The Wall is a massive barrier of mostly ice stretching across the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, separating it from the wild lands beyond. The Wall is one hundred leagues long (three hundred miles) and reaches over seven hundred feet at his highest point, although some foundation blocks in hilly regions, such as near Greyguard, send it nine hundred feet in the air.
Appearing as one of the nine wonders made by man in the book written by Lomas Longstrider, the Wall is defended and held by the Sworn Brothers of the Night's Watch, who patrol and guard nineteen castles from the Frostfangs mountain range in the west to the Bay of Seals in the east. Only the Shadow Tower, Castle Black, and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea are garrisoned at the start of A Song of Ice and Fire.
- See also: Images of the Wall
The Wall stretches for three hundred miles and is approximately seven hundred feet tall. It is made of solid ice, stone, and earth, and can be seen for miles round. It appears grey or blue depending on the weather and time of day. The top is wide enough for a dozen mounted knights to ride abreast and it is thicker at the base. According to myth, there are old spells woven into it, to strengthen it and keep creatures of a magical nature such as the Others from passing it.
The Wall is straight from Castle Black to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, but runs like a snake between Castle Black and the Shadow Tower. Led by Othell Yarwyck, the First Builder, the builders of the Watch monitor and repair the Wall.
The Wall does not have standard gates, but instead tunnels cut through it that are secured by heavy iron bars and massive chains that must be unlocked. They are sealed with ice and stone wherever castles have been abandoned or in times of danger.
The Night's Watch raised nineteen castles to guard the hundred leagues of the Wall, however they had never manned more than seventeen at one time. Over the last three hundred years, as the manpower of the Watch has dropped, most of these castles have been abandoned; Old Nan refers to them as "ghost castles".
Only three castles currently remain in use, though sometimes a larger force is sent to one of the abandoned castles for a fortnight or a moon's turn. The manned castles are Castle Black, the largest-maintained castle, located at the northern end of the kingsroad and held by nearly six hundred Brothers, the Shadow Tower, the westernmost of the occupied castles, garrisoned by two hundred men of the Night's Watch, and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the port of the Night's Watch with the smallest garrison, located at the eastern end of the Wall.
The nineteen castles on the Wall, listed from west to east, are:
- The Shadow Tower, commanded by Ser Denys Mallister
- Sentinel Stand
- Hoarfrost Hill
- The Nightfort
- Deep Lake
- Castle Black, commanded by the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch
- Sable Hall
- Long Barrow
- The Torches
- Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, commanded by Cotter Pyke
The Night's Watch permits the forest to come no closer than half a mile to the Wall. However, over time forest has crept back closer to abandoned castles.
The top of the wall is studded with catapults, cranes, and trebuchets, but they are immobile. Additionally, some catapults and trebuchets have been dismantled for repair and never reassembled after being frozen in ice.
The galleys of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea patrol the Bay of Seals in part to catch smugglers who bypass the Wall through the sea and trade weapons to wildlings. In the west the southern Frostfangs and the Gorge make the terrain impassable for all but small groups of raiders.
The Wall provides a tremendous tactical advantage to its defenders, enabling a small group to hold off a much larger force. Defenders are generally beyond the range of bow shot or catapult and in turn rely on archery, catapult, and dropped objects to deter an assault. In particular, barrels containing rocks frozen in ice are effective in dispersing a mass charge.
Attackers must rely on one of two tactics: a direct assault on one of the few well-defended gates, or scaling the Wall in small groups and attacking a gate from the rear. The gates have been designed with features such as murder holes and limited access that make them difficult to force. In an extreme case, gates can be filled with rock and ice, thus becoming as impervious as any other part of the wall.
Scaling the Wall involves similar difficulties. A team of determined climbers can reach the top, but only if undetected by defenders, who can easily knock them off with dropped objects or archery. The Wall is thought to "defend itself", disgorging sheets of its own ice.
The Wall was made to defend the realms of the First Men, and the men of the Night's Watch have reportedly defended the Wall against Others and other monsters for eight thousand years since the end of the Long Night.
