How could

Samwell Tarly

be sent to the citadel by Jon if he was sworn to the Night's Watch? Doesn't this effectively relieve him of his duty since he is unable to defend the wall. I don't think the Lord Commander has the power to relieve someone of their oath, or does he?

I have only watched the TV series, I'm sure this was explained in the books more clearly, and that both diverge in some respects. If it is possible, I would prefer an explanation that works from the perspective of the series and I would also like to know the explanation offered in the books.

  • 14
    in the books we have many members of the nights watch who travel south for various reasons, recruitment mainly, but in the book Sam is sent to become the nights watch new maester which is a vital role position within the nights watch.
    – Himarm
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:02
  • 2
    @Himarm Your comment sounds like a good start to be an answer. They are called Wandering crows and 3 named characters are presented in the books. In the TV show we only see Yoren. Seems like Lord Commander can issue some decree and grant watcher right to leave the Wall for some purpose.
    – Nika G.
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:25

4 Answers 4


Actually, the Lord Commander DOES have the power to relieve someone of their oath. In fact, the Lord Commander and the King are the only two men who can do so. When asked that very question in an online chat, GRRM responded thusly:

User: Is there any chance that Jon could be released from his oaths of the nightwatch?

George_RR_Martin: The great council would have released Aemon from his maester's oath, so I suppose it would be possible. With an appropriate authority.

However, in this case, that wouldn't be necessary. Sam would be attending The Citadel to become the Maester for the Night's Watch, which is perfectly acceptable. Upon his graduation, Sam would be expected to return to Castle Black and resume his duties (unless otherwise noted).

Maester Aemon reveals this dual loyalty when he reveals his identity to Jon Snow:

Jon Snow: You're a Targaryen?

Maester Aemon: I am a maester of the Citadel, bound in service to Castle Black and the Nights' Watch. I will not tell you to stay or go. You must make that choice yourself, and live with it for the rest of your days — as I have.

As others have mentioned, it's also not unusual for a Night's Watch brother to be away from The Wall on temporary assignment, which is basically what Sam's time at The Citadel would be. Brothers of the Watch are often sent on recruitment drives to King's Landing and other large cities, as well as supply runs & "funding" drives. For example, the official reason for Benjen Stark's visit to Winterfell was to petition King Robert regarding additional funds & men.

  • 1
    not true. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death..." Night's Watch Vow. Watcher serves for life.
    – Nika G.
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:14
  • 1
    @NikaG. - yes, but men can still be released from it by either the Lord Commander or the ruling King.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:17
  • 2
    I don't recall if there is precedent for that. Citation is needed, either from TV or Book. Probably you are referring to King's Guard precedent, Barristan Selmy case
    – Nika G.
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:19
  • 1
    Don't forget the gent (forget his name) that smuggles Arya out of King's Landing. It seems the Night's Watch pretty much always had situations where members of the Watch were away from The Wall. Jun 15, 2015 at 20:34
  • 5
    @NikaG.: Those people are serving the Night's Watch. Serving the Night's Watch doesn't necessarily involve nothing more than literally sitting on the Wall hanging out waiting for Wildlings. Jun 15, 2015 at 21:17

Based on what the previous Maester had said, it's clear he was both a Maester and a member of the Nightswatch. At the end of S1, he gave a speech to Jon Snow about how he could not go help his family when they were being wiped out, and how that mirrors Jon's then-current crisis. This was because of his vow to the Nightswatch, which means he was a member of the Nightswatch.

Having not read the books, I cannot describe what occurs there, but what we see Sam do is consistent with what we've seen previously.


Jon sends Sam away for two reasons. Firstly, because he needs to train a new Maester. Secondly, because Gilly has Mance Rayder's child, and they need to smuggle the child as far away from Stannis as possible, to prevent the child being sacrificed. An additional reason might just be (and this is not explicitly mentioned in the books) that Jon fears a rebellion in the Night's Watch and wants to save his friend Sam from the consequences.

  • “Gilly has Mance Rayder's child” — I think, at least in the TV show, the child is Craster’s not Mance Rayder’s. Jun 22, 2015 at 15:32
  • 1
    @PaulD.Waite - in the books, Jon swapped Craster's kid for Mance's so that Stannis/Melisandre wouldn't kill it. So she ends up being sent off with Mance's baby instead of her own, only to find that out later. I guess she didn't look at the kid often?
    – Omegacron
    Jun 22, 2015 at 20:55
  • @Omegacron: ah, interesting. Eh, baby’s a baby innit. Jun 22, 2015 at 22:51

Hmm, it's a good question and even though I've read the books twice now I don't recall coming across a > reason To why he releases him. However, I could imagine it's something to do with the wildling girl as well, I mean, Sam had to take care of her(which was how it all started with Jon sending Sam away) and maybe Jon wanted him to stay at citadel knowing that Sam would be better there... I don't know, just a theory xD

  • He does not release him, he needs a replacement for Aemon and Sam is the best suited for this job as he isn't very usefull in fighting.
    – Thomas
    Jun 16, 2015 at 13:43
  • Yeah but at the same time I feel like it's almost an indirect release because Jon knows that Sam isn't fond of the fighting. So I feel like it's like a "release" for Sam to be sent out on that task.
    – user23448
    Jun 16, 2015 at 13:49

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.