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"Children of the Forest vs. the First Men" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season. It is narrated by Max von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven.

Synopsis

The Three-Eyed Raven recounts the Wars of the First Men and the Children of the Forest and warns of the return of the great evil created by that conflict.

Narration

The Three-Eyed Raven: War did not come to Westeros with men. In the dawn of days the Children of the Forest fought the giants. But neither race sought to destroy the other or their claim to the continent. They couldn't; the Children hunted and fought with dragonglass arrows and spears and the giants had hold of the branches they pulled from trees. Nor could both races fill more than one of the Seven Kingdoms of today.

But then the southern deserts coughed up a new race; the First Men, who had crossed the Narrow Sea over the Arm of Dorne. Unlike the Children and giants, the First Men lived in huts and villages and farmed the land to eat, and there were so many. As their numbers swelled, men needed ever more fields and timber. Of course, they saw that the great forests could provide both.

When they cut into the deep woods, however, they stumbled on a strange sight; a white tree with red leaves and a face staring back at them. At first they were afraid, but the face never spoke even when the axe bit into it. The First Men didn't know what a weirwood was. They didn't know that a weirwood grows forever if left in peace. Or that the native Children believed their spirits went into it after death. The Children had no letters or runes; all of their history, songs and prayers only the trees remembered. When the Children looked at the cleared fields, they saw not white stumps but their ancestors now lost forever, with their bones stolen to line the invaders' walls. Driven mad be grief, the Children attacked.

The First Men had never seen weirwood, but the Children had never seen bronze. The dragonglass arrows glanced off the First Men's shields and their armor of woven bark split beneath the First Men's swords. As the war waged, the children resorted to the one advantage they had; the magic of their Old Gods. Their greenseers enlisted direwolves and snow bears, cave lions and eagles, mammoths and serpents. In return, the First Men cut down and burned every weirwood they could find, fearing that the Children could spy on them through the faces in the trees. The Children became desperate; their greenseers called down the hammer of waters to break the Arm of Dorne, destroying they bridge that men crossed into Westeros, and to flood the Neck to contain men to the south.

But the First Men would not be stopped. Fearing extinction, the Children combined their powers for one last spell that would save their people and their land from the invaders. By themselves, the Children were too few to resist the onslaught, but if they could turn men's numbers against them...

After hundreds of years of untold death and destruction, the wisest heads of the Children and the First Men finally prevailed. The Children couldn't win this war - and the First Men didn't want to win, fearing the cost of victory. Heroes and rulers on both sides met upon an isle in the Gods Eye to form the Pact. The Children gave up all the lands of Westeros save for the deep forests and the First Men swore that they would no longer cut down the weirwoods. Thus ended the Dawn Age and began the Age of Heroes.

Yet after the dawn must come the night. The great evil that the Children unleashed in the war returned centuries later, and only an alliance between the Children and men defeated it. Now it comes again when the Children are a shadow of what they were and men have long forgotten. But the trees remember and Brandon Stark must learn or as we watched the First Men, so will we watch the last...

Notes

  • The video points out that the Children of the Forest and the giants skirmished with each other but neither tried to claim the whole continent, saying that the entire population of both races together could not have filled even one of the later "Seven Kingdoms" formed by men. If they were ever facing too much conflict in one region they could just move to another region of uninhabited forest. In the novels, Leaf directly explains to Bran Stark that there simply weren't that many Children in the first place, even before the losses they took in wars against the First Men and later the White Walkers. Leaf believes that the Old Gods made them this way to maintain balance with nature and their needs - comparable to how the population of deer on an island needs to be kept small, otherwise without any wolves to keep their population in check they will expand until they exhaust all of their resources.
  • The current five novels have not yet revealed that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers, as was explained in Season 6 of the TV series. It has been vaguely implied, given the other hints about how the White Walkers were turning Craster's sons into new White Walkers.
    • This segment seems to clarify a timeline confusion that arose in "The Door": the White Walkers were one of the weapons the Children used in the war, and that they returned centuries later. This implies that the Great War is the third time the White Walkers have threatened the living, and confirms the established chronology, with the Long Night occurring after the Pact.

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