Robb Stark – Night’s Silver Wolf King
Could Robb Stark, brought back from death, turn out to be Night’s King or the leader of the Others?
There are so many hints and leads to this idea, stories within stories that begin to make sense when applied to this hypothesis. We expect Jon Snow to return to the living. Why not Robb Stark? My hypothesis is that Robb Stark will be Night’s Silver Wolf King. Read on to find out what this means!
My first argument comes from a logical point of view. GRRM titled his series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. At the heart of the story are the irregularly occurring seasons, with summers lasting for years followed by harsh long winters that can go on for a generation, as in the last Long Night. I personally believe that the “Game of Thrones” is really a personified tale of the war for control of the seasons, summer in particular. Why summer? Because summer is the fruitful season, the key to prosperity and wealth. Not so if summer is magically prolonged, allowed to continue for years until the heat blights everything, and the other seasons, especially the winter months, are not given their due. Summer and Winter – Fire and Ice. You’ll find more on my investigation of the long summer here.
On the fire side of things, the histories inform us on the rise and fall of Old Valyria. Old Valyria was the Land of the Long Summer, once the most fertile region in the world.
The proudest city in all the world was gone in an instant, the fabled empire vanished in a day. The Lands of the Long Summer— once the most fertile in all the world— were scorched and drowned and blighted, and the toll in blood would not be fully realized for a century to come. TWOIAF, The Doom of Valyria
Was this region of long summer, along with the accompanying impressive fertility a natural occurrence or did the Valyrians achieve this long summer through magic, weather magic? Dragons embody the fire principle behind long summers and Daenerys is obviously the most important human present-day representative of fire.
We have less to go on regarding the Ice side of the equation. The Land of Always Winter in the far North remains a mystery to us. The White Walkers, are clearly associated with freezing winters and a sunless Long Night, but who is the current human representative of Ice?
George Martin has said that the Others are not dead but they do command an army of the dead.
I suggest they need a leader, a Lord Commander of the Others if you like, and who better than a battle commander who has already proven his worth? One who is undead, can withstand the cold, requires no sustenance, is possessed of the necessary magic? The narrative is littered with parallels between the Kingsguard and the Others, all those shared references to white shadows, snowy appearances and more. Perhaps they do need a “Lord Commander.” Would this leader be an ancient Other or would he be a character we’ve met?
Fire and Ice, heralded by the bleeding star
GRRM provides us with plenty of evidence for Daenerys as the “Champion of Fire” but how about Robb Stark as the “Champion of Ice,”? Jon Snow is not my favourite for the ice-guy, his job is to reconcile the two extremes and bring them back into the balance of things. Daenerys is the Silver Dragon Queen and I propose Robb Stark will return to become the Silver Wolf King.
To start off, let’s look at the very end of the last chapters of aGoT, Catelyn XI and Daenerys X:
“The King in the North!” he said, kneeling beside the Greatjon. Maege Mormont stood. “The King of Winter!” she declared, and laid her spiked mace beside the swords. And the river lords were rising too, Blackwood and Bracken and Mallister, houses who had never been ruled from Winterfell, yet Catelyn watched them rise and draw their blades, bending their knees and shouting the old words that had not been heard in the realm for more than three hundred years, since Aegon the Dragon had come to make the Seven Kingdoms one … yet now were heard again, ringing from the timbers of her father’s hall: “The King in the North!” “The King in the North!” “THE KING IN THE NORTH!”
aGoT, Catelyn X
As Daenerys Targaryen rose to her feet, her black hissed, pale smoke venting from its mouth and nostrils. The other two pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.
aGoT, Daenerys X
Heralded by the portent-heavy bleeding star and for the first time in hundreds of years, two momentous things occur: a King in the North is crowned and a Mother of Dragons births three dragons from stone. There’s a certain symmetry here. A King of Ice and a Queen of Fire are born in this moment of time, Ice and Fire on the table.
Now that we have this first clue to Robb Stark as a potential leader of Ice, of the Others, King of Winter, Night’s King figure, what further evidence can we gather from the books in support of the theory? And how could Robb Stark, believed to be dead and gone, return to lead the Others?
