Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jon IX

“My place is here…where is yours, boy?”

Synopsis: Jon Snow tries to run away from the Night’s Watch and his friends bring him back. He talks with Commander Mormont about priorities and makes a choice about whether he’s going to ride south or north.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

Jon IX is a bit of an odd chapter to end on – and it throws up a lot of questions about to what extent George R.R Martin is engaged in a process of critical deconstruction. On one level, Jon Snow is one of the most obviously traditional protagonist figures in the series – he’s a Hidden Backup Prince with a Legendary Weapon and a Magic Pet – and in this chapter, he Refuses the Call so blatantly and emoishly that somewhere long, long ago and far, far away Luke Skywalker is wincing.

On the other hand, I wonder if that’s part of the point – hewing close to the path well traveled in order to both critique the immaturity and problematic nature of the Refusal of the Call, but also to set up expectations for the quest that the Lord Commander presents him with – that Jon Snow will promptly abandon in ACOK in favor of a morally-ambiguous special forces mission with Qorin Halfhand.

Jon’s Choice 

Part of the reason that I don’t particularly l ike this chapter, and prefer Jon’s plot-line in ACOK or ASOS to AGOT (which is not the case on the show – more on that in future podcasts), is that Jon Snow is acting particularly childish. He knows full well that “a stranger wearing black was viewed with cold suspicion in every village and holdfast north of the Neck” (note not killed on sight, but definitely noticed and pointed out to pursuers) “once Maester Aemon’s ravens took flight, Jon knew he would find no safe haven. Not even at Wintefell. Bran might want to let him in, but Maester Luwin had better sense. He would bar the gates and send Jon away.” Practically, escape is improbable – a return to home is impossible. 

Even when he imagines (in fine teenage romantic outcast fashion) that “he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing int he shadows…where ever he might go through the Seven Kingdoms, he would need to live a lie…He tried to imagine the look on Robb’s face when he revealed himself. His brother would shake his head and smile…he could not see the smile. Hard as he tried, he could not see it.” There’s an entire social structure of symbolism, taboo, and obligation that has been built up in the North over 8,000 years to keep the Night Watch a functional institution. The only way Jon Snow’s escape would end is with him forcing his family to execute him for being an oathbreaker – thus, coming full circle back to Bran I.

If there is a redemption for all of this mawkish self-pity, it comes from the fact that Jon’s comrades coming to bring him back by appealing to his sense of family (“we’re your brothers now”) and the positive motivating force of camaraderie by pointing out that “here are your choices. Kill me, or come back with me.” Although there’s cracks in the walls and the roofs are crumbling down, the foundations of the Night’s Watch as a social institution that can motivate people through a sense of common belonging, purpose, and meaning are still functional.

Likewise, the fact that “I ordered a watch kept over you. You were seen leaving…if we beheaded every boy who rode to Mole’s Town in the night, only ghosts would guard the Wall” shows that both at the top and bottom of the Night’s Watch, there is both an understanding of the psychology of individual members and people as a group and an understanding that the Night’s Watch needs organizational flexibility to hew to the spirit rather than the letter of their vows (a lesson Bowen Marsh clearly failed to learn).

Mole’s Town

Speaking of institutional flexibility – let’s talk Mole’s Town, and how the economics of this works. On a basic level, it’s not surprising that the Night’s Watch has a sexual outlet for its men: there’s a long and often ignoble tradition of homosocial institutions of men “bowing to the inevitable,” whether we’re talking the classical to Napoleonic “camp follower” or “army wife,” or the dark history of WWII “comfort women,” or the more humane practice of conjugal visits in prison. I also wouldn’t find it surprising that there’s a blind eye turned to same-sex relationships within the Night’s Watch as well, just to keep the organization functioning.

But especially for an order of men who take vows to “take no wife…father no children,” a brothel offers a handy loophole that keeps desertion down and morale at acceptable levels. After all, the veil of uncertainty hanging over any birth in Mole’s Town would prevent any family tie interfering with one’s loyalty of the Night’s Watch. In fact, I’m a bit surprised we don’t hear of same existing at Eastwatch of the Shadow Tower – but that feeds into the overall issue of how many people actually live in the Gift. In order to support about a thousand people at the Wall, there must be between 1,800 to 9,000 smallfolk producing for the Night’s Watch (the Stewards are not nearly large enough in numbers to feed and supply themselves plus 600 men) – which, while still a very small population given the size of the Gift (a fully populated Gift could easily support 1.3 million people), seems a bit more substantial than the one horse farmer Jon meets plus Mole’s Town.

The question is how Mole’s Town’s workers get paid, buy supplies, and so forth. One possibility is that they get paid in-kind. After all, the Stewards have their hands on meat, timber, cloth, metal wares, etc. most of their lives, and given that the Night’s Watch engages with seafaring traders, they must also get their hands on trade goods on a regular basis. On the other hand, this kind of organized, widespread theft would be deleterious to the proper functioning of the Night’s Watch’s resource management system. Another possibility is that they get paid with coin. While the Night’s Watch doesn’t pay wages, the institution has stores of coin for trade, to pay for the travel of their recruiters, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Night’s Watch has a system of cash bonuses for extra work or unpleasant or difficult jobs – it’s not an uncommon system in prisons, for example – and the men of the Night’s Watch pay for sex with that money.

A third possibility is that there’s an institutional arrangement – after all, the Mole’s Town brothel is located on Night’s Watch land, so they’re technically tenants of the order. However, you can’t eat free rent, so it may be the case that the Night’s Watch supplies the brothel in-kind, which makes it a lot more like the organized military brothels of the 20th century. However, the text doesn’t seem to support this reading.

So which is it?

Lord Commander Mormont by TheSleeperAwakes

Mormont’s Thesis – a Critique of Fantasy? 

If there is a central idea to this chapter, something that makes it a worthy conclusion to Jon Snow’s story in this book, it’s Lord Commander Mormont’s argument – and I would argue, by extension, GRRM’s argument – about what’s important in the world of Westeros. Despite being literal witness to the return of mankind’s ancient enemy, Jon Snow has attempted to desert from that fight, to privilege his family over the broader family of humanity. And yet, Mormont starts his argument with an appeal to practical realities: “your brother is in the field with all of the power of the North behind him. Any one of his lords bannerman commands more swords than you’ll find in all the Night’s Watch. Why do you imagine they need your help? Are you such a mighty warrior, or do you carry a grumkin in your pocket to magic up your sword?”

