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Syl of Syl

Why did Benjen take the black?

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Cause their was a Stark in Winterfell, and House Stark respects the Night's Watch and feels obligated to support it. 

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20 hours ago, SFDanny said:

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.

Aye. Me too. I think Benjen's involvement in Lyanna's disappearance was the key factor in this decision. Over the course of the series we see how Benjen aids Lyanna in her schemes. I think Bran glimpses them in the WW-net play fighting and Lyanna seems to be the stronger of the two. So I'm left with the impression that Benjen would help her disobey her father and guard her secrets. An act that arguably got his father and eldest brother killed. If so, I think it makes absolute sense that he'd join the NW. Especially being a Northman and all.  

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Lost Melnibonean said:

Cause their was a Stark in Winterfell, and House Stark respects the Night's Watch and feels obligated to support it. 

With much respect, LM, that doesn't answer the timing of it.  When Benjen leaves he does so, as you know, when only Robb - still an infant - is alive to follow Ned to the lordship of Winterfell. Supporting the Night's Watch shouldn't mean putting the Stark succession in question. Something else is going on here.

I would also point out the continuing refusal of Martin to answer the question of why Benjen leaves when he does as a clue that something else is going on. I can't see how we can view this as just a normal occurrence.

Quote

6) When, specifically, did Benjen join the NW? Was it a couple of years after Ned returned, or immediately?

It was within a few months of Ned's returning. The reason being that there always was a Stark at Winterfell, so he had to stay there until Ned returned. GRRM refused to say the reason why Benjen had to join the NW.

<snip>

[Note: Next is a clarification from a later post.]

Davos is in ADwD, according to Pod and Ro from last night. Also, I didn't mean to imply that Benjen "had to " join the NW. We don't know because GRRM wouldn't elaborate on the reasons for Benjen joining the NW.

 

Edited by SFDanny

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7 hours ago, SFDanny said:

With much respect, LM, that doesn't answer the timing of it.  When Benjen leaves he does so, as you know, when only Robb - still an infant - is alive to follow Ned to the lordship of Winterfell. Supporting the Night's Watch shouldn't mean putting the Stark succession in question. Something else is going on here.

I would also point out the continuing refusal of Martin to answer the question of why Benjen leaves when he does as a clue that something else is going on. I can't see how we can view this as just a normal occurrence.

 

I agree there's more to it, and we will probably learn more about it, but I do think it is enough to answer the question at this point. 

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11 hours ago, SFDanny said:

I would also point out the continuing refusal of Martin to answer the question of why Benjen leaves when he does as a clue that something else is going on. I can't see how we can view this as just a normal occurrence.

Quote

6) When, specifically, did Benjen join the NW? Was it a couple of years after Ned returned, or immediately?

It was within a few months of Ned's returning. The reason being that there always was a Stark at Winterfell, so he had to stay there until Ned returned. GRRM refused to say the reason why Benjen had to join the NW.

 <snip>

[Note: Next is a clarification from a later post.]

Davos is in ADwD, according to Pod and Ro from last night. Also, I didn't mean to imply that Benjen "had to " join the NW. We don't know because GRRM wouldn't elaborate on the reasons for Benjen joining the NW.

This quote makes it seem like maybe Benjen would have left earlier if not for his duty to be the "Stark in Winterfell" - whatever that is all about. I think I had previously interpreted his answer as a timeline clarification rather than a response about Benjen's motivation, but I think there is something there to speculate that perhaps the NW was a true calling for Benjen. And then the question becomes why Benjen was drawn to it (rather than there being a driver like a marriage contract he didn't want to make).

By the way, GRRM has answered the (almost) exact question of this thread:

Quote

[Why did Benjen join the Night's Watch?]

Good question. One day you will get an answer. But it will not be today.

https://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/2997/

So yeh, I think it is safe to say that there is more to it, @Lost Melnibonean. I suppose we could just wait for GRRM to give us that answer, but as he said, that won't be today. Probably not tomorrow either.

