I didn’t want to post in the episode threads as I am running behind and don’t want to catch any discussion of events I haven’t seen but I have a question.
Why do the Blackwatch (the guys who protect the Northern wall) leave to make patrols of the North? It seems to me that the wall is high enough to be impenetrable to the clans and demons or whatever they are called. Why don’t they just defend the wall and make sure nobody gets through, leaving anything further North to its own fate?
Just conjecture on my part, but the wall may be 700 feet high, but it can be bypassed on the seaward route. Other than that, its just good sense to keep an eye on things north of the wall, to get advance information and plan accordingly.
One other reason is that there is less than 1k manning the wall, but in previous years or even centuries, there may have been upwards of 10k plus, it just gives them something to do.
In addition to the white walkers, there are wildlings north of the wall and they sometimes slip through and conduct raids south of the wall. Regular patols help keep the watch abreast of these incursions.
It’s been a while since i read the books, but I seem to remember that they had to maintain contact with various people living north of the wall, who were keeping an eye on the wildlings and whatnot for them.
And they had been hearing rumours of the wildlings doing something or other out of the ordinary, and they were trying to figure out just what that was. Maybe the feared the wall was so undermanned that they couldn’t deal effectively with a surprise attack?
Hmm. I don’t know if this is book knowledge or show knowledge, but in any case, it general info and shouldn’t spoil anything. But I’ll spoilerbox it anyway.
[Spoiler]The wall is a 700 cliff of ice, but that’s not unpassable by a fit, determined person, or a small group of people. The wildlings, (the people to the north of it) can, and do, send raiding parties either over or around it. The Night’s Watch does what it can to discourage this.
In the distant but still remembered past, they’ve occasionally been gathered into hordes and attacked the Wall as well. It’s not likely, but it would be embarrassing to have them show up at the gate with no warning.
No plot lines, characters, or surprises were harmed.
Yeah, the Wildlings are fairly aggressive, and the Night’s Watch just wants to keep them from being too bold, by occasionally riding against the ones who get too close.
Or, at least, that’s what the Black Brothers say.
Contrarily, it could be that the Wildlings are the victims of the Watch needing something to do when the Others aren’t on the move to justify their existence, and the aggression from north of the wall is a reaction to that.
There’s also the fact that while at one time the Black Watch was really defending the realm, at the time the books (and series) takes place the Bad Things from across the wall haven’t been heard from in a long, long while and as such the “popularity” of the corps is not what it used to be. By now they’re really more of an artifact of a time thought long past.
There’s only a couple hundreds of them left, if that; they’re down to recruiting rapists and murderers; and the Wall itself barely holds together. IIRC only three of the main barracks/towers are still manned and adequately maintained, the rest of the Wall is patched up on an ad-hoc basis.
So really, they patrol the other side of the wall because they’d *really *need early warning if anything bigger than a squad of wildlings was intending to break through.