Key players: Jon Snow, Wildlings, The White Walkers, Night’s Watch, Sam Tarly
Jon Snow is the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark, whose mother’s identity is the source of speculation. He was raised at Winterfell together with his trueborn half-siblings, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon. It is believed he was born towards the end of Robert’s Rebellion, within one month, give or take, of Sack of King’s Landing. Returning from war, Lord Eddard Stark brought the newborn baby to Winterfell to his new wife Catelyn and insisted that the boy is raised as part of their family. His presence at Winterfell made Catelyn uncomfortable because she saw Jon as a constant reminder of her husband’s infidelity. She treated Jon with coldness making him feel unwelcome at all times. His appearance, resembling the Starks more closely than any of their trueborn children only further incited the animosity. However, Eddard always treated Jon kindly and furthermore, he became very close with his siblings, especially Arya. Sansa once commented how Arya and Jon look so alike that she must be a bastard too. Still, being a bastard made him feel alienated, which pushed him into making a decision to join the Night’s Watch, seeing this order as his only choice considering he would never be the heir to Winterfell.
Before the Night’s Watch
When Jon was fourteen, he accompanied his father, Rob, Bran and Theon Greyjoy to an execution of a deserter from the Night’s Watch. On their way back their encounter a dead direwolf who just brought five little pups to the world. This was considered strange because direwolves have not been seen south of the Wall in ages. Theon Greyjoy wants to kill the pups but Bran asks his father if they could have them. At first Lord Star refuses because direwolves are not meant as pets. However, Jon persuades him, saying how there is a reason the mother brought five pups to the world, five pups for five Stark children, moreover considering direwolf is the sigil of the House Stark. Reluctantly, Lord Eddard agrees. After they’ve gathered all the pups and left, Jon Snow hears some noises and goes back to see what it is. It is only then that he discovered the sixth pup, an albino outcast. He took this one for himself and named him Ghost.
Before parting their ways, Lord Eddard Stark promised he would tell him all about his mother next time they see each other. However, soon after, Eddard was executed at the King’s Landing, taking the secret with him into the grave. On his journey to the Wall Jon was accompanied by Tyrion Lannister who came at Winterfell as part of the King’s party but felt like he couldn’t go back to King’s Landing without having seen The Wall – the biggest achievement ever to be built by a man. The two foster a curious friendship revolving around their shared position as noble outsiders.
“Let me give you some advice bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
At first, Jon remained distant, unable to connect with his new friends, partly because he felt cheated – everybody knew what the Night’s Watch was, bunch of criminals, thieves and outcast, yet no one told him except for Tyrion Lannister. However, after the conversation with Donal Noye, he corrected his attitude and soon after became a true leader, mentor and a friend to most of his fellow trainees. This earned him the enmity of the master-at-arms, Ser Alister Thorne. Arrival of the new recruit, Samwell Tarly, didn’t help either. He becomes Sam’s protector, threatening anyone who would lay a hand on him. After being raised to black, Jon becomes angered by his appointment to stewards instead of the rangers (like his uncle Benjen) as he hoped. Sam tells him that his assignment as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont’s personal steward is no accident as the chance is, he probably intends to groom him for command. During the wight attack on Castle Black, Jon, with the help of Ghost, saves Mormonts life. To show his gratitude, Mormont gives him a Valarian steel sword, Longclaw, of House Mormont, and has a direwolf head engraved onto the pommel in the honor of the House Stark.
After the outbreak of the War of Five Kings and his father’s execution, Jon finds himself imprisoned for striking Ser Allister Thron, who called his father a traitor. He then tried to desert the Night’s Watch so he would ride next to his brother Robb Stark and help him avenge their father despite the fact he was familiar with the faith of the Night’s Watch deserters (death). However, his new friends have tracked him down in time and saved him from this fate. The next day, Lord Mormont, aware of this little escapade, asks him if he truly believes that his brother’s war is more important than the one they are fighting at the Wall. He then asks him to be his squire on the journey beyond the Wall and Jon accepts.
