- "I could tell you about Ser Duncan the Tall."
- ―Old Nan to Bran Stark
Duncan the Tall is an unseen character in Game of Thrones. He is long deceased when the events of the series begin. Duncan the Tall is a legendary knight and the subject of several popular songs and stories.
Ser Duncan the Tall was a great knight in the history of Westeros, a famous warrior and a great friend to King Aegon V Targaryen. He lived roughly between 105 and 40 years before the events of the series, and was Lord Commander of the Kingsguard when Ser Barristan Selmy started his rise to prominence. He is immortalized in many songs and stories, such as those told by Old Nan to Bran Stark.
In the books
Ser Duncan the Tall and his unusual friendship with King Aegon V Targaryen are the subjects of a series of novellas written by George R.R. Martin, set roughly ninety years before the events of the main books. These stories are The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, and The Mystery Knight, the first two of which have been reprinted as graphic novels. A fourth short story, The She-Wolves, was intended to be published in 2012, but was postponed until an unknown time.
In these stories, Duncan is revealed to be an orphan boy from the poor quarter of King's Landing, the area known as Flea Bottom. He attracted the attention of a hedge knight called Ser Arlan of Pennytree, and squired for the old man, accompanying him to many tournaments and on at least one major campaign, an incursion into the Red Mountains of Dorne led by House Dondarrion to root out a bandit king. Ser Arlen died on his way to a great tournament at Ashford. Taking up his sword, armor and horses, Dunk competed in the tourney as a knight and was joined by a young boy called 'Egg', who asked to become his squire, though Egg was later revealed to be the young Aegon Targaryen in disguise. A complex series of events followed which resulted in a 'trial of seven', two teams of seven knights fighting one another for honor and glory. Ser Duncan's team proved victorious, but Prince Baelor Targaryen, the heir apparent to the Iron Throne, was killed. In the aftermath of the combat, Prince Maekar, Aegon's father, agreed to let Egg squire for Dunk on the road.
The pair had many famous adventures. This included a visit to Dorne, where they were nearly killed by the apparently insane Lady of Vaith, as well as resolving a decades-long dispute between the houses Osgrey and Webber in the Reach. They also helped foil the Second Blackfyre Rebellion before undertaking a lengthy journey north to visit Winterfell. Many years later Egg ascended the Iron Throne as King Aegon V Targaryen. Ser Duncan the Tall became a member of the Kingsguard, and later its Lord Commander. Egg and Dunk faced their last adventure together at Summerhall, on the night of the great fire there.
There is widespread speculation that Briene of Tarth and/or Hodor may be descendants of Ser Duncan. There are three pieces of evidence that Brienne might be Duncan's descendant. First, Martin actually said that a descendant of Duncan would appear in the fourth novel, but he never indicated who it was. Second, during the fourth novel, Brienne mentions in passing while selecting a new shield that she recalls an old shield from her youth which was present in her family's armory at Evenfall Hall, and the description she gives matches Ser Duncan's personal sigil (a green shooting star over a green elm tree, on a sunset-orange field). Third, though most general, is that "Ser Duncan the Tall" was famously a very tell man, nearly seven feet in height, and Brienne is unusually tall for a woman by Westerosi standards. There is also speculation that Hodor may be a descendant of Ser Duncan, as Hodor is also extremely tall, over seven feet in height, and the upcoming fourth prequel novella, The She-Wolves of Winterfell, reveals that Ser Duncan traveled to Winterfell. At one point Bran Stark has a greensight vision of the past, and sees a very large man "as tall as Hodor" in the Winterfell godswood, being kissed by a slender young woman - who might have been Old Nan.
On 10 February 2013, George R.R. Martin confirmed that he had been in discussion with HBO over a possible adaptation of the Dunk and Egg short stories, though in what format (TV movies, theatrical movie, or a spin-off TV series) was not made clear.