And actually, @SFDanny, you've got me thinking about some possible reasons why Benjen would have been drawn to the Night's Watch. We know at this point that most folks see its purpose as relates to dealing with the wildling threat. Perhaps it is as simple as he heard the black brother at Harrenhal and became enamored of that life for himself, but I have to imagine that he saw more in it than simply ranging and defending the Wall from wildlings.

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On 5/12/2019 at 6:09 PM, SFDanny said:

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>

It is an interesting digression tho. I don't think that there was some grand conspiracy to throw off the Targaryen yoke. Rather, I think it may have been the other way around. Steffon Baratheon was Aerys's cousin and close friend remember. He wouldn't have conspired with Rickard against his cousin, who was not yet showing the cracks of madness. I think perhaps Rickard would have seen how Baratheon and Lannister had grown close to the crown because Steffon and Tywin paged at King's Landing and grew close to Aerys as a result, and perhaps he would have desired something similar for his sons. Or perhaps Aerys or his inner circle would have wanted to bring the future generation of Starks closer in order to knit the realm closer together.

I've often wondered why it was Ned rather than Brandon and why the Vale rather than King's Landing. If Brandon and Robert had spent their time instead at King's Landing squiring with Rhaegar, as Myles Mooton and Richard Lonmouth did, it would have been similar to how Steffon himself and Tywin had become close with Aerys in the previous generation. Perhaps, the Vale decision was part of a plan to include Jon Arryn and his various young nephews or cousins, like Elbert and Denys into this scheme of knitting the realm together. Perhaps also, King's Landing was too far from the North for Rickard's liking but the Vale made for a happy medium - which would partially explain Ned over Brandon as Rickard wanted his heir to remain in the North while the younger son could become close with a couple of southern lordlings.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Lost Melnibonean said:

I agree there's more to it, and we will probably learn more about it, but I do think it is enough to answer the question at this point. 

It answers part of the question, I think, but leaves important parts unanswered. I agree that it is clear Benjen stays in Winterfell to to be the "Stark in Winterfell" during the rebellion and fulfill his duty to his family. I also agree, to the Starks, service in the Night's Watch is an honorable thing, and that is likely this is Benjen's view. I have no doubt that the story of the Black Brother asking for volunteers at the Harrenhal tourney has an effect on Benjen. All of this we agree upon, but to me the timing of Benjen's decision and the reason or reasons why he makes the decision when he does is critical. I've already given my speculation, so I won't go over it again, but Martin's response begs for more information.

1 hour ago, Syl of Syl said:

And actually, @SFDanny, you've got me thinking about some possible reasons why Benjen would have been drawn to the Night's Watch. We know at this point that most folks see its purpose as relates to dealing with the wildling threat. Perhaps it is as simple as he heard the black brother at Harrenhal and became enamored of that life for himself, but I have to imagine that he saw more in it than simply ranging and defending the Wall from wildlings.

I think you have hit upon an interesting possible difference between Ned and Benjen. When we are first introduced to Ned we find him a very doubtful Lord of Winterfell when it comes to the legends of the North. He dismisses the very idea of the Others and Direwolves and things we would think a man of the North would be more open to believing. He accepts the teachings given to his children by Maester Luwin to all of the stories of the Children of the Forest and magic. Does this reflect Ned's fostering in the Vale? Or have the Starks lost the beliefs in the old ways long before Ned was born?

Benjen might be the throwback to earlier times. It looks to me like he spent some part of his time on the wall studying things like the use of dragonglass against the Others. Something even his Lord Commander has forgotten or never knew.

Edited by SFDanny

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39 minutes ago, Syl of Syl said:

It is an interesting digression tho. I don't think that there was some grand conspiracy to throw off the Targaryen yoke. Rather, I think it may have been the other way around. Steffon Baratheon was Aerys's cousin and close friend remember. He wouldn't have conspired with Rickard against his cousin, who was not yet showing the cracks of madness. I think perhaps Rickard would have seen how Baratheon and Lannister had grown close to the crown because Steffon and Tywin paged at King's Landing and grew close to Aerys as a result, and perhaps he would have desired something similar for his sons. Or perhaps Aerys or his inner circle would have wanted to bring the future generation of Starks closer in order to knit the realm closer together.