According to legend, the Wall was built by Brandon the Builder with the assistance of children of the forest and giants, and it is protected with ancient spells and sorcery. Supposedly, Brandon placed foundations along heights wherever possible. Also according to legend, the Wall is vulnerable to the Horn of Joramun.
Maesters dispute if the base of the Wall was made of stone, but they generally believe builders of the Watch used sledges to transport ice cut from frozen lakes in the haunted forest. However, the severely-reduced Night's Watch at the present time is limited to maintenance duty.
While First Ranger Benjen Stark believes the Wall is the largest structure built by man, others say the Hightower in Oldtown is even taller, and that the Wall can be seen from the tower's top.
A Game of Thrones
A Storm of Swords
A Dance with Dragons
- Westwatch-by-the-Bridge, garrisoned by a small company from the Night's Watch.
- Sentinel Stand, garrisoned by a small company from the Night's Watch.
- Greyguard, garrisoned by an unnamed steward from the Shadow Tower.
- Stonedoor, given to Soren Shieldbreaker to settle and garrison. Borroq is to join him.
- Hoarfrost Hill, still empty as Jon has not yet named a commander
- Icemark, garrisoned with thirty men under the command of Bedwyck, twenty from the Night's Watch and ten of Stannis's men.
- Nightfort, given to Stannis as his seat, but it will take time for the builders to make it suitable for habitation.
- Deep Lake, garrisoned with free folk, possibly by Halleck.
- Queensgate, given to Morna White Mask to settle and garrison.
- Oakenshield, given to Tormund Giantsbane to settle and garrison.
- Woodswatch-by-the-Pool, garrisoned by a small company from the Night's Watch.
- Sable Hall, garrisoned with free folk, possibly by Halleck.
- Rimegate, still empty as Jon has not yet named a commander
- Long Barrow, garrisoned with spearwives under the command of Iron Emmett and Eddison Tollett.
- The Torches, garrisoned by a small company from the Night's Watch.
- Greenguard, given to Devyn Sealskinner to settle and garrison.
Behind the scenes
- See also: Themes in A Song of Ice and Fire
|“||Almost seven hundred feet high it stood, three times the height of the tallest tower in the stronghold it sheltered. His uncle said the top was wide enough for a dozen armored knights to ride abreast. The gaunt outlines of huge catapults and monstrous wooden cranes stood sentry up there, like the skeletons of great birds, and among them walked men in black as small as ants.||”|
|“||If the Wall should ever fall, all the fires will go out.||”|
|“||And they've built a great wall through my valleys, and fished all the fish from my rills.||”|
|“||You know nothing, Jon Snow. This wall is made o' blood.||”|
|“||The Night's Watch has forgotten its true purpose, Tarly. You don't build a wall seven hundred feet high to keep savages in skins from stealing women. The Wall was made to guard the realms of men ... and not against other men, which is all the wildlings are when you come right down to it. Too many years, Tarly, too many hundreds and thousands of years. We lost sight of the true enemy.||”|
|“||The Wall can stop an army, but not a man alone.||”|
|“||Jon Snow glanced up at the Wall, towering over them like a cliff of ice. A hundred leagues from end to end, and seven hundred feet high. The strength of the Wall was its height; the length of the Wall was its weakness. Jon remembered something his father had said once. A wall is only as strong as the men who stand behind it. The men of the Night's Watch were brave enough, but they were far too few for the task that confronted them.||”|
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 21, Tyrion III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 43, Jon V.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
- So Spake Martin: Size of Westeros, April 17, 2008
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 30, Jon IV.
- So Spake Martin: Amazon Omniblog Interview (January 11, 2012)
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 26, Jon IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
- So Spake Martin: The Wall, September 09, 2000
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 40, Bran III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
- So Spake Martin: Many Questions, December 28, 1998
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
- A Feast for Crows, Prologue.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Westwatch-by-the-Bridge.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Sentinel Stand.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Woodswatch-by-the-Pool.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 39, Jon VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 58, Jon XII.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Long Barrow.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Torches.
- RollingStone.com: George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview, April 23, 2014
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 68, Jon VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.