Samwell Tarly

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House Tarly.svgSamwell Tarly
the Slayer
Night's Watch.svg
Samwell Tarly.jpg
Samwell Tarly by Amok ©

Title Novice[5]
Culture Marcher
Born 283 AC[6]
Horn Hill[7]
Father Lord Randyll Tarly
Mother Lady Melessa Florent
Lover Gilly

Played by John Bradley
TV series Season 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Samwell Tarly is the eldest son of Lord Randyll Tarly and his wife Lady Melessa Florent. A recruit of the Night's Watch originally from House Tarly,[1] he is popularly called Sam. He becomes a POV character in A Storm of Swords. In the television adaptation Game of Thrones he is played by John Bradley.[8]

Appearance and Character

See also: Images of Samwell Tarly

Samwell is very fat, with dark hair, pale eyes, and a large moon-shaped face.[1] Jon Snow originally estimates Samwell to weigh 20 stone (127 kg/280 lbs).[1] Samwell is fond of music and songs, and prefers books over weapons and soft fabrics over armor. He is also a timid craven, afraid of blood and violence.[1] Although he is insecure and awkward, Sam is observant and intelligent.


Samwell was the first child of Randyll Tarly, Lord of Horn Hill, and his wife, Melessa Florent. Randyll, regarded as one of the finest military commanders in the Seven Kingdoms, did everything in his power to raise his son into what he deemed a proper heir, but Samwell frustrated him at every opportunity, resisting every effort made to change his nature. A dozen masters-at-arms failed to toughen him. Attempts such as dressing him in his mother's clothes, forcing him to sleep in chainmail, and even being bathed in aurochs blood by Qartheen warlocks failed to raise his valor. He even wept to see a chicken slaughtered.[1] Lord Tarly had Sam thrown into a Horn Hill's pond to teach his son to swim, but Ser Hyle Hunt had to rescue the boy.[9]

When he was ten,[7] Sam accompanied his father on a trip to the Arbor, but the Redwyne twins Horas and Hobber bullied him and Lord Randyll brought him back home. Sam's mother revealed to him that Randyll had meant for Samwell to remain at the Arbor, to serve as Lord Paxter Redwyne's page and squire. Had Sam pleased Paxter, he would have been betrothed to his daughter, Desmera.[9]

After Lady Melessa bore her husband three girls in three consecutive years, Samwell's brother Dickon was born.[1] Dickon showed all of the physical vigor that Samwell lacked, and Randyll's attentions turned to raising his more promising younger son to take his place. For a time Sam was left to enjoy his music, food, and other soft pursuits, though Randyll forbade Samwell from traveling to Oldtown to study at the Citadel, horrified at the notion of a member of House Tarly wearing a maester's chain. To discourage the boy, Randyll had Sam chained and manacled to a wall for three days.[10]

When Sam turned fifteen, his father bluntly told him that he was not worthy of their house's ancestral Valyrian steel greatsword, Heartsbane, and that he must join the Night's Watch and renounce his family name so that he would not stand in the way of Dickon's inheritance. Failing that, Randyll promised that Sam would suffer an unfortunate hunting accident on the morrow. Sam chose to take the black.[1]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Sam training with the new recruits at Castle Black in Game of Thrones.

Samwell arrives at Castle Black shortly after Jon Snow and is immediately mocked for his size and timid nature. Ser Alliser Thorne, the master-at-arms, joins in the mocking, nicknaming him "Ser Piggy" and doing nothing to prevent the other recruits from bullying Sam and hurting him during their training. Miserable, Sam finds a friend in Jon, with whom he shares his story. Jon takes pity on Sam and, to Alliser's annoyance, takes it upon himself to persuade (and threaten, when necessary) his fellow recruits to stop their abuse.[1]

Samwell is not helped by Alliser's training and remains an incompetent warrior. Because of this, he is initially deemed not ready to take his vows and become a man of the Night's Watch with Jon and his fellow recruits. Jon, fearful of what will happen to Sam once he is no longer able to protect him, persuades Maester Aemon to allow him to join the stewards, convincing him that despite his uselessness as a soldier, Sam's literacy and intelligence may be of great value to the Watch. Aemon agrees, and gives Samwell a position assisting him in Castle Black's rookery and library, displacing Chett.[11]

