In the finale of Game of Thrones, we see that

Samwell Tarly

is appointed Grand Maester, and given the accompanying position on the Small Council.

This person stole tomes from the Citadel, never completed a link in his chain, and is a member of the Night's Watch. Any one of these things could disqualify him from the role, and yet he is appointed nonetheless.

Are Grand Maesters not elected by the Citadel themselves? Is there any precedent for the King (or showrunners) directly appointing a GM, or any precedent for a non-Arch Maester becoming Grand Maester?

While it is unfortunately clear on this point that many of the traditions and laws of Westeros cannot hold a candle to a dramatic series of television, is there any canon explanation for how and why this person would receive this position?

  • 32
    "Is there any precedence for the King (or showrunners) directly appointing a GM" - isn't that how Pycelle had his position? He was a Lannister lickspittle and not a particularly good maester Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:40
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    @user568458 Pycelle was Grand Maester before Robert's Rebellion. He would have lost the position after betraying the king in the Rebellion, but like Jaime, he was pardoned. Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:43
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    No, the Arch-Maesters elect the Grand Maester. They uphold their right to make the GM. The Kings may unmake the GM however, like King Maegor who simply cut off their heads whenever they displeased him. And the Queens may bestow the title on a Maester of their own choosing , like Rhaenyra snatching the chain of GM from Aegon II's GM and giving it to her Maester.
    – Aegon
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:49
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    @user568458 Pycelle was "restored" technically. In order to forestall the Tyrell plots to have one of their men elected as GM. Since the Crown restored Pycelle, the reelection was not required
    – Aegon
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:50
  • 2
    @Aegon I get the impression that the OP is open to book-specific answers, and information like that would make a good one. Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:53

6 Answers 6


It's simply inexplicable fanservice. There is no possible way that the archmaesters elected a novice as their representative to the crown!

The position of the Grand Maester is the only one that the King can't fulfill. Even Maegor the Cruel had to resort to beheadings to maintain his authority. At best, the King can execute him or confine him.

It's very likely that he holds the position temporarily until a suitable replacement is elected by the archmaesters.

  • 15
    I think he just serves as Bran's maester, technically making him the Grand Maester even though he was not elected by the council of Archmaesters. He will be replaced in the future hopefully with a more qualified individual.
    – TargBot
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 12:19
  • 6
    I disagree with this. Given that Sam found out about dragon glass and practically single-handedly saved the realm, I guess he deserves to be grand Master more than anyone.
    – Hans Olo
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 22:29
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    @Rebel-Scum What? Making a small discovery (or rather, reading about it) hardly qualifies someone for such an important position. That's even more ridiculous than our universe's equivalent of instating a random high schooler as a distinguished professor at MIT. The requirements for the decades' worth of experience, knowledge, and leadership skills are enormous; and are hardly satisfied by any random teenager. Commented May 21, 2019 at 7:52
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    @Rebel-Scum A PhD requires several years of study. Can Sam say the same? His PhD thesis as of yet is a single sentence, "Dragonglass kills wights [1]. [1]: title of book I read this in". That's an undergraduate book report at best. Besides, being a Maester ("PhD") is the minimum qualification for Grand Maester. Sam does not even meet any qualifications for Maester. Commented May 21, 2019 at 8:26
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    He didn't just (re)discover dragonglass, though that was an important discovery. He cured Ser Jorah's greyscale (a feat thought impossible even by Archmaester Ebrose). He made the link between dragonglass and Valyrian Steel. His extensive studies and real world experience of White Walkers make him a leading authority on a phenomena that's likely to be extensively studied for years to come. He trained under the respected Maester Aemon, learning ravencraft and other skills. He also aided Bran on his journey North of the Wall - don't underestimate the benefits of being in with the king.
    – delinear
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 10:48

Nobody else wants to do it

Most of the Maesters would probably prefer to stay in the tower, reading their books and working on whatever it is they are working on. Not trying to rebuild a city, whose store of books was likely destroyed, and manage a kingdom. Maesters like Pycelle, who had aspirations to wield political power, are the exception, and possibly the Citadel was running short on members with political aspirations or exploitable regional ties or research interests.

