Thursday, 13 April 2017

Game of Thrones Gossip #10 The Night's Watch part 1

Welcome to my Game of Thrones Gossip, where all of us fanatics get the chance to discuss everything we love about this amazing TV series. I did a few spoiler free posts about the series last year but I found that there were other bloggers out there who were also itching to talk more freely about favourite characters and events without spoiling things for those visiting the blog. So I decided to do a whole series of these discussion posts that let us say everything we want and enjoy every second of it! The topics may talk about a death, an event, a character or be season reviews and so on. Please feel free to comment fully and without restriction!

I have to warn you that it is important that you have seen all six seasons before reading any of these posts because these posts and blogger comments will be oozing and exploding spoilers all over the place. If you haven't watched the series and plan to, be warned that it's a bad idea to be here right now! I take no responsibility if you read on and things are spoiled for you nor do I take responsibility for any mistakes on the pages I link you to.

Today I am looking at The Night's Watch as we find it in season one when we join the story. It was founded thousands of years ago as a brotherhood to guard the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms. They are based on the border at The Wall, 700 feet high and 300 feet wide, a natural barrier against the danger from the northern territories, also owning land that once belonged to the Starks. The Starks seem to be the only people outside of Castle Black to actually value The Night's Watch with the possible exception of Stannis Baratheon. It was once regarded with honour and respect, filled with those who had a sense of duty to the realm, full of tough warriors and noble recruits. These were the last line of defence for the Seven Kingdoms. These were people who took their oaths seriously, good men like Benjen Stark, Jeor Mormont and Aemon Targaryen. Men like Alliser Thorne who are dedicated to the cause ahead of all other things. You can understand his frustration to see what he is now having to train compared to men that he previously served with.

When men are ready to take their oath, they do so knowing that to leave their post without permission means execution, as Ned Stark does to a man who ran after an encounter with The White Walkers, legendary ice monsters with the ability to reanimate the dead. Desertion is just not tolerated and while Ned doesn't believe the story, Lord Commander Mormont has concerns about it. The successful men take on one of three positions-rangers who patrol beyond the Wall and deal with threats, builders who maintain the structures and defences, and the stewards who serve the needs of everyone.  When a man joins the Watch he is forgiven for his past crimes and gives up all rights to marry, hold land and titles or have children. As Benjen Stark tells Jon Snow, it is not an easy life and fewer men are choosing the option. Castle Black is a dumping ground for want of a better description and recruits are getting fewer.

When we start season one, The Night's Watch is badly in need of help. Maester Aemon and Lord Commander Mormont tell Tyrion Lannister how Castle Black is lacking the resources and men that they need. Their ranks are now filled with unskilled fighters-unwanted sons and criminals with no other choice. With Winter and its dangers coming, the Wall is vulnerable and the men not good enough to defend it. However under the reign of Robert Baratheon, few care about The Wall as anything other than a dumping ground for the unwanted, unwilling to listen to pleas for assistance and ignoring the danger looming beyond. Tyrion promises to raise the issue with his father but it is safe to assume that Tywin and Cersei could not care less about anything happening in the north. Ned Stark is a natural ally of Castle Black but as he is stuck at King's Landing, there is little he can do about it.

When Jon Snow arrives at Castle Black, he is shocked to see the ragbag group of criminals that are to be his new brothers and things get off to a rocky start with him being so superior in skill to them. It is the intervention of Tyrion and Samwell that helps Jon to find common ground with the other men and start to make new friends. He still has to deal with Ser Alliser Thorne, Master-at-Arms, who fought on the Targaryen side in Robert's rebellion and holds particular contempt for the Starks. Jon's disobedience towards Thorne may be what cost him his chance to be a ranger, forced instead to be a steward. However Lord Commander Mormont chooses Jon to be his steward, and Samwell thinks that it gives Jon a chance to find out everything that is happening while being groomed for future leadership. It is true that Jeor looks at Jon as the son he should have had-loyal and brave, instead of a son exiled for being a criminal and traitor. Maester Aemon also has great affection for Jon,giving him his wisdom whenever he can and proving to be his biggest defender.

