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Syl of Syl

Why did Benjen take the black?

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This is one of those little mysteries that I've always been curious about and I know there are a lot of ideas out there, but I've never been satisfied by the idea that it is somehow linked to Lyanna and Rhaegar. The idea that Benjen is not the heir anymore so taking the black is a good idea is also dissatisfying. I think I've got a better idea that I don't think I've seen anywhere.

I recall that Ned at one point tells young Bran early in GoT that he will one day hold a keep for his brother, Robb. Ned's expectations for Bran clearly clash with any idea that he would support his own brother joining the watch. If it is his expectation for his second son, it seems likely that he would have had the same expectation of his younger brother years earlier. What I'm thinking is that Benjen didn't join the Night's Watch out of duty or guilt, but to avoid duty. I'm thinking Benjen joined to avoid a marriage match that Ned desired to make.

We know that Brandon and Lyanna were both betrothed to nobles from Southern houses. It would have been prudent for Rickard to also betroth Eddard to one of his own bannermen. After the war is over, Ned comes home with only one sibling left and married to his brother's betrothed. Perhaps he had a marriage contract of his own that he had to break, and Benjen was supposed to be his replacement.

My other option that I was thinking about was a bit simpler. The houses of the North suffered some bad loses. One of the worst was perhaps Lord Willam Dustin who died at the Tower of Joy. Ned may have felt some guilt over this. Combine this with what we've seen of his widow and there's a hole there in Barrowton where it might have been prudent for Ned to patch up this relationship. One way that he could have done something at the time would have been to marry Benjen to Barbrey Dustin. Perhaps this would have helped to smooth relations with one of the three or four most prominent houses of the North.

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34 minutes ago, Syl of Syl said:

We know that Brandon and Lyanna were both betrothed to nobles from Southern houses.

I stopped reading here ... no, we don't know this.  where, in the books, is this so said?

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Benjen joined the Nights Watch after Robb was born, (and even Jon) so technically he was back to being third in line for Lord of Winterfell.

The Nights Watch is still respected by the Northern houses (compared to everywhere else) and we know that other people joined the Nights Watch voluntarily as they were further down the line of succession, as opposed to being sent there as punishment. So I don't think it's overly suss that Benjen would join.

However I think it's curious that we are not (yet) given an explicit reason for why he joined, but I think we might still.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Yaya said:

I stopped reading here ... no, we don't know this.  where, in the books, is this so said?

Lyanna was engaged to Lord Robert Baratheon. Brandon to Cat Tully. 

Quote

"Brandon had been twenty when he died, strangled by order of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen only a few short days before he was to wed Catelyn Tully of Riverrun. "

AGOT Eddard 1

Quote

 

Quote

"Lyanna had only been sixteen, a child-woman of surpassing loveliness. Ned had loved her with all his heart. Robert had loved her even more. She was to have been his bride."

AGOT Eddard 1

 

Edited by Ser Uncle P

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It could still be tied to Harrenhal, but in a much simpler way. There was a brother of the NW recruiting there, and they may have piqued Benjen’s interest. Once the war was over and he was able to join, he did? :dunno:

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Regarding Ned's words to Bran, it was Ned's plan to re-populate the New Gift with Northmen. The idea was they would help support the Watch, yet have fealty to Winterfell.  We don't know if Ned's plan came from Rickard, or if Benjen and Ned discussed it (ever). Perhaps Ned was waiting for Benjen to become LC of the Watch before beginning discussions? Or Ned was going to take it up with Jeor?

Either way, in order to have smallfolk farm that land, they would have required petty lords and men-at-arms to provide security from Wildling raids, which had previously driven the smallfolk off the land. This could have meant minor holdings for many second sons throughout the North, including the likes of Brandon.

OR

Ned could have just assumed that Bran would one day marry the daughter of a Northern lord, becoming Robb's bannerman.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Syl of Syl said:

Ned's expectations for Bran clearly clash with any idea that he would support his own brother joining the watch. If it is his expectation for his second son, it seems likely that he would have had the same expectation of his younger brother years earlier.

