At the beginning of A Clash of Kings, Yoren is travelling north to the Wall with Arya, Gendry, and various recruits for the Night's Watch.

Three of the recruits were taken from the black cells beneath the Red Keep in King's Landing: Jaquen H'gar, Rorge, and Biter. They are considered so dangerous that they are kept locked in a cage on the journey north.

Jaquen seems quite pleasant and rational, so we can see why Yoren might think he was a suitable recruit. On the other hand, Rorge and Biter are extremely vicious criminals. They are brutal, violent, and appear to have no redeeming features whatsoever. (In addition, Biter cannot speak or write.)

If they made it to the Wall and Rorge and Biter were given places in the Night's Watch, they would be very likely to desert, or kill one or more of their "brothers".

So my question is simply: Why did Yoren recruit them?

  • 4
    The NW may be desperate for men, but they aren't stupid. They need recruits to have a basic, minimum ability to function as part of the organisation. If they end up murdering valued brothers, the NW would be better off not recruiting them at all. So again, why Rorge and Biter? Sep 26, 2014 at 0:00

2 Answers 2


The Penal Millitary Unit has a long tradition extending through to the present day.

Rorge & Biter had the choice of execution or joining the Night's Watch. The Night's Watch had the choice of accepting convicted felons or wasting away.

Had they reached the wall then they would have passed through a brutal indoctrination and training regime. This would either have made them functional members or killed them. If they deserted, what was the loss? They would be recaptured and executed. Killing of fellow legionaries presupposes that those legionaries would allow this to happen.

Military discipline may have made decent legionaries of these two or it may not. We have seen subsequently that when that discipline breaks down there's not much to choose between these two and many other Night's Watchmen.

  • 4
    The thing is, we see Jon Snow and the others go through the NW training process, and it's not that "brutal". It may be that the really hard cases are taken elsewhere and treated more severely. I'm just wondering if there is any better explanation. (As for the possibility of murder, even a NW brother can be stabbed in the back or while asleep, and Rorge and Biter seem like the sorts to do that over a trivial disagreement or just for fun.) Sep 26, 2014 at 8:21
  • 5
    rorge and biter seemed to behave well enough for a solider once they joined the lannisters or the freys at harrenhall. i cant remember which it was , i think i twas the lannisters in the book but the freys in the show?
    – Himarm
    Sep 26, 2014 at 13:26
  • 1
    In the books, they join up with Vargo Hoat's mercenary band which is, shall we say, not a highly disciplined force. It offers ample opportunities to steal, rape, and murder, of which they take full advantage. Life in the Night's Watch is very different. That said, I suppose Rorge and Biter might eventually have been trained into useful NW brothers, particularly if they were separated from each other, so I'll accept this answer. Oct 1, 2014 at 10:56

A locked cage is actually safer than being loose
In this particular instant, even though these men are extremely dangerous, they pose no threat to anybody since they're in a locked cage. Literally the only reason they got out was that they cage was burned and Arya freed them.

Presumably, under normal circumstances, they'd stay in the cage until they reached the Wall, at which point there are plenty of officers ready to keep them in check.

The George doesn't see this as a problem; neither should you
It's fair to point this out as an issue, based on your presumptions and thoughts, however, the author George. R. R. Martin doesn't. And for this simple reason alone, we must assume that this simply works in Westeros.

Here's is a transcript of a discussion he's had with a fan about this issue:

[Interviewer]: Even the behavior of dungeon recruits on their way to the Wall seems atypical of criminals. This behavior could be read as evidence that those chosen from the dungeons are acting under a mild geas, even though that fact has been forgotten in present-day Westeros. Given the variety of options open to escapees, both in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea, it is difficult to accept that, e.g., Yoren's last band would set out without stringent security measures in place. But if generations of recruits have gone more or less docilely to the Wall, it is easy to see how the peculiarities of their behavior might not be noticed, except by someone like Tyrion.

[GRRM]: *There is no geas intended or implied, not even a mild one. I suspect that you and I just disagree on what constitutes the "typical" behavior of criminals. I don't find any peculiar anomalies in the behavior of Yoren's band of recruits, though I gather you do.

I don't have the time or energy to argue the point, alas -- except insofar as the book itself constitutes my side of the argument. Like any writer, I have to write my characters as I see them, based on my own observations and knowledge of history and human behavior... but I recognize that disagreement is possible, and probably inevitable. Hell, writers often disagree with one another.

As to Yoren's band... he did keep the three most dangerous men in chains, and many of the unchained were orphan boys, volunteers, or petty criminals like thieves and poachers, none of them likely to give him any trouble. But his success, such as it was, does not necessarily mean that =all= past recruits went "docilely" to the Wall. I have no doubt that over its long history the Night's Watch had its share of murders, mutinies, and runaways. But they were relatively rare events... as rare as shipboard mutinies, prison riots, and slave revolts have been in the real world.
-SSM Entry - September 10, 2000 (NIGHT’S WATCH RECRUITS AND MAGIC)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.