I don’t think it’s an accident that George R.R Martin frames this speech as a critique of the cult of heroic individualism in the fantasy genre – one lone man (and it’s almost always a man), wielding a magic sword, saving the world by his own actions, is pretty ubiquitous. And yet, for all that GRRM makes Jon Snow the closest thing to a traditional fantasy protagonist, he undercuts that almost immediately: from this point through to A Dance With Dragons, Jon Snow will kill exactly two people whose names we learn, but neither will shape the world as much as Jon does by refusing to kill, by speaking to and learning from, and ultimately mobilizing people into new ways of behavior. Whether it’s the brothers of the Night’s Watch or the wildlings or Stannis himself, Jon’s heroism is that of a community organizer, not a one-man-army.

At the same time, I think Martin is engaged in a critique, not a denunciation. As important as the political side of A Song of Ice and Fire is, and as someone writing a blog devoted to that side of the story believe me I care about it, there is no way of escaping the fact that GRRM presents the metaphysical threat to Westeros as more important: “The cold winds are rising, Snow. Beyond the Wall, the shadows lengthen. Cotter Pyke writers of vast herds of elk, streaming south and east toward the sea, and mammoths as well…Rangers from the Shadow Tower have found whole villages abandoned, and at night Ser Denys says they see fires in the mountains, huge blazes that burn from dusk till dawn. Qhorin Halfhand took a captive in the depths of the gorge, and the man swears that Mance Rayder is massing all his people in some new, secret stronghold he’s found…when dead men come hunting in the night, do you think it matters who sits the Iron Throne?”

And yet, and yet…the fact that Martin went to such lengths to give us a political storyline, one that arguably takes up the overwhelming majority of the text, gives this a different feel. In many fantasy works, the only threat is the metaphysical threat, and the source of evil is Evil, and the mundane is portrayed as something to be tossed aside or transcended. I’ve never been that comfortable with this tendency; it devalues ordinary human lives, and it teaches the wrong lessons about where injustice comes from and what it looks like. But by layering the one on top of the other, GRRM makes both seem more intense and vivid – the Mountain is as real a threat to the ordinary Riverlander as the White Walker is to the ordinary wildling. There is a danger in fixating on the mundane to the exclusion of all else – that way lies the War of Five Kings. Then again, there is a danger in fixating on the metaphysical to the exclusion of all else – that way lies Summerhall and Robert’s Rebellion.

In the words of Lester Freamon, all the pieces matter. And what Westeros desperately needs is a hero who pays attention to the big ones and the small ones.

Historical Analysis:

There’s not much to discuss this chapter that I haven’t discussed above. But come back next time for an extensive look at the history of regional independences!

What If? Not a whole lot happens in Jon IX, but I can see a couple of possibilities:

  • Jon kept riding? In part, Jon Snow’s potential future has already been outlined by George R.R Martin. But it’s done so only up until the current point in time. Certainly cetibus paribus, Jon Snow’s foolish actions would earn him a death sentence – but Jon Snow’s desertion is about to coincide with an Ironborn invasion of the North. Who better to lead a guerrilla insurgency against the foreign occupiers than Ned Stark’s grown-up warrior son, complete with direwolf? I doubt the hill clans would be checking I.D any time soon, and the Night’s Watch is about to be kept busy by Mormont’s Great Ranging. It’s possible but not exactly guaranteed that Jon Snow could foil Theon’s attack on Winterfell – which has huge ripple effects when it comes to Robb Stark’s strategy, the Red Wedding, Ramsay Bolton’s rise to power, and the political position of the North vis-a-vis Stannis Baratheon. If he doesn’t, he’s still the natural focus point for a loyalist resistance to the Boltons and Stannis’ go-to pick for new Lord of Winterfell.
  • Mormont doesn’t march? Another possibility that comes to mind is that Mormont decides against taking one-third of the Night’s Watch’s fighting strength up into beyond-the-Wall. This changes things in a number of ways – to begin with, it means the Night’s Watch isn’t going to come face-to-face with the White Walkers (yet), and that Jon Snow never breaks his vows. It also means that Mance Rayder’s army is going to face a stronger foe, both in terms of raw numbers and leadership quality. (I’ll go into this more in ACOK and ASOS, but I’ve never quite understood how Mance’s army on its way to the Wall missed the White Walker force that had attacked the Fist of the First Men) Quorin Halfhand isn’t going to fall for the Weeper’s tricks, so the Battle of the Bridge of Skulls is nowhere near as bloody for the Night’s Watch. With patrols up by a third, it’s questionable whether the Thenn’s raiding party makes it over the Wall or at least unnoticed. Beyond the battle, Stannis isn’t going to have nearly as strong a hand against a Night’s Watch that’s almost as strong as his army with experienced leaders at its helm. But is the Night Watch flexible enough to bend to meet the true threat?

Book vs. Show:

The show played this straight from the text, so I don’t have anything to say – other than that the rousing montage of the Night’s Watch setting out, which I quite like, seems to have set up a weird trend of dramatic montages that then get undercut by what follows. For example, Jorah’s montage in season 1 is oddly undercut (in retrospect) by the fact that the Night’s Watch’s battle on the Fist of the First Men happens entirely off-camera; likewise, Asha/Yara’s preparation montage from the end of Season 3 is going to feel strange in retrospect when she doesn’t find her brother until she gets captured by Stannis.

It’s an odd tic, as it seems to set up the audience for disappointment.

114 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jon IX

  1. Sean C. says:

    In retrospect, I’ve never understood Mormont’s thinking behind the ranging. If his 300 men had actually found the Wildlings they’d have been massively outnumbered and on their turf (as opposed to manning the strong defensive position on the wall). Information about what the Wildlings are doing is valuable (and also, potentially, what’s going on with the Others), but that can be obtained by the much smaller group sent led by Qhorin.

    • ajay says:

      In modern terms the Great Ranging was a reconnaissance patrol, not a fighting patrol.
      Remember how it all starts: Royce, Will and Garth are out on a routine patrol and get killed. From the Watch’s point of view they vanish (because Will SOMEHOW gets south of the Wall without anyone noticing or stopping him on his way to get decapitated by Ned). So they send out a stronger patrol under Benjen Stark to look for their three missing rangers, and that vanishes as well. This looks serious, Mormont thinks, there’s something out there that can take out an entire patrol, led by my First Ranger, and leave no survivors. So he takes out the biggest force he can pull together, and takes some ravens along, to go and see what’s happening – as soon as he runs into the wildlings or whoever, he’ll send word back to the wall, break contact and withdraw.
      He gets to the Fist and sets up what we’d call a patrol base there: a secure, defensible position where you can rest and administrate your troops, and from which you can dispatch and support smaller recce patrols to look at targets of interest which you develop on the ground, and to serve as a comms hub so he can report back to the Wall.

