Warning: contains major spoilers for Game Of Thrones seasons one to four.
He’s not the clever short one, the slinky blonde one, or the whippersnapper kid with her skinny sword, so he’s probably not your favourite Game Of Thrones character. He’s Jon Snow, a curly-mopped cocktail of Yorkshire vowels, high-maintenance facial hair and puppy dog eyes. He’s spent the last four seasons struggling to follow his moral compass faced with a conveyor belt of bereavement and hardship. He’s joined the Night’s Watch, killed a Wight, braved the Wildling camp, met a giant, and had it off with a red-headed sort, and he did it all whilst balancing a high pile Ikea Vitten rug on his shoulders. That’s some kind of man.
Jon Snow particularly deserves a tip of our collective hat for his heroic role in season four’s action spectacular, The Watchers On The Wall. At the end of that episode, we saw him striding out to parlay with Wildling leader, Mance Rayder, after leading the men of the Night’s Watch through the first night of attack and watching his beloved die in his arms. Her last words to him? “You knerr nothin’ Jon Snerr”. Love Ygritte as we do, she’s dead wrong. Jon Snerr knerrs a great many things, as detailed below…
The love of a good woman
Ruthless killer that she was, Ygritte was also a good woman (especially next to her battle mates the Thenns, a bunch of tykes who’d make Gothmog Lieutenant of Morgul wet his knickers and hide in the ironing board cupboard). Admittedly, she’s quite murder-y, but in the cut-throat-then-interfere-with-throat-then-set-throat-on-fire world of Game Of Thrones, Ygritte’s choice not to slaughter an innocent woman and her baby in The Mountain And The Viper basically makes her Gandhi.
And Jon Snow loved her. And she loved him back, showing it as only a Wildling woman can by shooting only the three arrows into him when he betrayed her, and not even one of them through his eye. Jon also loved Ygritte in the bodily sense, rubbing up against her in that cave and discovering a talent for “that thing [he] did, with [his] mouth”. Jon’s inarticulate attempt to explain what it was to love and be loved to his virgin mate Sam in The Watchers On The Wall was an endearing scene, proving that he certainly knew something: how to love his lady.
How to swing a sword
Series Jon may have told Sam that Robb Stark bested him at every turn growing up, but book Jon had one thing over his step-brother: his way with a weapon. Trained at Winterfell by Master-At-Arms Ser Rodrik Cassel, Jon is a keen swordsman, skilled in the art of swinging, disarming, and sticking them with the pointy end. It was Jon who gave Arya Needle (a weapon that’s seen its share of gullets and guts in Game Of Thrones season four) along with that piece of shrewd advice.
In return for rescuing Jeor Mormont from a Wight, Jon was rewarded with Longclaw, the Mormont family’s Valyrian Steel ‘Bastard’ sword, and one he’s used to great effect many times since. Swordplay is something Jon knows inside and out.
The sting of being illegitimate
As one of Game Of Thrones’ many bastards (we know about the expanding theories surrounding Jon’s parentage, but we’re sticking with what we’ve been told on-screen for the purposes of this), something Jon Snow was intimately familiar with was the humiliation of being born, as they say in Westeros, on the wrong side of the sheets. In some ways, he’s the sane version of psychopath Ramsay Bolton, acknowledged but – until recently, in Ramsay’s case – not legitimised by his father.
Denied the Stark family name, forced to sit away from the family table when the Royal Family came to visit and not allowed to travel to King’s Landing with his siblings in season one, mockingly nicknamed Lord Snow at the Night’s Watch and called illegitimate by just about everyone brave enough to, Jon knows plenty about being bastard-born.
How to use a hammer
While we’ve yet to see him knock up a nice set of shelves with one, anyone who’s seen season four, episode nine will know what we mean. As Jon, Kit Harington’s skill with a hammer is right up there with Ryan Gosling’s in Drive and Neil Maskell’s in Kill List. Best avoided if you ever come across him a bit riled in a branch of B&Q.
How to lead
No sooner than Ser Alliser Thorne handed command of the Wall to Janos “I’m a big girl’s blouse” Slynt in episode 4.9, it was up to our Jon to get Castle Black’s troops into shape. Jeor Mormont had already ticked “Leadership potential” on Snow’s psychometric evaluation sheet when the young Northerner arrived at the Night’s Watch, and when they were up against it, Jon didn’t let his former mentor down.
