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Why did benjen return to winterfell?

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A question I keep having any time I hear a theory about benjen knowing something important about Jon, is why was he at winterfell for the feast anyway? He is first ranger in the nights watch, having basically given up his family. I could believe they are more lenient these days, and would allow someone such as benjen to still have communication, but is it really as simple as that? Or do you think he had other motives for returning to winterfell at that time?

sorry if this has been discussed already, just had it in my head and wanted other opinions.

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With a Crown progress of that sort, it was expected that all of the lords and other important land owners/administrators that were in the vicinity, who probably didn't make it to court very often, to show up and give fealty to the Crown and also take the opportunity to plead any cases or propose new business to the Crown in person.

I assume Benjen was there to give a report to the Crown about the status and needs of the Watch and to plead for more men. The real question is why wasn't Mormont there himself? His absence would be seen as a slight to the Crown as they traveled much farther than he would have.

Story-wise, Benjen just served as a sounding board for a slightly drunk Jon to decide to join the Watch since he promptly disappeared and has not been heard from since. In this capacity he was better than Mormont would have been, but in "reality" the LC of the NW should have been there, especially if the Watch wanted favors from Robert.

Here's something I've been recently wondering. When did Benjen join the NW? From their interaction, Jon (and ostensibly the other children) seems to know him pretty well. Was his NW service fairly recent or does he get sent south a lot to do whatever he's supposed to be doing? As First Ranger, I'd think his duties would send him north more often than south, like say Yoren, for example.

Edited by Trefayne
errata

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He's First Ranger, which effectively makes him second in command.  Given that he is also the brother of Eddard, who is close to the King, he is a perfect envoy to send.  I don't think visiting family at Winterfell is a problem.  The reason for keeping Jon away from Winterfell was because he was brand new and quite young, so could be an adverse influence.  Benjen has been there for many years and is quite mature.

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As the above posters have said, the NW needed to have someone at Winterfell when Robert visited.

As to why it was Benjen and that the Stark kids knew their nuncle, my guess would be that Jeor Mormont felt uncomfortable visiting Winterfell after Jorah shamed the family.  The Starks have had a close relationship with the NW for centuries so it would not be uncommon for the Lord Commander send envoys to Winterfell from time to time.  Who better to send than the Lord's brother who could regale his young nephews with stories about the "valor" of the NW?

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15 hours ago, Wight_wolf said:

A question I keep having any time I hear a theory about benjen knowing something important about Jon, is why was he at winterfell for the feast anyway? He is first ranger in the nights watch, having basically given up his family. I could believe they are more lenient these days, and would allow someone such as benjen to still have communication, but is it really as simple as that? Or do you think he had other motives for returning to winterfell at that time?

sorry if this has been discussed already, just had it in my head and wanted other opinions.

He was suppose to get Robert to come to see the Wall.

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12 hours ago, PrinceHenryris said:

As to why it was Benjen and that the Stark kids knew their nuncle, my guess would be that Jeor Mormont felt uncomfortable visiting Winterfell after Jorah shamed the family.  The Starks have had a close relationship with the NW for centuries so it would not be uncommon for the Lord Commander send envoys to Winterfell from time to time.  Who better to send than the Lord's brother who could regale his young nephews with stories about the "valor" of the NW?

 

This all seems good and well for "day to day" business, but when the King arrives you swallow your pride, grit your teeth and get on with it. Ned didn't seem to me the type to hold family grudges, so I doubt he thought any less of Jeor Mormont because of the sins of Jorah Mormont. I'm sure he would have been more than hospitable with the LC of the NW, especially if Benjen was there too to grease things well. There is no reason Thorne or some other competent man couldn't hold things together for awhile.

Although, a thought just occurred to me. What if Jeor Mormont joined the NW to pay for the sin of Jorah running away from Ned's justice? How long ago was Jorah's flight from Westeros again? In that case I can see Jeor keeping close to the Wall, but even still, you'd have to have a pretty good excuse not to present yourself to your liege, especially when you want him to do you a favor.

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20 minutes ago, Trefayne said:

 

This all seems good and well for "day to day" business, but when the King arrives you swallow your pride, grit your teeth and get on with it. Ned didn't seem to me the type to hold family grudges, so I doubt he thought any less of Jeor Mormont because of the sins of Jorah Mormont. I'm sure he would have been more than hospitable with the LC of the NW, especially if Benjen was there too to grease things well. There is no reason Thorne or some other competent man couldn't hold things together for awhile.

