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We do not kneel
~ Mance Rayder
The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.
~ Mance Rayder to Jon Snow.

Mance Rayder is a character featured in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. He is a former member of the Night's Watch who defected to the Free Folk (also known as the wildlings), his real people, eventually rising to become their leader, officially styling himself as the King-Beyond-the-Wall, as other wildling kings did before him.

He is one of the main antagonists of the Night's Watch storyline during Seasons 2, 3, and 4.

Though he is considered a villain because he is a major enemy of the Night's Watch, Mance is not inherently evil and is more of an anti-villain, because he genuinely cares for the well-being of his people and has many honorable qualities.

In the television series, he was portrayed by Ciarán Hinds, who also played Steppenwolf in the 2017 Justice League film, Mephisto in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Botticelli Remorso in The Tale of Despereaux, Henry Burke in Trip to Witch Mountain, Bill Maplewood in Life During Wartime and Jonathan Reiss in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life.

History

Early life

Mance was born beyond the Wall from a wildling family. After the Night's Watch killed a group of wildling raiders, the child Mance was taken as a captive and raised as a member of the Night's Watch. Because of this, he was since then known as "Mance Rayder".

Years later Mance made escort as a ranger of the Watch for Lord Commander Qorgyle at Winterfell. There he met Lord Eddard Stark and his young sons, Robb Stark and Jon Snow.

Mance remained loyal to the Night's Watch for most his life. He lived in the Shadow Tower along with his old friend, Qhorin, who would be later known as "Qhorin Halfhand".

During a ranging beyond the Wall Mance was attacked by a shadowcat, he was wounded, and healed by a wildling woman. She mended his torn cloak with swatches of red fabric. Upon returning to the Wall, Ser Denys Mallister required him to replace his mended cloak with one of uniform black. This infringement of freedom caused Mance to abandon the Shadow Tower and live with the free folk, his real people, in the way he wished.

At some point, the Others returned, they started showing up at night, attacking the Free Folk. For many years Mance desired to unite his people. All the Kings-beyond-the-Wall always failed to conquer the Wall, but this time the wildlings were following a man who actually knows the Night's Watch and their ways. After many years, Mance Rayder succeeded to unite every Free Folk clan who lived in the villages or caves beyond the Wall, even the giants.

A Game of Thrones

Mance Rayder is an infamous enemy to all the North. Every northern lord hates the wildlings for their raids in the land of the Gift. Women tell their children horrifying stories about the Free Folk, talking about murders, rape, skinchanging, and cannibalism. Bran Stark was always scared about the stories of Mance Rayder the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Ironically, the wildlings have infamous stories for their children about the living legend of the Night's Watch, Qhorin Halfhand, Mance's old friend.

When Eddard Stark executes Gared and listens to his mad talk about the Others, people at Winterfell and Lady Catelyn start to worry about the possible threat of Mance invading the North. Ned plans to ask his old friend, King Robert I Baratheon, to visit the Wall.

From the Night's Watch, Mance hears the news about the death of Jon Arryn and King Robert visiting Winterfell. Inspired by the Bael the Bard legend, he decided to partake in the event. He scales the Wall near Long Barrow, purchases a horse south of the New Gift, and journeys to Winterfell.

During Robert's visit to Winterfell, Mance is disguised as a musician and plays the lute and remains unrecognized. He notices the 14-year-old Jon Snow at Winterfell. Mance Rayder's purpose is to take a look at King Robert and get the measure of Benjen Stark, who is also in attendance. Robert refuses to go to the Wall, telling Ned he has other things to worry about.

Later Mance returns to his lands beyond the Wall, where he meets his wife Dalla.

In the last months of summer, the number of attacks by the wights start to increase. Many wildlings who go hunting or scouting don't make return to their huts. Instead some of them return as walking corpses. The wildlings always burned their dead for centuries. Even rangers from the Night's Watch are gone missing, including Benjen Stark and Ser Waymar Royce. Mance Rayder and his people are blamed for the disappearances. At some point a deserter of the Watch named Stiv flees from the lands beyond the Wall with a wildling group, including Osha, Wallen, and Hali, heading for Dorne. All of them except Osha are killed by Robb Stark, for attacking his brother Bran. By the end of the summer, Mance started amassing his army and every wildling family beyond the Wall, preparing to march to the Wall before winter comes. Mance and his people avoid Craster and his family: incest is a strong taboo for the wildlings, and they don't want to have anything to do with Craster, especially with rumors coming about him and the white walkers. Craster also works as an ally for the Night's Watch and doesn't really care for the rest of his people.

