Bastards, children born to parents who are not properly wed, are common in Westeros. Whores, for example, frequently have bastard children and may raise them in their own profession. Bastards do not have a good reputation. Popular belief says the lust and lies leading to their conception lives on in the child, making bastards naturally lecherous and treacherous. The law reinforces this belief: bastards may not inherit, however they may become knights, septons, or maesters. The Night’s Watch does not discriminate against bastards, and some have even become Lord Commander.

Region Surname
Dorne Sand
Crownlands Waters
Iron Islands Pyke
North Snow
Reach Flowers
Riverlands Rivers
Stormlands Storm
Vale Stone
Westerlands Hill

Among the smallfolk, bastardy is a private matter. Things are different when the father of a bastard is a nobleman. Although bastards cannot legally inherit, they can cause problems in a number of ways. First, the bastard is the nobleman’s child, and in most cases, he had at least a certain degree of affection for the mother. If the father feels some responsibility towards the child, he acknowledges the bastard and pays at least some attention to the child’s career. In this case, the child is given a name that depends on the region in which the father holds his lordship (see Regional Names for Bastards sidebar) or on the region where the bastard is born.

The example found in the stories of Lord Eddard Stark taking his bastard Jon Snow into Winterfell and is raising him with his own children is an unusual situation. It’s more common for the bastard to be found employment suitable to his mother’s station, often some distance from the lord’s seat.

Bastards can only be declared legitimate by the king. Such declaration is rare, due both to the prejudice against bastards and to the concerns of legitimate heirs over the potential sudden appearance of older brothers. However, in some cases, it can be the best way to resolve potentially nasty political crises caused by unexpected deaths or to ensure that an important lordship is held by an ally. As a result, while rare, it is certainly not unheard of.

In the hierarchy of things, Bastards with a noble parent are considered to be noble blooded, they are just the lowest of the low. They are not often called Lord or Lady but sometimes they are, be it for over generosity or snide sarcasm veiled ridicule. But still, they are a step above the smallfolk.

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