If you’re looking for a detailed analysis of Longclaw’s origin story, then you’ve come to the right place. Jon Snow was given the Valyrian steel sword Longclaw by the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Jeor Mormont, aka the Old Bear. A critical look at what Mormont says to Jon reveals that he might be lying to about the true history of Longclaw. I will be using all available resources, so spoilers should be expected.
Jon deserved that sword, didn’t he? He saved the Lord Commander and killed the wight. That sounds like just the kind of thing that earns someone a cool sword.
But there’s something not quite right about Lord Mormont’s back-story. Too many things just don’t add up. I think Martin dropped us several hints along the way, but I it escaped my notice until jtd1776 at reddit.com/r/asoiaf brought it to my attention.
Longclaw, Jon Snow’s Sword, is not what it appears.
There is ample evidence that Mormont LIED to Jon Snow about Longclaw. The first question on your mind is probably “Why would he do something like that?” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before trying to establish a motive, which should not be difficult, let’s evaluate what Jeor said, and ask some serious questions:
Valyrian steel is arguably the most precious resource in Westeros. Because Valyrian steel is both lighter and stronger than normal steel, it’s a game changer on the battlefield where speed is everything and a broken weapon is a death warrant. It can literally mean the difference between life and death. Something that, if you owned it, you would keep it on your person at all times.
It is no longer possible to make Valyrian steel (VS) because it requires both magic and dragon fire to produce.
“Jon had pressed Longclaw into Sam’s hand. He let him feel the lightness, the balance, had him turn the blade so that ripples gleamed in the smoke-dark metal. “Valyrian steel,” he said, “spell-forged and razor-sharp, nigh on indestructible.”
-Samwell I, AFFC
So, when Lord Commander Mormont tells Jon that he,
“Put it aside and thought no more of it until we found it in the ashes of my bedchamber.”
-Jon VIII AGoT
it is truly strange. Pragmatism is the hallmark of the Night’s Watch, and there is nothing less pragmatic than letting a Valyrian Steel sword collect dust – neglected and forgotten. Especially when you consider that his family resides in the war-torn North. Mormont tells Jon that he hid it away in his own bedroom because it reminds him too much of his son’s shame.
“My son brought dishonor to House Mormont, but at least he had the grace to leave the sword behind when he fled. My sister returned it to my keeping, but the very sight of it reminded me of Jorah’s shame, so I put it aside and thought no more of it until we found it in the ashes of my bedchamber. The original pommel was a bear’s head, silver, yet so worn its features were all but indistinguishable. For you, I thought a white wolf more apt. One of our builders is a fair stone carver.”
-Jon VIII AGoT
Jorah is, of course, in exile because he sold some criminals he caught into slavery and is therefore is a wanted man in Westeros. He also inherited Bear Island from his dad Jeor early. Jeor voluntarily joined the Night’s Watch and gave Jorah the reigns. Jonah then spent the family into oblivion trying to keep his wife happy. Now he is estranged from that wife, chasing a teenage Deanerys all around the Eastern continent. So being ashamed of Jorah is a reasonable way to feel.
But don’t forget that while Mormont may have a renegade son, Jorah is not his only family. The women of House Mormont are warriors in their own right – made abundantly clear in the novels. Any one of them would have been able to use Longclaw in defense of House Mormont. In fact, at this point Dacey Mormont has already begun marching with Robb’s army – so why is Jeor content to “put it aside” instead of using it or sending it back?
It doesn’t seem to make sense.
Unless you consider that it wasn’t a Mormont family heirloom after all.
But there’s something even more suspicious in the text:
The Strange History of House Mormont
“This is Valyrian steel, my lord,” he said wonderingly. His father had let him handle Ice often enough; he knew the look, the feel. “It is,” the Old Bear told him. “It was my father’s sword, and his father’s before him. The Mormonts have carried it for five centuries. I wielded it in my day and passed it on to my son when I took the black.” “
-Jon VIII, AGOT
Ok. That’s a long time. But, as jtd1776 observes, “How the hell did the Mormonts get a hold of a Valyrian steel sword 100 years before the Starks?”
“ Catelyn had no love for swords, but she could not deny that Ice had its own beauty. It had been forged in Valyria, before the Doom had come to the old Freehold, when the ironsmiths had worked their metal with spells as well as hammers. Four hundred years old it was, and as sharp as the day it was forged.“
-Catleyn I, AGOT
The Mormonts are banner men to the Starks. In fact, according to legend, House Mormont was given Bear Island by Rodrik Stark. It is hard to date this King Rodrik, but he was a Lord of Winterfell, which we know because he has a tomb and statue in the Winterfell crypt. (Bran IV) That probably means he wasn’t the same Rodrik Stark known as the “Wandering Wolf” – who only predates the story by about a hundred years.
We also know that Rodrik’s tomb is close to, or right beside, Torrhen Stark aka “The King Who Knelt.” He surrendered to the Targaryens and their dragons about 300 years before the events of GoT. If we assume the tombs are filled in order, and the story about Rodrik is true, then the Mormonts have carried Longclaw for longer than they have even been Lords of Bear Island. Imagine that.
So the Mormonts are so poor that they must be gifted their land, but they are still able to acquire and keep a Valyrian Steel sword? We are also asked to believe the Mormonts obtained it one hundred years before the Kings of Winter? I’m not buying it.
Jeor Mormont thought he was leaving a capable son in charge when he left to volunteer for the Wall. Now Jorah is off, chasing unrequited love halfway across the world. We know there’s no take-backs when you take the black, so Jeor must feel truly awful about that decision. The North is at war, his eldest daughter is marching with Robb against the Iron Throne, and he can’t even go back to help them escape the onslaught. If only there were something he could do…
Let’s backtrack for just a sec. Recall that before the Red Wedding, Tywin Lannister was hitting up every garage sale in the kingdom looking for a damn Valyrian Sword. Tywin was positively desperate, and would have made a very wealthy man of anyone willing to part with such a sword.
I’d buy pretty much anything Valyrian at this point.
So why doesn’t Jeor try to sell Longclaw? Surely he felt bad for abandoning his family. House Mormont doesn’t boast much, but it does have this one amazingly powerful and costly object. At the very least he could sell it and send the money back to Bear Island. Why did he just give it away?
Another great catch, confirmed by several readers, is that no one corroborates Mormont’s story. In other words, no other Mormont speaks of the sword. And believe me, we see plenty of Mormonts. In fact, Danaerys brings up the topic of Valyrian Swords with Jorah, but he never so much as mentions Longclaw. This lack of any sort of corroboration may be the biggest smoking gun of all. Valyrian swords are extra-rare, and Jon grew up in Winterfell – so why didn’t he already know all about Longclaw, the ancestral Valyrian Sword of House Mormont?
Maybe because Mormont made the whole thing up!
1. The pommel once had a bear.
There is no proof of this assertion.
2. He hid the sword away and put it out of his mind.
Even though carrying it gives him a significant strategic advantage.
3. It has been in the Mormont family for 500 years.
Even though the Starks have only had ICE for 400 years.
Even though no other character in the entire series even mentions the name Longclaw.
4. He wants Jon to have it.
Even though, again, it has been in the Mormont family for 500 years.
Even though the Mormont House is poor and could use the cash.
Even though his children are marching off to war and could use the edge in battle.
Having evaluated the case, I conclude with a high degree of confidence:
Whatever sword was given to Jon Snow, it wasn’t a Mormont heirloom.
So if Jon’s sword isn’t from House Mormont – where did it come from?
That is the question we’ll dive into in my next post.
Also check out my previous Game of Thrones Posts: