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Bael the Bard

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Bael
Bael.jpeg
Bael the Bard, confronted by his son, Brandon's grandson. Art by Roman Papsuev.

Alias Bael the Bard
Sygerrik of Skagos
Title King-Beyond-the-Wall
Culture Free folk
Book(s) The World of Ice & Fire (mentioned)
A Clash of Kings (mentioned)
A Storm of Swords (mentioned)

Bael the Bard was a King-Beyond-the-Wall.[1] According to legend, he was one of the greatest free folk raiders of his time, a man who outwitted the northmen and impregnated the daughter of Lord Brandon Stark. He was also a singer who wrote songs about his own life, which are still sung to this day.[2]

History

Legend

According to free folk legend, Lord Brandon Stark, the liege of the north, once called Bael a coward. To take revenge for this affront and prove his courage, Bael climbed the Wall, took the kingsroad, and entered Winterfell under the guise of a singer named Sygerrik of Skagos. ("Sygerrik" means "deceiver" in the Old Tongue.) There, he sang until midnight for the lord.[3]

Impressed by his skills as a singer, Lord Stark asked Bael what he wanted as a reward, but he requested only the most beautiful flower blooming in Winterfell's gardens. As the blue winter roses were just blooming, Brandon Stark presented him with one. The following morning, the maiden daughter of Lord Stark had disappeared, his only child, and in her bed was the blue winter rose.[3]

Lord Brandon sent the members of the Night's Watch looking for them beyond the Wall, but they never found Bael or the girl. The Stark line was on the verge of extinction, when one day the girl was back in her room, holding in her arms an infant: they had actually never left Winterfell, staying hidden in the crypts. Bael's bastard with Brandon's daughter became the new Lord Stark.

Thirty years later, Bael was King-Beyond-the-Wall and led the wildlings' army south, and he had to fight his own son at the Frozen Ford. There, incapable of killing his own blood, he let himself be killed by Lord Stark. His son brought back Bael's head to Winterfell, and his mother who had loved the bard, seeing the trophy, killed herself by leaping from the top of a tower. The son was eventually slain by the Boltons.[3]

Legacy

The legend of Bael the Bard is recalled in songs of the free folk. Ygritte learned the song from her mother,[3] and Mance Rayder often sang it at the Shadow Tower after rangings.[4] Bael is not mentioned in the old chronicles at Winterfell,[5] and although Jon Snow learned stories from Maester Luwin and Old Nan he never heard of Bael before Ygritte's telling of the legend.[1]

Additionally, the timeframe of Lord Brandon's existence is unclear as well. Ygritte claims Brandon lived "a long time back".[3] As both Brandon and his grandson are given the title "Lord" instead of "King" this seems to indicate that the disappearance of Brandon's daughter took place after the Starks had given up their kingship during Aegon's Conquest.[6] Furthermore, the kingsroad is mentioned, implying it took place during or after the reign of Jaehaerys I Targaryen, during whose reign the kingsroad was built.[7] On the other hand, the story states that Bael's son was killed by one of his own lords who wore his skin afterwards. The habit of flaying an enemy and wearing his skin was practiced by the Boltons, but they are said to have given up the practice "a thousand years ago".[8]

Recent Events

A Clash of Kings

Ygritte tells Jon Snow about the legends of Bael. Jon had never heard the story at Winterfell.[1][3]

A Storm of Swords

Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, tells Jon that the tale of Bael inspired his infiltration of Winterfell to attend the feast with King Robert I Baratheon.[2]

A Dance with Dragons

In order to rescue "Arya Stark" (actually Jeyne Poole) from Winterfell, Mance pretends to be a musician and takes the alias of "Abel", an anagram of "Bael".[9][10]

Quotes by Bael

All I ask is a flower, the fairest flower that blooms in the gardens o' Winterfell.[3]

—Bael to Brandon Stark as told by Ygritte

Quotes about Bael

Ygritte: Well, long before he was king over the free folk, Bael was a great raider.
Stonesnake: A murderer, robber, and raper, is what you mean.[3]

Ygritte: So there it is—you have Bael's blood in you, same as me.

Jon: It never happened.

Ygritte: Might be it did, might be it didn't. It is a good song, though.[3]

Jon: Your Bael was a liar.
Ygritte: No, but a bard's truth is different than yours or mine.[3]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon VI.
  4. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 53, Jon VII.
  5. The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Wildlings.
  6. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  7. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
  8. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon IV.
  9. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
  10. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 51, Theon I.