Although, a thought just occurred to me. What if Jeor Mormont joined the NW to pay for the sin of Jorah running away from Ned's justice? How long ago was Jorah's flight from Westeros again? In that case I can see Jeor keeping close to the Wall, but even still, you'd have to have a pretty good excuse not to present yourself to your liege, especially when you want him to do you a favor.

 Your argument is sound, only  I'm not sure that Robert is actually LC Mormont's liege. Like the Night's Watch operates outside of and in concordance with the kingdom. At least in theory. Realpolitik certainly necessitates a level of deference to the Crown and the Lord of Winterfell to be sure, but I believe the NW is supposed to be completely autonomous. At least in theory. :-)

 

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13 hours ago, PrinceHenryris said:

As the above posters have said, the NW needed to have someone at Winterfell when Robert visited.

As to why it was Benjen and that the Stark kids knew their nuncle, my guess would be that Jeor Mormont felt uncomfortable visiting Winterfell after Jorah shamed the family.  The Starks have had a close relationship with the NW for centuries so it would not be uncommon for the Lord Commander send envoys to Winterfell from time to time.  Who better to send than the Lord's brother who could regale his young nephews with stories about the "valor" of the NW?

This and Robert was the one who knighted Jorah so Jorah's actions may cast a bit of shade on Robert's judgment. Best to avoid any overt reminders.

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37 minutes ago, Trefayne said:

Although, a thought just occurred to me. What if Jeor Mormont joined the NW to pay for the sin of Jorah running away from Ned's justice? How long ago was Jorah's flight from Westeros again?

Expressly afterwards. His whole lordship and marriage to Lynette was after the father had retired to Wall in his lifetime.

Edited by Jaak

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31 minutes ago, Jaak said:

Expressly afterwards. His whole lordship and marriage to Lynette was after the father had retired to Wall in his lifetime.

Indeed. In fact, Jeor joined so that Jorah could inherit land and title. 

Edited by kissdbyfire

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Thanks @Jaak and @kissdbyfire for clearing that up for me.

 

1 hour ago, Reekazoid said:

 Your argument is sound, only  I'm not sure that Robert is actually LC Mormont's liege. Like the Night's Watch operates outside of and in concordance with the kingdom. At least in theory. Realpolitik certainly necessitates a level of deference to the Crown and the Lord of Winterfell to be sure, but I believe the NW is supposed to be completely autonomous. At least in theory. :-)

 

They are (supposed to be) allowed to handle their own affairs, be able to refuse to call their banners in favor of any one house or cause other than their sworn mandate and choose their own LC without interference or influence from the rest of the realm, but they do depend on the realm for their logistic support and supply of men, meager as they are at the time of the story. If they were meant to be fully autonomous, they would be allowed to marry and sire children in order to keep the Watch full and the forts garrisoned, but they are expressly forbidden from this in order to make sure that they stay under the control of the Crown, even if they are out of the normal chain of command. They defend the Seven Kingdoms and the Seven Kingdoms are under the protection of the Crown.

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Winterfell was hosting the King of Westeros and was trying to show respect to Robert.  The Starks have a closer relationship with the Night's Watch than other kingdoms.  Benjen was the second-highest ranking member of the NW as well as being a senior member of the Stark family with a personal relationship with Robert and having served as the Stark in Wintefell during the rebellion.  His presence during Robert's visit to Winterfell is not a mystery. 

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16 hours ago, Trefayne said:

They are (supposed to be) allowed to handle their own affairs, be able to refuse to call their banners in favor of any one house or cause other than their sworn mandate and choose their own LC without interference or influence from the rest of the realm, but they do depend on the realm for their logistic support and supply of men, meager as they are at the time of the story. If they were meant to be fully autonomous, they would be allowed to marry and sire children in order to keep the Watch full and the forts garrisoned, but they are expressly forbidden from this in order to make sure that they stay under the control of the Crown, even if they are out of the normal chain of command. They defend the Seven Kingdoms and the Seven Kingdoms are under the protection of the Crown.

