Gilly is one of the Free Folk, and is a daughter and wife of Craster. She is the mother (and half-sister) of a baby named Sam, who was produced through a forced relationship with her late father.
Gilly is one of the many daughters of Craster, a wildling who lives beyond the Wall. She lives with him at Craster’s Keep. As well as being a daughter of Craster, she is one of his wives, as Craster routinely marries his own daughters. At the time of the War of the Five Kings, Craster has nineteen wives, including Gilly. When the Night’s Watch encounters her, Gilly is pregnant with the incestuous child of her own father.
Gilly is named after the gillyflower.
A great ranging of the Night’s Watch under Lord Commander Jeor Mormont arrives at Craster’s Keep. Inside the hall the Lord Commander meets with Craster and Gilly serves wine. During the meeting, Lord Mormont tells Craster that as things are getting dangerous, he and his household can come back with them to Castle Black for protection. Craster pulls Gilly over and instructs her to tell Jeor how content they are: calling him the Lord Crow, the speech she gives seems rehearsed. Gilly says that they are protected by Craster and that it is better to live free than die a slave. Craster is pleased by what she says.
While the Night’s Watch stay at Craster’s Keep, Gilly is scared by Ghost when the white dire wolf approaches her, attracted by a dead rabbit she’s holding. Samwell Tarly, who had already noticed her, tells Ghost to get away. Gilly notes Sam’s courage and asks him to take her away. The two approach Jon Snow, who refuses to take Gilly, reminding the pair of Craster’s threat. Gilly is afraid of what might happen to her baby if it’s a boy but remains silent when Jon demands to know what Craster does with his male offspring.
Jon follows Craster into the woods and sees him leaving a newborn son for the White Walkers. Craster catches him, beats him, and takes him back into the keep. He throws him down at Lord Mormont’s feet and demands that the Night’s Watch leave his home. Sam spots Gilly carrying out her chores as he is preparing to leave and approaches her. He gives her a thimble that once belonged to his mother. He explains that he used to read to her while she was sewing but that his father ended the practice when he found out. He reveals that the thimble is the only possession he has from his mother and that it was a gift given when he left for the wall. Gilly says that he should not give it away and he explains that he is asking her to keep it safe until he returns for her. She accepts the thimble and the promise.
Obsessing over Gilly weeks later while talking to Grenn and Edd, Sam sees the beauty of the icy landscape and announces that Gilly would love it here. The others look at each other and say that there is nothing worse than a man in love. Sam says what interests him about her the most is that despite all that Craster has done to her, Gilly still has hope that life might get better.
The survivors of the Battle of the Fist of the First Men reach Craster’s Keep. While warming on the fire, the loud wails of birthing pains can be heard throughout to Craster’s great annoyance. Samwell Tarly leaves the main house to a birthing hut where he witnesses Gilly giving birth. To her horror, the baby is a boy. Sam and Gilly wordlessly realise that Craster will want to sacrifice him to the White Walkers. Sam visits Gilly, who is deeply distraught about the fate of her newborn son. She is frantic, and yells at Sam not to draw attention to the fact that it’s a boy by calling it a “he” so loud, as Craster will want to offer it up as a sacrifice when he finds out it’s a son. He asks her if she’s decided on a name, but she responds that there’s no point in naming her baby if he’s only going to be offered up as a human sacrifice. She gives Sam back his mother’s thimble and says she doesn’t care about such stupid things, all she’s focused on is protecting the life of her baby.
When the Night’s Watch mutiny and kill Craster and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, Sam rushes to Gilly’s hut and exclaims that they have to escape now, or they never will. Sam runs out of Craster’s Keep with Gilly and her baby, as loyal Night’s Watch members fall to the mutineers, who also kill or rape Craster’s other wives. Gilly leads the way into the night because she knows the woods around her home. Covered in Mormont’s blood, Rast shouts into the darkness that “Piggy” can run for now, but he’ll soon be cutting Sam’s throat too.