We shall examine the following:
Kings Returning from the Grave
Silver Wolf King, Leader of the Others
Kings Returning from the Grave
Kings returning from the grave to lead armies into battle aren’t a foreign concept in aSoIaF and recent events provide us with several examples:
- Renly’s shade returns from the grave to lead the Tyrell army against Stannis in the Battle of the Blackwater – of course Renly’s part was played by Garlan Tyrell dressed up in the dead king’s armour.
Cleon the Great names himself king in Astapor after killing the members of the ruling council installed by Daenerys. He is defeated at the Battle of the Horns of Hazzat and slain by his own men when he commands them to march on Yunkai. The Yunkai’i besiege Astapor, plunging the city into further mayhem. Acting on a vision from the Green Grace, King Cleons body is exhumed and strapped to a horse to lead an ill-prepared army of Unsullied into battle. Caggo of the Windblown fights his way through to Cleon the corpse, cutting him open from shoulder to hip with a blow of his curved Valyrian steel arakh.
Prince Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, believed to have been brutally killed in infancy by Gregor Clegane during the sack of King’s Landing turns up 17 years later to lead the Golden Company into battle in a bid to retake the Iron Throne.
Aegor Rivers, known as Bittersteel, founder of the Golden Company and half-brother to greenseer Bloodraven is less obvious but relevant to the theme. He was not a king but he fought and conspired to place a series of Blackfyres on the Iron Throne. When those attempts failed, he swore to one day return to Westeros to place a Blackfyre on the throne. His dying command is a poignant ghostly analogy to dead generals leading an army: he commanded the men of the Golden Company to clean the flesh off his skull, dip it in gold and carry it before them into battle. Since then, the gilded skulls of all deceased leaders of the Golden Company are carried forth into battle. Here we have an army symbolically led by dead leaders.
Then of course there is Jon’s dream, searching for his father in the Crypts – Robb is alive and well at this point in time. The dream occurs the night before he says his vows to become a sworn brother of the NW.
Last night, he had dreamt the Winterfell dream again. He was wandering the empty castle, searching for his father, descending into the crypts. Only this time the dream had gone further than before. In the dark he’d heard the scrape of stone on stone. When he turned he saw that the vaults were opening, one after the other. As the dead kings came stumbling from their cold black graves, Jon had woken in pitch-dark, his heart hammering. aGoT, Jon VI
Jon’s dream is particularly chilling. Kings long dead rising from their graves are enough to fill any person’s heart with fear. Iron longswords placed across the laps of the kings are said to keep their spirits in the grave, but Robb Stark is not buried in the Crypts of Winterfell. His direwolf is dead and his spirit may be out there, restless, vengeful, chaffing at the bit for action.
Also interesting is the Valyrian steel arakh wielded by Caggo to fell Corpse Cleon. While there are hundreds of Valyrian Steel swords in the world, there are only a few Valyrian Steeel arakhs and it’s this metal we expect to be effective against the Others. This example suggests there may be a future undead king who will be difficult to overcome by normal means. Note also that like Robb, Cleon was slain by his own men, his dead body strapped onto a horse.
Bittersteel: The image of a dead man’s gilded skull leading an army into battle is a potent one and closer to the mark than the other examples.
The Golden Company offers more parallels to Robb Stark however:
- Homeless Harry Strickland is the current Captain of the company – Robb lost his home, Winterfell.
- The company has never broken a contract but recently, they broke their contract with Myr – Ned Stark is famed for his honor – Robb breaks his marriage contract with House Frey.
- Cersei informs the small council that the Golden Company is heading for Volantis and concludes that if they mean to cross to Westeros they are marching the wrong way – Osha is not the only one who thinks Robb Stark marched the wrong way. He should have been marching North to defend the Wall.
- Bittersteel had a greenseer for a brother; so does Robb Stark.
I shall talk more about the significance of the gilded skull later on in this post.
The usurpation motif:
The above examples here have another theme in common: the characters are associated with usurpation in one way or another:
- Renly crowns himself king though the elder Stannis has the better claim.
- Cleon usurps the ruling order by killing all appointed council members and declaring himself king
- Aegon could be an imposter and throne usurper.
- Robb had no designs regarding the Iron Throne but accepting the titles of King in the North and King of the Trident would have meant splitting the realm in two, with the North and the Riverlands gaining independence from the rest of the realm, should he have prevailed.