But are the NW under control of the Crown? When the NW was founded, there wasn't such a concept as 'the Crown' - there were hundreds of crowns of which the NW was independent. Later in history there were seven crowns - of which the NW was independent. Surely, Aegon reducing that number to one doesn't alter the fundamental fact - that the NW is independent of what is now the Crown?

Stannis recognized this relationship when he refrained from interfering in the election and so on. Even though the NW does get men from the Crown, they don't ALL come from the Crown (some volunteer, some are sent by other Lords etc), so all the support the NW receives from the Realm cannot be laid at the door of the Crown. Winterfell in particular has long been a 'friend to the Watch' regardless of whatever the IT does - anyway, I'm going off-topic a bit.....

So... Benjen - yes, Benjen. I can't really see any better emissary from the NW to see Robert. The LC ought to stay at his post - it's one thing going forward as with the Great Ranging, but going backward from the defensive line (Wall) probably would look bad. Sending the First Ranger satisfies the twin demands of the LC staying at his post and sending the king a high-ranking representative of the Watch. Also Benjen has a direct link to Robert, as they would have known each other in youth (even if only briefly at Harrenhal), and as the younger brother of the Lord of Winterfell.... yeah, no-one better to send really.

 

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9 minutes ago, Rufus Snow said:

But are the NW under control of the Crown? When the NW was founded, there wasn't such a concept as 'the Crown' - there were hundreds of crowns of which the NW was independent. Later in history there were seven crowns - of which the NW was independent. Surely, Aegon reducing that number to one doesn't alter the fundamental fact - that the NW is independent of what is now the Crown?

 

I knew someone would bring this up. In the beginning the reason for self rule was clear since war was more probable and frequent, but they were still dependent on the realms for new men to fill the ranks. But, institutions tend to morph and change over the years, even while trying to keep their core principles in mind. By the time of the story, the Watch was under Crown jurisdiction in all but formal document.

 

14 minutes ago, Rufus Snow said:

Stannis recognized this relationship when he refrained from interfering in the election and so on. Even though the NW does get men from the Crown, they don't ALL come from the Crown (some volunteer, some are sent by other Lords etc), so all the support the NW receives from the Realm cannot be laid at the door of the Crown. Winterfell in particular has long been a 'friend to the Watch' regardless of whatever the IT does - anyway, I'm going off-topic a bit.....

 

And Tywin was actively and almost openly subverting it when he didn't refrain. Again, at the time of the story, the Crown has jurisdiction over all Seven Kingdoms, so any men given to the Watch by a vassal could, in theory, be rerouted to Crown use at any time before their vows are taken.

 

19 minutes ago, Rufus Snow said:

So... Benjen - yes, Benjen. I can't really see any better emissary from the NW to see Robert. The LC ought to stay at his post - it's one thing going forward as with the Great Ranging, but going backward from the defensive line (Wall) probably would look bad. Sending the First Ranger satisfies the twin demands of the LC staying at his post and sending the king a high-ranking representative of the Watch. Also Benjen has a direct link to Robert, as they would have known each other in youth (even if only briefly at Harrenhal), and as the younger brother of the Lord of Winterfell.... yeah, no-one better to send really.

 

I've never stated that Benjen shouldn't be there. I just said that Mormont should.

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On 11/18/2018 at 12:23 AM, Wight_wolf said:

A question I keep having any time I hear a theory about benjen knowing something important about Jon, is why was he at winterfell for the feast anyway? He is first ranger in the nights watch, having basically given up his family. I could believe they are more lenient these days, and would allow someone such as benjen to still have communication, but is it really as simple as that? Or do you think he had other motives for returning to winterfell at that time?

sorry if this has been discussed already, just had it in my head and wanted other opinions.

@Wight_wolf

Benjen's presence at Winterfell for the feast is explained in AGOT: Catelyn I.

After informing Ned that Jon was dead, and that Robert was riding to Winterfell to seek him out, Catelyn tells Ned that they should send word to Benjen on the Wall. Ned agrees that Benjen will want to be there, and says he will tell Maester Lewin to send his swiftest bird.

Quote

"Would that I could," Catelyn said. "The letter had other tidings. The king is riding to Winterfell to seek you out."

It took Ned a moment to comprehend her words, but when the understanding came, the darkness left his eyes. "Robert is coming here?" When she nodded, a smile broke across his face.

