Samwell Tarly

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Samwell Tarly
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Game of Thrones
Samwell Tarly-John Bradley.jpg
John Bradley as Samwell Tarly
First appearance
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by John Bradley
(Game of Thrones)
  • Sam
  • Ser Piggy
  • Lady Piggy
  • Lord of Ham
  • Sam the Slayer
  • Black Sam
Gender Male
Family House Tarly
Significant other(s) Gilly (lover)
Kingdom The Reach

Samwell Tarly, or simply Sam, is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin, and its television adaptation Game of Thrones.

Introduced in 1996's A Game of Thrones, Samwell is the eldest son of Lord Randyll Tarly of Horn Hill and his wife Lady Melessa Florent. He subsequently appeared in 1998;s A Clash of Kings before becoming a point-of-view character in 2000's A Storm of Swords and 2005's A Feast for Crows.[1]

Samwell is portrayed by English actor John Bradley in the HBO television adaptation.[2][3][4]



Samwell Tarly is the eldest son of Lord Randyll Tarly of Horn Hill and his wife Lady Melessa Florent. Randyll, renowned as one of Westeros' finest military commanders, tried to groom Sam as a worthy heir when he was young, but Sam's complete lack of martial abilities and his interest in scholarly pursuits ultimately forced Randyll to raise Sam's younger brother Dickon to take Sam's place instead. Randyll refused to let Sam join the Citadel to become a maester, but instead forced him to forfeit his rights of inheritance and join the Night's Watch, implying that he would have Sam killed and his death staged as a hunting accident if he refused. Sam had no choice but to join the Night's Watch, where he later met his future best friend Jon Snow and love interest Gilly.

When they first met, Jon Snow described Sam as "the fattest boy he had ever seen standing in the door of the armory. By the look of him, he must have weighed twenty stone (280 pounds, or 127 kilograms). The fur collar of his embroidered surcoat was lost beneath his chins. Pale eyes moved nervously in a great round moon of a face, and plump sweaty fingers wiped themselves on the velvet of his doublet". His obesity soon earned him the derogatory nickname "Ser Piggy" and makes him vulnerable to bullying. Samwell is fond of music and songs, prefers books over weapons, and is afraid of blood and violence. In spite of his self-professed cowardice, Sam is highly intelligent, observant, resourceful and loyal.

Creation and overview[edit]

George R. R. Martin has said that the character Samwell Tarly is the closest to himself of all the characters he has written.[5] Asked why, Martin said in a 2014 interview because he's "the fat kid who likes to read books and doesn't like to go up a lot of stairs."[5]


A coat of arms showing an empty black field
Coat of arms of the Night's Watch

In the books[edit]

Samwell Tarly is a background character in the first two novels of the series, and his actions and thoughts are interpreted through the eyes of Jon Snow. He then becomes a point of view character in the third novel A Storm of Swords and the fourth novel A Feast for Crows, with total of ten chapters told from his point of view.[6]

A Game of Thrones[edit]

Upon arriving at the Wall, Sam is soon bullied by Ser Alliser Thorne and the fellow recruits for his weight, shyness and clumsiness in training. Jon Snow takes pity on Sam and defends him in arms training. Later on, Sam confesses his life story to Jon, who sympathizes with Sam and secretly uses his influence among the recruits (making violent threats when necessary) to protect Sam from harm. When Sam fails to progress in fight training and is not deemed worthy to join the Night's Watch, Jon persuades Maester Aemon take in Sam as a personal steward assigned to help Aemon in the rookery and library.

Sam is the first person to notice something strange about the corpse of rangers Othor and Jafer Flowers (who are actually wights sent to assassinate Lord Commander Jeor Mormont). When Jon tries to abandon the Night's Watch to join Robb Stark's army and avenge the death of his father Eddard Stark, Sam alerts their fellow recruits, who catch up to Jon and convince to not break his vows to the Night's Watch.

A Clash of Kings[edit]

Sam takes part in the Great Ranging beyond the Wall, to take care of the ravens as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont's aide. While stopping at Craster's Keep, Sam befriends one of Craster's daughter-wives, Gilly. Gilly is pregnant and fears that, if her child is a boy, Craster will sacrifice him to the Others. Sam is horrified, but unable to help. Later, at camp at the Fist of the First Men, Sam and Jon's direwolf Ghost discover a cache of dragonglass daggers buried underground.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

The Night's Watch's camp at the Fist of the First Men comes under attack and is overwhelmed by an army of wights sent by the Others, with Sam one of the survivors who manage to break out. The survivors then flee to Craster's Keep, but Sam and two other brothers, Small Paul and Grenn, become separated from the group. They are attacked by an Other that kills Paul before Sam stabs it with a dragonglass dagger in desperation, killing it instantly. Sam and Grenn then regroup with the other survivors at Craster's Keep, where Gilly gives birth to a son. Soon after, a mutiny breaks out, and Mormont and Craster are among those killed in the fight. Sam flees with Gilly and her son, and are accosted by wights before being rescued by a mysterious man, Coldhands, who looks like a wight but is friendly and supposedly a fellow Night's Watchman. Coldhands takes them to the Nightfort and asks them to escort Bran Stark and his party through the Wall.

