Second post in a series of three.
The King of the Clans
Here is the second in a series of three posts on Mance Rayder. Like Stannis had to do, I have to make a long detour through the mountain clans to reach Mance in Winterfell.
We met them first with Bran in ASoS. But let's begin with ADwD, Stannis asks Jon
“How many clans are you speaking of?”
“Two score, small and large. Flint, Wull, Norrey, Liddle ... win Old Flint and Big Bucket, the rest will follow.”
There are few more, Harclay, Knotts, etc. So the Flints and the Wulls (The Wull is Big Bucket) are the dominant ones. Let's look at those two.
Jon to Stannis:
“The Wull. He has the biggest belly in the mountains, and the most men. The Wulls fish the Bay of Ice and warn their little ones that ironmen will carry them off if they don’t behave. To reach them Your Grace must pass through the Norrey’s lands, however. They live the nearest to the Gift and have always been good friends to the Watch. I could give you guides.”
The passage in bold are of interest. We'll return to them later.
When Maester Aemon sent birds to the whole North. Here is the list of destinations:
To the Umbers and the Boltons, to Castle Cerwyn and Torrhen’s Square, Karhold and Deepwood Motte, to Bear Island, Oldcastle, Widow’s Watch, White Harbor, Barrowton, and the Rills, to the mountain fastnesses of the Liddles, the Burleys, the Norreys, the Harclays, and the Wulls, the black birds brought their plea.
Despite being a most important clan, the Flints have no maester. Since Roose Bolton says:
The maesters will tell you that King Jaehaerys abolished the lord’s right to the first night to appease his shrewish queen, but where the old gods rule, old customs linger. The Umbers keep the first night too, deny it as they may. Certain of the mountain clans as well, and on Skagos ... well, only heart trees ever see half of what they do on Skagos.
I suspect the Flints are among those who kept the first night. Another detail of interest: Old Flint mentions his dungeons and so lives probably in a stone keep and not a wooden one like the Glovers. The current Starks have a Flint ancestor as Bran recalls
” His father’s mother’s mother had been a Flint of the mountains. Old Nan once said that it was her blood in him that made Bran such a fool for climbing before his fall. She had died years and years and years before he was born, though, even before his father had been born.
and Jon concurs and notes the overpopulation problem of the clans in Winter (we'll return to the climbing part).
It was a tale that any northmen knew well. “My father’s grandmother was a Flint of the mountains, on his mother’s side,” Jon told her. “The First Flints, they call themselves. They say the other Flints are the blood of younger sons, who had to leave the mountains to find food and land and wives. It has always been a harsh life up there. When the snows fall and food grows scarce, their young must travel to the winter town or take service at one castle or the other. The old men gather up what strength remains in them and announce that they are going hunting. Some are found come spring. More are never seen again.”
When one reflects that the clans live near the Gift, an empty plain, it's a bit curious.
The Clans and the Starks
Bran recalls in ASoS:
Lord Wull came to Winterfell once, to do his fealty and talk with Father, and he had the buckets on his shield.
and Jon in ADwD:
Old Flint stomped his cane against the ice. “Wards, we always called them, when Winterfell demanded boys of us, but they were hostages, and none the worse for it.”
So the two main clans had to prove their loyalty to Winterfell, clearly signs of a recent troublesome history. But the current loyalty of the clans to the Starks seems unquestionable. In ASoS, a Liddle says:
“When there was a Stark in Winterfell, a maiden girl could walk the kingsroad in her name-day gown and still go unmolested, and travelers could find fire, bread, and salt at many an inn and holdfast. But the nights are colder now, and doors are closed. There’s squids in the wolfswood, and flayed men ride the kingsroad asking after strangers.”
“It was different when there was a Stark in Winterfell. But the old wolf’s dead and young one’s gone south to play the game of thrones, and all that’s left us is the ghosts.”
Here is Roose Bolton in ADwD:
The clans and the wildlings
His clansmen will not abandon the daughter of their precious Ned to such as you [Ramsay].[...] Galbart Glover’s maester had claimed the mountain clans were too quarrelsome to ever band together without a Stark to lead them.
Thee clans do not belong to the feudal world, and don't use the titles like lords etc. They follow the old gods.
Jon turned to Melisandre. “My lady, fair warning. The old gods are strong in those mountains. The clansmen will not suffer insults to their heart trees.”
Amongst the clans, those who live the closest to the Wall, just on the border of the Gift, seem to be the Norreys and the Flints. So they are the more exposed to the raiders. Here is their conversation with Jon about making wildlings settle in the Gift.
“Lord Snow,” said The Norrey, “where do you mean to put these wild-lings o’ yours? Not on my lands, I hope.”
“Aye,” declared Old Flint. “You want them in the Gift, that’s your folly, but see they don’t wander off or I’ll send you back their heads. Winter is nigh, I want no more mouths to feed.”
The Norrey hawked and spat. “As well make peace with wolves and carrion crows.”
