The haunted forest is a vast forest beyond the Wall in northern Westeros. Located beyond the Seven Kingdoms, it is inhabited by the free folk and is bounded to the west by the Frostfangs and to the east by the Shivering Sea and the Bay of Seals. North of the haunted forest is the unmapped Land of Always Winter.
- See also: Images of the haunted forest
The wood is named the haunted forest by the brothers of the Night's Watch, who traditionally have cut all trees within half a mile of the Wall. As the number of black brothers has diminished over the centuries, however, the treeline has crept closer to the Wall, aside from the inhabited forts of Castle Black, the Shadow Tower, and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
From atop the Wall, the haunted forest appears as a vast green expanse when not covered in snow. Types of trees in the forest include ash, broadleaf, chestnut, fir, ironwood, oak, sentinel, soldier pine, and weirwood. Wild white roses grow on some chestnuts. The haunted forest is the only known location where one can find more than two or three weirwoods in a single place. "Ranger's roads" are game trails and streambeds used by the rangers of the Watch to traverse the silent wood. Few rangers have traveled further than fifty leagues into the haunted forest, however.
Major rivers in the haunted forest include the Milkwater and the Antler River,, and the wood also contains streams, brooks, deep lakes, flint ridges, and hills. Unlike in the Seven Kingdoms, there are no ferries or bridges across the lakes and rivers beyond the Wall. The woods are thinner near the Shivering Sea], with more flatlands, rolling hills, and salt marshes than in the west.
The haunted forest contains numerous free folk villages and settlements, such as Whitetree,  Craster's Keep, and perhaps Ruddy Hall. The Fist of the First Men, a great hill isolated near the Milkwater in the western part of the forest, contains an abandoned ringfort of the First Men.
A Game of Thrones
Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly swear the vow of the Night's Watch in a weirwood grove just north of the Wall and Castle Black. The corpses of Othor and Jafer Flowers, members of Ben's party, are found near the Wall. After being brought back to Castle Black, the bodies rise as wights and attack the Night's Watch.
A Clash of Kings
Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, leads a great ranging northwest from Castle Black into the haunted forest in search of Mance Rayder's wildling host and the missing Benjen Stark. Samwell Tarly is frightened of the forest, and even veteran brothers become more somber as they travel deeper into the wood.
Each wildling village found by the ranging has been abandoned, and foragers find little game in the forest. The Night's Watch stop at Craster's Keep, and Craster explains that the villages have been emptied because Mance has been gathering the wildlings in the Frostfangs.
Lord Commander Mormont has the Watch encamp at the Fist of the First Men, and foresters cut down trees for firewood. Jarman Buckwell's sharpest-eyed men hide in trees as scouts. Near the base of the hill, Ghost leads Jon to a buried cache containing dragonglass knives, spearheads, arrowheads, and an old warhorn. When Qhorin Halfhand's men from the Shadow Tower arrive at the Fist, Qhorin explains they had been delayed by Alfyn Crowkiller's band. Jeor sends ranging parties led by Qhorin, Jarman, and Thoren Smallwood to scout in the nearby mountains.
A Storm of Swords
The Night's Watch encamped at the solitary hill amidst the snowy forest are suddenly attacked by wights and overwhelmed in the fight at the Fist. The scattered survivors make their way back to Craster's Keep, but many die from wounds or attacks by Others and wights along the way. After an Other kills Small Paul, Samwell Tarly kills the strange creature with a dragonglass dagger. The brothers of the Night's Watch disperse further after the mutiny at Craster's Keep, with only a few making it back to Castle Black.
Meanwhile, Mance Rayder has gathered the free folk and moves his host along the Milkwater through the forest toward Castle Black. Jon Snow, having joined the wildlings by claiming to be a deserter, is part of the raiding party of Jarl and Styr. Jon sleeps with Ygritte during the journey south to the Wall, including in a cave grotto, and they climb the Wall at Greyguard. Mance's host besieges the Wall, but they are defeated in the battle beneath the Wall when the army of Stannis Baratheon unexpectedly attacks from the east through the forest.
A Dance with Dragons
Mance's wilding host collapses after being defeated by Stannis and the Night's Watch. Those who are not captured at Castle Black flee throughout the regions beyond the Wall, but many free folk succumb to hunger, the cold, sickness, and wights. Queen's men imprison "Mance", actually Rattleshirt, in a cage at Castle Black made from the forest's trees.
