Samwell Tarly, popularly called Sam, is a steward in the Night's Watch and is Jon Snow's closest friend. He is the eldest son of Lord Randyll Tarly and Lady Melessa Tarly of Horn Hill. Though he is overweight and not the bravest or the most skilled of men, he is intelligent, well-educated, and insightful, his vast knowledge serving the Night's Watch well in their battles with the forces beyond the Wall.
Samwell Tarly is the oldest son and former heir of Lord Randyll Tarly, the head of House Tarly and Lord of Horn Hill. House Tarly is one of the most powerful noble families in the Reach, and sworn to House Tyrell. By rights, Samwell would have grown up to be one of the top ranking lords of the Seven Kingdoms.
However, his father Randyll Tarly is one of the most skilled military commanders in Westeros, and hoped for a son who would carry on his leadership of House Tarly in battle, not an overweight scholarly-minded son like Sam who has no thirst for violence. His father, ashamed of him, forced Samwell to take the black under threat of death in order to disinherit him. Had Sam refused to join the Night's Watch, his father bluntly told him that he would arrange a "hunting trip" with his son in the woods, and then kill Sam in such a way that it looked like an accident. Sam departed for the Wall, leaving his younger brother Dickon as heir to House Tarly.
Sam was a virgin when he left for the Wall, and is a bit despondent about the restriction that his vows forbid him from ever taking a wife in the future.
Samwell Tarly arrives at Castle Black. Ser Alliser Thorne identifies him as a soft, pampered lordling and has the other recruits attack him harshly, mockingly calling him "Lady Piggy". Jon Snow defends Samwell, to Alliser's annoyance. Samwell is assigned watches with Jon. He tells Jon that he is craven and that his father forced him to come to the Wall or face a 'hunting accident' that would result in his death. Jon convinces the other recruits to go easy on Sam, even using Ghost to intimidate Rast into doing so. Sam befriends Pypar and Grenn.
Thorne is furious at Jon's actions and confronts him and Sam. He tells them of the harsh conditions that exist beyond the Wall and claims men are driven to do terrible things to survive out there, especially in winter. He says that by avoiding the harsh discipline of the Night's Watch, they are condemning themselves to death. The trainees become men of the Night's Watch and Samwell is assigned to the stewards, specifically to the service of Maester Aemon. When Jon complains about his appointment as a steward to Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, Sam points out that Mormont could be grooming him for command. Sam, feeling that his own gods have abandoned him, elects to say his oath to the Watch before a heart tree like Jon, hoping that the Old Gods would answer his prayers in a way that the Seven never did. After the ceremony, they are surprised when Ghost arrives, carrying a severed hand in his mouth.
The hand leads them to the bodies of two rangers. They bring the corpses back to Castle Black and Sam notes that there is no smell of rotten flesh on them. The Lord Commander orders the bodies examined, and tells Sam that he may be a coward, but certainly not stupid.
Jon Snow and the Lord Commander are attacked by one of the dead, who has risen as a wight. Jon fights off the wight and Sam watches the two corpses being burned. Sam tells the others that he has read an old book that claimed that reviving the dead can only be achieved by the touch of the White Walkers, who sleep for thousands of years beneath the ice. When the others ask what will happen when they wake up, he only says that he hopes that the Wall is high enough. Sam admires Jon's new sword, Longclaw, given as a gift for defending the Lord Commander. Samwell tries, unsuccessfully, to stop Jon leaving the wall when he receives news of his father's execution in King's Landing. He then convinces Pyp and Grenn to help him to pursue Jon. He is knocked off his horse by a low hanging branch which draws Jon back to check if he is okay. Sam stands, unharmed, and recites his vows with his friends to convince Jon to return.
Sam is part of Lord Commander Jeor Mormont's Great Ranging beyond the Wall. After travelling for months and passing several abandoned wildling villages they reach Craster's Keep. Craster is an unsavoury ally of the Watch who marries his daughters and apparently has no sons. Craster tells them that the wildlings are gathering under King Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder. Sam calls off Ghost, Jon's direwolf, when he comes near Gilly, one of Craster's wives. Gilly calls Sam brave. Sam takes her to Jon Snow for help rescuing her unborn child from Craster but Jon refuses to disobey their orders to stay away from Craster's wives. Jon later follows Craster into the woods and sees him leaving a newborn boy for the White Walkers. Craster spots him and incapacitates him. Craster drags Jon back to his keep and demands that the Watch leave. Sam becomes infatuated with Gilly, vowing to return and rescue her.
They march to the Fist of the First Men and Sam is amazed at the ancient fortification. Sam assumes Jon's responsibilities as steward to the Lord Commander so that Jon can accompany Qhorin Halfhand scouting the Skirling Pass. The party does not return and are believed dead but Sam refuses to give up hope. He finds a cache of Dragonglass weapons buried at the Fist while working with Grenn and Edd. While collecting dung for fuel, the companions hear three horn blasts, signaling White Walkers. In a panic, they rush back to the Fist, but the slower Sam is left behind. As a blizzard rolls in, Sam takes shelter behind a rock. He watches as armed wights and White Walkers approach out of the snow. A White Walker mounted on a dead horse notices Sam, but appears to ignore him, ordering the wights towards the Fist.
