Mance Rayder is a leader of the Free Folk and a well-known opponent of the Night’s Watch. However, he was actually left as an infant at a castle on the Wall and was raised by the Night’s Watch. He is very proud of his heritage as a wildling, even though he was not raised by his people. Mance is of average height, with a long-legged and broad-shouldered build. He’s middle-aged, and his hair is slowly transitioning from brown to gray. Typically he wears fur breeches and black ring-mail with a cloak of black wool and red silk. His helmet boasts raven wings at the temples. On the show Game of Thrones, Mance Rayder is portrayed by Ciaran Hinds.
Mance defected from the Night’s Watch in his teenage years to go beyond the wall and join the wildlings. The title of King-Beyond-the-Wall was given to him after he was able to unite the wildling tribes together under his leadership. The wildling tribes are very diverse and had spent hundreds of years trying to kill each other, so this was quite a feat. Later, Mance reveals to Jon Snow that he united them by telling them that they would all be killed by the White Walkers unless they united and moved south. After finding out that Mance has united the wildlings, the Night’s Watch assembles and mobilizes beyond the Wall against them.
When Ygritte, a member of the wildling army, is captured by Jon Snow she manages to reverse the situation and take Jon Snow captive. She brings him to Mance. Mance has decided to attack the Wall and attempt to take it by military force. However, their intention was not to destroy the Night’s Watch – they are endeavoring to get to the other side of the wall for safety. They keep Jon with them as a consultant, as Jon has untaken the pretense of supporting the campaign. Mance takes a liking to Jon, but vows to kill him if he betrays the wildlings.
During the invasion Mance discovered that the White Walkers have murdered many of the Night’s Watch. He sends a small party headed by Jon Snow to the other side of the Wall to enable an attack from multiple fronts. During the battle it’s revealed to Mance that Jon’s allegiance has been with the Night’s Watch all along, which he finds very disappointing. However, Mance still decides to attack an unprotected portion of the wall with his army.
However, before the wildling army is able to attack the wall they are ambushed by the forces of Stannis Baratheon. The wildlings are taken by surprise, outnumbered, and have inferior weaponry and thus lose the battle. Mance Rayder surrenders to Stannis, but refuses to kneel at Stannis’s command. Stannis wants to kill Mance, but Jon Snow convinces him to merely take Mance prisoner.