I've often wondered why it was Ned rather than Brandon and why the Vale rather than King's Landing. If Brandon and Robert had spent their time instead at King's Landing squiring with Rhaegar, as Myles Mooton and Richard Lonmouth did, it would have been similar to how Steffon himself and Tywin had become close with Aerys in the previous generation. Perhaps, the Vale decision was part of a plan to include Jon Arryn and his various young nephews or cousins, like Elbert and Denys into this scheme of knitting the realm together. Perhaps also, King's Landing was too far from the North for Rickard's liking but the Vale made for a happy medium - which would partially explain Ned over Brandon as Rickard wanted his heir to remain in the North while the younger son could become close with a couple of southern lordlings.

I agree it is interesting. I do think there is a grand conspiracy or rather grand conspiracies going on in this period. The marriage contracts between the High Lords of this period are only one part of it. We are also told of a conspiracy amongst the maesters of the Citadel in which questions about magic, dragons, and prophecies can get you killed. We see this acted out in the prologue of A Clash of Kings by Cressen's attempted poisoning of Melisandre. Which makes one wonder of the possible relationship between Maester Walys, Cressen, and other maesters serving the Great Houses.

To me, this is the explanation of how and why Robert ends up a foster brother to Ned in the Vale. Cressen orchestrates it. Is Steffon a part of a conspiracy against Aerys? I don't know, but, as Tywin shows us, the changes in Aerys's mental state can cause many to reevaluate old ties.

This is a long and complicated discussion, and I don't want to go much further here, but those are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

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I am in the camp of Benjen was sent by Ned after returning from the war because he didn't tell them Lyanna left willingly with Rhaegar, for love.  We can be certain they had a close upbringing together, as the only two children not fostered out, and if she told him not to tell he may have kept that solemn oath.  Obviously he wouldn't know the final outcome, and most likely didn't get updates as the trident and marching of armies was happening... but we don't have any direct evidence about any of it, so I can only speculate. 

 

But on a side note, there are a few interesting tube vids on the topic, and a very recent one by Dave and Maryellen at Order of the Green Hand make some interesting observations. 

 

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3 hours ago, Bonkers said:

I am in the camp of Benjen was sent by Ned after returning from the war because he didn't tell them Lyanna left willingly with Rhaegar, for love.  We can be certain they had a close upbringing together, as the only two children not fostered out, and if she told him not to tell he may have kept that solemn oath.  Obviously he wouldn't know the final outcome, and most likely didn't get updates as the trident and marching of armies was happening... but we don't have any direct evidence about any of it, so I can only speculate.

The problem here, as I see it, is this presumes Ned and Brandon are ignorant of Lyanna's objections to Robert and her attraction to Rhaegar. It also assumes that the two older brothers would have acted differently if they had only known Lyanna's wishes.

But that's not Lyanna, nor is it Brandon or Ned in Martin's pre-rebellion world.

Lyanna tells Ned straight to his face what she thinks of Robert and his nature. Instead of supporting his sister, Ned pleads Robert's case telling her what happens before the betrothal won't happen after. If we know anything about Lyanna it is she is not silent about her wants and what she doesn't want. To the extent of her disobeying her father's direct orders. It is hard to envision a Stark household in which Lord Rickard, and all of Lyanna's brothers do not know her thinking. Knowing her objections Rickard goes ahead and approves the marriage pact. Knowing her objections and likely knowing what is happening before their eyes at the tourney, the two older brothers side with Rickard's pact in favor of a political alliance over the feelings of their sister. Brandon, in fact, has to be restrained from challenging Rhaegar then and there. Far from being ignorant of Lyanna's wishes, the older brothers and her father ignore them and see it as Lyanna's duty to marry to whomever Rickard designates. It may only be Brandon who rages against Lyanna's wishes as well as Rhaegar's actions, but Ned puts what he sees as Lyanna's duty before his sister's happiness as well.

