Tower of the Hand

Book 3, Chapter 57.
Bran, Hodor, Meera, and Jojen come to the Nightfort, where Sam meets them and takes them through the Wall to meet Coldhands.
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Bran, Meera, Jojen, and Hodor reach the Nightfort. Bran is full of fear, not only because they have reached the edge of the world, but also because he experienced a dream of Summer's that Robb and Grey Wind are dead. The Nightfort is the setting for some of Old Nan's scariest stories such as that of the Night's King, the Rat Cook, the seventy-nine sentinels, the rape and murder of Danny Flint, King Sherrit's curse on the Andals, the apprentice boys who faced the thing that came in the night, Symeon Star-Eyes and the hellhounds, and Mad Axe butchering his fellow Watch members in the dark. The castle has been abandoned for two hundred years. There is no way through to the other side of the Wall, just as Bran had already told the others, but Jojen had a green dream indicating they would pass through at the Nightfort and wants to look around. Bran sullenly states they should have followed Jon. The night Summer helped Jon escape,1 the direwolf killed three men, but took a wound from an arrow. The next day, the wildlings departed, but Jojen decided they should stay another day. Later that day, Summer returned and swam to the castle, where Meera treated his wound. The group then traveled to the Nightfort.

Meera decides to scale the Wall to look around, while Jojen and the others do the same in the castle. Bran tells Jojen a little about the castle as they search. It was the first castle founded along the wall and the largest, but it was also the first to be abandoned, replaced during the reign of Jaehaerys I with the smaller and more manageable Deep Lake. The castle is supposed to have many ghosts. One group are the seventy-nine deserters who went south to become outlaws. One was a Ryswell, so they sought shelter with the lord, but he turned them in instead and they were supposedly sealed alive in the ice, becoming known as the seventy-nine sentinels. As an old man, the lord took the black to stand beside his son. As it gets dark outside, Bran's thoughts turn to the Night's King, the semi-legendary thirteenth commander of the Watch who once spied a pale maiden from atop the Wall and chased her down to make her his queen. According to the legend, she took his soul and bound the Watch to serve his will, ruling as a king for thirteen years before the King in the North joined with Joramun to end his rule. After he was overthrown, the victors discovered he had been sacrificing to the Others and had all mention of him stricken from the records. When Old Nan would tell the story, she would end by saying no one knew who he was, but that he was speculated to be a Magnar from Skagos, an Umber, a Flint, a Norrey, or a Woodfoot from the house that ruled Bear Island before it was conquered by the ironmen, but that the real identity of the Night's King was a Stark.

After both groups find nothing helpful, they decide to spend the night in the kitchens, which make Bran uneasy, particularly the seemingly bottomless well. The story of the Rat King troubles Bran as they set up camp, a cook who killed two sons of an Andal king that had wronged him and served them to their father and was cursed by the gods for violating guest right by being transformed into a giant white rat that devoured its own young. They go to sleep, but after a time Bran is awakened by a noise. He realizes that someone or something is coming out of the well. He thinks at first it might be Mad Axe, who stalked the castle barefoot to kill his sworn brothers, or perhaps the thing that came in the night which was responsible for the death of three apprentice boys and drove a fourth insane according to the story. Bran crawls over to Meera and wakes her up, and she prepares to meet whatever is coming. Bran takes control of Hodor and has him pick up his longsword. The thing comes out of the well, and Meera traps it in her net. The form cries out not to hurt him and says his name is Sam. Gilly is there too with her baby. They came at the behest of Coldhands,2 who told them there would be people at the Nightfort that Sam should bring to him. Sam tells them there is a gate at the bottom of the well that can only be opened by a brother of the Night's Watch. It is called the Black Gate. Coldhands brought them to the castle, but he cannot pass through the Wall. Coldhands is not his real name, but what Sam and Gilly call him. Sam realizes who Bran is and promises to keep it a secret when asked to. Summer appears and seems to like Sam, which convinces Bran they should go with him. They descend deep into the well and finally come to the gate after many turns. It is a weirwood with an incredibly old face. It asks who they are, and Sam gives the oath of the Night's Watch. The face allows them to pass, the mouth opening wide to let them through. As Bran passes through the mouth, he feels a drop of water salty like a tear.



  1. Children of the Forest - The children of the forest rode elks.


  1. Deep Lake - Deep Lake was built with money provided by Queen Alysanne Targaryen to replace the Nightfort, which was abandoned.
  2. The Nightfort - The first and largest castle built along the Wall. The Night's Watch abandoned the Nightfort around two hundred years ago. It is the only castle at which the steps to the top of the Wall were carved out of the ice itself. There are many gruesome stories associated with the castle. One of the most famous is that of the seventy-nine deserters. Led by a son of Lord Ryswell, they went south to be outlaws and sought refuge at Lord Ryswell's castle. He returned them to the Nightfort, where the Lord Commander sealed them all in the ice. Years later, when he was an old man, Lord Ryswell took the black to stand sentry with them.
  3. The Wall - The Wall has ancient spells woven into it that prevent certain types of creatures from passing through.


Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.


1.  Prologue 29.  Sansa III 57.  Bran IV
2.  Jaime I 30.  Arya V 58.  Daenerys V
3.  Catelyn I 31.  Jon IV 59.  Tyrion VII
4.  Arya I 32.  Jaime IV 60.  Sansa IV
5.  Tyrion I 33.  Tyrion IV 61.  Tyrion VIII
6.  Davos I 34.  Samwell II 62.  Sansa V
7.  Sansa I 35.  Arya VI 63.  Jaime VII
8.  Jon I 36.  Catelyn IV 64.  Davos VI
9.  Daenerys I 37.  Davos IV 65.  Jon VIII
10.  Bran I 38.  Jaime V 66.  Arya XII
11.  Davos II 39.  Tyrion V 67.  Tyrion IX
12.  Jaime II 40.  Arya VII 68.  Jaime VIII
13.  Tyrion II 41.  Bran III 69.  Sansa VI
14.  Arya II 42.  Jon V 70.  Jon IX
15.  Catelyn II 43.  Daenerys IV 71.  Tyrion X
16.  Jon II 44.  Arya VIII 72.  Daenerys VI
17.  Sansa II 45.  Jaime VI 73.  Jaime IX
18.  Arya III 46.  Catelyn V 74.  Jon X
19.  Samwell I 47.  Samwell III 75.  Arya XIII
20.  Tyrion III 48.  Arya IX 76.  Samwell IV
21.  Catelyn III 49.  Jon VI 77.  Jon XI
22.  Jaime III 50.  Catelyn VI 78.  Tyrion XI
23.  Arya IV 51.  Arya X 79.  Samwell V
24.  Daenerys II 52.  Catelyn VII 80.  Jon XII
25.  Bran II 53.  Arya XI 81.  Sansa VII
26.  Davos III 54.  Tyrion VI 82.  Epilogue
27.  Jon III 55.  Davos V
28.  Daenerys III 56.  Jon VII