We’ve seen Jon lead numerous times, inspiring men, teaching them and protecting them. He’s one of Ser Alliser’s “mouthy twats” not afraid to stand up to his superiors and not afraid to take charge. It poses the question, if he can command the Night’s Watch then, gods willing, might he have it in him to command all of Westeros one day?
When to keep a promise
Promises and oaths in Westeros are complicated things. A member of the Kingsguard may murder the King he was sworn to protect (and on balance, not come out of it looking too bad). A Maester may swear to uphold the honour of the citadel, then spend his free time dishonouring it at his leisure. A member of the Night’s Watch may swear never to take a wife or father a child, but visit the Molestown brothel under cover of darkness (it’s sort of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ deal with those guys).
Jon Snow may have transgressed some boundaries in his double agent mission into the Wildling camp, but he knows which promises to keep. In season three, he swore to Qhorin Halfhand that he’d do what was necessary to become a spy and kept that painful promise. He also swore to Jeor Mormont that he wouldn’t lose Longclaw, so went dutifully unarmed into Mance Rayder’s camp in season four, episode nine.
And when to break a vow
When your first love strips down to her altogether and invites you to share the only bath you’ve come near in weeks, vows be damned. Anyway, as Sam says in The Watchers On The Wall, Jon wasn’t strictly breaking his Night’s Watch vow by bedding Ygritte as he neither married her nor did she bear him a child. So there.
Who Maester Aemon really is
Knowing that the old blind man in your regiment is actually the great-uncle of Danaerys Targaryen, the sole Targaryen in Westeros, and surviving heir to the Iron Throne (albeit one who passed on the opportunity to rule in favour of a Maester’s life in the Night’s Watch) is sure to come in useful at some point in future. That’s something Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly both know.
Everything Ned Stark taught him
“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword”, “There is no shame in fear, what matters is how we face it”, “Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle”, “Our way is the old way”… Many are the lessons Eddard Stark taught his children before his death, and Jon Snow learned them all. It was good old Ned who taught Jon Snow about honour, the old gods, how to look awesome fighting in the pouring rain… in short, everything a father should teach a son.
What it means to lose something
To grow up a Stark in Game Of Thrones is to know loss. Over the past four seasons, boy has Jon Snow known loss. He never knew his mother, his father was executed, then he received the (false) news that his little step-brothers had been killed and their bodies burnt in the husk of his childhood home. His step-sisters were missing presumed dead, his brother, pregnant sister-in-law and step-mother were slaughtered, and finally, he’s just watched the life drain out of his first love.
Seven hells, no wonder the boy’s so attached to that dog.
Giants are real
Tyrion Lannister may have teased him about fictitious tales of grumpkins and snarks in season one, but Jon’s since experienced the supernatural menace beyond the Wall at first hand. Janos Slynt can scoff all he likes at the idea of giants, but having watched one all-but dismantle the Castle Black gate in The Watchers On The Wall, we know what Jon knows. And Jon knows giants are real.
Cooking, cleaning, sewing, preparing armour. Basically, Ygritte, loads of stuff
As Jeor Mormont’s steward, Jon’s duties would have included all manner of domestic tasks, making him quite the Nigella in the kitchen. He’d also have had to look after Mormont’s clothes and quarters cleaning, making him a Trinny and Susannah-meets-Kim and Aggie triple threat. Judging by appearances too, Jon’s also learned how to keep his locks luxurious and his beard suspiciously well-trimmed for one with such limited access to personal grooming equipment. Bascially, there’s no limit to what he knows, so stick that in your wildling pipe and smoke it, Ygritte.
The things he still doesn’t know
– According to Maester Aemon, he’s not yet learnt that love is the death of duty.
– Who his mother was (and for that matter, if his father was telling the truth about his origins)
– That the younger Starks are all still alive (and that it was a Warg-ing Bran who saved his life on the night he betrayed Ygritte).
– What none of us knows yet: who will win the game of thrones…
Read our spoiler-filled review of The Watchers On The Wall, here.
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