Bran is seven years old at the beginning of A Game of Thrones (1996). He is the second son of Eddard "Ned" Stark and his wife Catelyn, and has five siblings: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Rickon, and the illegitimate Jon Snow. Bran is constantly accompanied by his direwolf, Summer. Martin describes Bran as favoring his mother in appearance, having the thick auburn hair and deep blue eyes of the Tullys.
According to Martin, Bran is a sweet and thoughtful boy, well-loved by everyone at Winterfell. He enjoys climbing and exploring the walls and ramparts of the castle; he is also dutiful and tough-minded.
With his dreams of being a knight dashed by the crippling attempt on his life in A Game of Thrones, duty forces Bran to overcome his new limitations and embrace his new abilities. His gradual acceptance of his seemingly-prophetic dreams (called the "greensight") and his ability to inhabit Summer (which marks him as a type of skin-changer known as a warg) show his growing maturity and his worth beyond the loss of his legs.
The very first—and youngest—point of view character in the novels, Bran was set up by Martin as a young hero of the series. Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone noted in 2014 that the moment in A Game of Thrones in which Jaime Lannister pushes Bran to his likely death "grabs you by the throat". Martin commented in the interview:
I've had a million people tell me that was the moment that hooked them, where they said, "Well, this is just not the same story I read a million times before." Bran is the first viewpoint character. In the back of their heads, people are thinking Bran is the hero of the story. He's young King Arthur. We're going to follow this young boy–and then, boom: You don't expect something like that to happen to him. So that was successful [laughs].
In 2000, Martin called Bran the hardest character to write:
Number one, he is the youngest of the major viewpoint characters, and kids are difficult to write about. I think the younger they are, the more difficult. Also, he is the character most deeply involved in magic, and the handling of magic and sorcery and the whole supernatural aspect of the books is something I'm trying to be very careful with. So I have to watch that fairly sharply. All of which makes Bran's chapters tricky to write.
Booklist cited Bran as a notable character in 1999, and the Publishers Weekly review of A Game of Thrones noted, "It is fascinating to watch Martin's characters mature and grow, particularly Stark's children, who stand at the center of the book."
Noting Bran's absence in 2005's A Feast for Crows, James Poniewozik of Time wrote in his review of A Dance with Dragons (2011):
Some favorite characters were MIA for eleven long years. ADWD brings them back—bastard warrior Jon Snow, exiled dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen, fugitive dwarf Tyrion Lannister and crippled, mystical Bran Stark, among others—and almost from the get-go that gives it a narrative edge over its companion book. Each, in his or her own way, is dealing with a question of power.
In A Game of Thrones (1996), Bran accidentally sees Queen Cersei Lannister and her brother Ser Jaime having sex; whereupon he is pushed from the window by Jaime to keep the incest a secret, but he survives in a coma. While Bran remains unconscious, an attempt is made on his life, and Catelyn delays the assassin long enough for Bran’s direwolf to kill him. Senseless, Bran dreams of his falling from the tower and of a three-eyed crow that offers to teach him to fly. With the crow's guidance, Bran wakes; but having been crippled by the fall, he is unable to walk. Thereafter he relies on the giant simpleton Hodor, and a harness designed by Tyrion Lannister, to move. When Robb rides south to relieve Ned's arrest in King's Landing, Bran becomes the acting Lord of Winterfell.
1998's A Clash of Kings finds Robb named King in the North, and Bran, as Robb's heir, rules the castle in his brother's absence. When Theon Greyjoy betrays the Starks and captures Winterfell, Bran and Rickon escape, aided by the wildling Osha. To hide his failure, Theon has two other children murdered and proclaims them to be Bran and Rickon. Theon himself is betrayed by Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Roose Bolton. Having been hiding in the crypts of Winterfell, Bran and his companions emerge to find the castle in ruins. They come upon a mortally wounded Maester Luwin, who advises their traveling party to split. Osha takes Rickon in the direction of White Harbor, while Bran, Hodor, Meera, and Jojen Reed set off north to seek the three-eyed crow. Meanwhile, Bran has slowly accepted the veracity of his dreams, and his ability to psychically inhabit Summer, which makes him a type of skin-changer known as a warg.
Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen travel north to the Wall in search of the three-eyed crow in A Storm of Swords (2000).