      • Will dies, Gared makes his way south of the Wall, probably by going through the Gorge or possibly by climbing.

        The danger with Mormont’s thinking is that throwing in good money after bad risks a catastrophic loss – as in OTL.

        • gavinbyrnes says:

          To be fair, ajay could be referring to the show, in which they swap Will and Gared for some reason (something to do with shooting schedules or replacing one character but not another? I can’t remember, you probably know)

          • Could be they just thought Will’s actor was better?

          • ajay says:

            Yes, sorry about the confusion.

            The danger with Mormont’s thinking is that throwing in good money after bad risks a catastrophic loss – as in OTL.

            True. I think his mistake here is that he went out with three objectives – find out what the wildlings are up to; find Benjen Stark’s party; find out about the wights – and then he got hooked up on one, the wildlings, and forgot about the bigger picture. Much as the Watch had done, on a larger scale, for the last few centuries.

          • I believe they had to do some reshoots after the initial pilot but weren’t able to get the actor who played Gared so they swapped who dies and who escapes (to be later beheaded).

          • That would make sense.

    • S. Duff says:

      Well, when the Night’s Watch discovers Mance Rayder’s men are marching down the Milkwater, they form a battle plan to attack the line of march at it’s weakest point, then use the open ground to wipe out the soldiers. If they had actually carried this plan out, the wildlings would be scattered and without soldiers or leaders. Of course, then they’d all end up as wights, but the point is they could have ended the wildling threat then and there.

      • Sure, but we should recognize how risky this was. If the Night’s Watch’s flying wedge can break the line repeatedly and take out Mance, then they’ve won, but it’s entirely possible for them to be mobbed, pulled off their horses, and killed.

    • It’s certainly a risky decision – on the other hand, as we saw with the conclusion of the siege of Castle Black, a small group of horsemen were capable of breaking that army.

      • Roger says:

        Not a small group. Stannis had hundred of men, much better trained and equiped than the Watch (many of those doesn’t have cavalry training).

        • Stannis had 1,500 men to the Night’s Watch’s 900 men which isn’t a huge difference compared to the enemy’s numbers, and the training levels aren’t hugely different, especially when we’re talking about an attack on a group of 100,000 people.

          • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

            100,000 people – are you sure? What I remember, it was more like 20,000; and frankly, I still find even that number hard to swallow, because I have no idea how people survive north of the wall, let alone unite to an army. The flora and fauna Martin describes sounds like southern Scandinavia, but the temperature (around freezing even in summer, as we learn from AGOT’s prologue) seems rather like the Arctics – only with year-long winters. I mean, even Winterfell needs its hot water to survive, and that’s hundreds of miles to the south. So if at all, there should be no more than small hunter-gatherer-tribes at the coasts, but no lifestock-farming, no copper-mining Thenns etc.
            Btw. – compliments, you really are taking up stride!

          • I’ll doublecheck when I get into ACOK, but I’m pretty sure. And people can live in the Arctic – there’s 110,000 Inuit today, after mass death brought on by contact with European diseases, colonial policies, etc etc.

            As for food, I think the vast reindeer herds help.

            BTW – thanks!

          • ajay says:

            The flora and fauna Martin describes sounds like southern Scandinavia, but the temperature (around freezing even in summer, as we learn from AGOT’s prologue) seems rather like the Arctics

            But it’s unseasonably cold at that point in the summer, remember? When they find the wolf cubs near Winterfell, there’s snow on the ground and everyone’s surprised by it.

          • And by contrast, it’s been rather warm north of the Wall – the Wall’s been weeping, remember?

          • ajay says:

            Aha, good point.

  2. Matthew says:

    Yeah they did undercut Mormont and his position just a bit in the show. I didn’t find the bits beyond the Wall to be very exciting, and the fact that the Battle of the Fist of the First Men was most an off screen affair was a bit of a let down. Though I think this is intentional through the writers trying to play with our expectations (like Robb’s depressing/rousing speech).

    The theory I always had for why the White Walkers ignored the massive Wildling army was that they recognized that they had to defeat the Night’s Watch to get over the Wall while they could pick the Wildlings off as they pleased (I’m also pretty certain that even they are wary enough of a force 20,000 strong).

    • I thought the early stuff beyond the Wall was fine, it was mostly Jon’s stuff that was a let-down. But the Battle at the Fist ought to be the payoff for a season’s worth of tension, and it wasn’t.

      It depends what form of rationality the White Walkers have. And whether the mystical protections of the Wall require the Night’s Watch to work.

      • WPA says:

        I wonder if it was just the budget constraints for Season 3 in order to do the Red Wedding proper justice? Though they’ve presumably been able to sock away enough coin for at least two major battles in Season 4.

        • Sean C. says:

          The Red Wedding really wasn’t that expensive. The bulk of it was done in one room.

        • Nah. The Red Wedding wasn’t a very expensive shoots – it’s all small-group enclosed spaces shooting, and you don’t see more than 20-30 people on screen at all. If there was a budget constraint, it MIGHT have been the sack of Astapor, but I don’t know.

      • To be fair, the Battle at the Fist ought to be the payoff for a book’s worth of tension, and we barely saw it in flashback. While the show has taken its liberties, I can’t recall them ever going out of their way to show us an expensive scene or battle where GRRM skipped it first (see also: Whispering Woods, Battle of the Green Fork).

        • We see quite a bit of it in flashback, and what we see is incredibly visually dramatic.

          While Green Fork they did chop out, Whispering Woods was pretty faithful to its depiction in the text in being off-camera.

  3. ajay says:

    a fully populated Gift could easily support 1.3 million people

    That was a rather startlingly huge number on first read, but I suppose it’s 300 miles across by 150 miles deep (fifty leagues) – 45,000 square miles. Half again as large as Scotland (and similar geography), and Scotland had a population of about a million in the middle ages.

  4. Chris says:

    “I also wouldn’t find it surprising that there’s a blind eye turned to same-sex relationships within the Night’s Watch as well”

    I’m pretty sure that’s already been implied. In ADWD, when the three rangers’ heads are left on spikes by the Wall, “Alf of Runnymudd let out a howl loud enough to wake sleepers in the Shadow Tower” when he finds out one of them was Garth Greyfeather. It always seemed like a lover’s grief to me, since plenty of rangers have died and we’ve never seen that level of despair before.

