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In A Storm of Swords, after Jon returns from his wildling adventure, Janos Slynt sits in judgment over him and has him thrown into an ice cell.

Is there an in-universe explanation of why

  • such a recent arrival to the Night's Watch is in such a high position of power (apparently quite at the top of the chain of command) and why
  • he can still insist on being addressed as "Lord of Harrenhal", although men of the Night's Watch "hold no lands"?

(The explanation in the TV show makes sense: Alliser Thorne is "acting Lord Commander", so he can just declare that his buddy has a seat on the panel that decides Jon's fate. I don't remember him being "acting Lord Commander" in the books, though.)

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As far as I recall, Slynt just assumed command, and with most of the old officers dead no one contradicted him. I assume he got the support of Thorne because they knew each other from King's Landing. –  TLP Apr 17 at 22:00
    
Glad I'm not the only person that was confused by this. I think the only answer that makes any sense is that 1) Wynton Stout has 'official' leadership at castle black as castellan and 2) The wall is sparsely populated, with most people being on the wall itself. If Thorne and Slynt arrived while John was on the wall, it seems likely that he would keep leadership (unless Stout backed Thorne and Slynt), but I'll post a more comprehensive answer when I have time. –  BroSlow Aug 26 at 22:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

His insisting on claiming his supposed title is nothing more than meaningless posturing on his part, as he wasn't Lord of Harrenhal anymore by the time he arrived at The Wall. He was stripped of that title by Tyrion, and Harrenhal was subsequently given to Littlefinger.

As far as his influence on the wall, I don't think it's even made explicit, but there are a number of things that Slynt has going for him over your average raw recruit:

  • He was a former Commander of the City Watch (the Goldcloaks), and Lord of Harrenhal, so he would probably get a higher starting position. Remember our very first scene in A Game of Thrones has a former nobleman, now in the Night's Watch, outranking a clearly more experienced and qualified Night's Watchman (before getting Other'd to death).
  • He rapidly allies himself with existing ranking members of the Watch, like Thorne. By accusing someone that many of the brothers already disliked, he earned their allegiance; and 90% of getting a position of power is simply having other people accept that you deserve that power.
  • He has the explicit backing of the Lannisters, both Tywin (who's filthy rich) and Joffrey (who, by that point, had basically won the war.) Again, that makes it likely that other ranking Watch officers would follow his lead, in hopes of earning favor.

Of course, a subsequent events will ultimately demonstrate, he has no official authority in the Night's Watch, only that he can derive from his high-powered friends:

He gets no support from Stannis nor most of the Watch when he makes a play for Lord Commander, and ultimately, Jon tries to send him away. With Tywin no longer alive to support Slyn, Jon simply executes him for insubordiation when he refuses.

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Regarding your spoiler, I don't think Tywin would have minded. –  Kevin Apr 18 at 2:29
    
probably not, but without Tywin's backing, most of Slynt's leverage was gone. –  Michael Edenfield Apr 18 at 12:54

Janos doesn't hold any real position of power. He has a letter from King's Landing that states, in subtle terms, that they'd like for him to be in command. But the fact is, he came in as a recruit just like the rest. Any "power" he has is due to the backing of people such as Alliser.

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True but the Watch has a serious lack of officer material. Whatever Slynt's faults, he had risen to command the Gold Cloaks and must have had the ability to lead men. –  TheMathemagician Aug 8 at 11:18

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