The Night’s Watch got created during the Age of Heroes. After successfully defeating the night creatures, men employed the help of the Children of the Forest to erect the Wall. After its construction, the Black Brothers came into existence. The Watch had 10,000 men during Aegon’s Conquest. However, over time, the number of Black Brothers dwindled until it came down to 1,000 during the time of Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. When Lord Mormont went on the Great Ranging, the Black Brothers’ numbers got reduced to less than 600 men.
Night’s Watch Details
- Order’s Name: Night’s Watch.
- Year Founded: Around 8000 BC during the Age of Heroes during the Long Night.
- Type of Organization: Military Order with Autonomous Administration, Sworn Brotherhood, Meritocracy.
- The Seat of Power: Castle Black, Nightfort.
- Highest Position: Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
- Current Leader: Lord Commander Jon Snow.
- Region of Power: The Gift.
- Religion: None.
- Culture: None.
Brothers of the Night’s Watch wear all-black attire made from wool. They wear black garb and receive a black cloak upon taking their vows. Brothers from wealthier backgrounds wear velvet, moleskin, or leather. The brothers wear half helms, ringmail, coifs, and hauberks and get equipped with steel knives. The brothers of the Watch use many weapons, including axes, long axes, longswords, spears, and bows.
Organizational Structuring of the Night’s Watch
Classification of Ranks and Orders
The Night’s Watch is a military order divided into three primary ranks; rangers, builders, and stewards. Each order is an arm of the Watch and gets governed by one man chosen by the Lord Commander. The leader of the rangers is the First Ranger, while the leader of the stewards and builders is known as the First Steward and First Builder. Each arm of the Watch has its primary function.
The Rangers are the fighting force of the Watch. Though most of the recruits brought into the Watch get basic training, the rangers get trained for combat and reconnaissance missions. They travel beyond the Wall to track the movements of the Free Folk and Others. As the military force of the Watch, they defend the Wall from invasion by destroying wildling camps planning to attack and gain entry into the Seven Kingdoms. The First Ranger is Benjen Stark.
The builders are another primary arm of the Watch. They are responsible for repairing any damage to the Wall and the castles that defend it. The builders comprise carpenters and miners skilled in fixing structural faults of different magnitudes. The First Builder of the Watch is Othell Yarwyck.
The stewards are the part of the Watch responsible for tending to the day-to-day services of the Black Brothers. They are the cooks, horse tenderers, weapon maintainers, hunters, and farmers. Though the stewards have a bit of a negative reputation in the Watch, without them, the Watch can never survive.
Other Members of the Watch
Though three primary arms make up the Night’s Watch, other workers ensure the order runs smoothly; these include maesters, septons, and sailors. As men come from different parts of the world to join the Watch, there are no allegiances or political affiliations to anything but the Watch and its Commander; this makes the Watch a neutral organization.
During the early days of its creation, the Night’s Watch was an order meant for selfless men devoted to defending the realm of men from the ancient enemies of winter. However, its reputation reduced over time, and the order became a place for criminals to atone for their sins. In its early days, the recruits of the Watch were knights, men from noble houses, and honorable men, but recently, the recruits come from dungeons by men known as wandering crows.
Though most recruits brought into the Watch are criminals, some come by free will. Many illegitimate children of nobles and disgraced nobles are encouraged to take the Black; this has reduced the reputation of the Night’s Watch. During basic training, people who joined the Watch by free will can leave at any time before they take their vows.
However, after taking the mantle of the black, anyone who deserts is sentenced to death. After taking their vows, the men of the Watch abandon all ties to their past lives.
After training, recruits ready to take the black are brought before either a heart tree or sept and make an oath. It 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, and 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.
Upon taking their vows, all criminals get relieved of their crimes.
In the early days of the Night’s Watch, 17 castles of the Watch got occupied, but as the numbers of the Black Brothers dwindled, the number of occupied Castles reduced to three; Castle Black, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and the Shadow Tower. Each has its overseer, but they all answer to the Lord Commander, who resides at Castle Black.
