Night's Watch

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The Wall by Marc Simonetti ©

The Night's Watch is a military order dedicated to holding the Wall, the immense fortification on the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, defending the realms of men from what lies beyond the Wall. The order's foundation dates back to the Age of Heroes, at the time when the Others were pushed back. The men of Night's Watch wear only black, and they are known as black brothers.[1] Recruits who join the Watch are said to take the black.[2]


Stewards responsible for an assortment of critical functions
Builders maintaining the Wall
Rangers defending against the wildlings and Others


Main articles: Stewards, Builders, and Rangers

The Night's Watch consists of three orders: rangers, builders, and stewards. All are subject to the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and each of the three orders is led by its own officer, the First Ranger, the First Builder, and the Lord Steward, respectively. These officers are appointed by the Lord Commander.[3]

  • Stewards: The stewards are responsible for an assortment of critical functions, providing vital day-to-day services. They hunt and farm, tend horses, gather firewood, cook meals, make clothing, maintain weapons, and bring supplies needed by the Night's Watch from the South.[4] Like other members of the Watch, the stewards must be ready to fight at a moment's notice, and all have received at least basic combat training.
  • Builders: The builders are responsible for tending to and maintaining the Wall and its castles. The order provides masons, carpenters, miners, and woodsmen to this end.[4]
  • Rangers: Although all brothers stand watch on the Wall, the rangers are the main fighting force, adept at surviving in the wilderness and tasked with scouting and patrolling the haunted forest beyond the Wall. They actively defend the Wall and ride out to face the Watch's enemies, including the lawless wildlings as well as the mysterious, inhuman Others.[4] One blast of a sentry's horn represents returning rangers.[5][6]


The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is the final authority and oversees the entire order. Any man of the Night's Watch can be nominated to be the Lord Commander. A Lord Commander serves in office until the day he dies, when a new Lord Commander is elected by the men of the Watch.

The majority of the officers and leadership of the Watch are pulled from the upper crust of Westerosi society. A noble or knighted man is almost guaranteed a position as an officer in the Watch, but there are several powerful and influential brothers that are of common blood as well, such as the senior rangers Qhorin Halfhand, Blane, and Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and a bastard-born pirate. The Watch, as a meritocracy, is one of the few places in feudal Westeros where a common man can rise high and even gain command over knights and lords, rising as far as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.


New recruits being marched to the Wall - by Tim Truman. © FFG

Once, serving on the Wall was honor and a sign of selfless devotion to duty, with many knights, honorable men, and nobles taking the black voluntarily. The Night's Watch is now often seen only as a way to avoid punishment, suitable less for knights than for the dregs of Westeros. These men are salvaged from dungeons by traveling recruiters known as wandering crows. Disgraced nobles, bastards, and even the unwanted legitimate offspring of nobles are “encouraged” to take the black, making many of today’s Watch a surly and dissatisfied lot.

Those who come voluntarily are free to leave during any time of their training, but no man may leave after he has said vows. Any deserters are sentenced to death. After taking the vows, the men of the Watch cannot own any land, marry, or father children. Men are also encouraged to sever any ties left with their families, if they are lucky enough to have one.

Men of the Night's Watch are garbed all in black, a tradition that earned them the nickname "crows," particularly among the wildlings, who often call them "black crows." While some use this name derogatorily, many in the Night's Watch have adopted the term for their own use. They are also called "the black brothers," and in song they have been called the "black knights of the Wall."