After the death of King Robert I, and the ascension of his false heir, Joffrey, the wildlings start to abandon their villages, heading for the mountains known as the Frostfangs. At Castle Black, the Lord Commander Jeor Mormont keeps receiving disturbing reports from the other two castles of the Wall and the rangers: Cotter Pyke’s men have reported mammoths and huge misshapen tracks near Eastwatch. Denys Mallister has reported that the wildlings are abandoning their villages near the Shadow Tower and Qhorin Halfhand has taken a captive who revealed that Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, is massing his people in some secret stronghold for an unknown purpose. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont is tired of hearing unsettling reports with unconfirmed information so he organizes a ranging beyond the Wall to scout out the situation.

A Clash of Kings

With the looming threat of the White Walkers and their army of undead wights, Mance manages to unite all of the warring wildling clans into a single army, seeking to launch a massive assault on Castle Black, take every other castle at the Wall, and force his way through the main tunnel separating the Seven Kingdoms from the lands beyond the Wall in order to escape the coming winter. He brings the united wildling clans in the Forstfangs to search for the Horn of Winter, the ancient legendary horn that could bring down the Wall. His men opened 100 graves of kings and heroes, all over the valley of the Milkwater, but they never found the horn.

The main party leaves Castle Black, while Qhorin Halfhand leaves the Shadow Tower with another party. The goals of the ranging are to find out why the wildlings who live close to the Wall are leaving their villages, learn more about Mance Rayder, find Benjen Stark, Ser Waymar Royce and the other missing rangers, and discover further information on what caused the corpses of Jafer Flowers and Othor to rise from the dead.

Jeor Mormont's expedition passes seven deserted wildling villages, the fourth of which is Whitetree, before arriving at Craster's Keep. Maester Aemon is informed of this by a raven, while the Night's Watch learns from Craster that the villages are empty because Mance Rayder is gathering people in the Frostfangs with the intent to strike at the Wall as wildling leaders and Kings-Beyond-the-Wall have done in the past. Craster says he doesn't know what happened to Benjen Stark, Waymar Royce, Will, and the other missing rangers, and states that Free Folk have no need of kings, and that when one of Mance’s men arrived to tell him he had to leave his keep and grovel at Mance’s feet, he sent the man back without his tongue.

Mormont and the other officers lead the Night's Watch expedition to the Frostfangs, meaning to stop Mance's plan to invade the realm. With Robb Stark and most of the northmen in the westerlands and the riverlands, Winterfell is weak and this is a great opportunity from the wildlings, to take advantage of the War of the Five Kings. The Night's Watch has no other choice but find Mance Rayder and stop him.

Jeor Mormont's party makes camp at the Fist of the First Men. Jon hears Jarman Buckwell state that following the river Milkwater would be the easiest road to the Frostfangs, but Mance Rayder will know of their approach. Ser Mallador Locke recommends Giant's Stair or Skirling Pass. Mormont states he does not want to risk the Frostfangs unless he must. He plans to remain at the Fist since the wildlings outnumber them, and the wildlings will have to come from the Frostfangs eventually for food; they will strengthen their defenses. The rangers will limit their ranging to this side of the river since Mormont is sure that Craster did not lie to them about Mance gathering his force in the Frostfangs.

On the way to the Fist, Qhorin Halfhand and his party from the Shadow Tower run into a wildling scouting party led by Alfyn Crowkiller. Qhorin kills Alfyn and most of his party, but loses 4 men and a dozen are wounded. A prisoner taken in the battle reveals that Mance Rayder is in the Frostfangs searching for some magic or artifacts to bring down the Wall. The captive also talks about wargs and mammoths being in Mance's army.

Qhorin Halfhand and his 100 men arrive at the Night's Watch camp at the Fist of the First Men. Lord Commander Mormont sends scouts into the mountains: Jarman Buckwell and other 4 men climb the Giant's Stair, Thoren Smallwood leads a party to search for wildlings at the Milkwater, while Qhorin leads a party into the Skirling Pass. Qhorin has Jon Snow to join with his party.

Qhorin Halfhand, Dalbridge, Ebben, Stonesnake, and Jon Snow move through the Skirling Pass. They meet wildling watchers, with them Ygritte and Orell. Orell and his companion are killed. When Jon kills Orell's human body, a portion of Orell's consciousness remains in the eagle, who develops a fierce hatred for Jon. Ygritte yields and is taken as a captive. Qhorin leaves Jon to kill Ygritte and she tries to convince Jon to run with her and join with Mance Rayder. Jon can't find it in him to kill Ygritte and he lets her run away.

Mance has many wildling parties in the Frostfangs. Qhorin is not angry at Jon for letting Ygritte go, as he thought she didn't have to die and let the boy with her only because he knew he would have spared her. He considers the idea of Jon infiltrating Mance Rayder's army.

Jon Snow wargs into Ghost and sees Mance Rayder's army, thousands of men, including giants and mammoths. Orell's eagle spots Ghost and attacks him. Thanks to the eagle, one of Mance's leaders, the Lord of Bones, better known as "Rattleshirt" among the Night's Watch, is able to find Qhorin's party. Qhorin, his men, and Ghost run from the arrows of the wildlings and Dalbridge sacrifices himself to give his friends advantage.

