The maesters, aka The Knights of the Mind, were the most important class of people after Kings and Queens in Game of Thrones, but they were rarely credited for their role in shaping the show. Maester Aemon Targaryen, with his “Love is the death of duty” advice, ended up determining the fate of Daenerys Targaryen when Jon Snow chose the realm over love.
Aemon was the oldest Targaryen we ever met on the show, faithful to all his oaths as a maester and a brother of The Night’s Watch. While Aemon’s wisdom and gentle heart inspired Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly, the same cannot be said for other maesters. From the likes of Pycelle, who only cared about power, to Qyburn, who was obsessed with weird experiments, some maesters were just too crooked.
10 Best of the Best: Aemon Targaryen
Born Prince Aemon Targaryen and technically, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, Aemon Targaryen was one of the show’s greatest mysteries. He gave up all the glory of King’s Landing and retired to The Wall to serve as the maester, becoming one of Joer Mormont’s closest advisors. He saw The Night’s Watch through its greatest days while his entire house got wiped out.
He was the best maester the Night’s Watch could ever hope for and the best advisor John Snow ever met. He allowed Samwell Tarly to fell in love and still become a maester, and inspired Jon Snow to overcome his weaknesses and become the great Lord Commander the Night’s Watch desperately needed as the white walkers marched south.
9 Best: Samwell Tarly
Samwell Tarly broke the vows of being a Maester before he even became one when he got married to poor Gilly, not to mention breaking the oath of a brother of The Night’s Watch while at it. He still wanted to be a maester after receiving inspiration from Maester Aemon. Just like Qyburn, Tarly was ambitious, but he was more ethical and obviously interested in saving the living.
His help was priceless in defeating the Night King and helping Jon Snow discover his true identity as a Targaryen. Samwell Tarly was the best of the Maesters as he represented how the sons could save the realm with books if the sword wasn’t an option. Tarly, just like Jon Snow, was only loyal to the realm, which is why he ended the show as the Grand Maester.
8 Best: Luwin
Bran Stark knew so much because of the great teachers he had in his life, and Maester Luwin was the best of them all. Luwin was so loyal to House Stark that he gave up his Maesterly duties to Theon Greyjoy and died to save Bran and Rikon. He was a father figure that understood Winterfell so well that his notes on how to get through a tough winter were used by Wolkan in the seventh season.
He was the first teacher that Bran Stark had, and despite Bran’s stubbornness, he managed to teach him a lot to help him survive and become a great leader. He was also the acting Lord of Winterfell after Eddard and Rob’s death and somehow managed to keep everything together until Theon lost himself and destroyed everything.
7 Best: Cressen
Stannis Baratheon’s fall started the day Maester Cressen died. One of the best things Samwell Tarly did in Game of Thrones was healing Jorah Mormont of his Greyscale, which the Archmaester had dismissed as too advanced to be cured. Sam used the notes from Maester Cressen, who cured Shireen Baratheon of the disease years back.
Cressen was the only person that seemed to notice the danger of Melisandre’s influence on Stannis Baratheon. He tried to kill Melisandre using poisoned wine but underestimated the power of her dark magic leading to his death while Melisandre continued to wreak havoc.
6 Best: The Citadel Maester
Samwell Tarly’s days at the Citadel were among his worst, plus the ones he spent at his father’s house, but the Citadel Maester was more understanding. Sam didn’t have the right papers from the Night’s Watch for his training as Maester and was accompanied by a woman and a baby, which were obviously forbidden from the Citadel.
The Citadel Maester was understanding enough to allow the confused Sam in and probably helped Gilly and little Sam get a place to sleep. He was the only understanding person Sam met at the Citadel, although he didn’t get much screen time.
5 Worst: Caleotte
Maesters were not supposed to be fighters, but they were supposed to understand the politics of the house they served. Caleotte was the innocent maester who served House Martell, who didn’t notice as the Sands plotted their coup. Tyene killed him after he delivered the scroll with news of Myrcella’s death to Doran Martell. He was clueless about everything and only chose to run instead of changing allegiance to the new rulers as the Maesters’ Code required him to.
4 Worst: Ebrose
The training and, of course, the effectiveness of maesters depended on the Archmaester at the Citadel, but Ebrose was probably the worst of them all. Archmaester Ebrose was the exact opposite of Maester Aemon, as he was too rooted in the past to see the unfolding changes.
He wouldn’t allow Sam to read about the White Walkers and, worst of all, wouldn’t let him heal Jorah Mormont. He hated ambition and was more interested in hiding behind history than getting involved in saving the realm – although he did have good intentions behind his fears. The only thing he was good at was doing autopsies and giving tales of how the common folk were always afraid of the end and always wrong.
3 Worst: Pycelle
The Lannister legacy wouldn’t have been possible without Grandmaester Pycelle. He was more involved in the politics of King’s Landing than his roles as the Grandmaester. Pycelle also supported the assassination of young Daenerys in the name of averting a future catastrophe.
Pycelle may have poisoned John Aryn and was definitely involved in the murder of Eddard Stark and, later, the framing of Tyrion Lannister for Joffrey’s murder. Pycelle also stopped keeping the oath of the maesters as he slept around with whores but somehow managed to keep up his old frail harmless man look in public.
2 Worst: Wolkan
Ramsay Bolton was an animal, but most of the damage he caused could have been stopped if someone stood up to him. Wolkan obviously knew Ramsay because he had been the maester of House Bolton for years. When he saw Ramsay kill his father and stepmother in cold blood, Wolkan got frightened and did nothing about the cruelty. He also did nothing when Ramsay tortured Sansa and later captured and killed Rikon.
Wolkan just watched as everything fell apart in the name of observing his Maesters’ vows of being loyal to the lord of the castle, whoever that may be. If he ever stood up like Luwin and sought help, Ramsay Bolton would have been defeated before causing the damage he did. He was simply the maester that did nothing.
1 Worst of the Worst: Qyburn
Qyburn didn’t wear the Maesters’ chain because he was stripped of the title by the citadel, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the least liked characters in Game of Thrones. Qyburn was a great healer and obviously more trustworthy than Pycelle, but that didn’t make him a good maester. He was expelled from the Citadel by the Archmaester for vivisecting people in his quest to achieve superior medical knowledge. His unethical experiments also created the monster-like Gregor Clegane that only helped to make Cersei a monster.
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