Old Nan

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Old Nan
Old nan.jpg
Old Nan, by Roman Papusev ©

Alias Old Nan
Allegiance House Stark
Culture Northmen
Born In 185211 AC[1]
Issue
  • Two sons
  • Daughters
Books

Played by Margaret John (Season 1)
Annette Tierney (Season 6)
TV series Game of Thrones: Season 1 | 6

Nan, generally referred to as Old Nan, is a servant woman at Winterfell. In the television adaptation Game of Thrones, she is portrayed by Margaret John, and in a Season 6 flashback by Annette Tierney.

Appearance and Character

Nan is an ugly old woman. She is toothless, shrunken and wrinkled. Almost blind, she is too weak to climb stairs. She has only a small amount of hair left to cover her head.[2]

Old Nan is fond of needlework and telling stories.[2] According to her, the Wall marks the end of the world.[3] Occasionally, when annoyed with her great-grandson, Hodor, she may give him a swat in the head.[4]

History

Old Nan is the oldest person at Winterfell. She came to the castle to nurse a Brandon Stark; she does not recall which one, only that his mother had died birthing him. Sometimes she says that Brandon Stark was the older brother of Lord Rickard Stark, or perhaps his younger brother, or a brother of Rickard's father.[N 1] Nan lost both of her sons during Robert's Rebellion, her grandson at the siege of Pyke during Greyjoy's Rebellion, and her daughters moved away and died. Her only living relative is her great-grandson, Walder, who was called "Hodor" after he started to say that word.[2]

When Lord Eddard Stark was young, Old Nan taught him the proverb "dark wings, dark words".[7] Old Nan sometimes eats at the table of Lord Eddard.[8] The elderly servant often tells stories to Eddard's children,[9] as well as his ward, Theon Greyjoy.[10] Theon once carelessly leapt down the stairs of the Great Keep and accidentally knocked Old Nan to the ground, for which he was punished with a thrashing, the worst he ever had at Winterfell.[11] The elderly woman sometimes confuses Bran Stark with other Brandon Starks she has known, as well as the various Brandon Starks with each other.[2] When Lord Eddard would not forbid Bran from climbing the walls of Winterfell, Catelyn Stark, Bran's mother, instead turned to others to convince him otherwise, and Old Nan told him a story about a boy who climbed too high and was struck by lightning.[12]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Margaret John as Old Nan in Game of Thrones

While watching the execution of Gared, a deserter of the Night's Watch, Bran Stark remembers the stories that Old Nan told him about those who live beyond the Wall.[13]

Lord Eddard Stark tells Bran he should make his farewells to the people of Winterfell, and Bran intends to visit them, including Nan, but he becomes too sad, and goes climbing instead.[12]

Old Nan helps treat Lady Catelyn Stark after she is attacked with a dagger by a catspaw.[14] Nan also cares for Bran as he recovers from his fall from the First Keep. Her great-grandson, Hodor, carries around the crippled boy.[2]

Young Rickon Stark becomes upset when he learns that Robb Stark is departing Winterfell, and the boy punches Nan when she tries to sing him to sleep.[15]

A Clash of Kings

Robb Stark has been acclaimed King in the North and King of the Trident, making his brother Bran a prince. However, Nan does not address him with that title, only "boy" and "my little lord", as usual.[16] Bran, curious about the sudden appearance of the red comet in the sky, asks Old Nan what she believes it signifies. She replies that the comet means one thing: dragons. She is too blind to see the comet, but claims to be able to smell it.[16]

Bran sends sweets to Nan and Hodor during the harvest feast. At the feast, Nan also picks at a hot pie.[17] After Jojen Reed arrives at Winterfell, Nan begins calling him "little grandfather", for his solemn way of talking that makes him seem older and wiser than his age.[18][19]

After the capture of Winterfell by thirty ironborn raiders led by Theon Greyjoy, Old Nan is among the servants forced to serve Theon, who calls himself Prince of Winterfell.[20][10] Nan is shocked by Theon's apparent murder of of Bran and Rickon.[21]

After the fall of Harrenhal, Arya Stark does not reveal her true identity, but introduces herself to Lord Roose Bolton using the alias Nymeria, or Nan for short.[22]

Ramsay Snow betrays Theon, and orders the garrison of the Dreadfort to burn Winterfell.[23]

A Storm of Swords

Bran worries that Old Nan may have been killed in the sack of Winterfell, but remembers that he saw no women among the slain.[24]

Jon Snow, who has not yet heard about the sack of Winterfell, thinks he may have to kill Mance Rayder to prevent the wildlings from breaching the Wall and killing everyone he knows and loves at Winterfell, including Old Nan.[25] When Ygritte tells Jon the tale of Gendel and Gorne and Gendel's cannibalistic children, he tells her she sounds like Old Nan telling Bran a monster story.[26]