After having fled Craster’s Keep Samwell Tarly and Gilly stop to camp during their journey to The Wall. Sam shows Gilly the Dragon glass dagger he found at the Fist of the First Men and tells her about Castle Black.
After taking refuge in a destroyed cabin, Sam tries to light a fire, but is unable to, so Gilly does it instead. Meanwhile, Sam suggests that Gilly name her son, but she does not know any boy names. Sam gives her some examples, and also explains the difference between first and last names, after she attempts to name her son “Mormont” (rather than Jeor). When discussing their father’s name, they both come to realise that they have both suffered paternal cruelty. Suddenly, they are interrupted by the loud squawks of the crows.
Sam and Gilly go outside to investigate, and see hundreds of crows angrily squawk at them. Gilly is then horrified to see a White Walker approaching them, and knows that it is after her child. Sam tries to halt its advance, but the Walker shatters his sword with its bare hand and knocks him aside, and heads for Gilly and her baby. Sam staggers back to his feet, pulls out his dragon glass dagger, and attacks the Walker, stabbing it in the back and kills it: shattering the Walker into thousands of ice-like shards. Sam takes Gilly’s arm, and runs as the crows chase after them.
Gilly and Sam continue their journey south to Castle Black. While they were still a considerable distance away from their destination, Sam knows that they were approaching Night fort, the original headquarters of the Night’s Watch which had been abandoned centuries ago when the Night’s Watch’s numbers dwindled. Sam explains to Gilly that he plans to get them across the Wall using a secret sally-port which leads right into the Night fort. Gilly expresses her amazement that Sam knows so much history just from reading books, insisting that he is a wizard much to Sam’s delight. When they finally catch a glimpse of the wall, which she has never seen before, Gilly is awestruck.
After several days of traveling, Gilly and Samwell arrive at the Night fort, which they find inhabited. There, she and Samwell encounter Bran Stark, Jon Snow’s younger half-brother and his companions Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed, and his dire wolf Summer, who are traveling north beyond the Wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven. Samwell, noticing the gigantic Hodor and Summer, quickly recognises Bran and offers to take them to Castle Black.
But Jojen tells Sam and Gilly that he and Bran are traveling beyond the Wall. Due to their earlier encounters with the White Walkers, Samwell and Gilly are unwilling to return to the north. However, Sam reluctantly gives them the obsidian blades which he had found North of the Wall and used to slay the White Walker. While Gilly and Samwell stay behind in the castle, Bran and his entourage finally reaches the Wall.
After traveling for some distance, Gilly and Samwell finally arrive at Castle Black. There, they meet with Maester Aemon, to whom Gilly announced her baby’s name is Sam. Maester Aemon wonders at the prospect that Sam has violated his vows. As a Night’s Watch, her friend and protector Sam is not allowed to marry or produce children. In response, Sam defends himself by assuring Aemon that the recently named baby Sam is not his child and begins reciting the Night’s Watch oath to protect the realms of men whatever side of the Wall they are on and repeating Jeor Mormont’s assertion that a wall of ice 500 leagues long and 700 feet high was not built to keep out barbarians.
Aemon’s demeanour softens upon learning that Gilly is one of Craster’s wives, and acknowledges that she is now a refugee and should be sheltered since the North is no longer safe for humans. Aemon then orders Sam to begin writing letters immediately and to make sure that all forty-four of Castle Black’s ravens are well-fed, as every one of them is to fly that night; the White Walkers have returned, and Westeros must be warned. He later comforts Jon when he returns from spying amongst the Free Folk, wounded with arrows by his former lover, Ygritte.
The Night’s Watch has given Gilly work by having her assist Hobb in the kitchens. Samwell Tarly fears for her safety, since many members of the Night’s Watch are former criminals. Sam has Gilly and her son moved to Mole’s Town, a vassal town close to Castle Black. Gilly is given work and a place to stay in a brothel which is frequented by members of the Night’s Watch. Sam is resolute in keeping Gilly safe no matter what, but she is unhappy that she had to leave Castle Black and be far away from Sam.
