You know, I love that scene with Jon and Gilly in ADWD. I never expected him to be so pragmatic or ruthless, but I love that development. I'm excited to see how TWoW pans out for him...
Oh gosh I love it. Even before that scene though, Jon drops a subtle hint to Mel and Stannis that Mance’s kid doesn’t have king’s blood and that he won’t become a king just because Mance dies. They appear to buy it.
Then we have the scene with Gilly, who offers to take both kids with her and he’s like NOPE NOT GONNA HAPPEN. As she’s crying Jon thinks YOUR TEARS WON’T WORK ON ME.
Gilly is pleading, says that a mother can’t leave her son, that her and Sam saved him from the cold and he’s like oh really? Well fire is way worse. LETS HAVE A DEMONSTRATION SHALL WE. And then he forces her to HOLD HER HAND OVER THE CANDLE UNTIL IT BURNS HER.
He’s like fire is an awful way to die, and then he lays on the guilt: if you don’t take the other kid you’re condemning him to a cruel painful death.
He says he’ll make sure Gilly’s kid is well cared for and that he’ll learn to read - and you get the feeling he’s only saying this to appease her and Sam?
Then he’s all, YOU WILL DO WHAT I TELL YOU, or else when Mance’s kid is burned, YOUR KID WILL DIE TOO. Threatening the mother AND the kid now, Jon? Holy fuck that’s cruel. He utterly destroys her and you can see it in Sam’s chapters.
Ironically he didn’t need to do all of this anyway this because Mel implies they’re just using the boy as a hostage. Mel “burns children for king’s blood” is his brain child so that he can be one step ahead in the game. But it’s not completely irrational because Mel is cray cray and she does eventually burn Shireen.
Oh and switching the kids is also why he sends Maester Aemon, a 100 year old blind elderly man to the Citadel, who Jon knows will probably die at sea before he gets there.