Life with the Wildlings
Jon becomes a part of the Ranging north to investigate the disappearances of several rangers, including Benjen Stark, his uncle. Upon reaching the Fist of the First Men, jon is chosen to accompany one of the three scouting parties into the mountains, lead by famous Qhorin Halfhand. Not long after, they come across the group of wildlings. Jon is one of those assigned to take them out. He kills one but then discovers one of them is woman. Qhorin’s party continues on their way, leaving Jon behind to finish the job. Unable to kill the girl, Jon takes her prisoner. The next day, the wildling girl Ygritte leads Jon into an ambush and the roles get reversed. In the mean time Qhorin’s party comes back to look for Jon but they get ambushed as well. After a fight, Qhorin Halfhand ends up being the only survivor. Having no other choice Qhorin hatches a plan, commanding Jon Snow to kill him so he would be able to infiltrate Wildlings and discover their plans, as a traitor of the Night’s Watch. Jon follows the order through and kills Halfhand, which enables him to infiltrate the ranks and meet the King-Beyond-The-Wall. During their conversation he learns Mance’s plans of invading the Seven Kingdoms. According to one of the few Wildling laws Ygritee becomes his wife by capture. In an effort to prove he has forsaken his vows he takes Ygritte as his lover. The two grow closer which creates a dilemma for honorable Jon Snow – betraying Ygritte or leaving the Night’s Watch.
Current Location: After climbing the Wall, together with Orrel, Tormund and Ygritte, Jon has found himself on the south side of the Wall, somewhere between the Nightfort, the abandoned Night’s Watch castle and Queenscrown, and abandoned holdfast.
Free Folk are a race of people who live beyond the Wall. They are commonly referred to as Wildlings everywhere south of the Wall. The Free Folk differentiate themselves from the “kneelers”, people who live south of the Wall. They view them as people who are lacking freedom, whereas people of Westeros see the “wildlings” as lawless and primitive killers and thieves. Due to their isolation from the rest of Westeros, they remain a free people, free of states, free of nobles, kings, and laws but those of their own choosing, following whatever leader they please. They believe that the gods made the earth for all men to share and when the kings came with their crowns and their steel swords, they stole it – by claiming it was all theirs and theirs alone. More recently they have been unified under Mance Rayder, King-Beyond-The-Wall, a former member of the Night’s Watch who fled the Wall, breaking his oath. Their main agenda is to go south of the Wall so they would escape the Others and conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
THE WHITE WALKERS
The Others, also known as the White Walkers among the wildlings, exist north of the Wall. Before the events in the novel, the Others had supposedly not been seen for eight thousand years. So far the Others have appeared in the flesh only twice in the whole saga and their purpose remains unknown at this time.
According to the legend the Others first appeared approximately 8,000 years before the War of Conquest, during a winter that lasted a generation in a period of darkness known as the Long Night. A great hero, known in the eastern religion as Azor Ahai, led the war against the Others wielding his sword of fire Lightbringer, driving the Others away. Eventually they were defeated and Bran Stark, known also as Bran the builder, probably as a defense against them, built The Wall. The Night’s Watch was established around the same time to stand guard and protect the people of Westeros. In the Westerosi tradition it is believed that Azor Ahai may be the last hero who would be reborn when the White Walkers wake up from their thousand of years long sleep. Melisandre believes Stannis Baratheon is the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, something that is yet to be confirmed. Also, there is another similar prophecy about the Prince that was promised. It is not clear whether or not this is one and the same person. Melisandre also believes that the Others answer to the Great Other, the God of darkness, cold and death. He is considered the enemy and the opposite of R’hllor, the Lord of Light. Followers of R’hllor believe, unlike many Westerosi, that there are only two gods, R’hllor and the Great Other who wage an eternal war over the fate of the world.
The White Walkers first appear in the Prologue of the first book when they kill two rangers of the Night’s Watch. They are tall; their flesh is pale as milk. Their eyes are blue as bright blue stars. According to GRRM they are not dead, contrary to popular belief. He describes them as strange and beautiful different form of life made of ice, inhuman yet elegant. They wear reflective armor that shifts in color something like the stealth armor Children of the Forest wore. They are excellent swordsmen and their swords are made of crystals that are able to shatter any object by touch including the steel blades favored by the Night’s Watch. They leave no prints on the snow when they walk and they only come at night. It is unclear whether they come out when it is cold or the cold comes when they appear. They hide from the light, as it is believed that they melt during the day. They have three weaknesses: fire, dragonsteel (Valyrian steel) and obsidian otherwise known as the dragonglass. According to the book, Sam Tarly kills one White Walker with the dragonglass he has found at the Fist of the First Men (discovered by Jon Snow and the Ghost who laced it there for Night Watch to find it). Once Sam stabbed him, the flesh and bones melted away leaving only an icy puddle.
Anyone who falls against the Others must be burned, or else they will be raised up by the Others and become the Wights – undead creatures. Unlike the Others Wights are slow and clumsy. They feel no pain and they will continue to fight regardless of their injury. Dragonglass cannot stop the Wight but fire can. When they die, the blue disappears from their eyes.
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