The Night's Watch is a military order dedicated to holding the Wall, the immense fortification on the southern, and northern border of the Frostfang, and thus defending the realms of men from what lies within. The order's foundation dates back to the Age of Heroes, at the time when the Others or White Walkers were pushed back. The men of Night's Watch wear only black thus creating their name as the Night's Watch. The Nights Watch is the southern defence of the Whitefangs, but unlike their northern counterpart in the Day's Watch the Night's Watch remains true to their original purpose of defending the lands from the White Walkers, and whatever other threats remain within.
The Frostfang mountains and by extention the Nights Watch would first became important to the world following the arrival of the Numenorians of whom brought with them powerful forces. The Numenorians would enter the Frostfangs in order to capture it as they did everything elce, but when they arrived they were opposed by the White Walkers of whom were powerful on a horrifying level. After years of fighting the Numenorians had defeated them on the surface but had been forced to seal them within the mountains themselves within their giant cities. Following this the Numenorians brought in a form of Germanic tribe to settle the Frostfang, and over time they would dominate the land. The Numenorians would at the same time contruct two massive walls which kept the Frostfang valley of which contained the entrances to the White Walkers and thus they allowed another means of defending the White Walkers when the day came that they returned.
The Night's Watch consists of three orders: Rangers, Builders, and Stewards. All of them are subject to the Lord Commander and each of the three orders is led by its own officer, called First Ranger, First Builder, and First Steward, respectively. These officers are appointed by the Lord Commander.
- Rangers: Although all brothers of the Watch stand watch on the Wall, the rangers are the main fighting force, adept at surviving in the wilderness and tasked with scouting and patrolling the Haunted Forest beyond the Wall. They are actively defending the Wall and riding out to face the Watch's enemies, including the lawless wildlings as well as the mysterious, inhuman Others.
- Builders: The builders are responsible for maintaining the Wall, the castles, and the equipment. They provide masons, carpenters, miners, and woodsmen.
- Stewards: The stewards are the largest of the three orders. The stewards are responsible for an assortment of critical functions, providing vital day-to-day services. They hunt and farm, tend horses, gather firewood, cook meals, make clothing, maintain weapons, and conduct trade with the south, bringing back to the Wall all of the supplies needed by the Night’s Watch. Like other members of the Watch, the stewards must be ready to fight at a moment’s notice, and all have received at least basic combat training.
Among the stewards, those with skill in sums or reading or writing might be given specialized tasks as well. Few enough are literate, but the Watch has a purpose for every man. Stewards also serve as attendants and squires for the high officers of the Watch, such as the Lord Commander. In short, the entire administration of the Night’s Watch is in the hands of the Stewards.
The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is the final authority and oversees the entire order. Any man of the Night's Watch can be nominated to be the Lord Commander. A Lord Commander serves in office until the day he dies, when a new Lord Commander is elected by the men of the Watch. It is strongly suggested that the Lord Commander is usually a ranger. This may be gainsaid by a passage in "A Game of Thrones", in which Jon Snow is appointed a steward and not, to his disappointment, a ranger, and assigned as the personal steward of the current Lord Commander. His peers take it for granted that this means Snow is being groomed for leadership. A combination of these two theories may indicate a "fast track," where suitable candidates for Lord Commander may be placed to give them experience in each of the three disciplines, regardless of which they are initially placed. Ultimately though, the position of Lord Commander is filled by an election, so no one, even fast-tracked, can be guaranteed it.
See Also : Jeor Mormont
The majority of the officers and leadership of the Watch are pulled from the upper crust of Westerosi society. An aristocratic or knighted man is almost guaranteed a position as an officer in the Watch, but there are several powerful and influential brothers that are of common blood as well, such as the senior rangers Qhorin the Half-Hand, Blane, and Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and a bastard-born pirate. The Watch, as a meritocracy, is one of the few places in feudal Westeros where a common man can rise high and even gain command over knights and lords, rising as far as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
When the recruits are considered ready to take the black, they say their vows either in a sept or before a heart tree. The vows are as follows:
- “ Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all nights to come. ”
It's customary to finish a black brother's eulogy with the words, "And now his watch is ended."