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|“|| Karl Tanner from Gin Alley, drinking wine from the skull of Jeor f-ckin' Mormont.|
[Karl starts pretending to have a conversation with Mormont's skull]
Any command for us, Lord Commander? What's that? "F-ck 'em 'til they're dead?" D'YOU HEAR THAT BOYS?! F-CK 'EM 'TIL THEY'RE DEAD!
|~ Karl Tanner's drunken speech.|
Karl Tanner, also known as Clubfoot Karl in the books, is an antagonist that appears in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novel series, as well as HBO's television adaptation, Game of Thrones. He is a former criminal who is sent to the Night's Watch to guard the Wall between the Seven Kingdoms and the mysterious and dangerous lands beyond the Wall. After the Fight at the Fist, Karl eventually betrays his brothers and Lord Commander for food and shelter at Craster's place.
After murdering Craster, Karl becomes the secondary antagonist of the Night's Watch storyline in Seasons 3 and 4.
In the television series, he was portrayed by Burn Gorman.
Karl Tanner is a clubfooted criminal who was forced to take the black for his crimes. He hails from Gin Alley in Flea Bottom, the most dangerous place of King's Landing as well as its worst and most miserable part, where the poor lives and there's little control from the City Watch down there. Karl made a name for himself among the smallfolk as a highly-capable enforcer, a ruthless assassin, and cutthroat. He claims that he was renowned as a legend. Eventually Karl was caught and had to join the Night's Watch.
In the novels Karl is a steward of the Night's Watch, while in the TV series he is a ranger.
In the TV series Karl's character is more fleshed out: having lived in the misery of Flea Bottom under the might of the Red Keep and the Great Sept of Baelor, Karl has real contempt for upper classes and society and resents knights for their superiority when Karl is very skilled with the knives himself. He's also shown to be more dangerous and cruel than shown in the novels. In both books and show Karl is shown to be brave enough to threaten and insult strong men. In the TV series Karl is better at bullying weaker people, in fact he needs weaker people to intimidate and do his dirty work, like Rast, who is a cowardly man and has a small remain of morality in him, but he chooses to go deep into villainy and buries any form of guilt he might have.
Game of Thrones (TV Series)
Karl is one of a handful of rangers, under the command of Lord commander Jeor Mormont, that survived the Fight at the Fist of the First Men against a large force of wights, north of the Wall. The wounded and starving rangers manage to make it back to Craster's Keep. They stay for a while, trying to gain some rest before return to Castle Black. After holding a small funeral service for Bannen, one of their fallen comrades, they head inside for shelter. Inside the Keep, tensions are starting to run high among the Night's Watch, as Craster starts berating them. When Craster openly suggests that they should kill their wounded or simply let them be killed by Craster himself, an aggravated brother of the Night's Watch, Karl Tanner, steps forward stating that they're being fed with nothing but bread cut with sawdust, and demands to know where he keeps his hidden larder.
Craster, eating chicken and drinking fine wine in front of the men, refuses to let them have any of his meat and only agrees to let them eat the stale left over bread. Rast joins in on the accusations, hence calling him a "snitching bastard". Enraged, Craster picks up an axe and threatens to chop the hands off the next man to call him a "bastard". Lord Commander Mormont attempts to defuse the situation by getting his men to go outside, however while he grabs Rast by the shoulder to lead him out the doorway, Karl challenges Craster by calling him a "daughter-fucking, wildling bastard". Drunk and enraged, Craster lunges at Karl with his axe in hand but he is too slow and Karl draws a dagger while managing to grab Craster's axe with his left arm before Craster even gets a chance to swing it. Karl then uses his right arm to shove a dagger up Craster's throat, killing him. He then slaps one of Craster's daughters, grabs her and holds her hostage. Lord Commander Mormont bellows that the gods will curse him for this, as Karl just broke one of the most the ancient and sacred traditions in all of the seven kingdoms: the guest right.