Most likely, as the third son of Lord, Benjen always thought, that there will be no place for him at Winterfell, when he will grow up. What was his options? Brandon was going to give one of Northern keeps to Ned, and then there's also Ned's children, and Brandon's children, and all of them were standing in line of inheritance prior Benjen. Who was he supposed to be in their household? One of their servants? While at The Wall he was on his path to becoming Lord Commander of Night's Watch.

By the time of Brandon's death, Benjen was 15 years old, and by the end of Robert's Rebellion and Ned's return to Winterfell, he was already 17-18. So it's likely, that even before all that happened, Benjen has already decided what's his life is going to be like. He decided to join Night's Watch, and he saw no other life path for himself. He has already resigned himself, that he will never marry, and will never have children, instead he is going to become a hero of Night's Watch.

Most likely, he decided to join, when he met at Harrenhal that recruiter. Probably that guy listed to Benjen all of his advantages over other members of NW - he is son of Lord Stark, and NW is dependant from Starks; he can read and write, and he has a good education; and he was trained by master-at-arms, so he is a way better fighter than any other fresh recruit; he already has huge advantages compared to others, so it's obvious that sooner or later he will become Lord Commander (or at least that's what that recruiter made Benjen to believe into). And 15-18 is not a child anymore, he was able to make his own life choices by that age. So, if by the time of Ned's return to Winterfell, Benjen had already strengthened his resolve to join NW, then there was nothing Ned could have done, to change Benjen's mind, and make him stay. Unless Ned was willing to use his status as Benjen's Lord, not just as his older brother, and to order him to do, whatever Ned wanted. But that kind of option would have ruined their relationship forever. And Ned has already seen, how scenario like that could play out - what happened between Hoster Tully and Blackfish.

So it's likely, that Benjen had joined Night's Watch, just because that's what he wanted to do with his life, and there was no other reason, no any sort of conspiracies involved.

Edited by Megorova

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5 minutes ago, LindsayLohan said:

Regarding Ned's words to Bran, it was Ned's plan to re-populate the New Gift with Northmen. The idea was they would help support the Watch, yet have fealty to Winterfell.  We don't know if Ned's plan came from Rickard, or if Benjen and Ned discussed it (ever). Perhaps Ned was waiting for Benjen to become LC of the Watch before beginning discussions? Or Ned was going to take it up with Jeor?

Either way, in order to have smallfolk farm that land, they would have required petty lords and men-at-arms to provide security from Wildling raids, which had previously driven the smallfolk off the land. This could have meant minor holdings for many second sons throughout the North, including the likes of Brandon.

OR

Ned could have just assumed that Bran would one day marry the daughter of a Northern lord, becoming Robb's bannerman.

This sounds interesting Benjen becoming LC to make this deal with Ned possible. But i don't think that was his reason for joining (as you don't I believe). 

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9 hours ago, Yaya said:

where, in the books, is this so said?

""Robert will never keep to one bed," Lyanna had told him at Winterfell, on the night long ago when their father had promised her hand to the young Lord of Storm's End. "I hear he has gotten a child on some girl in the Vale." Ned had held the babe in his arms; he could scarcely deny her, nor would he lie to his sister, but he had assured her that what Robert did before their betrothal was of no matter, that he was a good man and true who would love her with all his heart. Lyanna had only smiled. "Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man's nature."" - AGOT, Ned IX.

By the time, when Lyanna got engaged to Robert, Mya Stone was already born, so it was in 279 or 280.

"And when Lord Hoster promised her to Brandon Stark, she had thanked him for making her such a splendid match." - ACOK, Cat VI.

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4 minutes ago, the Other Wolf said:

When was he the heir? 

He would have briefly been Ned's heir, until Robb was born.

8 minutes ago, Megorova said:

So it's likely, that Benjen had joined Night's Watch, just because that's what he wanted to do with his life, and there was no other reason, no any sort of conspiracies involved.

Sure. I think that is possible. But I think it's very likely that Ned would have had other plans for his brother and would not have been happy with this idea. And the advice that Benjen gives Jon about living a little life before joining clashes with this idea somewhat. Perhaps Ben has some regrets or perhaps he was forced into making this choice earlier than he had intended. I get that he could have had some in interest in the NW. I think that is likely as well. But I don't think he would have joined at such a young age unless there was something else driving that decision.

