In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Cotter Pyke is the bastard son of a tavern wench. He betrays his common origins by being plain, even rough-speaking, with a broken nose. Despite his origins, Cotter Pyke is also considered to be a highly effective and able commander, and stands high in the ranks of the Night's Watch. He holds a level of disdain for, and is essentially the opposite to, Ser Denys Mallister, the commander of The Shadow Tower, who is a highborn knight.
In "A Dance with Dragons" Cotter Pyke, not Tormund, is given the assignment of bringing the Wildlings from Hardhome. He and his crew are in great danger, in view of his second report to Jon. Just as Jon arranges a rescue party, he is attacked by his own men. The commotion makes the people at Castle Black forget about Cotter Pyke's predicament. By the end of the novel, it is unknown what is the status of him and his men, if any of them is still alive.