Who are Game of Thrones' Children of the Forest?

Chris Longridge
Photo credit: HBO

From Digital Spy

In episode four of Season 7, 'Spoils of War', Jon took Daenerys into the cave under Dragonstone and, by the warm, rippling torchlight, professed his true love for… whoops, sorry, got carried away with the auntcest shipping there.

He showed her the cave paintings by the Children of the Forest, which showed that way back when the Children and the First Men banded together to fight their common foe, the White Walkers.

Photo credit: HBO

There were also mysterious symbols carved into the walls that called back to the White Walkers' enigmatic habit of laying dead bodies out in regular forms.

Photo credit: HBO

So who are these guys again?

Related: Who was the Mad King, exactly?

The Children of the Forest: a quick recap

The Children are a pre-human race of little, magical beings who inhabited Westeros before it was a separate continent. They shared the land with the giants, and presumably all the little animals and birds and all the harmony and oneness and you get the picture.

They worshipped nature, and carved those spooky faces into Weirwood trees.

Photo credit: HBO

Around 12,000 years before Game of Thrones, the First Men came across a land bridge from Essos and started cutting down the forests. For two thousand years or so, the two races were at war – during which time the Children drowned the land bridge using magic – but they came to a settlement in the end and signed "The Pact" on The Isle of Faces on the God's Eye lake (the huge lake just to the south of the Trident river, about half way up the continent).

Thereafter the Children kept to the forests, and the Men kept to the open spaces.

Another two thousands years of relative peace passed, until the White Walkers descended from the far North, and the Children and Men united to fight them back. This war culminated in Bran The Builder constructing The Wall – with help from the Children – which keeps the White Walkers in their place.

We learned in Season 6 that the Children were actually to blame for the White Walkers' existence – they turned a human man into a weapon (the Night King) but he turned against them. This probably explains why they were so keen to help Bran fight them when they invaded the Three-Eyed Raven's cave.

It's assumed that the species was wiped out in the same battle that killed Hodor.

Related: Who was Rhaegar Targaryen again?

Those mysterious symbols: what are they about?

Photo credit: HBO

There are two symbols that keep recurring, a spiral and a circle with a line through it (see above and above-above).

"These are patterns that have mystical significance for the Children of the Forest," showrunner David Benioff says. "We're not sure exactly what they signify, but spiral patterns are important in a lot of different cultures in our world, and it makes sense that they would be in this world as well."

The thing is, when he says, "We're not sure exactly what they signify," we don't think he's being coy. We think he and co-showrunner DB Weiss genuinely haven't decided yet what they mean – they just look cool and demonstrate a connection between the two species.

They also get fans like us feverishly trying to interpret a deeper significance.

It may be that they intend to retrofit a solution to the puzzle – and that the spirals will refer to the place the Walkers were made (hundreds of Children stood in a spiral at that ritual that created the Night King), or that the circle with a line through it is about the duality of Night versus Day or Fire versus Ice, but we doubt it's going to be of enormous significance.

You'll note that as well as the swirly, Dan Brown-ish mystical symbols, they also spelled out the actual point of the scene with the final cave paintings: a very explicit graphic representation of PEOPLE A and PEOPLE B teaming up to fight BAD PEOPLE. BAD PEOPLE being represented by an unambiguous drawing of the Night King.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

So they can be clear when they want to, see?

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