After Valyria we’re going to change it up a little and move away from ancient history to modern history, some of which we’ve even seen unfold ourselves. Something simple. Today we’ll cover Jorah, and you may know his history, you may not, but it’s a good story no matter what.
In a world filled with moralistically grey and believable characters, I find Jorah to be one of the best. He’s someone who just felt absolutely real to me. And his history is key in understanding his character fully.
This is Jeor Mormont
Father of Jorah Mormont. One thing can’t be denied of anyone born of House Mormont. They are tough as nails. The Mormonts may not be the largest or most powerful house, but you’ll always know where they stand. They are an old and honorable house and northern to the core. If a Mormont swears you his sword, he will go the end and back with you.
Jeor was known as “the Old Bear” and always had his pet raven with him. As Lord of House Mormont, Jeor wielded the ancestral Valyrian steel sword Longclaw. It’s pommel was topped with a bear’s head. However, when Jorah matured, Jeor left the Lordship to his son and took the black of the Night’s Watch. Longclaw was passed down to a young Jorah.
This is Jorah Mormont
Jorah became a Lord presumably right before Robert’s Rebellion. Although it wasn’t until the Greyjoy Rebellion when Jorah distinguished himself. The Rebellion was led by Balon Greyjoy against Robert Baratheon and the Iron Throne. The Iron Islands wanted independence from the Seven Kingdoms and since they had remained neutral for most of Robert’s Rebellion, they were strong while the rest of the Seven Kingdoms were still recovering. Balon also thought Robert’s rule was weak and fractured and he wouldn’t be able to muster enough forces to stop him. Balon was wrong.
Robert and allies crushed the Rebellion. The decisive battle was the Seige of Pyke and it was led by a reunited Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. During the battle, Jorah distinguished himself by being one of the first through the walls. Robert knighted him and Jorah returned to Bear Island, renowned.
Jorah’s first wife was of House Glover. During their ten years of marriage she couldn’t bring a child into the world, not for lack of trying. A Lord needs a son and the poor woman tried but she passed away after her third miscarriage leaving Jorah without an heir and without a wife.
Jorah met his second wife at a Tourney after the Greyjoy Rebellion. A beautiful woman with light skin and golden hair named Lynesse Hightower. Jorah would probably say it was love at first sight. He asked her permission to wear her favor while fighting in the tourney and she agreed. He won in a very surprising underdog victory and named Lynesse the Queen of Love and Beauty. A method that history tells us does wonders with the ladies. That same night Jorah asked her father for his permission to ask Lynesse’s hand in marriage. He agreed, she agreed, and they married each other for love, something rarely ever seen in the world of lords and politics. It was here that Jorah’s Achilles heel started to show.
The Hightowers were very wealthy. Lynesse had grown up in the Reach, the most fertile area in Westeros and second wealthiest. It’s rich with fruit and nice wines so the move to Bear Island was a shock for Lynesse. A cold and harsh place with no luxuries. It also didn’t help that it was an island separated from the main land, isolated and lonely. Almost the exact opposite of the life she was used to living. It didn’t take long at all for her happiness to start fading and their marriage to become strained.
It’s an honorable thing to try and make your wife happy. Jorah loved her deeply and tried his best to get her spirits up again. He gave her expensive things and tried to recreate the feeling of her life back home. Prosperity and luxury. All the while Lynesse grew more and more miserable. All Jorah managed to do was go broke with his attempts to make her happy again.
“I lived for her smiles.” – Jorah
Jorah is not in a good place. The love of his life is miserable. Nothing he does can fix that. He still has no heir. He is dealing with being the lord of a house. And he has driven himself into ruin with debts owed. He’s completely desperate so when he catches poachers on his land, he does the unthinkable. He breaks one of the oldest and most important rules in Westeros. He sells the poachers into slavery in order to pay off his debts.
Needless to say, when Ned Stark caught word of this he was pissed. He probably felt a lot of things, even disappointment, sadness, and betrayed.. He had fought with this man and had seen him grow to be a prestigious knight. House Mormont was sworn to the Starks and were a noble house, so it was a bad situation all around when word of this got out. Ned grabbed Ice and set off for Bear Island. Slave trading was not to be forgiven. Even to his dying day Ned had a deep dislike for Jorah.
