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Jackanapes at the Wall: A Retrospective


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#1 butterbumps!

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:44 PM

Poor Jon. As though he doesn't have enough to worry about, what with the impending Winter, instability of the North and dwindling food provisions, his tenure as Lord Commander is bedraggled with managing the expectations of a veritable parade of fools, who seem to go out of their way to outdo each other's idiocy for the sole purpose of giving Jon ulcers. Looking at this closely in the reread project, they're starting to give me ulcers at the sheer asininity they impose on everyone around them. I thought a tirade on these characters would be inappropriate for that thread, so I'm redirecting my complaints here. I am of the opinion that given their quality of character and reasons for being "unpleasant," that Jon is absolutely justified in not taking these people seriously.

Alliser "Lifetime achievement winner in the field of petty excellence" Thorne: This is a fully grown man who enjoys beating up and berating boys, for gods sake. I just find Thorne to be an inconceivable jerk. That he's such a petty jerk also strikes me as monstrously idiotic politically, as these boys will obviously become men, and as they rise through the NW, they will have exorbitant motivation to not support Thorne in any of his future goals. Was the fact he had so few votes for LC truly surprising to him? I find him somewhat unrealistic in the unfettered pleasure he takes at bullying people he has no chance of escaping from, being as how they are all sworn to the same life-long obligation together. But the coup de grace is the threat he makes to Jon after being appointed to a ranging: "The ones the Others kill don't stay dead...and they remember. I'm coming back, Lord Snow." Wow. A guy who gleefully relishes the chance to torment you from beyond the grave is not someone whose opinion I'd bother investing in.

Janos "No one is actually this stupid" Slynt: Ok, so at least this one has a happy ending. As a refresher, Slynt betrayed Ned back in KL and then pushed him down at the beheading. In SoS, he was also responsible for trying to get Jon executed for having "deserted" the Watch by going over to the Wildlings. Slynt's culminating achievement was refusing Jon's appointment as commander of Greyguard (seriously- he refused to command a castle). He continued to refuse the promotion through the next day, at which point Jon made him a foot shorter. Granted, it was a great cathartic moment, but honestly, Slynt's stupidity strains credulity. I mean, what did he expect would happen, especially given the fact that he had already underestimated Tyrion and got himself sacked 3 books earlier?

Bowen "I haven't a reasonable bone in my body" Marsh: I know that this one is fairly controversial, and many critics believe that Jon ought to have made more of an effort to explain himself to Bowen. But I'll be honest, Jon addresses Bowen's concerns in nearly every chapter of DwD, often in extended conversations. I don't believe that Jon could be any plainer about the fact that the Wildlings will rise as wights and create more havoc unless they are rescued and allowed south of the Wall. I know, I know, Bowen spent his life believing the Wildlings are the "big bads" that needed to be contained, and what Jon is doing is heresy. But seriously-- Bowen's belief in the Willdings as the enemy is against the principles of the Watch (so Jon has institutional intent on his side), and further, Jon does everything he can to explain his rationale short of holding "Adjustment to Wildlings Re-education camps" and handing out "Coping with Change" instructional pamphlets. I really don't think that Jon can take the blame on this matter (and I'm referring to everything prior to his last chapter). Jon does frequently entertain Bowen's concerns, but Bowen does not attempt to be useful, which I find problematic on Bowen's part, not Jon's. When Jon talks through the Hardome evacuation plan, Bowen's advice is to not go at all, rather than accept that it will be happening and suggest alternate ideas he finds more palatable. He also shows obvious disdain for Satin's having been a prostitute, which underscores his small and stodgy persona.

Septon "the drunken Teletubby" Cellador: Cellador isn't quite as obnoxious as some of the other men, but he's outstanding at being useless. Frequently hungover, drunk, or about to get drunk, his token "advice" is "I think you're making a huge mistake so I'll pray to the Seven to show you the error of your ways." I also find his contempt for Satin-- the "painted catamite"-- quite distasteful.

Othell "Borroq will make a pig army and kill us all" Yarwyck: Yarwyck isn't as quarrelsome as Bowen, but he's half a step up from being a nipple on a breastplate none-the-less. Jon considers him "unimaginative," which is odd, considering that he dreamed up the idea that Borroq might be making his own "pig army" that could ostensibly storm the Wall and infiltrate the Watch. He is also purposely dense and ungrateful in that he keeps asking Jon for more builders, but rejects Jon's offers to send able-bodied Wildlings and Wun Wun (who would be extremely efficient at the task). In short, I think Jon's fellow Watchmen have been going out their their ways to be disagreeable and impossible to deal with.

