You know what scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are sneaking out to go after the Stone and Neville stands up to them and asks them not to go so as to not get the Gryffindors into trouble? This scene is exactly like that, with Jon, his horse, and FYC being Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and Sam being Neville. This makes the horse the smartest person in the scene.
Jon is leaving on his way to join Robb, which is desertion and thanks to the book’s first chapter, we all know what happens to deserters. Hey, with Ned dead, would Robb have to execute Jon himself? The way GRRM operates sometimes, I’m almost surprised he chose not to go there (I’d call spoilers, but come on, if Jon leaves, we’ll have no point-of-view characters left on the Wall, so obviously he’s not going to).
However, if Sam thought that Jon wouldn’t run him over, he was wrong. Jon spurs the horse into a run, leaving it to Sam to jump out of the way. You know, Sam’s not suicidal, but he’s not nimble either. I wouldn’t have been so quick to count on him being able to get out of the way of a charging horse.
Riding into the night, Jon considers the time he has before pursuit. He’s sure Sam won’t wake Old Mormont to tattle, so they won’t notice him gone until it’s morning and they look for him in his room and find only Longclaw, the sword, left behind. It is decent of him not to take the sword with him into desertion, I suppose, but when you’re starting to think that you did at least as well as Jorah Mormont (who also didn’t take Longclaw with him into disgrace and exile), a man who sold men into slavery to appease his wife is now lusting after a fourteen-year-old girl, you’re in trouble.
Jon wishes he could have someone to talk to for counsel, the way people in the Faith of the Seven talk to septons. I wish Jon would stop being such a selfish wiener. Correct me if I’m wrong, Jon, but you did have someone to talk to — Maester Aemon — and he gave you pretty good advice, it just wasn’t what you wanted to hear. It’s a good thing the book is ending, because Jon does not have much time left to pull his head out of his ass before he completely loses my sympathies.
He considers his decision to lead a life of an oathbreaker, hiding in the shadows, just so he can avenge Ned’s death by Robb’s side. I’m thinking he’s an idiot if he thinks a deserter is going to get to ride at the head of the army by Robb’s side. To Jon’s credit, once he gets that far in his mental planning for the future, he does start to realize that the likelihood of Robb welcoming him is next to nil. Their father would never forgive a son of his for being an oathbreaker. Still not wanting to face the “hard truth” as Tyrion had put it many chapters ago, Jon tries denial on for size. Surely it’s ok to be a deserter if your family happens to be the one passing judgment! He’ll die facing down his father’s killers, exacting his vengeance, that’ll be a death worthy of a son of Ned Stark. Obviously, Ned would approve of precisely none of this, so this is all a frustratingly poor tribute to his memory. You are now precisely my least favourite Stark child, Jon, even after Rickon who’s barely even in the book.
Jon only slows down to rest and eat after passing a village, and that’s when his friends catch up to him. Good, someone needs to tell him to look at his life, look at his choices. This boy needs a meme, that is how bad his storyline has gotten!
Boys: You can’t go!
Jon: My father!
Boys: You swore an oath and they’ll kill you for breaking it.
Jon: My father!
Boys: There are any number of very good reasons why this is a very bad idea!
Jon: My father!
Finally, they surround him and drown out his nonsensical protests by reciting the oath to him: in brightest day, in blackest night… Wait, that’s the wrong colour, isn’t it? The actual Night’s Watch oath doesn’t rhyme, so I’m not going to bother remembering it. Oaths should rhyme, it should be a rule.
Once Jon is captured in this circle of guilt and peer pressure, he’s powerless to escape, and meekly follows his friends back to Castle Black. Unfortunately, he hasn’t learned his lesson, and is silently plotting to run away again. Look up at the stars, Jon, they are the spirits of your dead ancestors and they are judging you!
When he takes Mormont his breakfast in the morning, he’s surprised to find that the Lord Commander knows all about his attempt at desertion. Yes, Jon, isn’t it amazing that not everyone around you is an idiot? Aemon knew his honesty and good advice would he rewarded with childish petulance, but Mormont knew Jon’s earlier success in becoming a leader among his peers (done on the strength of Tyrion’s good advice, if I remember correctly) would mean he’d have someone to bring him back. Also, he had Jon watched and would’ve had him followed and returned anyway. Jon feels appropriately chastised. Oh, not for deserting, but for thinking he could so easily fool everyone around him. Baby steps, I suppose.
Mormont takes another stab at talking some sense into the boy, reminding him that his actions won’t bring his father back, won’t add any substantial aid to his brother’s army. Jon’s not the only one whose family is involved in the war either, we’ve already seen Mormont’s niece mentioned as part of Robb’s personal guard. Jon’s response to this is some fairly pathetic emo flailing, but he thankfully does not voice this.
I’m pretty harsh on Jon, aren’t I? He was one of my favourite characters the first time I read this, but I was sixteen then and all about the emo boys. Now, I’m just alternating between wanting to slap the stupid out of him and rolling my eyes.
Mormont enumerates all of the strange, troubling, and notable things happening beyond the Wall (apparently there are mammoths there). He manages to make Jon admit that the war in the south hardly matters in the face of a zombie invasion. Not one to sit around and wait to be overrun with blue-eyed corpses on a brain diet, Mormont has decided to put aside scouting Ranger parties and venture north of the Wall in force. If Jon is ready to stop being a child and hold true to his vows, he’ll be going alone as Mormont’s squire. Jon takes a deep breath and does the right thing. This earns him the official blessing to strap on (hee) Longclaw once more and get ready to leave Castle Black, this time, due north.