Despite having been born and raised into the Faith of the Seven, Samwell decides to take his Night's Watch vow with Jon at a heart tree in the haunted forest.[11] He is able to impress Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, by noting some of the odd details of the corpses of Othor and Jafer Flowers.[12] After Jon saves Jeor's life from a wight, the Lord Commander has Longclaw gives a repaired Longclaw to Jon as a reward. Sam travels to Mole's Town to purchase garnets for the sword's pommel.[13]

When Jon deserts in the middle of the night to join his half brother, Robb Stark, in the south, Sam tries to stop his friend from leaving Castle Black. Sam informs other mutual friends, Grenn, Pyp, Toad, Halder, and Matthar. The black brothers convince Jon to return to Castle Black and not forswear himself.[14]

A Clash of Kings

In preparation for the great ranging venturing beyond the Wall, Aemon sends Sam into the library to search for maps, and the youth spends hours looking at maps, scrolls, and books in the vault.[15] Sam is placed in charge of the ravens as Lord Commander Mormont's aide.[15]

When the expedition stays a night at Craster's Keep, Samwell is befriended by Gilly, a pregnant daughter-wife of Craster. Gilly is fearful that if she has a boy, Craster will sacrifice it to the Others. Samwell, unsure of what to do, turns to Jon for help, but there is nothing that Jon can do.[16]

A Storm of Swords

Samwell facing an Other - by Amok ©

When wights attack the Watch's camp at the Fist of the First Men, Sam sends ravens to alert Castle Black and the Shadow Tower. When the Watch loses the fight at the Fist, however, Sam releases the rest of the ravens but forgets to include messages with them.[17] He escapes with a group of about fifty survivors led by Jeor Mormont. The march is hard on Sam and he is helped by his friends Grenn and Small Paul, but eventually they are separated from the majority of the men. Paul, who carries Sam for much of the journey, is attacked and killed by an Other, but the weight of his body disarms it as he dies. Samwell, who is carrying a dragonglass dagger that was among the cache found by Ghost, blindly stabs the Other, which dies instantaneously from the dragonglass blade. Killing the Other earns him the nickname "Sam the Slayer", although many say this mockingly as they do not believe his feat.[17]

Sam and Grenn rendezvous with the remaining survivors at Craster's Keep, where Gilly gives birth to a son. Shortly thereafter, violence erupts in the keep, with some Night's Watch men believing that Craster is holding out on the food he provided for the Watch, and others harboring mutinous intentions toward Lord Commander Mormont. Craster and Jeor are both killed in the mutiny. Before Jeor dies he gives Sam his dying wish, that his son, the exiled Ser Jorah Mormont, join the Watch.[2]

Sam is forced to flee, joined only by Gilly and her newborn.They make it as far as a village Sam believes to be Whitetree but are then attacked by wights, including a reanimated Small Paul, who attacks Sam first. Sam fights him off and stabs him with the dragonglass dagger, but it proves ineffective. Desperately, Sam strikes him with a piece of charred wood, which catches him on fire, killing him. They run, but are beset by additional wights, and are saved at the last moment by Coldhands.[3]

Gilly and Sam are led back to the wall by Coldhands, who has informed them that there will be one in the Nightfort that must be sent to him. Entering the Nightfort through the castle's Black Gate, Samwell encounters Bran Stark, along with Hodor, and Meera and Jojen Reed, all of whom he leads back to Coldhands.[18]

After leaving the Nightfort on the south side of the wall, Sam and Gilly join Ser Denys Mallister and Bowen Marsh's party, also en route to Castle Black. They arrive after the battle beneath the Wall, with Stannis Baratheon present and urging the swift election of a new Lord Commander and threatening to name one himself if none can achieve the required two-thirds majority. In the voting, Janos Slynt gains ground on the leading candidates, Cotter Pyke and Denys Mallister. Believing Janos would be a disastrous Lord Commander, Sam approaches Cotter and Denys independently, and lies to each regarding Stannis's intentions to name the other to the office, thus convincing them both to support Jon Snow as a compromise candidate,[19] leading to Jon's election.[20]

A Feast for Crows

Sam and Gilly: "I would sooner have you than any princess..., but I can't". Art by cabepfir

One of Jon Snow's first acts as Lord Commander is to send Samwell south to the Citadel of Oldtown, where he might study to become Maester Aemon's successor. Jon also sends Dareon, whom he appoints as a recruiter for the Night's Watch, as well as Aemon and the infant son of Mance Rayder, so as to deprive Melisandre of the chance to sacrifice them for their king's blood. He also sends Gilly, separating her from her own child, so that she might nurse Rayder's son.[10][9] Maester Aemon falls ill on the voyage, however, and stopping in Braavos they are forced to spend their coin on an inn and a healer. Aemon's condition worsens, though he briefly wakes and wishes to hear the stories of Daenerys Targaryen's dragons that are spreading throughout the city, having the revelation that Daenerys may be the true fulfillment of the prophecy of the prince that was promised.[4]

