Back to some Game of Thrones . A lot of people read my 10 Things about Dorne and House Martell so I thought it might be worthwhile to go back to Westeros and do something similar around hump day between episode reviews for the HBO tv watchers. I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire since the mid-’90s but like with the previous one I’m not listing anything that isn’t pretty spoiler free and not anything anyone who is even the most passive of readers doesn’t already know. So no minds blown, just information that may but probably won’t enrich the Game of Thrones watching experience.
I feel like this season the Starks are coming up, capped off by Jon Snow going all Eastwood last episode, so I thought today we should drop 10 nuggets (not gold, probably chicken) on about the Starks. Let’s do it for Ned. Or Robb. Or Catelyn. Or Brandon. Lyanna. Everyone can pick their own personal dead Stark
1. Before Robb Stark, the last King in the North was Torrhen Stark who relinquished the title to Aegon the Conqueror when their armies met and Torrhen decided he didn’t want anything to with Dragons. He also gave Aegon the Crown of Winter. It’s whereabouts are unknown. As I do more of these you will find that losing incredibly important, house defining items is on of Westeros’ most popular activities. Until Robb Starks assume the mantle of King of the North the Starks had been Wardens of the North ever since, and are Lord Paramount of the North.
MY LORDS! Here is what I say to these two kings! Renly Baratheon is nothing to me, nor Stannis neither. Why should they rule over me and mine, from some flowery seat in Highgarden or Dorne? What do they know of the Wall or the wolfswood or the barrows of the First Men? Even their gods are wrong. The Others take the Lannisters too, I’ve had a bellyful of them. Why shouldn’t we rule ourselves again? It was the dragons we married, and the dragons are all dead! There sits the only king I mean to bow my knee to, m’lords. The King in the North!
2. Two episodes ago you saw Brienne chop what looked to be a hefty piece of wood that the horses were tied to with ease with her sword. Brienne is probably freaky strong but we should remember that she is using her Valyrian sword given to her by Jaime, named Oathbreaker. It and Widow’s Wail (named so because Joff is a dick) were forged from Ned Stark’s Sword, Ice, which was used to behead him. Tommen now has Widow’s Wail.
3. While you may like the Starks you kind of get the feeling they haven’t been doing much in awhile and they may even be kind of boring. This wasn’t always the case. Indeed Rickard Stark, Ned’s father, may have had serious plans. Serious ambitions. Read Southron Ambitions. If you like that, google what the Maesters and Citadel might have had to do with it.
4. House Stark was founded by Bran the Builder, who is from The Age of Heroes, he got his name for a reason, as legend has it he built The Wall with the help some of his Giant boys, may have helped build Storm’s End, and maybe Hightower of Oldtown, and Winterfell.
5. Ned Stark was probably shown to be a bit of a better swordsman in the show than he actually probably is, but he was a pretty accomplished Lord before we saw him, and he had a good run of buffing up his resume. First, when he was like twenty or so he was credited by Robert Baratheon for turning the tide at the Battle of the Bells where the rebels beat an army led by Jon Connington, the then Hand of the King.
After Robert defeated Rhaegar Targaryen at the Trident, he was too injured (by Rhaegar) and it was left to Ned to lead the forces to King’s Landing (where the Lannisters had already done their thing). Something is often overlooked regarding this. They didn’t know at this time that the Lannisters had taken King’s Landing, so it was Ned whose task it was to essentially deliver what could be the deathblow.
He left there and went to Storm’s End to lift the siege of that castle by Mace Tyrell and the armies of The Reach. They dipped their banners when he arrived but that certainly was not a given and The Reach boasted enough power and men to prolong the war for a bit, especially when the Rebels would have a hard time convincing Dorne to attack High Garden from behind even though there is a stressed relations between the two. Remember, we know that Oberyn has a thought to raise Dorne for Viserys.
A half dozen years later he and Robert kicked the Greyjoy’s ass and took their King’s only surviving son (Theon) as ward.
In between those last two Ned and some of his boys probably ganged up on and killed the greatest knight of his era Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent, and Lord Commander Gerold Hightower.
They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys’s Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat.
I did say “buff” up his resume as some people will point there isn’t much evidence in terms of what Ned actually did, so we can’t really evaluate him as a commander or tactician. What we do know is that during war he won, his people follow him and are loyal, both Robb and Jon were pretty well prepared to command at young ages, and the only direct sentiments positive or negative are Robert’s words about the Battle of the Bells. We don’t have evidence that he’s brilliant but he has one of the best traits a commander can have IMHO, in that he has never lost a battle. I’d say he is at the very least a capable commander of men.
We also know through off hand references that both Tywin and Jaime have some level respect for Ned in the field. While certainly not cowed by Ned, you did not prefer Ned Stark leaving an army of Northerners against you because they know like we know, that’s never not worked.
He nor his eldest son ever lost a battle that they commanded.
6. Prince Aemon Targaryen, someone rad enough to be called The Dragonknight, and a legendary figure in Westeros even still today, once called Cregan Stark the finest swordsman he ever faced. Aemon’s co-sign is so golden, this single line has insured that Cregan appears on every Best Swordsman of Westeros ever list on the internet.
7. Another Age of Hero character that Old Nan names a Stark is the Night King. The Night King was the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and he apparently started smashing a female Other, which was apparently so good that he declared themselves King and Queen. Brandon “the Breaker” Stark, the then King of Winter, and Joramun, the then King Beyond the Wall, joined forces and erased him from history.
8. The North Remembers. Man, that lady last week gave me the good tv moment chills. Sophie, you got friends girl.
9. The Crypt of Winterfell contains the tombs and statues of past Lords and Kings of Winterfell. There are three exceptions, Ned’s brother and sister Brandon and Lyanna, and Artos the Implacable.
10. The first image from Game of Thrones I recalled seeing was a side shot of Emilia Clarke as Dany with her horse, but also one of the earliest ones was this:
We’ve come along way. All of the children raised in Ned Stark’s house has delivered, and while some diehard bibliophiles may not like the direction of the narrative at times, you can’t really knock the performances as we sit right now. Maise and Sophie are killing it, Kit is crushing it this season, Robb is part of one of the most iconic television moments in history (and apparently dreamy), and Bran and Rickon are… man I really don’t even know what’s going with that in the books either but unicorns could be sweet.
Check out my interview with George R.R. Martin.