When Stannis arrived at the wall in episode S04E10 of Game of Thrones he had about 10,000 soldiers with him, I am wiling to give him a freedom of doubt and grant him 10,000 more for the argument sake. Mance Rayder in the previous episodes was rumored to be having an army of 100,000 soldiers which is still 5 times more than my exaggerated count and 10 times more than the actual count but when Stannis arrived they dismantled them very quickly leading to Mance Rayder surrendering.

I know Stannis is a ruthless battle general but still that army of 100,000 shouldn't have given up that easily or Is there something else I am failing to account for?

  • 3
    Shouldn't you, of all people, know the answer to this? Or is your answer, "I am Azor Ahai reborn" and you want something more quantitative?
    – KSmarts
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 20:04
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    haha I was testing you mere mortals and finding out who is worthy!!
    – Dredd
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 21:03
  • I am slowly letting go of JudgeDredd's personality, i will be Azor Ahai shortly.
    – Dredd
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 21:05
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    Stannis didn't demolish all 100,000 wildlings, he merely broke them up, took their leader and caused fear and discord amongst them using his Knightly superiority!
    – Möoz
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 0:15
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    Similar question on SF&F : scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/138833/…
    – Autar
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 14:07

7 Answers 7


I can think of at least three reasons:

  1. Superior training and equipment of Stannis' army – We must remember that, despite the wildings' apparent ferocity, they are still just civilians with no formal military training, makeshift weapons, and no armor to speak of. Certainly they would have no experience repelling heavy cavalry assaults, and it's not surprising how easily they are cut down.
  2. Stannis' attack is unexpected – Mance was not expecting such a large and organized attack while negotiating the surrender of Castle Black's forces. It's not surprising that this surprise attack would throw the wilding camp into disarray and result in the widlings either fleeing or surrendering.
  3. The wildings are not united and have no central leadership besides Mance – It is repeatedly suggested that Mance Rayder is the only reason the wildlings are able to stay united. Seeing as he left himself largely exposed, it's no wonder that Stannis managed to capture him, at which point we would expect the wildling forces to retreat, disband, or surrender.
  • Re: point 1: In the rock-paper-scissors of ancient battlefields, infantry beats cavalry. If your infantry have spears, they plant the butts of their spears firmly against the ground at an angle, and it will disrupt the heck out of any cavalry charge. It's bad for your mount's health to charge a formation like this, even if you're a knight with a lance and an armored horse. Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 16:47
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    @MasonWheeler History's not with you on that... with the one exception of C17th+ well-trained, well-disciplined and well-equipped professional pikemen in formation. It takes a huge amount of courage and discipline to stand firm, holding your spear steadfast in the ground at the right angle, while massive horses charge at you at speed. You'll be very aware that even if your spear doesn't snap and even if the horse dies, you're odds-on to be crushed to death by the dying horse (or the horse behind it). Your fear instincts aren't rational enough to understand that turning and running won't help. Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 17:15
  • Also you should keep in mind that in medieval time a lot more troops died on the march or wait in a siege from sickness and starvation, (more then on the battlefield). Considering the harsh climate behind the wall it is not unreasonable to assume that a great many soldier of the army had been lost to this. Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 14:31
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    @MasonWheeler - no, the "spear on the ground" approach will get you slaughtered, unless you have specialized equipment. Remember that in Braveheart, the heroes of the story were able to use that technique only when they fashions highly specialized spears, which would have been worthless and unwieldy in normal combat, just for the heavy cavalry charge. Since no one had ever withstood a cavalry charge, EVER, they had the advantage of surprise to their tactics. Cavalry charges could be altered to make that more difficult in response. Cavalry has always beaten infantry in the rocks/paper/scissors Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 20:26

Stannis' army was made up of professional soldiers (including mercenaries and knights), while the free folk are notorious for their disorganization. On top of that, Mance Rayders army was attacking a force of 700 or so men and was completely caught by surprise when Stannis and his army hit their flank.


There are much more things to consider here apart from just head count. First of all, as you already identified, Stannis is an excellent general which might give him a little strategic advantage. While Mance Rayder might also not be that unexperienced, the wildling army always seemed to me to be more of a motley crew specialized in brute force, mere quantity, and guerilla tactics, while Stannis' army is probably better trained and equipped.

Another factor is, that Stannis clearly has the surprise on his side, while the wilding army already fought a hard attack up until then, which would likely already have worn them down quite a bit, both in number and fighting moral.

This is all more of a speculative answer based on common-sense rather than actual hard canon sources, but I guess we might not get much more for this question.


Stannis had only 4,000 men but the point is that he was able to capture Mance off guard. Mance is also averse to fighting battles that would lead to an inordinate number of deaths of free folk. So he wouldn't order a pyrrhic attack while surrounded by four thousand trained cavalrymen.


You people are pretty misinformed. Stannis only had a few thousend with them probably most or all were cavalry and the 100k count was the entire wildling group not the fighting men. They counted around 30k and were besieging castle Black (which only had a skeleton crew of around 50 men or less). Along with stannis came reinforcements from the other castles. But imagine now a high bred medieval heavy cavalry force which is armored and armed with iron and then you have the wildings which society is basically hunter/gatherer and maybe some early antiquity farming. The widling troops stand no chance against Stannis. A few thousend cavalry could absolutely wreck an 'outdated' army like that. Mind you these wildlings probably never fought against cavalrymen so they have no experience how to counter these guys. That's why Stannis could overcome the crazy odds and the fact wildlings were not a cohesive force at all.


Stannis had cavalry which literally could run over most of wildlings. Second as mentioned Stannis is proven battle commander with hired mercaneries he had 4,000 men BEFORE he went to Eddie and the Iron Bank and received loan which gained him cavalry and dot forget the Golden Company , and in the show and books Golden Company is the best mercenary army in A Song of Ice and Fire. You also have to take into account Mance more surrendered than lose due to the loss they had taken at the Wall against the Nights Watch and refused to let more of his men and wildlings die.


You guys fail to see the true point here: Why is the northern wildling legion, which is supposed to be the manace of civilized mankind, defeated by a single declining lord? Answer is, those wildlings are severly overrated.

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