I am the sword in the darkness. © FFG

When the recruits are considered ready to take the black, they say their vows either in a sept or before a heart tree. The vows are as follows:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.[7]

It is customary to finish a black brother's eulogy with the words, "And now his watch is ended."[8]

Military Strength

The numbers of the Night's Watch have long been dwindling.[9] During Aegon's Conquest, the Night's Watch numbered ten thousand strong.[10] However, by 298 AC, their strength has dwindled to less than a thousand.[11] Of these thousand, six hundred are stationed at Castle Black, two hundred at the Shadow Tower, and fewer at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.[11] In 299 AC, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont organizes the Great Ranging, leading two hundred men from Castle Black, to be joined by a hundred men from the Shadow Tower.[3][12] Of these three hundred men, only fourteen survive and return to the Wall.[13] When the new Lord Commander is being chosen, five hundred eighty-eight token are cast, with only one brother not voting,[14] indicating that the strength of the Night's Watch, as a result from the Attack on the Fist of the First Men, and the attacks made by the free folk on numerous locations along the Wall, numbers less than six hundred men.

In late 233 AC, when Ser Brynden Rivers was sent to the Wall, two hundred men went with him. Many of them were archers from Rivers's personal guard, the Raven's Teeth.[15]


Abandoned Stronghold of the Night's Watch by Marc Simonetti ©
Castles along the wall and the surrounding area

Castles of the Night's Watch

The Night's Watch raised nineteen castles to guard the hundred leagues of the Wall, although they have never manned more than seventeen at one time.[16] Today only three of them are maintained by an ever dwindling force. The castles themselves are closer to garrisons, composed mostly of barracks, stables, storehouses, towers and out-buildings, as they have no walls of their own (other than the Wall itself). They were purposefully built this way so the Watch could man only the Wall itself and focus on threats from the north. The Night's Watch feared no attack from the south because of their vow not to take part in the wars of the Seven Kingdoms.[17][18]

Due to manpower shortages, the Watch only mans the Shadow Tower, Castle Black, and Eastwatch.[11] Patrols between the castles used to be more regular, but as the manpower of the Night's Watch diminished, so did the number of patrols.[19] Now the Watch uses mules to ride atop the Wall, as the paths have not been graveled between the older castles in many years. The mules are bred at Eastwatch and are specially trained for their duties.[19]

Night's Watch Castles

The castles are listed from west to east:

The Gift and the New Gift

The Gift is a tract of land measuring twenty-five leagues southward from the Wall that the Night's Watch received from King Brandon Stark of the North. For years the Watch farmed the Gift, but as their numbers dwindled there were fewer hands to plow the fields, tend the bees and plant the orchards, so the wild reclaimed much of the area. Wishing to restore the Night's Watch and reward its loyal service in defense of the realm, Queen Alysanne Targaryen, wife of King Jaehaerys the Conciliator, doubled the extent of the Gift. Towns and villages that were located within the "New Gift" supported the Night's Watch with their taxes, rendered by goods and labor. In time, the New Gift lost population as people moved south, into the mountains or into the Umber lands east of the Kingsroad to avoid wildling raids, further reducing the support structure for the Night's Watch and the Wall.[16]

The nearest point of civilization to Castle Black is Mole's Town, a subterranean settlement whose brothel is frequently patronized by brothers of the Night's Watch.


The Night's Watch employs a small fleet at Eastwatch. Known Night's Watch ships include the Blackbird, the Storm Crow, and the Talon.


The Long Night

The Night's Watch is one of the oldest orders in the Seven Kingdoms, as it survived the fall of the kingdoms of the First Men, the Andal invasion, and the War of Conquest. It was founded over 8,000 years ago, at the end of the Long Night. Under cover of an endless night that lasted for a generation, the Others invaded from the Lands of Always Winter, laying waste to much of Westeros, until the Others were finally defeated by the Night's Watch at the Battle for the Dawn. After having pushed back the threat, the Wall was allegedly built by Bran the Builder in order to protect the Seven Kingdoms, should the Others ever return. During the Age of Heroes it was also recorded that the children of the forest gave the Night's Watch a hundred obsidian daggers every year.[23]

Other than the corrupting of the thirteenth Lord Commander, the "Night's King," further attacks by the Others never came, however. Instead, the most frequent attacks came from the wildlings, sometimes led by their Kings-Beyond-the-Wall, and their constant attempts at raiding in the north.