37 minutes ago, LindsayLohan said:

Ned could have just assumed that Bran would one day marry the daughter of a Northern lord, becoming Robb's bannerman.

Right. Just as I would think he'd have assumed of Ben or even have expected of Ben.

9 hours ago, Yaya said:

I stopped reading here ... no, we don't know this.  where, in the books, is this so said?

This is said throughout the books in several different ways. As others have pointed out, Brandon was to marry Catelyn Tully and Lyanna was to marry Robert Baratheon. I didn't think these are controversial claims.

I was just setting up the idea that with the future lord of Winterfell marrying a foreign wife, it would have been prudent for the other son(s) to marry Northerners, particularly since recent events mean that fewer Northern houses than normal would have had recent connections to the Stark through marriage. Rickard was an only child and married a cousin, so connections to other houses would now be a couple of generations removed.

1 hour ago, LindsayLohan said:

Regarding Ned's words to Bran, it was Ned's plan to re-populate the New Gift with Northmen.

That's kind of a wild idea. I don't remember any clue in the book that pointed this way. Anyway, if this was some long-term plan of the Starks, seems like you'd need the Umbers in on this.

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The Starks are not what you could call rich.  There was no room for Benjen in Winterfell.  The Stark household doesn't need another brother and his future family living under the same roof.  

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5 hours ago, Syl of Syl said:
16 hours ago, Yaya said:

I stopped reading here ... no, we don't know this.  where, in the books, is this so said?

This is said throughout the books in several different ways. As others have pointed out, Brandon was to marry Catelyn Tully and Lyanna was to marry Robert Baratheon. I didn't think these are controversial claims.

 

Sorry to cause a ruckus - but to me, Riverrun & Storms End are not "Southron ambitions". 

I'm looking at a map and YES, they are located more south than Winterfall and other places.  TRUE.

But to me the south area would be Dorne and the Reach and these would be the places that one would go to in order to pursuit "southern ambitions".
In my opinion.
Just trying to take it literally - in a physical location way of speaking.

 

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22 minutes ago, Tour De Force said:

The Starks are not what you could call rich.  There was no room for Benjen in Winterfell.  The Stark household doesn't need another brother and his future family living under the same roof.  

I don't agree with this assessment. They're not as rich as the Lannisters or Tyrells, but they can certainly afford to support Benjen and his potential family. Plus, Benjen would have made an attractive match to one of the Stark bannermen's daughters.

Anyway, I don't agree with the idea that Northern lords are so hard up that they can't afford to keep even a second branch of their family. The Starks have done so in the past, and we see plenty of second sons hanging around in lesser families of the North. Greatjon Umber's got two uncles hanging around despite having multiple sons of his own. Wyman Manderly had a pair of uncles as well - one provided the cousin that became Lady Hornwood and the other provided a cousin that is the commander of White Harbor's garrison. Rickard Karstark (who had three grown sons of his own at the start of GoT) had a brother, Arnolf, who was hanging around fathering his own family. Helman Tallhart also had a brother in addition to his son. These houses were all lesser than House Stark, being sworn bannermen and all. Ned could have not only afforded to keep Benjen and his potential family but could have benefited from having a close ally like Benjen.

I am sure there are other examples if we keep digging, but we can also go back in the history of House Stark itself and see that Rickard's grandfather was one of five sons - two of whom fathered families of their own - the youngest branch is where Ned's mother drew her descent. By Ned's time, the Stark family tree had actually become quite sparse compared to recent history.

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5 minutes ago, Yaya said:

Sorry to cause a ruckus - but to me, Riverrun & Storms End are not "Southron ambitions". 

I'm looking at a map and YES, they are located more south than Winterfall and other places.  TRUE.

But to me the south area would be Dorne and the Reach and these would be the places that one would go to in order to pursuit "southern ambitions".
In my opinion.
Just trying to take it literally - in a physical location way of speaking.

 

Everything south of the Neck has consistently been referred to as the South and the Southern or Southron kingdoms throughout the books.

Sure, Riverrun is farther north than much of the South, but culturally these houses have more in common with each other than with any of the houses of the North.