    • See, I had missed that.

      • Chris says:

        Yup. And you were right about them turning a blind eye. Jon just sends Alf to bed with some wine, no eyebrows raised.

        • WPA says:

          Yeah, that bit from ADWD jumped out as well, and clearly Jon appeared to be aware enough of it (non-chalant as well) to just say, “Give the poor guy strong drink and let him sleep.” . Implies that that has to be if not exactly common, then certainly not unheard of up there.

          The “No wives, no children- but brothels A-Okay!” loophole is something I missed. It makes total sense for some practical LC’s to have establish a gentleman’s agreement like that to raise morale and keep order.

    • Andy says:

      Great call! I had been thinking of the lack of references to homosexuality as a major oversight, but that does make sense. It seems like it’s not such a big deal in Westeros, except of course in matters of breeding.

      • WPA says:

        I think it depends on the circumstances- ie in a similar vein to Victorian/Edwardian England. Officially and socially taboo but enough people are either ignorant of it or indifferent to it (particularly behind closed doors) that if done discreetly, it’s given benign neglect. The problem is if it becomes open. The Wall seems a more unique circumstance as it’s already homo-social, theoretically if not in practice celibate, and a place with bigger problems for the authorities to worry about.

        • Winnie says:

          Yeah, I get the feeling the NW policy is basically “Don’t Ask Don’t Care.”

        • I think open relationships might be problematic in that it might be a source of divided loyalties within the institution unless it’s an institutional practice a la the Sacred Band of Thebes (and even then, they were careful to recruit pairs).

      • In fact, Joffrey’s homophobia, where he refers to it as an abomination, is a show invention, so as far as we know there’s no religious taboo against it.

        If I had to guess, it’s a bit like the ancient Greek/medieval Japanese attitude – you still have to sire children on your wife, and it’s considered “unmanly” for the older or higher status partner to be the passive partner – although in Westeros it’s supposed to be a discreet thing rather than an open identity. To the extent that there’s shade being thrown, it’s almost all thrown at Loras as the younger, more feminine partner, or Satin for being a prostitute. But we don’t see anyone throwing slurs at Whoresbane Umber, for example.

        • WPA says:

          True, though getting a nickname based on disemboweling a (male) prostitute probably means people aren’t going to be throwing slurs of any kind at you.

        • Chris says:

          I don’t know. Given Catelyn’s comments about Lyn Corbray and Tyrion’s comments about the Red Viper, it seems like same-sex relations are widely seen as unusual and social taboo, not just something to be discreet about. Though I agree there doesn’t seem to be any overt or systemic persecution in Westerosi society.

          • Well, Corbray is a pedophile, which is another thing altogether.

            But the Red Viper’s case gives us a certain measure – it’s something that makes the Red Viper notorious, not an outcast or a pariah. On the other hand, we have to take class into consideration – we don’t know what the reaction would be if a peasant lad came out as gay or bi.

          • WPA says:

            Though with the Red Viper, aren’t those rumors also possibly a byproduct of the “Those Dornish are a funny lot” attitude that seems to prevail? So if the guy openly keeps a paramour and a large number of acknowledged illegitimate daughters that are dangerous in their own right, and poisons his enemies. Well…what rumor wouldn’t be plausible with him?

        • JT says:

          Actually most of the stuff re. homosexuality being a taboo seem to come from the show, not the book. Besides Joffrey’s conversation to Margaery (show invention), there is also Littlefinger mocking Renly publicly for his relationship with Loras during the tournament in season 1 and Tywin calling Loras a “sword swallower” during his discussion with Oleana Tyrell in season 3, all of which never occur in the books.

          I would agree that in the books, it seems like as you father children with your wife and are at least a tiny bit discreet (I don’t imagine Renly and Loras could show up holding hands at court for instance), nobody seems to care. In ACOK Stannis hints at Renly’s homosexuality during their parlay, and Renly counters by saying he’ll get Margaery pregnant “soon enough”, which shuts down Stannis from that angle.

          During ADWD, Victarion’s maester is raped (“used like a woman”) by some of the Ironborn. When the maestar comes to Victarion, he (the maester) is given a dagger and told to use it to protect himself in the future – there’s nothing in the text about Victarion punishing the men. This could just be a Royal Navy-type situation where sodomy is tolerated on long sea voyages, but it also does point towards a certain level of tolerance.

    • Scott Trotter says:

      The Runnymudd Chamber of Commerce should consider a new name.

  5. Ivan T. W. says:

    I have to admit that I’m one of the ones who always found the Jon (and later, Bran) chapters trying. To me, they seem like the ones most rooted in the Tolkien style fantasy I found dull as a child, and dull now, whereas the politics dealing with the South I found fascinating (it didn’t help that, with the Bran chapters, I hadn’t read the Dunk & Egg tales, and so when the 3-Eyed Crow was revealed, didn’t know who he was supposed to be.) This always seems to horrify the other fans of the series I know, that I don’t like the Jon chapters (and even worse, that my favorite chapters are the Cersei chapters) seems anathema.

    • Winnie says:

      Well, I think I like Jon’s chapters a bit better than you, but I agree that Cersei’s chapters can be enormously entertaining in a truly sick fashion. Its essentially watching a train wreck in slow motion.

    • David Hunt says:

      When I got to Cercei’s chapters, I admit that I couldn’t stop reading. However, it was more akin to the phenomenon of being unable to turn away from a trainwreck as it’s happening. I don’t mean that they were poorly written and there’s always compelling stuff happening at the Capital. It’s that Cercei is such a scourge on her own interests that she’s practically a natural disaster. As I “watched” her default on the Crown debts, surround herself entirely with (mostly incompetent) yes-men, alienate virtually all of her potential allies of any real use, get rid of one High Septon, horrible misjudge another, allow the return of the Faith Militant, etc. etc. I had more respect for her before I knew what she was thinking and I didn’t have much respect for her then.

      This is the woman who thinks the Tywin Lannister will be remembered first as the her father instead of for his own accompliments?

      So of course, I may prefer her chapters to Jon’s as well, except his chapters in ADWD.

    • For me, the Jon chapters are more interesting when they’re about the Night’s Watch or the wildlings and less so when they’re just about him.