Qhorin and his group stay at the Skirling Pass, until Qhorin sends Ebben and Stonesnake back to the Fist. However, the two rangers are killed by Rattleshirt's party. Rattleshirt, Ygritte, Longspear Ryk, and other wildlings take Qhorin and Jon as captive. Qhorin recently told Jon to yield and kill him so he can infiltrate among the wildlings. Rattleshirt and Mance were going to kill Qhorin anyway, so Qhorin pretends to be angry at Jon and starts a fight with him. Rattleshirt lets them fight. Qhorin is a better fighter than Jon and many other living men. He leaves open spots for Jon to kill him, until Jon finally finds the courage to stab him. A disapproving Rattleshirt spares Jon's life and takes him with his party.

A Storm of Swords

The Night's Watch is going to start a battle against Mance Rayder's army in the Frostfangs. But the day before the imminent battle the Watch is attacked by an army of wights at the Fist of the First Men. Most of their force is killed an only 50 men survive and they are forced to retreat back to the Wall.

Since Rattleshirt doesn't trust Jon Snow, the party brings the boy directly to Mance Rayder in their camp in the Frostfangs. In the King's tent, Jon mistakes the Thenn Magnar Styr for Mance and calls him "Your Grace". Mance speaks to Jon alone, and tells him about the two times he saw him at Winterfell. Mance tells Jon his story and how he resents the restriction of the black cloak of the Night's Watch. Jon Snow convinces Mance to accept him among the wildlings after claiming he wants to join the wildlings due to Westeros's treatment of illegitimate children.

Mance's host leaves the Frostfangs and start marching south, near the Milkwater.

Jon Snow moves freely among the wildlings, with the company of Mance Rayder, Ghost, Tormund Giantsbane, Ygritte and Rattleshirt. Ygritte makes her attraction to Jon obvious, which he struggles with as his Watch vows require him to be celibate. Jon suffers attacks from Orell's eagle. He infiltrates Mance's army and learns of his strengths and weaknesses, which he relays to his sworn brothers in the Night's Watch, who use the information to keep Mance's forces at bay in the ensuing battle.

Mance's host, the giants, and the mammoths keep marching south. Later Rattleshirt brings Jon to Mance at the Fist of the First Men. They find the camp abandoned and destroyed. Mance asks Jon how many men were at the Fist and who led. First Jon lies, so Mance wants to kill him. Jon tells him the truth and considers attacking Mance when the latter still wants to kill him. Ygritte saves Jon by telling the group that they are lovers. The wildlings respect any man who steals his woman, so Mance has Jon and Ygritte joining with Styr and Jarl's party, made of more than 200 Thenn warriors, to climb the Wall.

Jon and Ygritte begin to fall in love, causing Jon inner turmoil over his vows and the knowledge that he will have to leave Ygritte to return to the Watch. Jon likewise suffers a conflict as he sympathizes with the wildlings but also must remain loyal to the Watch. Jarman Buckwell and his men spot Jon Snow moving freely among the wildlings. The goal of Styr's party is to take Castle Black by surprise from the rear. At Greyguard, Styr and the others climb the Wall, where Jarl and others fall and lose their life. Wildlings hack at the gates of Greyguard, meanwhile, Mance Rayder continues his march with his host down the Milkwater. He sends other wildling parties to climb the Wall, and Jarman Buckwell returns with his men at Castle Black to report the attacks: the Weeper is spotted near Icemark, wildlings have been climbing near Queensgate, Harma Dogshead leads the van and is spotted near Woodswatch-by-the-Pool, Rattleshirt is seen near Long Barrow, and warriors are moving around Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Wildlings are everywere at the Wall and the Black Brothers rides out to fight them, but they disappear as soon as they reach the other castles. Mance Rayder's plan to attack several areas of the Wall is actually a bait to draw attention away from his host. The Lord Steward and acting Lord Commander Bowen Marsh has taken the bait and left with all the warriors to chase the wildlings at the Wall, leaving Castle Black with only old men and green boys. Bowen takes with him most of the warriors and leaves Castle Black under the command of Ser Wynton Stout as castellan. Stout is a senile old man, so the former Baratheon blacksmith from Storm's End, Donal Noye, becomes the de facto leader, while waiting for Ser Alliser Thorne and Lord Janos Slynt to arrive from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with reinforcements for Castle Black.

