As the moon cast its silvery glow over Winterfell, young Brandon, the tiniest sprout of the Stark family, would retreat to his bed, ready for the enchanting tales spun by Old Nan. The wrinkly storyteller, a weaver of dark and spine-tingling narratives gathered from the farthest reaches of Westeros, sought to warn the young lad.
Nan, with her hoary wisdom and tales that echoed through the corridors of time, tried earnestly to instill a sense of caution in Brandon. Yet, the lad, nestled in the comfort of his bed, couldn’t fully fathom the gravity of her words. The eerie stories, like elusive whispers in the night, failed to sway Brandon’s belief. Little did Brandon know that fate, that elusive puppet master, had preordained a remarkable journey for him. It was a journey that would unravel the threads of these fantastical tales, threading reality into the fabric of his understanding.
In this article, I invite you to explore the tapestry of stories, legends, and background tales that Old Nan wove for the curious ears of young Brandon, tales that would later become the lighthouse guiding him through the uncharted waters of his own destiny.
Brandon the Builder
In the ancient annals of Westeros, the legendary figure of Brandon the Builder stands as a titan among men, a colossus whose deeds resonate through the ages. It is said that during the Age of Heroes, when the First Men and the Children of the Forest were locked in a struggle for dominion over the land, Brandon Stark emerged as a beacon of hope. A gifted architect and strategist, he undertook feats that would shape the very foundations of Westeros.
Foremost among Brandon’s legendary achievements is the construction of the Wall, a colossal ice barrier that spans the northern borders of the Seven Kingdoms. The Wall, said to be a defense against the enigmatic and malevolent beings known as the Others, is a testament to Brandon’s unparalleled vision and determination. It is whispered that he enlisted the aid of giants and the mysterious Children of the Forest to raise the Wall, infusing it with magical wards to ward off the ancient darkness that lurked beyond.
The tale of Brandon the Builder does not end with the Wall, for he is credited with the founding of House Stark and the establishment of Winterfell as their ancestral seat. Legends tell of his alliance with the Children of the Forest, his mastery over ice and stone, and his role in shaping the destiny of the North. As time weaves its intricate tapestry, the figure of Brandon the Builder remains an indomitable force, a mythical architect whose legacy endures in the very stones and icy winds of the North.
“No one can even say for certain if Brandon the Builder ever lived. He is as remote from the time of the novels as Noah and Gilgamesh are from our own time.”
—George R. R. Martin
Long Night and Azor Ahai
In the hallowed pages of Westerosi lore, the tale of Azor Ahai burns as brightly as the legendary sword he forged, Lightbringer. Long ago, during the Long Night when the world lay shrouded in darkness, and the Others emerged from the icy depths of the far North, Azor Ahai emerged as a prophesied hero destined to combat the encroaching menace. It is said that Azor Ahai, a warrior of great skill and virtue, sought to forge a weapon mighty enough to vanquish the approaching darkness.
The legend’s heart lies in Azor Ahai’s three attempts to forge the fabled sword. On the first two attempts, he plunged the blade into the water and then the heart of a lion, but both times, the sword shattered. In the third and final attempt, Azor Ahai tempered the sword by driving it through the heart of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa. The forging of Lightbringer was an agonizing sacrifice, as her soul and warmth were infused into the blade, turning it into a weapon of blinding brilliance.
With Lightbringer in hand, Azor Ahai led the charge against the Others, driving them back into the frigid North and bringing an end to the Long Night. The hero’s sacrifice and the radiant Lightbringer became the stuff of legend, with the prophecy foretelling the return of Azor Ahai in the darkest hours to once again wield the fiery sword and repel the shadows that threaten to engulf the world. As Westeros faces the looming threat of winter and the encroaching danger beyond the Wall, the tales of Azor Ahai continue to echo through the winds of time, a beacon of hope in the face of encroaching darkness.
“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.”
—Old Nan, to Bran Stark
In the mystical tapestry of Westerosi legends, the tale of Symeon Star-Eyes glimmers like a distant constellation. Symeon, a legendary knight of yore, earned his moniker due to a peculiar and awe-inspiring feature: he possessed two sapphires instead of eyes, giving him an otherworldly gaze that captured the imagination of those who beheld him. As the tale unfolds, Symeon Star-Eyes becomes a figure of mystery, with his origins and the nature of his peculiar eyes lost to the mists of time.
It is said that Symeon wielded a greatsword, a massive blade with star-shaped sapphires set into its hilt, adding an ethereal glow to his already enigmatic presence. With his mysterious origins and sightless yet penetrating gaze, the knight roamed the realm, performing legendary feats in the service of chivalry and honor. The story of Symeon Star-Eyes, like a constellation in the night sky, is a reminder that even in the vast and intricate tapestry of Westerosi lore, there are figures whose stories are veiled in the celestial mysteries of time and imagination, leaving behind a legacy that sparkles with the brilliance of sapphire-studded stars.
Florian the Fool
In the heart of Westerosi folklore, the whimsical tale of Florian the Fool dances like a jester in the royal court. Florian, a wandering minstrel with a heart aflame with love and mischief, became a figure of romantic legend during the Age of Heroes. His tale, entwined with that of Jonquil, a fair maiden of surpassing beauty, spins a yarn of courtly love and the capricious ways of fate.
With his motley attire and jingling bells, Florian sought Lady Jonquil’s favor by serenading her beneath the moonlit skies. His songs, both tender and playful, spoke of love’s enduring power and the courage to pursue one’s heart’s desire. However, the path of love seldom runs smooth, and Florian’s tale is no exception. It is said that he faced trials and tribulations, from dueling with rivals to performing grand gestures to win Lady Jonquil’s heart.
The pinnacle of Florian’s romantic saga unfolded in the Tournament of Love and Beauty, where he emerged victorious, crowned with the laurel wreath by the lady of his affection. The tale of Florian the Fool and Lady Jonquil became a cherished ballad, echoing through the centuries as a testament to the enduring themes of love, chivalry, and the whimsical twists of destiny in the rich tapestry of Westerosi legends.
“Bran, that is only a story, like the tales of Florian the Fool. A fable from the Age of Heroes.”
—Luwin to Bran Stark
Deep within the ancient and mystical traditions of the North, the enigmatic tale of skinchangers whispers through the winds of the haunted forests. Skinchangers, or wargs, are individuals gifted with the rare and magical ability to enter the minds of animals and share their senses, forging a profound and mystical connection with the beasts of the wild. This extraordinary power, however, comes with its perils, as it delves into the age-old mysteries of the Old Gods and the untamed forces that linger beyond the Wall.
Legends speak of the greatest skinchangers, such as Varamyr Sixskins, who could command a host of creatures with a thought. Tales tell of those who could soar through the skies as ravens or prowl the snow-laden woods as wolves, their spirits intertwining with the primal essence of the creatures they inhabited. Yet, such powers are not without their consequences, as the boundary between man and beast blurs, and those who delve too deeply into the world of skinchanging risk losing their humanity.
The mystical art of skinchanging is intertwined with the lore of the Children of the Forest, the ancient beings who once roamed the vast forests of Westeros. As the North bristles with magic and the echoes of the Old Gods’ influence, the tales of skinchangers weave a haunting narrative of the primal forces that lurk beneath the surface of the known world.
“The free folk fear skinchangers, but they honor us as well. South of the Wall, the kneelers hunt us down and butcher us like pigs.”
Titan of Braavos
In the bustling port city of Braavos, where the Narrow Sea meets the western edge of Essos, the colossal figure of the Titan guards the entrance to the city with an air of silent majesty. The tale of the Titan of Braavos is one of ancient origins, born from the maritime prowess and indomitable spirit of the Braavosi people. It is said that the Titan was constructed by the city’s founders, a race of fugitives and outcasts who sought refuge in the lagoon city.
The Titan, a gargantuan structure standing astride the entrance to the city, is a colossus carved from massive blocks of stone and armed with a mighty bronze blade. Its eyes, two shining orbs of colored glass that gleam with an otherworldly light, watch over the ship-laden waters with an unwavering gaze. Legends speak of the Titan’s purpose: to protect the city from would-be invaders and to stand as a symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Braavosi people, who value freedom and independence above all else.
The Titan of Braavos, with its looming presence and the sea spray crashing against its stony frame, stands as a sentinel that has weathered the passage of centuries. As ships approach the city, they pass beneath the shadow of this imposing colossus, a reminder that Braavos is a city born of resilience and defiance, where the Titan’s gaze echoes the unwavering determination of a people who carved their destiny from the rocky foundations of the lagoon isles.
“I read a book about Braavos when I was small. The whole city is built in a lagoon on a hundred little islands, and they have a titan there, a stone man hundreds of feet high.”
—Samwell Tarly to Gilly
In the heart of the ancient and mystical forests, where the towering trees stand as sentinels of nature’s secrets, the tale of the Green Man weaves through the rustling leaves and dappled sunlight. The Green Man, a figure of legend and folklore, is said to be a guardian spirit of the woodlands, an embodiment of the untamed magic that courses through the heart of nature. This enigmatic being, adorned with leaves and vines, is both a symbol of the ever-renewing cycle of life and a harbinger of the primal forces that bind the realm of men to the wild.
