38

OK. Craster lives in his Keep. His daughters/wives are just servants and cannot help with defending against hypothetical attack. This leaves Craster as the only element able to defend. Let's leave aside he looks quite old and fat (Barristan Selmy also looks old) and let's suppose he can swing with his axe really well. Still, he is alone.

If I was in his position and group of Night Watch members visited me (armed, some skilled, although tired and wounded), I would be very far from mocking them, threatening them, even attacking them. I would be clear that in case of fight, I would definitely lose.

Still, he always behaves like he is invincible and no one could (would dare to?) harm him. Why? Is he simply stupid? Or is there anything I missed? Or anything omitted in the series?


Many times I considered parts of Game of Thrones weird or illogical, but after reading Wiki or answers here, I had to admit I just missed something. This is kind of last piece I couldn't find anything about.

I've seen the series, I haven't read any of the books. If the answer is in the books, I'd be happy to hear it.

  • 5
    the nights watch "need" crasters keep. essentially the nights watch comes to him for help, food, shelter, and he can simply through them out. obviously the nights watch could just kill him, but that would be against their vows. He has the only supply, and since their demand is so high, he can charge whatever he wants. – Himarm Feb 10 '15 at 16:22
  • Don't forget Craster sacrifices to gain favor from more than just the Night Watch. – Kzqai Feb 11 '15 at 20:31
  • 2
    Everyone brings up some good points but at the end of the day, you're right. He was being over confident. And look where it got him. – user41742 Feb 12 '15 at 0:21
53

Note that in the Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones universe, people really believe that a guest cannot harm a host or vice versa while under his roof. So, he is not afraid to challenge his guests -- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon. These rules are really sacred and date back to the First Men.

(despite the fact that we have witnessed the Red Wedding)

For many years, he allows the Night's Watch rangers to crash at his place when they need to, so he has no real reason to be afraid of them. He feels like they owe him.

From my guess, he doesn't have the best personality, and since he knows that the Night's Watch needs him, he is being kind of an ass, and the final outcome,not to our surprise, isn't what he expected.

  • 5
    Very valid host / guest point, can't believe I missed that. – SBoss Feb 10 '15 at 16:28
  • Then again, guests aren't invincible. Just ask the Starks. – Omegacron Feb 10 '15 at 18:19
  • 5
    While the tradition of guest rights is strong in Westeros, it only applies in the reverse case: A host does not harm his guest. Hence the name "guest rights", which you can claim after being served bread and salt by your host. If we apply it to the Craster situation, it would be the NW who felt safe from Craster, because they had guest rights. – TLP Feb 10 '15 at 20:03
  • 7
    @TLP I'm pretty sure that, while not explicitly stated, the hospitality laws go both ways. It's more important to clearly state the host must not harm his guests, because they are more obviously at a disadvantage: unfamiliar terrain and eating food that could be poisoned. However, I'm pretty sure that guests killing their host is also a violation of hospitality rights. – Andres F. Feb 11 '15 at 13:58
  • 5
    @AndresF. Yes, after I wrote this, I remembered something Jeor Mormont said after they killed Craster, something about being cursed for killing their host. It seems the wiki also agrees: awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Guest_right – TLP Feb 11 '15 at 14:31
41

Craster may in fact be overconfident, but he knows that the Night's Watch depends on his aid. In Chapter 23 of ACOK, Lord Commander Mormont explains to Jon that:

Yet it would be an ill day for us if Craster died. Your uncle could tell you of the times Craster's Keep made the difference between life and death for our rangers

In that same chapter, Mormont also receives information about the King-beyond-the-Wall from Craster:

Mance Rayder is gathering his people at Frostfangs.

This is in addition to lodging and food, further demonstrating Craster's value to the Watch.

For what it's worth, Craster is also the bastard son of a man of the Night's Watch, and has dealt with them for some time. His familiarity with the Night's Watch and their arrangement seems to bolster his confidence.


Slightly off topic but Craster's attitude towards the Night's Watch is similar to how the free cities (such as Pentos) deal with the Dothraki. Instead of fighting them, the free cities offer the Dothraki gifts. In exchange the Dothraki leave the cities alone. As Mormont's son explains in ASOS Chapter 23:

They know that if they feast the horselords and give them gifts, they will soon ride on. It's cheaper than fighting, and a deal more certain.

