Characters: A Song Of Ice And Fire The Nights Watch
This is a listing of Night's Watch characters that appear in the Fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Visit here for the main character index.
"We never knew! But we must have known once. The Night's Watch has forgotten its true purpose, Tarly. You don't build a wall seven hundred feet high to keep savages in skin from stealing women. The Wall was made to guard the realms of men... and not against other men, which is all the wildlings are when you come right down to it. Too many years, Tarly, too many hundreds and thousands of years. We have lost sight of the true enemy. And now he's here, but we don't know how to fight him."
—Lord Commander Jeor Mormont
The oldest institution in Westeros, the Night's Watch exists solely to guard the Wall, an enormous barrier built of ice to shield Westeros from the ancient threat of a Zombie Apocalypse
. They remain neutral to the conflicts within the Seven Kingdoms
. In ancient days it was as esteemed as the Kingsguard; nowadays it's become a penal colony where convicted thieves, rapists and killers are shipped. Many nobles end up there if they become victims of political struggles. However, noble bastards or sons with little hope of obtaining inheritance and members of ancient families - particularly in the North - do join the Watch on their own choice.
Joining the Night's Watch is called "taking the black" and all members serve for life. Jon Snow ends up here, and quickly takes on a leading role in the group.
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Tropes In General
- A Storm Is Coming: The reason why this group was founded.
- Animal Motif: Men of the Watch are compared to crows. Master Aemon notes that crows are smart but willing do scary things like eating carrion so they are hated.
- Anti-Hero: Many stories of the Night's Watch, as well as their actions in-story, show that while sworn to defend the realm of men, they're not necessarily good people. For one, the fact that most of their members are criminals and rapists who preferred to serve than being jailed or killed. Second, the fact that while they're sworn to protect humanity from the Others, they consider Wildlings beneath that protection(Granted, Wildlings tried attacking Westeros, but that's mainly because their ancestors were on the wrong side of the Wall when it was built, and it's hinted that they don't allow ANYONE crossing into Westeros, even if they're not enemies, basically condeming an entire people to eternal winter and possible death). Third, their commitment to their oaths reaches Knight Templar level sometimes; The tales of the Night's King, Rat Cook, 79 Sentinels and Brave Danny Flint also show that the Night's Watch can be as savage as they believe the Wildlings to be.
- Anti-Mutiny: In A Dance With Dragons, some members of the Night's Watch, mostly builders and stewards, resist Jon's plans for allying with the wildlings against the Others, and for sending a ranging party to rescue the ships originally sent to rescue wildlings at Hardhome. They also don't like involving the Night's Watch with Stannis, thus making it a prime target of retribution at the hands of Lord Bolton. When Jon decides to go south to deal with Ramsay Bolton, which amounts to breaking his vows and getting involved in the wars of the realm, some members of the Watch finally turn on him.
- Army of Thieves and Whores: Literally. Several of its members ended up on the Wall because they were thieves, and Satin is a former (male) prostitute. There used to be enough honest volunteers to keep the really nasty ones in check, but now there are only a handful of those left and fewer as the story continues.
- Badass Bookworm: Averted with Samwell Tarly, a bookworm and self-professed coward. Played a bit straighter after he becomes the first character in eight thousand years to kill an Other and becomes known as Sam the Slayer (See The So-Called Coward below.)
- Badass Creed:
"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."
- It gets a cool echo in the traditional final words in the eulogy usually given at a dead Night's Watch man's funeral: "His name was _______________, and now his watch is ended."
- The Cassandra: The Watch's warnings that bad stuff is going down beyond The Wall and that they need help is routinely ignored.
- Chaste Hero: Supposedly, although most of them still get around whenever they have the opportunity. This is tolerated by the superiors because trying to enforce the oath of chastity would do more harm than good, (and it has been pointed out that the oath prohibits marriage and fathering children, not sex per se).
- Mole's Town, the nearest settlement, apparently has several brothels that do quite good business with brothers that have snuck away for an evening.
- The Chosen Many: Deconstructed, big time.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Through the first 3 books, and only Stannis Baratheon answered.
- Interservice Rivalry: A bit between the rangers vs. the stewards and builders. The rangers tend to support more aggressive tactics and scouting beyond the Wall, while the stewards and builders would prefer to simply fortify the Wall and seal all the entrances to the other side. This divide only intensifies after Jon Snow becomes Lord Commander, as the rangers tend to have his back on allowing the wildlings to come through the Wall and help defend it against the Others. The stewards and builders, few of whom have seen or fought the Others and have little experience with wildlings outside of their attacks on the Wall, would prefer to let them die. There are some exceptions to this.
- Ironic Nickname: Many members have these, such as "Small Paul" and "Giant".