And if you want to say only Dorne and the Reach are in the south, well take another look at your map. Storm's End is farther south than about half or more of the Reach proper.

 

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6 hours ago, Syl of Syl said:

He would have briefly been Ned's heir, until Robb was born.

Fair enough. Although, there is nothing I recall stating Benjen felt he was THE heir to Winterfell while Ned was away playing war.

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2 minutes ago, the Other Wolf said:

Fair enough. Although, there is nothing I recall stating Benjen felt he was THE heir to Winterfell while Ned was away playing war.

I agree. That's what I was trying to say - that Benjen wouldn't have felt slighted or disinherited by Robb's birth. Maybe I worded that sentence poorly, but I was trying to say that I've seen or heard these given as reasons why Benjen would have taken the black - that he'd feel he no longer has a place in Winterfell or in House Stark. There's plenty of evidence that the opposite should have been the case, which is why there must be some other reason why Benjen took the black - either something drawing him to the Night's Watch or something driving him to that choice.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Yaya said:

 

Sorry to cause a ruckus - but to me, Riverrun & Storms End are not "Southron ambitions". 

I'm looking at a map and YES, they are located more south than Winterfall and other places.  TRUE.

But to me the south area would be Dorne and the Reach and these would be the places that one would go to in order to pursuit "southern ambitions".
In my opinion.
Just trying to take it literally - in a physical location way of speaking.

 

Excuse me for continuing the digression, but I believe the phrase "southron ambitions" refers to plans that point specifically to one "southron" location - King's Landing and the relationship of House Stark to House Targaryen. In particular, it is the phrase that indicates that the marriages being negotiated between the Great Houses of this period are being done to change the relationship between the Great Houses and their Targaryen overlords. It could also be called "Northern Ambitions" if it was just a questions of the Stark's aims. I think the evidence shows the formation of an anti-Targaryen power bloc to restore the old sovereign relations of the Seven Kingdoms, with the changes being in the Baratheons and the Tullys also wanting to become kings in their homelands as the other houses were as old. It looks to me like the five of the seven great houses had agreed on this ambition up to the point where Aerys ends the marriage pact between House Tully and House Lannister right before the tourney at Harrenhal by naming Jaime to the Kingsguard. </end digression>

Back to the OP.

On 5/11/2019 at 8:31 PM, Syl of Syl said:

This is one of those little mysteries that I've always been curious about and I know there are a lot of ideas out there, but I've never been satisfied by the idea that it is somehow linked to Lyanna and Rhaegar. The idea that Benjen is not the heir anymore so taking the black is a good idea is also dissatisfying. I think I've got a better idea that I don't think I've seen anywhere.

I recall that Ned at one point tells young Bran early in GoT that he will one day hold a keep for his brother, Robb. Ned's expectations for Bran clearly clash with any idea that he would support his own brother joining the watch. If it is his expectation for his second son, it seems likely that he would have had the same expectation of his younger brother years earlier. What I'm thinking is that Benjen didn't join the Night's Watch out of duty or guilt, but to avoid duty. I'm thinking Benjen joined to avoid a marriage match that Ned desired to make.

We know that Brandon and Lyanna were both betrothed to nobles from Southern houses. It would have been prudent for Rickard to also betroth Eddard to one of his own bannermen. After the war is over, Ned comes home with only one sibling left and married to his brother's betrothed. Perhaps he had a marriage contract of his own that he had to break, and Benjen was supposed to be his replacement.

My other option that I was thinking about was a bit simpler. The houses of the North suffered some bad loses. One of the worst was perhaps Lord Willam Dustin who died at the Tower of Joy. Ned may have felt some guilt over this. Combine this with what we've seen of his widow and there's a hole there in Barrowton where it might have been prudent for Ned to patch up this relationship. One way that he could have done something at the time would have been to marry Benjen to Barbrey Dustin. Perhaps this would have helped to smooth relations with one of the three or four most prominent houses of the North.