When Karl proceeds to threaten the girl for food, Commander Mormont draws his sword and threatens to have Karl executed. Karl drops the girl, but out of nowhere, Rast stabs the Lord Commander in the back, making him drop his sword. Grenn tackles Karl, and a mutiny begins. A large brawl ensues between the black brothers loyal to Mormont and the mutineers. This results in the loyal Black Brothers being driven from Craster's Keep, and Lord Commander Mormont's death at the hands of Rast.
It is revealed that the mutineers stayed at Craster's keep and are now under the leadership of Karl and his second in command, Rast, they have begun eating and drinking all of the stored food and wine, as well as brutally beating and raping Craster's daughters. Karl also mutilated and defiles Mormont's body as he is now using his cracked skull as a wine glass. It is also revealed that they have captured Jon Snow's Direwolf, Ghost, and are also continuing Craster's routine of sacrificing any of his newborn sons to the White Walkers in exchange for protection. Eventually Bran Stark and his group stumble upon Craster's and are taken captive by Karl and his men.
When Bran reveals who he is and Karl realizes he is Jon Snow's half brother, he decides to let them live as they could make valuable hostages. Later that night, a drunk Karl decides that they only need Bran and attempts to rape and kill one of his companions, Meera Reed, before he can he is stopped by her brother Jojen who reveals to Karl that he can see the future, and that he sees Karl dying that night and his body burned. Before Karl can react Jon Snow and the Night's Watch attack the mutineer's camp. Karl runs to the main tent where he is confronted by Jon, Karl pulls his dual daggers and engages Jon in combat, proving to be a formidable opponent.
Jon is caught off balance as he is using a long sword against Karl's daggers in close quarters, and Karl eventually gets the upper hand by spitting in Jon's eye and kicking him to the ground, and just as he is about to strike, one of Craster's daughters stabs him in the back. Furious, Karl turns to her but before he can move on her Jon regains his sword and rams it through the back of Karl's head and out of his mouth, killing the vile traitor almost instantly. The rest of Karl's mutineers are also killed in battle by their former brothers and, just as Jojen earlier predicted, their bodies are all burned along with Craster's keep.
A Storm of Swords
Clubfoot Karl is a member of the Great Ranging, the force that left Castle Black in search of the wildlings. At the camp at the Fist of the First Men, Karl is one of the conspirators, led by Chett, who intend to kill Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and many other officers to prevent them searching for them or sending ravens to the Wall. They decided the mutiny, due to the suicidal decision of the officers to attack the wildling army out of the Frostfangs, which horrified many black brothers and caused Karl, Chett, and others (both bad men and good men) to go as far as accept to kill many fellow brothers and desert to a better life.
Chett gives instructions to Karl, who is to cut the tethers amongst the horse lines. The evening before the imminent attack against Mance Rayder's army, Karl joins with the others by chanting loyally the words of the Night's Watch, so that no one suspect a mutiny in the air. However, Chett's plot to desert the Watch and kill Mormont is cancelled due to a sudden snow blizzard, in which the fresh snow would make it too easy for the Night's Watch to find the mutineers. Karl, Chett, and the others sadly accept their fate to die fighting wildlings. Instead that same night, the Black Brothers are attacked by an army of wights, and Karl's leader, Chett, is killed. Karl survives the Fight at the Fist of the First Men.
Karl is one of a handful of rangers, under the command of Lord commander Jeor Mormont, that survived the Fight at the Fist of the First Men against the large force of wights, which also included dead birds and a huge bear. The wounded and starving rangers manage to make it back to Craster's Keep. They stay for a while, trying to gain some rest before return to Castle Black. After holding a small funeral service for Bannen, one of their fallen commrades, they head inside for shelter.
