Yes, We Need Jon Snow

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar DarrenG
    Ignored
    says:

    “For thousands of years the Night’s Watch believed it was sworn to protect the seven kingdoms from the Wildlings.”

    I don’t think this is completely true. The Watch wasn’t formed, and the Wall wasn’t built, to contain Wildlings (although the Hadrian’s Wall parallel can’t be unintentional on Martin’s part). It was built after the invasion of Others during The Long Night, an exceptionally long and deep winter approximately 8,000 years before the story takes place to contain the non-human inhabitants of the far North.

    Defense against the Wildlings has been a practical function of the Watch for a long time, and many northmen and even many Sworn Brothers probably now believe it’s the Watch’s primary function, so there’s a practical truth there, even if it’s not universal.

    I fall somewhere between you and Spencer on Jon’s actions. I agree with you that he didn’t have the luxury of time, and was almost-inevitably going to trigger some backlash within the Watch no matter what, but I also think Spencer is right that Jon was mostly oblivious to this building backlash and didn’t take obvious steps to protect himself and the Watch against it. Jon’s rationale for bringing the Wildlings south of the Wall never made it outside his internal monologue, and he missed some rather obvious signs that mutiny was brewing.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to DarrenG
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      says:

      DarrenG – I say as much re: the original purpose of the Wall. But for literally thousands of years, no Others have come. They are all but myth now. And the Watch has believed for a very long time that their true goal is to protect against Wildlings.Report

      • Avatar Ryan in reply to E.D. Kain
        Ignored
        says:

        Certainly hundreds of years anyway. I think Samwell’s time in the library shows just how confused things get more than a few generations into Westerosian history. It’s entirely possible that the Others were remembered even as recently as the Conquest but have since been forgotten.

        Either way, the fact is that institutional memory has failed. It almost doesn’t matter when the failure happened.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to E.D. Kain
        Ignored
        says:

        An question I’d love to have answered: Did the Watch ever experience an attack by the Others during the reign of a Tagaryen in general and more specifically a Tagaryen in posession of a living dragon?

        I’m going to have to say that Snow’s actions here verify one thing for certain: whatever his exact parentage he’s at least 50% Stark. Only a Stark could have handled the politics at the wall as badly as Jon did with all the noblest intentions in the world.Report

        • Avatar Ryan B in reply to North
          Ignored
          says:

          This is a question I’d like to know the answer to, actually. When is the last time the Others attacked? It seems relevant to any inquiry about what the Wall is “for”.Report

      • Avatar Aaron in reply to E.D. Kain
        Ignored
        says:

        “…And the Watch has believed for a very long time that their true goal is to protect against Wildlings….”

        I am not sure that I agree. During Tyrion’s visit to the wall the call for additional men seemed to me to be about much more than stopping the Wildlings from raiding south of the wall. Tyrion’s attitude, that the skeletal remains of the Watch was adequate to protect the realm from Wildling raids, as well as fairy tale monsters like grumpkins and snarks. The Wall had become a place to send criminals, unwanted heirs and political opponents, with their actions against Wildlings being a benefit to the north but not something that the south particularly cared about. The Lannisters (other than Tyrion, who was indifferent) seemed to accept that the Watch was no longer adequate to prevent Wildling raids, but saw that as a positive given that their raids were a Stark problem.

        Martin seems to like stories that work in parallel, placing people in similar situations but having their choices and circumstances lead to different outcomes; here, Snow is playing his father’s son, with his attempt to balance honor and duty resulting in an all-too-close close encounter with bladed weapons.Report

  2. Avatar fantasy fan
    Ignored
    says:

    I think that there has been no attack by the others since the Andal invasion.

    The wall and the watch were created by the first men, with the help of the children of the forest.

    The first men arrive using bronze weapons. They beginning killing off the children of the forest. The long winter hits, and the others awake, and begin killing off the first men. The children of the forest, who are able to deal with the others, help the first men. The first men convert to the religion of the children of the forest and agree to let them have the deep woods, mountains, bogs, etc. The wall and watch start. Those first men north of the wall become the wildings. Those first men south of the wall and north of the neck become northerners.

    And what of the first men south of the neck?

    The Andals show up with iron weapons, and start taking over the first men and killing the children of the forest again. They end up with everything in the south. The children of the forest leave the south. I don’t know why the left the north, but apparently they end up north of the wall. The Andals really take this stuff about the long winter and the others much more lightly. Think of it as being legends handed down by the lower classes, those locals that were conquered centuries ago.

    The Andals have their own religion and traditions. The seven and the like.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to fantasy fan
      Ignored
      says:

      I think this is about right. There is no known record, at all, of the Others attacking in anything but the most ancient myths. Maybe they attacked since the time of the First Men, maybe not. I’m not sure there are any clues, but maybe a future Bran chapter will clue us in.Report

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