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Game of Thrones Wiki

The Night's Watch arrive at the Fist of the First Men.

"The Night's Watch will ride in force against the wildlings, the White Walkers and whatever else is out there. And we will find Benjen Stark, alive or dead. I will command them myself."
―Lord Commander Jeor Mormont[src]

The Great Ranging was a massive expedition of the Night's Watch to the lands beyond the Wall organized by Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. It was a reaction to the reports of numerous Free Folk villages found empty and wildlings amassing, the discovery of wights in the Haunted Forest and the disappearance of Benjen Stark as well as other rangers.

The expedition force consisted of three hundred brothers: one hundred from the Shadow Tower and two hundred from Castle Black - almost one third of the whole manpower of the Watch.

Known participants


  • Samwell Tarly, called "Sam" and "Ser Piggy" and "the Slayer", a steward in charge of the messenger ravens, separated from his sworn brothers during the attack of the White Walkers at the Fist of the First Men. Returned to Castle Black with Gilly and her son. Sam crossed back south by using a secret sally-port at the abandoned Nightfort to pass through the Wall, in the process slaying a White Walker with a dagger of dragonglass. He was the first to return to Castle Black.
  • Jon Snow, called "Lord Snow", Lord Commander Mormont's personal steward, prisoner of the Lord of Bones and infiltrated among the Free Folk. Crossed back south by climbing over the Wall with an advanced raiding party of wildlings (using climbing gear). He then escaped from the wildlings after they realized his true loyalties: Ygritte put several arrows in him, but a horse he stole managed to carry him back the rest of the way to Castle Black, where he recovered. He was the second to return to Castle Black.
  • {Eddison Tollett}, usually called "Edd", a steward. Kept prisoner along with Grenn by the mutineers at Craster's Keep, until they later seized an opportunity to break free and managed to make the 60 mile trek back to the north gate of Castle Black on foot. Was killed by a wight in the Battle of Winterfell at Winterfell.
  • {Grenn}, a ranger. Returned to the Wall with Edd; later killed in the Battle of Castle Black.


The losses of the Night's Watch as a result of the Great Ranging have been extremely heavy: most of the ranging force was destroyed at the Battle of the Fist of the First Men, and many of the survivors rebelled against Mormont and deserted. Of the three hundred men, only Jon, Sam, Grenn, and Eddison Tollett made it back to Castle Black. The manpower of the Watch, which has been barely adequate prior to the expedition, has dangerously dwindled.

To make things worse, among the casualties were Mormont, Qhorin, and more of the most experienced and capable senior officers of the Watch. That left the defenders of Castle Black heavily outnumbered and without proper leadership against the imminent attack of the wildlings.

On the other hand, there have been several important achievements:

  • While Jon was travelling with the wildlings, he learned a lot about their habits, weaponry, ordnance, manpower, etc. He also noticed the greatest weakness of the wildlings' host - the lack of discipline. This knowledge proved to be valuable during the Battle of Castle Black.
  • The discovery of the secret bundle that contained dragonglass weapons.
  • Sam discovered that the White Walkers can be killed by dragonglass weapons.

In the books

Besides Sam, Edd, and Grenn, ten other named members of the Night's Watch who were present at the Mutiny at Craster's Keep (and stayed loyal) managed to make their way back to Castle Black. Also, a small scouting party of five men, led by Jarman Buckwell, had been sent away by Mormont and so was not present at the Fist or the mutiny, but later returned to Castle Black. Therefore a little under twenty men from the Great Ranging ultimately returned back to Castle Black (compared to only four in the TV series). Even so, this was still a crippling blow, given that the Night's Watch had already dwindled to less than a thousand men prior to the Great Ranging, and out of 300 men on the expedition - only about 20 men survived to return to the Wall.

See also