- Much to his shame and consternation, Jon dreams of being the Lord of Winterfell. Being a bastard, he is not entitled to inherit, the dream a dream of hidden usurpation. He admits to himself that this is something he has desired, yet when presented with the opportunity to make this dream come true, he turns down the offer.
The main point here is that the story offers many examples of Kings returning from the grave to lead armies into battle and all of these examples involve an aspect of usurpation.
Signs, Visions and Dreams
Dreams and visions are an important source of information and foreshadowing in the books. Not all are easily decipherable. Even Melisandre is unsure of what she sees in her flames at times. Some visions, signs and prophecies are recognizable in hindsight, both to the reader and to characters in the books. Daenys the Dreamer foresaw the Doom of Valyria and her family acted on the strength of her vision by relocating to Dragonstone. We recognize events seen by the Ghost of High Heart in her dreams and Jojen’s green dreams come true, even if initially difficult to decode. Enough reason to take these signs seriously and attempt to understand their significance.
But there were others with faces he had never known in life, faces he had seen only in stone. The slim, sad girl who wore a crown of pale blue roses and a white gown spattered with gore could only be Lyanna. Her brother Brandon stood beside her, and their father Lord Rickard just behind. Along the walls figures half-seen moved through the shadows, pale shades with long grim faces. The sight of them sent fear shivering through Theon sharp as a knife. And then the tall doors opened with a crash, and a freezing gale blew down the hall, and Robb came walking out of the night. Grey Wind stalked beside, eyes burning, and man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds.
aCoK, Theon IV
What starts out as a pleasant dream with Theon enjoying himself at the feast in honour of King Robert at Winterfell turns into a nightmare. He sees the gutted King Robert, headless Ned and the Winterfell men who died at King’s Landing. He also sees some he killed himself. Then he is faced with the dead from the crypts, people he had never known including Lyanna and the pale shades of the Kings of Winter. The nightmare reaches its height when Robb strides in out of the night accompanied by a freezing gale, Grey Wind at his side, both bleeding from countless wounds. This is a strange dream indeed, especially since it occurs prior to the Red Wedding. As in Jon’s dream, the Stark dead are on the move. Theon has a guilty conscience no doubt, but why would Robb and Grey Wind number among the living dead, like vengeful ghosts?
The Vision in the House of the Undying
When Daenerys visits the House of the Undying in Qarth she’s given a sorcerous drink named “Shade of the Evening” which will allow her to “hear and see the truths that will be laid before her.”
She sees a banquet of the dead presided over by a dead man with a wolf’s head:
Further on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Severed hands clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a sceptre, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal. She fled from him, but only as far as the next open door. aCoK, Daenerys IV
In this vision is of the Red Wedding, Robb Stark appears as we see him last, his wolf’s head sewn onto his body, wearing his crown. While the other feasters are butchered and truly dead, Robb is undead. He sits on the throne as in life, holding a leg of lamb like a sceptre and following her with his eyes. This dream is similar to Theon’s – a vision of the dead, with Robb Stark alive in spite of the obvious symbols of death. There is a difference though – in Theon’s dream he appears purposeful, striding and vengeful, ready to inflict injury. In Dany’s vision, Robb appeals to her. The leg of lamb he is holding seems to denote a sacrifice. Indeed, lamb is the last dish served before the massacre at the Twins. Catelyn thinks it’s the best dish to be served all evening and we have descriptions of several others enjoying the lamb dish. The lamb is a classic sacrificial animal. It’s appearance at the wedding feast and in Robb’s undead hands should attract our attention. On a side note, could it be that the massive betrayal of trust, kingslaying, violation of guest right and loss of life represent a sacrifice meant to fuel something magical of great magnitude to come?
Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. […]
“I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed. It was Robb before him now, his hair wet with melting snow. Longclaw took his head off.
aDwD, Part 2, Jon IV
In this dream, Robb appears to Jon Snow as part of the army of the undead. Jon takes his brother’s head off. Foreshadowing of Robb’s return or a vision borne of the desire to become Lord of Winterfell as suggested by the dream?
