In the first series of the TV show several things apparently bypass The Wall to reach Winterfell:

  • The Night's Watch member Will captured near Winterfell and executed by Ned.
  • The Direwolf & her pups found immediately after the execution
  • Osha and the other Wildlings travelling with her

If The Wall is approximately the same along its length it would presumably be impassible. Is the only option for them to go around the western end (since it stops at the Shadow Tower)? Is this clarified in the book? Are other methods mentioned in subsequent books?

  • 4
    Keep reading, is my advice.
    – TLP
    Apr 14, 2012 at 11:17
  • @Beofett thanks yes I think this should be closed as a dupe, I didn't find that question before. Apr 18, 2012 at 0:38

6 Answers 6


Yes, it's clarified in the book.


The Night's Watch doesn't have enough men to effectively patrol the whole wall so Wildlings sometimes climb over the wall.

Night's Watch:

There are secret passages known to the Night's Watch and some that are magically closed to all except sworn brothers. I don't think it's ever clearly stated how Will got south of the wall, and in the book it's not Will that survives.

Dire Wolves:

Doesn't really need a spoiler tag, they could go around the wall in the West: the wall stops at The Shadow Tower which is not all the way at the coast. It's mentioned that Wildlings sometimes slip through the hills on that side and there's also a mention of "The Bridge of Skulls." The watch is concerned with people, so a direwolf could probably slip through.

  • All make sense except for the last one. How would the Wolves go around the wall if it stretches from coast to coast?
    – Dima
    Apr 16, 2012 at 18:15
  • 2
    @Dima: edited, here's one map showing The Shadow Tower: towerofthehand.com/reference/k/01582/index.html Apr 16, 2012 at 18:53
  • Here's another decent link: awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Wall
    – Josh
    Apr 16, 2012 at 18:54
  • Looking at the map it appears that the wall goes all the way to a major river, but not the sea. So you'd have to swim a major river at least; which is plausible for a wolf
    – user20310
    Apr 12, 2014 at 8:37
  • 3
    We're also assuming that Dire Wolves do not exist South of the Wall, but Ned says they're RARE South of the Wall. So apparently they still exist on the southern side, just not in any abundance.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:17

Wall can be defeated in many ways.

First of all you need to understand that wall isn't made to stop minor incursions but rather large scale invasions. That's because:

Wall isn't complete

On the western portion of the wall, there's a place where one can easily bypass the wall.

That place is called the Gorge. The Gorge is massive, well, gorge. It separates the wall from Bay of ice. There is a bridge spanning above it which is called Bridge of Skulls. Wildling raiders often exploit this weakness in Wall to raid inside Seven Kingdoms.

From ASOS, Jon V

In the west they would descend into the black depths of the Gorge to make their way around the Shadow Tower.

But as that location is unsuitable for launching a major invasion force and can be defended against small parties by a determined detachment of Black Brothers, the Night's Watch has never been much bothered by it.

Given that nearest Night's Watch Castle is abandoned, The area's defense is responsibility of Shadow Tower whose Commander may call for aid from Castle Black if deemed necessary.

Also this is the only plausible route which could be taken by the direwolves to sneak inside the realm from Northern wilderness.

Night's Watch lacks the men to mount proper patrols

Night's Watch isn't what it used to be. They lack the man to guard the wall properly. Only three castles are manned on the Wall which are:

  1. Castle Black
  2. Shadow Tower
  3. East Watch by the Sea

The other 16 castles are abandoned. Even in its prime days, Night's Watch never had men or resources to man more than 17 castles simultaneously.

From ACOK, Jon V:

"Yes. To be sure." The Old Bear unrolled a map, frowned at it, tossed it aside, opened another. He was pondering where the hammer would fall, Jon could see it. The Watch had once manned seventeen castles along the hundred leagues of the Wall, but they had been abandoned one by one as the brotherhood dwindled. Only three were now garrisoned, a fact that Mance Rayder knew as well as they did. "Ser Alliser Thorne will bring back fresh levies from King's Landing, we can hope. If we man Greyguard from the Shadow Tower and the Long Barrow from Eastwatch . . ."

Given this, Night's Watch is unable to effectively patrol the wall and stop small bands of intruders.

They still have rangers however who provide them intelligence about greater threats than few Run-away Wildlings or bands of Raiders.

If Rangers encounter small bands of raiders, they normally deal with them themselves rather than reporting back to their respective castle for further commands.

As Mance Rayder said:

The Wall can stop an army, but not a man alone.

Abandoned Castles

As mentioned already, 16 of the 19 castles are abandoned. All of them have tunnels leading to Wild North. Night's Watch always sealed those tunnels with stone and ice however it appears that some castles have secret entrances which were forgotten when abandoning of the castle took place.

Sam and Gilly used one of those forgotten secret passages to enter the realm from Wildling lands.

From ASOS, Bran IV:

"Why?" Meera demanded. "If there's a gate . . ."

"You won't find it. If you did it wouldn't open. Not for you. It's the Black Gate." Sam plucked at the faded black wool of his sleeve. "Only a man of the Night's Watch can open it, he said. A Sworn Brother who has said his words."


Another way to cross the wall is tunneling. One can tunnel his way into the realm by digging a tunnel through the wall.

Of course a task of such magnitude can't be undertaken by a small band of raiders. You need an army for that to do the labour and protect against the Rangers from Night's Watch.

