‘Game of Thrones’ Lore Refresher: Why Ned Stark Tried to Execute Jorah Years Ago

Jorah the Andal’s history before the events of “Game of Thrones” caused him to leave Westeros in exile, but you might be struggling to remember exactly why

(Some light spoilers for the Aug. 20 episode of “Games of Thrones,” “Beyond the Wall.”)

In “Beyond the Wall,” the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 7, several of the men Jon Snow (Kit Harington) recruits to go beyond the Wall with him spend some time talking about their history. In one important moment, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Jon talk about their fathers and the effects they had on the two men.

Jorah’s father was Jon’s mentor in the Night’s Watch, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo), and Jorah knew Jon’s father, Ned Stark (Sean Bean). In fact, the reason Jorah had to leave Westeros, which eventually allowed him to find and serve Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) throughout the show, was because Ned Stark would have executed him if he hadn’t.

Jorah fought for Ned and Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) at the siege of Pike during the Greyjoy Rebellion about eight years before the start of the show. That’s how he earned the knighthood that makes him Ser Jorah. His father then joined the Night’s Watch, which made Jorah lord of the Mormont family seat, Bear Island.

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Not long after, Jorah married a noblewoman named Lynesse Hightower, and Jorah found he couldn’t afford to keep her happy — Bear Island is a pretty modest lordship, as Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) made clear when she pledged her 62 fighting men to House Stark before the Battle of the Bastards. Eventually, to pay his bills, Jorah tried to sell some poachers he found on his land into slavery.

Slavery is outlawed in Westeros, one of the few actually good things about living there, since slavery is still allowed in much of Essos across the Narrow Sea. As Warden of the North, Ned Stark would have been responsible for capturing and executing Jorah for his crimes. But Jorah escaped to Essos, leaving his family and title behind, where he became a sellsword.

When we first meet Jorah back in Season 1, it’s revealed he’s spying on Daenerys for King Robert and Varys (Conlith Hill) in return for a pardon of his slaving crimes. That pardon would have let Jorah return to Westeros without fear of execution. Of course, Jorah eventually stops working for Robert, and Varys and pledges himself to Daenerys, but when she finds out about his spying later in the show, she exiles him.

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All that backstory is at play when Jon and Jorah discuss their fathers. Jorah says he knew Ned Stark was right to try to execute him, but it didn’t make him hate the man any less. And Jorah also acknowledges that he dishonored House Mormont with his actions.

All that plays into Jorah’s character — and when Jon offers to give back the sword that Lord Commander Mormont gave him, Jorah says he dishonored his house, and Jon should keep it.