There are 3 significant reasons Jon Snow joined the Nights Watch:
Reason 1 – Jon had nowhere else to go.
Reason 2 – Jon wanted to find his place in the world, feel a sense of purpose as is the human way.
Reason 3 – The Wall is Jon’s destiny and Ned Stark knew it from the day he found Lyanna and Jon at the Tower of Joy.
The Nights Watch was Jon’s destiny and deep down on some level, he knew this. I further believe the following theories in point form are supported by the quotes located below them:
- I believe Ned Stark knew about the prophecy Rhaegar believed in and that he knew great details of it.
- I believe Lyanna told Ned these things as she was dying.
- I believe this is the reason why we are not getting access to Neds full thoughts around that event, and why we heard nothing of the words between Ned & Lyanna during Bran’s trip back in time to the Tower of Joy.
- I believe this is why Ned allowed Jon to go to the Wall, and why he told Jon the last time he saw him that they would talk about Jon’s mother the next time they met.
- I also believe this is why Ned was so insistent Daenerys must not be killed. Ned definitely is not a child killer even in war, that is part of his personality not to do such things, and it is a great way to cover the fact that Ned knows Jon & Daenerys would both play crucial roles in the future for Westeros and its survival.
Here are quotes and my reasoning to support …..
Jon’s Desire To Prove Himself
“Even a bastard may rise high in the Night’s Watch” – Ned Stark, AGOT, Catelyn II
Jon Snow knew because of his bastard status, he had nowhere else to go, no other options. He could not go south to court, as the Queen did not allow any of King Robert Baratheon’s bastards attend court. Jon knew he would be shunned and there was no place for him there.
Jon Had Nowhere Else to Go
Jon knew he could not stay at Winterfell with Catelyn, Robb, Bran and Rickon. Jon knew Catelyn would not allow that.
“There was no place for him in Winterfell, no place in King’s Landing either. Even his own mother had not had a place for him. The thought of her made him sad. He wondered who she had been, what she had looked like, why his father had left her.” –A Game Of Thrones, Jon V
Ned told Cat he wished Jon could stay at Winterfell since Robb and Jon were close, but Catelyn forbid that as a possibility. She could never get over the fact that Ned cheated on her. While she did not beat Jon, she actively hated him, and she was actively and routinely verbally and emotionally abusive to Jon his entire life.
Even as a baby, Catelyn could not find any love in her heart for Jon. A quote from Catelyn in A Game of Thrones:
Whoever Jon’s mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away. It was the one thing she could never forgive him. She had come to love her husband with all her heart, but she had never found it in her to love Jon …….. Jon was never out of sight, and as he grew, he looked more like Ned than any of the trueborn sons she bore him. Somehow that made it worse.
“Jon must go,” she said now.
“He and Robb are close,” Ned said. “I had hoped….”
“He cannot stay here,” Catelyn said, cutting him off. “He is your son not mine. I will not have him.” It was hard she knew, but no less the truth. Ned would do the boy no kindness by leaving him here at Winterfell.
The look Ned gave her was anguished. “You know I cannot take him south. There will be no place for him at court. A boy with a bastard’s name …. you know what they will say of him. He will be shunned.” ……….
“How can you be so damnably cruel Catelyn? He is only a boy. He –” His fury was on him…. –A Game Of Thrones, Catelyn II
At this point, Maseter Luwin informs Ned and Catelyn that Jon wishes to go to the Wall and become a Sworn Brother of the Nights Watch. Ned is shocked and upset. Catelyn, however, thinks to herself….
“…… the perfect solution. Benjen Stark was a Sworn Brother. Jon would be a son to him, the child he never had. And in time the boy (Jon) would take the oath as well. He would father no sons who might someday contest with Catelyn’s own children for Winterfell.” –A Game Of Thrones, Catelyn II
Jon Saw The Nights Watch as an Honorable Order
In the beginning of the books (and show) we see Jon trying to make the best of his situation, and considers joining the Nights Watch after Benjen tells Jon they need more men like Jon on the Wall. Jon swells with pride, an emotion Jon rarely ever experiences. Jon talks to his Uncle Benjen, about this possibility, about joining now and leaving with Benjen when he returns to the Wall in a few days.
At that time, Jon saw the Watch as an honorable order, consisting of honorable men, who took pride in the great responsibility of guarding the people of Westeros from whatever threats live north of the Wall.
Benjen gave Jon a careful, measuring look. “You don’t miss much, do you, Jon? We could use a man like you on the Wall.”
Jon swelled with pride. “Robb is a stronger lance than I am, but I’m the better sword, and Hullen says I sit a horse as well as anyone in the castle.”
“Take me with you when you go back to the Wall,” Jon said in a sudden rush. “Father will give me leave to go if you ask him, I know he will.”