After the Battle of the Fist of the First Men, Sam is wandering in the blizzard looking for shelter. He suddenly notices another man of the Night's Watch. When he walks toward him, he discovers the man has been decapitated. A wight then approaches Sam, about to attack him. The direwolf Ghost knocks the wight down and rips out its flesh as it drags towards Sam. Finally, the wight is lit on fire by Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and the last remaining Night's Watch of the battle appeared. Mormont is angry that Sam didn't send any ravens in the confusion of the attack of the White Walkers. Finally, Mormont announces that they should retreat to the Wall and warn about the White Walkers to the others in Castle Black and the rest of Westeros.
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont of the Night's Watch leads the few survivors of the slaughter at the Battle of the Fist of the First Men south in hope of reaching the Wall. Samwell Tarly is exhausted and collapses. Rast is annoyed that Sam hid during the battle, and thinks they should leave him because he's slowing them down. Sam is upset that Grenn and Edd abandoned him at the start of the attack, although they refuse to leave him now. Mormont tells Sam that he has to keep moving, and sternly forbids Sam to die. Mormont orders Rast to keep Sam alive until they reach the Wall on pain of death.
Farther south beyond the Wall, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont leads the ragged survivors of the Night's Watch expedition to Craster's Keep. Craster mocks the survivors of the battle when they reach his Keep. He initially wants to refuse them shelter until he notices some of them stroking their weapons.
Fearful that in desperation they might try to rush him, he relents. As the black brothers warm by his hearth, Craster mocks them. Craster insists that the black brothers should be grateful for his generosity, and that he is a "godly man" for helping them. Mormont tensely questions that he is a godly man, but Craster insists that he is - to the "real gods", the White Walkers, who consume entire armies on their way to the Wall but will spare Craster for his loyalty. He admits that he's feeding his pigs better than them - as pigs are valuable to him - and half-seriously suggests to his guests that they should eat the fat Samwell Tarly. He is also annoyed by Gilly's loud wailing from birthing pains. Sam leaves the main house to a birthing hut where he witnesses Gilly giving birth with the aid of a few other women. To her horror, the baby is a boy. Sam and Gilly realize that Craster will want to sacrifice him to the White Walkers.
Samwell Tarly visits Gilly, who is deeply distraught about the impending fate of her newborn son. She is frantic, and yells at Sam not to draw attention to the fact that it's a boy by calling it a "he" so loud, as Craster will want to offer it up as a sacrifice when he finds out it is a son. He asks her if she has decided on a name, but she responds that there's no point in naming her baby if he's only going to be offered up as a human sacrifice. She gives Sam back his mother's thimble and says she doesn't care about such stupid things, all she is focused on is protecting the life of her baby. When the traitors of the Night's Watch kill Craster and Jeor Mormont, Sam rushes to Gilly's hut and orders her that they have to escape now or they never will. Sam runs out of Craster's Keep with Gilly and her baby, as loyal Night's Watch members fall to the mutineers, who also kill and/or rape Craster's other wives. Gilly leads the way into the night because she knows the woods around her home. Covered in Mormont's blood, Rast shouts into the darkness that "Piggy" can run for now, but he'll soon be cutting Sam's throat too.
Sam and Gilly stop to camp during their journey to the Wall, after having fled Craster's Keep. Sam shows Gilly the Dragonglass dagger he found at the Fist of the First Men and tells her about Castle Black. Gilly wonders if Sam can sing, the he tells her that he can't sing well. However, he knew one song and starts to sing it for Gilly and her baby.
On their way to Castle Black, they take refuge in a destroyed cabin next to a heart tree. Before they enter, two crows land on a branch on the heart tree, and begin to squawk loudly. Later that night, Sam tries to light a fire. When he is unable to, Gilly does it instead. Meanwhile, Sam suggests that Gilly name her son, but she does not know any boy names, Sam gives her some examples, and also explains the difference between first and last names. Suddenly, they are interrupted by the loud squawks of the crows. Sam and Gilly go outside to investigate, and see hundreds of crows angrily squawking at them. Gilly is then horrified to see a White Walker approaching them, and knows that it is after her child. Sam tries to halt its advance, but the Walker shatters his sword with his bare hand and knocks him aside, and heads for Gilly. Sam staggers back to his feet, pulls out his Dragonglass dagger, and attacks the Walker, stabbing it in the back. The Walker howls in pain, as its whole body begins to freeze from the point at which he was stabbed It falls to its knees and shatters, leaving nothing behind but white dust and the dagger. Leaving behind the dagger, Sam takes Gilly's arm, and runs as the crows chase after them.
Following their encounter with the White Walker, Sam and Gilly continued their journey south to Castle Black. While they were still a considerable distance from their destination, Sam knew that they were approaching Nightfort, the original headquarters of the Night's Watch which was located between Castle Black and Beyond the Wall. Nightfort had been abandoned centuries ago when the Night's Watch's numbers dwindled.
Sam explained to Gilly that he planned to get them across the Wall using a secret sally-port which would lead right into the Nightfort. Gilly expressed her amazement that Sam knew so much history just from reading books, insisting that he is a wizard much to Sam's delight. When they finally caught a glimpse of the Wall, which Gilly had never seen before, she is awestruck.