Bonkers, your idea, turns Lyanna into a hapless victim who goes silently to her doomed marriage with only telling her baby brother about her misgivings. Not only do we have direct evidence that this is not so, we also have evidence that shows her as young women whose "wolf's blood" is shown in her bold action on her own, and sometimes with the help of others like young Benjen. She is a rebel, not a silent victim as I see it. But it is not just my reader's view, it is also Ned's view of Lyanna that tells us so.

So far from Ned being angry towards Benjen for hiding a secret of Lyanna's feelings towards Rhaegar, I see a Ned transformed by his experience with Robert's acceptance of the murder of children and Lyanna's dying pleas for his promises that has him coming back to Winterfell wishing he had been more like Benjen in support of his sister when it could have meant her happiness instead their father's plots. There is nothing that would indicate Benjen kept Lyanna's wishes secret from his family, or that he would have to do so for the brothers to not know them. I can only draw the conclusion that it is Benjen's anger with Ned and his grief over Lyanna's preventable death if Lord Rickard and Brandon and Ned had not just heard Lyanna's objections, but heeded them and thereby prevented not only her death, but the deaths of so many others. It is Benjen's anger with Ned, not Ned's with Benjen that is the source of his decision to join the Watch so early and to leave Winterfell and Ned's growing young family. That's how I see it anyway.

 

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On 5/12/2019 at 4:54 PM, 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.

 

I always read "southern ambitions" as crownland ambitions. Marrying off Brandon to Cat Tully and Lyanna to Lord Robert ties the houses of Tully, Stark and Baratheon. Ned already Had a connection to the House Arryn through his being fostered there. By Having the stormlands, the reach, the vale and the north allied through marriages and fostering Rickard was creating a block that was more powerful than the Crown and could be used for leverage or even outright rebellion.  Lady Barbery was upset because she thought she wold be the one to Mary Brandon because the north typically married to other northern houses. That she was refering to southron ambitions i think is clearly an anger at Lord Rickkard and his Maester breaking with tradition and changing the more isolationist policies that the south had had by tradition

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Posted (edited)

Benjen was probably complicit in Lyanna running off with Rhaegar and took the black to be spared from Robert's wrath and to avoid embarrassment to House Stark. Ned also might have wanted him out of the picture to protect Jon from Robert since he was aware of Jon's true parentage. Robert hated the Targaryens and may well have wiped out all of House Stark had he known Ned was protecting Rhaegar's son. Then, send Jon off to the Wall and that puts things under wraps rather nicely.

Edited by billhilly

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Benjen was a third son, not expected to inherit. Eddard was second, he was needed in case if something happens to his older brother or if he won't have children. Same goes for Bran, he is second in line. If anyone, Rickon could be allowed to join the Watch.

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Given that you don't see any direct interaction between Ned and Benjen I am inclined to believe like many others that the two fell out when Ned returned North after the Rebellion. It probably would be a combination of Benjen possibly being aware and/or aiding Lyanna in her secret romance with Rhaegar and possibly Benjen calling Ned out over the Jon situation (either thinking Jon is Ned's or knowing he's Lyanna's). Given how he interacts with Jon during their conversation at the King's feast in Winterfell I don't know if Benjen willingly went to the Wall given his insistence that Jon "live" a little.

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Benjen aiding Lyanna is interesting notion. We could assume that he knows Ned's secret either from Ned or from Lyanna but it still do not explain why he would go to the Wall because of that. Simplest reason is because he was a third son but knowing Martin there can be some reason hidden from us for now.

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40 minutes ago, White26 said:

Simplest reason is because he was a third son

The problem with this reasoning is twofold for me. One is that with Brandon dead, he's no longer a third son. The first we see of the Watch, we get the example of Waymar Royce who is a third son. He's got two older brothers in Andar and Robar. However, with Robar dead, I doubt Waymar still would have taken the black. Furthermore, all three of the Royce boys were older than Benjen was when he took the black.

The second problem is that this doesn't seem to be at all the way that House Stark has functioned in the past. Lord Beron (Rickard's great-grandfather) had 5 sons, we don't know much about Errold (the fourth son), so he could have taken the black although it is not mentioned anywhere. The other 4 definitely did not join the Night's Watch. Or at least, the first two did not as they died as Lord of Winterfell and the the 3rd and 5th sons (Artos the Implacable and Rodrik the Wandering Wolf) could possibly have joined late in life, but only after fathering families of their own and living full lives as we know something of their deeds.

