Ser Alliser has learned that Gueren is bringing five new recruits to Castle Black, so he decides to elevate Halder, Todder, Albett, Pypar, Grenn, Matthar, Dareon, and Jon to full members of the Night’s Watch. Sam congratulates them, but seems depressed. That night, Bowen Marsh personally leads them to a seat by the fire and Three-Finger Hobb cooks them a special meal. Jon is worried when he does not see Sam at dinner and realizes that Sam is afraid because with Jon gone he will probably get hurt again by less savory trainees such as Rast and Cuger. He rides with Ghost for awhile thinking. He considers not joining the Watch, but quickly discounts that. He thinks of Sam again and goes to see Maester Aemon. Chett answers the door and does not want to admit Jon at first, but he insists, and Chett gets the maester. Jon asks Maester Aemon to convince the Lord Commander to raise Sam to the Watch, saying he will be hurt or killed otherwise. He says that every man has a use and that Sam would be ideal for helping Maester Aemon with his work, particularly since Chett cannot read and his other assistant, an albino named Clydas, has weak eyes. The maester says he will think on it and sends Jon away.
And so we salvage Sam from the dumping pile, so to speak. In my mind Jon and Sam both joined the Night’s Watch together, but I had forgotten that it was not originally supposed to pan out that way. Again, this is a chapter without too much going on, mostly Jon establishing that he’s not just a good sword but that he’s actually leadership material.
You are boys still, green and stinking of summer, and when the winter comes you will die like flies
This is depressing as hell, but expected of Ser Alliser, but also extremely true. A month or two of fighting each other in a castle is hardly enough to turn someone from a green boy into a man of the Night’s Watch. Jon and the others pay Thorne’s words no heed mainly because they don’t like him, but they will learn the truth of what he says when they head out into the wilderness, to their grief. The question of Benjen Stark’s absence is still fresh now, but I have clues as to where he might be or what he might be doing. At this point I think it might just be simpler if he were dead.
I think it’s interesting that Jon thinks about going back to Winterfell. I would be tempted too. Sure, he’s found his place here, but he must miss his family. In fact, if he goes back now, things would be so much better for everyone – he wouldn’t need to worry about Catelyn since she never comes back to Winterfell, he would probably go off to war with Robb when the time came (which sadly would bring him back to Catelyn, but whatever) and he would die probably die at the Red Wedding unless Robb names him heir and sends him back to Winterfell to kick Theon out. It’s an interesting plan for an alternate version of things, but in the end, I don’t think any of the characters involved get happy endings, not Robb, not Catelyn, certainly not Theon. Still, I can certainly sympathize with Jon’s wanderlust. I wonder what he might find in the Red Mountains of Dorne?