In the opening scene of AGOT and in the Prologue/Chapter 1 we meet three characters north of the wall who run into White Walkers on a ranging mission. Two of the three characters are killed. The third flees (this character is Gared in the books) and manages to make it south of the wall to Winterfell.

At Winterfell Gared in executed by Lord Eddard Stark for deserting his post. But if Gared had just returned to Castle Black and told the Lord Commander what he saw wouldn't he be alive (or until everyone one goes to the fist of the first men)?

Gared's two companions were killed so if he had fled to Castle Black he wouldn't be a deserter would he, rather he would have reported what occurred? He had to have known he would have been killed once you was caught south of the wall. Gared was an old ranger with a lot of experience if he had turned to Castle Black instead of going south, could he have convinced the Lord Commander that the White Walkers were real and that it would be dangerous to go North?


I think it's likely that he would have been spared. Fleeing from the White Walkers was the strategic move and his commanding officer was dead, leaving him in charge. Even if it was considered oath-breaking for him to flee (and I can't imagine why), the Watch was in desperate need for men and Lord Mormount apparently had a positive opinion of him.

“Gared was near as old as I am and longer on the Wall,” he went on, “yet it would seem he forswore himself and fled. I should never have believed it, not of him, but Lord Eddard sent me his head from Winterfell. (GoT, Tyrion III)

It's worth noting that in the TV show, Will says he should have gone back to the Wall before he's executed.

I know I broke my oath. And I know I'm a deserter. I should have gone back to the Wall to warn them but I saw what I saw, I saw the White Walkers.

That seems to imply that his not going back to the Wall was the act of desertion, not fleeing the Walkers to begin with.

  • 3
    He would have done absolutely nothing wrong if he'd just returned to Castle Black and made his report. – TheMathemagician May 23 '16 at 16:39

Lord Commander Mormont indicated at one point that he sent two good men along with Waymar Royce:

The Royce boy was as green as summer grass, yet he insisted on the honor of his own command ... I did not wish to offend his lord father, so I yielded. I sent him out with two men I deemed as good as any in the Watch. More Fool I.

So Gared has Mormont's respect. Whether or not the Lord Commander would believe a seemingly far-fetched story is another question, as no one has seen White Walkers in recent memory. But I doubt Mormont would execute the man.



Ned even comments on this to Bran himself when they are talking about Gared. He mentions that the man is a deserter and that is why he is to be executed not because he ran away from some White Walkers.

His lord father smiled. "Old Nan has been telling you stories again. In truth, the man was an oathbreaker, a deserter from the Night's Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will not flinch from any crime, no matter how vile. But you mistake me. The question was not why the man had to die, but why I must do it."
A Game of Thrones, Bran I

Chett later thinks the same that it is the act of desertion which is why they are executed.

And at home they'll know you for deserters and lop off your fool heads, thought Chett. There was no leaving the Night's Watch, once you said your words. Anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms, they'd take you and kill you.
A Storm of Swords, Prologue

Later this is commented on again when talking about Mance but his situation is obviously a bit more complicated.

Jon gave her a weary look. "Mance is a deserter from the Night's Watch. The penalty for that is death. If the Watch had taken him, he would have been hanged by now, but he's the king's captive, and no one knows the king's mind but the red woman."
A Storm of Swords, Samwell IV

Lastly, it's worth looking into the oath to see why they are executed upon desertion and not by fleeing an enemy during a mission.

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

As you can see it's clear from the oath that the punishment for desertion is death and that by returning to Castle Black, and hence the Watch, he would not have been killed.


I don't really think so. I think we will never know. I agree with @TenthJustice that the Night's Watch is desperate for men and they can't spare anyone, but

spoilers for A Dance with Dragons

Jon Snow executed Janos Slynt when the latter refused to go and restore an abandoned castle of the Wall.

So, Mormont might have acted the same with the oathbreaker.

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    -1 from me - there's a big difference between a lone survivor returning to base & an officer flat-out refusing to obey an order. – Omegacron Jun 5 '15 at 16:13
  • @Omegacron especially given the history between Slynt and Snow... – Mathieu Guindon Sep 11 '17 at 23:09

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