Hundred Kingdoms

Main article: Hundred Kingdoms

The Night's Watch built nineteen castles along the hundred leagues of the Wall. At the zenith of its power, the Watch had seventeen of the castles manned,[24] with over ten thousand men-at-arms between them. Castle Black alone quartered five thousand fighting men with all their horses, servants, and equipment.[17] The highborn of the north have traditionally considered it an honor to serve on the Wall. Many younger sons of northern houses, low in the line of succession, gladly took the black. Shields of nobles from the Hundred Kingdoms of Westeros were proudly displayed in the Shieldhall at Castle Black. Little by little, the Night's Watch forgot that its main mission was not the fight against the wildlings, but against the Others.

Iron Throne

The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros were invaded by the Targaryens during the War of Conquest. Although Lord Commander Hoare was the brother of King Harren the Black, the lord commander maintained the neutrality of the ten thousand black brothers under his command, even when Harren died during the burning of Harrenhal.[10] King Aegon I Targaryen became Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and ruled from the Iron Throne in King's Landing.

The manpower of the Night's Watch has decreased more and more, with most of Westeros neglecting the Wall. Only the north, particularly the Starks, have the memory of the old days, but even they believe the Others are no more than vague figures in stories told to frighten children. The Starks resented King Jaehaerys I Targaryen granting the New Gift to the Watch.[25] The black brothers arrived late at Long Lake, where the King-Beyond-the-Wall Raymun Redbeard was defeated by the Starks and Umbers.[26]

By 297 AC during the reign of King Robert I Baratheon, only three castles remain in use—Castle Black, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and the Shadow Tower—and the Night's Watch's numbers have dwindled to fewer than a thousand men. The Night's Watch is now largely made up of the misfits of the Seven Kingdoms: peasants, debtors, poachers, rapers, thieves, and bastards. Only a few of the noble and knightly houses south of the Neck have members in the Night's Watch, and most serve because they fell afoul of political machinations or fought on the wrong side of a war. However, there have been fewer wars since the War of Conquest.[27]

According to Grand Maester Pycelle the Wall is a world apart, and news oft reaches them late.[28] Stories of the Night's Watch are collected in Archmaester Harmune's Watchers on the Wall.[29]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly join the Night's Watch as stewards, while Jon's uncle, First Ranger Benjen Stark, disappears beyond the Wall. After two slain brothers, Othor and Jafer Flowers, rise as wights at Castle Black, a great ranging is plained north of the Wall to search for Benjen, deal with the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder, and learn about the Others.[30]

A Clash of Kings

Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, personally leads the great ranging from Castle Black, which is joined by men from the Shadow Tower. They use the Fist of the First Men within the haunted forest as their base. Jon Snow is part of a ranging party attacked by wildlings, and Qhorin Halfhand convinces Jon to kill him and infiltrate the wildlings.

The wandering crow Yoren leads a party of recruits, including a disguised Arya Stark, from King's Landing. Most are slain near the Gods Eye, however.

A Storm of Swords

An army of wights overwhelm the Watch in the fight at the Fist, and the survivors retreat to Craster's Keep. Lord Commander Mormont and Craster are slain during the mutiny at Craster's Keep, however.

Jon Snow escapes the wildling raiding party and informs the small number of brothers at Castle Black of Mance Rayder's plan to attack the Wall. Jon and Donal Noye lead the defense of Castle Black from an attack by Styr's Thenns, while Bowen Marsh commands in a fight at the Bridge of Skulls. The Watch and Stannis Baratheon join forces to defeat the wildlings in the Battle of Castle Black.

When the Watch chooses a new Lord Commander to replace the late Jeor Mormont, a total of 588 votes are cast, indicating that after the losses during the great ranging and the defense of the Wall, the Watch numbers less than six hundred men.[14] Jon Snow is chosen after several rounds of voting.

