In the battle of Hardhome, Jon saw that to approach a White Walker, or better, the Night King, he would have to traverse through hundreds of wights, and the Night King usually won't show up on the front line in a battle. White Walkers usually keep themselves at a high position.

Going beyond the wall, it would have been much better to have some archers along, with arrowheads forged from Dragonglass. Why did Jon Snow only have men with close-quarter combat weapons?


4 Answers 4


The expedition beyond the wall is a last ditch attempt to get more people up north to help protect the realm. That's also one of the reasons why they took so few men with them. So why wouldn't you include archers in your small patrol:

  • Archers need a lot of ammunition to be effective.
  • An arrow can only hit one target at once.
  • An arrow needs to be retrieved to be used again.
  • The archers would need back up weapons if the wights get close to them.
  • Archers are only effective at long range and as we've seen wights like to attack up close and personal.
  • Archers aren't too effective against a mass enemy approaching at speed.
  • Archers need good visibility: It's winter now so blizzards are more likely. As we saw with the bear they had trouble tracking it with handheld weapons, an archer would have been useless. (Credit to @Kepotx for this point)
  • Arrows aren't as accurate as a melee hit and so may miss altogether or pass through the target, think skeletons. (Credit to @Amy for this point)

Dragonglass is already in short supply and has only just started to be mined. You don't want to waste a whole load of it in arrows before the main battles have even begun.

As mentioned by @Loki in a comment:

I think Jon also didn't imagine he would meet the Night King (or at least he hoped he wouldn't). Probably the mission was planned as a quick hit and run: find some wights (a scouting party?), kidnap one of them and run the hell back to the Wall.

  • 6
    Not to mention that archer are not supper-effective during blizzard
    – Kepotx
    Aug 25, 2017 at 11:26
  • 7
    Excellent answer, but just a minor comment. I think Jon also didn't imagine he would meet the Night King (or at least he hoped he wouldn't). Probably the mission was planned as a quick hit and run: find some wights (a scouting party?), kidnap one of them and run the hell back to the Wall.
    – Hans Olo
    Aug 25, 2017 at 11:26
  • 3
    Winter is here, and they are in the north. Sure, they cant be 100% sure that there will be or not a blizzard, but it's a scenario that could happened.
    – Kepotx
    Aug 25, 2017 at 11:31
  • 2
    Another reason not to use archers: arrows tend to be less effective against skeletons.
    – user38763
    Aug 25, 2017 at 12:39
  • 1
    Another reason is if they bring a skilled archer like Anguy and then war would be over and season 8 would be quite boring without an enemy to fight against.
    – Virusbomb
    Aug 25, 2017 at 13:45

My answer is plot, Virusbomb had a comment along those lines on another answer that made me smile. My 'in universe' answer can only be that he is a fool. First lets be clear that this is a skirmish force, not a large army deployed for battle using those types of tactics.

  • A single barrel of dragon glass could have made hundreds of arrowheads. Based on the timing in the show they should have a few boatloads ready, bringing back 50 arrowheads worth would have been no problem.

  • Most skirmish archers are also very well trained at melee.

  • A decent archer can fire off a staggering amount of arrows at an approaching enemy depending on visibility range. A great archer can snipe at high value targets from a distance, during the battle visibility cleared up. With low visibility high accuracy can be
    achieved at 10 yards without fear of hitting your own team. Note that visibility cleared up during the big battle.

Given the experience and background of Jon I find the fact that he did not bring at least two bows almost beyond belief. Even if he did not expect to see any more than small groups of enemies, he would want range weapons.

I would love to hear of instances in real history where I would be mistaken. Where range weapons were available to any size force, on any mission and it was decided to stick to melee.

  • This seems mainly to answer the question of why Jon should have brought archers, rather than why he didn't. I think your answer to the second is "there is no good reason", but in that case most of your post in commentary.
    – Blackwood
    Aug 25, 2017 at 18:41
  • I apologize for not communicating better. My answer was plot and in universe was that he was a fool. Meaning with his experience and knowledge, to not bring archers means he was foolish. The rest of my post were reasons that demonstrate why it was a foolish decision.
    – Joe
    Aug 25, 2017 at 19:24
  • It is generally acknowledged by anyone who stops to think about it that ranged weapons are great because you can kill opponents before they can kill you. Even Romans, who often relied on their heavy infantry, carried javelins.
    – PipperChip
    Aug 25, 2017 at 23:37
  • Do you guys remember the funeral of Hoster Tully at Riverrun, and how the arrow was thrown at a long distance, and through the rapidly flowing air? I think the archers always have the effect of air-flow in mind, and I don't recall any battle where archers weren't used.
    – Arslan Ali
    Aug 26, 2017 at 7:07

The mission was primarily a diplomatic mission to peacefully persuade the wildlings to come south of the wall. It was not a military mission.

It is doubtful a large Night Watch force with archers would "peacefully persuade" wildlings.

  • 2
    While the OP mentions Hardhome, he's actually talking about S07E06 where the goal was to engage the wights, though they didn't anticipate a large battle.
    – Llewellyn
    Aug 25, 2017 at 18:55

Addition to the answer above, only valaerial steel destroys the dead, and having so many arrows of the same isn't a viable option as even the swords of the same material are the ones forged long ago when dragons existed.

  • 6
    Dragonglass works as well, and they have it in abundance. Aug 25, 2017 at 12:13
  • They had barely started mining it
    – fireball.1
    Aug 25, 2017 at 12:19
  • 1
    It's "valyrian", not "valaerial".
    – Arnaud D.
    Aug 25, 2017 at 12:35
  • @fireball.1: “They had barely started mining it” — I think “barely started” is an overstatement; they’d done enough to find the cave drawings. But they still presumably had the dragonglass they discovered buried at the Fist of the First Men in season two, and they had enough for Jorah to have a dragonglass dagger. Aug 25, 2017 at 14:36
  • They actually found a lot of dagger like weapons at the fist of the first men, and shredding a dagger into 2 arrows maybe wouldn't have been worth it. Consider the fact that even though they had started mining dragonglass still some of them had regular steel swords
    – fireball.1
    Aug 25, 2017 at 14:41

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