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Bowen Marsh
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The lord commander must pardon my bluntness, but I have no softer way to say this. What you propose is nothing less than treason. For eight thousand years the men of the Night's Watch have stood upon the Wall and fought these wildlings. Now you mean to let them pass, to shelter them in our castles, to feed them and clothe them and teach them how to fight. Lord Snow, must I remind you? You swore an oath.
~ Bowen to Jon Snow


Bowen Marsh is the Lord Steward of the Night's Watch and a character from A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV series adaptation Game of Thrones. During most of the series, he's a supporting character, loyal and friendly, until the fifth book.

In the TV series, Bowen Marsh is portrayed by Michael Condron.

History

Background

Bowen Marsh serves as the First Steward of the Night's Watch at Castle Black. He is a crannogman from the Neck and a member of House Marsh, sworn to House Reed and House Stark. As First Steward he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the Night's Watch, dealing with issues of supplies, funding, logistics and communications. He has a mind for counts and measures. Eddison Tollett calls him "the Old Pomegranate".

A Game of Thrones

Bowen is one of the guests at the dinner organized by the Lord Commander Jeor Mormont on the eve of Tyrion Lannister's departure. He's friendly to Tyrion like every other officer at the table of the Great Hall and enjoys his jokes, and watches Ser Alliser Thorne arguing with Tyrion.

When the new recruits join the Night's Watch, Maester Aemon orders Pyp to report to Bowen Marsh in the kitchens.

Bowen and other black brothers accompany the new stewards, Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly, beyond the Wall where they say their vows in the weirwood circle in the haunted forest. He happily hugs Jon and Samwell and welcomes them to the Night's Watch.

A Clash of Kings

When Lord Commander Mormont goes beyond the Wall for the great ranging, the biggest ranging in living memory consisting of near a third of the Night's Watch's strength. While Ser Alliser Thorne goes to King's Landing with Othor's hand, Bowen Marsh is named castellan of Castle Black and Ser Endrew Tarth comes from the Shadow Tower to train the new recruits.

A Storm of Swords

Not knowing that Renly Baratheon is already dead, Bowen sends an appeal to the five kings, in which he asks Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, Stannis Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy to send men to defend the Wall and the realm against an expected attack by Mance Rayder's wildlings. He also tells them about the possible death of Lord Commander Mormont during the Great Ranging. When Grand Maester Pycelle informs Lord Tywin Lannister about the letter, the Hand of the King is annoyed about the neutrality the Night's Watch keeps in the War of the Five Kings and suggests that no help will be sent until a Lannister ally has been installed as new Lord Commander and brings discipline back to the Wall. Pycelle suggests Janos Slynt for the position, angering Tyrion Lannister, who reminds his father that he was against a butcher's son holding Harrenhal, but Tywin instead thinks Slynt would be a good tool for them to have an ally at the Wall. Ignoring Tyrion's protests that the black brothers chose their own commander and direct support for Slynt would thus be unwise, Tywin orders Pycelle to write a letter to Marsh in the name of King Joffrey, in which the demand for men is rejected for the time being but the "fondest regards to his faithful friend and servant Lord Janos Slynt" are also expressed.

After Jeor Mormont's death at Craster's Keep, only a small group of survivors return from great ranging. Bowen acts in command of the Night's Watch until the election of the new Lord Commander. The Wall is invaded by the wildlings under Mance Raydar's host and warbands are spotted at every abandoned castle at the Wall. Jarman Buckwell and his squad return from the great ranging and report that they saw Jon Snow, under orders from Qhorin Halfhand to infiltrate the wildlings, moving freely in one of the wildling parties.

The wildlings attack the Gift. The population of Mole's Town are able to evacuate, with many of them running to Castle Black, thanks to Jon Snow's efforts. Mance plans to draw away most of the warriors garrisoned at Castle Black as a bait and Bowen takes the bait when the wildling known as the Weeper is spotted near the Shadow Tower with 300 wildlings. Bowen names the extremely old Ser Wynton Stout castellan of Castle Black, and takes with him the nest warriors in the garrison and some other men, including Dolorous Edd, to help the garrison of the Shadow Tower. Wynton is old and senile, so the de facto leader of Castle Black is Donal Noye.

