13

What happens to common soldiers (not, for example, Jaime Lannister) who are captured during a war in Westeros?

  • Are there prisoner camps to hold them?
  • Are they just released?
  • Are prisoners only taken if the person is somehow important or of noble birth and everyone is just executed?

In particular I'm interested in any mention of what happens with regards to this during the War of the Five Kings.

  • 7
    Out of universe, POWs in medieval times were generally killed, maimed/hobbled or ransomed if they had wealthy familes; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Valorum Jun 26 '14 at 7:36
  • 2
    @Richard I think pretty much the same happens on aSoIaF as well – Shevliaskovic Jun 26 '14 at 7:40
  • 2
    They also send people to the Wall to join the Night's Watch. – Moogle Jun 26 '14 at 9:10
  • Clearly, they sometimes cut off hands, for kicks. – PoloHoleSet Apr 21 '17 at 13:59
14

TL;DR

Essentially, it depends on the war, who the winning side is, who the victim is, and who is wielding the sword


WARNING:
This answer contains content from A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons; please do not read on, if you don't want to be spoiled.

Examples

A Game of Thrones

A Clash Of Kings

  • Jon snow yields to the Free Folk (to him known as 'Wildlings' at that time), which they accept (once Jon prooves his worth).

  • But when Ygritte yields to Jon earlier, Qhorin orders Jon to kill her.

  • In the melee of Ser Loras and Brienne at Renly's camp, Loras yields to her, and obviously is spared - since it's only a melee.

  • When Arya and co are beset by The Mountain and his men; Lommy yields, but to no avail since he gets killed anyway - this is because he is injured and is not worth the hassle.

A Storm of Swords

  • Jaime commands Lord Crakehall:

    “Tell them the Mad King is dead,” he commanded. “Spare all those who yield and hold them captive,”
    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part One - Steel and Snow, Jaime.

  • Tywin offers to let anyone who yields [their castle] to be spared:

    "I mean to offer generous terms. Any castle that yields to us will be spared,"
    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part Two - Blood and Gold, Tyrion.

  • Jaime later finds this out:

    “Donnel was wounded in the battle and yielded to Ser Elwood Harte. He was ransomed afterward and pledged his fealty to King Joffrey, as did many other captives.”
    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part Two - Blood and Gold, Jaime.

A Feast for Crows

  • When Arianne and co are beset upon by Areo Hotah and his crew he offers them to yield, which they do and they are spared (except Arys)

    “Yield, my princess,” the captain called, “else we must slay all but the child and yourself, by your father’s word.”
    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, The Queeenmaker.

  • Harras Harlaw spares two out of seven people who attacked him, because they yielded:

    “The Knight took Grimston by himself. He planted his standard beneath the castle and defied the Grimms to face him. One did, and then another, and another. He slew them all... well, near enough, two yielded."
    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, The Reaver.

  • Jaime and his company come across a band of people hanged by the Brotherhood Without Banners:

    “We came on some, the day before last,” said Jaime. Addam Marbrand’s scouts had found them, hanging black-faced beneath a crabapple tree. The corpses had been stripped naked, and each man had a crabapple shoved between his teeth. None bore any wounds; plainly, they had yielded.
    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Jaime.

A Dance With Dragons

  • After the Free-Folks' siege against the wall, they are defeated and put into a stockade.
    Later on, once they declare their fealty to Stannis, they are placed into hovels etc. in/around Mole's Town.

Follow the Rules

  • According to AWOIAF:

    Knights are supposed to be brave, courageous, honorable, and true to their word.

  • According to the rules of Trial by Combat; if an opponent yields, then you're supposed to let them live.

Cash money
Additionally, a "yield" can be a source of revenue, given that the captor can be ransomed, to their family or overlord, for release. This is much more enticing to an attacker than straight-up killing them.

In summary

There is an air of expectation that you will be spared if you yield. Though not always followed-through by all.

Asha Greyjoy summarises this the best when she is contemplating her possibility to yield as urged by Lady Glover:
[A Dance With Dragons spoiler]:

... "give me back my children, and no harm need come to you. Nor to your men.”

The last part was a lie, Asha knew. She might be exchanged, perhaps, shipped back to the Iron Islands to her husband’s loving arms. Her cousins would be ransomed too, as would Tris Botley and a few more of her company, those whose kin had coin enough to buy them back. For the rest it would be the axe, the noose, or the Wall. Still, they have the right to choose.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: A Dance With Dragons, The Wayward Bride.

  • 1
    +1 Good summary and list of examples. You might add something from Dunk & Egg, such as when Dunk made Aerion yield. – TLP Jun 27 '14 at 15:56
  • 1
    +1. Came here to compose an answer but yours doesn't leave anything to of value which is missing here. :3 – Aegon Feb 17 '17 at 6:24
  • 1
    Wow, coming from you @Aegon, I really appreciate it! – Möoz Feb 19 '17 at 21:45
4

As a knight of the seven, you are supposed to accept an opponent's surrender. If they yield, you are not to kill them in cold blood, you are supposed to take them prisoner. Of course, not everybody who fights in a war is going to be a knight, and even Knights have better things to do than hauling prisoners around, so odds are that even if you surrender, you may still be killed.

It will all come down to who exactly does the capturing, but in general, you are not going to get a very good name if you go around murdering everybody you come across. There is a reason Gregor Clegane is disliked by just about everybody, he doesn't follow the ethics of war.

It seems like swearing fealty is a pretty big "thing" in Westeros. Swear you will never again pick up arms against me or my family and I will let you go. If you're from a rich family, cough up some money as well while you are at it.

  • IRL, chivalry rules applied only to knights. So, you could become infamous for the cold killing of a handful of captured knights (usual treatment was to keep them captive and ransom them), but killing scores and scores of defenseless peasants was not seen as a dishonour. – SJuan76 Jun 26 '14 at 14:34
  • FWIW, in mediaeval Europe, which ASOIAF takes much from, your chances of being held prisoner and ransomed increased in direct proportion to your rank or nobility. As a common soldier with little potential for ransom, you were just as likely to slaughtered for your possessions as held prisoner. Prisoners have to be guarded and fed: much easier and cheaper to just kill them and take their stuff. – ElendilTheTall Jun 26 '14 at 14:34
  • 1
    Not to be overly negative, but you should probably point out that much of this answer is your own opinion and conclusions. And/or give references or quotes to support your facts. Personally, I can't recall ever reading anything in ASOIAF about knights being supposed to spare people who yield. – TLP Jun 26 '14 at 18:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy