August 09, 2011


Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost
Jon Snow and Val stand at the Wall. He intends to send her to Tormund, to try to persuade him to come south of the Wall too, and fears that Stannis's wroth will follow him, since he promised him to never let Val out of his sight. Val promises to be back, and Jon believes her, hoping she does before Stannis gets back. Val asks Jon after the death of her betrothed Jarl, who died falling from the Wall, and after Jon confirmed the tale and that he hadn't killed him, Val believes him. Jon tells her that she should come back for the little boy at least, with Val replying that the child is no kin to her, dubbing it "monster" as a milk name. She then rides off.

On the way back to Castle Black, Jon muses about the woods which are completely hunted empty by now and how they will feed the hundreds and thousands of people they now have south of the Wall. Edd warns him of rumors abound that he means to give the Wall over to the wildlings, but Jon dismisses them, telling Edd that words are wind and wind is plenty on the Wall. Back in his chambers, Jon awaits the arrival of Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwick and septon Celladore. They are obviously not happy about the latest events. Yarwick tells Jon that Selyse Baratheon wishes to leave Eastwatch to take her seat at the Nightfort, and that it's months and years before completion. Jon offers the service of the giant Wun Wun, with whom he conferres much these days with translations of Leathers, but Yarwick declines horrified.

Bowen Marsh then speaks up, angry about the personell changes Jon is making. He chides him for sending popular people to Barrowden, where the spearwives are, and of promoting Leathers, a wildling, to master-at-arms and Satin, a man-whore, to his personal squire and steward, both posts that by tradition were done by noble offspring. Jon aggressively tells him that both have qualities he needs and shuts him up. Marsh subsequently comes to the matter of the corpses, which Jon tells him are kept in the ice cells exactly in the hope to rise so he can examine them, but neither of the officers understands. Marsh then pointedly asks if he sent Val away to treat with Tormund, which Jon affirms, and says that some might call this treason. Jon has none of it, however.

He instead tells them of a wildling prophet called Mother Mole who led thousands to the coastal place of Hardhome, supposedly cursed, where they are doomed to freeze and starve. Yarwick, Celladore and Marsh express satisfaction over that, but Jon anounces his intent to get them, which provokes another uproar by the three. Jon tries to argue that they would rise as wights and attack the Wall if they didn't fetch them, but he doesn't get through. When he dismisses the officers, they leave without a word.

The short chapter again shows Jon at work. Most of his chapters are plans and consultations with other officers, especially Bowen Marsh, but they are really intriguing nonetheless. This chapter clearly shows the way of thinking that Jon persues. It is a way of reason and strategy, and certainly the reader will acclaim to his plans. He thinks large, wanting to rescue as many living men as he can find out there in order to unite the living against the dead, transcending the petty strives of earlier times. Since we as readers know how necessary this is, we are inclines to support him in that.

However, Jon does not realizes that he races too far ahead of the column. Words are not only wind. He is impatient, and he totally forgets to take the men who serve him with him. This will cost him dearly in the end. Sending away his most trusted friends and advisors strengthens his policy on the one hand, since the castles need strong garrisons, but he disregards the inner opposition. To overcome it, he needs allies, and he doesn't have them, curse of doing the right thing. Maester Aemon for example is missed with every step Jon takes. He would surely have told him, and even Samwell Tarly would have been a great help in these times. So, he has no one, and the few elements at least friendly to him like Dolorous Edd are sent away with important tasks.

Bowen Marshs threat about regarding his actions as treason is neither empty nor unjustified. As far as we can tell, Jon never made a profound move to explain his strategy to his high officers at least, let alone the black brothers as a whole, and expects them to throw overboard all their convictions over night, forgetting that it took him a really great mentor (Qhorin Halfhand) and weeks with the wildlings to overcome his own, experiences no one else has, not to speak of strength of character and intellect. His strategy is thus doomed to fail, and worst of all, it's his fault for not seeing the obvious: that the more grip he gets on the wildlings, the more he loses the Night's Watch. He simply disregards essential rules of command, expecting the men to follow him without giving them a single reason more than "I'm Lord Commander". And everyone who remembers how he became Lord Commander in the first place will turn against him with even more vigor.

As a side note, Bowen Marsh does for the first time not take drink or food from Jon. When he will later stab him, at least there is no taint of a traitor who break's the guest right, although he technically isn't a guest anyway. In a world where diplomacy is conducted mainly over symbolic actions, it has a meaning though, and Jon remains illiterate in this art as all Starks.


  1. I believe this is the first chapter where Bowen Marsh doesn't take Jon's food or wine.

    At least he's not a Frey.

  2. I so wanted Jon to be a hero with a hero's victories, a hero's journey over his own weaknesses, with a hero's triumph over odds... but that's just not these books, is it?

  3. Hey what happened to the rest of my post? Only one paragraph appeared.

  4. @Alec: Fuck, totally missed that! I will include in the chapter.
    @Aine: Donnu. It's not in the spam filter either. Can you post it again?

  5. Looking over these chapters I just can't fault Jon so much in his explanations to the rest of the officers, though frank and often harsh they always had sound reason, and given the often ignorant and prejudiced responses against them I seriously doubt anything Jon did would have convinced them sans several months of getting to used to and to know the wildlings. Which unfortunately they do not have, and partially why I think Jon is so impatient, given the lack of time he probably feels he has to prepare. Given those circumstances I seriously think the only fault on Jon was not being MORE forceful, aware, and cautious against his internal opponents.

  6. The problem is that he doesn't even try. He simply does what he does and expects everyone to go with him. If he listened to the complaints, like his father did, and then reassured them that everything would be ok, and perhaps enact some purely symbolic policy that showed to everyone that it's still the Watch that has the pants on, it might have been just fine.

  7. I also noticed that the Raven seems to be warning him here.