With the White Walkers not far off, and winter having started, how can Sam complete his education and become a Maester in time to help or save the Night's Watch?

If a fast acolyte gets approximately 3 rings a year and you have 16 to 20 to get to become a Maester, I don't see how he can be of any use to Jon. Say he's the best acolyte of all time, that's still 4 or 5 years, maybe. That doesn't include travel time back to The Wall during the winter, which seems near impossible from what we've seen so far.

I haven't seen the show, but it appears to have the same issues as the books. Does GRRM have the timelines messed up a little bit? I remember reading that was an issue with A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons, that he planned on doing a fast forward of five years or so, and that was the big struggle for him. Any ideas?

  • 5
    Who says he'll ever finish?
    – DeeV
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 20:42
  • 4
    Needs a montage.
    – Noelkd
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 9:04
  • The current summer is ten years, which suggests a winter lasting many years. If the White Walkers could do their thing in a normal Sol/Earth winter, people would not think of them as myths or legends. Clearly, they need a loooooooong winter to be a threat below the wall. This suggests that Sam doesn't have to be ready for action at the start of winter, but by some undetermined point well into winter. Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 15:41

2 Answers 2


Short answer: Sam does not need to finish obtaining any rings, his main objective is to find ways to combat the White Walkers.

Long answer:

Sam has been trying to find any information he can on the White Walkers/Others in the Castle Black library since they became a renewed threat. The library there is woefully incomplete and many of the books are in a state of disrepair.

The Night's Watch is only aware of two materials that can kill a White Walker at this point: 1) Dragon Glass, and 2) Valyrian Steel. Both of these materials are rare and can only be used on single targets.

Sam needs to find out how the Army of the Dead was defeated during the Long Night. The Citadel's library would be the best place to try.

  • 3
    But Jon's orders was for him to become a Maester to replace Aemon
    – brhoades
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 20:59
  • 12
    That is the secondary objective, and also the perfect cover to get Sam into the Citadel.
    – Skooba
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 21:01
  • 1
    @Skooba Dragonglass/Obsidian is not "rare" as such, at least not in the same way as Valyrian Steel. It's just not in common use. Stannis, for example, comments that there is a plentiful amount around Dragonstone, and sends words to start mining. There is also a bunch around Valyria/Asshai.
    – DariM
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 22:12
  • 1
    @DariM just in relation to say regular steel l, wood, and stone I guess
    – Skooba
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 23:49
  • 1
    @Skooba Even then it's hard to say. It's not like you're just going to collect all the swords and steel and send them up north without some logistical work involved, so maybe mining and shipping obsidian by ship from Dragonstone to Eastwatch isn't that much harder for the relevant quantities.
    – DariM
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 0:01

It was never Sam's main objective to become a maester, sure that's why he went to Oldtown but that was a side mission.

SAM: I wanted to ask you something. To ask something of you. Send me, Gilly, and the baby to Oldtown so I can become a Maester. That’s what I’m meant to be, not this.
JON: I need you here, Sam. If you leave, who’s left to give me advice I trust?
SAM: Well, there’s Edd.
Jon gives Sam a look.
SAM: I’ll be more use to you as a Maester. More use to everyone now that Maester Aemon’s gone. The Citadel has the world’s greatest library. I’ll learn about history, strategy, healing. And other things. Things that will help when they come.
Jon stares at Sam, saying nothing.
SAM: If Gilly stays here then she’ll die. And the baby that she named after me will die. And I’ll end up dying, too, trying to protect them. Which means that the last thing that I’ll see in this world will be the look in her eyes when I fail them. (pause) I’d rather see a thousand White Walkers than see that. Jon inhales, exhales, then nods somberly. Sam smiles.
Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 10, "Mother's Mercy"

As you can see Jon only agrees to send Sam after Sam explains that he will learn things to help, Jon was reluctant initially.

Note that this proves true in Season 7 Episode 5, "Eastwatch", when Sam leaves the Citadel after learning the maesters are dragging their heels with helping him become one and after finding the books that will help him. The following transcript details that Sam takes books before leaving reinforcing this fact.

SAM is walking through a dark library. He heads to the restricted section and unlocks the barred gate. He begins removing books and scrolls from shelfs and stuff them in his satchel. After retrieving what he needs, SAM quickly walks to the exit of the library. He pauses before he leaves and turns around. He glances back at the library. It is many stories tall lined with countless shelves of books. SAMWELL looks at the library one last time, turns and walks out of the door.
SAMWELL is loading a wagon with his things. He walks around to the driver seat. GILLY and SAM JR. are already in the wagon dressed for the road. SAM climbs aboard and takes the reins in his hand.
GILLY: Are you sure you want to do this? You always wanted to be a maester.
SAMWELL: I'm tired of reading about the achievements of better men.
Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 5, "Eastwatch"

Note that Sam has also already got some helpful books in his possession and has already sent information up to Jon Snow about the whereabouts of Dragonglass on Dragonstone.

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