In A Dance with Dragons (2011), Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen are joined by the mysterious Coldhands, and a Child of the Forest named Leaf takes them to the three-eyed crow (actually a human telepath), who in turn offers to train Bran in clairvoyance.See: Extended family tree of House Stark
Bran Stark is played by Isaac Hempstead Wright in the television adaption of the series of books.
Brandon "Bran" Stark is the second son and fourth child of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. He was named after his deceased uncle, Brandon. His dire wolf is called Summer.
During the King's visit to Winterfell, Bran accidentally comes across Cersei and Jaime Lannister engaging in sex, following which Bran is shoved from the window by Jaime, permanently crippling his legs. An assassin tries to kill Bran, but Summer, his direwolf companion, kills the assassin. Bran, when he awakens, finds that he is crippled from the waist down, forced to be carried everywhere by Hodor, and he cannot remember the events immediately before his fall. Slowly, he realizes that he has gained the ability to assume Summer's consciousness, making him a warg or a skinchanger. After his older brother, Robb, is crowned King in the North, Bran becomes Robb's heir and the Lord of Winterfell.
After Theon Greyjoy captures Winterfell, Bran goes into hiding. To cement his claim on Winterfell, Theon kills two orphan boys and tells the people of Winterfell that Bran, and his younger brother Rickon Stark, are dead. After Theon's men betray him and Winterfell is sacked, Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Osha and their direwolves head north to find his older brother Jon Snow for safety.
Bran and his party encounter Jojen and Meera Reed, two siblings who aid them in their quest. After coming close to the wall, Osha departs with Rickon for Last Hearth while Bran insists on following his visions beyond the Wall. He also encounters Sam and Gilly, who tries to persuade him not to, but Bran claims it is his destiny and leaves through the gate with Hodor and the Reeds.
During their travels beyond the Wall, Bran and the others stumble across Craster's Keep, where they are captured and held hostage by the Night's Watch mutineers led by Karl Tanner. Night's Watch rangers led by Jon eventually attack Craster's Keep to kill the mutineers, but Locke, a new recruit but secretly a spy for Roose Bolton, attempts to take Bran away and kill him elsewhere. Bran wargs into Hodor and kills Locke by snapping his neck, but Bran and his group are forced to continue on their journey without alerting Jon, whom Jojen claims would stop them. Bran's group eventually reaches the heart tree, but are set upon by wights outside the entrance. Jojen is killed in the attack, but the Children of the Forest destroy the wights and lead Bran and his company into the cave to meet the three-eyed raven. The Three-Eyed Raven declares that he cannot restore Bran's legs, but will make him fly instead.
As part of his training, Bran is shown several visions of the past, including Ned Stark and Howland Reed confronting Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Gerold Hightower at the Tower of Joy, and of the Children of the Forest creating the Night King by stabbing one of the First Men with dragonglass. However, the Three-Eyed Raven is always quick to withdraw Bran from the visions, warning that he may become trapped in them if he stays too long. Growing bored with his slow progress, Bran enters a vision on his own and witnesses the Night King in the present day. The Night King grabs Bran and leaves his mark, making the Three-Eyed Raven's cave vulnerable to the White Walkers' magic. The Three-Eyed Raven enters Bran into another vision to impart all his knowledge, but before the transfer is completed the White Walkers attack the cave, killing the Three-Eyed Raven, Summer, and the Children of the Forest. Bran, Meera, and Hodor flee, with Hodor seemingly killed while holding the wights behind a door. Bran, still in the vision, accidentally creates a link between Hodor's mind in the present and the mind of Hodor's younger self, inducing a seizure in the young Hodor and causing him to repeat Meera's command to "hold the door" until he can only slur the word "Hodor".
After their escape, Bran and Meera encounter Bran's uncle Benjen Stark, who had been killed by the White Walkers several years prior but was revived by the Children. Benjen whisks the duo to safety, telling Bran that he is now the Three-Eyed Raven and must learn to control his powers before the Night King attacks the Seven Kingdoms. Benjen leaves Bran and Meera at the weirwood in the Haunted Forest, as the Wall's magic prevents him from passing. Bran touches the weirwood and witnesses the rest of the vision of Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy. He discovers that Lyanna Stark died giving birth to Rhaegar Targaryen's son, Jon Snow.