In the Gift, at Queenscrown, Jon Snow forces himself to leave Ygritte and defects the wildling party to return to Castle Black. Later he reaches Mole's Town, wounded by Ygritte's arrows and eagle's scratches, and warns the populace to evacuate. Most of the people from Mole's Town take refuge at Castle Black. The wildling hordes invade the lands of the Gift as they always do and attack bigger settlements to draw out the garrison of Castle Black, working their way up to the deserted Mole's Town. Jon reunites with his brothers, including Jarman Buckwell, and all the survivors from the Mutiny at Craster's Keep. With Mance Rayder's imminent invasion, the men of the Night's Watch find themselves alone against the wildling threat. First steward Bowen Marsh, with the majority of the men at Castle Black, sets off after the raiding party that is attacking the Shadow Tower, led by the Weeper. Jon gives Maester Aemon and Donal Noye whatever information he can about Mance Rayder's plans, while the fellow brothers inform about everything that happened south and beyond the Wall, from the War of the Five Kings to the Mutiny at Craster's Keep. Jon is devastated when he is told his half-brothers Bran and Rickon were killed at Winterfell.

At Castle Black, Donal Noye and Jon Snow prepare the Watch and the people of Mole's Town for the imminent battle. They organize the defense around archers in the towers and a line of fighting men on the massive wooden staircase that zigzags up the south face of the Wall. "Scarecrow sentinels", dummy soldiers in Night's Watch black, are posted on roofs and windows to inflate their numbers.

The Battle of Castle Black begins with the first attack from the Thenns, led by Magnar Styr. Jon Snow and Satin pour boiling oil on the Thenns. During the battle, the defenders at the gate through the Wall are overwhelmed when the Mole's Town men break and flee. The battle culminates on the stair as Styr attacks upward before trying to breach the gate. Once the majority of the wildling forces mount the stair and push back the crumbling defense, the Watch springs a desperate trap. The stair, soaked in oil between the last Night's Watch line of defense and the base of the structure, is set ablaze, destroying the stair and killing Styr and most of his men. Jon finds Ygritte wounded by an arrow. He goes to her and insists to Ygritte she will live, that the maesters can save her, but she dies in his arms, leaving Jon grief-stricken over her death. Mance Rayder and his force prepare to besiege Castle Black, while the Watch's primary means of transporting men and materials to the top of the Wall is destroyed. After this attack, many villagers return to Mole's Town while many others fear that the villages of the Gift are not safe and remain at the Wall, including Zei, Hareth, the stablehand, and 3 young orphans of 9, 8, and 5 years old.

With the news that his advance party has been defeated, and he must instead assault the Wall, Mance assembles his host beyond the tree line. After a small probing attack at night, the first morning's attacks are spearheaded by giants mounted on mammoths. Mag the Mighty, King of the Giants, manages to breach the massive doors that lead to the tunnel underneath the Wall. Donal Noye and several brothers defend the tunnel system with spears and arrow fire from behind the internal gate and murder-hole system built into the tunnel. While they manage to kill all of the attackers, including Mag, and hold the interior portcullis under the Wall, all the defenders are slain, including Donal, whose body is found crushed by Mag, and his sword thrust though the giant's neck. With Donal dead, Maester Aemon requests Jon to take command of the defense.

Bowen Marsh and his 400 men defend the Shadow Tower against the Weeper and his 300 wildling raiders. While old Ser Denys Mallister stay in the castle, Bowen Marsh corners the Weeper and three hundred wildlings on the Bridge of Skulls. The Night's Watch wins and forces the Weeper and his warriors to retreat. It is a bloody battle, with 100 brothers of the Night's Watch slain in the engagement, including Jarman Buckwell, Ser Endrew Tarth, and Ser Aladale Wynch. Bowen Marsh is seriously wounded and unable to return to Castle Black to take command. He's forced to stay in the Shadow Tower to recover. This delays the return of the garrison to Castle Black. Learning this news, Jon Snow sends a whore from Mole's Town, Zei, back to the village to request help from the other villagers. Zei never returns and Mole's Town is deserted.

Mance’s raiders advance under the protection of a giant fortified turtle, a siege engine used to protect attackers during a siege. Over the next several days, Jon manages to throw back repeated attacks on the Wall by using catapults, archers, flaming arrows, boiling oils and finally frozen barrels of rock and ice used to destroy Mance's armored turtle.

Ser Alliser Thorne and Lord Janos Slynt arrive along with reinforcements from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. They take Jon into custody with the knowledge, from a captured Rattleshirt who led a diversion on the eastern side of the Wall, that he had apparently deserted and joined forces with the wildlings. They do not believe Jon when he tells them he was under orders from Qhorin Halfhand and imprison Jon in the ice cells under the Wall.

Jon is eventually sent out to the wildling camp to treat with Mance Rayder and told to assassinate him, although Alliser and Janos hope Jon is killed in this mission. When Jon Snow meets with Mance in the Frostfangs, Mance explains that he has taken possession of a magic horn known as the Horn of Winter that can topple the Wall, and will use it as a last resort if he cannot bypass it militarily. However, Mance reveals that the wildlings, including his own people, have been hunted by the Others and their wights, and are unable to stop them. His true aim therefore is not to conquer or destroy the Wall, but to use it as a shield against the Others. Mance offers Jon the Horn of Winter if the Night’s Watch will let his people pass the Wall and settle the lands to the south, although he will not abide the laws or taxes of the Seven Kingdoms. If the Watch refuses, Tormund Giantsbane will sound the Horn of Joramun in three days time.