We also know that Cregan Stark (Beron's grandfather) had five sons, all of whom eventually became Lord of Winterfell one after the other, so none of them took the black either. In both those cases, the Stark extended family was much larger and less in need of heirs with cousins and the like in the picture.

By Ned and Ben's time, the family has been pruned down to just their little branchling and as we see with Robb and Cat looking for an heir, they actually have a need of more Starks which Benjen could have provided. Imagine for instance if Benjen had married the recently widowed Lady Barbrey instead of taking the black. He could have provided a needed connection to both House Dustin and House Ryswell for Ned as well as providing cousins for one or two of Ned's kids to possibly marry.

The idea that he was a third son and not expected to inherit as a reason is not in line with the way recent Stark generations have operated. So for Benjen, it must have been a personal choice and not some precedent of how the Stark family operates.

 

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Let me just throw a couple of things in about Benjen "helping" Lyanna in her romance with Rhaegar. I have no doubt if Lyanna really was the Knight of the Laughing Tree that it was Benjen who helped her with getting the armor she used. I also believe Lyanna would have told Benjen what was going on with her at the tourney. But people also need to remember that after the tourney Benjen goes north to be the "Stark in Winterfell" so his father can be at Brandon's wedding to Catelyn. Which means Benjen's help to Lyanna is limited to the time at the tourney and a very short time after. Benjen has nothing to do with anything Lyanna did leading up to the "kidnapping" or any secret communications between her and Rhaegar. He is long gone. My guess is that Benjen is on the first ship out of Maidenpool or Gulltown that the Starks can find going north. With the proper escort expected of a young son of a High Lord, of course.

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On 5/15/2019 at 5:02 AM, Bonkers said:

But on a side note, there are a few interesting tube vids on the topic, and a very recent one by Dave and Maryellen at Order of the Green Hand make some interesting observations. 

Bonkers, every once in a while I confess I will listen to a video online of self-proclaimed Ice and Fire experts. The Order of the Green Hand is one of the worst producers of such stuff there is, in my opinion. Against my better judgement, and because not knowing much about you as a poster, I watched your link. It's bad. Starts off with a huge jump in logic and gets worse as it goes down hill fast. The idea that Benjen had to have been sent to the Wall by Ned is just a non-starter. It's one thing to explore a possibility. It's altogether another type of thing to declare your opening conclusion as the only one possible, and only back it up with tortured over readings of text to shade the meanings to suit a very iffy thesis. The OotGH continues to be at the bottom of my list of such "experts." I want my fifteen plus minutes back it took to get through it. :cheers:

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On 5/12/2019 at 7:07 AM, Yaya said:

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

Umm... Catelyn and Robert?

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Posted (edited)

Agree with @SFDanny on most points—particularly that it was Benjen’s decision, whatever it was based on. I’m not altogether sure he really blamed Ned for things, though. Even if Ned had wholeheartedly argued that Robert was a hard-drinking bastard-making machine, we don’t have much reason to believe Rickard would have opted against the match because the Bob would make a lousy husband, and Benjen probably understood that was most likely not unrelated to why Ned just tried to look on the bright side about it.

That said, Benjen was still young and may very well have blamed the entire betrothal on Ned, which isn’t entirely without merit.

But my guess is that the reason he could not stand to wait a bit longer than was absolutely necessary to leave the mantle of Required Stark in Winterfell to Ned and baby Robb has to do with Jon. I think he surely knew whose son that was; he knew his sister—and he knew his brother. So:

1. Ned told him the truth about Jon, and Benjen couldn’t stand seeing his sister’s baby raised as a bastard (with extra-added resentment from Catelyn) to keep him safe from a man she never wanted to marry, or

2. Ned wouldn’t tell him the truth either, so on top of having to play along with Jon being Ned’s bastard, his own brother was lying to him about it.

I don’t really think Ned did lie to Benjen, though. No evidence, just a feeling.

Edited by Therae
Missed a critical “not”.

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