During the Battle of Castle Black, Mance's diversion lead Bowen to the Bridge of Skulls, where he faces the Weeper in a bloody battle during the Fight at the Bridge of Skulls. Black Brothers from Castle Black and the Shadow Tower take part in the battle, among them Bowen Marsh, Ser Denys Mallister, Ser Endrew Tarth, Jarman Buckwell, Ser Aladale Wynch, Maester Mullin, Wallace Massey, Eddison Tollett, Dywen, Bedwyck, Watt of Long Lake, and many others in a force of about 400 men.

The battle is bloody and 100 brothers are slain, including Endrew, Aladale, Jarman, and Watt. The wildling casualties are significant, but the Weeper survives and flees with the rest of his warrior band.

After the Fight at the Bridge of Skulls, Bowen Marsh is seriously wounded in the battle and has to be carried to the Shadow Tower in a litter. This delays the return of the garrison to Castle Black, which is under assault from the main wildling force commanded by Mance. Styr, Donal Noye, and Mag the Mighty die during the battles at Castle Black and without Bowen, the garrison is left without a commander. Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt are sent with reinforcements from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to support the garrison of the main castle. Thorne and Slynt take command of the surviving force at Castle Black until King Stannis Baratheon arrives at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with his fleet and rides with his army and Cotter Pyke against Mance Rayder's wildling force. They manage to defeat them and capture many of them, including Mance, while the rest scatters back into the haunted forest.

Bowen is healed at the Shadow Tower and brought back to Castle Black by Ser Denys Mallister. They return with men of the Shadow Tower and the survivors from Castle Black, including Edd, Dywen, and Bedwyck. On the way there, they meet and join with Samwell Tarly and Gilly.

The Night's Watch is wary of Stannis and his army at Castle Black. The election of the new Lord Commander begins. Among the candidates are Janos Slynt, Denys Mallister, Bowen Marsh, Cotter Pyke, Othell Yarwyck, and Eddison Tollett. Since he receives little support, Bowen withdraws his name from the voting and backs Janos Slynt. Edd also withdraws his name as he receives only 2 votes.

King Stannis is planning to let the wildlings through the Wall and when he learns the Night's Watch still doesn't have a Lord Commander. He brings several black brothers before him to make known his anger about them taking too long to select a new leader. Bowen attempts to sway his sworn brothers and Stannis of Janos's worth, saying that a man who led the Gold Cloaks of King's Landing is the best option for leading the Watch. Stannis sees through Janos Slynt’s fawning, having known the man as a bribe-taker in King's Landing and sarcastically remarks that even the cook Hobb would make a better leader. The king makes it clear that after they finally vote in a new Lord Commander, he plans to take all the castles along the Wall, except for the three currently occupied by the Watch, to garrison his forces. He also plans to either take or be granted the Gift, stating that he intends to help the Watch guard the Wall. He commands Othell Yarwyck and his builders to deliver reports on the conditions of the abandoned castles, and informs the men gathered that nightfires will be lit before the gates of all the castles.

Janos Slynt is beating Ser Denys Mallister and Cotter Pyke. Bowen, Ser Alliser, and Ser Glendon Hewett keep supporting him along with many black brothers. Denys and Cotter dislike each other due to the history between Seagard and the ironborn. Unbeknownst to Jon, Sam nominates Jon as the next Lord Commander and convinces Denys and Cotter to support him as a compromise between rival factions. 

Bowen and Alliser talk about how Tywin Lannister previously sent a letter with his support for Janos, promising more men for the Night's Watch. They show the letter to Othell Yarwyck, seeking to have the First Builder withdraw and back Slynt.  Meanwhile, Jon has refused Stannis's offer of legitimacy and Winterfell out of loyalty to his father's gods and to his siblings, remembering the day he and Robb found six direwolves pups - five for the five trueborn Stark children and a sixth one, white as snow, who would become his own pup. He believes the Old Gods sent them the wolves. Jon is stunned when he learns his name has been put forth for the position of Lord Commander. When Thorne tries to use Yarwyck to support Slynt to end the voting, the First Builder grows tired of their plotting, and withdraws his name in favor of Jon. Jon wins the election and becomes 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Bowen offers to continue on as Lord Steward if Jon wishes.