Samwell urges Dareon to sing at the local taverns to earn money so that they might buy passage on a ship to Oldtown, but Dareon spends most of what he earns on wine and trade from the city's whores. Sam confronts Dareon in a brothel and accuses him of breaking his vows, and Dareon responds with his intention to abandon them and desert the Night's Watch, resulting in a fight whereupon Sam is pulled off Dareon and thrown into a canal. He is pulled out by Xhondo, who heard him speaking of dragons and had seen them in Qarth.[21] Xhondo offers them passage on his ship, the Cinnamon Wind, in exchange for work and for some of the last of their possessions.[4]

Maester Aemon dies early in the journey from Braavos to Oldtown, and in mourning for his death Gilly briefly becomes a lover to Samwell. She names Mance's child "Aemon Steelsong" after Maester Aemon,[4] and it is planned that upon landing at Oldtown she will be sent to Samwell's childhood home of Horn Hill with the story that her child is a bastard fathered by Sam.[10]

Samwell continues to the Citadel, where he goes to the Seneschal's Court to speak with the Seneschal. Samwell is forced to wait a long while before he will be admitted. When his patience starts to run thin, he is approached by the acolyte Alleras, who brings him to Archmaester Marwyn and Leo Tyrell. Upon hearing Sam's story, Marwyn orders Sam to keep Aemon's prophecies and Daenerys's dragons a secret from the other archmaesters. Marwyn immediately departs the city with the stated intention of going to Daenerys and becoming her maester. Alleras informs Sam that Marwyn's glass candle had anticipated Sam's arrival, and Pate gives Sam a cell near Archmaester Walgrave's chamber.[5]

Quotes by Samwell

Sam by Arden Beckwith © Fantasy Flight Games

Jon: Have you seen the Wall?
Samwell: I'm fat, not blind. Of course I saw it, it's seven hundred feet high.[1]

Jon Snow and Samwell

Sam thought of all the trials that he and Gilly suffered, Craster's Keep and the death of the Old Bear, snow and ice and freezing winds, days and days and days of walking, the wights at Whitetree, Coldhands and the tree of ravens, the Wall, the Wall, the Wall, the Black Gate beneath the earth. What had it all been for? No happy choices and no happy endings.[9]

—Samwell's thoughts aboard the Blackbird

The worst isn't done. The worst is just beginning, and there are no happy endings.[9]

—Samwell to Dareon

No matter where he went in this wide world, his fears went with him.[21]

—Samwell's thoughts

Samwell: I am Sam, from Horn Hill. Lord Randyll Tarly's son.

Leo: Truly? I suppose you are. Your father told us all that you were dead. Or was it only that he wished you were? Are you still a craven?

Samwell: No. I went beyond the Wall and fought in battles. They call me Sam the Slayer.[5]

—Samwell and Leo Tyrell

Quotes about Samwell

Nobody likes cravens. I wish we hadn't helped him. What if they think we're craven too?[1]

Grenn to Pypar

The world was full of cravens who pretended to be heroes; it took a queer sort of courage to admit to cowardice as Samwell Tarly had.[1]

Jon Snow's thoughts

I don't care if you're so scared you foul your breeches, and I don't care if a thousand wildlings are coming over the walls howling for your blood, you get those birds off, or I swear I'll hunt you through all seven hells and make you damn sorry that you didn't.[17]

Jeor Mormont to Samwell

You have no father. Only brothers. Only us. Your life belongs to the Night's Watch, so go and stuff your smallclothes into a sack, along with anything else you care to take to Oldtown. You leave an hour before sunrise. And here's another order. From this day forth, you will not call yourself a craven. You've faced more things this past year than most men face in a lifetime. You can face the Citadel, but you'll face it as a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch. I can't command you to be brave, but I can command you to hide your fears.[10]

Jon Snow to Samwell

You're a man who appreciates cooking, Slayer. We need more o' your sort.[10]

Hobb to Samwell

The Citadel is not what it was. They will take anything these days. Dusky dogs and Dornishmen, pig boys, cripples, cretins, and now a black-clad whale. And here I thought leviathans were grey.[5]




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