Meanwhile, King Stannis Baratheon sails to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with a host of over 1,000 mounted soldiers. Accompanied by Cotter Pyke and his rangers from Eastwatch, they travel along ranger roads beyond the Wall. They take Mance Rayder's host in the flank as it besieges Castle Black. The parley is interrupted, and Mance's scouts warn him of the approaching rangers and as they emerge from the fringes of the wood, his free folk fly to meet them. The rangers are only scouts, a screen intended to draw in the wildlings, and they scatter back into the trees before Mance's wildlings and Harma Dogshead's raiders can slaughter them. At this crucial point, Melisandre destroys Orell's eagle that Varamyr Sixskins uses for scouting. The trumpets blow all around and three columns of heavy horse emerge. One smashes into Harma's raiders, who have no time to regroup and meet them, while the second drives into the flanks of Tormund Giantsbane's spearmen. The third is shattered by the giants on their mammoths, but the other two are able to close in around them like pincers. On the eastern edge of the camps, archers loosen fire arrows at the tents and camps of the wildlings.

The wildling host breaks and runs as more men emerge from the trees. In the ensuing battle, Harma Dogshead is slain and the entire wildling force is either captured or routed with over a thousand wildlings killed. Mance is captured and most of his lieutenants are killed or captured, with the exception of Tormund Giantsbane and Varamyr Sixskins. Mance's wife, Dalla, dies giving birth to their son, the "wildling prince", during Stannis's attack on the wildling camp.

With King Stannis on the Wall, Mance in irons and the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, along with most of the senior brothers killed at the Fist or the Gorge, the Night's Watch is left in a precarious position of having to not only elect a new Lord Commander but also to preserve their political neutrality.

Stannis asks Jon if there is honor in Mance Rayder, and the young man says there is, saying that the wildlings have their own sort of honor. The King speaks of the war that Melisandre has seen in her flames, and confides that Jon may have a big role in the upcoming battle against the Others. Stannis also intends to let the wildlings through the Wall, and settle them in the Gift, should they pledge fealty and accept the Lord of Light as their god. When Stannis tells Jon that he needs him to win the North, Jon clarifies that it was his late brother Robb who was the King in the North. Jon's sympathy for Stannis's plight is blown away when Stannis criticizes Robb and his kingship, Jon responding that he loves his brother. Stannis agrees, confiding that he loved his own brother Robert as well, but they made choices resulting in a premature death and he needs Jon, Ned Stark's blood, to win the North. In an effort to gain a Stark ally via Jon, Stannis offers to legitimize Jon and name him Lord of Winterfell, a goal he considers especially important due to all the strife occurring in the North. He also presumes to marry his loyal Lord of Winterfell to the wildling princess Val in the belief that this will earn the loyalty of the wildlings. This stuns Jon, who is overcome with grief for his lost half-siblings and shame. However, this offer means Jon would also have to adopt Stannis' faith and burn the sacred godswood of Winterfell, a prospect Jon also loathes as it would mean turning against his father's gods and the Northern faith, the Old Gods. Jon ultimately turns down the offer.

Ser Denys Mallister, Bowen Marsh, Dolorous Edd, Dywen, Bedwyck, and survivors from the Bridge of Skulls arrive at Castle Black for the election of the new Lord Commander. Val wants to bring her sister’s baby to Mance, but Jon tells her that only Maester Aemon is permitted to see the imprisoned wildling king. Gilly is nursing both her own son as well as Mance Rayder’s. Meanwhile, Stannis is furious because the Night's Watch is taking too long to elect a new Lord Commander, so he lets them know his anger and forces the election to be done sooner. Jon Snow becomes the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch with also the support of Othell Yarwyck, Ser Denys Mallister, Cotter Pyke, and the late Jeor Mormont through his living raven.

A Feast for Crows

Jon smuggles Mance's son away from the Wall in the care of Samwell Tarly because he suspects that Stannis's sorceress Melisandre is looking to sacrifice a child of royal blood, and that Mance's title of "King-Beyond-the-Wall" could be construed as a royal lineage. Gilly later suggests the name Aemon Steelsong for Mance's son.

A Dance with Dragons

Mance Rayder's host scatters: a thousand are captured by the Watch, while others flee into the haunted forest. Hundreds are led by Mother Mole to Hardhome or by a dour warrior to Thenn.

