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A key part of the creed the Black Brothers swear to is that "I shall father no sons".

But we know that the former Lord Commander Jeor Mormont had a son, Ser Jorah Mormont. Presumably, if the Lord Commander was faithful to his vows, he fathered Jorah prior to taking the Black.

Is there anything in either Game of Thrones or A Song of Ice and Fire that explains why Jeor left his family to join the Night's Watch, and when in his lifetime he did so?

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Why

We're not told when and why, but we can make a guess.

It's possible he wanted to give his seat to his son, Jorah, and handed his blade Longclaw to him before his departure. After Jorah shamed himself and his house, he sent Longclaw back to his father in the Night's Watch.

“My son brought dishonor to House Mormont, but at least he had the grace to leave the sword behind when he fled. My sister returned it to my keeping, but the very sight of it reminded me of Jorah’s shame”
A Game of Thrones - Jon VIII

Jeor was evidently coming of age (as noted below) and decided he would bring his House honour by "taking the black"

Father asked if there were any knights in the hall who would do honor to their houses by taking the black
A Game of Thrones - Sansa III

When

It's not known, but it is known he arrived before Alliser Thorne did, who was sent there at the end of Robert's Rebellion. He is said to have been Lord Commander of the Night's Watch before Alliser's arrival.

"The Watch has no shortage of stableboys," Lord Mormont grumbled. "That seems to be all they send us these days. Stableboys and sneak thieves and rapers. Ser Alliser is an anointed knight, one of the few to take the black since I have been Lord Commander. He fought bravely at King's Landing."
A Game of Thrones - Tyrion III

But they've been contradicted in more recent canon and semi-canon sources:

"You were just a boy, and I was all in black, one of a dozen riding escort to old Lord Commander Qorgyle when he came down to see your father at Winterfell. I was walking the wall around the yard when I came on you and your brother Robb. It had snowed the night before, and the two of you had built a great mountain above the gate and were waiting for someone likely to pass underneath."
A Storm of Swords - Jon I

From the above, it's worth noting that Jon was born at the end of Robert's Rebellion and was not brought back to Winterfell till after the Rebellion.

So we know he was in the Night's Watch from at least around 14 years before the events of ASOS, and we know he'd left after Jorah was wed and before the Greyjoy Rebellion.

Ten years we were wed, or near enough as makes no matter. She was a plain-faced woman, but not unkind. [...[
Ser Jorah nodded. “By then my father had taken the black, so I was Lord of Bear Island in my own right.
A Clash of Kings - Daenerys I

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    Jorah did not send Longclaw to his father, he merely left it at Bear Island; it was his aunt that sent it to Jeor. I also doubt that for Jeor it was a "coming of age" act, he already was an adult man, a widow and a father when he took the black, even if the "family honor" part is very plausible. – Sekhemty Oct 4 '17 at 22:15
  • This is as good an answer as there is at this point. Well done Ed. – Möoz Oct 5 '17 at 2:58
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    @Sekhemty ah yes. These are both mistakes in wording on my part. As it's clear from my quote, I'm evidently aware Jorah left the sword behind and his aunt sent it. Also clear from my quotes, that I'm aware Jeor was not "coming of age" as in a teenager, but "coming of age" as in elderly, but maybe that's the wrong series of words to use. – Edlothiad Oct 5 '17 at 4:55
  • Benjen joins the NW because he is a younger brother, who won't inherit the House Stark. It's considered tradition in the North to take the Black in such a situation, likely under the idea that "at least you're useful there". The same principle may apply to Jeor. Once he deems Jorah fit to inherit House Mormont, Jeor decides to pass it along (maybe he tired of it? he obviously chose to pass it along) and make himself useful at the Wall. (In that sense, it's not so much a coming of age, but rather a passing of age, Jeor doesn't want to lead the house anymore long before his actual death) – Flater Oct 5 '17 at 11:18
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It is unclear exactly when, but Mormont joined the Night's Watch before Robert's Rebellion. We know this because in A Game of Thrones he says he has been in the Watch longer than Alliser Thorne, who joined at the end of Robert's Rebellion.

It is also unclear why he abdicated to join the Night's Watch.

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