A Dance with Dragons

The wights are amassing and killing wildlings beyond the Wall. Bowen returns to his duties as Lord Steward. He's initially supportive of Lord Commander Snow. As Stannis tries to negotiate with Jon, Jon gives Stannis one castle, the Nightfort, in gratitude for his arrival that saved the Watch. Stannis tries to take the Night's Watch castles for his men, but Jon refuses to give Stannis the castles as they are meant to be garrisoned by the Night's Watch. Jon explains that he has let the wildlings be settled on lands of the Gift, but Stannis is displeased. Jon asks for men but Stannis refuses to have his men take the black. Jon explains he doesn't care what colour they wear, he just needs help to defend the Wall. Melisandre warns Jon, who is wary of Melisandre, that he has enemies in the Watch.

Fearing Melisandre will have Mance Raydar's son and Maester Aemon burned for their king's blood, Jon arranges to have Maester Aemon sent away to keep him out of Melisandre's reach and forces Gilly to take Mance Rayder's baby with her and leave her own behind to avoid any loss of life via burning. He assures Gilly that her own boy will be safe as her child has no king's blood and he will have her child raised under his protection, teaching him to read, write, fight, and ride. Jon sends Samwell to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to take a ship and travel to the Citadel to be trained as a maester replacement for Aemon. Samwell leaves with Gilly, Mance's baby, and Maester Aemon. Meanwhile, Jon protects Gilly's child by explaining the free folk do not have hereditary kings and arranges for wet nurses for the child, who ends up thriving and tended to by the wildling "princess" Val.

There is tension between Stannis's men at Castle Black, especially the Queen's Men. Two of them, Ser Richard Horpe and Ser Justin Massey, are seen riding south. Jon gives Janos Slynt command of Greyguard and assigns him to rebuild it to help grow the Wall's defenses against the army of the dead. As Greyguard has largely collapsed and has been abandoned for 2,000 years, Janos believes this assignment is beneath him, insults Jon, rejects the assignment and storms out. The next morning, Jon gives Janos several more chances in the common room to take his assignment. Janos refuses and insults Jon again. Jon orders Iron Emmett and Dolorous Edd to take Slynt to the Wall and hang him, until he suddenly commands them to stop, causing Slynt to laugh and Bowen showing visible frustration at Jon's apparent weakness. Jon instead asks for a block and beheads Janos himself, as Jon's father Lord Eddard would have done, much to Stannis's approval.

Bowen watches the burning of Mance Rayder with the other black brothers, Stannis' men, the wildlings, and the people of Mole's Town. The wildlings bend the knee to King Stannis after and take the Lord of Light as their god as they are Stannis's conditions for being south of the Wall. They still keep the Old Gods in their hearts.

Bowen is strongly against allowing wildlings beyond the Wall and disapproves of Jon providing help for Stannis. Jon says Stannis was the one who saved the Watch, they owe him a debt, and he is their guest. Bowen accepts that Stannis saved them, but says Stannis is a rebel with a doomed cause, fearing the wrath of the Iron Throne. He is worried about choosing the losing side. Jon explains he does not intend to choose a side, and says that the outcome of the struggle is unclear following the death of Tywin Lannister, but tells Bowen he will consider his words.

Bowen is bothered by the decrease of the food supplies. As he and Jon inspect their food stores, Bowen informs Jon that there will not be enough to feed the Watch, Stannis's army and the wildlings through winter. Jon grimly orders a cut in rations, though he knows it will make him unpopular, and tells Marsh they will find a way to feed everyone.

Stannis summons Jon. Despite his efforts to stay neutral, Jon provides crucial advice to Stannis that will allow him to survive against the Boltons. Stannis listens to Jon and abandons his plan to take the Dreadfort or marching immediately to Winterfell, where Lord Roose Bolton hopes to bait the king in one of those castles with the help of the Karstarks. Jon tells Stannis to get the support of the Northern Mountain Clans and liberate the places who are still held by the ironborn, so he can get the support of the North to rebel against the Boltons. Stannis offers Winterfell to Jon again, but Jon declines again, telling Stannis that Winterfell belongs to his sister Sansa. Stannis is displeased with this but takes Jon's counsel before departing.

Bowen is worried about the potential reaction of the Iron Throne. Like Marsh, the Queen Dowager Cersei Lannister is angered by the Night's Watch helping Stannis and thinks Jon is trying to avenge his family, whom were harmed and killed by the Lannisters, Boltons, and the Freys. In truth, Stannis's priority is free the North from the Boltons so they can avoid attacks from the south and secure the support of the North for Stannis against the Others and give more food for Stannis' men and the wildlings. Stannis has ordered his garrison at Dragonstone to mine the dragonglass to bring it to the Wall and does not plan to march south after defeating the Boltons, promising instead to return to defend the Wall when Winterfell is liberated.