Mance Rayder is still held as Stannis's prisoner at Castle Black. There's tension between the Night's Watch, Stannis' men, especially the Queen's Men, Mole's Town people, and the Free Folk. Stannis has been unsuccessful in seeking allegiance from the lords of the North; the latest rejection letter is from Lyanna Mormont. So far, the only house to have declared for him is House Karstark. Stannis asks for gold from the Night's Watch to pay off Salladhor Saan. Jon recommends he take White Harbor for that, but Stannis dismisses its lord, Wyman Manderly, as fat and useless. With wildling refugees still seeking shelter south of the wall, they discuss Mance Rayder, whom Stannis intends to burn as a deserter, his wife's sister Val, and his child. Jon mentions that Gilly is acting as wet nurse for her own child and Mance's, and that he plans to send her and her babe away south. Stannis approves once he learns that Gilly's child was born of incest.

Later Mance Rayder is supposedly burned alive by Stannis with the wildlings, members of the Night's Watch, king's men, and queen's men there to bear witness. Mance is burned in a cage made out of wood from the haunted forest, despite Jon's pleas to King Stannis to spare him. Jon warns against Stannis forcing the wildlings to give up their religion and tells Stannis the wildlings will love him better if they are allowed to keep their pride. However, Stannis argues he does not need the love of the wildlings, but their fighting forces. Mance is burned in a cage made out of wood from the haunted forest. At the sight of the cage, Mance's courage fails and he goes to his death begging for mercy, denying his kingship and his name and shrieking of witchcraft. Jon has Mance put out of his misery by having his archers shoot Mance to give him a quick death. Melisandre burns the Horn of Joramun as well, so that the Wall can never fall. Melisandre proclaims to the assembled wildlings that Stannis is their true King, Azor Ahai reborn. Stannis draws Lightbringer which is blindingly bright, and promises all who serve him food, land and justice. He then offers the remaining free folk a choice - bend the knee or go back to the wilds beyond the Wall. Given the severe threat posed by the Others in the wild, nine of every ten wildlings bend the knee. The gates of the Wall are opened and most of the captive wildlings enter to kneel before Stannis, feeding the fire with fragments of weirwood, pieces of the old gods to feed R'hllor's fires.

Unknowingly to King Stannis, the man burned alive was actually the Lord of Bones "Rattleshirt", glamored by Melisandre's magic to look like Mance. No one but Mance and Melisandre know the truth of the deception. Melisandre keeps the secret from Stannis due to Stannis's strict code of following the law.

There is not enough to feed the Night's Watch, the wildlings, and Stannis' men through the winter. Jon grimly orders a cut in rations, though he knows it will make him unpopular, and tells Marsh they will find a way to feed everyone. None of the wildlings knows that Rattleshirt is Mance Rayder. Stannis plans to win the support of the North, so he makes the death of Mance Rayder to be officially known by all the realm. House Umber is pleased to see Mance's head. Stannis doesn't realize he's lying to the world since Mance is still alive.

Disguised as Rattleshirt, Mance spars with Jon Snow in the yard and Jon is shocked by the man's speed and skill, not knowing it is actually Mance.

A raven comes, informing Jon Snow that Lord Ramsay Bolton is to marry Jon's 11 year-old half-sister, Arya Stark.

Devan Seaworth takes Mance "Rattleshirt" to Melisandre. She speaks with him and tells him to keep his bones on, in order to keep the glamor spell active. She also asks that he go and fetch the girl she saw on the dying horse, believing it's actually Arya Stark. She tells him of her vision of the girl and asks him where the girl might be coming up, and, knowing the North well, he can guess her location, west of Long Lake. 

Melisandre offers to send Rattleshirt to retrieve Arya Stark, but Jon refuses, not trusting Rattleshirt to save Arya and fears he will harm her instead. Therefore, Melisandre reveals Mance's disguise in order to make Jon reconsider the offer. Jon holds Mance's son so Mance would do everything in his power to rescue Jon's sister for the sake of his son. However, Mance does not know that Jon has switched Mance's son with Gilly's son to prevent any babies from being burned as a sacrifice. Mance takes six free folk spearwives with him: Rowan, Holly, Squirrel, Willow Witch-eye, Frenya and Myrtle.


Some wildlings cause tension with some Watchmen, most noticeably Halleck and his followers. Jon is also worried that the Thenns may blame him for the death of Styr.

Mance Rayder and his six spearwives arrive at Winterfell. Mance is now a travelling singer named Abel. Ramsay Bolton marries Jeyne Poole, who is posing as Arya. The scared Jeyne is accompanied by the servant Reek, Theon Greyjoy, an enemy to the North. Meanwhile, Winterfell is suffering from both a hard white frost and the looming menace of the coming of Stannis Baratheon's troops. Even so, Ramsay marries "Arya" in the godswood. Abel arrives uninvited, with six women followers, to perform for the wedding. 

After the marriage, there is a banquet with Lord Roose, Lord Ramsay, Lady Walda Frey, Ser Aenys Frey, Ser Hosteen Frey, Little Walder Frey, Big Walder Frey, Lady "Arya Stark", and Reek. There are also many northern guests, in the castle with their armies preparing for Stannis, including Lord Wyman Manderly, Lady Barbrey Dustin, Lord Harwood Stout, Lord Ondrew Locke, Lord Hother Umber, and Lord Rodrik Ryswell. Mance performs songs throughout the wedding and subsequent feast at Winterfell, while during the following nights his spearwives kill several northern men. The murders create tension between the Boltons and the Freys and the other northmen, who are waiting for an excuse to start their revenge for the Red Wedding.