Melisandre "Perhaps if I keep creeping out Jon he'll trust me" of Asshai: What a joke. Her entire POV chapter was consumed by various machinations designed to encourage Jon's trust of her. She completely misunderstands Jon, mistakenly assuming he is just like Stannis (in the shadow of brothers he does not truly love), and that, like Stannis, he's just naturally mistrustful and is bound to come around at some point. No, Mel, he just doesn't trust you. She has this idea that if she keeps performing fancy tricks, speaking cryptically and offering prophesies when it's too late to actually do anything about it, that somehow Jon will see the light and recognize her awesomeness. She even goes so far to blatantly ask to have sexual relations with him so that they can make their tremendous powers "one," lol. The funny thing is, she is obsessed with making Jon realize that she has power, as she thinks he's just a non-believer. The truth of the matter is that Jon doesn't doubt her powers at all, he just wants nothing to do with her: "This was not a woman he wanted to be indebted to." I 100% disagree with the notion that Jon should be giving her more credence, or working with her in any way. As though Jon doesn't have enough to deal with, he has to sidestep these ridiculously creepy stalker-like advances of this woman, who, by all accounts, is technically a succubus. Her one redeeming quality is sparing Mance Rayder from the fires, which should be noted, but god only knows what kind of twisted unpleasantness she's got planned for the poor guy.

Godry "I killed a fleeing giant by stabbing him in the back and now I think I'm a badass" Giantslayer: Godry is just a grade-A jackanapes. He keeps challenging Jon to these stupid duels that really serve no purpose, except to remind us repeatedly that he's killed a (fleeing) giant. More troublesome is the fact that he gleefully led "Mance Rayder" to his death holding a rope that was tied around Mance's neck, dragging him. (I realize that "Mance" was actually Rattleshirt, but the point stands that he was happy to believe he was leading Mance to burn). Additionally, he shows nothing but disdain for other religions.

Ser Patrek "I can't believe someone is this much of a jerk" of King's Mountain: This "Southron Fool" extraordinaire could not be more hamfisted or rude. Upon introducing himself to Jon, he asked: "Should the Others turn up, do you plan to offer them hospitality as well?" Seriously? Talk about someone too big for their britches. He also prances around Castle Black looking to get into pointless fights with the other men, and blows a gasket when Alys chooses someone else to marry. He also makes a complete fool of himself to Val: "Up up with you know, ser kneeler." I suppose the bright side of this is that he was hoisted by his own petard in the end, earning himself quite the Darwin award.

Axell "I'll break Val like a horse" Florent: Axell is just a reprehensible human being. First, he's the "Queen's Hand," which is a completely fabricated position that has no meaning. Secondly, he's beyond sexist. The way he speaks of Val-- calling her a "princess" fit for him to wed and continuously referring to her has a "wench" that he could command brought to the Hall naked for inspection says a lot about his character. He treats Jon poorly, perpetually attempting to undermine Jon's authority with his own (nonexistent) position of importance, and levels crass accusations toward Jon's alleged sexual relations with Val. He oversteps the boundaries of both his (nonexistent) position, as well as his role as a guest of the NW. And to add to his many charms, he's also a religious fanatic. This is not a guy who deserves one iota of respect, and he should be grateful that Jon hasn't kicked his ass yet.

Selyse "I'm an even less charming version of Aerys" Baratheon: I have very little patience for religious fanaticism. I'm even less enthusiastic about religious intolerance. Even further, I have no respect whatsoever for people who are rude, snotty and ungrateful. Selyse is all of these things, and additionally, completely clueless. I would feel sorry for Selyse if she weren't such a raging "culturist" who can't possibly deign to appreciate anyone who is not a Southron Fool like herself. Upon reaching Castle Black, she assumes Jon is a stableboy and demands to be taken to the LC. She talks a big talk about how all the Wildlings had better start kneeling for her husband and the Red God, and her contempt for everyone is not even thinly veiled-- it's a neon sign of hate and disgust. Most heartbreaking of all, she is a complete racist about Wun Wun, whom Leathers (a Wildling now sworn to the Watch), taught Common Tongue courtesies and to kneel, as a gesture of respect to the customs of this guest. She responds with horror and outrage, and her Southron Fool knights all start baring steel to put the poor giant down. As though this isn't enough to induce dyspepsia, she takes it upon herself to crown a new King Beyond the Wall, one Gerrick Kingsblood, based on the fact that one of his ancestors had been a king back in the day. No matter how many times Jon explains that the Wildlings don't follow hereditary titles (or why it is not a good idea to burn the old gods), Selyse insists she knows better because of her (incredibly unfounded) sense of superiority and wisdom. I find this maddening.

In sum, I have a lot of trouble criticizing any of Jon's actions in DwD as it pertains to garnering support from these individuals. I'm going to go so far in saying that I respect Jon more for not further molly-coddling these individuals and taking their points of view seriously, because, in a nutshell, these people are absolutely useless and don't deserve to be factored in.