- Mentor Archetype: Jeor Mormont, Qhorin Halfhand and Maester Aemon.
- Mildly Military: As a combination of a military order, a monastic order, and a gulag, the Night's Watch naturally doesn't run quite the same as a normal army.
- The Oathbreaker: Has had its share, but The Night's King was its most infamous example.
- Old Master: The senior members often are this. Special mention goes to Maester Aemon and Jeor "Old Bear" Mormont.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: By the time of A Game Of Thrones, they're composed mostly of criminals, bastards, disgraced nobles, enemies of politically powerful people, and the like. It doesn't stop them from being an effective fighting force.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: One of the reasons people are sent to the Wall; Janos Slynt, for example, and Cersei Lannister's original plan for Eddard Stark.
- Schizo Tech: Castle Black is the only place in the world that has a working elevator.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With the Kingsguard. See above.
- Taking the Veil: Or taking the black, which used to mean something.
- The Wall Around the World: At the northern end of it, at least.
- We Are Struggling Together: They get hit with this hard. The simple truth is that most of the Night's Watch is made of murderers and rapists and a large number of them launch a mass desertion while retreating back to the Wall from the Great Ranging. Most of them, and several loyal men, die and are turned into wights. Ideological differences also create problems for Lord Commander Jon Snow as other senior members oppose hi actions and insist on continuing to view the wildlings as enemies rather than the Others. Outside the Watch itself, personal dislikes hamper their efforts. Tyrion's scorn for Allister Thorne has him leave the man waiting to see the king, during which time his proof of the Other's wights rots away. Catelyn's hate for Jon Snow gets passed to her family, and Brynden Tully suspects Jon's rise in authority on the Wall is a plot by Tywin Lannister as a result.
- We Have Become Complacent: See the above quote.
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont
Jeor Mormont, the 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch
The Old Bear
"When dead men come hunting in the night, do you think it matters who sits the Iron Throne?"
Jeor is the 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at the start of the series. He is the former head of House Mormont, father of Jorah Mormont, and Maege Mormont's brother.
- Agent Mulder: He is convinced that the Others are returning, and that dark times are approaching for Westeros. A pity his warnings are ignored by King's Landing. Jeor also comes to believe that Jon Snow and his direwolf were destined to come to the Wall for a purpose. However, he does not believe the stories about giant bears beyond the Wall, which is pretty funny considering his House's sigil.
- Badass: He may be starting to get on a bit, but he's still a Mormont and you don't want to make him bring on the hurt. To kill him, several deserters had to try jumping him at once to have a chance — otherwise, they would have failed. As it was, he didn't go down easily.
- Badass Beard: Goes with his bearish-ness.
- Badass Grandpa: He is nearly seventy, but has the stamina of a much younger man and is still a great warrior.
- Four-Star Badass: Hands-on Lord Commander who definitely still knows how to wield a sword and scout a path.
- Bald of Awesome: You don't need the hair up-top when you're growing a thicket on your chin.
- Big Good: For the Night's Watch storyline, until his death at the hands of the mutineers at Craster's Keep.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Jeor and Ser Alliser Thorne.
- Character Death: He is stabbed by Ollo Lophand when several members of the Night's Watch mutiny at Craster's Keep when the remnant of the Great Ranging flee back to the Wall. He bleeds to death in Samwell Tarly's arms.
- Commanding Coolness: A Lord Commander, even. Talk about doubling-up...
- Cool Old Guy: Very much. There is nothing frail, decrepit or boring about Commander Mormont.
- Deadpan Snarker: Often about the idiocy surrounding him at the Wall.
- Despair Speech: Gives one to Tyrion Lannister after having drunk a little too much:
In two years I will be seventy. Too old and too weary for the burden I bear, yet if I set it down, who will pick it up? Alliser Thorne
? Bowen Marsh
? I would have to be as blind as Maester Aemon not to see what they
are. The Night's Watch has become an army of sullen boys and tired old men. Apart from the men at my table tonight, I have perhaps twenty who can read, and even fewer who can think, plan, or lead
. Once the Watch spent its summers building, and each Lord Commander raised the Wall higher than he found it. Now it is all we can do to stay alive.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Possibly: he tells Tyrion that he has seen dark shapes in his dreams, and believes it may signal the return of the Others.
- Frontline General: Personally leads the Great Ranging and fights alongside his men.
- Hypocrite: Bemoans the fact that King's Landing doesn't keep the Night's Watch well-informed about the goings-on of the realm, while at the same time hiding from Jon Snow the fact that his half-brother Rob has marched south with his army to fight the Lannisters.
- In-Series Nickname: "The Old Bear", due to his age and the bear being the sigil of his house.
- I Owe You My Life: Owes Jon Snow his life for saving him from the wight of Othor. He pays him back by giving the Cool Sword Longclaw in thanks.