Bowen disapproves when Jon heads a food delivery to the wildling refugees at Moles Town. When the wildlings want more food, Jon promises the wildings more of their supplies if they help the Night's Watch defend the Wall, providing options for everyone as there is non-combative work to do as well. In spite of their misgivings, many wildlings agree to join, children, spearwives, and fighters alike, including Halleck, the brother of Harma Dogshead. However, Sigorn and the rest of the Thenns refuse the offer. Jon returns to Castle Black with 63 wildlings with him. Bowen later suggests sealing the gate through the Wall at Castle Black, but Jon disagrees, as this would make the Watch blind to the threats beyond the Wall. Later, Bowen tries to discourage the Lord Commander from going to the weirwood, in which new recruits who keep the Old Gods say their vows as Jon, Sam, and others who choose the Old Gods once did. Bowen suggests Castle Black's sept instead. However, Jon reminds Bowen that the Old Gods are not in the sept, but in the weirwood. Though necessary for recruits who follow the Old Gods to say their lifelong vows in the weirwood, Bowen remains in opposition.

Stannis departs with his host, Castle Black goes quiet and the people relieved. Only Melisandre is left with Devan Seaworth and many other Queen's Men to guard her. The rest of Stannis's army and fleet remains at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, while Lord Davos Seaworth and Salladhor Saan are out for a secret mission to rally the northmen for Stannis. Against Bowen Marsh's wishes, Jon accompanies a line of wagons under armed escort to deliver food to the wildlings who have taken refuge underground at Mole's Town. The Night's Watch and the Free Folk still hate each other and

Jon sends Ser Alliser, Dywen, and one other men with ranging parties to find the wildlings and check the situation in the wilds just beyond the Wall. Then he sends two other rangings led by First Ranger Jack Bulwer and Kedge Whiteye to scout their situation. Jon is sent a letter, in which he learns that the sadistic Ramsay Bolton is going to marry his sister Arya Stark. Melisandre offers Jon the chance to save his little sister, which Jon agrees to despite his efforts to stay neutral as per the Watch's stance. Melisandre sends her agents to Winterfell to save her from Ramsay.

Ser Denys Mallister keeps ends regular ravens to Castle Black requesting additional men for the Shadow Tower. Lord Commander Jon Snow reassigns Halder and Todder to meet Ser Denys' requests, as well as 10 untrained men from Mole's Town. He also sends Grenn and Pyp to help man Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.

The Night's Watch finds the heads of Black Jack Bulwer, Hairy Hal and Garth Greyfeather, impaled on spears with no eyes. They were found by the Weeper and his group, who killed the rangers. 

The wildlings Leather and Jax join the Night's Watch and take their vows. To avoid troubles with the men at Castle Black, Jon gives the girls and women their own tower to help keep them safe. Bowen thinks this is a tinderbox waiting to spark so Jon plans to open an all-female contingent at the castle Long Barrow, where spearwives, women, and girls will be housed to prevent future harassment by men seeking to do so. Iron Emmett and Dolorous Edd, two men Jon knows and trusts, command the castle on the Watch's behalf. Jon starts to garrison other abandoned castles at the Wall with Watchmen, wildlings, and builders to repair them and build up the Wall's defenses.

While on the way to the weirwood so new recruits who keep the Old Gods can say their vows, Jon and his group find a small party of wildlings including a child and his mother, a Thenn, a Hornfoot and Wun Wun in a grove. Jon assures the wildlings they mean them no harm. While listening to the recruits say their vows, Jon realizes the wildlings are part of the realms the Watch is sworn to protect, no matter the centuries of bad blood, as they are people deserving to be safe. Jon offers the wildlings shelter at Castle Black and he, the rangers and Leathers, the new wildling Watchmen, convince the group to come with them to Castle Black. The rangers also find two wildling corpses and Jon wants to study them in case they become wights, following the advice of his father to know their enemy. This shocks Septon Cellador, who's angered by the unholy presence of possible wights at the Wall. Stannis sends a letter in which he informs the Night's Watch that he has liberated Deepwood Motte, took Asha Greyjoy captive, won the support of many northern houses, and he's marching to Winterfell to save Arya Stark and defeat the Boltons.

