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Governance of The Gift


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#1 Ordos

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 12:57 AM

The Nights Watch as we know do not play a role in the politics of the rest of the rest of Westeros. And while the Crows live on their own set of rules, they have while tiny, a small non-crow population living in the Gift (is Moletown the only settlement?). These people of course are needed to meet the food needs of the Nights Watch (at least when it's not winter).

Governance of the Gift is interesting in the sense that it is not a feudal society with shifting borders but neither is it a landless hunter-gatherer society like the wildlings. The Lord Commander of the Nights watch(the ruler of the Gift) does not need to negotiate land boundaries for his bannermen or cousins nor is there any alliances sealed in Marriages. "You get this castle while you control this hamlet".

So the society of the Gift I find interesting. I would say the Gift is a kind of military junta as there is an absence of nobles and there is no democracy either. Gift residents who are non-crows are given laws by whom? Are they governed by Winterfell and indirectly to the Iron Throne? Do they pay taxes to Winterfell and Kings Landing? Does the Lord Commander need to occasionally sit on a throne and listen to petitions from small folk like other lords?

I don't think they pay taxes or have laws enforced on the rest of Westeros as the Nights Watch have their own laws (Which others enforce on them when there is desertion) and the rest of the realm should contribute to the Watch not the other way around.

#2 BreastplateWithNipples

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 01:27 AM

Of course it's still a feudal society: Lords ruling over peasants, and high lords ruling over the lords. Just that in this case the lords do not get their positions by inheritance or swearing fealty but by appointment through the Lord Commander.

THe peasants' obligations towards their nights watch "administrators" or bailiffs would be the same as those towards any feudal lord in the rest of the north... a fixed share of the harvest, a set amount of labor duty and when required also militia duty.

This would be very similar to the way the knightly holy orders of the Templars, the Teutonic Knights or the Livonian Sword Brothers administered their lands in the real middle ages. The Teutonic Knights may be the most famous example - they conquered a big part of the (today) Polish Baltic coast and ruled over it for 100s of years. They also were an order of knights sworn to celibacy and likely the inspiration for GRRM's night's watch. Needless to say they ran their lands just like any feudal lord would.

#3 Ordos

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 02:12 AM

Feudalism is often associated with shifting boundaries of land through war or exchanges in the noble families. The Gift is a constant fixed area unlike say the borders of Dorne, the Stormlands and the Reach.

#4 BreastplateWithNipples

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 03:34 AM

That is indeed a hallmark of medieval history in our time, but it doesn't really have something to do with feudalism. The shifting borders in the south were the result of wars, not of inheritances. Also, for all it's worth, the rest of Westeros has been awfully static over 100s of years despite being feudal.

I understand "feudal" to mean, a system of government where governance of the land relies on personal relationships between the low, middle and high lords of the land, and not on nation-wide established impersonal institutions like the police, the courts, the civil service or the IRS who only take orders from the top lord and run the land without much input from regional authorities.

So in that sense, if the Night's Watch relies on regional bailiffs to run the Gift, and if those bailiffs (sworn brothers or not) can act like lords within their districts, collecting taxes and handing out justice and generally serving for a long time, then it's still a feudal organization.

I know, though, that "Feudalism" is one of the most contested terms among social scientists, and it means something different for everyone. /wink.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=';)' />

Edited by BreastplateWithNipples, 17 April 2013 - 03:34 AM.


#5 Septon Meribald

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 12:24 PM

So the society of the Gift I find interesting. I would say the Gift is a kind of military junta as there is an absence of nobles and there is no democracy either. Gift residents who are non-crows are given laws by whom? Are they governed by Winterfell and indirectly to the Iron Throne? Do they pay taxes to Winterfell and Kings Landing? Does the Lord Commander need to occasionally sit on a throne and listen to petitions from small folk like other lords?

I don't think they pay taxes or have laws enforced on the rest of Westeros as the Nights Watch have their own laws (Which others enforce on them when there is desertion) and the rest of the realm should contribute to the Watch not the other way around.


The people in the Gift specifically don't pay taxes to anyone but the Night's Watch. That is the entirety of it's purpose. It is a source for the necessities of the Watch. However it's dwindling population has left the watch to rely on donations from the Iron Throne and other lords more and more over the years.

#6 Ordos

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:02 PM

I wonder. Since the Gift is neutral territory and is governed by its own laws...

Usually the Nights Watch go around recruiting people from dungeons across Westeros or a merciful Lord offers a person who has committed a crime to take the black. But what if the following were to happen: a fugitive is on the run and crosses the Gift border and asks for sanctuary.

The obvious thing that will happen is that he will have to take the Black. BUT theoretically the Nights Watch does not have to conscript him. They will as obviously the Wall needs as many crows as possible, but in theory the Lord Commander could put the fugitive in a dungeon and later release him to become a citizen of the Gift. I emphasize: IN THEORY.

#7 Wynter Manderly

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 07:38 AM

i don't think the gift is neutral territory in regards to the laws, i mean if the IT creates a law, it will still be applicable to the gift and NW. hence if you have broken a law, it still will be the same in the gift.

well as to your theoretical case, if the LC will/can later release him, then it means it might not be that big of a crime, so he could probably do so in other lordships. he doesn't have to do it in NW. i think the only difference with the NW is that death sentence is commutable to life service to the NW (actually even "lesser" sentences, such as castration, etc). but only if you join the NW. the 'citizens' of the gift are not exempt from the laws.

#8 Ordos

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 11:21 PM

The NW and the Gift is neutral territory in regards to laws because if asked who the rightful king is when there is more than one claim or when one region (North or Iron islands) declares independence who makes the law under those circumstances they then cannot say as they cannot take sides, so they need the flexibility to live by their own laws.

Edited by Ordos, 02 May 2013 - 11:22 PM.


#9 Ordos

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 11:25 PM

Forgot to mention the Night's Watch and the Wall existed before the Iron throne did. I don't think the circumstances regarding their laws changed after Aegon's conquest. The Gift I think is a Hong Kong for the North. Independent in all but name.