The sack of Winterfell is blamed on Theon's ironborn, who allegedly killed many of Winterfell's people. Catelyn is heartsick at the thought of the deaths of so many, including Nan, but she is told that Ramsay Snow took the women and children to the safety of the Dreadfort.[27][5]

A Feast for Crows

Old Nan is among the women of Winterfell held captive at the Dreadfort.[28]

Arya thinks that Old Nan is probably dead.[29] Needle reminds Arya of Nan's stories.[30]

A Dance with Dragons

Bran recalls that Old Nan used to tell him that monsters cannot pass the Wall as long as it stands and the men of the Night's Watch stay true. Because Coldhands could not pass the Wall, Bran realizes that he is undead.[31]

Bran is fed weirwood paste and has visions of the past, including one of a slender girl on her toes kissing a knight as tall as Hodor.[N 2][32]

According to Theon Greyjoy, who was held captive at the Dreadfort, Old Nan is probably dead.[11]

Tales

Old Nan telling stories to the Stark children at Winterfell, by mustamirri ©

Some of Old Nan's tales include:

Quotes by Old Nan

Old Nan, by Nicholas Gregory © Fantasy Flight Games

Bran: I hate your stupid stories.

Old Nan: My stories? No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are, before me and after me, before you too.
Bran: I don't care whose stories they are, I hate them.

Old Nan: I know a story about a boy who hated stories.[2]

Bran Stark and Old Nan

Bran: My favorites were the scary ones.
Old Nan: Oh, my sweet summer child, what do you know of fear?[2]

Bran Stark and Old Nan

Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.[2]

—Old Nan to Bran Stark

Stories wait, my little lord, and when you come back to them, why, there they are. Visitors are not so patient, and ofttimes they bring stories of their own.[2]

—Old Nan to Bran Stark

Dragons. It be dragons, boy.[16]

—Old Nan to Bran Stark

Beyond the gates the monsters live, and the giants and the ghouls, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong. So go to sleep, my little Brandon, my baby boy. You needn't fear. There are no monsters here.[3]

—Old Nan to Bran Stark

Beyond the Wall the monsters live, the giants and the ghouls, the stalking shadows and the dead that walk, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong and the men of the Night's Watch are true. So go to sleep, my little Brandon, my baby boy, and dream sweet dreams. There are no monsters here.[31]

—Old Nan to Bran Stark

Quotes about Old Nan

She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.[2]

—thoughts of Bran Stark

Bran: Do you think the ironmen killed her? She never hurt no one, not even Theon. She just told stories. Theon wouldn't hurt someone like that. Would he?

Jojen: Some people hurt others just because they can.

Meera: And it wasn't Theon who did the killing at Winterfell. Too many of the dead were ironmen. Remember Old Nan's stories, Bran. Remember the way she told them, the sound of her voice. So long as you do that, part of her will always be alive in you.[24]

Sometimes Old Nan would tell the same story she'd told before, but we never minded, if it was a good story. Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.[24]

Family

 
 
Old Nan
 
Unknown
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Son
 
Son
 
Daughters
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Son
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hodor
 
 
 
 
 


Notes

  1. Rickard Stark had no siblings,[5], so according to the House Stark family tree in The World of Ice & Fire, the last option is correct: the Brandon that Nan nursed was Brandon Stark (son of Willam), older half-brother of Edwyle Stark.[6]
  2. Theorized to be Duncan the Tall kissing young Old Nan, at Winterfell, foreshadowing a future Dunk and Egg story with the working title The She-Wolves of Winterfell.

References

  1. See the Old Nan calculation.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  6. The World of Ice & Fire, Appendix: Stark Lineage.
  7. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
  8. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  9. 9.0 9.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 52, Jon VII.
  10. 10.0 10.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon IV.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 51, Theon I.
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 12.13 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 8, Bran II.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
  14. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 14, Catelyn III.
  15. 15.0 15.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 4, Bran I.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran III.
  18. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 9, Bran I.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran VI.
  21. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 56, Theon V.
  22. 22.0 22.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 47, Arya IX.
  23. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 24, Bran II.
  25. 25.0 25.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
  26. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
  27. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 35, Catelyn IV.
  28. A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
  29. 29.0 29.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 6, Arya I.
  30. 30.0 30.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  31. 31.0 31.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 4, Bran I.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
  33. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
  34. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 44, Sansa III.
  35. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 65, Arya V.
  36. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
  37. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 2, Sansa I.
  38. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
  39. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  40. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 14, Arya IV.
  41. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 26, Arya VI.
  42. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 9, Arya III.
  43. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
  44. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
  45. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 35, Bran V.
  46. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 53, Jon VII.
  47. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 33, Catelyn IV.
  48. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 61, Sansa V.
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 64, Arya X.
  50. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 39, Arya VII.
  51. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 40, Bran III.
  52. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  53. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 50, Arya X.
  54. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
  55. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
  56. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
  57. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 45, The Blind Girl.