The Night's Watch is an organization dedicated to defending the realms of man.
The Night's Watch mans the Wall, a huge fortification built primarily of ice located in the far north of Westeros. The Wall is 300 miles long (100 leagues) and over 700 feet high. It extends from the Frostfangs mountain range in the west to the Bay of Seals in the east. According to Westerosi legend, it was built after the period known as the Long Night by the nearly mythical Brandon the Builder over 8,000 years prior to the present setting. The Wall was constructed after The Long Night in an attempt to forever shut out the inhabitants of the far north, who had overrun Westeros during that period, before being turned back by unknown forces. Several mentions in the text suggest that the Wall was much smaller at the time, having been built upon by the Night's Watch over the centuries to its present size. However, the severely reduced Night's Watch at the time of the books is limited to maintenance duty. The greatest antagonist to the Watch has been the Others, a race of mystical creatures not seen for thousands of years.
For the vast majority of the Watch's recent history, they have served as a practical penal colony, filled with petty and violent criminals, political exiles, and vanquished nobility. Although their numbers are dwindling and the title of Brother of the Night's Watch no longer holds the honor and prestige it once did, the core of the Watch is still composed of capable and dedicated men. These men now serve the Watch and the Realm of Men by helping ensure that the barbaric human settlers of the areas north of the Wall, known as wildlings, are not allowed to raid south of the Wall, which has been their ancient task all but forgotten by time and practical, modern concerns.
Castles of the Night's Watch
The Night's Watch maintains nineteen castles along the Wall. In reality they are mostly barracks, stables, storehouses, towers and out-buildings as they have no walls and cannot be considered "true" castles. They were purposefully built in this fashion so the Watch could man the Wall itself and defend against threats from the north but be unable to repel attacks from the south should the Watch ever raise in rebellion. Presently, due to manpower shortages, the Watch only mans the Shadow Tower, Castle Black and Eastwatch although there are plans to regarrison the Nightfort. The question of who will be responsible for this is a point of tension between the Lord Commander of the Watch and King Stannis Baratheon.
(from west to east, castles in bold currently occupied)
- The Shadow Tower
- Manned by two hundred Brothers
- Sentinel Stand
- Hoarfrost Hill
- The Nightfort
- the oldest and largest castle of the Night's Watch
- houses the The Black Gate (an ancient door fashioned from weirwood which only opens to a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch) through the Wall
- Deep Lake
- built 7 miles east of The Nightfort, and paid for by Good Queen Alysanne
- originally called Snowgate
- renamed 'Queensgate' after Good Queen Alysanne slept there for one night
- Castle Black
- The largest maintained castle, held by nearly six hundred Brothers
- Sable Hall
- The Long Barrow
- The Torches
- The smallest manned fort and the only port that serves the Night's Watch.
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 long-dead King Brandon Stark of the North. For years, the Watch farmed the Gift but as the organization 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 defence of the realm, Queen Alysanne, 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 by their taxes, rendered by goods and labor. In time, the New Gift lost population as people moved south, further reducing the support structure for the Night's Watch and the Wall.
The nearest point of civilization to the Wall is Mole's Town, a subterranean settlement whose brothel is frequently patronized by brothers of the Night's Watch.
A man of the Night's Watch serves for life. If he has come voluntarily, he is free to leave the Wall at any time in his training, but if he is at the Wall as a criminal punishment or exile, or after he has taken his vow (which includes a promise not to take a wife or father children), desertion is punishable by death. As already noted some of the men are highborn nobles and knights, but most are criminals: being sent to the Wall is a standard punishment in lieu of execution for serious crimes throughout Westeros. The highborn of the North have traditionally considered it an honor to serve on the Wall; many younger sons of northern families, who are not in line to inherit land, will take the vow. Many of the high-born southerners that serve were sent because they fought on the wrong side of a war or fell afoul of political machinations. Men of the Night's Watch are garbed all in black, a tradition that earned them the nickname "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".
