So, to get spoilers out of the way -

Jon Snow is too honorable to break his oath and leave the Night's Watch. However, he is stabbed a bunch, dies, and due to a line in the Night's Watch oath - "It shall not end until my death" - is able to leave without his usual reservation.

Now, this is fine from Jon's perspective. However, there is a fairly rigid law about the Wall's deserters being punished by death. Which makes me wonder: why isn't Jon having more trouble with this?

He knows what happened, but others don't. And the explanation that he actually did die doesn't seem like one the lands' lords and authorities would take on faith. I know I wouldn't. His story isn't quite like Sam's, who was sent by the Night's Watch to become a maester. Jon is famous enough that many would know who he is, and that he has taken the black. But a story like him dying and coming back to life is probably one that takes quite a but of time to stick - if it ever does.

A possible explanation might be that people know Jon is honorable and trust him. Or that they don't care about the law, and think that they can somehow benefit from not executing him - although the law seems to be a strict one, and not everyone seems to be psyched to help Jon out. Or maybe by that time people coming back to life is a common enough thing that people believe it that easily.

Speculation aside, however, I am curious whether this was directly addressed from the higher-ups - the makers of the show, or the big boss himself. Why isn't Jon executed on sight?

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    @Mooz Right. But to everyone whom he encounters after leaving the Night's Watch he probably looks thoroughly unexecuted.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 0:22
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    Most likely never going to be explained or remembered. However, the logical explanation is that he's currently with Lady Sansa Bolton nee Stark. So if anything, people would not question him appearing since they could assume that she has or will deal with him. The other explanation is that no one knows or thinks that he's betrayed the Night's Watch. The entire North knows that he's the Lord Commander, so they would assume that he's on some important business.
    – Möoz
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 0:39
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    It's one of those plot points that will likely go unaddressed. Robett Glover was pretty angry about the fact that it was a Wildling army, but somehow wasn't mad enough to direct that anger at Jon as a traitor. The only real way anything makes sense is if, off-screen, Dolorous Edd sent out ravens to all the houses informing of his appointment as Lord Commander, and included some explanation that Jon Snow is not a traitor.
    – DariM
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 1:35
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    @MishaRosnach Since the show is so close to an end, I would expect a lot more instances of scenes being crunched together and subtleties lost, where they previously may have taken a small extra scene or dialogue to connect things together. Or even just deliberately giving way for a cool shot - for example, Jon Snow "ceding" Castle Black to Edd goes against basically everything about how the Night's Watch works, but it allowed for a cool sequence of "Castle Black is yours" and "My watch has ended", and a followup of "I'm not the Lord Com..... close the bloody gate"
    – DariM
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 2:15
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    @Mooz I do not believe Lord commander riding on head of an Army South will be considered "On important business" by people. Especially if that Army is made up of Wildlings. Night's Watch does not ride with armies in Southwards direction. Not since King in the North forbid them to build fortifications South of the wall.
    – Aegon
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 5:10

3 Answers 3


Jon's got an Army

The answer is simple. Because Jon has an Army. No one can arrest or execute him unless they deal with his Army first.

The deserters are usually taken by hunting parties of the Watch or in case the deserter makes it beyond Brandon's new gift, he is taken by patrols of the local lords. They are usually alone or in very small groups so they do not pose much danger to a lord who might be prepared to carry out the sentence.

Jon's different because he is the only crow (ex-crow) come down from the Wall with an Army. He had 2,000 wildlings at his back. The figure is even more impressive when you consider that for Second Battle of Winterfell, Warden of the North Ramsay Bolton managed to gather only 6000 men. Granted 6000 can easily cut their way through the meagre 2000 wildlings but that would require a full battle to capture the bastard of Winterfell. So in a way, Jon had about 1/3 power Warden of North could muster and thus it was sufficient to give any lord with that idea a pause.

Even Lord Bolton was forced to reconsider this factor and he had to make this offer to Jon in S06E09:

Now, dismount and kneel before me, surrender your army and proclaim me the true Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. I will pardon you for deserting the Night's Watch.

I do not doubt that had Jon surrendered his Army, he would have been slaughtered but he did not surrender his Army. Thus he could not be taken. Say what you will about Ramsay, but at least he remembered that Jon is a deserter, unlike other lords.

