Why Ned Stark Wanted Jorah Killed Before the Events of 'Game of Thrones'
In a touching moment on this week’s Game of Thrones, "Beyond the Wall," Jon Snow and Jorah Mormont reflect on a man they both knew well: Jeor "The Old Bear" Mormont, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, mentor to Jon, and father to Jorah.
As you might recall, the elder Mormont died at the hands of Night’s Watch mutineers, who stabbed him to death at Craster’s Keep back in Season 3. Jeor’s death led to Jon becoming Lord Commander, which puts him in a contentious position with Jorah. As Jeor’s steward, Jon became a sort of son to him, eventually inheriting the Mormont family sword, Longclaw. "He was a good man. He deserved a better son," Jorah tells Jon, refusing the sword he tries to return. "I brought shame into my house. I broke my father’s heart. I forfeited the right to claim this sword."
It’s a sad moment, made sadder by Jorah’s next line -- "It’s yours. May it serve you well, and your children after." -- which in a subtle way acknowledges that Jon will also get Daenerys, the woman Jorah loves.
Why is Jorah so resigned to his shame? And why did Ned Stark want to kill him? Let’s dig into the history of Ser Jorah, his crimes, and how he ended up at Dany’s side.
Jorah hails from Bear Island, home to the young Lyanna Mormont. As the only son of Jeor, he live as a lord who through training became a brave and skilled swordsman. Later he was knighted by King Robert Baratheon after fighting in the Greyjoy Rebellion. Jorah was so prized in his family, that Jeor abdicated his seat as Lord of Bear Island for Jorah, and voluntarily took the black.
But, as we know from George R.R. Martin's books, Jorah did not rule for long. After assuming the role of Lord of Bear Island, Jorah took a wife, Lynesse Hightower, a beautiful blonde woman from Oldtown, a city known for its wealth and luxury. Lynesse struggled to fit in on Bear Island, a cold and primitive region with which she was wholly unfamiliar. In his many attempts to impress her, Jorah wound up going broke. Desperate to meet her standards, he wound up selling poachers he found on his land into slavery, an act not only illegal in Westeros, but also incredibly taboo.
Ned Stark, as you would expect, does not like slavery
Jorah was caught for his shameful act, stripped of his Lordship, and his title and lands went to his aunt, Maege Mormont, mother of Lyanna. (Maege was later killed in the Red Wedding.)
The punishment for selling men into slavery is death, and Jorah was due to be executed by Ned Stark, warden of The North. In a cowardly and fearful act, Jorah fled across the Narrow Sea to escape his fate. His wife left him in the process, and he was forced into mercenary positions in the foreign land.
Getting rid of mercenary habits is easier said than done
Eventually, Jorah found his way to Daenerys, who was freshly married to Khal Drogo. They began an alliance and friendship, but it was built on lies -- Jorah was secretly reporting Dany’s every move to Lord Varys, who in turn kept the Targaryen-hating King Robert aware of her whereabouts. This resulted in several efforts to kill Daenerys, which Jorah knew about and tried to prevent as his affections for the Dragon Queen grew.
Of course, Dany discovered Jorah’s duplicity and banished him. After working his way back into her good graces – and getting rid of some pesky Greyscale, thanks to Samwell Tarly, another of his father’s proteges – he is finally firmly pledged to her cause, a position where he can atone for his haunted past and prove that he’s more than a coward who ran from his self-made undoing.
What’s next for Jorah?
Jorah’s arrival at Dragonstone has an air of the bittersweet. His desire to risk his life serving Daenerys seems like a certain death sentence, and his acceptance and resignation to Jon and Dany’s budding romance is equally troubling when it comes to matters of his survival. It feels unlikely that he's long for this world – Tyrion’s lucky coin exchange last week further sealed the deal – especially as stories condense and the fat in the plot gets trimmed. What does Jorah offer at this point, besides his fealty to Daenerys?
Well, he also seems to have staunch faith in Jon, enough to yield Longclaw back to him when pride might have won out instead. His devotion to Dany might mean a similarly firm pledge to Jon. It seems likely that the gentler-than-Ned Jon Snow, and King of the North, could grant a formal pardon to Jorah, paving way for a possible reunion with his cousin, Lyanna.
No matter where he ends up, it’s safe to say his story has come full circle. The selfish and fearful man has already risked his life in the name of the queen he cherishes, for a humanitarian cause he believes in. He may not feel that he deserves Longclaw, but Jeor would still be proud of what his son has become.