The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

Concerning Wildling Women

I'm sorry to bother you again, but one thing struck me as off, when I read about Mance Rayder's wife, Dalla, preparing to give birth. I know that you haven't asked, but in case there are other births in your books...

Laboring and birthing in bed is something of a modern, western thing. As a woman who has given birth three times, twice unmedicated and once in my own home, I can tell you that unmedicated women in labor are powerful, not passive! They walk, they sway and dance and move. They moan, howl, rock, pace, squat. They give birth squatting, or on hands and knees, and are quite capable of catching their baby in their own hands. Check out Sheila Kitzinger's book Rediscovering Birth. It explains some of the history and anthropolgy of birth in different cultures.

Fierce warrior women would not take birth lying down! They would be active, strong, and show how powerful they are while bringing forth new life.

Well, point taken. I'll take a look at that book if it turns out that I need to describe another birth... especially if it's from the viewpoint of one of POV characters.

However, in my own defense, I should note that Dalla was not a "warrior woman" per se. She was from a warrior culture, yes; one that gave women the right, but not the obligation, to be fighters. Ygritte was a warrior woman, as was (most conspicuously) the fearsome Harma Dogshead. Dalla and Val were not.

Also, though I don't go into details, something was obviously amiss during Dalla's labor, since it killed her. Childbirth isn't quite the killer in Westeros that it was in medieval Europe in the real world, since Westeros has the maesters, who are a considerable improvement over medieval barber/surgeons... but the levels of mortality for both infant and mother would still be frighteningly high by modern standards. And the wildlings don't have maesters. Nor do they have any handy healing magics, such as we see in many other fantasy epics. Dalla did not even have a midwife at the crucial moment. Presumably the midwife was scared off by the big battle going on all around them as the birth was happening. Dalla had only her sister Val. All that being said, if I do depict another birth, I promise to consider all of this more thoroughly beforehand.

I love your books, and I would be glad to answer any questions you might have about birth or breastfeeding!

I'll take you up on that... although this question may be outside your area of expertise. In a medieval setting like mine, if neither the mother nor a wet nurse is available to feed an infant, what sort of milk would be best for the child? Cow's milk? Goat milk? Mare's milk? Could anything be added to it to make it more nourishing, and a better substitute for human breast milk? At what age can solid food be added... and what sort of solid food should it be, in a world before Gerber's? I know honey can kill infants, but I don't know what's good for them. Porridge? Mashed turnips? Stewed something-or-other? Stewed fruit sounds as though it might be an idea, but they don't have a lot of fresh fruit on the Wall right now, with winter almost upon them.

Any info you can provide would be appreciated.