Duncan the Tall
|Successor||Ser Gerold Hightower|
|Born||In 191 AC, 192 AC or 193 AC, King's Landing|
|Died||In 259 AC, Summerhall|
|Issue||At least one son or daughter|
|Personal arms||A green shooting star above an elm tree proper on sunset|
Ser Duncan the Tall was a Lord Commander of the Kingsguard during the reign of King Aegon V Targaryen. His personal arms were a green shooting star above an elm tree proper on sunset, but he also briefly used the sigil of an unknown knight, "a hanged man swinging grim and gray beneath a gallows tree."
Raised as Dunk in Flea Bottom, Duncan became the squire of the hedge knight Arlan of Pennytree. Duncan then traveled the Seven Kingdoms as a hedge knight himself, with the young Prince Aegon Targaryen, called "Egg", as his squire. The early exploits of "Dunk and Egg" are chronicled in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which collects The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, and The Mystery Knight.
Appearance and Character
- See also: Images of Duncan the Tall
Duncan is an inch shy of seven feet tall. He has thick, shaggy hair, that is sun-streaked in the summer. After the events at Standfast in 211 AC, he has a dagger scar on his cheek. Dunk is strong and quick, and has been taught jousting and swordplay. He is better with a sword than with a lance, and even better with an axe or mace.
Duncan has a humble personality, and frequently thinks of himself as thick-headed, recalling how Ser Arlan had often said "Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall", and referred to him as "slow as an aurochs".
Duncan's earliest memories were of living as a street urchin in the Flea Bottom slums of King's Landing. His closest friends went by the names of Ferret, Rafe, and Pudding. By his own admission, they were "little monsters" with Duncan, at the time still known as "Dunk", the worst of all. Sometimes they would sell or even dump pieces of meat of dubious origin to the local pot shops that made the bowls of brown.
Duncan was an orphan, and never knew either of his parents. It may be that he is a bastard. He believed his father might have been a criminal, and once hoped to someday go to the north and eventually the Wall, where he could perhaps meet some tall old man who looked like him. The hedge knight Arlan of Pennytree took Duncan as his new squire about two years[N 1] after the death of his previous squire, Roger of Pennytree, during the final battle of the First Blackfyre Rebellion in 196 AC. He found the young Duncan, aged five or six, in King's Landing chasing a pig and took him on. He raised Duncan and together they traveled all over Westeros, except the north. Though they never visited Pennytree, where Arlan was from, they served Lord Leo Tyrell at Highgarden during one of the first few years that Duncan served Ser Arlan, visited King's Landing in 205 AC, served Lord Florent for half a year and joined Lord Dondarrion in the hunt for the Vulture King, both in 206 AC, and visited Lannisport in 208 AC, amongst other places. As well, Duncan accompanied Arlan when he was one of several knights hired by a Dornish merchant who wanted to travel from Lannisport to the Prince's Pass in Dorne.
Duncan learned sword-fight from Ser Arlan, though he still recalls his fighting experience from Flea Bottom as well. Ever since the first time that Arlan had let Duncan hold a sword, Duncan had dreamt of becoming a Kingsguard knight.
Tourney at Ashford Meadow
In 209 AC, a tourney was to be held at Ashford. Arlan died on the way to Ashford, and after Duncan had buried him, he decided to compete in the tourney at Ashford Meadow in Arlan's stead. On the way he stopped at an inn. Inside, Duncan met a drunken man who claimed to have dreamed about Duncan, and who became distraught at the sight of him. Duncan also met a bald-headed boy, who begged him to be allowed to become Duncan's squire when Duncan left. Duncan refused, left, and shortly thereafter arrived at Ashford. Duncan made camp, and that evening discovered the bald boy from the inn at his camp, who claimed to be called "Egg" and said he came from King's Landing, causing Duncan to believe the boy is an orphan from Flea Bottom, just like Duncan had been. Because he does not have a squire, Duncan accepted Egg as his squire for the duration of the tourney.
Once at the tourney grounds, Duncan is forced to sell Sweetfoot, one of his horses, and Ser Arlan's old armor, in order to be able to acquire armor of his own. He met a puppeteer named Tanselle, who agreed to paint his shield with his personal sigil. The day after his arrival, Duncan went to register for the tourney. Knighthood was required for participation in the tourney, and Duncan told Lord Ashford's steward how Ser Arlan had knighted him before his death. Several of his thoughts and actions, as well as other facts, however, suggest that his tale is not completely true.[N 2] The steward suggests that Duncan find someone to vouch for him and return the next day. Unable to find anyone, Duncan returned to the castle the next day, where he accidentally interrupted Prince Baelor and Prince Maekar Targaryen, who were occupied with the missing Princes Daeron and Aegon, two of Maekar's sons. Explaining his problem to the princes, Baelor recalled jousting against Arlan years before, and vouched for Duncan, allowing his participation.