In Mole’s Town, a whore is arguing with Gilly about her baby who woke her up during the night. Gilly, however, is more concerned with the sound of a persistent owl she hears outside. Mole’s Town is attacked by a wildling raiding party led by Tormund and Styr. The entire town is massacred, but Gilly and her son are saved when Ygritte discovers them and urges them to keep quiet and remain in hiding.
Gilly and her son manage to return to Castle Black. Pypar reluctantly opens the gate for her and she is greeted by Sam, who is overjoyed to see her. Sam promises that he won’t leave her again like he did in Mole’s Town. Suddenly, two horn blasts are heard from the top of the Wall, meaning the fighting is about to start. Sam decided to have Gilly and her son hide in a storage room. However, Gilly is distraught when she learns that Sam will be leaving to fight in the upcoming battle. Gilly wants Sam to stay with her as he promised, but he cannot as he sworn to defend the Wall as a brother of the Night’s Watch. Before he leaves her, Gilly begs Sam to promise her that he won’t die and the two finally share a kiss. Later, she is discovered by Janos Slynt, who has fled the fighting in fear. Sam is later reunited with Gilly after the wildling attack has been repelled.
Gilly continues to help the Night’s Watch by mending clothes in the courtyard of Castle Black. She tells Sam that she is aware of Ser Alliser Thorne’s hatred of her since she is a wildling and is worried about being sent away. Sam comforts her by reaffirming his promise that wherever she goes, he will go too in order to protect her. However, Gilly argues that he cannot leave Castle Black to go with her or he would be executed for breaking his vows. Later, Gilly is present when Mance Rayder is executed by Stannis Baratheon for refusing to bend the knee. Horrified by seeing someone executed in such a brutal manner, Gilly turns away before Mance is consumed by the flames.
Being illiterate, Gilly has begun to learn letters from Princess Shireen Baratheon, with Samwell watching over the two. Gilly also reveals to Shireen that she had sisters that also had Greyscale, but they were quarantined away from the other women at Craster’s Keep and eventually succumbed to the disease, after which their corpses were taken out into the Haunted Forest by Craster. Gilly remains silent when Shireen asks why he would do that (presumably to add to the Army of the Dead in service to the “Gods”.
On his deathbed, Maester Aemon fondly interacts with Little Sam, recalling that his younger brother Egg had a jolly laugh just like him when he was a baby. His strength failing, he also warns Gilly that she must go south with her baby before it is too late. Winter is almost upon them and the White Walkers will come with it to attack the Wall. Aemon dies soon afterwards, and is given heartfelt eulogy by Samwell, which Gilly had predicted would happen due to Aemon’s declining health.
After Stannis’s departure, Gilly, being the only girl left at The Wall, is targeted by a few men of the Night’s Watch. While getting supplies for her baby, two corner her and attempt to rape her, but Sam intervenes, ending with him getting beaten up. When they try to go at her, again, Ghost appears and scares them away. Afterwards, Gilly begins treating Sam’s wounds but it quickly turns into them having sex.
Later, when Jon returns, Sam asks him if he can travel to Old town to study and replace Aemon as the new maester for Castle Black, as he feels there is no other way he can help them as he cannot fight. He also wishes to take Gilly and little Sam with him, in order to protect them from the coming war against the White Walkers. Jon allows this and Sam, Gilly and the baby depart shortly after.
Gilly and her baby Sam accompany Samwell Tarly on a voyage to Old town. Gilly assures Samwell that the voyage will be over soon and that she can’t wait to see Old town, which the Captain has described as the most beautiful town in Westeros. He informs Gilly that the the Citadel does not admit women and children within its walls. He decides to take them to his ancestral home of Horn Hill and claim they are his spouse and child. Though Sam does not get on well with his father Randyll Tarly, he reassures her that his mother and sister are nice. Despite her unease, she lets Samwell decide what is best for her and her child.