Beneath the Commander is the First Ranger Builder and Steward, who advises him on crucial matters about maintaining the Watch. Apart from the leaders of the three orders, senior maesters like maester Aemon Targaryen advise the Commander.
Though many Commanders of the Watch are knights and men of high birth, commoners can rise to places of high power. Some who rose among the ranks include Qhorin Halfhand and Cotter Pyke.
During the construction of the Wall, the Watch erected 19 castles to protect more than 100 leagues. However, over time, the number reduced to three. With only three Castles left, the number of patrols dropped drastically, and the tunnels beneath the Castles got sealed off. The prominent castles of the Night’s Watch are:
Nightfort is the largest and oldest Castle of the Night’s Watch. It housed the Black Gate, a magical door that only opens for a sworn brother of the Watch. It got abandoned during King Jahaerys I Targaryen’s reign as it was too expensive to maintain.
Castle Black is one of three castles still in use by the Watch. It has the highest number of men, housing about 600 Black Brothers.
Deep Lake was a castle built to replace Nightfort. The payment for making the Castle got made by Queen Alysanne Targaryen, and King Jahaerys I Targaryen sent men to partake in the construction.
Eastwatch is one of the three castles currently in use. It has a port that enables trading between the Night’s Watch and the smallfolk.
Shadow Tower is the westernmost tower still in use by the Watch. It holds 200 men.
Other castles of the Night’s Watch include Westwatch-by-the-Bridge, Sentinel Stand, Hoarfrost Hill, Stonedoor, Icemark, Greyguard, Queensgate, Rimegate, Greenguard, Oakenshield, Woodswatch-by-the-Pool, Sable Hall, Long Barrow, Torches.
The Gift is a vast expanse of land 25 leagues in size. Brandon of House Stark gave it to the Watch for farming. For many years, the Watch used the Gift, but as their numbers dwindled, the land got abandoned. Queen Alysanne Targaryen doubled the size of the Gift and made nearby towns pay taxes to the Watch. However, as people moved from the North down South to avoid raids from the wildings, the Watch lost most of its source of sustenance.
When an endless night overshadowed Westeros for more than a generation during the Age of Heroes, mysterious creatures known as Others rose from the North and laid waste to most of Westeros. However, an order of men rode against them and sent them back into the Battle for Dawn.
After the Others got defeated, Brandon the Builder began the construction of the Wall to keep out the Others. He employed the help of the Children of the Forest, and after the Wall got constructed, the Children began giving 100 obsidian daggers to the Watch every year. With the Wall erected, there were no more attacks from the Others. However, the Night King was said to offer sacrifices to the Others.
The Era of the Targaryens
In 2 BC, Aegon I Targaryen invaded Westeros and began a conquest to subdue the seven kingdoms. During the time, Lord Commander Hoare was the brother of Harren the Black. Even after Aegon burnt Harren in the burning of Harrenhal, his brother remained neutral. When Aegon succeeded in his conquest, he became King of the Seven Kingdoms and built King’s Landing.
In 43 AC, after King Maegor destroyed the Warrior’s Sons at Oldtown, he asked the Knights to either join the Night’s Watch and renounce the Faith Militant or die. Most of the knights chose the Watch. In 134 AC, one-third of the Black Brothers died during the winter, and others got killed by wildlings.
When Robert Baratheon incited a rebellion against Aerys II Targaryen, he succeeded and became King. Upon the fall of House Targaryen, Tywin Lannister offered loyalists of House Targaryen the option to get killed or join the Watch. Ser Alliser Thorne and Ser Jaremy Rykker chose the latter.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
While in the haunted forest, three rangers, Ser Waymar Royce, Will, and Gared, get attacked by Others. Ser Waymar Royce gets killed and becomes a wight. He attacks and kills Will and Gared runs for his life. For deserting the Watch, Gared gets killed by Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell.