      The Bran chapters I find hit-and-miss; there’s some interesting feudal politics in there when we get into ACOK, the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree I’ll definitely spend some time on, but a lot of the rest doesn’t grab me so much in part because unlike in the political world, I don’t have a sense of where the 3EC is going.

  6. priddy says:

    Personally, I have been looking forward to this chapter for quite some time now. It took a couple of rereads, but eventually I realized the brilliant thing that Martin did here. Like a skilled magician, he directs the attention of the audience on one hand, while the coin is in the other. He already caught the readers once off guard, by making them believe that Eddard Stark was going to be a main protagonist.
    Now he is doing it again in this chapter. Mormont’s words hit directly the point “When dead men come hunting in the night, do you think it matters who sits on the Iron Throne?” Considering that we are talking here about an actual supernatural threat to all living things in Westeros and probably the entire world, the politics of mortals should be pointless. Yet by keeping the otherworldly aspects more or less in the background (so far) and focussing the main part of the novels on the civil war and Daenerey’s conquests, Martin has distracted the reader from the fact that Jon’s storyline follows with some exceptions all the classic tropes of the hero’s journey (Cue epic music).

    It is also an overlooked fact, that the event which sparked Robert’s Rebellion – Lyanna Stark’s “kidnapping” – was motivated by more than the lust or the love of Rhaegar Targaryen. The readers have learned that the heir to the Iron Throne strongly believed in a prophecy about “The prince who was promised”, an messianic character, and that he believed that one of his children would fulfill the role. It is hinted that at one point Rhaegar must have come to the conclussion that the prophecy spoke of three persons (“The Dragon must have three heads”). Unfortunatley, his wife couldn’t survive another birth. Desperatley looking for a second woman, the prince must have decided at the tourney of Harrenhall that Lyanna Stark was worthy of bearing his third child. So the entire background story that paved the way for the events in the novels was probably influenced by a supernatural theme.
    (By the way, with Aemon Targaryen now dead, and if Jon and Aegon really a Rhaegar’s sons, there are currently with Dany three living Targaryens left.)

  7. CoffeeHound14 says:

    I just figured that the Others’ host initially missed the wildling host because they were pursuing and harrying the survivors of Mormont’s ranging. Furthermore, we only know that the wildling host arrives at the Fist unmolested; after Jon departs with Styr’s raiders, who knows? What we do know is that the Others were preying on the wildling horde as it besieged the Wall at Castle Black. Mance says so when Jon treats with him right before the arrival of Stannis.

    On another subject, I think that Mormont’s assertion that it doesn’t matter who is on the throne when the Others attack is fundamentally undercut by the rest of the narrative of these books. Granted, he is mostly making a moral argument. That being said, it clearly does matter who has power when the kingdom faces a metaphysical threat. The kingdom needs its ruler to be someone talented and efficient, as well as selfless and brave. It also needs someone with a moral compass, though, who will not be seeking his/her own aggrandizement or profit from the conflict. Can you imagine if Tywin Lannister had been in power when the Others’ invasion hit? Can you imagine if Littlefinger were? Both of these men are talented, and according to Mormont’s thesis it shouldn’t matter how they got in power so long as they can defend the realm from what’s coming. Unfortunately, their moral character has bearing on whether they can foster a unified front against the Others. But even if these men could succeed in the face of Westeros’s greatest existential threat, it is questionable whether the Westeros held and moulded by their hands would be worth living in when the dust settles. All this, I think, comes down to the crux of this series which is not, as many have suggested, that the struggle for power doesn’t matter in the end when there are threats to humanity looming; rather, as per your Wire quote, all the pieces matter. The power struggle matters most of all in the face of an existential threat, because who is in charge determines both whether we win against the assaults of the cosmos, and whether winning has any savor.

    • The geographic issue is confusing to me because the Fist is clearly south of Mance’s camp in the Frostfangs, so the undead horde must have stepped aside to the east or west. And it’s true that the White Walkers were picking off stragglers, but there was no serious attack as there was at the Fist.

      Good point re Mormont.

    • Winnie says:

      Well said CoffeeLover! I for one, am almost sorry Twyin is dead, because I would have LOVED to see his reaction to a threat that his brand of ruthless RealPolitik was so ill equipped for.

      “Kevan-Have Clegane and the Riders go out and burn the fields!”
      “Because I don’t know what else to do damn it!”

      And god only know what LF would try-flee with his ill gotten loot to the Free Cities or maybe strike a deal with the White Walkers.

      Conversely, King Robert, Ned Stark, and Robb Stark for instance were all the sort of guys who, (whatever else their faults,) would have been very useful in this situation. So would Ser Selmy. Genuinely great soldiers all. Or the brilliant Tyrion. And who are we left with?!? Cersei, Frey’s, Roose Bolton, and Baelish. Oh, I feel SO much safer…

      Fact is right now, of all the survivors of the WotFK, the only person who answered the NW’s plea for help is Stannis. Everybody else ignored that raven because they’re too busy scrabbling for power. And that’s the other way, the politics are really having an impact on this issue. No one is dealing with this potentially apocalyptic threat. No one is paying any attention. And of course all these horrible wars started by the Lannister’s, the Bolton’s, and LF, are tearing the realm to pieces, wiping out its best and bravest forces, and destroying supplies. It makes it all the much harder for Westeros to do what’s needed to defend itself and prepare to survive this long winter.

      That’s why, while Mormont is correct that the White Walkers *should* take precedence over the conflict for the IT, the NW no longer can afford *not* to take sides as Jon realizes in ADWD.

  8. MightyIsobel says:

    Game of Tropes is a good approach for this most Joseph-Campbell-y of chapters.

    “But by layering the one on top of the other, GRRM makes both seem more intense and vivid – the Mountain is as real a threat to the ordinary Riverlander as the White Walker is to the ordinary wildling. There is a danger in fixating on the mundane to the exclusion of all else – that way lies the War of Five Kings. Then again, there is a danger in fixating on the metaphysical to the exclusion of all else – that way lies Summerhall and Robert’s Rebellion.”

    And in Dany’s story in ACOK, we’ll get an additional layer: Nobody in Qarth gives a fig about the Lannister machinations in KL, and also they know nothing about the Others.

  9. Brett says:

    (I’ll go into this more in ACOK and ASOS, but I’ve never quite understood how Mance’s army on its way to the Wall missed the White Walker force that had attacked the Fist of the First Men)

    It’s possible that they didn’t miss it, but were better prepared for it than the Night’s Watch was on top of the hill (what with the giant fires throughout the night). We don’t know how much of Mance Rayder’s* army/mass migration has been wiped out through the process of assembling them and driving them forward.

