Let's take take a look at the oath of the Night's Watch from Game of Thrones:

"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 shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

―The Night's Watch oath

But as of S06E02

Now that Jon Snow has died, his watch has ended. But apparently he's breathing again.

So how much of this makes sense to still be binding? Is he technically free from his oath now?

Does the "until my death" part contradict the "and all the nights to come" part?

  • 2
    Do you mean binding as in the legality of it? Because I'm pretty certain that lots of them don't really keep to their oath in the first place... they just don't get caught.
    – Catija
    May 2, 2016 at 22:23
  • 11
    @Catija it's an oath not a contract. This is not about Lawyers. This is about honor. May 2, 2016 at 22:27
  • 6
    Considering the consequences of ignoring their oath, it sounds pretty contract-y to me. Even still... the other half of my comment still stands... John Snow ignored the sex part... though I suppose technically the oath doesn't say they can't screw around... Plus, they can get out of their oath for other reasons.
    – Catija
    May 2, 2016 at 22:37
  • 1
    See also The Order of the Stick webcomics giantitp.com/comics/oots0039.html , in which Eugene Greenhilt says this about his marriage, after his death: "Hey, that deal was very clear: 'Til death do us part."
    – b_jonas
    May 9, 2016 at 20:01
  • 1
    One might argue that if it says "it shall not end until my death", then time of the death is the earliest at which it can end. It doesn't mean it has to end with death; when it can be ended post-mortem is left up in the air. Therefore, the "all nights to come" should apply even after death.
    – muru
    May 10, 2016 at 22:09

3 Answers 3


Samwell and Jon have a similar conversation earlier (s04e09 "The Watchers on the Wall") regarding Ygritte and Gilly. The oath says take no wife. It does not say have no sex. Jon ended the discussion, noting that the Night's Watch Master-At-Arms Alliser Thorne at the time is not the type to be swayed by loop holes and interpretations.

JON: But if [Gilly] had [offered Sam sex], you would've? You'd have broken your vows?
SAM: The interesting thing is, our vows never specifically forbid intimate relations with women.
JON: What?
SAM: "I shall take no wife" yes, that's in there, there's no denying that. "I shall father no children" it's very specific. But what our vows have to say about other... activities... is open to interpretation.
JON: I don't think Ser Alliser cares much for interpretation.
SAM: Anyway, there's nothing for him to interpret. [Gilly and Sam] didn't.

Plenty of people in the shows have varying degrees of honor bound to oaths. Brienne is absolute. Jamie is less so. The Boltons have none.

Tyrion or Sam for example would be swayed by the "I died so my oath ended" argument. Someone like Jon, Ned, Stannis probably won't.

And you have to take into account that not everyone will believe Jon died in the first place. They don't believe White Walkers exist, when we and some characters do. So even if, legally, the oath is done, some characters won't believe or know it, so they will continue to hold Jon to it. Until someone kills them, as per usual.

As a comparison, Jon was dead for what, a day? Consider it a clinical death, and subsequent resurrection. People are clinically dead, and revived all the time. They are never considered dead for marriage/contracts/bills/property purposes. Not like Jon was declared dead after months/years gone.

That said, Catlin Stark (née Tully) had sworn an oath to the Godswood, to treat Jon like a son, and broke it. She blames breaking the oath to be the cause of the Stark downfall. Swearing an oath to the Gods and failing to keep it has dangerous consequences, and we know magic does exist, so Jon will tread carefully.

As for the last part, it's an entire statement. You can't separate "All nights to come", from the "I pledge my life". And as a whole, the "until my death". As read, if we accept that Jon died, his watch has ended. If we or others don't count his death as a real death (more like a coma, or asleep, or revived), then it hasn't ended, because his life hasn't ended.

Contractually speaking, the death terminates the contract. The "all nights to come" doesn't override it, as it explicitly terms the end of the contract was "death". Now, if Jon was biologically immortal, never dying for 1000 years, then he'd be bound to the oath the entire time. But if he was magically immortal, as in he can die, but comes back to life, again, it's up to interpretation of the contract term of "death" and "my life", as immortality and resurrection are outside the common/plain meaning terms of the contract. When the contract was made, resurrection and immortality were both absurd ideas.

Spoiler Update regarding episode s06e03 "Oathbreaker":

The newly revived Jon states outright in the end of the episode:
enter image description here

Episode s06e04 shows there is confusion and misunderstanding regarding Jon's status:

Jon's second in command who he named the new Lord Commander, Edd, argues with Jon that he is still apart of the Night's Watch. Jon disagrees. Lower ranking members still see Jon as Lord Commander, as the person in charge. Jon strongly disagrees. No one is forcing the issue yet.

  • So what you're trying to say is, it doesn't really matter because for Jon himself the oath did not end anyway.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 2, 2016 at 23:58
  • @Napoleon kind of. I'm saying that Jon is smart enough to know that the oath is all about politics and points of view. It's not an absolute, objective thing. Like anything else, whomever is in charge/power decides what the truth of the matter is. Jon could think the oath is no longer valid, but if a Lannister saw him, he would call him an oath breaker.
    – cde
    May 3, 2016 at 0:03
  • Surprised you have nothing to say about the "all the nights to come" part. May 3, 2016 at 10:22
  • @candiedorange I think till I die part takes precedence over the all nights to come part.
    – cde
    May 3, 2016 at 18:47
  • 1
    @Skooba How does it? It just tells us that he himself still chooses to abide it. But as much does this answer tell us already, too. It doesn't say anything about if he still has to abide it. Unless I missed anything, which you might want to clarify in an answer of your own then.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 9, 2016 at 19:43

Same oath has working wordings "I shall live and die at my post". So now, he was dead for some time, and he has started living, so he is bound to the oath. Yes, oath was meant for people to be freed from after their death, but then those people were also meant not to live after death. He is still Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and bound to duty and his oath. Now, it's up to him whether he remains bound or not.

This cannot be considered a loophole or freepass for Jon Snow from guilt of breaking the oath, in case he decides to leave the Wall.

  • 2
    This seems to be largely your own interpretation, though. Any way to back this up a little bit more?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 3, 2016 at 3:41
  • @NapoleonWilson I don't think so, it was very confused between answering and marking question as opinion based. As oaths always depends on person to keep it or leave it
    – Panther
    May 3, 2016 at 3:56
  • Surprised you have nothing to say about the "all the nights to come" part. May 3, 2016 at 10:23

Good question! :-)

I know it's a good question. I'm looking for an answer. -- John Snow, 7x03

This is exactly a subject of a dispute between John Snow and Dolorous Edd in 6x04 (broadcasted on May 15 2016, two weeks after you asked):

Edd: How can you leave us now?

John: I did everything I could. You know that.

Edd: You swore a vow.

John: Aye, I pledged my life to the Night's Watch. I gave my life.

Edd: For all nights to come.

So yes, there's a loophole, of which the authors' (GRMM or D&D?) are well aware, as it later served as a subject of this dispute between John and Edd.

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