Sam and Gilly then encounter a group of Night's Watchmen led by Denys Mallister and Bowen Marsh and join them on the march to Castle Black. They arrive to find that Stannis Baratheon has defeated the Wildlings besieging Castle Black. Due to Lord Commander Mormont's death, the Night's Watch undergoes an election for a new leader. Mallister and Cotter Pyke are the leading candidates, but Janos Slynt, who Sam thinks will be a disastrous leader, is gaining popularity. When Stannis threatens to appoint a leader himself if the Watch cannot decide on a leader within a few days, Sam approaches Mallister and Pyke (who despise each other) independently, claiming that Stannis plans to name the other as Lord Commander, and suggesting that they both support Jon as middle-ground candidate instead. Thanks to Sam's machinations, Jon is elected Lord Commander with overwhelming majority vote.

A Feast for Crows[edit]

Jon sends Sam to Oldtown to become a Maester, accompanied by another brother, Dareon (who is appointed as a recruiter), Maester Aemon (who Jon fears will be sacrificed by Melisandre for his royal blood) and Gilly and her baby. During the voyage to Braavos, Gilly grows despondent, and Sam realises that Jon had swapped Gilly's baby with Mance Rayder's newborn son lest he be sacrificed as well. Aemon falls ill during the voyage and they are forced to spend their money on a healer and lodging in Braavos. In Braavos, Sam also encounters Arya Stark, though he does not realise her identity. Aemon hears of his great-grandniece Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, and comes to believe that she fulfills the prophecy of a "prince that was promised", asking them to inform the Citadel. Dareon decides to desert and Sam fights him, before being thrown into a canal. He is rescued by a Summer Islander, Xhondo, who offers Sam and Gilly passage to Oldtown. Aemon ultimately passes away early in the journey, and Sam and Gilly briefly become lovers in their grief.

Sam plans to have Gilly sent to Horn Hill, with the baby passed off as Sam's bastard. Meanwhile, Sam arrives at Oldtown to meet with Archmaester Marwyn, telling him of Aemon's request. Marwyn resolves to travel to Slaver's Bay to meet with Daenerys, ordering Sam to keep his story secret from the other maesters, and left Sam's care in the hand of acolyte Alleras.

In the show[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Sam is quickly identified as being soft and weak by Castle Black's master-at-arms Ser Alliser Thorne and suffers in sword-training until Jon Snow convinces the other new recruits to go easy on him. Sam is assigned to the order of stewards, to serve Maester Aemon. When Jon tries to abandon the Night's Watch, Sam follows with Pyp and Grenn and convinces Jon to remain loyal to the Night's Watch.

Season 2[edit]

Sam joins the Night's Watch in the Great Ranging. Along the journey the party rests at Craster's Keep, where Sam encounters and falls in love with Craster's pregnant daughter-wife Gilly. While camping at the Fist of the First Men, Sam discovers a cache of weapons made from dragonglass. While Sam is out collecting dung for fires, the White Walkers march on the Fist of the First Men. Sam is unable to outrun the army of the dead, but for unknown reasons their leader spares Sam.

Season 3[edit]

Sam and the survivors of the resulting massacre flee back to Craster's Keep. Sam witnesses Gilly give birth to a baby boy, with Gilly and Sam realising that they must keep the birth secret to stop Craster giving the baby to the White Walkers. A brawl later breaks out among Craster and the Night's Watch, and Sam flees with Gilly and the baby. They are followed by a White Walker who tries to take the baby, but Sam kills it by stabbing it with a dragonglass dagger. Sam and Gilly pass through the Wall at the Nightfort, where they discover Jon's half-brother Bran Stark and his party, headed beyond the Wall. Sam is unable to dissuade them to come to Castle Black, but promises not to tell Jon of their destination.

Arriving back at Castle Black, Sam warns Aemon of the advancing White Walkers and Aemon has Sam send the warning throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Later, Jon returns to Castle Black, gravely wounded and disguised as a Wildling. Sam recognises Jon and orders him to be attended to.

Season 4[edit]

Sam reveals to Jon that Bran is alive and headed beyond the Wall. Sam decides to send Gilly to Mole's Town to work as a maid in the brothel, as he fears for her safety at Castle Black. Mole's Town is attacked by the Wildlings, who slaughter the entire populace of the town; Sam is distraught, unaware that Gilly and her baby had been spared by Ygritte. Gilly later makes it to Castle Black moments before the Wildlings attack. Sam participates in the battle, and manages to kill the Thenn Warg.

