Sam comes up to Jon and says he is to be raised to the Night’s Watch with the others. He will assist Maester Aemon with the ravens and the library as Jon had suggested. They join Todder, Pypar, Albett, Halder, Matthar, Grenn, and Dareon in the sept, where Septon Cellador is preparing for the ceremony. Soon Maester Aemon, leaning on Clydas, Jeor Mormont, Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, and Jaremy Rykker, who is acting first ranger with Benjen missing, arrive. Jeor explains the ceremony and the oath and asks if there are any who keep to the old gods. Jon speaks up, and Sam decides to swear to them as well. Jeor explains that Castle Black has no godswood, but that there is a grove on the edge of the haunted forest where they may swear. Next, he gives out assignments. Halder and Albett join the builders, Grenn, Pypar, Matthar, and Todder the rangers, and Sam, Dareon, and Jon the stewards. Jon is shocked and hurt and figures this was retribution by Ser Alliser. Bowen assigns Sam to Maester Aemon, replacing Chett who will go to the kennels, and sends Dareon to Eastwatch to aid Borcas, the head steward there, in dealing with traders. Jon is to be Lord Commander Mormont’s personal steward; the lord commander selected him personally. Jon is furious, but Sam points out that he is probably being groomed for command. Late in the afternoon, Sam and Jon set out with Bowen Marsh and an escort, including Dywen, to the edge of the forest. Ghost comes too. They kneel before a grove of nine weirwood trees and take their vows. Afterwards, Ghost comes up to Jon with a rotted human hand in his jaws.
This Jon chapter seems almost perfunctory in separating Ned’s chapters. As you can probably tell from the summary, not a whole lot happens in this chapter and it feels almost like the calm before the storm that is about to erupt in the next chapter. Still, it was a nice escape into the relative tranquillity of the distant North. Before we talk about the chapter itself, I think it’s worth mentioning that when I first began this re-read, I felt like the storyline beyond the Wall was a distraction from the much more interesting happenings in the South. I no longer feel this way. It’s not that this chapter was so fascinating that it made me reverse my decision, but rereading the book in this way, slowly and carefully has made me think more about the significance of each our numerous storylines and how they all come together.
So, with that little bit of personal development out of the way, let’s talk about Jon’s own development. Early in the series, Jon caught a bit of a bad rep for being too whiny – he whined about being on the Wall, about being a bastard and about stuck with criminals. He whines a little too, a display of petulance that is painfully age-appropriate. Importantly, with Sam’s help, he gets past it fairly quickly but it does make me think: Jon is the same age, more or less, as Robb and Dany. How many decisions have those other two made that could be pinned to immaturity? I’m not blaming them for it, God knows we were all stupid little kids once upon a time, but none of us held our people’s fate in our hands. In Robb’s case, his mistakes are fairly clear in my mind but I think I’ll be looking at Dany’s decision making a little closer from this point on, just in case.
There was this neat bit of foreshadowing:
“The wildlings . . . they wouldn’t . . . they’d never dare come this close to the Wall. Would they?”
“They never have.”
I wonder if that’s even true. I mean, foreshadowing aside, I seem to remember numerous instances of the wildlings launching assaults on the Wall but nothing seems to come to mind now. Either way, not a big deal.
“They’re watching us,” he whispered. “The old gods.”
“Yes.” Jon knelt, and Sam knelt beside him.
I paid special attention to this just because I was looking out for signs of Bloodraven, but I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary. Or as ordinary as you can get with albino trees…though, now that you mention it, isn’t oddly coincidental that Bloodraven and the weirwood trees are both albino? Probably just a thematically neat bit of planning on Martin’s part, rather than a plot point, but either way one that I hadn’t considered before.