After landing in the Reach, Gilly, Samwell, and Sam travel by station coach to Horn Hill. To protect Gilly from his wildling-hating father Randyll, Samwell tells his father’s retainers that Gilly is a Northern woman he had bedded in Mole’s Town and that Sam is their son. Upon arriving at Horn Hill, they are greeted by Samwell’s mother Melessa and sister Talla Tarly, who take a liking to Gilly and her baby. Talla offers to lend Gilly one of her dresses. Gilly bathes and changes from her rough, woolen northern dress into a fine southern dress, her polished beauty bewildering the love-struck Samwell.
She meets Sam’s father Randyll and brother Dickon Tarly at dinner. During the dinner, Randyll mocks his son’s fighting and hunting skills. Gilly springs to Sam’s defence by telling Randyll that Samwell had killed a Thenn and a White Walker in combat. Instead of hearing her message about Samwell’s valor, all Randyll hears is that her tale reveals the fact that Gilly is a Wildling. Randyll berates Samwell for falling to the wiles of a Wildling, a choice far worse than the Mole’s Town whore that he had assumed Gilly to be. Randyll’s bigoted remarks anger Melessa, who springs to Gilly’s defence by telling Randyll that he dishonours himself. Melessa and Talla leave the dinner table in protest and ask Gilly to come with them.
Randyll allows Gilly and her son to stay at Horn Hill. He promises to raise Sam as his grandson but tells Samwell that he must leave at dawn. In their chambers, Sam apologises to Gilly for not standing up to his father and tells her that he will be leaving at first light. Gilly tells him that he should not be apologising for his father’s actions. Later, Samwell decides to steal the family heirloom, a Valyrian steel sword named Heartsbane, and tells Gilly to pack up their belongings and bring baby Sam. Gilly responds that she has no other belongings to carry save his sister’s dress. Samwell responds that it looks better on her. The three then flee into the night.
After arriving in Old town, Sam and Gilly meet a Citadel maester. Sam gives him a letter from Lord Commander Snow about Sam becoming a maester for the Night’s Watch, but the maester is skeptical about Jon Snow’s state, saying that no word was given about Lord Commander Mormont’s death from Maester Aemon. The maester states that Sam’s situation is “irregular,” to which Sam responds, “Life is irregular.” The maester then says that Sam must speak to the Archmaester in order to discuss these issues. The maester then allows Sam to use the library, but blocks Gilly and Little Sam from entering, who are left behind.
Gilly and Sam get to stay with Samwell Tarly while he studies and serves at the Citadel. While Sam is reading about the Long Night, she plays with Sam, who is now a toddler. When Gilly questions him about the book he is studying, Samwell confides that a cache of dragon glass is hidden beneath the castle of Dragon stone and that he needs to tell Jon Snow.
Gilly and a frustrated Samwell read together. Gilly reads the journal of High Septon Maynard, who recorded every little detail of his life and knowledge, proudly reading aloud the facts he knew, such as the amount of steps in the Citadel and the number of windows at the Great Sept of Baelor. While reading the journal, she discovers that “Prince Ragger” had his marriage annulled by Maynard so that he could remarry at a secret ceremony in Dorne. Samwell pays no matter to her discovery, however, overcome by his frustration over the arrogance of the Maesters. He makes the difficult decision of abandoning the Order of Maesters and departs Old town with Gilly and Little Sam, taking with him dozens of forbidden books.
Gilly and Sam later arrive at Winterfell, to prepare for the Great War.
Jon asks a distressed Samwell in the crypts beneath Winterfell if Gilly is alright, not yet knowing the reason Sam is distressed is after learning about the deaths of his father and brother at the hands of Daenerys Targaryen. Sam tells Jon that Gilly is good.
As more and more Northerners arrive seeking sanctuary at Winterfell, food stalls are set up in the courtyard to feed them. A little girl being served says that she wants to fight the army of the dead, rather than be sent into the crypts. Gilly admires her bravery, but points out that they will need protectors in the crypts as well, and that the girl would be better suited down there, which she agrees to. Gilly is later seen in bed with Samwell and little Sam awaiting the imminent arrival of the White Walkers.