    * That name annoys me – “Mance Rayder”. “Mance” is cool, but “Mance Rayder” just sounds so fantasy-ish.

    With Jon, the significance of this chapter for me is that Jon himself is never enough, even if he is the Hero. He ultimately depends on his friends and loyal companions to keep him from getting himself into serious trouble through self-destructive behavior, whether it’s his black brothers grabbing him on his run from the Wall, or Sam politicking in order to get him elected as Lord Commander. When he sends them all away in A Dance with Dragons – Sam, Dolorous Edd, Iron Emm, Grenn – he gets himself killed because all he’s left with are enemies and rivals (except for Val and possibly Melisandre and Tormund).

    We even see that from the beginning of Jon’s harsh lesson from Donal Noye, when he tells him that he’s arrogant and will get himself killed if he doesn’t learn to work with his comrades.

    • From the way Mance describes it, they lose stragglers, but not the bulk of the force. And the Night’s Watch had a ring of torches but it didn’t do them any good at the end of the day.

      And I absolutely agree with your comment about Jon.

    • lastofthegiants says:

      Mance’s supposed to be over fantasyish. Mance sees himself as a romantic hero in a story, his tale about why he left the Watch, wis red and black cloak, his Winterfell name (Bael- Abel) all show how he sees himself as a character in a story, except he is the one writing it.

      • I’d agree. And I think the name is part of his story – keep in mind, Mance is an orphaned wildling without a last name who spent much of his life as a ranger. I think he chose the name Rayder(Raider) to embellish his image.

  10. Winnie says:

    “With Jon, the significance of this chapter for me is that Jon himself is never enough, even if he is the Hero. He ultimately depends on his friends and loyal companions to keep him from getting himself into serious trouble through self-destructive behavior, whether it’s his black brothers grabbing him on his run from the Wall, or Sam politicking in order to get him elected as Lord Commander. When he sends them all away in A Dance with Dragons – Sam, Dolorous Edd, Iron Emm, Grenn – he gets himself killed because all he’s left with are enemies and rivals (except for Val and possibly Melisandre and Tormund).”

    Very well put. No ONE, no matter how good or talented can possibly do it all by themselves-EVERYONE needs allies. It’s one reason why after Jon is resurrected, I really hope Sansa makes it up North, because she’s another potential ally for him, (as well of course as the always useful Sam,) and one who’s had a crash course in politicking and deception at that. Once his Targ ancestry is known, he’s gonna need someone with some understanding of court dynamics. Plus she could bring some useful Vale forces with her as well….

    • logan luce says:

      In some respects, Jon’s dependance on a number of close friends as allies mirrors that same quality in Ned. Both depend strongly on the social capital that can be built out of individual relationships (often friendships) with various allies. This also becomes a weakness for Ned and Jon. Ned seems to rely entirely on social capital in his political tactics in Kings Landing, which ends up getting him nowhere.* Brute political force, which makes those Cercei chapters so enchanting, might have been more effective, but Ned doesn’t even give ’em a shot. Ditto for Jon in ADWD.

      * Where is Ned’s body anyway?

  11. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, excellent work once again!

    I would like to state here that I find it increasingly hard not to regard The White Walker’s attack on The Night’s Watch, rather than the Host of the King Beyond-the-Wall, as evidence of some guiding intelligence behind the wights with something on it’s mind beyond “braaains” (evidence almost as strong as what might be termed the Infiltration of Castle Black); not only do the Walkers over-run a strong defensive position manned by some of the more formidable fighting men in The North with apparent ease, they go out of their way to do so – something that implies more than a simple-minded instinctive drive at work.

    Quite possibly this is because whatever Will drives the Wights can recognise that unlike the Free Folk the Watch have taken none of the precautions required to keep them at bay – I find it hard to imagine the ‘great fires’ mentioned in this very chapter as anything other but pyres for the dead, that they might not become the un-living or watchfires to keep the cold ones at a distance – which means that a whole scourge of White Walkers can be added to the ranks (which may have been shrunken through contact with increasingly wary Wild-folk), allowing them to turn once again upon the flanks of The Mance’s host in greater numbers.

    • David Hunt says:

      The Others might have gone relatively easy of Mance’s army as it marched on the Wall because…it was marching on the Wall. We know for sure that there’s a magic to the Wall that is specifically effective against wights and very probably the Others themselves. If the wildlings destroy the Watch, I suspect that the magics on the Wall that are keeping them out will be weakened or ended. So they let the army get to wall and assault it. If they break through, the Others’ main opponent is destroyed and no one’s guarding the Wall. If Mance’s army is broken, then they can at least “recruit” some number of the dead. Win/win.

      • That is a major open question – and it gets into the weirdness with the Horn of Joramun and the barrows and what the hell happened there.

        • Andrew says:

          What the hell happened where?

          The Horn of Joramun is likely the cracked horn Jon gave Sam, and Sam still holds onto even after he gave away everything else.

    • It’s certainly sign of rationality, but what kind of rationality is unclear.

  12. Matthew says:

    Ah fantastic! You’re so close to the end! Very good work Steven!

  13. Winnie says:

    FYI, March 7th was my birthday, so I sort of felt like this analysis was a present for me.

    And keep up the pace Steve! I’m hyped for the next Hand of the King, and *panting* for ACOK….

  14. hertolo says:

    “Jon Snow will kill exactly two people whose names we learn”

    Well, Jon kills a few more people at the battle at Castle Black. I know we don’t know learn their name, but I had to read this sentence thrice to get how that “whose” appendix changes the meaning. Still, wanted to point out that Jon does know how to kill, even though he sometimes makes the choice not to.

    • That’s why I mentioned the names – Jon absolutely does his bit on the Wall, but no differently than any other man, as compared to Donal Noye’s heroics. What Jon does that is heroic is command the Wall.

      • Winnie says:

        Exactly. Jon’s real triumph is negotiating a peace with the Wildlings and trying to institute a massive reform.

  15. Winnie says:

    OT, but I was wondering Steve, if we could ever get you giving us a breakdown of some of the many different prophecies of the series…I’d especially like to know your take on Maggi the Frog’s prophecy to Cersei, (I’m 99% positive the Valonqar is Jaime,) and your thoughts on who the Younger and More Beautiful Queen will be.

  16. Roger says:

    Real good points about Jon and the Watch.