Bowen opposes Jon more and more and he's angered when Jon makes a former boy-whore, Satin, his steward, appoints the wildling Leathers as the new master-at-arms at Castle Black, and allows wildlings to join the Watch and diminish the food supply. Jon replies that their pasts don't matter, they are brothers in the Watch now, and the wildlings are human people just as they are. Bowen, Yarwyck, and Septon Cellador make various complaints to Jon about their situation and they are especially angered by Jon's decision to negotiate with Tormund and allow him and his wildlings through the Wall. Val is sent beyond the Wall to find Tormund's host.

Bowen, Yarwyck, and Cellador are also nervous about the fact Jon is keeping two corpses in the ice cells. They ignoring Jon's explanation that they need to know more about wights as that the Watch knows next to nothing about the wights or their masters, and must learn more if they are to defeat them. When Jon tells them of a large group of wildlings making for Hardhome at the east coast north of the Wall, following the witch Mother Mole who claims they will find ships there to bring them across the Narrow Sea, Jon fears the wildlings will perish, but when he gets only indifference from Bowen and the others at the prospect of thousands of dead wildlings, Jon finally loses patience. Angrily asking if they don't realise the truth or are just ignoring it, Jon points out that if they do nothing, the wildlings at Hardhome will die in their thousands, and when they are dead, in time they will rise up again with blue eyes and cold hands, and the Others will have thousands more wights under their control to send at the Wall:

(Bowen:) "Thousands of enemies (will die). Thousands of wildlings."

(Jon:) Thousands of people, Jon thought. Men, women, children. Anger rose inside him, but when he spoke his voice was quiet and cold. "Are you so blind, or is it that you do not wish to see? What do you think will happen when all these enemies are dead?"

Above the door the raven muttered, "Dead, dead, dead."

"Let me tell you what will happen," Jon said. "The dead will rise again, in their hundreds and their thousands. They will rise as wights, with black hands and pale blue eyes, and they will come for us." He pushed himself to his feet, the fingers of his sword hand opening and closing. "You have my leave to go."

Septon Cellador rose grey-faced and sweating, Othell Yarwyck stiffly, Bowen Marsh tight-lipped and pale. "Thank you for your time, Lord Snow." They left without another word.

Excerpt from “A Dance With Dragons,” George R. R. Martin.

Disliking Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and the poor treatment received by the commander Cotter Pyke, Stannis's wife, Queen Selyse Florent, arrives at Castle Black with Princess Shireen Baratheon, the fool Patchface, Ser Axell Florent, and many other Stannis' men to guard them. They are accompanied by Tycho Nestoris, an emissary of the Iron Bank of Braavos who seeks for an alliance with King Stannis after the Iron Throne refused to honor their debt with the Iron Bank and the Faith. Jon meets the queen and princess. He tells them that the Nightfort is still uninhabitable and Othell Yarwyck and his builders are still repairing it, so Selyse and her group will be sheltered at Castle Black until the Nightfort is suitable for her. Jon negotiates a loan with Tycho to pay for enough food to feed the Queen's men, Watchmen, and wildlings through winter. He is distressed when Tycho has no news of Samwell, Gilly, and Maester Aemon. Jon and Tycho strike a deal for a loan and with the loan, three ships are added to the Eastwatch fleet, the Night's Watch now has 11ships. Jon hopes to bring the wildlings down from Hardhome around the Wall in order to save them and not have them become more wights in thrall to The Others. However, the deal causes more trouble for the Watch, uncertain if they will ever be able to repay the Iron Bank and thus avoid consequences.

Jon sends Yarwyck with his Builders to restore the Nightfort. Tension increases with the arrival of Selyse and her group, with Ser Axell already planning to marry the wildling princess, Val. A girl on a dying horse arrives at the Wall. The girl is Lady Alys Karstark and she warns Jon not to let Cregan Karstark take her back with him when he arrives, as he and his father Arnolf Karstark intend to force her into marrying Cregan. Harrion Karstark has been a captive for more than a year and Arnolf only declared Karhold for Stannis in the hope it would provoke the Lannisters to execute Harrion. If that happened, Alys would be heir to Karhold, at which point Cregan would forcibly marry her, get a child from her and then murder her. Jon offers to write to Stannis about the matter on her behalf but Alys reveals that the Karstarks are playing Stannis false; they have long been in league with Roose Bolton and are only waiting for his word to betray Stannis. She begs Jon for his protection and Jon shelters her at Castle Black. Alys agrees to a marriage Jon negotiates between her and Sigorn in a move by Jon to protect Alys from Arnolf and Cregan Karstark and so she can take back her home.