Later, Samwell and Gilly finally arrived at the Nightfort. There, he encountered Bran Stark, Jon Snow's younger half-brother and his companions-Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed, and his direwolf Summer-who were travelling north beyond the Wall to find the three-eyed raven. Bran and his companions initially mistook him for an intruder but sheltered them after seeing Gilly and her baby. Samwell, noticing the gigantic Hodor and Summer, realizes who Bran was and offered to take them to Castle Black. They decline and Jojen tells Sam that he and Bran were travelling to go beyond the Wall.
Due to his earlier encounters with the White Walkers, Samwell and Gilly were unwilling to return to the north. However, Sam reluctantly gave them the obsidian blades which he had found north of the Wall and which he had used to slay a White Walker. While Samwell and Gilly stayed behind in the castle, Bran and company finally reached the lands beyond the Wall.
After traveling for some distance, Samwell and Gilly finally arrived at Castle Black. There, they met with Maester Aemon, who is displeased at the prospect that Sam had violated his vows. Sam defended himself by reciting the Night's Watch oath to protect the realms of men whatever side of the Wall they are on and repeating Jeor Mormont's assertion that a wall of ice 500 leagues long and 700 feet high was not built to keep out barbarians. Aemon's demeanor softened upon learning that Gilly was one of the late Craster's wives, and acknowledged that she is now a refugee and should be sheltered since the North is no longer safe for humans. Aemon then ordered Sam to begin writing letters immediately and to make sure that all forty-four of Castle Black's ravens are well-fed, as every one of them is to fly that night: the White Walkers have returned, and Westeros must be warned.
Sam is present in Castle Black in the weeks following Jon's return. Sam tells Jon that Alliser Thorne and Maester Aemon are ready to judge Jon for his actions. Sam tries to cheer Jon up and tells him he hasn't done anything wrong. Jon counters that he's "done plenty wrong".
People mockingly call him "Slayer" after he claimed to kill a White Walker. Sam visits Gilly to ask how she is doing at Castle black. He complains to her that nobody believes he killed the White Walker. Then, he admits to being paranoid about what his fellow brothers are thinking about her. Sam tells Gilly that he thinks that she would be safer at Mole's Town. He assures that he is only doing this to protect her. They arrive at Mole's Town and Sam tells the manager that she can cook and clean. He also refuses to let Gilly do "other jobs". Gilly thinks that Sam is doing it for himself and not thinking of her, which upsets Sam. Sam and Jon are talking in the library and Sam is worried about Gilly now that he realizes the wildlings are attacking villages. Jon tries to assure him she's safer there. They then discuss Bran going beyond the Wall, which Sam told Jon. They try to work out where he is before they are interrupted by Locke.
When Jon Snow and his fellow black brothers return from the Raid on Craster's Keep, Sam is one of the first to greet him. He is also present when Jon tries to convince Alliser Thorne that they should seal the tunnel due to the threat of Mance Rayder and his wildling army.
The news of the wildling attack on Mole's Town reaches Castle Black. Sam is horrified by the news, believing he sent Gilly and her baby to their deaths. Eddison Tollett argues that Gilly managed to survive Craster, the long march back to the Wall, and even a White Walker. This gives Sam hope that Gilly may have survived.
Atop the Wall, Jon and Sam are staring out into the darkness of the north and awaiting the imminent wildling invasion. Sam attempts to interrogate Jon about what it was like to be with a woman, stating that as their deaths are likely imminent, it may be his last chance to find out. Sam brings up that the vows of the Night's Watch only explicitly forbid members from taking wives or producing children, and that other "activities" are open to interpretation. Jon replies glumly that Alliser Thorne most likely does not care about their interpretations. When further pressed by Sam to describe lying down with Ygritte, Jon attempts to explain but is unable to properly express it, proclaiming exasperatedly that he's "not a bleeding poet." Jon offers to take the watch up alone so Sam can go below.
Meanwhile, Sam is caught reading a book about wildlings by Maester Aemon. Aemon correctly guesses that Sam is reading the book because he wants to know what kind of fate might have befallen Gilly if she fell into wildling hands during the sack of Mole's Town. He also surmises that Sam has shown such a keen interest in her fate because he is in love with her, despite Sam's protests to the contrary. Aemon muses about the girl he once loved, stating that he can still picture her as clear as day and that she is more real than Sam is. After being dismissed by Aemon, Sam leaves the maester's chambers only to hear Gilly at the gate begging to be allowed inside, revealing her survival of the Mole's Town massacre and her identity as the cloaked figure approaching Castle Black. Pypar attempts to deny her passage into the castle, saying he is not allowed to open the gate at any circumstances. However, Sam roars at Pyp to allow her in, causing Pyp to relent and let her in. Sam promises Gilly wherever she goes next he will go too, but their reunion is cut short by two blows from the horn, indicating that Mance's wildling army has finally begun their assault. Sam rushes to get Gilly safely inside the castle while other brothers of the Night's Watch prepares for the imminent attack by wildlings.
Sam brings Gilly and her baby to a storage room where she can hide. Gilly wants Sam to stay with her as he promised, but he cannot as he sworn to defend the Wall as a brother of the Night's Watch.
Before he leaves her, Gilly begs Sam to promise her that he won't die and the two finally share a kiss. As Sam and Pypar are preparing arrows at the southern gate, Pypar laments that he never seen a real battle before or ever even held an edged blade. Pypar asks how Sam is not afraid, but Sam replies that he is, as there are thousands of wildlings about to overrun them. Pypar asks how he managed to kill a White Walker while being afraid, and Sam says that at that moment, he just had to do something or Gilly would have been killed and her baby would have been taken. Sam further explains that at that moment, he wasn't himself; he was nothing, and when you are nothing there is nothing to be afraid of. Before walking away, he looks at Pypar and says, "I'm not nothing anymore."
