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]


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, 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, Moon Brothers, and Painted Dogs. 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 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) explained 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.

After the Battle of the Blackwater in the novels, Tywin pays off the hill tribes and most return home to the Mountains of the Moon in the Vale. Shagga and the Stone Crows, however, decide to stay in the Kingswood, feeling that there are better opportunities for them there (that is, more promising targets for raids).

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. 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 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.

See also