Bowen remains in strong opposition over Jon's efforts to save the wildlings. Meanwhile, Alys marries Sigorn, creating a new house, House Thenn, that will allow Alys to retake her ancestral home. The marriage ceremony is conducted by Melisandre and is attended by the Night's Watch, the wildlings, Selyse with Shireen and Stannis' men, Mole's Town people, and the northern mountain clansmen, whose armies are supporting Stannis in the March on Winterfell. Cregan Karstark comes armed and with his men to forcibly take Alys away, but is met by Jon before he can do so and is imprisoned in the ice cells. Jon sends a message informing Stannis about the Karstarks' treachery.

Jon relieved to receive word from Cotter Pyke, who reports calm seas and ships have been sent to Hardhome to rescue the wildlings. The Night's Watch horn interrupts the wedding feast, announcing the arrival of Tormund and Val, to Jon's relief. Jon and Tormund strike a bargain to allow 4,000 wildlings past the Wall, including the giants with their mammoths. The wildlings allow one hundred boys as hostages, who will be trained at arms, taught to fight, and help with the work at Castle Black. To help pay for their food and resources, they yield all valuables to pay for their supplies. Jon and Val inform Queen Selyse, who controls the castle in Stannis' name, about the bargain. Selyse is excited and tells that her husband will be proud, all the wildlings have to do is swear fealty to the king and convert to R'hllor. But Jon tells her that this was not part of the bargain, and Val adds that the free folk do not kneel, upsetting the queen.

Bowen is not the only one who's unhappy with the wildlings coming through the Wall. Torghen Flint of the first Flints and Brandon Norrey, the Norrey clan chief are not happy about it because of past conflicts. Jon tells them that they must forgive crimes of the past if they are to live together, that peace for one means peace for all. They are worried about their lands on the Northern Mountains, but Jon tells them the wildlings are to remain on the Wall in the castles now being rebuilt. They push for Jon to let the wildlings die, angering Jon. Jon cites there are mothers, grandmothers, children, and other innocents among the wildlings but this is met with indifference from his advisors.

Bowen sees Jon's efforts to save the wildlings as a betrayal of Jon's vows to the Night's Watch and objects to allowing the wildlings living in the Gift. However, Jon counters he is sworn to defend the realms of men and asks him whether the people beyond the wall don't count as men. Thus it is his intent to use all available resources to defend the realm of men against the Others:

Marsh flushed a deeper shade of red. "The lord commander must pardon my bluntness, but I have no softer way to say this. What you propose is nothing less than treason. For eight thousand years the men of the Night’s Watch have stood upon the Wall and fought these wildlings. Now you mean to let them pass, to shelter them in our castles, to feed them and clothe them and teach them how to fight. Lord Snow, must I remind you? You swore an oath."

"I know what I swore." Jon said the words. "I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. Were those the same words you said when you took your vows?"

"They were. As the lord commander knows."

"Are you certain that I have not forgotten some? The ones about the king and his laws, and how we must defend every foot of his land and cling to each ruined castle? How does that part go?" Jon waited for an answer. None came. "I am the shield that guards the realms of men. Those are the words. So tell me, my lord— what are these wildlings, if not men?"

Bowen Marsh opened his mouth. No words came out. A flush crept up his neck.

Excerpt from “A Dance With Dragons,” George R. R. Martin.

Tormund and his 4,000 wildlings pass the Wall at Castle Black, while the giants bring their mammoths through Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. As Jon sees them come through the Wall, he is disquieted by signs of sickness is some. Two girls try to include themselves with the 100 male hostages, but Jon spots them and sends them to Long Barrow with the spearwives, women, and girls where they will be safer. When Tormund questions this, Jon cites the sad story of Brave Danny Flint, a girl who disguised herself as a boy to take the black, "Her song was sad and pretty. What happened to her wasn't." Tormund agrees with Jon's decision and voluntarily includes his own son as a hostage as a sign of good faith. Jon decides to take him on as his own squire.