Jeor: A sword's small payment for a life. Take it, I'll hear no more of it, is that understood?
- Knight in Sour Armor: He is fully aware of the decaying state of the Night's Watch, and his utter inability to do anything about it. Doesn't mean he won't stop trying to make it better or do everything in his power to defend the Wall.
- Last Request: Jeor tells Sam to send word to Jorah that he wishes for him to come home to Westeros and join the Night's Watch.
- Like a Son to Me: Never says this out loud, but he takes an interest in mentoring Jon, as Sam assumes when he makes Jon his steward because he wants him as a successor. He even gives him House Mormont's Ancestral Weapon Longclaw to him, which had previously bestowed upon his son Jorah before he fled Westeros.
- Mentor Archetype: To Jon Snow. To a lesser extent for Samwell Tarly.
- Old Master: Still one of the Aces on the Wall who's seen (almost) practically everything that can be thrown at it. One of the quickly-diminishing number, actually.
- Old Soldier: Goes with the above. He's also fought alongside and is friends with some of the other great Old Soldiers of the series, including Ser Barristan Selmy, who Jeor had hoped could convince the Small Council to reinforce the Night's Watch. He becomes extremely angry when he learns that Barristan has been dismissed from the Kingsguard and is wanted for treason.
- Pragmatic Hero: His only concern is defending the Wall from the Wildlings and the Others. Thus, while he is concerned about what is going in the rest of realm, he knows he can do nothing to help except do his job on the Wall. While beyond the Wall, he also shows some regret that he cannot help Craster's wives/daughters, or stop him from sacrificing his sons, since the Night's Watch needs all the allies it can get and he can't afford to piss off Craster.
- Polly Wants a Microphone: His pet raven has a disturbing habit of repeating chilling words during tense conversations. It also asks for corn a lot.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Notes the worth of both Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly, who many of the other officers look down upon, and immediately believes Sam's story about killing a Other with dragonglass.
- Rousing Speech: To Jon at the end of A Game of Thrones:
Jeor: I will not sit here meekly and wait for the snow and the ice winds. We must know what is happening. This time the Night's Watch will ride in force, against the King-beyond-the-Wall, the others, and anything else that may be out there. I mean to command them myself. By custom, the Lord Commander's steward is his squire as well... but I do not care to wake every dawn wondering if you've run off again. So I will have an answer from you, Lord Snow, and I will have it now. Are you a brother of the Night's Watch... or only a bastard boy who wants to play at war?
- Sergeant Rock: He is a quite gruff man who doesn't sugar-coat his words, but is shown to be a good leader who has all the qualities that a member of the Night's Watch is supposed to have.
- Supporting Leader: He may be the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, but the story of the Wall is told from Jon and Sam's POV.
- Surrounded by Idiots: He isn't particularly happy with the quality of most of the officers under his command.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: He is not happy at all about the Night's Watch having to cooperate with Craster, but does so because it is necessary.
Lord Commander Jon Snow*
Jon Snow, the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch
"A bastard can have honor, too."
Eddard Stark's illegitimate bastard son by an unknown mother, brought home after the rebellion. Jon has felt like an outsider among the Starks since he was very young, when he learned what it meant to be a bastard and thus why he was Catelyn's Unfavorite
. The experience made him bitter and left him with a desire to prove himself. When his father leaves Winterfell, he chooses a life of hard duty in the Night's Watch to earn his own honor. Becomes Lord Commander at the end of A Storm of Swords
- Accidental Proposal: Wildling custom is that a man wishing to 'marry' a spearwife has to kidnap or capture her. Not knowing this and not knowing that Ygritte is a woman when he and Qhorin ambush her and her fellows is taken on her part to be a gesture of attraction and affection when he lets her live. She spends about half of the story trying to seduce him as a result, much to his chagrin and embarrassment.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: He becomes the 998th Commander of the Night's Watch after Mormont's death, despite being only fifteen. He is hardly the youngest Lord Commander though.
- Action Survivor
- Affectionate Gesture to the Head: He shows his affection to Arya by mussing her hair.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: He is a virgin when he swears his oath to the Night's Watch, which Ygritte finds completely unbelievable (and sets out to rectify). He resists as long as he can, due to his vow and his desire to not father a bastard, but eventually gives in.
- Amazon Chaser: He's attracted to Action Girls like Ygritte and Val.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: As Lord Commander.
- Badass: Over the course of the series Jon displays prodigious sword skills, pragmatic strategic planning and a giant set of balls.
- Big Brother Instinct: Towards Sam and the younger Stark kids, especially Arya.
- Birds of a Feather: To Stannis Baratheon, as noted by Melisandre. Both put duty before self-interest and both live in the shadow of brothers who are popular heroes. She might have added that both break their vows with red-headed women.