That night Karl is in a very bad mood due to the lack of proper nourishment, and the disaster starts when Ulmer asks for more food but one of Craster's wife shook her head. Enraged, Karl insults the women and tells them that they need more bread. Jeor calls Karl back to discipline because Craster has no problem to leave him outside to eat the snow, but Karl states that he'd rather eat what Craster hides in his keep. But Craster defends himself because that food is needed to the survival of himself and his wives, especially for winter. Which causes Dirk to accuse him of being greedy. Craster replies that he's a godly man, but Karl insults him; then Garth of Oldtown, Dirk, Ollo Lophand, and Garth of Greenaway start talking about food, which worries Mormont, who's losing control of the situation.
Finally he gets angry and has the men to remain silent, but Karl does not obey anymore and disrespects Mormont. Karl is almost tempted to go into a fight against Jeor but he decides to yield. Craster however is not willing to let it go and wants Karl to sleep outside in the cold, as well as Dirk and the Garths, all of them with empty bellies. One of the Garths calls Craster a "bloody bastard" which causes the wildling to take his axe against the Black Brothers. Karl provokes Craster again after the old man was already angered for being called a bastard, and this is the last straw for the man, who moves so quickly against Karl that the latter falls against the wounded Ser Byam Flint before he can defend himself. Dirk saves Karl by stabbing Craster in the throat.
Craster's wives are infuriated by this, and one of them tries to attack Sweet Donnel Hill, but she gets knocked down and Dirk, who tells Mormont that there are no laws beyond the Wall, grabs her and commands her to show where's Craster's food. Mormont tries to stop Dirk, but Garth of Greenaway and Ollo Lophand threaten him. Mormont goes for his weapon, but Ollo quickly stabs him.
A large brawl ensues between the black brothers loyal to Mormont and the mutineers. This results in the loyal Black Brothers being driven from Craster's Keep, and Lord Commander Mormont's death. Karl and the rest of the mutineers take over Craster's Keep and immediately head to Craster's larder. The dying Mormont says his last words and orders in front of the loyalists and Craster's wives. The loyalists are ordered to return to the Wall at once, to prepare for the wildlings and the Others, while Sam takes Gilly with him as well. By the time Karl, Dirk, and the other mutineers return from the larder, Mormont died of his wounds and the loyalists have already fled. Sam and Gilly stay behind enough to see the mutineers raping Gilly's sisters.
Craster's Keep remains untouched by Mance Rayder's army, who's marching from the Milkwater. Even after the Battle of Castle Black, Karl and the other betrayers are still at Craster's Keep.
A Feast for Crows
Karl remains at Craster's Keep after the betrayal, along with a few other former members of the Night's Watch.
A Dance With Dragons
After the arrival of Stannis Baratheon at the Wall, the Others start to invade all the lands beyond the Wall. The lands are full of wights at night. With the place full of wights, and running wildlings and giants, Clubfoot Karl and the other betrayers wander in the Haunted Forest, planning to head south over the Wall, for a better climate. However, the traitors are killed by the undead man known as Coldhands and his ravens. Summer, Bran Stark's direwolf, finds the bodies and eats parts of the meat.
- Karl in TV series was more important than he was in books, as well as more horrible than his counterpart of original novels. He is a merge between Dirk and Clubfoot Karl. Basically, Karl starts the tensions at Craster's Keep in both books and show. In the books, when he insults Craster, he is surprised by the old man's agility and fails to attack him, but Dirk kills Craster and saves Karl. In the TV series, Craster is slower and Karl swiftly kills Craster, then he points his knife at one of Craster's wives, which is what Dirk does in the books. The TV series gives both roles to Clubfoot Karl rather than making two characters to deal with Craster.
- The HBO version of Karl is also a mix between Rorge and Biter in the books, although very remotely. Given that Rorge and Biter were not even near as deranged as in the books, all of their bad, on-screen actions, are given to Karl but in a very toned down way. Turning Craster's Keep into a rape camp is the only action that comes even close to what Rorge does during the raid at Saltpans in the books.
- Additionally, Karl's death in the TV series is exactly what Biter gets from Gendry's spear in the books.