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Angel Eyes

Why did Ned allow Benjen to take the black?

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Posted (edited)

I guess if Benjen wanted to go Ned has no good reason to argue

Edited by FitzChivalry Fartseer

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Posted (edited)
On 7/7/2019 at 12:28 PM, Angel Eyes said:

It seems odd to me that Ned would have allowed Benjen to take the Black in the months after Robert’s Rebellion, considering they lost more than half their family during Robert’s Rebellion (Lord Rickard, Brandon and Lyanna) and was now reduced to himself, Benjen, Catelyn and the infant Robb and Jon. Say around the Greyjoy Rebellion, Ned could have gotten killed, plus a sickness go through Winterfell and the entire bloodline could have been dead like Thanos snapping his fingers. Did Benjen really want to leave his family in such a precarious position?

I believe I've already posted my thoughts on this in other threads on the same topic, but assuming you are not tired of my opinions on the matter I will throw them in again for whatever they are worth to this discussion.

GRRM has consistently refused to answer the reason why Benjen joins the Watch when he does, which leads an attentive reader to ask why he won't respond if the answer is just another younger Stark joining the Night's Watch in a long line of Starks doing so? That and the timing of Benjen's joining, as you point out, make it extremely suspicious for ulterior motives yet unknown to be the explanation.

My guess is that there is a rift between the brothers concerning Lyanna's death. Specifically, that Benjen - ever the loyalist and confidant to Lyanna - supported her in her wish to not marry Robert. There seems to be a split in the family with Lord Rickard, Brandon, and Ned all supporting Rickard's plan to build alliances among other High Lords and House Stark, and Lyanna and young Benjen not wanting to be used as tools in these political games. It looks to me as if Lyanna's response to her upcoming wedding is to runaway with Rhaegar to remove herself from the marriage. I think Rickard and all of the Stark brothers know this, but Lord Stark, Brandon, and Ned see it as Lyanna's duty to go through with the match, no matter how strongly she is set against it. No matter how sure she is of Robert's unsuitable "nature."

What this means for Benjen, who has spent the rebellion doing his own duty to his family by being the "Stark in Winterfell,"  is he must deal with his grief about Lyanna's death, along with the deaths of his father and oldest brother, when Ned returns with their sister's bones. For the teenage Benjen, Ned is the only one left for him to blame of those who tried to force the marriage. The Night's Watch is likely the only refuge from his pain and loss that puts space between the brothers. That they both view service in the Watch as a honorable thing and a longstanding Stark tradition only makes such a move acceptable, even in the face of the needs of House Stark for more heirs.

What we see as the story begins is a more mature Benjen and Ned, who time and distanced, at least partially healed from their shared grief and have worked to repair their relationship as brothers with different duties.

My two cents.

an addendum to the above. We don't know when or how Benjen finds out about Lyanna's death, but it seems likely to me that Ned might want to tell him his brother himself. It seems Ned does the same with Robert and they are "reunited in grief" of Lyanna's death. This would mean that Ned likely keeps the news of the deaths at the tower of joy to a very few until he reaches first King's Landing and then on to Winterfell. Alternatively, Howland could have been sent on ahead with baby Jon and his wet-nurse, and Benjen could have learned of his sister's death via the crannogman's delivery of both baby and bones in a way to circumvent both from falling into the grasp of those in King's Landing who might want to hold them for their own purposes. Robert to build his shrine to Lyanna's remains, or Varys to investigate Jon's birth and interrogate his wet nurse.

So when we ask ourselves why Benjen joins the Watch when he does, the answer may all be wound up in how he hears the news of his sister's death. He is then a teenage boy who has had to be alone from family as the Stark of Winterfell for something over two years while wondering if he will ever see his sister again. The shock and bitterness of the news, I think, almost certainly shapes his response of joining the Watch so soon after his brother's arrival back home. Or that is how I see it as likely happening.

Edited by SFDanny

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In Deep Geek did a great video about this topic but I think it was a mix of personal guilt on Benjen's part as well as a future plan on how to protect Jon.

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On 7/12/2019 at 2:47 PM, EvanSol919 said:

In Deep Geek did a great video about this topic but I think it was a mix of personal guilt on Benjen's part as well as a future plan on how to protect Jon.

I can get the guilt bit but how would that protect Jon? I've recently started a reread and am still in AGOT. Ned had no plans to send Jon to the Wall. He was surprised as hell when Luwin mentioned Jon wanting to take the black.

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