- Berserk Button: Insulting Ned Stark, which has serious consequences when Thorne taunts him over Ned's arrest for treason. Jon assaults his superior, which is a hanging offense. Before he sleeps with Ygritte, any suggestion that he might father a bastard himself sets Jon off too.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Not only is he one of the nicest person in the series, but him and Sam are probably the only ones you can considered nice in The Night Watch. With that being said, Do not threaten, insult or even kill his friends, family, innocent people, etc.
- Broken Pedestal: With King Robert then with the Watch itself.
- A bit with his father too. Although he loves Ned, thinks highly of him and defends him when someone puts his honor in doubt, sometimes he can not help but feel a "little evil voice" that whispers to him that his father did actually father a bastard out of wedlock.
- Bully Hunter: Jon is particularly eager to show up some of the nastier recruits like Rast during his training at The Wall.
- Celibate Hero: When he's drafted into the Night's Watch, he has yet to ever sleep with a woman. He tries to remain celibate and true to the vows that require him to take no woman, among other things, but it doesn't work.
- The Chains of Commanding: After taking command of the Night's Watch. Among all the other things he has to cope with, he stops spending time with his friends because he remembers his father telling him he can't be friends with people he's supposed to command.
- The Consigliere: To Stannis Baratheon, under layers of Plausible Deniability for the Night's Watch. But his advice is crucial to charting out Stannis' northern strategy though Stannis for his part is a little irritated that Jon won't play a more active role.
- Cool Big Bro: Arya is especially fond of him and looks up to him. Jon even gives Arya her first sword, Needle.
- Cool Sword: Longclaw, thanks to Lord Mormont. Fittingly, it's a bastard sword.
- Cool Pet: Ghost, and how.
- Dark Horse Victory: His election as Lord Commander. Two of the top candidates for the office, Cotter Pyke and Denys Mallister, drop out and support him because they don't want Janos Slynt to win but can't stand each other either.
- Enemy Mine: Jon is actively recruiting wildlings to come south of the Wall and even man the castles of the Watch, because the Others trump everything. The other officers are willing to live with it, but they take every opportunity to express their disapproval.
- Eye Scream: Gets one by Orell's eagle. Luckily for him, it missed his eye, giving him instead cool scars near the eye.
- Fake Defector: Under the Halfhand's orders, he pretends to join the Wildlings to survive. When he returns to the Watch, it earns him plenty of accusations of being a turncloak.
- Fatal Flaw: His preference for going his own way and facing his problems alone. His lone-wolf attitude causes him to disobey orders and disregard traditions, keep his friends at a distance when he should be counting on their aid, and generally do a poor job of earning the trust and respect of people who misread his introversion as arrogance. Since he becomes the leader of a deeply traditional brotherhood while also sending his closest friends and supporters away to "kill the boy and let the man be born" this eventually leads to him completely alienating the other influential people in the Watch and getting himself a case of knife in gut.
- First-Person Smartass: Jon Snow could be a Lannister who mutated the ability to keep his mouth shut. Like many of the other polite or subdued POV characters, Jon doesn't vocalize his best zingers.
- Foil: There are sooooo many.
- To Theon Greyjoy. Both are outsiders raised at Winterfell who are suffering from identity issues that have left them bitter and with the desire to prove themselves. While Jon Snow has been scorned all his life for being a bastard who does not even know the identity of his mother, he has risen to Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and might possibly be the heir to the Iron Throne. Theon is the heir of the Iron Islands, failed at keeping Winterfell after he captured it in an effort to gain affection from his father, and was later tortured into thinking he was a commoner named Reek.
- Ramsay Bolton is his Evil Counterpart and Shadow Archetype, and perhaps his greatest foil:
- Both are bastards of powerful northern houses. Jon, however, was raised in a loving household by his father, while Ramsay was left to his peasant mother and ignored for the most part. And while they both disliked the fact, Jon was able to acknowledge he wasn't a Stark (see the discovery of the Direwolves) and eventually accepted it; Ramsay's primary berserk button is being reminded of it. Finally, while Jon turned down his chance at legitimization out of a sense of duty, Ramsay jumped at becoming a Bolton and likes to pretend he was never anything but that.
- While Jon loves his half-brothers and sisters, and even turns down becoming a Stark partly in consideration of their rights, Ramsay very likely poisoned his brother to lay claim to his, and Roose suspects he will do the same to any newborns Walda Bolton will bear as well.
- While Jon is described as an excellent swordsman, Ramsay was trained by someone who was not trained himself, and "wields a sword like a butcher's knife".
- Finally, Jon has Ghost the male albino Direwolf as his companion. Ramsay keeps a growing pack of female hounds named after women he has raped, killed, and skinned, which he claims he has specifically trained to kill Direwolves.