Season 5[edit]

When the Night's Watch convenes to choose their new Lord Commander, Sam speaks up to nominate Jon, who is ultimately elected. Sam spends his time researching the weaknesses of the White Walkers and tending to a dying Maester Aemon, and comforts Aemon in his final moments as he dies of old age. Later, Sam is beaten while defending Gilly from two Night's Watchmen who attempt to rape her, but they are saved by Jon's direwolf Ghost. Gilly tends to his wounds, and the two finally consummate their relationship. After Jon returns from Hardhome, Sam entreats Jon to send him to the Citadel in Oldtown in order to train as a Maester, while also taking Gilly and her baby to safety.

Season 6[edit]

As women are banned from the Citadel, Sam intends to leave Gilly and Little Sam at the Tarly seat of Horn Hill, though he warns Gilly to hide her Wildling heritage due to his father's bigotry towards the Wildlings. At dinner with the members of House Tarly, Randyll insults Sam's lack of fighting prowess. Gilly defends Sam by revealing that he killed a White Walker, in doing so accidentally revealing that she is a Wildling. Though disgusted, Randyll acquiesces to Gilly staying at Horn Hill as a servant, but forbids Sam from ever returning to Horn Hill. Sam decides to take Gilly and Little Sam with him to the Citadel, also stealing House Tarly's Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane. They travel on to Oldtown, where Sam is scheduled to explain events at Castle Black to the Archmaester. While he waits, Sam is permitted to peruse the Citadel's library, and is awestruck by the library's expanse.

Season 7[edit]

Sam's early days in Oldtown are frustrating, as he is assigned to menial tasks in the Citadel. The only person who believes his account of the White Walkers' return is Archmaester Ebrose; however, Ebrose refuses to let Sam access forbidden textbooks to learn more about the White Walkers, as he does not consider them a threat serious enough to break with protocol. Sam steals a key to take the books back to his and Gilly's quarters. He discovers the location of a large deposit of dragonglass in a map of Dragonstone, and sends word to Jon (now King in the North) of its existence.

Sam encounters Jeor's son Jorah, who is infected by the terminal disease greyscale. Sam discovers a cure for greyscale in an old medical text. Although Ebrose forbids him from attempting it, Sam treats Jorah anyway, out of gratitude for Jeor's saving his life. Sam is successful in curing Jorah, who is discharged from the Citadel. Ebrose is grudgingly impressed, but reassigns Sam to transcribe papers in danger of decomposing.

Sam overhears Ebrose and several other maesters discussing a warning sent by Bran about the White Walkers' march on the Wall, and is dismayed when the maesters are skeptical. While transcribing the papers in his quarters, Gilly discovers from a recently-deceased High Septon's journal that Rhaegar Targaryen had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled and married another woman (Lyanna Stark) in secret, but Sam does not realize the significance of this information due to Gilly having mispronounced Rhaegar as 'Ragger'. Annoyed at being unable to help in the battle against the White Walkers from the Citadel, Sam steals scrolls pertaining to the White Walkers and leaves Oldtown with Gilly and Little Sam.

Sam and his family arrive at Winterfell in the season finale, where Sam is reunited with Bran. When Bran tells Sam that Jon is actually the bastard son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, Sam is reminded of the record detailing Rhaegar receiving an annulment to marry another woman and tells Bran of his discovery. Bran then uses his greenseeing abilities to witness the wedding, and deduces that Jon is a trueborn Targaryen and the actual heir to the Iron Throne.

Family tree of House Tarly[edit]

RandyllMelessa Florent

TV adaptation[edit]

John Bradley plays the role of Samwell Tarly in the television series.

Samwell Tarly is played by John Bradley in the television adaption of the series of books.[7][8][9] Samwell Tarly appeared for the first time in the fourth episode of first season, as new recruit of the Night's Watch and a self-described coward. It was Bradley's first professional appearance after graduating from the Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre. The scene used in the auditions belonged to "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things," with Sam explaining to Jon how his father forced him to "take the black", meaning to join the Night's Watch. According to author and executive producer George R. R. Martin, Bradley delivered "a heartbreaking performance."[10] When asked which character he personally would be on the show, Martin said of Samwell Tarly, "I love Sam, too. He's a great character - Tyrion might be who I want to be, but Sam is probably closer to who I actually am. The fat kid who likes to read books and doesn't like to go up a lot of stairs."[5]

Remarking on the character's sex life with Gilly:

I think Sam would just happily accept more of the same. He's not one of the people that tries to inject exotica into his sex life, - Sam thinks about sex the way that most people think about space. It goes on. He has nothing to do with it. He's fascinated by it in a childlike way.[11]