Jon Snow, now Lord Commander, sometimes watches the forest from atop the Wall. He sends three groups of rangers led by Ser Alliser Thorne, Black Jack Bulwer, and Kedge Whiteye to scout north of the Wall; Black Jack's group is killed by the Weeper, while nothing is known of the other two groups.
Jon leads recruits to swear their vows at the same godswood where he swore his. Two of them, Jax and Leathers, are wildlings who grew up in the forest. They find a small group of peaceful wildlings and the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun. Val volunteers to search the forest for Tormund, and she eventually brings Tormund and his followers back to Castle Black. Tormund is to lead the Night's Watch in a ranging to rescue Cotter Pyke and the wildlings at Hardhome. Before they depart, however, Jon is attacked in the mutiny at Castle Black.
Bran Stark travels with his companions toward the cave of the three-eyed crow, and he observes the stillness of the snowy forest. While Bran shelters in the longhall of an abandoned village, Coldhands kills the mutineers from Craster's Keep. The party eventually arrives at the hillside cave, a cleft between weirwoods. Wights attack them as they climb, but they are saved by Leaf. While Bran learns from the three-eyed crow, Jojen Reed sometimes spends hours looking out over the forest from the cave's mouth. Summer finds no living game during his hunts. As a skinchanger, Bran enters a raven and flies over the hill.
The first time he had been sent beyond, all the old stories had come rushing back, and his bowels had turned to water. He had laughed about it afterward. He was a veteran of a hundred rangings by now, and the endless dark wilderness that the southron called the haunted forest had no more terrors for him.—thoughts of Will
Few axes had ever swung in that black wood, where even the moonlight could not penetrate the ancient tangle of root and thorn and grasping limb. Out there the trees grew huge, and the rangers said they seemed to brood and knew not men. It was small wonder the Night's Watch named it the haunted forest.—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
Good men have gone into those woods before, and never come out.
They had ridden past the end of the world; somehow that changed everything. Every shadow seemed darker, every sound more ominous.
No one would admit to being afraid—they were men of the Night's Watch, after all—but Jon could feel the unease. Four empty villages, no wildlings anywhere, even the game seemingly fled. The haunted forest had never seemed more haunted.—Jon Snow's thoughts
A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.
Jon: My lady, you do not have to do this. The risk—
Val: —is mine, Lord Snow. And I am no southron lady but a woman of the free folk. I know the forest better than all your black-cloaked rangers. It holds no ghosts for me.
Chapters that takes place in the haunted forest
- A Game of Thrones: 0. Prologue (Will)
- A Game of Thrones: 48. Jon VI
- A Clash of Kings: 13. Jon II
- A Clash of Kings: 23. Jon III
- A Clash of Kings: 34. Jon IV
- A Clash of Kings: 43. Jon V
- A Storm of Swords: 0. Prologue (Chett)
- A Storm of Swords: 15. Jon II
- A Storm of Swords: 18. Samwell I
- A Storm of Swords: 26. Jon III
- A Storm of Swords: 30. Jon IV
- A Storm of Swords: 33. Samwell II
- A Storm of Swords: 46. Samwell III
- A Dance with Dragons: 0. Prologue (Varamyr)
- A Dance with Dragons: 4. Bran I
- A Dance with Dragons: 13. Bran II
- A Dance with Dragons: 34. Bran III
- A Dance with Dragons: 35. Jon VII
Behind the Scenes
- The Lands of Ice and Fire.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 21, Tyrion III.
- Fire & Blood, Jaehaerys and Alysanne - Their Triumphs and Tragedies.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 34, Jon IV.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 13, Jon II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Wildlings.
- The Lands of Ice and Fire, Beyond the Wall.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 46, Samwell III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Kings of Winter.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 39, Jon VIII.
- Fire & Blood, A Surfeit of Rulers.
- A Game of Thrones, Prologue.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 52, Jon VII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 43, Jon V.
- A Storm of Swords, Prologue.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 18, Samwell I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 26, Arya VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 30, Jon IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- A Dance with Dragons, Prologue.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 28, Jon VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 58, Jon XII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 4, Bran I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
- SmarterTravel: George R.R. Martin Talks Season Two, 'The Winds of Winter,' and Real-World Influences for 'A Song of Ice and Fire', March 26, 2012