- To Daenerys, in A Dance with Dragons most of all. Both experimented The Chains of Commanding and became The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask. They also are possibly related and the major candidates for the role of The Chosen One. Both also have members of House Mormont that play an important role in their respective character arcs.
- To Gendry, since they are both bastards, they each look like their fathers (who are best friends), Jon doesn't have a clue about who may be his mother and Gendry about his father. They both also had a close brotherly relationship with Arya, who may have seen Gendry as a Replacement Goldfish for her half-brother Jon. Jon joined the Night's Watch out of glory, Gendry joined the Brotherhood for the same reason.
- To Robb Stark. Robb was the heir to Winterfell, Jon was the lesser-loved bastard. Robb had the Tully look, while Jon had the Stark look. Both were elevated to positions of power by the people under them, though Robb's position was much more prestigious, but were betrayed by the people they commanded - with blades.
- Genius Bruiser: Jon is quite forward thinking in his approach as Lord Commander. He wants to build "glass gardens" to farm food in the winter(much like in Winterfell), he contemplates raising money to buy glasses in Myr and training apprentices to serve under them. He's also one of the few who submits captured wights to a scientific method and put them under observation to see if there's anything to be learned. He also manages to broker a favorable loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos after haggling with the Braavosi in a manner that impresses the latter.
- Genre Savvy: He knows that every wildling man, woman, and child he leaves out beyond the Wall for the Others to kill will fill the ranks of the Zombie Apocalypse. Too bad he is the only one who fully understands it.
- Going Native: He pretends to do that joining the wildlings. He lied.
- Gray Eyes: "Jon's eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see."
- Heroic Bastard: Bastards in Westeros are not well-regarded, as they are thought to be the consequences of lust and sin. Jon has to face more than a little enmity because of that, but he seems to have inherited his father's persona.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: After Ygritte's death.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: When Jon fakes his defection to the wildlings, they make him execute the Colonel Badass he's serving under. Unfortunately for the wildlings, the man figured this would happen and warned Jon beforehand, since the information Jon could gather was more important than the life of one ranger. Jon still feels guilty about killing him, though.
- Irony: Out of all of Ned's kids, it's the bastard who happens to look the most like him and indeed embodies his values the most. Tyrion comments that Jon has more of the North in him than any of his siblings, yet Jon is the only Stark kid to be born in the South.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: He thought joining the Night's Watch would be somewhat more heroic than it turned out to be.
- Jerk Jock: How he was seen when he first came to the Wall.
- Jumped at the Call: Didn't even bother fully checking the height of the leap out, first.
- Kid Hero: A bit of a deconstruction, even though played mostly straight much of the time. He's undoubtedly very heroic. But, still rather young, so that means a lot of self-inflicted problems experience would avoid.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Jon has been through his share of hardships and may be considered a turncloak by many, but he still believes in upholding his vows and keeping the realm safe.
- Like Father, Like Son: Everyone notes how he's similar to his father Ned, Somewhat subverted as Ned might not be his biological father.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Inverted. He knows who his father is but has no clue about his mother's identity, save that she is (to quote Tyrion Lannister) "Some woman. Most mothers are."
- Meaningful Name: In three different ways.
- Poetically, the surname 'Snow' has ominous connotations, possibly appropriate since Word of God states Jon will become a much grayer character in upcoming books.
- In-universe historically, the name Snow indicates an interesting similarity with House Stark, the Kings of Winter.
- Symbolically, the surname Snow in real life is an ancient House that held a family seat in England before the Norman Conquest, and was also the name of a legendary King of Denmark. A possible unintended metaphor for his heritage.
- In Real Life, Jon Snow is also the name of the British doctor now credited as the father of modern epidemiology. Who better to battle a Zombie Apocalypse?
- Nice Guy: Not only is he one of the nicest person in the series, but him and Sam are probably the only ones you can considered nice in The Night Watch. With that being said, Do not threaten, insult or even kill his friends, family, innocent people, etc.
- Not Quite Dead: At the end of A Dance with Dragons, he gets stabbed and it's unclear if he survives or not. However, George Martin hinted rather strongly at his survival.
- Not Quite The Right Thing: What ends up getting him in trouble with his brothers of the Night's Watch.
- Not So Different:
- Melisandre gives him this speech about similarities between him and Stannis. Both are The Dutiful Son, overshadowed by their popular brothers.
- To Sansa. Although they are very different at first glance (Sansa is the most "Southern-cultured" of his siblings and resembles Catelyn), both of them share their father's idealism and naive outlook on the world, and later grow to have sharp observant natures.
- The Oath-Breaker:
- He struggles with this in the first book, but he keeps his vows even though he'd rather break them and go riding off to help Robb fight the War of Five Kings.