Life on the Wall is a hard one and ends only in death. As the ranks of the Watch dwindle, fewer of the brothers are nobility or knighted men and a larger number are pulled from prisons. The majority of the officers and leadership of the Watch pulls its men from the upper crust of Westerosi society. A aristocratic 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 such as the senior rangers Qhorin the Half-Hand and 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.
The oath of the Night's Watch is 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.
The Night's Watch is broken down into three main groups:
- Rangers. The rangers are tasked with actively defending the wall and riding out to face the Watch's enemies, including the lawless wildlings as well as the mysterious inhuman Others. They are led by the First Ranger.
- Builders. The builders are responsible for maintaining the Wall. They are led by the First Builder.
- Stewards. The stewards handle the day-to-day running of the Wall. They are led by the Lord Steward.
The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch oversees the entire organization. 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. It is strongly suggested by the author that the Lord Commander is usually a ranger. This may be gainsaid by a passage in A Game of Thrones in which Jon Snow is appointed a steward and not, to his disappointment, a ranger, and assigned as the personal steward of the current Lord Commander. His peers take it for granted that this means Snow is being groomed for leadership. A combination of these two theories may indicate a "fast track", on which suitable candidates for the Lordship Commander may be placed, giving them experience in each of three disciplines, regardless of in which they are initially placed. Ultimately, though, as detailed elsewhere, the position of Lord Commander is filled by an election, so no-one, even fast-tracked, can be guaranteed it.
Recent Lords Commander
- Lord Jeor Mormont, 997th Lord Commander of the Watch, known as "The Old Bear". During the later part 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 on 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
- 'Night's King'. 13th Lord Commander who converted the Night's Watch into his own personal army and led it in battle against the King of the North and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall.
- Lord Qorgyle. Lord Commander of the Night's Watch before Lord Jeor Mormont and a member of House Qorgyle. His first name is never given.
- Runcel Hightower. Tried to make the position of Lord Commander hereditary and pass the position to his son.
- Rodrik Flint. Thought to make himself King-beyond-the-Wall.
- Tristan Mudd, Mad Marq Rankenfell and Robin Hill. Three Lords Commander who nearly destroyed the Watch when they forgot their vows in favor of their pride and ambition.
- Brynden Rivers, aka "Bloodraven", Sent to the Wall ca. 233 AL by King Aegon V, he eventually became Lord Commander.
- Beardless Dick. A ranger.
- 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 the Half-Hand. 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 Gap, 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. Commanding at 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 fighting Mag the Mighty, King of the Giants, underneath the Wall during the Battle at Castle Black.
- Eddison Tollett. A steward, called "Dolorous Edd" for his sarcastic and black humor.
- Jarmen Buckwell. A senior ranger. Killed during the Battle on the Fist of First Men.
- Lord Denys Mallister. Commander at The Shadow Tower.
- Lord Janos Slynt. Former commander of the City Watch in King's Landing, later Lord of Harrenhal, and finally a Brother of the 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.
- Maester Aemon. Maester of Castle Black and one of the last Targaryens. Died of old age at sea with Samwell Tarly.
- Mallador Locke,. Knight and ranger. Killed during the Battle on the Fist of First Men.
- Othell Yarwyck. First Builder of the Night's Watch.
- Qhorin Half-Hand. 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 and Jarmen Buckwell's death. Killed by a wight bear during the Battle of the Fist of First Men.
- Samwell Tarly. Son of renowned battle commander Randyll Tarly. An obese and admitted coward. Sent by Lord Snow to the Citadel for study after the Battle on the Fist of the First Men.
- 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 by an Other 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.
- Yoren. Senior "wandering crow" or recruiter for the Watch. He attempted to smuggle Arya Stark to the North, but was killed fighting Lannister men who were searching for the outlaw Beric Dondarrion.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Night's Watch.