“It’s peaceful in my dungeons,” grumbled Old Flint. “Give the Weeping Man to me.”
“How many rangers has the Weeper killed?” asked Othell Yarwyck. “How many women has he raped or killed or stolen?”
“Three of mine own ilk,” said Old Flint. “And he blinds the girls he does not take.”
“When a man takes the black, his crimes are forgiven,” Jon reminded them. “If we want the free folk to fight beside us, we must pardon their past crimes as we would for our own.”
Except the latter part, which concerns the group of wildlings led by the Weeper, and that Mance dislikes as well, I see no hate between the clansmen and the wildlings in general. Just some healthy defiance (compare to the hate of the Umber for the wildlings). Definitely the Norrey and the Flints hate the Weeper (my theory is that is because the Weeper might not follow the Old Gods).
Two important things have been mentioned already. One concerns the fact that the Wulls fish the Bay of Ice and frighten their children with tales of Ironmen. So the Wulls do not frighten their children with tales of the Wildlings but with tales of Ironborn who are much farther removed. Hence wildlings are not traditional enemies of the Wulls. Moreover, if the Wulls fish the Bay of Ice, they can reach the Frozen Shore and go beyond the Wall. So I suspect that the Wulls and the Wildlings have relations.
About the Flints, there is this interesting detail from Bran in ASoS, already quoted in bold above: The Flints are climbers. Hence, they can possibly climb the Wall. From where did Jarl come from already? We are never told. In any case he became Val's lover.
Conclusion: the clans do not fear the wildlings, and have possibly contacts with them.
The clans and Mance
When Mance tells Jon about his wife, he says:
I met her on my return from your father’s castle.
The clans live between Winterfell and the Wall. Are Dalla and Val from the Mountain clans? Val says "My Lord" instead of the more common "M'lord". If Val was from the clans, she had some authority to convince Tormund that he would be welcome south of the Wall in ADwD. (Little problem: the fact that Val seemed very at ease beyond the Wall when she sought Tormund.) I am tempted to believe that Val is a Flint.
Mance came twice to Winterfell. The first time, he was still a brother of the Night's Watch and came with the Lord Commander. Probably important matters were discussed. Perhaps, this
His lord father had once talked about raising new lords and settling them in the abandoned holdfasts as a shield against wildlings. The plan would have required the Watch to yield back a large part of the Gift, but his uncle Benjen believed the Lord Commander could be won around, so long as the new lordlings paid taxes to Castle Black rather than Winterfell. “It is a dream for spring, though,” Lord Eddard had said. “Even the promise of land will not lure men north with a winter coming on.”
In any case, Mance might have learnt a lot about the clans, the Gift, the Starks during his visit to Winterfell. He might have gotten the idea of gaining the clans to his cause. The culture of the clans seems similar to the wildlings'. Note Mance says, about himself, that
A man who has climbed the Wall half a hundred times can climb in a window easy enough.
What did Mance do the fifty times he went south of the Wall? I don't believe it was about stealing women.
When Jon asks for a wet nurse for (what was believed to be) Mance's son. The Norrey and Old Flint came in person and provided each a wet nurse. Here they are at the wedding of Alys Karstarck.
Old Flint and The Norrey had been given places of high honor just below the dais. Both men had been too old to march with Stannis; they had sent their sons and grandsons in their stead. But they had been quick enough to descend on Castle Black for the wedding. Each had brought a wet nurse to the Wall as well. The Norrey woman was forty, with the biggest breasts Jon Snow had ever seen. The Flint girl was fourteen and flat-chested as a boy, though she did not lack for milk. Between the two of them, the child Val called Monster seemed to be thriving.
So Old Flint and the Norrey were too old to march with Stannis, but they came at once to Castle Black. How is it that Alys Karstarck's marriage to a Thenn is so important? My guess is that they came for (what was believed to be) Mance's son and perhaps for Val. Whether they knew the Thenns is an open question.
How could have Mance won the clans to his cause? Here are two clues. The clans are quarrelsome:
Clan champions fight with huge two-handed greatswords, while the common men sling stones and batter one another with staffs of mountain ash.
When Mance, in the guise of the Lord o' Bones, challenged Jon in combat (ADwD). Here was his weapon of choice.
Instead he asked for a two-handed sword.
The other clue comes from Jon's advice to Stannis:
The clans have not seen a king since Torrhen Stark bent his knee. Your coming does them honor.
They might have been honored by the coming of a King-beyond-the-Wall who knew a thing or two about fighting their champions, and thus earned their support.
We know how the leaders of the clans are called by their people: The Wull, The Norrey, The Liddle etc and even Eddard Stark becomes "The Ned" in their parlance. Jon and Mance had a conversation about how to call Mance when they met (ASoS), here is what Mance said.
I’m Mance to most, The Mance to some.
It seems to me that Stannis' army will take the cause of the bard in Winterfell.
Edited by Bran Vras, 17 March 2012 - 05:27 PM.