It was the other dream she hated, the one where she had two feet instead of four. In that one she was always looking for her mother, stumbling through a wasted land of mud and blood and fire. It was always raining in that dream, and she could hear her mother screaming, but a monster with a dog’s head would not let her go save her. In that dream, she was always weeping, like a frightened little girl. aFfC, Cat of the Canals
This is not a wolf-dream but it’s a recurring one which always leaves Arya in tears. Having spent a lot of time travelling with the Hound, it’s reasonable to assume she would be able to identify the monster as the Hound, if she was really seeing the Hound. But she does not seem to recognize the dog-headed figure. Arya arrived at the Red Wedding before the carnage ended and did not see that last image of her brother with wolf’s head sewn onto his body. This is not concrete evidence for anything but it’s a passage to take note of.
Patchface and Ser Davos:
“Fool’s blood, king’s blood, blood on the maiden’s thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye.” aSoS, Davos II
Patchface delivers this line when Ser Davos enters returns to Dragonstone after surviving the Battle of the Blackwater. This is one of Patchface’s more obvious “prophecies,” and in retrospect, is easily identifiable by the reader. It’s a referral to the Red Wedding and comes across as a prophecy but I suspect it’s more likely to be a formula for a ritual. What Patchface does not tell us is what the ritual is supposed to invoke.
The connection between the theme of rising from the dead and Patchface’s verse to Davos becomes clearer when viewed in the context of the whole chapter. By a miracle, Davos manages to escape both wildfire and drowning during the Battle of the Blackwater. He washes up on the Spears of the Merling King, an equally lethal place. After languishing there for days he is rescued by a ship captained by a man sympathetic to Stannis. It is from the captain that he learns of Renly’s shade leading the lion’s van to a Lannister/Tyrell victory over Stannis. Davos then visits Salladhor Saan who is taking inventory of stock down in a cog named Bountiful Harvest. The pirate is both glad and surprised to see him, embracing him and greeting him thus:
“You are still warm, ser, and I feel your heart thumpetythumping. Can it be true? The sea that swallowed you has spit you up again.”
Davos was thought dead. Notice how Salladhor Saan expresses his joy: “You are still warm, ser, and I feel your heart thumpetythumping.” It’s almost as if he expected Davos to be a cold revenant. Davos is then reminded of Patchface who had been lost at sea, presumed dead but inexplicably returned to the living. Ser Davos learns of Stannis’ complete defeat and the death of his own sons. His intention is to return to Dragonstone to assasinate the red priestess Melisandre. On arriving there, he is not recognized at the gate. One guard counters that the Onion Knight died on the river. Finally, he waits in Aegon’s Garden. This is when Patchface comes on the scene, stops in his tracks when he sees Davos and recites his “prophecy.” I believe Patchface reacts to triggers in his environment. These triggers can be words, actions, animals, people. Seeing Davos who was thought to have perished during the flaming battle standing alive and well before him triggered off the Red Wedding verse. Thus, this trigger suggests his verse has something to do with raising the dead, or with raising an Other. Indeed, there is further evidence that this might be the case. Patchface, Shireen and Robert’s bastard Edric Storm are playing monsters and maidens in the garden. Edric Storm crashes into Davos, knocking him off his feet.
The boy went down as well, but he was up again almost at once. “What are you doing here?” he demanded as he brushed himself off. Jet-black hair fell to his collar, and his eyes were a startling blue.
Edric’s startling blue eyes put us in mind of the Others with their eyes like blue stars. They also serve to remind us of Robb, who had blue eyes. Edric also goes down and is up almost at once. Playing monsters and maidens?
“We were playing monsters and maidens,” he explained. “I was the monster. It’s a childish game but my cousin likes it. Do you have a name?”
Edric of the startling blue eyes plays a monster chasing a maiden. Old Nan’s tales come to mind.
All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.” aGoT, Bran IV
We are only missing the spiders.
These not so subtle hints go even further though. Edric Storm is meant to be a sacrifice to Melisandre’s red god. The red priestess requires his king’s blood to wake dragons from stone and Stannis is willing to sacrifice the boy. The monster and maiden scene occurs right after Patchface’s verse. Consider Daenery’s vision of Robb in the House of the Undying: “He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a sceptre, […].”