A Dance with Dragons

There are plans to re-garrison the Nightfort and many of the other castles. The question of who will be responsible for the remanned castles is a point of tension between the Lord Commander Jon Snow and King Stannis Baratheon.

Many of the brothers are disconcerted by Jon allowing wildlings to pass through the Wall and garrison the empty castles. Jon sends Cotter Pyke on a dangerous mission to rescue wildlings at Hardhome. Jon asks for volunteers to march on Winterfell after receiving a threatening letter from Ramsay Bolton, but the lord commander is then stabbed by brothers in the mutiny at Castle Black.

Notable Members

Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander - by Marc Fishman ©

Recent Lords Commander

  • Lord Jeor Mormont, 997th Lord Commander of the Watch, known as "the Old Bear." Towards the end of his tenure, he became increasingly worried as more rangers were lost beyond the Wall, including First Ranger Benjen Stark. Also, there were more reports coming in of wildlings either fleeing south or gathering in large numbers to escape or meet some threat. After an attempt to investigate in force, most of the brothers who went with him were killed at the Battle of the Fist of the First Men. Following this staggering loss, he was murdered by his own rangers during a mutiny.
  • Lord Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

Past Lords Commander


See also: Members of the Night's Watch, for a complete list
  • Benjen Stark, First Ranger and younger brother to Lord Eddard Stark. Missing beyond the Wall and thought dead.
  • Blane, a senior ranger of common blood, scout and second to Qhorin Halfhand. Killed while in command of the Shadow Tower Men during the Battle at the Fist of the First Men.
  • Bowen Marsh, Lord Steward of the Night's Watch. Led a successful but costly battle against wildling raiders in the Gorge, west of the Shadow Tower.
  • Chett, former steward to Maester Aemon until Samwell Tarly was raised to the post. Sent to the pens to take care of the dogs. Later, he conspired to kill Jeor Mormont, but was slain and turned into a wight.
  • Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
  • Donal Noye, one-armed blacksmith at Castle Black. He was personal blacksmith to House Baratheon and made Robert's warhammer before losing an arm during Greyjoy's Rebellion. He died killing Mag the Mighty, King of the Giants, underneath the Wall during the Battle of Castle Black.
  • Eddison Tollett, a steward, called "Dolorous Edd" for his sarcastic and black humor.
  • Jarmen Buckwell, a senior ranger. Survived the Battle of the Fist of the First Men and retreated back to Castle Black.[13]
  • Ser Denys Mallister, commander at The Shadow Tower.
  • Janos Slynt, former commander of the City Watch in King's Landing, later Lord of Harrenhal, and finally a Brother of the Night's Watch. A political lackey of House Lannister, he was exiled to the Wall by Tyrion Lannister, who wanted to rid King's Landing of corruption and himself of Lord Slynt. Tyrion's father Tywin Lannister later tried to make Slynt a tool of House Lannister in the Watch, and nearly turned the election for a new Lord Commander in Slynt's favor. After Jon Snow's election to the post, Slynt's continued insubordination led Snow to execute him.
  • Maester Aemon, maester of Castle Black and one of the last Targaryens. Died of old age at sea with Samwell Tarly.
  • Ser Mallador Locke, knight and ranger. Killed during the Battle of the Fist of the First Men.
  • Othell Yarwyck, first Builder of the Night's Watch.
  • Qhorin Halfhand, second-in-command at The Shadow Tower and a ranger of much repute. He allowed Jon Snow to kill him so that Snow would be accepted among the wildlings.
  • Thoren Smallwood, acting First Ranger after Benjen Stark's disappearance. Killed by a wight bear during the Battle of the Fist of First Men.
  • Samwell Tarly, son of renowned battle commander Randyll Tarly. Obese and an admitted coward. Sent by Lord Snow to the Citadel for study after the Battle on the Fist of the First Men.
  • Grenn, recruit with Jon who is assigned to the rangers.
  • Pypar, more commonly known as Pyp, recruit with Jon, originally with a mummers' troupe.
  • Dareon is a recruit in the same "class" as Jon and is named a steward sent to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He was an apprentice singer in the Reach. While in Braavos he deserted but was killed by Arya Stark.
  • Todder, more commonly known as Toad, is a recruit in the same "class" as Jon, named a ranger.
  • Jeren is a recruit in the same "class" as Jon Snow and is named a steward. He was the bastard son of a septon.
  • Halder, also known as Stoney, is a recruit in the same "class" as Jon Snow and is named a builder. Incredibly strong.
  • Albett, also known as Pimple, is a recruit in the same "class" as Jon Snow and is named a builder.
  • Satin is a recruit of the Night's Watch after Jon.
  • Ser Jaremy Rykker, a senior ranger and knight. Killed by a wight at Castle Black.
  • Ser Waymar Royce, novice ranger and knight, slain by an Other.
  • Ser Wynton Stout, an elderly ranger.
  • Small Paul, a simple-minded brother. He was part of a conspiracy to kill Jeor Mormont until the Brothers were attacked at the Fist of the First Men. He saves Samwell Tarly, but was slain and returned as a wight.
  • Stonesnake, ranger from the Shadow Tower. Companion to Qhorin Half-Hand and the most accomplished mountain climber in the Watch. Missing and presumed dead after trying to cross the Frostfangs alone and on foot.
  • Ulmer, a grey-bearded outlaw, once part of the Kingswood Brotherhood. Skilled with a bow.
  • Yoren, senior "wandering crow" or recruiter for the Watch. He attempted to smuggle Arya Stark to the North, but was killed fighting Lannister men under Amory Lorch who were searching for the outlaw Beric Dondarrion.


