ryswell of the Rills.
House Slate of Blackpool.
House Stane of Driftwood Hall.
House Stark of Winterfell.
House Stout of Goldgrass.
House Tallhart of Torrhen's Square.
House Umber of the Last Hearth.
House Whitehill of Highpoint.
House Woodfoot of Bear Island.
They say those northmen are a savage folk, and their woods are full of wolves.
The north is hard and cold, and has no mercy.
The north remembers.
The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers, and the mummer's farce is almost done.
References and Notes
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 20, Reek II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard I.
- A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Kings of Winter.
- The Lands of Ice and Fire.
- Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series, "The Sword in the Darkness".
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Ironman's Bay.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos IV.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
- So Spake Martin: Event Horizon Chat, March 18, 1999
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 56, Theon V.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 9, Brienne II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 42, Brienne VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn III.
- A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide
- So Spake Martin: The Drowned God and More, July 14, 1999
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
- So Spake Martin: Shields of the North, June 03, 2000
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch.
- A Game of Thrones RPG and Resource Book, Guardians of Order
- So Spake Martin: Strength of the Regions, February 28, 2002
- So Spake Martin: Yet More Questions, July 22, 2001
- So Spake Martin: The Effects of Winter, June 21, 2001]
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 15, Davos II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
- The Sworn Sword.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh.
- The Princess and the Queen.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
- The Mystery Knight.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 71, Catelyn XI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 35, Bran V.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 24, Theon II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 51, Catelyn VII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 52, Arya XI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 62, The Sacrifice.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn III, p 226.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn III, p 229.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos IV, pages 382-394.