At Winterfell, a sudden winter snowstorm infuriates in the northern lands. Roose Bolton is pleased that the old gods are against the heretic King Stannis. Bolton declares in the Great Hall that Stannis is at the mercy of the weather while they are sheltered in Winterfell. Roose's men cheer, while the Freys don't since they are not used to the weather and 3 of them already died (actually killed by Mance's spearwives).

Mance, as Abel, plays "The Dornishman's Wife" with one of his women beating a drum, but he switches the lyrics to a northman instead. Theon fears that this will be seen as a spite to the Boltons, cost the man his life, angering Ramsay and getting Theon flayed as a result. But when both of the Boltons laugh, the others see that it is safe so they laugh as well and join in with the bawdy song. Rowan, one of Mance's women, comes up to Theon and asks him about his exploits, telling him that Abel can make a song about his capture of Winterfell.

She questions him on how he was able to conquer Winterfell so easily, wondering if there was a secret entrance or another way that he used to get in. Theon thinks this is another ploy from Ramsay as he desires Rowan, so he runs away, leaving her. The northmen want Ramsay to treat Arya better. The northmen love the Starks and hate the Boltons, remaining loyal only out of fear for Arya's life and their own hostages with the Lannisters from the war in the south. The tears of Arya Stark will upset them and do Roose and Ramsay more harm than anything Stannis could do.

The girl from the dying horse from Melisandre's vision arrives at Castle Black. However, it's not Arya Stark but Alys Karstark, daughter of the late Lord Rickard. She begs Jon not to let Cregan Karstark take her back with him when he arrives, as he and his father Arnolf Karstark intend to force her into marrying Cregan. She also learns the truth about her father's execution from Jon and is unsurprised to learn that Robb killed him for murdering prisoners in a fit of rage; her father was a brooding man, and her uncles are no better. Alys and her brother Harrion are the rightful heirs to their titles.

Jon sends Tycho Nestoris to warn Stannis of the Karstarks' treachery.

At Winterfell, Mance Rayder is stuck with the Boltons and their host, due to the relentless snowstorms. Because of the storms, no one knows when Stannis will attack and how close he is to Winterfell. They are also running out of food. Mance's spearwives continue to spread chaos by killing people. The spearwife Holly asks Theon about the crypts, and he comes to the conclusion that she, Abel, and the other women want out of Winterfell. Theon sympathizes, but he fears the wrath of Ramsay Bolton and prefers not to get involved.

The next morning Aenys Frey's squire is found dead and naked outside in the snow. Later on that day another man, a crossbowman sworn to House Flint, is found dead with a crushed skull, presumably from a horse kick. The suspicions and tensions keep growing to the point that open quarreling happens among the host's Lords inside the Great Hall. 

The situation in Winterfell becomes more dangerous when the next victim of the murders is one of Ramsay's bastard boys, Yellow Dick. This death is taken more seriously since it means messing personally with Ramsay.

Mance's spearwives come to a frightened Theon, who thinks they are going to kill him, instead they bring him to Abel.

Still disguised as Abel, Mance plans the escape for Theon and Jeyne Poole. Theon is scared, since he knows that Ramsay will chase them with his dogs. Abel doubt that, because they are constantly blowing horns outside Winterfell, to scare the Boltons. Abel thinks it's Stannis Baratheon, but it's actually Mors Umber leading Stannis' vanguard outside the castle.

Another person dies in Winterfell. This time it's "Little" Walder Frey, son of Merrett. However, Mance's spearwives tell Theon that this is not their work. Lord Wyman Manderly insults both the dead boy and House Frey simultaneously, Hosteen draws his sword in a blind fury and attacks Manderly, who is sliced under his chins and collapses; his knights leap to defend him and a vicious and bloody fight breaks out. In the end, six White Harbor men lie dead, two Frey men, as well as one of Ramsay's Bastard Boys, Luton. Roose and Ramsay quell the tension by telling the men present if they want blood, they should turn their anger on Stannis. Hosteen replies that once they bring Roose Stannis' head, they will come for Wyman's.

Roose asks Abel to play a song and the Freys leave, riding outside against Stannis. The spearwife Rowan grabs Theon, preparing to leave Winterfell. Mance stays behind as Abel while playing his song. The spearwives dress the fake Arya, Jeyne Poole, as Squirrel, another spearwife, while the real Squirrel climbs away down the wall. Jeyne is terrified, thinking it's just Ramsay trying to test her. Theon and Mance's spearwives take her and dress her.