When Tanselle is attacked by Prince Aerion Targaryen, Duncan rushes to her defense, attacking the prince in the process. When Aerion's guards intervened, Egg protected Duncan from further harm by revealing his identity as Prince Aegon Targaryen. Duncan was arrested and brought to the castle, where Prince Baelor informed him how Prince Daeron had claimed to his father that the missing Aegon had been kidnapped by a robber knight, while Aerion was twisting the puppeteer story into treason. Due to the lies of both Aerion and Daeron, Maekar has become furious with Duncan, and Baelor is forced to allow Aerion a trial. Aerion demanded a trial of seven. With help of Aegon, Duncan found six allies - Ser Robyn Rhysling, Ser Humfrey Hardyng, Lord Lyonel Baratheon, Ser Humfrey Beesbury, the newly-knighted Raymun Fossoway, and ultimately Prince Baelor Targaryen - with whom he faced off against Aerion, Daeron, Maekar, three knights of the Kingsguard, and Ser Steffon Fossoway. To his surprise, Duncan discovered that the smallfolk supported him, as he had remembered his vows as a knight ("protecting the weak and defending the innocent") by protecting Tanselle. During the combat, Duncan eventually found himself facing Aerion one on one, and managed to best Aerion by using his strength and his fighting skills from Flea Bottom. Duncan forced Aerion to yield. As Daeron had already faked his defeat - as he had promised Duncan the day before - Duncan was declared cleared free of all charges.
Three of the men who had given their aid to Duncan died either during or after the battle, including Prince Baelor, leaving Duncan feeling extremely guilty. Prince Maekar offered Duncan a place at Summerhall, so Aegon could squire for Duncan. While Duncan agreed to take Aegon as his squire, he insisted on remaining a hedge knight, convinced it would teach Aegon humility. Maekar agreed.
On the road
Duncan and Aegon traveled to Dorne, passing through the Prince's Pass, and eventually reaching Vaith, while Duncan accidentally insulted Lady Cassella Vaith, the first highborn woman he had ever met. During the crossing of the desert, Duncan's horse Chestnut died, and he and Aegon had to ride double on Thunder. While in 209 AC and 210 AC the Great Spring Sickness ran its course through Westeros, Duncan and Aegon were able to avoid encountering this plague as they were in Dorne, one of the two places where the plague had not come.
Duncan and Aegon took a poleboat down the Greenblood to Planky Town, where they took passage on the galleas White Lady to Oldtown. Aboard the ship, Duncan had his first experience of combat at sea when he helped repel some raiders. In Oldtown, Aegon's brother Aemon measured Duncan, and found he was an inch short of seven feet.
Service at Standfast
Duncan and Aegon took service with Ser Eustace Osgrey, a poor and broken landed knight, at Standfast, located in the Reach. Also employed was Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield, an old acquaintance of Duncan from his time with Arlan. Duncan and Bennis discovered that peasants of Lady Rohanne Webber of Coldmoat had dammed the Chequy Water. Bennis provoked Rohanne by cutting the cheek of one of her peasants, and when Ser Eustace refused to travel to Coldmoat, Duncan went to Coldmoat to try to reason with her. Though sexual tension charged their meeting, Rohanne refused Duncan and told him about Eustace's support of Daemon Blackfyre during the Blackfyre Rebellion. Shocked by the revelation, Duncan attempted to leave Eustace's service, but a fire in the nearby woods caused him to suspect that Rohanne had already started her campaign against Eustace. Duncan knew that the battle was a lost cause. He disbanded Eustace's levies, but promised him to be by his side when he faced Rohanne. Meeting with Rohanne's forces, Duncan offered to settle the matter with a trial by combat, and by cutting his own cheek with a dagger. Rohanne's champion was her overbearing steward, Ser Lucas Longinch. Duncan's wrestling ability compensated for his lack of swordsmanship, and he managed to kill Lucas, though he received major wounds himself and almost drowned in the stream in which they had been fighting.
