- "For the Watch."
- ―The black brothers who stab Jon Snow.
The Mutiny at Castle Black is an event that occurs during the conflict beyond the Wall. It involves the murder of Lord Commander Jon Snow for his decision to allow the Free Folk to cross south of the Wall into the Seven Kingdoms to avoid them falling into the hands of the White Walkers. The mutiny results in the subsequent conflict within the Night's Watch between the mutineers and Jon's loyalists.
- "Lord Commander, it is my duty to tell you I believe this mission to be reckless, foolhardy and an insult to all the brothers who have died fighting the wildlings."
- ―Alliser Thorne denounces Jon's decision to save the wildlings.
Following the Battle of Castle Black, Jon Snow is elected the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Having spent time with the wildlings as part of an intelligence mission, Jon grows to sympathize with the wildlings and realizes that since both the Night's Watch and the wildlings are Northerners descended from the First Men, the wildlings have as much right to live in Westeros as the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, as they are Northerners who were merely on the wrong side of the Wall when it was first built. With the coming threat of the White Walkers and their army of undead wights, Jon proposes making peace with the wildlings, allowing the wildlings to pass through the Wall and settle in the Seven Kingdoms, in order to have the manpower to fight the imminent White Walker invasion and to keep them from falling into the hands of the White Walkers. With the massacre at Hardhome, Jon is only able to save a few thousand wildlings, and letting them through Castle Black earns him the contempt of most of the Night's Watch, who lack the same foresight as Jon and see this as both a surrender to their traditional enemies and a betrayal to the Watch.
Murder of Jon Snow
- "Lord Commander, it's one of the wildlings you brought back. Says he knows your Uncle Benjen, says he's still alive."
- ―Olly lures Jon into the mutineers' trap.
Shortly after Jon and Davos Seaworth receive news from Lady Melisandre of Stannis Baratheon's devastating defeat at the hands of the army of House Bolton, Jon is left pondering in his quarters what to do next. His personal steward, Olly, bursts into his quarters and announces that they have captured some wildlings with information on his uncle, former First Ranger Benjen Stark who has been missing since Jon first joined the Watch. Jon goes outside to see, only to be shown a sign with the word "Traitor" on it. Jon is surrounded by numerous black brothers, led by Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck, each of whom stabs him in the abdomen while uttering "For the Watch". As Jon falls to his knees, he is approached by Olly. After a tense moment, Olly stabs Jon in the heart and also says, "For the Watch." Jon falls to the ground and his fellow black brothers walk away, leaving him to bleed out and die.
Divide of the Night's Watch
- Alliser Thorne: "You fucking traitor!"
- Eddison Tollett: "The only traitors here are the ones who shoved their knives into their Lord Commander's heart."
- — Eddison Tollett stands up against Alliser Thorne.[src]
Shortly afterward, Davos, Eddison Tollett, and numerous of Jon's loyal brothers are alerted to the murder by Ghost's whimpering. They rush into the courtyard and find Jon's body, and take it to his quarters, where Edd immediately realizes from the stab wounds that Thorne was responsible. As Thorne reveals his treachery and wins over the Night's Watch with his reasons, the loyalists prepare to fight to the death, hoping to take Thorne with them, but Davos reminds them of the wildlings and sends Edd to find Tormund. Having positioned crossbowmen to shoot the loyalists, Thorne approaches Davos and offers him and the others mercy if they surrender by nightfall, but Davos, doubting Thorne's sincerity, refuses.
That night, as Thorne and the mutineers prepare to smash the door down, Davos, Ghost and the loyalists prepare to fight. Then suddenly, the giant Wun Wun breaks down the gates, allowing Edd, Tormund and the wildlings to swarm into the castle. Tormund cuts down the first black brother to attack, prompting the majority to hesitate. Thorne angrily orders his men to fight as a crossbowman shoots a bolt into Wun Wun's neck, which only serves to annoy the giant, who then grabs his attacker by the leg and smashes him against the wall, killing him, prompting all but Thorne, Mash, Yarwyck and Olly, to disarm. With the mutineers outnumbered, Thorne condemns the loyalists for betraying the Night's Watch, yet Edd refutes that the real traitors are ones who murdered their Lord Commander. As the wildlings restrain the mutineers, Edd orders Thorne, Marsh, Yarwyck, and Olly to be locked in the Ice Cells for their treachery. Edd leads Tormund to Jon's body, and he mournfully suggests that they burn Jon to prevent him from returning as a wight.
Resurrection of Jon Snow and aftermath
- "My watch is ended."
- ―Jon Snow after executing the mutineers.
In a last-ditch effort before the funeral, Davos approaches Melisandre to ask her about the ability to revive someone from death. Having lost her faith in the Lord of Light since Stannis's defeat, Melisandre nevertheless cleans Jon's body and mutters the incantation that Thoros of Myr used to bring Beric Dondarrion back to life six times. When Jon fails to respond, his friends leave the room one by one, but once he and Ghost are alone, Jon suddenly wakes up, back from the dead.