When the battle begins, Sam and Pyp take part in defending Castle Black's southern gate. Pyp is firing a crossbow as Sam assists by reloading another crossbow, but Pyp's aim is poor due to inexperience and nerves and he repeatedly misses his shots. The band of wildlings manage to reach Castle Black's walls and begin scaling them using grappling hooks and ropes, forcing Sam and Pyp to retreat.
Later, Pyp is fatally shot by Ygritte and Sam comforts him as he dies. Sam is forced to leave Pyp's body and as he heads to Castle Black's lift system, but he is spotted by the Thenn warg.
The warg charges at Sam as he desperately attempts to load his crossbow, managing to do so and firing a bolt into the warg's head just before he reaches him. Sam then arrives atop the Wall to ask Jon for more men to defend the castle, and Jon tasks Sam with releasing Ghost from his pen to assist in the fighting. Once the battle was over, Sam returns to Gilly just like he promised and discovers Janos Slynt, who hid in fear during the entire battle.
The following morning, Jon discusses with Sam that he has a suicidal solution to end the wildling threat; he plans to assassinate Mance Rayder, noting that he is the only thing binding the disparate wildling clans that make up the army, and his death will rob them of that purpose and leadership. Sam tries to talk sense into Jon, but to no avail. As Jon prepares to leave via Castle Black's tunnel, they discover the bodies of the black brothers who held the inner gate against the giant. Grenn is amongst the casualties and Jon tells Sam that all bodies must be burned. Before Jon leaves, he remembers the promise he made to Jeor Mormont and decides to leave Longclaw with Sam. Sam tells Jon to come back, and Jon looks and Sam and smiles unreassuringly before stepping out into the wilderness on the other side of the gate.
At Castle Black, Sam attempts to comfort Gilly since she is worried of being sent away by Ser Alliser Thorne, which would most likely happen if Alliser is elected as the new Lord Commander. Sam reaffirms his promise that where ever Gilly and her baby go, he will go too in order to protect her. Later, Sam is present when Mance Rayder is executed by Stannis Baratheon for refusing to bend the knee, and comforts Gilly, who cries in his shoulder.
Sam is reading a book on previous Lord Commanders while Princess Shireen Baratheon, his second cousin, teaches Gilly how to read. He also learns how the young princess survived Greyscale and that Gilly also had sisters who perished from the disease.
At the choosing for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jon Snow reveals Stannis's offer of legitimization to Sam. Jon states that it was always his dream to be Lord of Winterfell, but he reveals that he will decline the king's offer, much to Sam's surprise. When Maester Aemon asks if there are any more candidates wishing to run against Ser Alliser Thorne and Ser Denys Mallister, Sam puts Jon's name forward as a candidate. Janos Slynt mocks Sam by calling him "Slayer" and pointing out his love for Gilly being similar to Jon's love for Ygritte, and Sam retaliates by publicly mocking Slynt for hiding in the pantry with Gilly and her baby during the wildling attack. Sam reminds all of the black brothers present that Jon was Jeor Mormont's personal steward, that he led the force to deal with the mutineers at Craster's Keep, and took command of Castle Black's garrison during the wildling attack when Thorne was wounded. Sam's speech ultimately results in Jon being chosen as the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
At a meeting of the Night's Watch, Jon questions Sam about Maester Aemon's absence. He reports that Aemon apologizes for his absence because he is not feeling well. Jon tells Sam to take good care of the old maester. Sam later witnesses Jon personally behead Janos Slynt for refusing to obey orders.
Sam drafts numerous letters for Jon Snow to sign in order to request the Northern houses to send more men to man the Wall. Jon signs all of them until Sam gives him a letter meant for Roose Bolton, the new Warden of the North. Jon is against asking for help from the man who murdered his half-brother, but Sam convinces him that they need all the help that they can get. Sam departs when Melisandre enters the room to speak with Jon.
At the library, Sam reads a note from Slaver's Bay to Maester Aemon updating him on Daenerys's situation. Sam praises the courage of Daenerys but Maester Aemon worries about her safety because she is all alone, under siege, and with hardly anyone to guide her, while he, as her only living relative, is useless and dying thousands of miles away. Then, Jon Snow enters and asks to speak with Aemon in private, so Sam leaves them. Later, Sam tells Gilly about his wish to go to Citadel and become a Maester before he was sent to the Night’s Watch, when Stannis Baratheon walks in. Stannis reminisces about how Sam’s father, Randyll Tarly, defeated Robert Baratheon in the Battle of Ashford. Stannis wants to know how Sam killed the White Walker and Sam tells him how he did it with a dagger made of dragonglass. Stannis muses that it is abundantly available on Dragonstone. Sam has been researching dragonglass and how it can kill White Walkers, but has yet to come up with anything. Stannis tells him to continue his research and leaves.
Later, after Jon has left for Hardhome, Sam and Gilly visit Maester Aemon, who has fallen ill and grown delirious. Aemon imagines Little Sam as Egg, his long-dead brother. Aemon's condition steadily deteriorates as the day goes on, and he dies in the night. Sam eulogizes him before lighting his funeral pyre, declaring for all to hear that he was the blood of the dragon. Ser Alliser whispers that Sam's friends are abandoning him one by one. Afterward, Gilly is attacked in the dining hall by two brothers, but Sam and Jon's direwolf, Ghost, come to her rescue. Sam is badly beaten, and Gilly takes care of him before the two have sex.
