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Mutiny at Castle Black

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"For the Watch."
―The black brothers who stab Jon Snow.[src]

The Mutiny at Castle Black is an event that occurs during the Conflict Beyond the Wall, which sees the brief division of the Night's Watch following Lord Commander Jon Snow's decision to allow the Free Folk to pass through the Wall to avoid them falling into the hands of the White Walkers.



"Lord Commander, it is my duty to tell you I believe this mission to be reckless, foolhardy and an insult to all the brothers who have died fighting the wildlings."
―Alliser Thorne denounces Jon's decision to save the wildlings.[src]

Following the Battle of Castle Black, Jon Snow is elected the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Having spent time with the Wildlings as part of an intelligence mission, Jon grows to sympathize with the Wildlings and realizes that since both the Night's Watch and the Wildlings are Northerners descended from the First Men, the Wildlings have as much right to live in Westeros as the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, as they are Northerners who were merely on the wrong side of the Wall when it was first built.[1] With the coming threat of the White Walkers and their army of undead wights, Jon proposes making peace with the Wildlings, allowing the Wildlings to pass through the Wall and settle in the Seven Kingdoms, in order to have the manpower to fight the imminent White Walker invasion and to keep them from falling into the hands of the White Walkers. With the massacre at Hardhome, Jon is only able to save a few thousand Wildlings, and letting them through Castle Black earns him the contempt of most of the Night's Watch, who lack the same foresight as Jon and see this as both a surrender to their traditional enemies and a betrayal to the Watch.[2]

Murder of Jon Snow

"Lord Commander, it's one of the wildlings you brought back. Says he knows your Uncle Benjen, says he's still alive."
―Olly lures Jon into the mutineers' trap.[src]
Jon's death

Jon Snow dies after being stabbed multiple times by his own men.

Shortly after Jon and Davos Seaworth receive news from Lady Melisandre of Stannis Baratheon's devastating defeat at the hands of the army of House Bolton, Jon is left pondering in his quarters what to do next. His personal steward, Olly, bursts into his quarters and announces that they have captured some Wildlings with information on his uncle, former First Ranger Benjen Stark who has been missing since Jon first joined the Watch. Jon goes outside to see, only to be shown a sign with the word "Traitor" on it. Jon is surrounded by numerous black brothers, led by Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck, each of whom stab him in the abdomen while uttering "For the Watch". As Jon falls to his knees, he is approached by Olly. After a tense moment, Olly stabs Jon in the heart and also says, "For the Watch." Jon falls to the ground and his fellow black brothers walk away, leaving him to bleed out and die.[3]

Divide of the Night's Watch

Alliser Thorne: "You fucking traitor!"
Eddison Tollett: "The only traitors here are the ones who shoved their knives into their Lord Commander's heart."
— Eddison Tollett stands up against Alliser Thorne.[src]
Home 04

Alliser Thorne and the mutineers are arrested by Jon's loyalists.

Shortly afterwards, Davos, Eddison Tollett and numerous of Jon's loyal brothers are alerted to the murder by Ghost's whimperings. They rush into the courtyard and find Jon's body, and take it to his quarters, where Edd immediately realizes from the stab wounds that Thorne was responsible. As Thorne reveals his treachery and wins over the Night's Watch with his reasons, the loyalists prepare to fight to the death, hoping to take Thorne with them, but Davos reminds them of the wildlings and sends Edd to find Tormund. Having positioned crossbowmen to shoot the loyalists, Thorne approaches Davos and offers him and the others mercy if they surrender by nightfall, but Davos, doubting Thorne's sincerity, refuses.[4]

That night, as Thorne and the mutineers prepare to smash the door down, Davos, Ghost and the loyalists prepare to fight. Edd returns with Tormund and the wildlings just in time to stop the massacre. With the mutineers outnumbered, Edd orders Thorne, Marsh, Yarwyck and Olly locked in the Ice Cells for their treachery. Edd leads Tormund to Jon's body, and he mournfully suggests that they burn Jon to prevent him from returning as a wight.

Resurrection of Jon Snow and aftermath

"My watch is ended."
―Jon Snow after executing the mutineers.[src]
Jon Snow Alive

Jon is revived by Melisandre

In a last ditch effort before the funeral, Davos approaches Melisandre to ask her about the ability to revive someone from death. Having lost her faith in the Lord of Light since Stannis's defeat, Melisandre nevertheless cleans Jon's body and mutters the incantation that Thoros of Myr used to bring Beric Dondarrion back to life six times. When Jon fails to respond, his friends leave the room one by one, but once he and Ghost are alone, Jon suddenly wakes up, back from the dead.[5]

After recovering with help from Davos and Melisandre, Jon issues the mutineers' executions. Thus Thorne, Marsh, Yarwyck and Olly are all sentenced to death by hanging. Jon oversees their execution and, after hearing their final words, personally cuts the lever, before relinquishing his command over the Night's Watch to Edd and declaring his watch has ended.[6]

Effectively free from his Night's Watch vows, Jon subsequently leaves Castle Black to enter the War of the Five Kings.[7]

In the books

The circumstances of the Mutiny at Castle Black were drastically changed between the books and TV series, shifting the motivation from being due to the Boltons to due to the wildlings - which introduces several unaddressed plot holes. For more information see the main article on the "Bastard Letter".