- In the third, when he breaks his Celibate Hero vow. (Although the vow is technically against marrying or having children - the town nearest Castle Black contains a brothel the Watch often uses.)
- In the fifth book, he struggles with aiding Stannis, as Stannis is helping defend the Wall but is still at war to take over the kingdom, and the Night's Watch is supposed to take no part in the wars of the realm. Later Jon admits in his own mind that he is forswearing his vows when he tries to lead a wildling crusade to Winterfell and bring back Ramsay Bolton's head. Two pages later, he's being stabbed. Lord Commander Can't Get Away with Nuthin' !
- Only Sane Man: With regards to undertaking a mission to rescue wildlings amassing at Hardhome, he seems to be the only one among the ranking officers of the nights watch and queen Selyse and her court to think that leaving a bunch of men, women, and children to freeze beyond the wall to become a part of an already growing undead army is a really bad idea
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Arguably the second-best at Warging of the younger Starks, after Bran. Although, Arya pips him at managing more than one species. At distance, even. However, her bonds with the creatures she wargs into aren't as strong as what Jon manages to form.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: As Lord Commander, he tries to keep the balance between Stannis, the wildlings and his own men.
- Phrase Catcher: "You know nothing, Jon Snow." First said to him repeatedly by Ygritte, and later said by Melisandre.
- Princely Young Man: Quite unusual for a bastard, he's really polite and gentlemanly, because of his education. Earlier this puts him in a negative light at the Wall.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Robb's red.
- Rousing Speech: When Mance attacks the Wall in force, most of his brothers are about to panic. Jon just laughs at the wildling army.
Jon Snow: The Wall will stop them. The Wall defends itself. Mance wants to unman us with his numbers. Does he think we're stupid? The chariots, the horsemen, all those fools on foot... what are they going to do to us up here? Any of you ever see a mammoth climb a wall? They're nothing, they're less use than our straw brothers here, they can't reach us, they can't hurt us and they don't frighten us, do they?
Jon Snow: They're down there and we're up here, and so long as we hold the gate they cannot pass. They cannot pass!
- Screw The Rules I'm Doing What's Right: Spends most of Dance trying to overturn the Watch's traditions for both pragmatic and humanitarian reasons by supporting Stannis' cause, letting the wildlings migrate to the Seven Kingdoms and making them formal allies of the Watch. However, it takes his declaring open war against Ramsay Bolton to cause the watch to mutiny and assassinate him.
- Scylla and Charybdis: Toward the end of A Dance with Dragons, Ramsay Bolton sends the Night's Watch a letter blaming Jon for kidnapping Arya and demanding her return, threatening to attack if she isn't sent back. Jon knows Bolton wouldn't believe the truth (that they don't have her) and will therefore attack anyway, so he's basically forced to prepare to attack Bolton first. Several other senior officers of the Watch, who have been increasingly reluctant to support Jon's actions, view this as the last straw and disagree by attempting to assassinate him.
- Standardized Leader: He's basically a classic fantasy protagonist in a decidedly non-classic fantasy world.
- Strong Family Resemblance: He's the only male Stark who inherited the family look, even if he's a bastard.
- Surrounded by Idiots: How Jon comes to feel about most of the other officers of the Watch once he takes command, Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck foremost among them. They argue against him at every turn, and Marsh even goes so far as to declare that the Wildlings massing at Hardhome should be left to freeze. That this would mean they became an army of Wights doesn't seem to bother him.
- Tell Me About My Mother: Invoked. Jon Snow does not know the identity of his mother, and for reasons yet to be revealed Ned never bothered to tell him (or anyone else for that matter; when Catelyn asks about Jon's mother, Ned apparently responds in such a negative manner that he scared the shit out of her). Ned's refusal to discuss Jon's mother has caused several Epileptic Trees to form around Jon's parentage, both in-universe and amongst the fandom.
- The Stoic: A trait inherited from Ned. Jon is very introverted and quiet, but is ultimately a friendly and caring boy. Once he becomes Lord Commander, he plays his stoicism up even more than usual, feeling that it's how someone in his position should behave.
- The Strategist: In the beginning of A Dance with Dragons, he acts as an unofficial military adviser to Stannis, and his advice turns out to be very good.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Classically distant exterior; really gooey interior. Just ask anybody he opens up to.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Male example naturally. Once he becomes Lord Commander, he feels it's necessary to adopt a reserved personality and put the good of the Watch first. This doesn't go over well with all of his friends there, some of whom think it's a case of Acquired Situational Narcissism.
- Unexpected Successor: Technically Robb has legitimized him so that he can become his successor as King of the North. Remains to be seen if he will ever become. If we consider the Epileptic Trees about his parents you could come out interesting things...