Samwell reunites with Jon, who is despondent, saying that the mission was a disaster and they only managed to save a small fraction of the wildlings at Hardhome. Sam points to different wildlings passing by and notes that each of them would have died if he had done nothing at all, so it wasn't a complete failure.
A few nights later, Jon Snow tells of what he saw at Hardhome to Sam. Sam asks Jon if he can travel to Oldtown to study and replace Aemon as the new Maester of the Watch. He feels there is no other way he can help them as he cannot fight, he is also afraid for Gilly and her child's safety, and wishes to take them along. Jon reminds him that the Citadel will also not allow Sam to be with women, but is humored to hear that it is already too late for that. Sam promises he will return, they toast to that and Jon sees his only friend off.
On the voyage to Oldtown, Gilly tells a seasick Sam that she'll be happy to see the city, having learned much about it from the ship's captain. Instead, Sam doesn't want Gilly and Little Sam to be alone in the city while he trains as a maester and plans to take them to his family at Horn Hill, as the Citadel also doesn't allow women and there won't be anyone there to make an exception. Gilly protests against this, but Sam assures her that it is for her protection.
After landing in Oldtown, Samwell, Gilly, and Little Sam are transported to Horn Hill by station coach. Knowing his father's hatred for Wildlings, Sam tells Gilly that he had told his father's retainers that Gilly is a Northern woman he had bedded in Mole's Town and that Little Sam is their son. Upon arriving at Horn Hill, Sam is greeted by his mother Melessa and sister Talla Tarly, who are delighted to see Sam and his "family." Sam quickly learns that his father Randyll and brother Dickon Tarly are out hunting.
Later that evening, Sam and Gilly joined the other Tarlys for dinner. Sam reveals his plans to train as a Maester at The Citadel and promises that he will return to the Wall as soon as he has finished his studies. When Dickon asks him about hunting Beyond the Wall, Sam responds that he hunts rabbits. An openly scornful Randyll then interjects that Jon Snow did all the hunting for him. He also criticizes his son's size (even though Sam is markedly slimmer than he was in Season 1), and hunting and fighting abilities. Randyll also adds that he will not let his son inherit the family's Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane and House Tarly. Gilly then springs to her lover's defense by pointing out that Sam had killed a Thenn and a White Walker. 
While Dickon dismisses the White Walkers as a fairy tale, Randyll quickly realizes that Gilly is a Wildling. He disparages Sam for allowing himself to be seduced by a "Wildling whore." In response, Melessa chides her husband for his "dishonorable" conduct and motions for Gilly to leave the dining room with her and Talla. After the women have left, Randyll tells Sam that Gilly and Little Sam are welcome to stay. He will find work for Gilly as a servant and promises to raise the "bastard" Little Sam as his grandson. However, he warns Sam that he is no longer welcome at Horn Hill and must leave at first light.
Later, Sam apologizes for his father's actions but Gilly tells him that he does not need to. Unwilling to be separated from his family, Sam tells Gilly to pack up and leave together with Little Sam. Before leaving with his "family", Samwell steals Heartsbane.
After arriving in Oldtown, Sam and Gilly meet a Citadel maester. Sam gives him a letter from Lord Commander Snow about Sam becoming a maester for the Night's Watch, but the maester is skeptical about Jon Snow's state, saying that no word was given about Lord Commander Mormont's death from Maester Aemon. The maester states that Sam's situation is "irregular" to which Sam responds, "Life is irregular." The maester then says that Sam must speak to the Archmaester in order to discuss these issues. The maester then allows Sam to use the library, but blocks Gilly and Little Sam from entering. In the library, Sam looks on in wonder and awe at the vast size of the library and the knowledge stored in its texts.
Sam is assigned to menial labor in the Citadel, from sorting books in the library to serving meals to the other maesters and even latrine duty, with Sam himself growing increasingly impatient with the daily repetition. After seeing another maester entering a gated section of the library, Sam asks Archmaester Ebrose about the Long Night while helping with a dissection, since very few people in the South believe the White Walkers exist. While Ebrose doesn't doubt Sam's awareness of the Walkers, he does assure him that the beginning of this winter is not the end of the world and reminds him of the importance of healthy skepticism. Nevertheless, after stealing some books from the forbidden section of the library, Sam does research with Gilly at her new home, discovering that an abundance of dragonglass exists on Dragonstone, and writes to Jon to inform him. The next day, while collecting bowls from the sick cells, he is stopped by a patient with an arm covered in greyscale, who asks him if Daenerys Targaryen, the Dragon Queen, has arrived, but Sam claims not to know.He is present when the same patient is deemed unable to treat by Ebrose, and that he has six months before the greyscale takes over his mind. Sam then reminds Ebrose of Shireen Baratheon's treatment of the condition, but Ebrose counters that her maester, Cressen, only managed to stop the spread early, and while she was still at a young age. Once Ebrose leaves, Sam asks if there is any family he should write to, to which the patient introduces himself as Jorah Mormont, and that his family forgot about him a long time ago. Sympathetic to his Lord Commander's son, Sam later asks if he can try to heal Jorah using an experimental procedure developed by Archmaester Pylos, but Ebrose advises against it due to the illegality and dangerous nature of the operation.