Uncle Benjen studied his face carefully. ”The wall is a hard place for a boy, Jon”
“I am almost a man grown,” Jon protested. “I will turn 15 on my next name day, and Maester Luwin says bastards grow up faster than other children.” ………… –A Game Of Thrones, Jon I
Jon deeply wishes to make his way in the world, to find his ‘place’, somewhere he belongs, to have a sense of purpose. He wants to others to see him as the honorable man he sees in himself. Jon wants to be known to be the kind of man his father is, whom Jon greatly looks up to, as opposed to being known as ‘Ned Starks bastard’.
Jon Wanted to find his Life’s Purpose
As a brother of the Night’s Watch, Jon knew his bastard status would be put aside, and for the first time in his life, he would have the chance to make a name for himself, a name with the word ‘bastard’ attached to it. Jon sought this path out for himself, as deep down, there was something inside him that knew, this was his path, his destiny.
The wine was making him bold. He tried to sit very straight, to make himself seem taller. “I want to serve in the Night’s Watch, Uncle.”…..
He had thought on it long and hard, lying abed at night while his brothers slept around him. Rob would someday inherit Winterfell, would command great armies as the Warden of the North. Bran and Rickon would be Robb’s bannermen and rule holdfasts in his name. His sisters Arya and Sansa would marry the heirs of other great houses and go south as mistress of castles of their own. But what place could a bastard hope to earn?
……. “You don’t know what you’re asking, Jon. The Night’s Watch is a sworn brotherhood. We have no families. None of us will ever father sons. Our wife is duty. Our mistress is honor.”
“A bastard can have honor too,” Jon said. “I am ready to swear your oath.”
“You are a boy of fourteen,” Benjen said. “Not a man, not yet. Until you have known a woman, you cannot understand what you would be giving up.”
“I don’t care about that!” Jon said hotly.
“You might, if you knew what it meant,” Benjen said. “If you knew what the oath would cost you, you might be less eager to pay the price.” –A Game Of Thrones, Jon I
Jon Felt Cast Out by His Family
Jon did not want to leave Winterfell, the only home he had ever known. He did not want to leave his family, and he had a feeling he would never see them again if he did. That feeling turned out to be true. Half of them are dead within 2 years, and we have only seen Jon reunited with Sansa on the show.
“Jon climbed the steps slowly, trying not to think that this might be the last time ever.” –A Game Of Thrones, Jon II
A few chapters later we see Bran commenting on Jon’s mood the last few days as he prepares to leave Winterfell. As much as Jon wanted to make his way in the world, he was also feeling cast out into the world, alone …
“… Jon and his wolf were nowhere to be found. Bran did not look for him very hard. He thought Jon was angry at him. Jon seemed to be angry at everyone these days. Bran did not know why. He was going with Uncle Ben to the Wall, to join the Nights Watch.” –A Game Of Thrones, Bran II
At the end of A Game of Thrones we find this quote from Jon which shows how he felt deep down:
“I have no place, Jon wanted to say, I’m a bastard. I have no rights, no name, no mother, and now not even a father. The words would not come. – A Game of Thrones, Jon IX
The Wall Is Jon’s Destiny & Ned Knew It
Jon left Winterfell, arriving at the Wall, and soon, reluctantly accepting this was his path in life. Jon did not understand the quality of the Nights Watch brothers had significantly declined the last few hundred years. Jon did not realize the vast majority of the NW brothers now consisted of rapers, poachers, thieves, murderers, and worse, along with a few farm boys, whose only crime was stealing a chunk of cheese or bread to feed their starving family.
Ned knows Jon, he knows how strikingly simialr they are to each other. The Watch is no place for a character of such strong morals as Ned, nor is it a place for Jon for the same reasons. So why would Ned allow Jon to go there … unless he knew about the prophecy, and had a head’s up on the events to come.
This quote near the end of A Game of Thrones in which Old Bear Lord Commander Mormont (God rest his awesome fierce soul) says something most intriguing:
“Your lord father sent you to us, Jon. Why, who can say?”
“Why? Why? Why?” the raven called.
“All I know is that the blood of the First Men flows in the veins of the Starks. The First Men built the Wall, and its said they remember things otherwise forgotten. And that beast of yours …. he led us to the wights, warned you of the dead man on the steps.” – Lord Commander Mornont talking to Jon, A Game of Thrones, Jan IX
Why indeed. The raven is as smart as Old Nan.
While Jon struggles with his choice, he excels in his role at the Wall, eventually becoming Lord Commander. A meteoric climb indeed from Bastard of Ned Stark to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Some (like me lol) would say that right there serves as very strong evidence the Wall was the path meant for Jon.
The Wall, the Sworn Brotherhood of the Nights Watch, the betrayal at the hands of his ‘brother’s, just a few of the many things which are a big part of Jon Snow’s destiny.