The wolf-headed man holds a leg of lamb, the lamb being a classic ancient sacrificial animal. Jesus Christ who sacrificed himself to deliver mankind is “the lamb of God.” He also returned from death, three days after he was crucified. There is yet another connotation implied here: while the sceptre is an emblem of royalty; it’s connection here with the lamb also brings to mind a shepherd’s staff. In this context, what are the undead wights if not mindless sheep, herded and controlled by their white walker masters? And if this is so, Mirri Maz Duur’s god, the Great Shepherd takes on new meaning. I do believe this connection between Dany seeing the dead wolf king holding a leg of lamb, Mirri’s people, the Lamb People (known as the Lhazareen – think Lazarus, raised from death by Jesus) is significant. Of course, Mirri herself is associated with bringing Khal Drogo back from death’s door.
The Wolf’s Head
The image of a dead Robb Stark with a wolf’s head instead of his own is so bizarre that it’s likely to be important so let us follow the wolf’s head to see what insights it may bring.
Bran’s wolf’s head clasp of silver and jet:
“Theon wants me to yield the castle,” Bran said as the maester was fastening the cloak with his favorite wolf’s head clasp of silver and jet.
Bran leaves his wolf’s head clasp behind when he, Rickon, Meera, Jojen, Osha and Hodor escape after Theon’s takeover of the castle. During the futile search for the children, Ramsey in the guise of the first Reek produces a sack of clothes including the clasp. The plan to kill the miller’s boys and dress them in Bran’s and Rickon’s clothes is carried out. The miller’s boys are also decapitated, their tarred heads placed on spikes, their bodies burned. They are not interred in the crypts.
Only Maester Luwin had the stomach to come near. Stone-faced, the small grey man had begged leave to sew the boys’ heads back onto their shoulders, so they might be laid in the crypts below with the other Stark dead. “No,” Theon had told him. “Not the crypts.” “But why, my lord? Surely they cannot harm you now. It is where they belong. All the bones of the Starks—” “I said no.” He needed the heads for the wall, but he had burned the headless bodies that very day, in all their finery. Afterward, he had knelt amongst the bones and ashes to retrieve a slag of melted silver and cracked jet, all that remained of the wolf’s head brooch that had once been Bran’s. He had it still.
aCoK, Theon III
The reader’s attention is drawn to the brooch. Theon kept it. It’s a good thing Theon’s conscience prohibited the sacrilege of burying the miller’s boys in the Crypts but the silver wolf’s head clasp remains a signpost to the reader. It belonged to Bran who is very much alive but believed to be dead.
In a parallel to the treatment of Robb, the miller’s boys who stand in for Bran and Rickon are decapitated, their bones not returned to the crypts.
There are more instances of this phenomenon – the wolf’s head in connection with someone thought dead who is alive, or undead, as the case may be.
Jeyne Pool, alias Arya Stark:
When Theon meets “Arya Stark,” whom he is to give away to Ramsay Bolton he describes her thus:
[…] she wore an ermine cloak clasped with a silver wolf’s head. Dark brown hair fell halfway down her back. And her eyes … That is not Lord Eddard’s daughter.
aDwD, Reek I
Theon recognizes Jeyne Poole as the daughter of Winterfell’s former steward. Arya was never found after Ned’s beheading at King’s Landing; many believe her dead but readers know she is very much alive. Prior to this, Jamie is introduced to the fake Arya and also notices the wolf’s head clasp with slitted opal eyes. Again we see the wolf’s head associated with someone who is alive but believed dead.
Barristan Selmy / The Shavepate:
Ser Barristan is thinking of Daenaerys, wondering whether she is dead or alive after her departure on Drogon following the upheaval in the fighting pit of Meereen:
“Daenerys is not dead. She was riding that dragon. I saw it with mine own two eyes.” He had said the same a hundred times before … but every day that passed made it harder to believe.
aDwD, The Queen’s Hand
Shortly after this passage, in the same chapter, our attention is drawn to the Shavepate Skahaz:
The brazen mask beneath his arm was new—a wolf’s head with lolling tongue.