The Night's Watch is a shadow of what it once was.[31]
- Eddard Stark to Robert Baratheon

Any man of the Night’s Watch is welcome here at Winterfell for as long as he wishes to stay.[32]

- Robb Stark to Yoren and his Brothers

The men who formed the Night’s Watch knew that only their courage shielded the realm from the darkness to the north ... We all do our duty, when there is no cost to it. How easy it seems then, to walk the path of honor. Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose ... It hurts, boy.Oh, yes. Choosing ... it has always hurt. And always will. I know.[10]
- Aemon to Jon Snow

I could rise high in the Watch—chief of rangers, likely even Lord Commander ... If I served at Eastwatch, I could command my own ship, and there's fine hunting beyond the Wall. As for women, what wildling woman wouldn't want a prince in her bed? A black cloak can't be turned. I'd be as good as any man ...[33]
- thoughts of Theon Greyjoy

The Night's Watch is a pack of thieves, killers, and baseborn churls.[28]
- Tywin Lannister to Pycelle

This castle's been my home for forty years. You say I'm free to go, but where? I'm too old and too stout to make a hedge knight. But men are always welcome at the Wall.[34]
- Desmond Grell to Jaime Lannister

References and Notes

  1. A Game of Thrones, Prologue.
  2. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
  3. 3.0 3.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  5. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 52, Jon VII.
  6. A Storm of Swords, Prologue.
  7. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
  8. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II.
  9. The World of Ice and Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 60, Jon VIII.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 21, Tyrion III.
  12. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
  14. 14.0 14.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 75, Samwell IV.
  15. The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 40, Bran III.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 55, Jon VII.
  19. 19.0 19.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
  21. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  22. A Storm of Swords, Map of Beyond the Wall
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  24. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 43, Jon V.
  25. The World of Ice and Fire, The Lords of Winterfell.
  26. The World of Ice and Fire, The Wildlings.
  27. A Game of Thrones RPG and Resource Book, Guardians of Order
  28. 28.0 28.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 32, Tyrion IV.
  29. The World of Ice and Fire, The Night's Watch.
  30. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
  31. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard I.
  32. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
  33. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  34. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 24, Cersei V.

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