After recovering with help from Davos and Melisandre, Jon issues the mutineers' executions. Thus Thorne, Marsh, Yarwyck, and Olly are all sentenced to death by hanging. Jon oversees their execution and, after hearing their final words, personally cuts the lever, before relinquishing his command over the Night's Watch to Edd and declaring his watch has ended.
- Both the mutiny and Jon's resurrection have been foreshadowed by Sam's words to Olly:
- "Sometimes a man has to make hard choices, choices that might look wrong to others, but you know are right in the long run". Olly decided to join the mutineers because he believed Jon has betrayed the Watch and that he had to stop him.
- "He [Jon] always comes back".
In the books
The circumstances of the Mutiny at Castle Black were drastically changed between the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and TV series, shifting the motivation from the complex and multilayered reasons presented in the book to being entirely due to the wildlings - which introduces several unaddressed plot holes. Notably, Ramsay Bolton unwittingly serves as a catalyst of the mutiny. For more information see the main article on the "Bastard Letter".
Several specific details about how the sequence itself plays out in the books:
Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, and several Watch officers who later become Jon's opposers initially support Jon but grow displeased with Jon's decisions as the Lord Commander. Their primary complaint is his decision to bring wildlings south of the Wall to save them from the Others. Jon explains that it is necessary because the wildlings are living men who are part of the realms they are sworn to protect and that every wildling who dies north of the Wall means one more wight to fight with, but these officers are not satisfied. They are likewise displeased with Jon's decision to allow wildlings to take the black and Jon explains they need the manpower to help guard the Wall against their common foe - the Others. This remains a source of contention between a faction of officers and Jon. These officers fear that the wildlings will turn against them and overpower the black brothers with numbers and Marsh is additionally concerned about feeding the wildlings, while Jon is focused on saving human lives and manning the Wall.
In the novels, the mutiny at Castle Black is told from Jon's point of view, save for a few minor differences. Throughout A Dance with Dragons, tension grows within Jon as he hears of House Bolton's numerous atrocities, mostly at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, whom Jon learns has married and is abusing Arya Stark, Jon's half-sister whom he loves dearly (this girl is actually Jeyne Poole disguised as Arya Stark). Unable to leave Castle Black to rescue "Arya" personally, Jon allows Melisandre to send Mance Rayder (whose execution was faked) to infiltrate Winterfell and save her. After hearing of the failed mission to Hardhome to rescue stranded wildlings there, Jon decides to go with Tormund and lead the ranging himself, but shortly before he can leave, he receives a letter that was apparently sent by Ramsay, who claims that Stannis Baratheon has been killed, his army smashed, Mance Rayder captured, and Jeyne and Reek (whom Jon does not know is Theon) escaped. In the letter, Ramsay demands the return of Arya and Reek, and Melisandre, Selyse Baratheon, Shireen Baratheon, Val (Mance Rayder's sister-in-law) and Mance's baby son handed over to him as hostages, threatening to march on the Wall and kill Jon if he does not agree. Jon is finally pushed to his breaking point and discusses what to do with Tormund for two hours off-page. Jon reads the letter aloud to the Watch and all those present at Shieldhall. He announces his decision to march south and confront Ramsay himself, while Tormund will lead the ranging to Hardhome with as many men as he requires. When Jon states that he will not ask any brother to forswear their vows and asks if anyone will come with him, the wildlings are moved by his speech and volunteer. Yarwyck and Marsh slip out at this point, and as Jon begins preparations to make for Winterfell, he hears an agonized scream and rushes to the source, finding Wun Wun holding the mangled body of Ser Patrick, who had tried to steal into Val's chambers. As Jon tries to prevent more loss of life among the chaos, Marsh and a faction of Night's Watchmen mutiny against Jon, while Marsh has tears running down his cheeks.
Because Jon's plans to confront Ramsay himself at Winterfell go directly against the Watch's neutrality and stance to 'take no part', this serves as the final straw for Jon's dissenters among the Watch, despite Jon's (correct) claims that Ramsay, by threatening to kill the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch with impunity, violated the Watch's neutrality first. Led by Bowen Marsh, the group mutinies against Jon in the snow. The first to strike is the steward Wick Whittlestick. Jon manages to disarm him but he is stabbed in the stomach by Marsh. He wrenches the dagger free and smoke emanates from the wound, before being stabbed in the shoulder. Jon whispers, "Ghost...." and falls face-first into the snow, losing consciousness before he is stabbed a fourth time. This is the last seen of Jon in the novel, and it is left unclear if he has been killed or not.
In the books, Alliser Thorne does not take part in the mutiny since Jon has sent him earlier on a mission, and he has not returned yet by the time the mutiny takes place. Olly is a character exclusive to the television series and does not take part in the book's narratives. Othell Yarwyck is among Marsh's followers, but it is unclear if he is one of those who stabs Jon.
Melisandre has foreseen the assassination and warned Jon; unfortunately, since one of her visions proved to be wrong (a vision of a Northern girl fleeing from a forced marriage for the Wall, whom Melisandre believed to be Arya, but turned out to be Alys Karstark), Jon ignores her warning.