Benjen Stark, the First Ranger vanishes and other bodies from the same ranger patrol are found 'dead', with Mormont wondering what has happened to his men. He seems to believe in some of the rumours about evil north of them. When one of the bodies rises from the dead as a wight and attacks him, his life is saved by Jon Snow. The Lord Commander decides that the threats to The Wall are from the North and the Civil War in Westeros is not his business. He is determined to lead a massive patrol out beyond the Wall to find out for certain what is happening and put a stop to it. This is where we all shout 'don't do it!' at the TV! Season One wraps up with the gates of Castle Black opening. 

For me, the older men at the Night's Watch still have that honour and desire to do their duty and I understand their fear over the new recruits not making the grade. They are perhaps more likely to listen to the rumours and try to be ready for anything, even if they don't quite believe it. I even understand the harshness of the training as the recruits need to be tough to survive. But it is going to be up to the new recruits to save Castle Black in future battles and then we really see what they are made of.

What are your thoughts on The Night's Watch history and present circumstances? Why do House leaders not care about a proper defence of the Seven Kingdoms?

Next Time: The Men of The Night's Watch


  1. I really like The Night Watch aspect and it's actually Mr. Barb's favorite element in the show - although he wants to see more of The White Walkers. I think it's sad many don't value The Night Watch anymore and like you, really find that at least the older men at The Wall seem to value what it means. I also see how important they are to the Seven Kingdoms and think they are highly undervalued. I ADORE the dynamic between Jon and Samwell and it's always nice to see them get a chance to interact. I keep thinking Samwell will play an important role in the end. Of course we always have the tragic Night Watch episode where Jon is killed and was I ever MAD! (You did say this will contain spoilers right?). Mr. Barb wants Night Watch T-shirts for our neighborhood watch group.

    1. Yeah don't worry about the spoilers-everyone is well warned that there are spoilers on these posts! Watching Jon and Samwell is like Frodo and Sam from LOTR! I'm hoping for something heroic from Samwell towards the end of the series too. I loved the death episode and the follow up episodes in was a great storyline with some great acting. I think I hated Olly the most for what he did. I'll be covering a lot of people from the Night's Watch in my next post or maybe posts. That will be fun! I love the idea of Mr Barb having his Night's Watch with matching T Shirts!

  2. Love the raven pic. And part 1- yay you're doing two posts lol. The Nights Watch are so cool. I do think it's interesting that even as Ned still supports the Watch, he doesn't get the memo when he kills the deserter in episode 1. Even in the book it says words were exchanged, or something like that, but of all people you might think Ned would take the man's story seriously. Guess not!

    And lol at "don't do it"! So true. You're just going to lose a lot of men, Jeor. Oh well. I'm absolutely fascinated by the lands north of the Wall and the battle at the Fist of the First Men in the books is exhilarating. I think it's in the third book though. I do think it's interesting the disconnect between north and south- the northern houses still respect the Watch (heck the Umber lands are just south of Castle Black and they still get wildling raiders) whereas in the south they have no real use for it or take the thing seriously.

    1. I'm thinking it might need to be a three part with all the people there I want to talk about-Thorne, Olly, Lord Mormont, Jon's friends...yes quite a few of them! I agree, I thought Ned might have investigated the man's claim about The White Walkers instead of just dismissing it. You can tell that Mormont believed in a lot of the rumours he was hearing. Jeez I loved his character. He'll be in my next post. The Wall and the north fascinate me because I'm a winter person and I would've lived there if I was in Westeros. The north-south divide reminds me so much of my own country at times! The hardy uncivilised northerners vs the spoiled rich southerners living near the seat of power kind of thing!

    2. Ha ha that's awesome to live somewhere that reminds you of the books. I would probably live in the North too if I were in Westeros. I love the wolfswood. And looking forward to your thoguhts on Mormont. I always liked him.

      Olly's not in the books so I didn't pay him much attention. Thorne is as bad in the books as on the show lol. And Jon's friends... awesome. And I also thought Ned might have at least thought about what he was told by the deserter... I was disappointed he didn't.

    3. It's going to be weird with all the changes in plot when I go to the books! Might take a bit to get my head around things. I thought Ned in his position of basically guarding the north might have looked into things more. I agree with you on that!