Catelyn wished she could share his joy. But she had heard the talk in the yards; a direwolf dead in the snow, a broken antler in its throat. Dread coiled within her like a snake, but she forced herself to smile at this man she loved, this man who put no faith in signs. "I knew that would please you," she said. "We should send word to your brother on the Wall."

"Yes, of course," he agreed. "Ben will want to be here. I shall tell Maester Luwin to send his swiftest bird." Ned rose and pulled her to her feet. "Damnation, how many years has it been? And he gives us no more notice than this? How many in his party, did the message say?"


AGOT: Catelyn I

So Benjen was invited to attend by Lord Eddard Stark, at the suggestion of Catelyn.

As for the Night's Watch vows, they might restrict a sworn brother from benefiting or benefiting from the house of their birth, but they don't restrict the Night's Watch and Lord Commander from using them, and their ties to the house of their birth, to the benefit of the Night's Watch.

Benjen might have renounced any claim to a Stark inheritance, but he was still the little brother of the Lord of Winterfell, the most powerful lord in the pro-Night's Watch North, and one of the most powerful lords in all of Westeros. He also happened to be the best friend of the King of Westeros.

And in the very first lines of the Epilogue to AGOT, we are introduced to Ser Waymar Royce, who is leading a ranging over two much more experienced rangers, despite having only been in the NW for half a year.

The Night's Watch we are introduced to needs all the help it can get, and is not like to pass up an opportunity to get the Night's Watch's needs into the ear of both the Lord of Winterfell and King of Westeros.

Benjen might have thought it important to impress on Jon that he wouldn't be handed anything just for being the son of a Lord Stark, but that wasn't necessarily true, and might have been more for Jon's own benefit.

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On 11/18/2018 at 7:47 AM, Trefayne said:

I assume Benjen was there to give a report to the Crown about the status and needs of the Watch and to plead for more men. The real question is why wasn't Mormont there himself? His absence would be seen as a slight to the Crown as they traveled much farther than he would have.

Story-wise, Benjen just served as a sounding board for a slightly drunk Jon to decide to join the Watch since he promptly disappeared and has not been heard from since. In this capacity he was better than Mormont would have been, but in "reality" the LC of the NW should have been there, especially if the Watch wanted favors from Robert.

3

Tbh to me, it seems more logical in sending Benjen rather than LC Mormont (from the nights watch point of view). Benjen is First Ranger which is the 2nd highest military rank in the night's watch (before LC), and he is a stark, son of a great lord and brother to the warden of the north who is best friends with the king of all Westeros. Plus Robert probably already knows Benjen from the times when Lyanna was betrothed to Robert. 

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3 minutes ago, The Young Maester said:

Tbh to me, it seems more logical in sending Benjen rather than LC Mormont (from the nights watch point of view). Benjen is First Ranger which is the 2nd highest military rank in the night's watch (before LC), and he is a stark, son of a great lord and brother to the warden of the north who is best friends with the king of all Westeros. Plus Robert probably already knows Benjen from the times when Lyanna was betrothed to Robert. 

 

I'm not going to belabor the point any longer beyond this since it's a fantasy tale, not an historical tale, but this wasn't a social visit, it was a state visit. In "reality" every lord and temporal vassal in the north would have been there to meet the King and discuss business.

Catelyn desiring to alert Benjen to invite him down is a patently ridiculous notion as he would have already known. The entire kingdom would have already known. I mean really, the center of government is going to be away from the seat of power (remember, no Hand at the time) for months on end and you don't think the rest of the kingdom knows?

"Hey, where's the King?"

"I don't know. He said he was going to the privy and I haven't seen him in three weeks."

Catelyn even says later in that chapter, "Where the king goes, the realm follows". Ned was upset because he probably only had about three weeks to a month prepare for a royal visit of over a hundred people, which in a medieval timeframe would be like a couple of days for us.

Another weird point is that the letter containing the information of the visit was also the one that announced the death of the current Hand. Wouldn't the kingdom have been alerted to the news already? Robert apparently kept this secret since he was already on the road by the time he sent Ned word. Why? There was no foul play suspected and a head of state had just died. It was written for dramatic effect, not realism, and is good that way, but it will fall apart on detailed analysis.

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