Lack of Warrants from Castle Black (Books)

From a previous answer, you can see the assertion on how Castle Black sends warrants for deserters (from books POV) and how do Lords distinguish deserters in their lands. In Jon's case, no such warrants were issued. And he made no efforts to hide himself.

Trust a bastard? Nopes

As for trust, People of Westeros generally do not consider Bastards to be trust worthy, even if it is Eddard Stark's bastard. We have most of evidence in this regard from the books, not the show.

Resurrection is normal? No

Coming back from the dead would be just as shocking as it would be in our world. The only resurrection that we have seen is that of Beric Dondarrion. And he is a fugitive lord-turned-outlaw, currently cut from rest of the world in Riverlands. Sure peasants may have come to believe he can't be killed but since they believe a lot of things, no one is going to believe that. From the Books we know that Beric's resurrection is considered to be failure of the men who claim to kill him i.e. they think that the claimants lied and they had never killed Dondarrion in the first place. Most of the realm probably hasn't heard of a Lord Dondarrion from Dornish marches since beginning of the War of the Five Kings.

So no it is not common in Westeros for a dead man to come back alive (Well at least without blue eyes shining like stars).

The Sansa effect

He also has Sansa. If they win (which they did), Sansa becomes Lady of Winterfell and Warden of the North (Even though in the books, it is a title granted & renewed by the Crown, in the show it appears to be a hereditary title). If Sansa confirms the story, Lords and peasants will believe it as well, well at least on the outside even if they harbor doubts. The Night's Watch under Edd Tollett might also confirm the event and make entries into their records. (Besides Edd is not the Lord Commander. He may be acting lord commander for now but what happens if brothers of Night's Watch elect someone else for their Lord Commander at election?)

The technical debate on termination of Service with NW

But it must be noted Edd does not agree with Jon's point that death is end of his duty. From S06E04:

Edd: How can you leave us now?

Jon: I did everything I could. You know that.

Edd: You swore a vow.

Jon: Aye, I pledged my life to the Night's Watch. I gave my life.

Edd: For all nights to come.

Jon: They killed me, Edd! My own brothers. You want me to stay here after that?

The Vow contains two important parts indicating the end of service:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

Jon is sticking to the phrase that says that his Watch ended with his death. Edd is more of the idea that his Watch does not end because it is for all the nights to come. The pioneers of Night's Watch did not consider case of a bloke who gets resurrected when they were writing their vows.


In conclusion, it's Jon's Army which gives the lords of the realm a pause. If he loses his Army, pretty sure everyone will suddenly recall he is a deserter.

Personally I believe this is a serious flaw in writing. Not one house in North objected or asked about Jon's "desertion" from the Night's Watch when by rights they should have done so. We can make observations on why he was not executed, but we cannot make observations on for what splendid reason no Northern Lord was remotely interested in calling Jon a deserter and a traitor.

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    Very detailed, nice answer +1 Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 8:14
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    Reminds me on that “Power resides where men believe it resides” quote. And as has happened several times, the definition of rightfulness did not depend on applying rigid logic to some wordings. As we now today, the lords of the North were even willing to elect that bastard as their new king, so obviously, all of them are willing to interpret the law in his way. — Unless he falls…
    – Holger
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 9:07
  • Technically reading into the oath Edd's statement is void as the full sentence is I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come. and Jon has pledged is life and given it. It just seems to reiterate the It shall not end until my death. part.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 8:10
  • @TheLethalCarrot Ed's got a point. Aye he's pledged his life, but for all the nights to come. Just because he died and then got resurrected doesn't mean that nights have stopped coming. As long as there are nights to come, his life is pledged. Not first life, nor second, third neither, his life. No matter how many resurrections he get. Not to mention, the second part of the pledge, his honor. Did his honor die too?
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 9:29
  • @Aegon No I agree I've just never seen that part of the sentence commented on so thought it was interesting to bring up. It does say life not lives so he probably could still loophole his way out of it. He certainly seems to have a bit less honour than previous Jon to by letting Sansa set the dogs on Ramsay.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 9:32

Because there is no authority to name him a traitor.

