Tonight’s season finale of Game of Thrones was titled “The Children” That title turned out to be a reference to an ancient race called the Children of the Forest. Though they only appear in a small role, at least so far, the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books has provided more details about this race and its history.
The Children are an incredibly ancient race that inhabited Westeros before even the First Men. Not much is known about their culture. Most humans believe them to have been extinct for thousands of years, if they even existed at all, though audiences now know that at least a few still exist in service to the Three-eyed Crow.
The children are said to be diminutive, no bigger than a human child, with four-fingered hands and black claws and spotted-brown skin. They also have cat-like eyes, usually colored yellow.
As one might expect, the Children live in forests. They eschew city building and metallurgy, instead living off of the land – both male and female children hunt together - and fashioning their wares out of tree bark. In combat, the Children used weapons of obsidian and powerful magic.
The Children have a deep connection to nature. It was the Children who carved the faces on the weirwood trees. They are also said to have supernatural abilities, including skinchanging, warg-like abilities and the ability to speak with the dead.
The Children do not use writing of any kind, so nothing is known of their history before the arrival of the First Men from Essos. Once the First Men arrived and started burning down the great weirwoods, a 2,000 year war began between the two races. During that war, the Children used powerful magic to destroy the land bridge that connected Essos to the southern end of Westeros, now known as Dorne. Eventually, the two races came to standstill and agreed to coexist peacefully with each other.
Four thousand years later, the Others arrived. During the Long Night, the Children and the First Men were forced to join forces in the Battle of the Dawn, where they finally defeated the Others and drove them back to the Lands of Always Winter.
During the years that followed the building of the Wall, the Children slowly migrated to the forests beyond. They had taught the First Men of the North to worship the Old Gods, whereas the men of the South began worshipping the Seven of the Andals. The Children provided the Night’s Watch with obsidian daggers, in preparation for the return of the Others, for some time, but eventually the Children ceased all contact with the world of men and faded into memory and myth.