“His crime had dishonored the north.” – Ned
Not only the north. Jorah had dishonored his house, his father, and himself. Jorah had three options at this point. Face the punishment of death honorably. Take the black like his father. Or run. Jorah chose door three and I’m going to go into pure speculation for a second. Jorah chose to run because he was still with Lynesse. If she had left him at this point, I think he would have faced the chopping block, or at least taken the black. But he fled with her and Ned arrived at Bear Island only to realize Jorah had chosen cowardice and fled.
Even while Jorah was falling in a downward spiral that left him with nothing, he made the most honorable decision of his life. He took Longclaw off his belt and left it behind before he left with Lynesse. Jorah knew he didn’t deserve the sword. He knew its rightful place. He knew what it would have meant to take it with him into exile. This is one of the most overlooked events in a characters past. Jorah could have easily taken the sword, but he still had enough honor to leave it. Which further shows off his Achilles heel. Jorah isn’t a dishonorable or bad man, but he has the capability to be. Jorah only committed his bad acts in desperate attempts to make his wife happy. Jorah’s a sucker for love and it blinds him, but leaving the sword shows that he has a solid core underneath his problems.
Jorah and Lynesse arrived at Lys with nothing to their name. Jorah became a sellsword and continued falling down the spiral. He needed money to support his wife’s tastes, but if he couldn’t do it as lord of a house, he couldn’t do it as a sellsword. They would have been infinitely wealthy if Jorah had brought Longclaw and sold it. They would have been set for life, but Jorah had still chosen to leave it behind.
While Jorah was away fighting for a living and trying to support his wife financially, she cheated on him. Jorah came back to find Lynesse and her lover waiting for him. The man gave Jorah two options. Be sold into slavery, or leave the city and his wife behind. Jorah rode out of Lys a broken man. Broken in every conceivable way. No honor, no legacy, no family, no money, and no lover. Humiliated, shamed, and heartbroken.
Jorah continues to sell his sword for awhile with no purpose. That is until he meets Viserys Targaryen. And we move into modern history. You basically know the rest. He spies on them in hopes of getting a pardon. He falls in love with Daenerys, who looks strikingly similar to Lynesse. Jorah saves her life, Viserys is killed, and Jorah becomes absolutely loyal to Dany and stops all spying.
Back in Westeros, Longclaw is back with Jeor. Eventually a young man comes to Castle Black and Jeor sees something in him. Something great enough to pass down Longclaw, the Mormont ancestral sword for hundreds of years. That Jon was somewhat of a surrogate son to the one Jeor lost is clear. He has the pommel redone to be a wolf’s head. Jeor is murdered by his own men.
“The things we love destroy us every time, lad. Remember that.” – Jeor
And for the third time in his life, Jorah is exiled after Dany learns he had spied on her. Once from his home. Once from his love. And then from both at the same time. There are no words to even describe what this did to him. He’d already been broken, what’s worse than broken?
“The man is a shell.” – Tyrion
We’ll have to see what becomes of Jorah together, but hopefully now you can understand him a little more and watch some scenes with more understanding. I’m not huge on putting speculation in these posts, but I’ve heard people say if Jorah and Jon ever meet it will cause problems because of Longclaw, but I disagree completely. Jorah had respect for his father, and I believe he’d absolutely honor his wishes. In fact it would be the opposite effect. If Jeor trusted Jon enough to give him Longclaw, Jorah will know he can trust him as well. Jorah already gave up the sword once, and if it ever comes to pass, he will honor his late father and give Jon his ‘blessing’ to carry it.
Learning About Jeor
Jeor dies without Jorah ever seeing him again after exile. Imagine the weight Jorah feels thinking his father died knowing he was a failure of a son and a disgrace. Now unable to ever make any amends for what he did to his father.
“There are ghosts everywhere. We carry them with us wherever we go.” – Jorah
No words needed.
As always thank you for reading. All information comes from the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
#1: Art by Veronica V. Jones
#2: Art by Amok
#3: Art by Iain Glenn
#4: From the Game of Thrones TV series
#5: Art by Amok
#6: From the GoT TV series