Edited by butterbumps!, 15 August 2012 - 06:48 AM.


#2 Ser Hippie

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:04 PM

The Old Pomegranate will have his vengeance. In this life or the next.

#3 danm_999

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:05 PM

It's kind of hilarious some of the shenanigans going on with these characters.

Jon tells Selyse and Patreck repeatedly the Wildling succession customs; Val is not a princess, you cannot inherit shit from her. This is ignored. He mentions once the custom that men steal women in Wildling culture. Apparently this lights some sort of fire in Selyse and Ser Patrek, motivating them to hatch the Machiavellian masterpiece of sneaking past a giant. I like to imagine Ser Patrek tries to crab walk past for extra effect.

Bowen Marsh is another good one. He has the great idea that they should just seal all the tunnels to make themselves feel better. This is in spite of the fact that even at full strength the Wildlings failed to break through the tunnels, that they have dozens of rangers still beyond the Wall scouting and that all that plan does is deny the Night's Watch ease of access from the South. Hard to believe he wasn't able to get more people interested in his conspiracy.

Axell Florent's a laugh. His pitch to Jon basically revolves around the notion they become eskimo brothers. I had to put the book down after that one, because I was laughing at the idea someone could so badly misjudge what would make Jon open up.

#4 butterbumps!

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:16 PM

The Old Pomegranate will have his vengeance. In this life or the next.


Wait Wait. Didn't Bowen "get his vengeance" when he stabbed Jon in the stomach? If I add Lyle Crakehall to the list of reprehensibles, would that suit you better?

#5 Ser Hippie

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:21 PM

I meant on you, insulting him like this. I mean, with Bowen's charm, winning personality and strategic prowess, he's exactly the man the Watch needs leading it during the apocalypse*




*Assuming you want the Others to win and/or are a Lyle Crakehall fan.

#6 Naathi Prince

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:30 PM

Wait Wait. Didn't Bowen "get his vengeance" when he stabbed Jon in the stomach? If I add Lyle Crakehall to the list of reprehensibles, would that suit you better?

people like to hate on Lyle Crakehall? What? Strongboar is a solid guy.

Anyway, the OP is spot on. The Old Bear put it best when he described most of the men of the Night's Watch as useless. Of the men the NW has at the start of the series, the only worthwhile seem to be the Old Bear, Ben Stark, Qhorin, Jeremy Rykker, Dolorous Edd, Thoren Smallwood, Jarmun Buckwell, and Denys Mallister. The other men are either total idiots or illiterate. The other leaders under Jon seem to be the last few educated men there. They all happen to be idiots.

#7 Jolene Brown

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:38 PM

Excuse me, but when listing the worthwhile men of the NW, I think you left out my boyfriend Cotter Pyke. Well, he's not my boyfriend, I just really like him for no particular reason.

I think the main issue is that all the competent NW men died, on various useless-seeming missions. I know that they are supposedly "gathering intelligence," but honestly, I never really saw what any of the rangings actually accomplished, especially the disastrous Fist of the First Men ranging. Blasphemy, I know.

I think GRRM is setting things up for Robin Ryger and Desmond Grell to play an important role at the Wall in TWOW. Maybe.

#8 Foxhound

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:39 PM

When you think about it you should expect both groups (the Night Watch and the "Southron Fools") to be full of morons. The Night's Watch is barely competent at the beginning of the series (I'd argue it was already pretty useless and had been for a while) with apparently only a few dozen actual semi-capable individuals. Add in a few battles that decimated everyone important and the fact that Jon had to thin out Castle Black by sending the remaining useful people to re-garrison other castles, it's no surprise he's surrounded by idiots. As for the Queen's Men, they're the guys that Stannis, while being heavily outnumbered and desperate for any more men, wants as far away from him as possible. Jon probably listened to them more than they actually deserved, since their very presence is proof they're not important people.

#9 Naathi Prince

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:41 PM

Excuse me, but when listing the worthwhile men of the NW, I think you left out my boyfriend Cotter Pyke. Well, he's not my boyfriend, I just really like him for no particular reason.

I think the main issue is that all the competent NW men died, on various useless-seeming missions. I know that they are supposedly "gathering intelligence," but honestly, I never really saw what any of the rangings actually accomplished, especially the disastrous Fist of the First Men ranging. Blasphemy, I know.

I think GRRM is setting things up for Robin Ryger and Desmond Grell to play an important role at the Wall in TWOW. Maybe.

he's illiterate and entirely uncouth. its amazing he rose that high. The idea of the watch getting those two men is kind of intriguing. Especially if they know where Brynden Tully is going. It would also seem that Jon would have a ready made First Steward and Master at Arms.

#10 Jolene Brown

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:42 PM

OMG!!!!! Cotter Pyke is awesome, take that back. I love his pithy raven telegrams to Jon. They're like poetry.

#11 Naathi Prince

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:43 PM

OMG!!!!! Cotter Pyke is awesome, take that back. I love his pithy raven telegrams to Jon. They're like poetry.

I'm not questioning Cotter Pyke's entertainment value or even his awesome factor, merely his leadership quotient.

#12 butterbumps!

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:44 PM

Excuse me, but when listing the worthwhile men of the NW, I think you left out my boyfriend Cotter Pyke. Well, he's not my boyfriend, I just really like him for no particular reason.


I left out Cotter Pyke because I think he's actually competent, respects Jon's authority, and not an idiot (I was really only trying to highlight the morons who make Jon's life impossible). Also in his favor, Pyke wrote some very strongly worded letters to Jon detailing precisely what he thought of Selyse and her retinue. The only crime here is the fact that Martin chose not to show us what was actually said, as I get the sense they were absolutely hilarious.

#13 Jolene Brown

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:44 PM

Then why did Jon pick him for the important mission to Hardhome?

#14 Jolene Brown

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:45 PM

I left out Cotter Pyke because I think he's actually competent, respects Jon's authority, and not an idiot (I was really only trying to highlight the morons who make Jon's life impossible). Also in his favor, Pyke wrote some very strongly worded letters to Jon detailing precisely what he thought of Selyse and her retinue. The only crime here is the fact that Martin chose not to show us what was actually said, as I get the sense they were absolutely hilarious.


I wasn't talking about your post, I was talking about Naathi Prince's, where he left out Cotter from the men of the NW who were actually worthwhile.

#15 butterbumps!

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:47 PM

I wasn't talking about your post, I was talking about Naathi Prince's, where he left out Cotter from the men of the NW who were actually worthwhile.


Oh, lol. I thought you were being sarcastic, sorry. I was all prepared to write a really spirited defense of the guy.

#16 Naathi Prince

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:48 PM

Then why did Jon pick him for the important mission to Hardhome?

because he is Ironborn. They live on ships.

#17 LordBloodraven

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:48 PM

The Watch lost too many good men: Thoren Smallwood, Jarman Buckwell, Benjen Stark, Qhorin Half-Hand and it seems the "followers" are left leading the Wall through the greatest threat it faced since the Age of Heroes. All those guys that you listed are either newcomers or stewards/builders who have gone once or twice beyond the Wall.

What I blame Jon for is not putting them aside and picking up men with perspective. Bowen has been whining all through ADWD and when he whines, Yarwyck follows. These guys were ready to elect Janos just to please Tywin Lannister, it says a lot about them. So my take is Jon should have picked men like Ulmer of the Kingswood to advise him and share with them his plans. The Watch is depleted but I'm sure he could have found more useful men than those guys.

ETA: Let's not even talk about Selyse and her ducklings. Attacking a giant, naming a nobody as king beyond the wall (and the funniest part is marrying Gerrick's daughters to Axelle and alii), they haven't been useful to the NW and I doubt they will ever be. Jon listens to Selyse just because he's Stannis's wife. You need a Cotter Pyke to sort out those people.

Edited by LordBloodraven, 14 August 2012 - 10:54 PM.


#18 LordBloodraven

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:50 PM

he's illiterate and entirely uncouth. its amazing he rose that high. The idea of the watch getting those two men is kind of intriguing. Especially if they know where Brynden Tully is going. It would also seem that Jon would have a ready made First Steward and Master at Arms.


Pyke is competent. Rough, blunt but competent

#19 Naathi Prince

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:51 PM

Pyke is competent. Rough, blunt but competent

he's useful, for some things. Unlike the others I listed, he could never be Lord Commander.

#20 Foxhound

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:54 PM

The Watch lost too many good men: Thoren Smallwood, Jarman Buckwell, Benjen Stark, Qhorin Half-Hand and it seems the "followers" are left leading the Wall through the greatest threat it faced since the Age of Heroes. All those guys that you listed are either newcomers or stewards/builders who have gone once or twice beyond the Wall.

What I blame Jon for is not putting them aside and picking up men with perspective. Bowen has been whining all through ADWD and when he whines, Yarwyck follows. These guys were ready to elect Janos just to please Tywin Lannister, it says a lot about them. So my take is Jon should have picked men like Ulmer of the Kingswood to advise him and share with them his plans. The Watch is depleted but I'm sure he could have found more useful men than those guys


Could he? Ulmer never shows any impressive intelligent or insight (though that still makes him better than Marsh), and Marsh is the chief steward, in charge of things like the food supply. At the very least you're going to need someone literate, a quality in short supply.

Edited by Foxhound, 14 August 2012 - 10:54 PM.