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A Game of Thrones-Chapter 26

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Jon IV
A Game of Thrones chapter
AGameOfThrones.jpg
POVJon
PlaceCastle Black
Page218 (US bantam HC) US HC (Other versions)
Chapter chronology (All)
Jon III
Eddard V ← Jon IV → Eddard VI

Jon V

Samwell Tarly appears in the yard while Jon is training the other recruits. When Ser Alliser Thorne orders Sam beaten after he yields, Jon and his friends aid the new recruit. Later Jon talks with Sam and, afterwards, convinces the other recruits to go easy on Sam, despite Thorne’s commands.

Synopsis

Jon is helping the other recruits with their swordsmanship when Samwell Tarly, the fattest boy he has ever seen, enters the yard. Sam nervously explains he has been told to come there for training, and Pyp identifies him by his voice as a lordling from near Highgarden. Sam is immediately ridiculed by Ser Alliser Thorne, who says they are now sending pigs to man the Wall. Although Sam has brought his own armor, none of it is black so he has to be reequipped, which requires some ingenuity by the armorer.

When Sam returns, Ser Alliser sends Halder, a very strong boy, against him. In under a minute Sam is on the ground with a broken helm, screaming that he yields. When Sam refuses to stand up, Thorne tells Halder to hit him with the flat of the blade until he gets up. The initial hit is tentative, but Thorne insists that Halder can hit harder and the next blow splits leather. Jon’s objections are initially stopped by Pyp, but after another blow Jon shakes him off and states there is no honor in beating a beaten foe.

Jon helps Sam up, which Ser Alliser mocks as “defending his lady love.” Declaring it a training exercise, Thorne sends Halder, Rast, and Albett to get past Jon to beat Sam. Jon braces himself for a hard fight; Ser Alliser has sent two boys against him before, but never three. To Jon’s surprise, Pyp and Grenn come to his aid. The boys going against Jon hesitate, but Jon attacks. Jon soon takes out Halder, but not before taking a damaging blow to his shoulder. Then he helps Pyp take down Rast. Once Rast is down, Albett yields and Ser Alliser leaves in a fury.

Halder wrenches off his helmet and throws it across the yard, declaring that he thought he had Jon. Jon admits that he almost did. When Jon attempts to remove his helmet, his shoulder is painful. Sam, his head bloody where his helmet had been split, comes over and helps Jon remove the helmet gently. Sam introduces himself and Jon introduces himself, Grenn, and Pyp; Sam thanks them all. When asked why he did not fight back, Sam states that couldn’t because he is a coward. Jon and his friends are speechless—who would admit that he was coward? Seeing the response of Jon and his friends, Sam apologizes to them, stating he does not like being a coward. As Sam leaves for the armory, Jon tells him tomorrow he will do better, but Sam insists that he will not.

After Sam leaves, Grenn states nobody likes cowards, and is worried what others will think if they are associated with a coward. Pyp’s response is that if Grenn met a bear in the woods he would be too stupid to run away. Grenn insists he would run faster than Pyp, then attacks Pyp when he realizes the trick.

For the recruits, mornings are for swordplay and afternoons for other work, which is varied so that the Watch can measure a recruit’s skills. That afternoon Jon is to spread gravel on top of the wall by himself. This gives him a chance to contemplate Sam. He thinks about Tyrion Lannister’s statement about denying a hard truth and realizes that Sam’s admission of cowardice took a certain kind of courage.

When he enters the common hall where dinner is almost done, Jon passes his friends and joins Sam, who is sitting by himself. After introducing Ghost and some polite conversation, Jon asks Sam to join him outside to talk. As they walk, Sam admits that he did not think the Night’s Watch would be like this; all the buildings are falling down, and it is so cold. Jon suggests it must have been warmer where Sam lived, and Sam explains that he had never seen snow until a month ago.

Jon leads Sam to the Wall, but Sam balks at climbing the great wooden stairs. Jon replies that there is a winch, but Sam states he does not like heights. When Jon asks why a boy who is afraid of everything would join the Night’s Watch, Sam starts to cry until Ghost licks his face, which makes them both laugh. They continue talking and before long Jon starts talking about Winterfell. Jon reveals a dream he’s been having of returning to Winterfell to find it completely empty. As he is telling about the dream, Jon thinks about how several rangings have been made to find Benjen Stark, whose trail just disappears. In his dream, Jon always finds himself descending the stairs to the crypt in dark, and it is then that he wakes up.

Jon asks if Sam ever dreams of Horn Hill. Sam insists that he does not, and that he hated it there. After a long silence, Sam tells the story of why he was sent to the Wall. His father, Lord Randyll Tarly, was disgusted that his eldest son was so plump, soft, awkward, and squeamish. Sam’s interest in music, books, dancing, and soft clothes only made matters worse. Many masters-at-arms were brought to Horn Hill to try to make Sam into the type of many his father wanted. When a second son, Dickon was finally born, Lord Randyll had given up on Sam. On his 15th name day, Sam says, he was escorted to his father in a wood, where he was informed that he was to forsake his claim to Horn Hill and join the Night’s Watch, or else his father would arrange an accident. Jon finds it strange that Sam tells the story in such a detached voice and does not weep even once. Jon tells Sam about some of the other recruits, and Sam eventually states he should get some sleep and plods off.

Jon returns to the common room. His friends explain that they did not shun Sam; there were places on the bench but Sam was such a craven that he just passed them by. Jon persuades them all to not beat Sam anymore, whatever Ser Alliser says. Rast, however, insists that if Thorne sends him against “Lady Piggy,” he will cut off a rasher of bacon, and laughs in Jon’s face. That night, Jon—with Pyp, Grenn, and Ghost—visits Rast in his cell. With Ghost’s mouth around Rast's throat, Jon tells Rast that they know where he sleeps.

After that, no matter what Ser Alliser does, he cannot get any of the recruits to do anything but tap Sam when they are put up against him. Sam later thanks Jon and calls him his first friend; Jon responds that they are not friends but brothers. Jon now realizes that Robb, Bran and Rickon are his father’s sons, but that he has never been one of them; his true brothers are the outcasts of the Night’s Watch. He realizes his uncle was right, and wonders if he will ever see Benjen again to tell him.

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