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Perhaps this sounds like a trivial question, but I don't understand how a maester can wear a chain when it is formed of just one link; even five links would surely not be enough to fit around a man's neck. Do they not wear the chain until it can physically be worn? Do they tie string from the front chain to the back chain?

  • possible duplicate of How long does it take to forge a Maester's chain? – Valorum Jun 9 '14 at 18:28
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    You aren't a maester until you have enough links to form a chain. Until then, I assume you just keep them in a pouch. – Valorum Jun 9 '14 at 18:30
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    To whoever wants to close this as a dupe: the question linked to is different. It focuses on what period of time a maester needs to work to earn his chain. This question addresses the practical aspect of wearing the chain before it's fully forged. – Lou Jun 9 '14 at 23:01
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    That's what Richard answered on other question, not what was asked. TheMathemagician asked how long it takes for the chain to be forged and how many links are required; I asked what the maester does with his chain until it can be worn. Do we close a question as dupes if the questions are different but the answer applies to other questions? If so, that seems excessive. – Lou Jun 9 '14 at 23:20
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    Anyway, I repeat: I don't think a question should be closed as a dupe for having the same answer as another question. I've browsed meta SE to look for a policy addressing that issue, and a diamond mod on this question appears to agree. – Lou Jun 9 '14 at 23:46
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From the Wiki of Ice & Fire:

A student-maester with a link is known as an acolyte until he has a full chain; The student-maesters do not wear the chain until it is full; it is not until he has completed extensive study in various subjects and has earned enough links to form a chain (to be worn around the neck) that he is considered worthy of advancement to the title of Maester, no longer a student but a peer.

They have to earn quite a few links to form a full chain before they can wear it, and be considered full Maesters.

  • So while we presumably don't have an exact number of links, a student becomes a maester when their chain has enough links to be worn around the neck? Makes sense. – Lou Jun 9 '14 at 13:19
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    Is that actually a quote from the book or just a case of poorly chosen formatting? – Anthony Grist Jun 9 '14 at 13:32
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    If you're going to repost from the wiki, it's considered good form to actually reference the original author; awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Maesters – Valorum Jun 9 '14 at 23:07
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    Does this mean that if you have a thicker neck, you'll need to study harder? – Alex Siri Jun 15 '14 at 21:20
  • @AlexSiri - There's mention of an overseas Maester who wears his necklace like a choker, rather than dangling. I'm assuming once you're in the club you can wear your chains however you like. – Valorum Jun 15 '14 at 22:35
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Maesters wear a chain around their necks composed of various substances to signify their personal expertise. Each link indicates a different field of study. There are hundreds of recognized fields each with a different representative substance. Maesters are expected to wear their chains at all times, even when sleeping.

While there were seven known metals used, several fields shared their metals with others. One didn't became a maester without studying and mastering scores of fields first thus even a novice maester has a chain of considerable length.

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    Where is this quote from? I've read ASOIAF many times, and never seen it mentioned that maesters must wear their chains even when sleeping. – TLP Jun 9 '14 at 15:14
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    Master Aemon is woken one night and he is wearing little but his chain. – nnnn Jun 9 '14 at 16:00
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    I think the only lengths mentioned explicitly in the books for novices were up to 7ish. – Mooing Duck Jun 9 '14 at 16:50
  • Can you find any support for that, @MooingDuck? :) – Lou Jun 9 '14 at 21:14
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It appears as though the novices and acolytes do not wear their chains until they become a maester at which point it should be long enough to be worn. Note that I am only interpreting this from reading between the lines of the following quotes as nothing seems to be mentioned explicitly.

Alleras would make a maester. He had only been at the Citadel for a year, yet already he had forged three links of his maester's chain. Armen might have more, but each of his had taken him a year to earn. Still, he would make a maester too. Roone and Mollander remained pink-necked novices, but Roone was very young and Mollander preferred drinking to reading.
A Feast for Crows, Prologue

And so I did. I forged the first link in my chain at three-and-ten, and other links followed. I completed my chain and took my oaths in the ninth year of the reign of King Robert, the First of His Name, and found myself blessed to continue at the Citadel, to serve the archmaesters and aid them in all that they did.
The World of Ice and Fire, Preface

Note though that Maester Luwin is said to have his chain quite tight around his neck, the same goes for some others.

Luwin slid a finger up under his collar and began to turn it, inch by inch. He had a thick neck for a small man, and the chain was tight, but a few pulls had it all the way around. "This is Valyrian steel," he said when the link of dark grey metal lay against the apple of his throat.
A Clash of Kings, Bran IV

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They wear their links on a leather thong around their necks.

Armen [the Acolyte] wore a leather thong about his neck, strung with links of pewter, tin, lead and copper...

A Feast for Crows, Prologue

One can assume that they remove the leather thong when they have enough links for the chain to fit around their neck.

  • Is there any reason to believe the leather thong isn't there to hold the links together? – Edlothiad Dec 6 '17 at 15:11
  • @Edlothiad, Are you suggesting that leather is used to bind the links? – TGnat Dec 6 '17 at 15:15
  • I don't have any proof to that, but I don't see why they wouldn't be when the above answers clearly show the acolytes don't usually wear their chains. – Edlothiad Dec 6 '17 at 15:19
  • @Edlothiad, I don't see the clear answer above, I couldn't even find the Wiki quote above on the referenced page. – TGnat Dec 6 '17 at 15:38
  • I still don’t see why the leather thong must be removed – Edlothiad Dec 6 '17 at 15:52

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