Nevertheless, Sam still visits Jorah later that night, and explains his relationship with his father. He warns him not to scream during the operation, as doing so would lead to Sam's expulsion from the Citadel, and sets to work removing the infected skin.
On the outside, Samwell Tarly may appear completely antithetical to the standards of his house - he is extremely timid, awkward, cowardly, nervous and easily frightened. When he was first tested in combat by Alliser Thorne, he didn't even pick up a weapon and allowed himself to be beaten, terrified, leading to the impression that Sam was worthless (an impression that Randyll Tarly had never allowed him to forget). However, in reality, Sam is actually a good man - he is extremely loyal to those who show him kindness, as evidenced by his almost brotherly relationship with Jon Snow, who remained his best friend throughout his time as a member of the Night's Watch. His loyalty to Jon would resonate from the moment that he volunteered to take Jon's vows with him. His extreme personal loyalty is potentially one of his best qualities, and ironically evidence that Sam aligns with the expectations of his house - after all, House Tarly breeds soldiers, and soldiers are supposed to be loyal.
When he comes to Castle Black, it is quickly realised that he is not a great warrior, but Sam makes up for it considerably by being highly intelligent and observant. He shows himself to be so insightful that he assures Jon Snow that Lord Commander Mormont is seeking to groom him for command based on the duties that being a squire would entail. Sam has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Westerosi history, including the history of the Night's Watch, and is deeply fascinated by that history, to such an extent that his fellow sworn brothers often find him annoying for it. Even Jeor Mormont recognised Sam's intelligence and commended him for it. Those who could see through Sam's glutton and cowardice would realise how clever and valuable a person he was. Sam loves to read books at any given opportunity, so much that that the blind Maester Aemon easily deduced that Sam had come to see him, based on the fact that he had decided to enter the library at night to read.
Throughout the series, Sam has shown himself to be capable of incredible bravery when he is pushed. While he cowered during the Battle on the Fist of the First Men, especially when he encountered a White Walker for the first time. One of his shining moments came when he faced off against another White Walker when it tried to attack Gilly and her son - Sam's extreme capacity for love towards Gilly compelled him to continue to attack the creature, even after it easily overpowered him already, and in spite of Sam being aware of the historical reputation of the White Walkers and how they had decimated the Rangers at the Fist of the First Men. Sam later proved himself to be gradually immune to the bullies that he had suffered most of his life, as evidenced by how he shamed Janos Slynt for his cowardice when the latter tried to shame him for loving Gilly. Sam's bravery wavered temporarily when he returned to Horn Hill and was chastised by his father Randyll again, so much that he was unable to speak throughout most of the conversation, but later on he openly defied his fearsome father by stealing the family heirloom Heartsbane and verbally daring Randyll to try and take it back (albeit, not to his face).
Sam was very good friends with Maester Aemon, so much that Sam gave the man's eulogy at his funeral and didn't condemn him for being a Targaryen. Before Aemon passed away, Sam showed reluctance to believe that he was dying, showing that he deeply cared about the old man.
|Season One appearances|
|Winter Is Coming||The Kingsroad||Lord Snow||Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things||The Wolf and the Lion|
|A Golden Crown||You Win or You Die||The Pointy End||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Season Two appearances|
|The North Remembers||The Night Lands||What Is Dead May Never Die||Garden of Bones||The Ghost of Harrenhal|
|The Old Gods and the New||A Man Without Honor||The Prince of Winterfell||Blackwater||Valar Morghulis|
|Season Three appearances|
|Valar Dohaeris||Dark Wings, Dark Words||Walk of Punishment||And Now His Watch Is Ended||Kissed by Fire|
|The Climb||The Bear and the Maiden Fair||Second Sons||The Rains of Castamere||Mhysa|
|Season Four appearances|
|Two Swords||The Lion and the Rose||Breaker of Chains||Oathkeeper||First of His Name|
|The Laws of Gods and Men||Mockingbird||The Mountain and the Viper||The Watchers on the Wall||The Children|
|Season Five appearances|
|The Wars To Come||The House of Black and White||High Sparrow||Sons of the Harpy||Kill the Boy|
|Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken||The Gift||Hardhome||The Dance of Dragons||Mother’s Mercy|
|Season Six appearances|
|The Red Woman||Home||Oathbreaker||Book of the Stranger||The Door|
|Blood of My Blood||The Broken Man||No One||Battle of the Bastards||The Winds of Winter|
|Season Seven appearances|
|Dragonstone||Stormborn||The Queen's Justice||The Spoils of War||Episode 65||Episode 66||Episode 67|
|Randyll Tarly||Melessa Tarly|
|Symun Fossoway||Talla Tarly||Dickon Tarly|
Spoken by Samwell
- "On the morning of my eighteenth nameday, my father came to me. 'You're almost a man now', he said, 'but you're not worthy of my land and title. Tomorrow, you're going to take the black, forsake all claim to your inheritance and start north. If you do not,' he said, 'then we'll have a hunt, and somewhere in these woods your horse will stumble, and you'll be thrown from your saddle to die. Or so I'll tell your mother. Nothing would please me more.'"
- ―Sam tells the story of how he came to join the Night's Watch.
- "I can't steal her. She's a person, not a goat."