- The Unfavorite: To Catelyn, because he's not her son - but Eddard insists on raising him at home, in defiance of custom, and refuses to even discuss the matter of who his mother is.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Like Robb, he seems to greatly desire Eddard Stark's approval, to the point that he has a few dreams about being accepted as a true Stark and given the rights to Winterfell. He suffers a lot of guilt over that last part though, given his status. While Ned did love and respect him and wanted to tell him so, Joffrey's interference meant he would never get the chance. Made more complex by recent hints that Ned might not actually be Jon's father at all.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: At first. Once he joins the Night's Watch, he quickly wises up however.
- Your Are Lord Commander Now: Has to take charge of the defense of Castle Black when all the Night's Watch men who outrank him are dead or somewhere else, and later gets elected to the post.
Commander Cotter Pyke
Commander Cotter Pyke
"I fight best with a deck beneath me, not a horse, and Castle Black's too far from the sea."
A bastard from the Iron Islands and Commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
- Badass Beard: Has a sparse, rough beard.
- Brutal Honesty: This is one of the traits that makes Ser Denys Mallister dislike Cotter, arguing that a commander of the Night's Watch needs to know how to properly deal with important guests and lords.
- The Captain: Of the warship Talon.
- Colonel Badass: During the Wildling attack on the Wall, he successfully defends the eastern portion of it and captures Rattleshirt at Long Barrow.
- Commanding Coolness: What he lacks in refinement and polish, he gains in just being that effective in the field.
- Covered with Scars: He had the pox at some point in his life which left his face covered in scars, which he grew a beard to try and hide.
- Heroic Bastard: He is now a loyal senior member of the Night's Watch, but it is implied that he used to be a Bastard Bastard before being sent to the Wall.
- Never Learned to Read: He cannot read or write, and depends entirely on Maester Harmune to read messages to him at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and write his responses.
- Noble Male, Roguish Male: The Roguish Male to Ser Denys Mallister's Noble Male. The traits that each one argue make them more suited for command of the Night's Watch are the same ones the other argues make them a bad choice.
- The Rival/Foil: To Ser Denys Mallister, commander of The Shadow Tower.
- Seadog Beard: Well, he attempts it, at least. It's not as impressive as some, thanks to the pox. Still, "grizzled" describes him well.
- Villainous Widow's Peak: He is not villainous anymore, but he used to be.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: He is sent by Jon Snow on a dangerous mission to rescue Wildlings at the abandoned Hardhome settlement, the last raven sent by him mentions "dead things in the water". It is unknown if he is still alive and in what condition.
Commander Denys Mallister
Ser Denys Mallister
"The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is a lord, first and foremost. He must be able to treat with other lords... and with kings as well. He must be a man worthy of respect."
Commander of the Shadow Tower. He is the uncle of Lord Jason Mallister, the current head of House Mallister. He has a deep distrust of Ironborn due the historical hatred his house bears towards the Iron Islands.
- Always Someone Better: Before Jon is elected Lord Commander, Mallister had twice been passed over for the position; he justified this to himself by saying that his time would come, eventually. After dropping out in favor of Jon, he returns to the Shadow Tower knowing that his time will never come. He takes it quite well, considering, but warns Jon not to make him regret backing his election.
- Bald of Awesome: As a coot, but that doesn't stop him being actually pretty good at what he does.
- Commanding Coolness: It's the Night's Watch. They don't believe in less.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Notably so: a very rare beast on the Wall.
- Nice Guy: He is insanely polite to everyone.
- Noble Male, Roguish Male: The Noble Male to Cotter Pyke's Roguish Male. The traits that each one argue make them more suited for command of the Night's Watch are the same ones the other argues make them a bad choice.
- Old Soldier: He has served in the Night's Watch for at least thirty-three years, having had a career as a tournament knight before then.
- The Rival/Foil: To Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
An experienced ranger sent to the wall for poaching. Becomes commander of Icemark in A Dance with Dragons
Commander "Iron" Emmett
Commander "Iron" Emmett
A ranger posted at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea before becoming the new master-at-arms for Castle Black. He is later given command of Long Barrow.
- Amazon Brigade: Given command of one at Long Barrow, which is where Jon Snow sends all the Wildling spearwives who have agreed to defend the Wall. Emmett is entrusted with the command since Jon knows he would never forsake his vows or mistreat the women.
- The Big Guy
- Blood Knight: Is said to love fighting. When Jon beats him bloody in a training session, Emmett just laughs it off and jokes about it.
- Commanding Coolness
- Deadpan Snarker
- Master Swordsman: He was regarded as the best swordsman at Eastwatch, and is one of the best in the Night's Watch as a whole.
- Nice Guy: He is extremely easygoing and loyal.
