One of the vows of the Night's Watch say that they must stay celibate.

We do know though, that the Brothers do go to brothels near the Wall, but none of them take any wives.

On reading the World of Ice and Fire, I found out about a legend that there was a Lord Commander (the 13th) that took a wife.

The exact quote is:

[...] The oldest of these tales concern the legendary Night's King, who was alleged to have bedded a sorceress pale as a corpse and declared himself a king. For thirteen year the Night's King and his 'corpse queen' ruled together [...]

page 145

So, I was wondering: Were the vows of the Night's Watch the same from the beginning?

It is clearly said that the aforementioned story is only a legend, so we don't know for sure if it is true or not, but could it have been the case that when the Night's Watch first started, the Brothers could marry?

The Night's King was defeated after 13 years, so I guess he wasn't exactly a role model for the Night's Watch

  • And he wasn't defeated by the Starks. The night king ruled for 13 years, during which, atrocities were commited. So, Brandon the breaked joined force with Joramun the king beyond the wall to defeat him. He was a shame to the night's watch that much is true. But this happened so many years ago, keep in mind Jeor Mormont is the 997th lord commander of the night's watch. Jan 18, 2015 at 14:19
  • 5
    There is nothing in the books that imply that the Night's Watch oath has been changed, or that it has been the same since the beginning. Given that GRRM uses unreliable narrators, even if we had heard something about it, it would unlikely be, well, reliable, since we do know that most of what happened in Westeros at that time happened before historical accounts were written down.
    – TLP
    Jan 18, 2015 at 17:58
  • @TLP I think this is more of an answer rather than a comment Jan 18, 2015 at 18:03
  • @Shevliaskovic I had that feeling too when I was writing it down, but I would feel obligated to chase down the quotes mentioned, and it is hard to provide support for the lack of existence of something, so I feel I do not have enough for an answer just yet. Maybe later I will change my mind.
    – TLP
    Jan 18, 2015 at 18:08
  • There is evidence that the records regarding the 13th LC and prior have been deleted; this may include prior version(s) of the vows.
    – Möoz
    Jan 18, 2015 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


I haven't been able to come up with an exact quote proving the vows were the same or not but I strongly think they're the very same. The reason the vows were created was because the night's watch is a neutral order. Designed to defend the realm of Men, and in order to do so in the best possible way, they had to be independent to the houses and ruling parties in the 7 kingdoms, when someone takes the black he is supposed to start anew, even in a family point of view (See Maester Aemon's story for example). The story you're mentionning however is kind of different. The 13th lord commander of the nightwatch has broken the rules, as his marriage was considered as "UNHOLY". Not only that, but he was also corrupted by the wicked powers of the wife he took. He started a war against the seven kingdoms. And that story was used along the books to explain why the wall is well protected from the north and not at all from the south. Because the lords of the seven kingdoms learned their lessons from that war. This lord commander was defeated and his memory was deleted from history. The sorceress he took for wife/queen is believed to be one of the Others. And this story also marks one of the few times, the king beyond the wall joined forces with southern kings. Only hinting at the gravity of the situation back then, similar to the actual events. It is still a legend though, I have read throughout the books (forgot where exactly TBH) that Bran heard nanny tell this tale and say he was a Bolton. However, we don't know if that is true or not. A much more detailed explanation is here

This story was expanded in the 3rd book of ASOIAF: A Storm Of Swords. When Bran, Hodor, Jojen and Meera arrived at the nightfort. Bran was scared because he remembered old nan's stories of what occured there. One of the stories was the night king story:

"He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night's Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear, "and that was the fault in him" she would add, "for all men must know fear". A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her, he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to NightFort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night's King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night's King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden."Some say he was a Bolton", Old Nan would always end. "Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled the Bear Island before the Ironmen came. He never was, he was a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down."

-A Storm Of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran.

What can be noticed here, is the wall was composed of "Brothers", so no women were around just like in the present time. Except for the Night King's wife of course, hinting to the fact he was breaking the rule and reinforcing the idea that "Unholy" was a description of the vow breaking by the 13th lord commander of the Night's Watch. Hence my answer.

  • 2
    I believe you are correct. But where does it say that he specifically broke the celibacy vow, and that such a vow was already in place? Sorry if this sounds like nitpicking, but this is precisely the OP's question! It seems as if you are begging the question :)
    – Andres F.
    Jan 18, 2015 at 14:17
  • The union has been depicted in the books as "unholy" and as a grave mistake. I am seeking the exact quote as I write this comment. However, whether the union was unholy because of the vows or because the woman is believed to be evil creature, I don't believe it is precised. So I'll have to say it is the vows, since the reason such rules were set for the nights watch are the same since the establishment: To keep the wall neutral at all times, to never interfere with the 7 kingdoms business. So I wouldn't think the reason is the latter. Jan 18, 2015 at 14:24
  • 1
    Agreed, that's why I believe you're correct. The vows aren't there because of the Others, but because of politics. Regardless, an actual quote from the book and/or GRRM would be even better than our deduction.
    – Andres F.
    Jan 18, 2015 at 14:26
  • 2
    It's not clear that he broke his vow at all, which is celibacy in the old sense of the word. The Night's Watch vow not to marry and not to have children; they don't vow not to sleep with women they're not married to. The text says that he proclaimed her his queen, but it doesn't say that he married her, and it doesn't say that he had any children.
    – Mike Scott
    Jan 18, 2015 at 17:02
  • 1
    @JonathonWisnoski: I think not, as i detailed in my answer, Old Nan depicted the wall as populated by "Brothers", whether that is because banning weddings exists or that old nan used the present state to describe the events of distant past is unclear. However I am pretty confident the vow was there since the start. Why? Well to avoid the problem of succession in ruling obviously. So that only the worthy would lead the Wall. Plus the wall is no place for women, and children. It would only weaken the defenses by depleting their resources. Jan 18, 2015 at 17:20

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