    I wonder if Robb would had hanged Jon. I suppose not. He was even willing to make him his heir, despite being a crow already.

    If Jon had been accepted back to Stark’s family, he probably would have died at the Red Wedding.

    Mormont’ Great Ranging wasn’t well thought. Mance admited he hadn’t any intention of assaulting a heavy defended position. And many watchmen were unreliable (Chet and other criminals) or too green (Pyp, Gren and Sam, of course).

    About a surprise assault against Mance’s horde, I think the Wildlings are too many, and have too many explorers around to get surprise. Of course Stannis managed to surprise Rayder, but at that moment the King wasn’t expecting problems from this side. Also Stannis men were about a thousand trained knights, veterans of Blackwater, with heavy horses and steel plate, supported by infantry. The Watch didn’t have any training as a unit. They were always too few for that.

    Perhaps Mormont should have send Qhorin and other patrols and fortify Castle Black.

    • That’s going a bit too far – the Night’s Watch are 900 men to Stannis’ 1,500, and they have had training as a unit.

      • Roger says:

        The only battles during Mormont’s tenure have been small skirmish. Like the ones Qhorin had. We never saw Jon and Sam having nothing but individual training.

        • We only get two chapters seeing them train, but Jon refers to the Night’s Watch’s training as cavalry later in ACOK and ASOS.

          • Bail o' Lies says:

            I think one of the first reforms Jon did after he became Lord Commander was to make everyone (even Sam) train everyday with bows. I don’t recall exactly what Jon said for but it was something along the lines of “the focus on sword training was leftover from when 1 in 10 brothers of the watch were knights.”

            I think a lot of the initial reforms Jon did were to fix the problems he notice when he was defending the wall.

          • Yeah. To preview my ADWD thesis on Jon. His reforms are either:
            1. Dealing with the major areas of institutional function observed in the first book.
            2. Attempting a modus vivendi between the two cultures he’s been exploring, so that the Night’s Watch gets the flexibility, resilience, and knowledge of the wildlings, while the latter gets solidarity, organization, and division of labor and the attended technological advancement of the former.

  17. ericd19 says:

    Well I don’t entirely agree that other forms of fantasy devalue ordinary human lives or ordinary human concerns. I think a fantasy that focuses on Evil as a metaphysical thing can be very effective if it uses a metaphysical Evil to effective symbolic and thematic ends. Tolkien, for example, used Sauron and the Ring to symbolize the temptations of power that can turn anyone wicked, he used them as a contrast to trace how good things can be turned to wickedness by the pursuit of power. Martin seems to use the White Walkers as a symbol for Death, the inevitability of death that comes for us all in our time and before which all our human bickering is ultimately irrelevant. It remains to be seen what thematic point he makes with them in the end but I think he’s been effective at using metaphysical evil effectively.

    It’s when fantasy authors use metaphysical Evil without putting any thought into it that it gets stupid, if you ask me anyways.

    • The problem is that we’ve had 50+ years of evil as a metaphysical thing in the genre – and it hasn’t led to good places. Always Chaotic Evil species, an entirely spiritual/corruption-based understanding of why people do evil things, and a discounting of the ordinary evils human beings do to each other.

      • ericd19 says:

        I agree. I think it works best when used in cohesion with the themes of a story, but very few fantasy authors bother to think about such things and it just gets overly simplistic and reflexive.

    • Roger says:

      I agree. The Others look like complety inhuman. Not inspired by evil, but by a hate of life and warm. They don’t try to corrupt of master humanity. SImply to destroy it.

  18. JT says:

    The interesting thing about the book v show is the way that the actors’ performances can color your perception of the books. For me at least certain actors (Charles Dance as Tywin, Massie Williams as Arya, Jack Gleason as Joffrey) are now who I picture and whose voices I hear when I re-read the books.

    This season of GOT is going to be interesting to watch, since in the books (end of ASOS) it’s where Jon takes the jump and becomes a leader. The problem is that so far Kit Harrington (the actor who plays Jon) hasn’t really seemed to be able to portray much besides teenage angst so far, whereas book Jon, even with his self-pity really does seem like a future leader.

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah that is an issue. Despite being pretty I think Kit Harrington might have been their one major casting mistake, (as opposed to Madden who gives Robb an enhanced presence as well as being a hunk). Kits just not convincing as a future Lord Commander or possible King.

      Fyi also LOVE ST as sandals.

      • JT says:

        Yeah, I do think Kit Harrington may end up being a mistake (we’ll know more after this season), which is too bad since Jon is obviously central to the plot of the series and can’t really be de-emphasized too much.

        The other three performances I think diverge from their characterizations in books are Littlefinger (a bit too overtly evil for me in the show), The Hound (Rory McCann does well, but he plays The Hound as a weary PTSD survivor type as opposed to the coiled ball of rage who is always on the verge of exploding in the books), and Tyrion (Dinklige is great, but the character has been whitewashed quite a bit in the show).

        • Well, this season is where we see whether Kit Harrington can move beyond the sullen teenager thing.

          Littlefinger I think is much more spot on than people give Aiden Gillen credit for; LF is not a subtle man. He’s an indispensable man.

          The Hound – I think that’s a factor of what’s been cut from the show. Look at that audition tape I linked; plenty of exploding rage there.

          Tyrion – to be fair, the stuff that requires whitewashing mostly happens this season and subsequent seasons.

          • Winnie says:

            I agree about you with AG. LF isn’t subtle, and people instinctively distrust and dislike him…something that will come back to bite him in the ass, in time.

          • JT says:

            See, that’s funny – I’m not a huge fan of Aiden Gillen here. His accent changes quite a bit over the series (and judging by the previews of season 4, it seems to still be in flux). And while your blog has definitely reminded me of how crass and boastful Littlefinger is, he is capable of showing some subtlety from time to time – he more or less orchestrates the purple wedding and Sansa’s escape and does a pretty masterful job of both, and he robs Westeros blind yet nobody finds out he’s been embezzling (as late as the end of ADWD, Jaime and Kevan are both talking about bringing him back to KL to help govern).

            Re. McCann, I am surprised he’s played the Hound more subtly than his audition tape (I do think he’s done a very good job, albeit very differently than what’s in the books). That may be at the behest of the showrunners or directors – maybe they thought if he played the part like he did his audition it would be too much?

            Tyrion – I guess you’re right, and the series may still show his descent/what a mess he is at the beginning of ADWD. Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Tywin kills Shae/has her killed and that’s what drives Tyrion to kill his father. BTW, Shae has also been whitewashed – witness the scene with her and Varys where she turns down a bag of diamonds to leave because she loves Tyrion.

