What is the Nights Watch? The Night’s Watch is a military order which holds and guards the Wall to keep the wildlings and White Walkers from crossing into the Seven Kingdoms. the Night’s Watch was founded 8,000 years ago.They now protect the Seven Kingdoms from threats beyond their northern border, such as White Walkers, wildlings and giants. They man a vast structure known as the Wall, a 700 foot tall and 300-mile long barrier which separates the Seven Kingdoms from the lands to the north. It is formed mostly from ice with small trenches and wooden fortifications covering the top. The Watch have built nineteen castles along the southern edge of the Wall to house their men, however, over the years many were abandoned. They also control a region south of the Wall known as the Gift, from which they obtain supplies and provisions. The region was donated to them by House Stark, the Kings in the North, at the
The Night’s Watch is organized in three departments: the Rangers, who fight, defend the Wall and patrol the Haunted Forest; the Builders, who maintain the Wall and the castles; and the Stewards, who support and feed the members of the Watch.
Members of the Night’s Watch swear an oath of duty that prohibits marriage, family, and land ownership which lasts until their death. Recruits renounce all past allegiances and birthrights. Joining the Watch provides absolution for past crimes and immunity from further punishment. Brothers start with a clean slate and can rise within the ranks whatever their origins. However, even though the Night’s Watch vows are meant to be for life, it is possible for one to leave the organization without execution, so long as it is with the ruling monarch’s approval.
They describe one another as “sworn brothers” because of the oath. Men of the Watch dress entirely in black, giving rise to the nickname “crows” – which is what the Free Folk commonly call them – or “black brothers.” Members of the Night’s Watch are not specifically forbidden from seeing their families, but they cannot leave the Wall without permission. Desertion is punishable by death. First Ranger Benjen Stark would often visit his family at Winterfell while representing the Night’s Watch.
The Watch was once highly regarded and their ranks were filled with volunteers from noble houses, as serving was a sign of selfless devotion to the protection of the realm.
However, while the Night’s Watch still has noble-born sons and noble-blooded illegitimate sons from Great House
s, many recruits are now also criminals avoiding punishment, nobles avoiding scandal, orphans, and other social outcasts. Men known as wandering crows, such as Yoren, travel around the Seven Kingdoms gathering recruits for the Watch, offering them escape on the Wall. For some families, the Wall is a convenient place to exile embarrassing or disgraced family members.