After recuperating, Duncan discovered that Eustace and Rohanne had settled their differences and decided to marry. Duncan felt rejected, but was confronted by Rohanne shortly before he left. He took one kiss from Rohanne and cut off a length of her signature braid as a keepsake, after which he and Aegon took their leave.
Wedding Tourney at Whitewalls
Duncan and Aegon traveled to the riverlands, where they visited the Stoney Sept. Even though they had been on their way north, to take up service with Lord Beron Stark to battle the Greyjoys on the northern coast, they changed their destination after a chance meeting on the road. They encountered a group led by Lord Gormon Peake of Starpike, Lord Alyn Cockshaw, and a hedge knight named Ser John the Fiddler. The latter invited Duncan to attend the wedding of Lord Ambrose Butterwell of Whitewalls to the daughter of Lord Frey of the Crossing, stating that the victor's prize at the celebratory Whitewalls tourney was to be a dragon egg. Though the company traveled on without him, Duncan decided to go, and befriended Ser Kyle the Cat, Ser Maynard Plumm, and Ser Glendon Ball on his way to Whitewalls.
At Whitewalls, Aegon became suspicious about the intentions of the wedding, and informed Duncan that the majority of the nobles present had fought for House Blackfyre during the Blackfyre Rebellion. Duncan later had an encounter with John the Fiddler, who told him that Duncan had appeared to him in a dream, where Duncan had worn the all white armor of the Kingsguard. The Fiddler said his dreams always came true, stating that he had dreamed his brothers dead once, and though they hadn't believed him, they had died. The Fiddler also informed Duncan that he had dreamed about a dragon hatching from an egg at Whitewalls.
Duncan entered the joust as the Gallows Knight, a mystery knight named for the hanged man sigil on his shield, which he had bought to replace the one destroyed by the Longinch but had not had time to have painted with his own arms. He was defeated in his first tilt by Ser Uthor Underleaf, who confessed that someone had attempted to bribe him to kill Duncan in the final tilt. Whilst searching for Aegon, Duncan ran into Glendon Ball, who had been far more successful than Duncan during the tourney, and invited him to come north after the tourney, which Glendon declined. Glendon told Duncan that Gormon Peake had offered him a place at Starpike, on the condition that Glendon would let the Fiddler win. Glendon had refused, angering Peake. Duncan next ran into the Fiddler, and began to realize John's true identity, as well as that the tourney had been rigged as to make the Fiddler victorious.
Lord Peake accused Glendon Ball of stealing the dragon egg, and the boy was imprisoned. When Duncan attempted to intervene, Alyn Cockshaw pulled him back, telling Duncan to follow him, if he wanted to find Aegon. Alyn attempted to kill Duncan out of jealousy for the attention the Fiddler had shown Duncan. Though injured, Duncan threw Alyn down a well to drown, an action witnessed by Maynard Plumm. Plumm helped Duncan see to his injuries, and informed him of Aegon's location.
Aegon had falsely told Lord Ambrose that he and Duncan were spies sent to investigate the tournament and that his father, Prince Maekar, was on his way with an army. Frightened, Lord Ambrose pleads for his innocence, but Ser Tommard Heddle attempted to seize Aegon, and was slain by Duncan in the combat that ensued. Duncan ordered Aegon to ride for Maidenpool, and next confronted the Fiddler, calling him by his true name, Daemon. Duncan accused Lord Peake of bribing the contestants in Daemon's favor, and of falsely charging Glendon with the theft of the dragon egg. Furious about the accusations, Daemon challenged Glendon with a joust as a means of trial by combat.
Glendon defeated Daemon easily, and mere moments later, a loyalist army led by Lord Brynden Rivers, the Hand of the King, arrived at Whitewalls. Daemon was arrested, and those who had supported him executed or punished, causing the Second Blackfyre Rebellion to be suppressed before it had even begun. Lord Brynden allowed Duncan and Aegon to continue their travels, and hinted as to how the dragon's egg had been stolen, leading Duncan to realize the involvement of the dwarfs who had performed at the wedding.
Presumably in honor of Duncan, Prince Aegon Targaryen named his firstborn son and heir Duncan. When asked in 2000, however, George R. R. Martin refused to answer. Prince Duncan was called "Duncan the Small".
In 239 AC, when Prince Duncan Targaryen broke his betrothal to Lord Lyonel Baratheon's daughter and married a commonborn girl known as Jenny of Oldstones instead, the enraged Lyonel renounced his fealty to the Iron Throne. Duncan served as King Aegon V's champion in the trial by combat, in which he bested Lord Lyonel, thereby ended Lyonel's short rebellion.
