Our watch has almost ended. With HBO's Game of Thrones ending later this year, many fans may not be aware of just how much information was cut from the show that was featured in the books.
The Night's Watch, in particular, had many cool facts and facets that couldn't make it to air time, while some elements were changed entirely for the sake of the narrative. And so, here are 10 facts about The Night's Watch that were left out of the HBO show.
Jon Snow may know nothing, but it's safe to know that he probably knows more than a child. Before the Targaryens came to Westeros, the Starks were King in the North. One of their kin, Osric Stark, was chosen to be the Lord Commander of the Knight's Watch at a mere 10 years old. He went on to hold that title for another 60 years. Why was he chosen so young? We're not really sure; it might be due to his family name or some unknown accomplishment. Regardless, Jon Snow was 16 when he was made Lord Commander, so at least there's some precedent for having a younger Lord Commander.
It's alluded to a few times in the show, but the Night's Watch is also responsible for protecting fifty leagues South of the wall. This area is known as The Gift. Originally land given to them by the Starks, it was expanded to its current size by the Targaryens several hundred years ago.
The land is supposed to be used for farming and trading, but over time fewer and fewer folk have come to live in the area. The most significant settlement in the area is Mole's Town; beyond that, the Gift is something the Night's Watch is better off returning.
Keeping The Others (or the White Walkers as the show calls them) out of Westeros was the main reason the Wall was first constructed. Because of this, the druidic Children of the Forest regularly supplied the Night's Watch with weaponry to fight them. They supplied the Night's Watch up to one hundred obsidian daggers each year to help them keep the Others out. When The Others retreated back, this agreement ended and over time the Night's Watch forgot their true purpose, instead seeing the Wall as a way to keep out Wildlings. This is why abandoned castles along the wall have an odd abundance of dragon glass weapons.
Many remember the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder, a former brother of the Night's Watch who had abandoned the Wall to unite the Free Folk under his banner. In the books, right as Stannis' forces surrounded Mance's camp North of the wall, his wife Dara goes into labor from the shock. She dies but gives birth to a son. To prevent Melisandre from sacrificing the child since Mance had "royal" blood from being crowned King-Beyond-the-Wall, Jon switched his baby with Gilly's. He then sent Gilly and Sam away from Castle Black so that Mance's child would be safe. Speaking of Mance...
After his capture by Stannis, Mance and his forces were to be burned alive in order to please the Lord of Light. Melisandre, however, had other plans for him. Should they need his "royal" blood, she had him glamoured as another Night's Watch soldier and had him switch places with another who was burned alive instead.
The last we heard of Mance in the books, he had been caught by Ramsey Bolton trying to infiltrate Winterfell. His current fate remains unknown.
Before Robert's Rebellion, there was a different Targaryen war known as the Blackfyre Rebellions. King Aegon IV Targaryen legitimized all his bastard children on his death bed, leading his heirs to cause a bloody civil war. One of these children, known as Brynden Rivers (or "Bloodraven" for the distinctive red birthmark on his face) remained loyal to the intended order of succession. Eventually, he found his way to the Wall, becoming Lord Commander sixty years before the events of the first book. One day he simply vanished and many assumed he had died beyond the Wall. Instead, he became what fans of the show know as the Three-Eyed Raven.
Speaking of Targaryens at the wall, Maester Aemon Targaryen's story differed slightly from the show's depiction of him. After the attack on the Wall by Mance's forces, Jon Snow sent away Sam and Gilly to Oldtown in the Reach. He ordered them to bring Maester Aemon with them for his protection. Jon feared that his royal Targaryen blood would be used by Melisandre for darker intentions. However, the journey to Oldtown proved too much for Aemon to handle. He died from a chill while at sea, living to be 102 years of age and one of the last Targaryen's in the world.
Many of the Castles that now lie defenseless were gifted by Queen Alysane Targaryen some two hundred years ago. She granted the expanse of land that allowed The Gift (dubbed The New Gift at the time) to be the size it is today, and convinced her husband the King to construct two additional castles on the Wall; Deep Lake and Snowgate. The later was renamed Queensgate in her honor, with a statue of her existing outside of the former.
If you're familiar with the show, you know that Sam is one of Jon's few remaining friends that's still alive after the attack on the Wall from Mance. In the book, however, Jon had a few more friends still around; one of them was Dareon, a steward who joined at the same time Sam and Jon did and was later named as a traveling crow by Lord Commander Snow to get more Night's Watch recruits. Instead, Dareon deserted the Night's Watch and set up a successful career singing in Braavos. Unfortunately for him, word reached assassin-in-training Arya Stark, who hunted him down and killed Dareon for his betrayal, as her father would have done.
As we saw in season six of the show, Benjen Stark is still alive...sort of. He was fatally stabbed by a White Walkers ice sword when he went beyond the wall in season one. Before he could be fully turned, a Child of the Forest found him and shoved dragonglass in his chest, keeping him unturned. For fans of the book, this sounds similar to the mysterious "Coldhands" who saves Sam and Gilly from being attacked by Others. Coldhands later escorts Bran to the Three-Eyed Raven. Coldhands appears to be a former Night's Watch member with icy black hands and dead eyes, who covers up most of his face and does not reveal his true identity. Many fans have guessed for years that this must be Benjen Stark, but there has never been official confirmation in the books. The show, however, seems to lend credence to this theory.