Later, King Robert Baratheon travels to Winterfell and asks Eddard to become Hand of the King. Meanwhile, Jon Snow, Eddard’s bastard son, joins the Night’s Watch. When Eddard agrees, he leaves Winterfell with his daughters and leaves his son, Bran, behind as he had an accident.
Jon heads for the Wall with his direwolf, Ghost, and Tyrion Lannister heads for the Wall too. When Jon arrives at the Wall, he meets Samwell Tarly, a coward, and learns that Sam’s father gave him the option of either joining the Watch or getting killed. Later, Benjen Stark goes missing.
When Eddard gets arrested, Queen Cersei Lannister orders the Starks to get killed. When Robb stark hears of his father’s arrest, he calls his banners and begins marching to free his father. On learning of his father’s arrest, Jon tries to leave the Watch but gets stopped by Sam and his friends.
Lord Mormont takes 200 men from Castle Black and 100 from Shadow Tower on a range. To learn more about the threat from Mance Rayder, Qhorin Halfhand suggests taking some men and infiltrating the wildlings’ camp. He takes Jon with him. Lord Commander Mormont visits Whitetree and Craster’s Keep. At Craster’s Keep, Sam meets Gilly. Later, Lord Mormont travels to the Fist of the First Men.
When Jon Snow and Qhorin get captured, Jon bends and kills Qhorin according to the plan formulated. Jon gets taken to meet Mance Rayder, and he and Ygritte get romantically involved. At the Fist of the First Men, the Black Brothers get attacked by wights, and most get killed. After retreating to Craster’s Keep, a mutiny ensues, and Craster and Lord Mormont get killed.
Jon later escapes the wildlings and heads back to Castle Black to warn of an imminent attack. When Ygritte’s party arrives, they get defeated by the Watch, and later, Bowen Marsh leads a fight at the Bridge of Skulls that ends in victory for the Watch. Janos Slynt accuses Jon of breaking his vows, and after sending him to kill Mance Rayder, Stannis Baratheon arrives with his army and captures the King-Beyond-the-Wall.
Jon Snow becomes the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. After Janos Slynt refuses to obey an instruction, Jon beheads him. When Alys Karstark arrives at Castle Black, Jon plans a marriage between her and Sigorn. When he tries to march on Winterfell, he gets stabbed by the brothers of the Watch in a mutiny.
Relevance in Adaptation
In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Night’s Watch played a crucial role in ending the Night King and White Walkers. After Jon gets captured by the wildlings, he climbs the Wall with Tormund and Ygritte. He later escapes and warns the Watch of danger. Ygritte gets killed.
Jon gets stabbed when he tries to rescue the wildlings from the White Walkers. He later gets resurrected and arrests the mutineers, and executes them. At the end of season 6, Jon leaves the Watch and becomes King in the North. Acting Lord Commander Eddison Tollett allows Bran and Meera Reed into Castle Black after Bran visits the three-eyed raven.
After the breaching of the Wall by the Night King, the Black Brothers abandon their castles. They converge in Winterfell, and most die during the Battle of Winterfell. The Night King gets killed.
Night’s Watch: The Shield that Guards the Realms of Men
The Night’s Watch is a significant part of the story of A Song of Ice and Fire. As their existence creates many mysteries in Westeros’s history, they are the key to understanding the effect of the past on the future.
Why did Benjen Stark join the Night’s Watch?
After getting a heartfelt call-to-arms, Benjen decided to join the Night’s Watch after Eddard returned from battle. He rose to become First Ranger but went missing.
Why did the Night’s Watch degrade?
The Night’s Watch degraded because there was little rivalry to keep it running. The primary purpose of the Watch was to combat Others, but after centuries of them not showing, the use for the Watch faded.
Why did Jon’s men stab him?
When Jon began placing the Night’s Watch into the politics of Westeros, his men started feeling he had diverted from the core values of the Watch. Though Jon knew he was trying to save humanity, his men could not see the silver lining in his plans and stabbed him in a mutiny.
Was the Night’s Watch strong?
Though the Watch was once a formidable order with more than 10,000 men, its power waned as the threat of Others vanished from Westeros.