Several specific details about how the sequence itself plays out in the books:

Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck and more of the Watch officers, who initially support Jon, grow displeased with his conduct as the Lord Commander. Their main complaint is his decision to bring Wildlings to the Watch. Jon explains that it is necessary because the manpower of the Watch has dwindled dangerously as a result of the Great Ranging, and that every wildling to die north of the Wall means one more wight to fight with, but they are not satisfied. They fear that the Wildlings will turn against them, now that they are south of the Wall and greatly outnumber the black brothers.

In the novels, the mutiny at Castle Black is told from Jon's point of view, save for a few minor differences. Throughout A Dance with Dragons, tension grows within Jon as he hears of House Bolton's numerous atrocities, mostly at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, whom Jon learns has married and is abusing Arya Stark, Jon's half-sister whom he loves dearly (unaware that it is actually a disguised Jeyne Poole). Unable to leave Castle Black to rescue "Arya" personally, Jon and Melisandre instead send Mance Rayder (whose execution was faked) to infiltrate Winterfell and get her out. After hearing of the failed mission to Hardhome, Jon decides to go with Tormund and see to it himself, but shortly before he can leave, he receives a letter that was apparently sent by Ramsay, who claims that Stannis Baratheon has been killed, his army smashed, Mance Rayder captured, and Jeyne and Reek (whom Jon does not know is Theon) escaped. In the letter, Ramsay demands the return of Arya and Reek, and Melisandre, Selyse Baratheon, Shireen Baratheon, Val (Mance Rayder's sister-in-law) and Mance's baby son handed over to him as hostages, threatening to march on the Wall and kill Jon if he does not agree. Finally pushed to his breaking point, Jon decides to ride to Winterfell to confront and kill Ramsay himself, and manages to rally numerous Wildlings to his cause. However, since this is a direct violation of Jon's Night's Watch vows, this serves as the final straw for most of his black brothers. Led by Bowen Marsh, they ambush Jon in the snow. When Jon hears Wun Wun roaring, he comes to calm the giant, and then the conspirators make their move. He is not ambushed, but openly attacked in the courtyard. The first to strike is the steward Wick Whittlestick. Jon manages to disarm him but he is stabbed in the stomach by Marsh. He wrenches the dagger free and smoke emanates from the wound, before being stabbed in the shoulder. He whispers "Ghost...." and falls face-first into the snow, losing consciousness before he is stabbed a fourth time. This is the last seen of Jon in the novel, and it is left unclear if he has been killed or not.

In the books, Alliser Thorne does not take part in the mutiny since Jon sent him earlier on a mission and he has not returned yet, and neither does Olly, who does not exist in the novels. Othell Yarwyck is among Marsh's followers, but it is unclear if he is one of those who stab Jon.

Melisandre has foreseen the assassination and warned Jon. She advises Jon to keep Ghost close to him all the time, but since one of her visions proved to be wrong (a vision of a Northern girl fleeing Winterfell for the Wall, whom Melisandre believed to be Arya but turned out to be Alys Karstark), he ignores her warning. Thus, when Ghost grows restless after the arrival of a Wildling skinchanger named Borroq and his boar, Jon locks Ghost to prevent a fight between the two beasts.

The TV version of the mutiny introduced several major plot holes, and the showrunners seemed more concerned with Jon's death itself rather than the plot mechanics leading up to it or character motivations. Instead of the mutiny being over Jon deciding to fight Ramsay, it is simply due to growing tension between Jon and Thorne over letting the wildlings through the Wall. Moreover, the TV series made no attempt to explain what sense it made for Thorne to kill Jon specifically when he did, after Jon had already let all the wildlings through the Wall: killing Jon at this point wouldn't stop the thousands of wildlings already through the Wall, yet in Thorne's mind, it would logically be a way of avenging all the black brothers who died trying to keep the wildlings at bay, which all became what Thorne saw as a needless sacrifice when Jon let them through. At the same time, however, would greatly endanger Thorne at Castle Black, if the wildlings found out that their ally Jon had been killed by his own men - which is then exactly what happened, when they arrived to overthrow Thorne. Nor does TV-Thorne ever articulate exactly what he intends to do about the thousands of wildlings already through the Wall - or why, simply, in the immediately preceding episode, Thorne himself agreed to open the gate to let the wildlings through (albeit reluctantly). By the end of Season 6, with no further explanation, it seems that the showrunners bluntly weren't concerned with the actual plot mechanics explaining why the mutiny happened in the TV version.

See also


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