Later, Jon is troubled by news he receives from Cotter Pyke, who reveals they are all stranded at Hardhome, and calls for help. He reports the Hardhome wildlings are in dire straits and that the Braavosi captains on loan from Tycho would only allow wildling women and children aboard their ships. Cotter ends his message by telling Jon there are dead things both in the woods and the water, lending a great deal of urgency to his message. Across the Narrow Sea, slavers from Essos have already taken some of the wildlings. In Braavos, Arya Stark sees one of these slavers' ships seized, as slavery is illegal in Braavos. The rest of the wildlings are with Cotter Pyke and are currently stranded at Hardhome, surrounded by dangerous seas with wights, and requests aid by land. Jon reveals this news to Selsye, who tells Jon to let them die. Jon is unsurprised but disappointed by the queen's response. She realizes that Jon intends to lead the rescue mission himself to save his men and the wildlings. Jon confirms he will.

Yarwyck returns to Castle Black to report the situation of the restoration of the Nightfort for Stannis and Selyse. Bowen and Yarwyck are visibly discontent and look at Jon with anger. Yarwyck claims the wildlings are more trouble than they’re worth, sloppy, careless and lazy, and while there are some good woodworkers among them, they won’t do as they are told. Marsh and Yarwyck also object to Jon's decision to man the abandoned forts with the wildlings. Jon reflects on his father's lessons to him that a lord needs honest counsel, "Marsh and Yarwyck were no lickspittles, and that was to the good… but they were seldom any help either." Jon finds himself increasingly frustrated with his advisors while Marsh finds himself disapproving more and more of Jon's policies as Lord Commander. When Jon asks for Marsh's views, Marsh is dissenting with his advice and agrees with Selsye to let the wildlings die. Although Selyse, Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, Melisandre, urge Jon to let the refugees at Hardhome die, Jon is set on the rescue mission to save them. Yarwyck states that Hardhome is a cursed place, even Jon's uncle Benjen Stark used to say that. However, Jon is determined to not abandon Cotter and the others.

They then go outside to find a heavy snowfall. He asks Bowen who is in the ice cells and Bowen confirms they have four men. Jon arranges for the cells to be dug out and the prisoners housed in the Lord Commander's Tower so they will not freeze. Bowen agrees.

While Jon is planning the rescue mission to Hardhome with Tormund, a letter arrives. The person who wrote it claims to be Ramsay Bolton. The letter says:

"Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.

Your false king’s friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.

I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.

I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess.

I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.

Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell."

Excerpt From: George R. R. Martin. "A Dance With Dragons."

Jon is horrified by the letter and gives it to Tormund, who is with Jon when the letter is delivered. Tormund reveals he cannot read but says the letter feels nasty. Jon reads it to him and Tormund agrees the letter is awful but is skeptical of its authenticity. Jon believes the letter is authentic and true and Tormund tells him, "I won’t say you’re wrong. What do you mean to do, crow?" Jon's thoughts go to his siblings. He and Tormund spend the next two hours discussing what to do. At Shieldhall, Jon announces his intention to go south and confront Ramsay Bolton, publicly compromising his political neutrality as Lord Commander, and Tormund will lead the Hardhome rescue mission in his place. The hall erupts into chaos. The wildlings are moved by Jon's words and volunteer to join him while Bowen and a faction of Watchmen disappear from the Shieldhall.

While Jon is on his way to inform Selyse, he hears a scream of agony and rushes to the source. When he arrives, a bleeding Wun Wun is holding the mangled body of Ser Patrick. As Jon tries to prevent more loss of life, he turns around to find Wick Wittlestick, who slashes at Jon's throat with a dagger, just barely grazing him. While Jon is still trying to understand, Bowen Marsh and others surround him and plant daggers in him, all of them saying with tears in their eyes, "For the Watch." By the time the fourth dagger slashes him, Jon passes out.

Game of Thrones

Bowen Marsh is mentioned in season 1, when Maester Aemon assigns Pyp to reports in the kitchen.

During season 4, Bowen is unseen in the Battle of Castle Black. It's unknown if he went to the Shadow Tower like in the books. During the assault at the Wall, the wildlings send a survivor boy Olly from a destroyed village to tell the garrison of Castle Black about their raids, as an attempt of baiting them out of the castle.

