In A Dance with Dragons:

Jon dodged the first attack with only a minor wound. The second attack succeeded only because Jon's fingers were like stones and he couldn't get Longclaw out and then the kid got him in the belly.

Was there a reason for this?

  • 6
    It just happens with age. As a man gets older, it can get more & more difficult to pull out your sword on quick notice.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 17:10
  • 5
    Jon is about 16 years old, I don't think age is likely to be a problem here.
    – Lou
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:48
  • Joe, could you specify where in the book this happens?
    – Lou
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:49
  • I assumed, when I read it, that the adrenal drop had hit him and he had lost motor control in his fingers. He was not expecting to fight and was caught completely off guard and, in his shocked and panicking state, was unable to easily draw his sword in a rush.
    – Stefan
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 14:13

6 Answers 6


From the text:

Men were screaming. Jon reached for Longclaw, but his fingers had grown stiff and clumsy. Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: A Dance With Dragons, Chapter Sixty-One (Jon).

This is unfortunately all we have, since the explanation is not out yet.

Stiff and Clumsy

It is brought up many times in the books that Jon has to "flex his sword hand" to keep it active, and as brought up by Memnoch, his fingers must have gone stiff.


And then GRRM throws in a little bit of a spanner in the works. The phrase 'somehow' alludes to something else holding Jon back.


  • Melisandre: could have cursed his hand, but it would defeat the purpose of her warning him of "daggers in the dark"
  • Warging: into Ghost is a possibility; his mind was already half gone, so it couldn't control his body very well
  • Poisoning / Intoxication: could have stiffened his reflexes, although Jon did not have anything to drink that night
  • Someone: holds the sword in the scabbard. Remember, there were multiple attackers
  • Not just a scratch: Jon is injured, severely so. Most people believe that the first couple of blows were really light/weak because Jon puts up a strong fight#; but he could easily have been more injured than we think

We will not know the true answer until Winds of Winter or beyond.

# I for one subscribe to the "Jon the Berserker" theory, which outlines that for some reason (Wolf Blood or

Dragon blood)

he has moments of near super-human strength.

  • 1
    Yup, these words indicate it was more than just numbness or surprise. This would imply it was explicitly caused by someone or something.
    – Joe C
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 3:34

I hope someone can find a better answer, however until Winds of Winter is published I believe the answer is simply that George RR Martin intentionally left the reason vague.

Possible explanations include:

  • Physiological
    • The persistent cold found The Wall impaired his movement
    • Someone drugged him
    • Side effect of the burn he received while saving Mormont's life. Jon's chapters mentioned the burn regularly
  • Magical
    • A spell of Melisandre
    • Interference by the Old God's
    • Skinchanging into his direwolf
  • Psychological (John's shock at the events)

However unless someone can find more supporting evidence I believe it's pure speculation until we get more of the story.

  • 3
    Transferring into his dire wolf would be another possible explanation.
    – user8719
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 10:09
  • 1
    Another possible contributor: indoors, with violent dudes all around, pulling a large sword out would be physically tricky.
    – Ash
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 11:06
  • 3
    Add Jon's burn injury to his sword hand to the Physiological part. It is mentioned often and he's always flexing this hand. It seems like those fingers are more dull, so he likely fumbled under the pressure (this is still speculation, though).
    – Will F
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 19:38
  • 1
    Cold weather can also cause the blade to stick to the scabard (freeze to it somewhat), making it difficult to draw.
    – AerusDar
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 0:00
  • 3
    I don't believe the cause could be Melisandre, as she warned Jon, specifically, to be on guard in defense of this very type of thing and, in fact, told him to keep Ghost close at hand to help protect from such an eventuality. Additionally, Melisandre's every word to Jon and her own POV seems to indicate that she sees more and more that Jon plays a large part in the events to come.
    – xXGrizZ
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 2:22

This is being way over-analysed. Swords stick in scabbards when cold. This is true even in the real world. In fact, it is mentioned in another part of ASOIAF where, whomever it was (maybe Jaime). loosened their sword in the scabbard so it would not stick - in case they needed it.

  • 3
    This is a good point - there doesn't always have to be a significant reason for everything; swords stick in scabbards. How many times have you taken something out of your pocket only to have it get caught on something? Or accidentally stumbled while walking? Was there a significant reason for any of those those?
    – user8719
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 13:30
  • 4
    @JimmyShelter Yes, it happens all the time to me. I've always assumed it was Melisandre...
    – Trenin
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 16:27
  • 1
    I don't believe Martin would use the phrase "fingers were like stones" to describe the sword sticking in the scabbard because of the cold. It implies the problem was with Jon, not with the scabbard.
    – Memnoch
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 18:10
  • 1
    @memnoch The operative phrase is "I don't believe." I don't believe that "fingers were like stones" was describing why the sword stuck (other than highlighting that it was cold.) I believe that they are two related but separate points. His fingers were cold and stiff, his blade was cold and stuck in his scabbard - both of which contribute to why he could not get his sword out but neither is an explanation for the other.
    – xXGrizZ
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 16:17
  • "Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard." Sounds pretty suspicious like someone or something was deliberately preventing him.
    – Joe C
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 3:17

I think Jon froze up because they took him by surprise. I don't remember finding anything unusual about his reaction (or lack thereof). He was being betrayed, it was clearly an ambush, and coming from people he basically trusted. I think the point is that, in some way, Jon's still a kid. He can fight well, and he can lead well, but he hasn't yet dealt with something like what was happening to him at that moment. I think most people would freak out a little if they were in his place. No poison or Melisandre magic necessary.

In fact, I think if in that scene Jon just sorta went "hayia!!" and started expertly hacking away at the people who were his friends a second ago, it would have been bad writing on GRR Martin's part.

  • Interesting, but to me it doesn't tie in with this part "Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard." he tried to get the sword out and go "haiya", but couldn't. +1 though, because your answer covers an out-of-universe reason.
    – Möoz
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 0:00
  • But isn't that how freakouts work? You start fumbling about the most basic tasks. I imagine Jon has probably swung his sword enough times to have some basic instinctive reaction. He just wasn't mentally ready for this.
    – Misha R
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 0:10
  • Well, he managed to catch a stabber's hand just before that.
    – Möoz
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 23:00

If Jon carried Longclaw on his back, then it would be physically impossible for him to draw Longclaw from his back. Else it could be the sword got stuck in the scabbard (maybe he didn't clean any blood off it?)

  • 3
    Thank you for this answer. Although you do address the question, the your response could be lengthened and perhaps more definitive rather than speculation as in the second part of the response. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 8:03

He was taken by surprise at close range by men with weapons better suited for fighting at close range. Even if he had drawn it it would not change much. Maybe he'd take a few with him, but GOT fight's are pretty realistic as far as such things go. He'd still be stabbed to death. This isn't an action movie where one guy can take 20 with no problem. Also, swords can stick in their scabbards from cold

Anyone who has watched Gladiator has seen Maximus take out two soldiers thanks to this.

  • I don't think the question is asking why he didn't pull out Longclaw, it's about why he couldn't.
    – Möoz
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 23:27
  • Read the spoiler.
    – Mr. C
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 23:46

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