Lord Commanders of the Night's Watch serve for life. If they don't believe he died and was resurrected, then they must also believe he is still the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. As Lord Commander he can go where ever he wants, because there is nobody to give him commands. The Lord Commander is the one who decides who is a traitor.

It becomes tricky after he led an army against Winterfell. But still there is nobody which might officially mark him a traitor, because the oath isn't very specific. It just says he "shall win no glory". That's very subjective until now, therefore some lords may call him a traitor while others don't.

If Jon would try to become Lord of Winterfell, that would clearly violate the oath, but he didn't yet and when he does, he'll probably have enough supporters to ignore the back story.

  • I believe this answer is invalid. Jon does not believe himself to be a member of NW anymore and he made it clear to Edd. Edd in turn told him that he still is a member of the NW to which Jon said he wants to leave because of threat to his life. Night's Watch takes no part in wars of the realm. Stark struggle for Winterfell is something NW has nothing to do with. Lord Commander Hoare did not go south with his men to help his brother King Harren against Aegon the conqueror. Also he is not claiming winterfell, he is a bastard. Sansa is the claimant.
    – Aegon
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 9:13
  • @Aegon: Thanks for the feedback, but I'm not sure where I contradict your comment. I don't remember Jon telling some lords that he is not with the Night's Watch anymore. I also said that it becomes tricky when he attacked Winterfell. I'll improve the last paragraph, I didn't want to say that Jon claims Winterfell. "invalid" is a strong word, therefore I'd like to know with sentences you think are untrue.
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 10:00
  • It is true that Jon has not told any lord that he is no longer a NW man (And curiously no lord asked him what was he doing here when he was the LC of NW, bad writing?). Jon taking part in northern war is treason enough because NW is sworn to take no part in wars of realm and indicative of his desertion, thus any rival lord would have the right and authority to execute him. Jon did win glory by defeating bastard of Bolton. The premise that no one has the authority is what I find wrong. Also there is no instance in history of a LC traveling south AFAIK.
    – Aegon
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 10:14
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    @Aegon: No, the back story of the Night's Watch wasn't covered in the TV series. As I understood the lands are given to the NW to be used but are not actually their property. I'll search for some quotes.
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 10:42
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    I’m with Chris on this one. Jon didn’t desert the Night’s Watch. He was arguably about to before Sansa arrived, but he only decided to take back Winterfell from the Boltons because it was necessary to enable the Watch to defend against the White Walkers. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 0:01

They never are executed on the sight. Remember season 1 episode 1? Lord Eddard Stark was called for beheading and upon arrival he questioned the fleeing crow to which he responded with his side of story. After hearing it and without much proof to validate the story Ned decides the fleeing crow should be executed.

Now why Jon isn't beheaded, cause as you yourself admit him being a bastard of Ned Stark has recognition, there are two people who are there to validate his story of resurrection 1. Sir Davos Seaworth (although it is new but as he has his own house Seaworth, he has a trust value) 2. The Red woman who did the resurrection. And if accompanied by Sansa she's a trust factor too.

But as the episodes are limited timeframe they might have wanted all this reasoning to be behind the scenes and show what happened after this reasoning.

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    The guy in the beginning didn't get much of a trial, and Jon's story isn't what one might call believable. Jon's companions having his back is hardly proof, and "oh yeah, he definitely did die and come back to life" is rarely met with "oh, well all right then." Kinda ruins my suspension-of-disbelief buzz. I think a couple of dialogue lines or a word from the creators isn't too much to ask, although I haven't found any yet.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 2:54
  • I swear on old Gods and new and on Lord of the light and one true God of death, I will tweet this to GRRM and David B. To take into account but I'm just another GOT addict so I don't know what they'd do about my small tweet. Valar Dohaeris Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 2:58
  • Hah. Well, if GRRM really did just overlook it then I'd rather it remain that way. Better an honest mistake than some contrived storyline bandage. I suppose the book might still take care of it.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 3:09
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    @MishaRosnach GRRM didn't write that plot. David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Bryan Cogman did. I have a feeling that Jon's arc is not headed toward Winterfell, and if it is, it will be much better written than the show.
    – Möoz
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 4:32

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