- ―Samwell Tarly referring to Gilly
- "We didn't build 500 miles of ice wall 700 feet high to keep out men. The night is gathering Maester Aemon, I've seen it. It's coming for all of us."
- ―Samwell Tarly
- "How many brothers can say that they've killed a White Walker and a Thenn? I might be the first in history."
- ―Samwell Tarly
- "Whilst Lord Janos was hiding with the women and children, Jon Snow was leading. Ser Alliser fought bravely, it is true, but when he was wounded, it was Jon who saved us. He took charge of the Wall's defense, he killed the Magnar of the Thenns, he went north to deal with Mance Rayder, knowing that it certainly meant his own death. Before that, he led the mission to avenge Lord Commander Mormont. Mormont himself chose Jon to be his steward. He saw something in Jon and now we've all seen it too. He may be young, but he's the commander we turned to when the night was darkest."
- ―Samwell Tarly nominates Jon Snow as 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch
- "Oh my...."
- ―Sam, upon finally losing his virginity to Gilly.
- "Sometimes a man has to make hard choices, choices that might look wrong to others, but you know are right in the long run."
- ―Sam explaining to Olly why Jon is helping the wildlings.
- Gilly: "Sam, that's your father's sword."
- Samwell Tarly: "It's my family's sword."
- Gilly: "Sam, won't he come for it?"
- Samwell Tarly: "He can bloody well try."
- — Sam steals Heartsbane from Horn Hill.[src]
Spoken about Samwell
- "You may be a coward, Tarly, but you're not stupid."
- ―Jeor Mormont on Samwell Tarly
Behind the scenes
In the books
In A Song of Ice and Fire, House Tarly is a loyal vassal of House Tyrell. Lord Randyll is a famous general and one of the best battlefield commanders in the Seven Kingdoms, with a string of significant military victories to his name. During Robert's Rebellion he defeated Robert Baratheon at the Battle of Ashford, despite having inferior numbers. He also had a senior role in Lord Mace Tyrell's long siege of Storm's End.
Lord Randyll is a stern, fierce taskmaster and disciplinarian who holds martial valor and military skill above all other attributes. His eldest son Sam is soft, kindhearted, bookish and fat, enjoying music and reading over fighting and war, although his younger son Dickon shows much more military promise. Furious with Sam's lack of military potential, Ser Randyll sends him packing to join the Night's Watch on the Wall, making Dickon heir in Sam's place.
Sam's father took him once to the Arbor, intending to leave him there as Lord Paxter’s page and cupbearer, and had Sam pleased him - he would have been betrothed to his daughter. Things had gone from bad to worse: Lord Redwyne’s twin sons, Hobber and Horas, despised Sam on first sight, bullied him mercilessly, and every day they found some fresh way to shame him in the practice yard: the third day Horas made Sam squeal like a pig when he begged for quarter; on the fifth Hobber clad a kitchen girl in his own armor and let her beat Sam with a wooden sword until he began to cry. When she revealed herself, all the squires and pages and stableboys howled with laughter. Randyll had no choice but to take Sam back home. Needless to say the experience has not improved Randyll's opinion on his elder son.
When Sam suggested his father to send him to the Citadel in Oldtown, Randyll answered furiously "They make you wear a chain about your neck. If it is chains you want, come with me". He had Sam manacled hand and foot to a wall for three days and three nights. The chain around his throat was so tight it broke the skin, and whenever he rolled the wrong way in his sleep it would cut off his breath. That experience has traumized poor Sam so much, that long time afterwards he objected (fruitlessly) to Jon's command to travel to the Citadel, although he has always wanted that.
Horn Hill is located in the warm lands of the southern Reach, where it rarely snows. Sam says that he never saw snow in his life before he was sent to the Wall, making it an even more desolate and alien environment for him.
Some may have seen Samwell as better suited to joining the order of Maesters, as like the Night's Watch they swear vows that abandon all claim to inheritance, but their intellectual pursuits would fit Sam's talents much better. However, Randyll felt that a Tarly joining the non-martial Maesters would still be a massive embarrassment to the military reputation of their House. Because Randyll was horrified at the prospect of a member of House Tarly ever wearing a Maester's chain, he instead sent Sam off to join the Night's Watch, where at least in theory he would be defending the realm from the dangers beyond the Wall. Ironically, the officers at Castle Black decide that the best use for Sam at the Wall is to serve as an aide to the blind old Maester Aemon, given that many of their recruits are starving peasant boys or criminals who can't even read, and Sam is not only literate but quite well-read. Sam gains some small respite from his suffering at the Wall when he discovers that Maester Aemon's library at Castle Black contains thousands of books collected by the Watch over the millennia, many of them extremely rare (even a well-stocked library such as at Winterfell normally only contains several hundred books).
In the book, Sam's encounter with the White Walker is different in the show: it takes place during the retreat from the Fist of the First Men. Sam collapses, and only Grenn stays with him and urges him to move on. A steward of the Watch named Paul joins them and carries Sam on his back. Due to the delay, the three fall behind the other survivors, and one of the Others attacks them. The Other kills Paul, and Sam desperately stabs it with Dragonglass dagger. To Sam and Grenn's amazement, the Other is destroyed. Sam does not leave the dagger behind, but tells Grenn to pick it up once it is warm enough to touch. Eventually Sam and Grenn catch up with the rest of the Watch. Grenn tells everyone how Sam destroyed the Other. Since then, Sam earns the nickname "the Slayer", which the other rangers use either as respect or (more often) for mockery. Sam hates that nickname, even though it is better than "Ser Piggy", because he does not feel he deserves it. He keeps asking people not to call him that, but for no avail.
