"The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer. They set forth at daybreak to see a man beheaded."
- Bran goes to the execution of a Night’s Watch deserter (Gared in the book, Will in the series). Unlike the series, Bran doesn’t hear what Gared tells Ned about the nasty stuff north of the Wall.
- Ned is much younger than his tv counterpart (only thirty-five) and Bran reflects that his father has two sides, the loving father who tells them fireside stories and the grim, stern Lord Stark of Winterfell who personally executes deserters.
- Theon kicks Gared’s severed head (what an introduction!) and Jon calls him “Ass!” showing that Jon is a good judge of character. (Another difference from the show - Theon is nineteen, so 4-5 years older than both Jon and Robb - so there is an additional ‘humiliation’ I guess for him to be in a way so subservient to Robb.)
- As they return to Winterfell, they find the direwolf pups with their dead mother who has a stag’s antler stuck in her throat. How’s that for some fun foreshadowing? Jon makes the count come right (one pup for each legitimate Stark child) and is then rewarded for his selflessness by finding the albino pup too.
- Bran asks Ned: “Can a man be brave if he’s afraid?” and Ned responds “that is the only time a man can be brave.” It’s one of the key question for the series: what is courage and how do you find it? We will see all kinds of bravery in the chapters to come, not least from Bran. I wish they had kept the placement of this line in the series rather than having it be told in third person by Robb much later on; it’s more touching to have Ned tell Bran, who will have so much need of courage so soon.
- Also, Ned tells Bran: “… we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die… A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.” It sounds really noble and good, but … I’m not sure that Ned is entirely correct, considering that Gared didn’t “deserve” to die, although the rules said he must. He didn’t desert the Night’s Watch for personal gain or because he couldn’t deal with being celibate any more, and on the series, of course, Will is a very sympathetic character, perhaps more so than the book’s Gared. It’s also an ominous sign that even our “heroes” are blinded (not surprisingly) by what they think they know to be true. (Just as Ned is later blinded by his youthful friendship for Robert into not seeing what Robert has become and by Cersei’s gender into believing she’ll flee King’s Landing and give up her position as queen.)