The Battle of the Fist of the First Men is a battle during the Conflict Beyond the Wall. It is the first open confrontation between men and White Walkers since the Long Night, over eight thousand years ago.
While Samwell Tarly, Grenn, and Edd are collecting animal feces to burn as firewood near to the Fist of the First Men, they hear a blast from a horn, and Samwell immediately assumes that the Ranging party, with Jon Snow, has returned. A second blast sounds, and Grenn and Edd draw their swords, assuming it is wildlings. Finally a third blast sounds, signalling White Walkers. Grenn and Edd run, leaving Samwell behind as a snowstorm begins to blow in.
Samwell hides behind a rock because he is unable to catch up to the other boys. An army of undead wights marches beside him, heading towards the Fist of the First Men. A White Walker rides an undead horse directly next to the rock Samwell is hiding behind and notices him. Samwell begins to cry and the White Walker ignores him, letting out a shriek to urge on the wights towards the Night's Watch encampment atop the Fist of the First Men.
The camp of the Night's Watch on the Fist is overrun by a horde of wights led by White Walkers.
Only a handful of black brothers survive the attack, including Samwell, who runs through a blizzard in search of safety. He sees another man of the Night's Watch ahead but soon discovers that he has been decapitated. Just then, a wight approaches Sam and is just about to attack him with an axe when the direwolf Ghost saves him by attacking the wight. Lord Commander Mormont then appears and asks Sam if he sent off the messenger-ravens he was instructed to release. Sam tells him that he wasn't able to in the confusion of the attack which angers Lord Commander Mormont. The survivors, led by the Lord Commander, begin their way back to the Wall to warn of the coming danger.
Mance Rayder, along with Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, Orell, and Ygritte, inspects the Fist, finding only the mutilated remains of the horses arranged in a spiral pattern. All the corpses of the black brothers Orell had discovered are gone. Jon says that about three hundred men were camped at the Fist. Mance warns him that they have now been raised as undead wights.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire books, while waiting for the last of the search parties to return to decide on a plan of action regarding the wildlings, the Watch is attacked by a horde of wights, among them reanimated corpses of animals (most notably a snow bear). Since their arrows have no effect against the undead attackers, Mormont orders his archers to use fire arrows, slowing the wights but not stopping them. The Watch is quickly overrun. Most of the force of 300 men is killed, including the officers Thoren Smallwood and Ottyn Wythers. Only sixty-one men manage to cut their way free out of the Fist, part of those are killed by the pursuing wights during the retreat. Of the forty-four survivors, twelve are critically injured and are put on horses while the able men hold torches to guard the flanks and rear. Only the stragglers are attacked by the wights. Eventually the survivors reached Craster's Keep, where the next disaster occurred - the combined effect was that nearly a third of the entire Night's Watch, including most of its officers and best warriors, was wiped out.
The battle plays out different in the novel than in the TV series. Much of the battle is actually described, albeit in flashback, but due to budget restraints it happens "off screen" in the TV series, like the Battle of Oxcross and the Battle of the Green Fork. Also, during the battle Samwell Tarly manages to send many ravens, but just two of them - one to Castle Black and one to the Shadow Tower - have messages about the impending attack. Terrified of the battle, Samwell forgets to send any other messages off before setting the rest of the ravens free when the battle is lost. The message to Castle Black reaches its destination, but there is nothing those who remained there can do to help Mormont and his troops, except sending distress messages to the five kings (thinking that the enemies mentioned in the message are the Wildlings, while Sam meant the Others), pleading for them to send reinforcements. Neither Ghost nor Rast take part in the battle, as the direwolf had accompanied Jon Snow while the ranger had remained at Castle Black.
During the retreat, Sam collapsed. Only Grenn stayed with him and urged him to move on, but in vain. A steward of the Watch named Paul carried Sam on his back. Due to the delay, the three fell behind the other survivors, and one of the Others attacked them. The Other killed Paul, and Sam desperately stabbed it with his Dragonglass dagger. To Sam and Grenn's amazement, the Other was destroyed. Eventually Sam and Grenn caught up with the rest of the Watch. This was moved around in the TV series to occur after Sam fled Craster's Keep with Gilly.