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Kevan Lannister: "They do seem rather ferocious."
Tyrion Lannister: "Ferocious? Last night, a Moon Brother stabbed a Stone Crow over a sausage. Three Stone Crows seized the Moon Brother and opened his throat. Bronn managed to keep Shagga from chopping off the dead man's cock - which was fortunate - but even still, Ulf is demanding blood money. Which Shagga and Gunthor refuse to pay."
Tyrion and his uncle Kevan Lannister discuss the Hill tribesmen.[src]

The hill tribes or mountain clans are clans who live in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon on the western fringes of the Vale of Arryn. They reject and resist the rule of House Arryn, and harass travelers along the Eastern Road through the mountains.

They are descendants of the First Men who originally occupied the Vale during the Age of Heroes and before. They were driven into the hills by the Andal invaders.[1]

The hill tribes are also sometimes derisively referred to as "wildlings", but out of context the term is usually understood to refer to the peoples living beyond the Wall, who refer to themselves as the "Free Folk" ("wildlings" in this sense is used as a generic synonym for "barbarians" or "savages").[2]

Culture

The hill tribes are divided into clans of varying size and strength. Three of the most notable are the Stone Crows, Burned Men, and Black Ears, led by Shagga, Timett, and Chella respectively. They are a frequent danger to travelers along the Eastern Road which crosses over the mountain into the Vale from the Riverlands.

The hill tribes are quite ferocious and will often resort to violence at slight provocations. However, they are not entirely uncivilized: sometimes when a member from one tribe kills a member from another, their leaders have been known to negotiate a non-violent end to the feud by demanding blood money be paid as compensation by the offending tribe.[2]

Despite their somewhat isolated lifestyle, the hill tribes speak the Common Tongue of the rest of Westeros well enough - comprehensibly, if a bit informally.

The Clans

Shagga

Shagga, son of Dolf

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels a number of warrior clans eke out a mean existence in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon, including the Black Ears, Burned Men, Stone Crows, and Moon Brothers. The Moon Brothers and the Black Ears have strong bonds together. Other less prominent hill tribes that have been mentioned in the books are the Milk Snakes, the Painted Dogs, and the Sons of the Mist. They hold outsiders as enemies and wish to destroy House Arryn and loot the Vale for themselves, but lack the weapons and armor needed, particularly siege engines.

The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014) explains that in the present day there are ten major hill tribes: the seven already mentioned, and also the Howlers, the Redsmiths, and the Sons of the Tree. There are also a few lesser clans at any given time, arising when groups split off from the other ones over one feud or another, but they are generally ephemeral - usually either the other clans or the knights of the Vale will end up finishing off the new, smaller clans, so that they rarely last more than one generation. Once every few centuries a new clan that splits off from an old one will survive and grow into a major clan, just as major clans have occasionally gone extinct. A prominent example are the Burned Men, a major clan that originated as an offshoot of the Painted Dogs following the Dance of the Dragons 170 years before the War of the Five Kings.

Similarly to the show, Tyrion and Bronn encounter the Stone Crows on the way from the Vale. Tyrion persuades them and three more of the hill tribes (Black Ears, Burned Men and Moon Brothers) to join him. He leads about three hundred clansmen to his father's camp, while Gunthor, the chief of the Stone Crows, stays behind to raise the other clans.

The clansmen who follow Tyrion participate the battle of the Green Fork, and fight quite well, though about half of them are killed.

After the battle, Tywin tells Tyrion that "his savages" may ride with Vargo Hoat and plunder as they like. Tyrion declines, preferring to keep them with him; uncouth and unruly they are, he feels he can trust them more than any of his father’s men.

In "A Clash of Kings", while Tyrion acts as the Hand of the King in King's Landing, the clansmen serve him as bodyguards and enforcers. Knowing well how each tribe feels about the other tribes, Tyrion orders Bronn to house them in the barracks beneath the Tower of the Hand, and to instruct the steward to place Stone Crows far from the Moon Brothers, and to give the Burned Men a hall all to themselves.

To his dismay, Tyrion learns from Ser Jacelyn Bywater that the clansmen's presence in the city has increased the unjustified hatred that the city residents feel about him.

Prior to the battle of the Blackwater, Tyrion recognizes that the hill tribes, while ferocious, are undisciplined and inexperienced at siege-warfare, so he sends them south across the river to the Kingswood to harass the scouts and raid the baggage train of Stannis's army, as they approached the city. They perform quite well, destroying Stannis's scouts and screening forces to such an extent that he has no warning of the approach of Tywin’s massive reinforcements approaching the city.

Following the battle of the Blackwater, Bronn informs Tyrion that the Stone Crows are still in the kingswood, since Shagga seems to feel that there are better opportunities for them there (that is, more promising targets for raids); Timett led the Burned Men back to the Vale, with all the plunder they took from Stannis's camp after the fighting; Chella turned up with a dozen Black Ears at the River Gate one morning, but the Lannister guards chased them off while the Kingslanders threw dung at them. Bronn does not say what has become of the Moon Brothers.

After the clans are armed with steel weapons and armor by the Lannisters and return to their homes, they become a dangerous menace to the Vale. In "A Storm of Swords", when Arya Stark and The Hound head to the Vale (corresponding to Season 4 of the TV series), they come to a small village, where the elder warns them that it is very dangerous to pass the Eastern Road these days, because the clans have steel now, good swords and mail hauberks; he specifically warns them of the Burned Men, the Stone Crows, the Milk Snakes, and the Sons of the Mist. He tells them that half a year ago, the Stone Crows raided a nearby village, took every woman and every scrap of grain, and killed half the men. According to Lysa Arryn, the departure of her uncle Brynden Tully from the Bloody Gate also made the mountain clans grow very bold. The sub-plot was ultimately omitted from Season 4, and the hill tribes did not reappear.

The tribe hills are not mentioned in the following novels; their leaders are only listed in the appendixes of "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance with Dragons".

See also

References

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