Real Estate Law and “Game of Thrones”

Perhaps it’s just the law nerd in me, but I love that there’s a whole land-rights subtext to the current Game of Thrones plot involving the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. From Grantland‘s “Ask the Maester” series:

“Does Jon Snow actually have authority to give the Wildlings land south of the wall? Won’t that ruffle the Bolton’s feathers? Don’t they technically own/control those lands?”

Yes, he does. When the Watch was first formed, King Bran Stark gave the brothers, in perpetuity, all the land that extended 25 leagues south from the Wall. This area became known as Brandon’s Gift and you can think of it as the Watch’s supermarket. It’s where they farm and hunt and generally resupply. Several thousand years later, Good Queen Alysanne, the wife of King Jaehaerys I “The Conciliator” Targaryen, visited the Night’s Watch on the back of her dragon, Silverwing. She became enamored of the brave brothers of the Watch — probably because the organization was not yet a warren of rapists and murderers — and convinced her husband to give them another 25 leagues of land on top of Brandon’s Gift. This land is known as the New Gift. But everyone just refers to the entire 50-league area as “the Gift.” These lands are administered by the Watch, and from a purely legal perspective, they can do whatever they want with it. This doesn’t mean that the Boltons or the rest of the North would necessarily be happy about it or stand idly by and do nothing simply because the Watch has the right to parcel out the Gift as they see fit.

That would be a fee simple estate for the Night’s Watch, if they used English common law terminology in Westeros (which they do, on occasion.)

© HBO, via

© HBO, via

Twenty-five leagues, in this context, equals seventy-five miles, or roughly eighty-six miles, depending on which definition of “league” you use.

Photo credit: © HBO, via (see wiki page for usage information).


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