Arson Iceaxe used this method and while he was digging, he was discovered by Rangers who didn't disturb Arson and simply sealed the Tunnel he had dug from the other side.

From ASOS, Jon III:

Jon knew the tale as well. Arson Iceaxe had been halfway through the Wall when his tunnel was found by rangers from the Nightfort. They did not trouble to disturb him at his digging, only sealed the way behind with ice and stone and snow. Dolorous Edd used to say that if you pressed your ear flat to the Wall, you could still hear Arson chipping away with his axe

Gorne's Way

Gorne's way is a legendary labyrinth of underground tunnels and caves which can be used to bypass the wall entirely and emerge on the other side of the Wall. It is said to have been used by Brothers Gendel and Gorne who were Kings beyond the Wall and lead their people South only to be defeated by might of Starks. It is unclear whether this is myth or fact.

From ASOS, Jon III:

"You know nothing, Jon Snow. It went on and on and on. There are hundreds o' caves in these hills, and down deep they all connect. There's even a way under your Wall. Gorne's Way."

Bay of Seals

This is a relatively safer way to bypass the wall if you're not seasick or afraid to get your clothes wet when War Galleys of Eastwatch come to drown you.

Wildlings use this small bay to bypass the wall from Sea and cross on little crude boats. They are often intercepted by Eastwatch or Forces of House Umber.

From ASOS, Jon V:

Along the east coast the raiders most often built boats to slip across the Bay of Seals.


And of course there's the favorite method of the Wildling raiders. Climbing! It is not technically bypassing the wall but I am just adding it for sake of completion.

Night's Watch has a rule of never allowing trees to grow near the wall as the trees can act as launch pads for Raiders to climb the wall without having to tackle the dangers of the wall itself for greater part of the climb.

Due to shortage of men, Night's Watch appears to have grown lax in this regard. When Jon was returning to realm with Jarl and Magnar of Thenn, they used trees growing next to the Wall to get a safe push in their climb.

From ASOS, Jon IV:

"There they are," Ygritte said, and Jon glanced up to see the first climber emerge above the treetops. It was Jarl. He had found a sentinel tree that leaned against the Wall, and led his men up the trunk to get a quicker start. The wood should never have been allowed to creep so close. They're three hundred feet up, and they haven't touched the ice itself yet.

From the same chapter:

The Others take them all, thought Jon, as he watched them scramble up the steep slope of the ridge and vanish beneath the trees. It would not be the first time wildlings had scaled the Wall, not even the hundred and first. The patrols stumbled on climbers two or three times a year, and rangers sometimes came on the broken corpses of those who had fallen.

Cases specific to your question

  1. Will/Gared: Being a veteran member of Night's Watch, he (Will in Show and Gared in books) should have been able to use the magical black gate in Night Fort however it is not known if he knew about the gate. Alternatively he could have just used any of the methods above, depending on tools he had with him and the location he was at. It is not specifically mentioned
  2. Direwolf: The She-wolf most plausibly crossed the Gorge since it is unlikely for a wolf to climb, swim across sea or tunnel her way in. She must have given birth on the other side of the wall where she was found dead as the cubs were very young at that time, with only Ghost having his eyes open.
  3. Osha and her band: It is unknown which method they used. It could have been any one of the ways mentioned above.
  • 2
    Note: In the show (S03E09) Osha states that she rowed past the bay of seals by boat.
    – msg45f
    Feb 5, 2017 at 10:52

Mance Rayder said it best:

The Wall can stop an army, but not a man alone.

  • 6
    -1 This doesn't answer the question at all.
    – Wipqozn
    Nov 17, 2015 at 11:43

Night's watch mans the wall from only few places. There are actually around 18 castles in the length of the wall. But due to the scarcity of men, only 3 castles are manned. If a small number of wildlings say 50 or 100 wanted to scale the wall they could do quite easily without notifying the Watch, albeit with few loses of their own. As shown in the TV series, in the books too, they just climb the wall using climbing tools of their own making. There are quite a lot of wildlings, notably the King beyond the wall, Mance Ryder, boast of 100s of climbing to their belt.In the end, it is just a wall, though quite big. Its main aim is to keep the "undead" and "Others/White walkers" away from the realm. For humans (i.e) wildlings and the Watch it is just a huge and difficult structure to scale, which just like climbing mountains, few master it and succeed. Many lose their lives trying.


There are also secret tunnels, buried deep down beyond the wall, that can be used to bypass it (the wall) and which lead into the north.


There are rumors that there are still a few Dire Wolves that exist in the Godswood. Which is where I believe the mother and pups were found. So it may not have had to cross the wall at all. All that is said is no one has seen them in 200 years. And that Forrest is huge. It wouldn't be unheard of to not see a particular probably few in number species in it.

  • Which godswood? Godswood can refer to any weirwood grove in any castle in Seven Kingdoms. The pups were found on side of a road, not Godswood of Winterfell. I am sorry but this answer is vague, wrong and irrelevant to what has been asked here
    – Aegon
    Oct 6, 2016 at 9:31
  • Besides Godswoods aren't huge forests as a rule and are maintained inside castles so I find it unlikely that the inhabitants wouldn't know about any residing direwolves
    – Aegon
    Oct 6, 2016 at 9:41
  • @Aegon also, Direwolves have nothing to eat in Godswoods inside of castles
    – Schullz
    Oct 6, 2016 at 11:08

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