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In the books, I recall some small, unspecified number of giants escaping South. In the HBO series, Wun Wun is the only giant we see escaping from Hardhome and passing through the wall (and wow does he look tired and existentially unhappy). Book canon seems to be that giants were made extinct South of the wall long ago, and I do not recall the HBO series addressing that.

Is there enough canon material to determine whether the giants are now below a minimum viable population in the books, the HBO series, or both?

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    Then Ygritte sang, "Ooooooh, I am the last of the giants, my people are gone from the earth." ... There were tears on Ygritte’s cheeks when the song ended. “Why are you weeping?” Jon asked. “It was only a song. There are hundreds of giants, I’ve just seen them.” “Oh, hundreds,” she said furiously. “You know nothing, Jon Snow." The Last Of the Giants.
    – Möoz
    Jun 28, 2015 at 22:39
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    Mooz, thanks! The wildlings clearly know something about population dynamics after living in isolated communities for so long ;-) So, you have cited that the giants were already into a population bottleneck prior to the events of the series. A few hundred is likely approaching collapse depending on the assumptions one makes for giant courtship and society, although we do have examples of less than 10 humans creating stable populations on islands. Knowing how many giants escaped South helps the projection, but the outlook is unfortunately grim in the books :-(
    – Dana Maher
    Jun 29, 2015 at 0:22
  • There are just way too many unknowns to come up with a definitive conclusion here. The Giants seem to be only about 700 in number before the attack on The Wall, but it is not noted exactly how many of them survived, and how many of the survivors are male/female. The only named Giants we have are Mag The Mighty (deceased) and Wun Wun (living at The Wall). There does seem to be a clear lamentation that they are a dying race though.
    – Möoz
    Jun 30, 2015 at 2:11
  • does this mean their only hope is to merge their gene pool with normal humans? Evolving, basically, into a troupe of hodors?!? Jul 27, 2015 at 3:09

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR: No, we do not currently have enough information in either the books or the HBO series to determine if the Giants have a minimum viable population. They seem at the line, though.

Most of what we know about the Giants comes from the books, although even then information is sparse. There are no mentions of their actual number and very few insights into their culture or breeding habits. The consensus among the wildlings is that the race is dying, which may be accurate. But let's speculate given what we DO know...

Let's Speculate!

Much of what we know comes from Chapter 15 of "A Storm of Swords", from Jon Snow's POV:

Jon took the horse in hand and held him still, so he could count the giants emerging from the blowing snow and pale mists that swirled along the Milkwater. He was well beyond fifty when Tormund said something and he lost the count. There must be hundreds. No matter how many went past, they just seemed to keep coming.

Later, as Ygritte and the other wildlings sing the song "Last of the Giants", the following conversation takes place:

There were tears on Ygritte’s cheeks when the song ended. “Why are you weeping?” Jon asked. “It was only a song. There are hundreds of giants, I’ve just seen them.” “Oh, hundreds,” she said furiously. “You know nothing, Jon Snow. You - JON!”

Assuming a generous estimate of 800 individuals, it could be difficult to maintain a viable population, even with individuals cross-breeding. This estimate places them right around the line, with 500-1000 being the MVP for most species we know of.

According to the wildling general Tormund Giantsbane, at least a dozen giants were killed during the Battle of Castle Black:

"You fought us hard here." Tormund turned his garron back toward the wildling camp. "You and your brothers. I give you that. Two hundred dead, and a dozen giants. Mag himself went in that gate o' yours and never did come out."

To make an accurate assessment of the remaining giant population, we would need to have not only more information regarding the actual number of available giants, but also their normal breeding & migration patterns. Given what little we currently know, however, we are probably right to assume that giants as a race will soon be extinct without careful population management.

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  • YES! I knew we would get a good answer. Can you comment on numbers from after the Battle of Castle Black as well?
    – Möoz
    Jul 28, 2015 at 22:45
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    @Mooz - done! Tormund told Jon a dozen were killed during the battle. Not sure how many of the "hundreds" Jon saw were committed to the battle, though.
    – Omegacron
    Jul 29, 2015 at 14:36

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