Legends tell of the Green Man appearing in times of great need, his presence heralded by the stirring of the wind and the vibrant colors of the forest coming alive. As a mysterious and benevolent entity, the Green Man is said to possess the power to heal the wounded, commune with the creatures of the woods, and bring vitality to the land. In times of imbalance and disharmony, the Green Man is said to emerge from the heart of the forest, his visage both awe-inspiring and comforting to those who encounter him.
The tale of the Green Man is not confined to a single location but echoes through the diverse mythologies and cultures that revere the sanctity of the natural world. Whether known as Cernunnos in Celtic lore, Pan in Greek mythology, or the Green Knight in Arthurian legends, the Green Man’s presence spans the realms of fantasy and reality, a testament to the enduring reverence for the mysterious forces that bind humanity to the verdant tapestry of the Earth.
Deep within the shadowed halls of Westerosi folklore lies the grim and haunting tale of the Rat Cook, a figure whose deeds are spoken of in hushed tones around hearths and campfires. The Rat Cook was once a humble cook at the Night’s Watch, stationed at the Nightfort, the ancient fortress along the Wall. The legend recounts that, in a fit of madness or perhaps driven by a dark desire for revenge, the cook committed an unspeakable act that would etch his name into the annals of sinister Westerosi tales.
It is said that a king sought refuge at the Nightfort, and the Rat Cook, harboring a grudge, served the king a feast that included the flesh of his own son. The gods, outraged by this horrific act of betrayal and cannibalism, cursed the Rat Cook and condemned him to wander the Nightfort as a monstrous rat, forever hungry and searching for sustenance that would always elude him. The tale of the Rat Cook stands as a macabre reminder of the consequences that befall those who transgress the laws of both gods and men.
The dark and unsettling legacy of the Rat Cook echoes through the walls of the Nightfort, as travelers and members of the Night’s Watch share the tale with a shiver in their voice. In the chilling corridors of Westerosi lore, the Rat Cook’s story serves as a moral cautionary tale, a ghastly reflection of the lengths to which revenge and betrayal can drive even the most seemingly ordinary souls into the abyss of unspeakable horror.
“It was not for murder that the gods cursed him, nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”
In the frostbitten lands beyond the Wall, where the icy winds whisper through the ancient pines, the harrowing tale of the Seventy-Nine Sentinels unfolds like a ghostly chorus in the darkened wilderness. Long ago, during the tumultuous era of the Night’s Watch, a company of brave men known as the Seventy-Nine Sentinels faced a perilous task. Their duty was to guard the realm from the dangers that lurked beyond the Wall, standing as the vanguard against the enigmatic and malevolent forces that haunted the haunted realms of the far North.
It is said that these stalwart defenders, facing the relentless onslaught of the cold and the encroaching shadows, were abandoned by the Night’s Watch and left to their grim fate. Trapped in the icy desolation, the Seventy-Nine Sentinels continued their watch, steadfast and unyielding, even as the bitter winds claimed their lives one by one. Their lonely vigil transformed them into frozen sentinels, their forms encased in the ice that mirrored the frigid cruelty of their forsaken duty.
The tale of the Seventy-Nine Sentinels echoes through the icy winds and snow-laden trees, a haunting reminder of the sacrifices made in the desolate defense of the realm. In the silent wilderness beyond the Wall, the frozen sentinels stand as silent witnesses to the relentless passage of time, their sacrifice etched into the icy landscape as a solemn testament to the harrowing trials faced by those who guard the realm against the ancient and unknowable terrors of the far North.
“They left their posts in life, so in death their watch goes on forever.”
—Bran Stark to Jojen Reed
Thing that came in the night
In the quietude of Westeros, beneath the cloak of night, whispers circulate of a haunting entity known only as “the Thing that came in the night.” Legends speak of this mysterious apparition as a spectral presence that slips through the shadows, visiting unsuspecting villages and homesteads under the shroud of darkness. Tales tell of the eerie silence that precedes its arrival, as if the very air holds its breath in anticipation of the enigmatic visitor.
The Thing that came in the night is said to bring with it an otherworldly dread, casting an unsettling pall over those who witness its spectral form. As the tale unfolds, those who have encountered this mysterious entity speak of strange occurrences and unexplained phenomena, from chilling winds that seem to carry the whispers of lost souls to eerie echoes that reverberate through the night. The story of the Thing that came in the night remains veiled in mystery, its purpose and origin obscured in the silent shadows of Westerosi lore, leaving behind a tale that sends shivers down the spines of those who dare to ponder the enigma that haunts the realm after dark.
“There was no thing that comes in the night, Maester Luwin had said so. If there had ever been such a thing, it was gone from the world now, like giants and dragons.”
—thoughts of Bran Stark