  • Sure, Craster's Keep is a valuable temporary lodging for the rangers, but Craster himself is a murderous, incestuous asshole. In reading, I wondered why the Night's Watch didn't just establish a permanent outpost north of the Wall, that they controlled. I suppose that comes down to the lack of men to keep it properly stationed and equipped, though. – KSmarts Feb 10 '15 at 19:12
  • 2
    @KSmarts I guess Craster's Keep is not easy to defend regardless of the lack of men, since it is outside the protection of the Wall. Craster himself seems to avoid the unwanted attention of both the Free Folk and (mysteriously) the Others. This alone should be enough to make him a valuable asset to the Watch. – Andres F. Feb 10 '15 at 19:32
  • 2
    @AndresF. - Good point, if the Night's Watch established a base at Craster's Keep they would have to constantly fend of raids/attacks by the Free Folk. They would also have to constantly supply it, and according to wikia the keep is 60 miles north of the wall. Not a quick trip. – Justin Ethier Feb 10 '15 at 19:41
  • 3
    @KSmarts: If the Night's Watch were to try establish a post themselves they'd find their men slaughtered by the White Walkers (or Zombies?). Of course, in season 1 and before most of them didn't believe in White Walkers so they'd probably blame the slaughter on Wildlings. But generally, people from the south considered the lands beyond the wall as unsruvivable. That Craster can survive there (by sacrificing his sons) and remain an ally is a valuable arrangement. – slebetman Feb 11 '15 at 8:31
17

1. Information

Most importantly, Craster offers information. He is on speaking terms with both the Night's Watch and the wildlings. Of course he is dishonest and will lie or withhold information if it suits him, but partial knowledge is better than none.

In this respect, Craster is almost irreplacable. Considering the reaction from the rest of the Night's Watch after

Qhorin Halfhand commands Jon to become a double agent and infiltrate Mance Rayder's camp

it seems the Night's Watch does not normally have any other spies or contacts among the wildlings.

2. Safe Haven

Craster offers the Night's Watch a safe haven north of the Wall -- as far as we know, the only one which exists. Rangers in need will be given food and shelter, albeit grudgingly. Craster lives many days' ride north of the Wall, so this extends the range of their scouting expeditions by a long way. The NW could do without this, but it would put them at a serious tactical disadvantage.

At the same time, Craster is self-sufficient. He enjoys gifts of wine, metal tools, and the like from the NW, but does not need them for the basic necessities. If the NW created its own outposts far beyond the Wall, they would have to be defended and resupplied. The NW can barely manage to patrol the Wall and does not have anything like the numbers to maintain such outposts.

3. Guest Truce

As we have seen, it is considered deeply dishonourable in the North for a host to harm his guest, or vice versa. Of course the Night's Watch could harm Craster anyway, but many of the senior NW brothers such as Mormont place a very high value on honour, so they would be unlikely to break guest-truce.

Craster keeps up his end of the bargain. He is surly and insulting, but he feeds and shelters the Night's Watch, and as long as they don't interfere with him or his wives, he doesn't threaten their physical safety.

4. Conclusion

The Night's Watch needs Craster, and he knows it. He knows he can be rude, arrogant, and insulting towards them without any consequences. Being a cruel, sadistic, and generally unpleasant individual, this is exactly what he does for his own amusement.

13

He operates a de-facto foothold of the Nights Watch which can supply warmth and food to members ranging. If he were gone that 'safe haven' would be gone for good, or require a permanent garrison there, which the Nights Watch cannot afford. He also gives the rangers information as to what's been happening in the North.

That said, he certainly oversteps his bounds, and has probably not thought his provocations through.

  • Familiarity breeds contempt. – NotMe Feb 10 '15 at 19:22
9

You are assuming that Craster is being rational. A rational person would no doubt be careful about armed guests. Craster gives his sons to the White Walkers, makes his daughters his wives, and gets babies by them. He is abrasive, mean and dangerous, and that has worked for him all his life. Presumably he thought it would work best now as well.

There is also that sometimes, being nice is being weak, and that can also be the wrong thing to be when your guests are desperate. By being generous, he might have had his winter stores depleted, his "wives" raped, and by extension might have endangered himself that way. When faced with a mean and dangerous man, someone has to be the first to challenge him, and that might be very dangerous. As we see in the books, Craster is goaded into attacking first.

And also, of course, Craster knows that he is collaborating with the enemy of the Night's Watch, and has been for a long time. He is probably used to being able to manipulate them, lie to them and challege their authority.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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