Bowen is present when King Stannis Baratheon burns Mance Rayder alive for refusing to bend the knee.

Marsh participates in the Choosing of the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He stands among Alliser Thorne's supporters, and fails to applaud or cheer when Jon Snow is elected.

At a later meeting in the Night's Watch, Marsh sits alongside Jon, Thorne and Othell Yarwyck and openly opposes Jon's proposal to allow the wildlings access through the Wall to settle in the Seven Kingdoms or even join the Watch itself. Samwell Tarly cites The Gift as a good place for the wildlings to settle because much of the farmland there is deserted, but Marsh reminds him that this is because the wildlings frequently targeted the lands of the Gift in their raids of the North, citing Olly's village as an example.

When Lord Commander Snow returns to Castle Black and allows thousands of wildlings through the Wall, Bowen looks at him with disgusts, along with Thorne, Yarwyck, and Olly.

Bowen joins Ser Alliser's group of black brothers who feel that Jon has forsaken the Night's Watch for the wildlings. After tricking Jon into being trapped in a corner, Thorne, Yarwyck, Marsh, and several other men of the Night's Watch, including Olly, brutally stab Jon Snow and leave him to die after he let the wildlings through the Wall. Bowen is the third person to stab Jon, after Thorne and Yarwyck.

Alliser, Marsh, Yarwyck, Olly, and the rest of the officers try to convince Davos Seaworth to leave the Wall and the Night's Watchmen loyal to Jon Snow to surrender. Thorne promises he won't kill Ghost and will set him free in the lands beyond the Wall, with the other wolves and direwolves living there. Because of Thorne's lack of popularity and previous actions, Dolorous Edd doesn't trust the knight so Davos asks for time to consider the offer. Thorne manages to calm down the infuriated black brothers in the Great Hall, telling them that Jon was going to destroy the Night's Watch and he saved it. Marsh and Yarwyck don't seem very convinced anymore about their role in Jon's death, along with many other men. However, the confused brothers decide to wait and see what happens with Davos and the loyalists. Only the steward boy from a ruined village of the Gift, Olly, shows loyalty to Thorne.

After Edd leaves Castle Black and rides to seek support from the wildlings, Thorne and the officers return and order Davos to open the door of the Lord Commander's Tower. Davos and the loyalists refuse, so Thorne and his men prepare to fight. The massacre is avoided when the giant Wun Wun and a wildling warband storms into the castle, led by Tormund. Only two men of the Watch are killed, and the mutineers, having not much loyalty for Thorne's cause, immediately surrender, including Marsh and Yarwyck. Only Olly, angered by the deaths of his family and friends at the hands of the wildlings, remains loyal to Thorne and tries to attack Tormund, remembering how he commanded the raid on his village along with Styr. Thorne and Olly are both overpowered and Dolorous Edd orders the mutineers to be taken to the Ice Cells.

After Jon Snow is brought back to life and reclaims his role as Lord Commander, he orders Thorne, Olly, Marsh and Yarwyck to be executed by hanging for the mutiny. Jon asks the mutineers for their final words; Bowen is disturbed by Jon being alive again and says it's not right, which Jon replies that neither it was killing him. Bowen does not object to his execution and, along with Yarwyck, he remains silent and does not look proud for what he did, while Ser Alliser remains loyal to his convictions and Olly remains hateful. Eventually, Jon cuts the rope holding the trapdoor in place, killing Thorne and the remaining conspirators simultaneously.

Unlike the book version, Stannis really died fighting the Bolton's and his role is given to Jon Snow. After Bowen's death, Jon Snow remains traumatized by his death experience and becomes scared of his brothers of the Night's Watch, so he decides to leave them to head south. This causes Edd's anger, who reminds Jon that they dealt with the leaders of the mutiny, chastises him for leaving when the White Walkers are coming, and considers Jon a deserter. Jon himself believes there's nothing he can do about it anymore, he tried to do the right thing and the men who were supposed to be his brothers murdered him for it, and if one group can do it, who's to say others can't. After reuniting with Sansa Stark, Jon receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton who informs him that he has Rickon Stark and also threatens to attack the Night's Watch, so Jon and Sansa decide to rally the northern houses against the Bolton's and march south, along with Davos, Melisandre, Tormund, Brienne, Podrick, and other men. Dolorous Edd is acting in command of the Night's Watch. 

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           Game of Thrones Villains

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