My guess here is that this decision, especially in its timing, has to do with tensions between Ned and Benjen over Lyanna's death. We learn through Bran's visions and through Meera's tale of the Knight of the Laughing Tree that Benjen and Lyanna seem to have a very close relationship. If Lyanna's remarks to Ned about Robert's "nature" indicates a rejection of the marriage plans on Lyanna's part, then it is likely she shares her thoughts with Benjen as well as with Ned. Neds responds to this is to support the marriage offer and try to persuade Lyanna to accept Robert. I've got to believe Benjen's is the opposite and he supports his sister in her problems with Robert.

When we get to Harrenhal  and what looks to be an attraction of Lyanna to Rhaegar, and Rhaegar to Lyanna, it is Benjen's response to tease his sister, not to try to tell her who she can or cannot prefer in marriage. It is also young Benjen who offers to find armor for Howland, and this seems to come true in the armoring of the KotLT. I can't see how, after Rhaegar crowns Lyanna, these relationships are not the source of great turmoil in House Stark.

What this tells me is that House Stark is likely divided with Lord Rickard, Brandon, and Ned supporting the marriage Lord Rickard has agreed to, and Lyanna and Benjen opposed to it. Which makes me think the split on this question continues after the rebellion and Lyanna's death between Ned and Benjen. Benjen not wanting to submit to Ned's wishes, and leaving for the Night's Watch earlier than one would think he would with only the infant Robb as Ned's heir. At which point, I think that it would be the last thing Ned would want to do to demand Benjen do his duty to House Stark  while the succession rests on Robb's health and any future children the may of may not happen between Ned and Cat.

In short, I think Benjen blames his brothers and father for Lyanna's death, and wants to go his own way. Just as his sister did. Ned's guilt over Lyanna prevents him from trying to stop his brother from joining the Watch.

Edited by SFDanny

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3 hours ago, Yaya said:

 

Sorry to cause a ruckus - but to me, Riverrun & Storms End are not "Southron ambitions". 

I'm looking at a map and YES, they are located more south than Winterfall and other places.  TRUE.

But to me the south area would be Dorne and the Reach and these would be the places that one would go to in order to pursuit "southern ambitions".
In my opinion.
Just trying to take it literally - in a physical location way of speaking.

 

You gotta be joking.

From a northerners perspective everything south of of the neck is considered the south. The term "Southron ambitions" was directed towards Rickard whom indeed had ambitions in the south, by betrothing his children to Catelyn Tully and Bobby B, whom both are considered southerners by every single northerner in the Kingdom of the North. 

From your point of view the Stormlands should also be considered the South since both the Reach and the Stormlands are literally bordered right next to each other with Dorne right to their south. 

The Fact that the North covers almost half of Westeros should literally make the North a continent on its own. Therefore they deserve the right to be considered "The North of Westeros".

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I think there has to be a bigger reason for him to join the NW other than "it's the Stark thing to do," but I don't think it had to do with Lyanna and Rhaegar. 

I don't think Ned would try to dissuade Benjen from doing something so honorable, but frankly I'd think Ned would be asking Benjen for help in the aftermath of the war. One sibling was burned alive and another died in his arms. He was never supposed to be Lord and I think he would want his last brother to help him. I could totally see them having a Tywin/Kevan type of dynamic where Benjen serves as kind of "Hand of the Warden" (though I guess the Lannister dynamic is different - if Jaime is a KG and Tyrion disinherited, I guess Kevan is the heir?). 

I also think it's just ridiculous that the cost of supporting him and his family would make him leave Winterfell. They take new people into the castle all the time (Theon, Osha, the Frey twins, etc.). I don't think it was him pouting that he was dropped in secession either, if Ned never expected to be lord, surely Benjen didn't. 

It's definitely possible that Benjen was just convinced his talents would best be used by the NW though a combination of a silver-tongued recruiter and Stark family values, but I don't really buy it. Yet I don't really have an explanation. 

Crackpot - someone/something (the old gods/3EC?) wanted him North of the wall for unknown reasons and influenced events to make sure it happened. Who? Why? How? I have no idea. I've proposed before that Benjen is currently alive south of the Wall, sent on a mission by the 3EC (likely to the God's Eye), maybe the plan ran deeper? I've always kind of thought the same entity, if it exists, wanted Ned at the wall to, and would have succeeded if Joffrey hadn't fucked it all up. Don't ask me to defend this, I can't. 

 

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