- Rank Up: First to master-at-arms for Castle Black, then given command of Long Barrow.
- Sergeant Rock: He is a much better master-at-arms for Castle Black than Ser Alliser Thorne ever was, being a natural teacher who loves fighting and knows how to pass on that love to his trainees without coddling or abusing them.
- Undying Loyalty: He becomes one of Jon's biggest supporters.
First Builder Othell Yarwyck
First Builder Othell Yarwyck
Hailing from the Westerlands, Othell is in charge of the builders, who maintain the Wall and the forts of the Night's Watch.
A apprentice stonemason before being sent to the Wall, Halder trained alongside Jon and several other recruits. After training he was assigned to the builders.
- Demoted to Extra: Unlike some of Jon's other friends, Halder doesn't remain as prominent after the first book.
- Put on a Bus: Near the start of A Dance With Dragons, Halder is sent with Toad to the Shadow Tower by Jon.
- True Companions: With Jon, Sam, Grenn, Pyp, and Todder.
- Unskilled, but Strong: He can put a lot of power behind his blows, but doesn't have very good technique and tires quickly. He gets a little better after some training from Jon, but is still assigned to the builders because his stonemason skills trump his strength and fighting skills.
"Been bringing men to the Wall for close on thirty years. All that time, I only lost three."
A recruiter of the Night's Watch, he travels the Seven Kingdoms to bring new recruits (mostly criminals) back to the Wall.
- Badass Beard: Albeit, one that has lice in it.
- Body Horror: A mild and fairly mundane version. Yet, it's rather hard to suppress the wish to scratch when you read about the small ecology of parasites he carries with him.
- Brutal Honesty: He is not a fan of mincing words, so when informing Robb, Bran, and Rickon of Benjen's disappearance, he tells them that their uncle is most likely dead.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He dress all in black, as befits a man of the Night's Watch, and has dark hair, an unkempt appearance, surly attitude, and genuinely appears fairly thuggish, but is one of the more honorable and noble men of the Night's Watch who cares for his recruits does whatever extra good he can.
- Due to the Dead: He is buried by some of his surviving recruits at Arya's insistence.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Takes down four Lannister soldiers before being cut down.
- Good Is Not Nice: While he may be willing to bend the rules of the Night's Watch to aid House Stark, Yoren is a cynical, abrasive, and blunt individual.
- Knight in Sour Armor: While he may bemoan the lack of respect the Night's Watch gets and the quality of the recruits he brings to the Wall, he is very dedicated to the order and its purpose.
- Old Soldier
- Recruiters Always Lie: It is implied he uses any tactics available to drum up recruits for the Watch, though as most of them are in prison to begin with they don't exactly have much to lose. Martin has jokingly commented that Yoren recruited Dolorous Edd to the Night's Watch by telling him it was a good place to meet girls.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: The Night's Watch are supposed to be neutral in regards to the affairs of the realm, but Yoren ignores this to get Arya out of King's Landing and avoid seeing her father get beheaded.
- Undying Loyalty: To the Night's Watch, and by extension his brothers on the Wall. Thus he feels some loyalty to Benjen Stark, which is why he brings word to Eddard Stark about Catelyn Stark kidnapping Tyrion Lannister.
A singer accused of raping a nobleman's daughter, although he insists that it had been consensual and that she only claimed rape after her father caught them. He becomes a steward at Eastwatch-By-The-Sea, but later gets assigned to become a recruiter, with the hope his singing ability will draw in recruits.
- The Casanova: He is on the more despicable side of this trope.
- Jerkass: Not obvious when first introduced, but becomes extremely clear when treats Sam and Maester Aegon horribly on the voyage to Oldtown and he decides to desert the Night's Watch in Braavos.
- Famous Last Words: The last thing he says before meeting his death in a dark alley is an unconsciously ironic, "Well it's too late now."
- The Oathbreaker
- Slashed Throat: Arya executes him this way and dumps his body into a canal after learning he is a deserter from the Night's Watch.
- Wandering Minstrel: His life before being sent to the Wall. When he becomes a recruiter, he is to do this again, only singing songs about the Night's Watch to recruit people. He decides not to do this and settles down in Braavos, spending the money he makes singing on prostitutes.
Lord Commander Tristan Mudd
A former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He is considered one of the worst commanders the Night's Watch ever had
Lord Commander Runcel Hightower
A former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He nearly destroyed the Watch when attempting to inherit Castle Black and the Watch to his bastard son.
Lord Commander Rodrik Flint
A former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He nearly destroyed the Watch when he broke his oath and attempted to make himself King-Beyond-the-Wall.
Lord Commander Osric Stark
A former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, from four hundred years before the War of Conquest. He was elected Lord Commander at the age of 10 but commanded the Watch for sixty years.