In 259 AC, Duncan perished along with King Aegon V and Prince Duncan, among others, in the tragedy of Summerhall. Little is known about the events of the tragedy, but it seems that the Lord Commander's valor saved some of the survivors from dying in the great fire that consumed Summerhall.
A Storm of Swords
While in the Round Room of White Sword Tower, Ser Jaime Lannister admires previous men who served as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, including Duncan. He also reads Ser Barristan Selmy's entry in the White Book, which states Barristan defeated Duncan during the winter tourney at King's Landing in which Barristan had participated as a mystery knight.
A Feast for Crows
For unknown reasons, a shield with Dunk's original arms came to reside in the armory of Lord Selwyn Tarth at Evenfall Hall. While at Duskendale, Selwyn's daughter, Brienne, remembering the arms, has them painted on her shield so she can travel the crownlands and riverlands incognito.
Maester Aemon relates that when he joined the Night's Watch, his brother Egg insisted that Ser Duncan accompany him to Eastwatch. Aemon also dreams of his youth in Oldtown, a time when he was drinking at the Quill and Tankard with Egg and "that big knight he served".
A Dance with Dragons
Bran Stark has visions of the past looking through the heart tree in the godswood of Winterfell. Among the visions is a slender brown-haired girl kissing a knight as tall as Hodor, possibly Duncan.
- Thunder, a destrier
- Chestnut, a stot which died between The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword
- Sweetfoot, a female palfrey which he sold so he could buy armor and a greathelm.
As his adventures progressed, Duncan acquired:
- Maester, a mule he received as a gift from one of Egg's brothers, presumably Aemon[N 3]
- Rain, a palfrey he received as a gift from Rohanne Webber.
George R. R. Martin has stated that readers have met a descendant of Dunk in ASOIAF. He later stated that he gave a strong hint to Dunk's descendant in A Feast for Crows. Given that in A Feast for Crows, Brienne recalls finding a shield with Dunk's sigil in the armories of Tarth, it was widely speculated but not confirmed that she is descended from Duncan the Tall. However, in 2016 at Balticon, Martin confirmed Brienne's descent, stating that the exact relationship between Duncan and Brienne would be "revealed in time".
- Duncan had been serving Ser Arlan since he was five or six years old, and was "no more than three or four" at the time of the Redgrass Field, when Roger died.
- There is a con report with a paraphrased statement by Martin, confirming that Duncan had not been knighted by Ser Arlan. Besides this SSM, other indications have been laid out by readers. Duncan considers finding another knight to squire immediately after burying Arlan, which is considered to be at odds with his supposed new-made knighthood. Duncan also becomes uncomfortable at several occasions when him acquiring his knighthood is brought up, and is extremely hesitant to knight another young squire, feeling both relieved and guilty when another steps in to knight the boy. Lastly, Duncan admits to himself that "He knew what it was like to want something so badly that you would tell a monstrous lie just to get near it." Readers have suspected that this refers to his lie about his knighthood.
- The mule was almost certainly given by Aemon, as its name is Maester, and Aegon and Duncan have been mentioned to have visited with Aemon in Oldtown, whereas no mention is made of Aegon encountering his brother Daeron, while his brother Aerion is still in Lys. If Aemon gave Dunk the mule, it was in Oldtown, sometime after they visited Vaith.
- The Hedge Knight.
- The Sworn Sword.
- The Mystery Knight.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V.
- See the Duncan the Tall calculation.
- So Spake Martin: Mysterious Galaxy Signing (San Diego, CA) (November 08, 2000)
- The Citadel. Heraldry: Houseless Hedge Knights
- So Spake Martin: NOREASCON (BOSTON, MA; SEPTEMBER 2-6) (September 02, 2004)
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 32, Sansa III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 52, Sansa IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
- Not a Blog: Dunk and Egg (April 15th, 2014)
- So Spake Martin: Duncan the Small and the Young Starks (August 06, 2000)
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 67, Jaime VIII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Baratheon.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Duncan.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 9, Brienne II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 26, Samwell III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
- So Spake Martin: US Signing Tour (Dayton, OH) (November 10, 2005)
- The Wertzone: George R.R. Martin confirms GAME OF THRONES/SONG OF ICE AND FIRE fan theory (29 May, 2016)