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With the final ever episode of the epic fantasy sage Game of Thrones having left our screens, it may have left you wanting to know more about the vast history that spans millenia before the setting of the show (and it's way larger than you think!).
And there's no better way to delve into this story than with the world book called "A World of Ice and Fire" which describes the entire history of Westeros from the migration of the First Men, to Aegon Targaryen's fiery conquest, right up to Robert's Rebellion which sets the stage to the starting point of both the show and the books.
The true scale of this universe is akin to that of legendary authors like J.R.R Tolkien with awesome characters, brutal battles, and enough political scheming to make Littlefinger turn in his grave.
But I think the best place to start our adventure is right at the beginning. And I mean RIGHT at the beginning, as in 12,000 years before the start of the story we all know and love. Before even men inhabited the continent of Westeros. Which means no Starks, no Lannisters, no Winterfell or Kings Landing, no Wall or Night's Watch and no dragons. This section of Westeros' history is simply known as "The Dawn Age" and at this time the only inhabitants of Westeros were the Giants and the Children of the Forest. If you don't remember the Children of the Forest then I won't blame you, there are enough characters to worry about without adding a whole other species in the mix. If you think back, these guys are the ones with Bran in the cave that we see creating the Night King and his White Walkers in a flashback.
In the books they are described as a stone age people who are very short in stature (hense the name) who use dragon glass weapons and tools. They live in the deep woods of the continent and are a very mysterious people who worship the Old Gods and the white Weirwood trees. They are also known for their use of magic, with greenseers and wargs being more common with them. These traits are most notably seen in Bran Stark and Jojen Reed in the books and show. However in the books all the Starks have some amount of warging ability, with both Jon and Arya both being able to warg inside their Direwolves in dreams but obviously to a far lesser extent than Bran.
Anyway I'm sidetracking. Where was I? Oh, yes the Dawn Age.
Well at this time the Giants and Children seemed to coexist in relative peace but this was not to last. The First Men are coming! The First Men were originally from Essos and were a Bronze Age people whom many noble houses claim descent from. Specifically houses Stark, Lannister, and Greyjoy.
The First Men crossed from Essos into Westeros through a land bridge known as "The Arm of Dorne" and immediately began to slaughter the Children and cut down their sacred Weirwood Trees to make way for their holdfasts and homes . This was especially violating to the Children as in their culture, the Weirwood trees are where they believed they go after they die, hold their ancestors, and are a direct connection to the Old Gods. Cutting these down to them would be like digging up your family's grave, smashing up the headstone, and giving you the middle finger.
Fights between these two groups became increasingly common with the Children being on the losing side due to their small stature and inferior weapons in relation to the First Men. Even with their magic they were still no match against bronze and blood. To combat this the Children made a desperate effort to stop the flow of First Men from entering Westeros by using their magic to destroy the land bridge between the two continents. This was successful and is why the Islands of the Stepstones are all that remain today.
Unfortunately this action was not enough and the Children were being pushed further north by the First Men. Again the Children attempted to stop them by destroying the land, this time at the region known as the Neck, but this attempt was not as successful and only flooded the area leaving marshland which is still seen today.
Eventually peace was accomplished, however, and a Pact was signed between the First Men and Children after 2000 years of conflict and unfathomable numbers of dead on both sides. This pact decreed that men would hold dominion over all land but the Children would have hold over the deep woods. The First Men also took up the worship of the Old Gods and traditions that went along with this.
And at last there was peace. For a time...
In the show we learn that the White Walkers were created as a weapon of the Children to destroy the First Men but they broke free from their creators and went rogue. This, however, is not yet seen in the books, with the Walkers and their intent on humanity remaining as much a mystery as the first time we see them. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn more about them when The Winds of Winter is released. But for now all we can do is wait....