Furthermore, what's all this "three-eyed raven" nonsense? You expect the Maesters, who rather notably hate magic to the point of wanting it gone from the world, to want to serve directly under Bran? To send a proper Grand Maester to him would be like validating his magicky hogwash.

So then heads turn to Sam. He has shown potential—performing a medical technique many others had failed at for example—, but has also caused problems by being disobedient and stealing texts. He also seems to already be on good terms with some of these people. He may have even been specifically requested to serve in the role by Bran and/or Tyrion. So there is actually someone who wants to do it: Sam. And that would conveniently get him out of their hair. Send the problem student to do the undesirable job!

As such his promotion may be one of convenience, as much a stand-in for punishment as it is a reward for achievement.


Canon? Unlikely, seeing as the episode's less than 24 hours old. But I can come up with some plausible conjectures, at least.

The simplest one being "Because the King said so".

The second being: There was a several week time skip immediately before Bran's election. Going by how well-repaired the Small Council room seems to be, it's plausible there was another timeskip before this scene (surrounding scenes, such as with Jon at the Wall, may not have been occurring at the same time). So Sam may have had plenty of time to complete his training, with the help of a pardon from the King for his theft. Recall he had mentioned getting one from Dany earlier. He also might have returned most or all of the books. I don't recall seeing any of them get damaged or destroyed.

And an actual precedent: Cersei appointed Qyburn and considered him a Maester, despite having been expelled from the order. This then ties back into the first idea: because the Queen said so.

  • 20
    Maesters spend decades in training, I doubt it skipped that much time considering character ages and the Small council missing members.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:46
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    And Qyburn was never a Maester or Grand Maester after Cersei's appointment, he was treated as one but he wasn't actually one.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:47
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    Yeah, I'd be more inclined to just go with the second and last paragraphs as justification here — the third paragraph here needs a timeskip that... is not likely to have happened.
    – JNat
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:47
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    It can take a year to get a single link, some spend years on one link, others can get 3 in a year but that's like top speed.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:48
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    @zibadawatimmy Sam was still an Acolyte/Novice when he left, he had yet to forge a link. And to be a Maester you need a full chain not a single link. Sam doesn't even wear a chain at the Small Council reinforcing this.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 11:51

I would suggest that Bran the Broken holds far more knowledge than any Maester, so Bran doesn't actually need one. Bran's ability, not to mention his robotic nature, is probably very intimidating for most Maesters, and so there won't be many candidates for the job. The role Sam is given is purely ceremonial, but this suits Sam. Unlike other Maesters, he has a family, and because his duties are few, he can continue his studies toward getting all the rings and becoming a true Grand Maester.


Tarley has some incredible achievements under his belt: he was the first to warn about the White Walkers when every other Maester thought they were fairy tales, and he discovered what kills them. He found a cure for Greyscale in adults when every other Maester was convinced that it was incurable.

He is unbiased in his approach and unaffected by old beliefs and baseless traditions that infect the institutionalized Maesters.

All of those things make him an invaluable adviser to the king, and perhaps he is destined to lead a revolution in the Citadel.

  • 8
    Technically he didn't discover a cure for Grayscale, he was merely desperate enough to try out a cure which everyone found too reckless.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 8:22
  • 2
    In fairness, those are two prodigious accomplishments at a Westerosi technology level. Either one would be worth whatever their top link is.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 18:05

It seems to me that in this case, power and might make right. There's no precedent of a person who can't walk or reproduce becoming King by appointment. Other things to consider:

Though not ordained, Sam was far more capable than most maesters.

Pycelle was utter crap.

And by rights Qyburn was a superior maester even though he got the boot for conducting unethical experiments (which at the end of the day made him a far superior healer and man of sciences/letters.)

At this point, with the Iron Throne turned to slag and half (if not more) of King's Landing gone into genocidal ashes, everything goes.

The wheel was broken, with the wheel being the back of the world. There are no precedents for many of the things that have occurred (Brienne a knight; a mercenary ruling over HighGarden, etc.)

So, it's all up for grabs at this point.

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