The thing that attacks Sam and Gilly is not an Other but a wight. Although Sam is scared, he is determined to protect Gilly, and fights valiantly against the wight. Both the dragonglass and steel daggers are useless against the wight, but Sam destroys it by shoving a burning stick into its mouth.
Since in the books Jon has killed a wight but not any Others, Sam is the only known character that killed both an Other and a wight. He is also the one who discovered (by trial-and-error) that dragonglass is lethal to Others but ineffective against wights.
When Sam and Gilly part with Bran's group at the Nightfort, Jojen Reed warns Sam that no one can know about Bran going beyond the Wall, so Jon is never told of his whereabouts. Sam is not present during the wildling attack against the Night's Watch, as he and Gilly are still en route to Castle Black.
Unlike in the TV show, Sam is not among the defenders of Castle Black during the battle, since he and Gilly arrive after the battle is over. They do not pass through Mole's Town. They are lucky to get lost while on their way from Craster's Keep, otherwise they would have found themselves caught in the battle or at the wildlings' camp. Jon, Grenn, and Pyp are overjoyed that Sam survived against all odds, and welcome him heartily.
In the novel "A Feast for Crows", Jon sends Sam alongside Gilly, Mance Rayder's baby son and Maester Aemon to Oldtown via Braavos, fearing that Melisandre may sacrifice either Aemon or the baby for their "king's blood". During the voyage to Oldtown aboard the "Cinnamon Wind", Aemon dies. Following the funeral, Gilly and Sam grow intimate and have sex for the first time. Afterwards Sam is filled with guilt, not only for breaking his vows: he loves Gilly but is forbidden of marrying her; he believes she deserves a better man, not a big fat coward like him; and cannot bear the thought of hurting her feelings by taking advantage of her and later leaving her (in sharp contrast to Theon Greyjoy, who used a captain's daughter for sex and then dumped her without second thought). The captain's daughter, however, poses him an ultimatum: either he goes to bed with Gilly, or will be thrown overboard. Defeated, Sam goes to Gilly and tells her he would like to marry her, would prefer her for any princess or highborn lady, but is bound by his vows. Gilly wipes his tears and tells him "The trees watch over us. In the forest, they see all. but there are no trees here. Only water, Sam. Only water".
At Braavos, Sam briefly encounters Arya Stark. She saves him from two bullies and gives him food. Sam tells her his name and that he is of the Night's Watch, but she does not reveal to him her true identity.
George R.R. Martin has stated that he is a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, in which main character Frodo Baggins' best friend is Samwise Gamgee, called Sam for short. Similarly, Jon Snow's best friend Samwell Tarly (also called "Sam" for short) is also an overweight, not martially skilled Everyman character who enjoys reading stories in books. Moreover, Pypar (called Pyp) for short, has a similar name to Frodo's other companion Pippin Took (sometimes shortened to "Pip"). Thus both Jon Snow and Frodo Baggins have two companions named "Sam and Pyp".
- ↑ In the TV series, Samwell stated that he joined the Night's Watch in Season 1 not long after his 18th birthday. In the novels, Sam is the same age as Jon, but TV-Jon is 16 during Season 1 - making TV-Sam slightly older than him.
- ↑ HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, Night's Watch - Samwell Tarly entry
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "The Pointy End"
- ↑ "Baelor"
- ↑ "Fire and Blood"
- ↑ "The North Remembers"
- ↑ "The Night Lands"
- ↑ "What is Dead May Never Die"
- ↑ "The Ghost of Harrenhal"
- ↑ "The Prince of Winterfell"
- ↑ "Valar Morghulis"
- ↑ "Valar Dohaeris"
- ↑ "Dark Wings, Dark Words"
- ↑ "Walk of Punishment"
- ↑ "And Now His Watch is Ended"
- ↑ "The Climb"
- ↑ "Second Sons"
- ↑ "The Rains of Castamere (episode)"
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 "Mhysa"
- ↑ "Two Swords"
- ↑ "Breaker of Chains"
- ↑ "Oathkeeper"
- ↑ "Mockingbird"
- ↑ "The Mountain and the Viper"
- ↑ "The Watchers on the Wall"
- ↑ "The Children"
- ↑ "The Wars to Come"
- ↑ "The House of Black and White"
- ↑ "High Sparrow (episode)"
- ↑ "Sons of the Harpy (episode)"
- ↑ "Kill the Boy"
- ↑ "The Gift (episode)"
- ↑ "The Dance of Dragons"
- ↑ "Mother's Mercy"
- ↑ "Oathbreaker"
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 38.2 "Blood of My Blood"
- ↑ "The Winds of Winter"
- ↑ "Dragonstone (episode)"
- ↑ "Stormborn"
Eddison Tollett (acting)
|Former Lords Commander:|
|Castles of the Watch:|
|Lord:||Lord Randyll Tarly||Heir:||Dickon Tarly|
|Seat:||Horn Hill||Lands:||The Reach|
|Title(s):||Lord of Horn Hill|
|Current members:||Melessa Tarly · Samwell Tarly · Talla Tarly|