          • The accent shift is strange, but they definitely seem to be having him be more audibly Irish. Possibly to emphasize his outsider status among the Received Pronunciation/American Approximation of Same in King’s Landing?

            More on the Hound in ACOK/podcasts for season 2.

            Tyrion – I will be very very angry if Tyrion doesn’t strangle Shae with the golden necklace he gives her in Season 3. And yes, the switch to Shae’s character is going to make the reveal very jarring. Which may be the intended effect.

        • Winnie says:

          You can argue Cersei’s evilness level has been curtailed quite a bit too-but that might be to make her more dimensional to viewers. LH in Blackwater was one of many highpoints for me..

          Margaery’s been expanded on quite a bit, and thank the Seven for that…ND is just a scream in that role.

          For what its worth I also like Stephan Dillane as Stannis. He’s so hilarious with his delivery of Stannis’s Stannisisms, his scenes with Davos are pure magic, and I found the bit with him and Shireen in Season 3 quite touching.

          And I cannot stress enough, how great Alfie Allen is, as Theon…frankly, I find the depiction in the show an improvement over the book.

          *Maybe* Kit will surprise us, given some better material in Season 3

    • Sokket says:

      I agree, a lot of this re-read of AFFC and ADWD I’ve been undertaking has been enhanced by picturing the actors who play them (Maisie Williams as Cat of the Canals, for example).

      I for one am rather excited to see how Kit, who has done the broody teenager fairly well, handles the broody Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Particularly one exchange I am looking forward to betwixt Stephen Dillane and Kit Harrington:

      “The cords in the king’s neck stood out sharp as swords. ‘I offered you a name.’

      ‘I have a name, Your Grace’

      ‘Snow. Was ever a name more ill-omened?’ Stannis touched his sword hilt. ‘Just who do you imagine that you are?’

      ‘The watcher on the walls. The sword in the darkness'”

      I firmly believe that Stephen Dillane and Kit Harrington have the possibility of working as well off each other as, say, Maisie Williams and Charles Dance did, or Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill.

  19. Sokket says:

    I’ve had another timing related “What If” running through my head regarding Jon since you started writing these analyses, and I’m interested what you think of it:

    What if word of Ned’s death arrives at the Wall before Jon says his vows, possibly because Alliser Thorne has prevented Jon’s graduation from Night’s Watch boot camp?

    As far as I know, because Jon came willingly (and not as a criminal), there is nothing to stop him from leaving the Wall when the events of this chapter roll around (except some semblance of realm vs. family that doesn’t really hold up the realm end without an oath to back it up)

    I see two outcomes should Jon leave the wall without a deserter and oathbreaker stigma following him:

    1. He settles in Winterfell. Because he’s in Winterfell when Theon arrives, there’s a decent chance that Winterfell does not fall due to him being there. More importantly, one of the things that GRRM has been avoiding occurs: The Reeds and Jon Snow are in the same place at the same time. I’ve come to realize through re-reads that Jojen Reed may have a notion of Jon Snow’s parentage, either through conversations with his father or, more likely, through his greendreams, so a lot of information could come out at their meeting.

    2. John makes it to Robb and the army. I see this as less likely, mostly because Jon will naturally stop at Winterfell for provisions before leaving south and I don’t see Maester Luwin failing to convince Jon to help run Winterfell and the north in Robb’s name. But, Jon Snow knows nothing, so he may be stubborn. I don’t see Jon himself making a big difference on the front (unless his presence prevents Robb from marrying Jeyne Westerling, which has been explored at length already). Therefore, Jon dies at the Red Wedding, anything his destiny has implied fails to occur, and the world is screwed. Or Jon gets raised by Beric Dondarrion instead of Catelyn, Ghost and Nymeria meet up, and Jon returns to the North at the head of a pack of outlaws and wolves. Because why not.

  20. Leee says:

    In light of the quotation from The Wire, perhaps the reason that TV!Catelyn is able to discover Lannister evidence after Bran’s fall is because she has the soft eyes of a natural po-lice.

  21. drevney says:

    “..and the mundane is portrayed as something to be tossed aside or transcended.”

    In this sense it has the Tolkin in it, where the hatred between the different races and among the races is not tossed a side.

    “…by layering the one on top of the other…both seem more intense and vivid – the Mountain is as real a threat to the ordinary Riverlander as the White Walker is to the ordinary wildling.”

    Remember the scene where Yoren curse the Riverlanders that demand he will pay for the corn he took. When they fight for there lives he ask ‘what will they do when the Other comes’.

    “There is a danger in fixating on the mundane to the exclusion of all else – that way lies the War of Five Kings. Then again, there is a danger in fixating on the metaphysical to the exclusion of all else..”

    I think that when the author talk about the coming night he may also think about humanity’s huge problems, mainly climate change – alone with other ecological problems. The problems that humanity fails to deal with as we are too busy in the mundane, too busy fighting with one another.

  22. CPod says:

    “Jon Snow will kill exactly two people whose names we learn”
    Orell the eagle (“he was a man, before you killed him”) and the Halfhand make two, plus doesn’t he kill one of the wildlings (whose name he knows — I think it’s Badger, but I don’t have my copy handy) while making his escape at Queenscrown? We don’t see the man die, but he did take a cut to the head from a Valyrian sword and he isn’t among the dead at Castle Black.

    • I don’t think we actually get the name of the dude he attacks, though – it’s all very chaotic and dark.

      The larger point is that Jon’s heroism doesn’t come through killing Big Bad Guys with a Magic Sword.

  23. […] Mormont is also allowing his traditionalist nature to blind him to his original purpose in a classic case of mission creep. The Great Ranging was intended to find out what was […]

  24. […] was the reason he joined rather than left, and that he’s found in the Night’s Watch a sense of belonging he’s never had before. But it’s an answer that Mance Rayder would believe – it fits in with […]

  25. […] exist more in the abstract than as reality). In other words, everything that Maester Aemon and Jeor Mormont said he had to leave behind in order to become a true Night’s Watchman are what inspire Jon to […]

  26. […] to invest any of his own energy in keeping Sam alive. Thankfully for our protagonist, he’s still got some friends in the Night’s […]

  27. […] shared egalitarian structure, there’s a broader thematic resonance, in that both forces are found families whose struggles on behalf of the many, not the few go unnoticed and unremembered by the wealthy […]

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