During the escape, Mance's spearwives kill some Bolton guards. Jeyne's scream reveals them, and a fight at the walls of Winterfell starts. During the fight all 6 spearwives are killed and the plan fails. Terrified, Theon thinks that if they are caught now they will be brought to Ramsay and tortured. He then throws himself and Jeyne over the battlements.

Jon wonders what has happened to Mance Rayder and if he has found his sister Arya. 

Tormund agrees with Jon's decision and voluntarily includes his own son as a hostage as a sign of good faith. Jon decides to take him on as his own squire. Jon mentions that Melisandre burned the horn of Joramun that Mance and the wildlings were supposedly going to use to break down the Wall. Tormund tells Jon that although they did find that huge horn in the Skirling Pass, it is not actually the true Horn of Joramun, or they would have used it when they assaulted the Wall. Jon, confused, tries to decide whether it was Mance that lied to him or Tormund lying to him now about the authenticity of the horn.

While Jon is planning the rescue mission to Hardhome with Tormund, a letter arrives. The person who wrote it claims to be Ramsay Bolton. The letter says:

"Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.

Your false king’s friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. 'Instead' you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.

I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.

I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess.

I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.

Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell."

Excerpt From: George R. R. Martin. "A Dance With Dragons."

Jon is horrified by the letter and gives it to Tormund , who is with Jon when the letter is delivered. Tormund reveals he cannot read but says the letter feels nasty. Jon reads it to him and Tormund agrees the letter is awful but is skeptical of its authenticity. Jon believes the letter is authentic and true and Tormund tells him, "I won’t say you’re wrong. What do you mean to do, crow?" Jon's thoughts go to his siblings. He and Tormund spend the next two hours discussing what to do. At Shieldhall, Jon announces his intention to go south and confront Ramsay Bolton, publicly compromising his political neutrality as Lord Commander, and Tormund will lead the Hardhome rescue mission in his place. The hall erupts into chaos. The wildlings are moved by Jon's words and volunteer to join him while Bowen Marsh and a faction of Watchmen disappear from the Shieldhall.

While Jon is on his way to inform Selyse, he hears a scream of agony and rushes to the source. When he arrives, a bleeding Wun Wun is holding the mangled body of Ser Patrick. Jon tries to prevent more loss of life and as he turns around, he sees Wick Wittlestick, who slashes at Jon's throat with a dagger, just barely grazing him. While Jon is still trying to understand, Bowen Marsh and others surround him and plant daggers in him, all of them saying with tears in their eyes, "For the Watch." By the time the fourth dagger slashes him, Jon falls.

It is unknown whether the contents of the letter are true (there are several anomalies about it which imply Ramsay was not the one who wrote it), and whether Mance is still alive.

Game of Thrones

Though Stannis pursues an alliance with Mance Rayder in retaking the North from Roose Bolton in exchange for clemency for deserting the Night's Watch, Mance refuses to bend the knee and is subsequently executed. In the TV adaptation, Mance himself is burned alive. Rattleshirt is violently killed at Hardhome, after having an argument with Tormund.

In the novels, Mance is still alive, as  but is being held captive at Winterfell by Ramsay Bolton after Jon sent Mance to Winterfell to try and rescue his sister, Arya Stark (actually Jeyne Poole.)

Personality

Mance is a charismatic, determined and easygoing man with strong leadership qualities. It is these qualities that allowed him to defect from the Night's Watch to join the Free Folk, and quickly rise to the title of King-Beyond-The-Wall. Mance's exceptional social skills enabled him to unite the diverse wildling clans, no matter how different they were from one another or how much they wanted to kill one another. He is shown to be quite imaginative when he loves songs, freedom, and wildling women.

Mance is also very aware of the threat the White Walkers will pose to the entire world and used it to his advantage in convincing the wildlings to unite as a singular army. Because of his honest yet stern persona, he earned the great respect and admiration of the toughest of wildlings and even giants. However, Mance states himself that his trusting nature is also a weakness of his; having honestly let himself believe that Jon Snow was truly defecting from the Night's Watch as he did.

However, even when faced with such betrayal or adversity, Mance keeps a calm and levelheaded attitude, not even growing overly angry when discovering Snow's attempt to assassinate him. Above all else, Mance cherishes the Free Folk and their culture, performing dangerous and world-changing actions in the hopes of finding them safety from the coming winter.

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Arnolf Karstark | Arthor Karstark | Barbrey Dustin | Bastard's Girls | Bowen Marsh | Cregan Karstark | Harald Karstark | Locke | Myranda | Night's King | Olly | Ramsay Bolton | Reek | Rickard Karstark | Roose Bolton | Smalljon Umber

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Hizdahr zo Loraq | Kraznys mo Nakloz | Malko | Old Empire of Ghis | Oznak zo Pahl | Prendahl na Ghezn | Razdal mo Eraz | Reznak mo Reznak | Sons of the Harpy | Vala

Qarth
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Yi Ti
Bloodstone Emperor | Lo Bu

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