The theme never changes with these wolf’s heads. Further examples add to this list:
When Catelyn leaves the Eyrie after Tyrion’s trial, she travels to Moat Calin where Robb and the northern force have gathered. Initially, only Grey Wind notices her when she enters the Gatehouse Tower. The direwolf comes forward to greet her. She strokes his head:
Catelyn stroked the wolf’s head, gently. aGoT, Catelyn VIII
This might seem of no consequence, but it fits the pattern. Catelyn will also meet her death at the Red Wedding. She will be resurrected after drifting and rotting for three days in the river to become the undead Lady Stoneheart. Another variation on the theme, this time true death and a true resurrection.
His mantle was stitched together from wolfskins and clasped against the autumn chill by the yellowed teeth of the wolf’s head on his right shoulder. aDwD, Reek II
The teeth of a wolf’s head serve as a clasp for Ramsay’s wolfskin cloak and we may wonder if this is a trophy, the head of Robb’s direwolf Grey Wind. Important here is that Ramsay was also believed dead early in the story. He however escaped the Winterfell forces in the guise of his first servant Reek and was taken to Winterfell as a prisoner. Perhaps icing on the cake: Ramsay not only “returns from the dead,” he also reincarnates his former servant Reek in the form of Theon, the new Reek. Ramsey is also known for reincarnating the unfortunate maids he hunts, skins and kills in the form of his dogs, his “girls.”
Jon Snow and the wolf’s head pommel:
Lord Commander Mormont awards Jon his ancestral Valyrian steel sword after Jon saves him from the undead wighted Othor. Mormont has a new pommel carved for the sword. To suit Jon Snow, it now sports the head of a direwolf, Ghost, in place of a bear.
The pommel was a hunk of pale stone weighted with lead to balance the long blade. It had been carved into the likeness of a snarling wolf’s head, with chips of garnet set into the eyes.
aGoT, Jon VIII
The symbolism surrounding the sword with the white wolf’s head follows the same pattern as the wolf’s heads we’ve seen so far. At the end of aDwD, Jon his murdered by his own sworn brothers. We expect him to be returned to life. So perhaps all this foreshadowing in connection with the wolf’s head could relate to Jon but there is one more interesting tit-bit regarding the wolf’s head:
Robb`s shield bears a wolf’s head which is badly slashed during the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Robb obviously chose this symbol for his personal sigil. Thus, in terms of the symbolism alone, we can regard the wolf’s head as strongly connected to Robb. GRRM also points this out in an SSM on Heraldry in Westeros posted on westeros.org in 1999. He talks about the rules of heraldry which are flexible in the Seven Kingdoms so that individual knights have the freedom to play around with their house sigils:
Robb Stark did something akin when he rode out of Winterfell in A GAME OF THRONES; you may recall that his shield bore a wolf’s head, not the running wolf that appears on the Stark banners. Some of the old Kings in the North also had their own personal variants, undoubtedly, though I haven’t yet decided what they were. SSM, westeros.org
Note also that while Robb bears the wolf’s head shield, Jon bears the wolf’s head sword! The pommel-head is unique because it depicts not any random direwolf, but Ghost, Jon’s own wolf. Robb’s shield with the wolf’s head is also unique. It is badly slashed, implying that its protective qualities are no longer intact. This could be a reference to Robb the shield, the Stark in Winterfell leaving the North instead of staying put as a shield to counter the threat of the Others. He was Lord of Winterfell, left his post and the shield is damaged. In the absense of Robb, Jon at the Wall is the wolf’s head sword, left to fight the Others and he is also the shield – the shield that guards the realms of men.
The above are strong examples of associations between the wolf’s head and persons believed dead but are currently alive or undead. Perhaps we should reconsider Robb Stark’s fate. Is he still alive, stashed away in some dungeon, undergoing a fate as cruel as Theon’s or is his headless body resting somewhere, waiting for resurrection day? Either way, what can we expect of a man so betrayed, alive or undead? This brings us to the next set of symbolism: the vengeful Kings of Winter.
The Vengeful Kings of Winter
The first Lords of Winterfell had been men hard as the land they ruled. In the centuries before the Dragonlords came over the sea, they had sworn allegiance to no man, styling themselves the Kings in the North. aGoT, Eddard I
Parallels between Robb Stark and the ancient Kings of Winter
The Kings of Winter / Kings in the North are consistently described as fierce, grim and hard – hard men for hard times as Maester Luwin put it. After the Long Night and the founding of Winterfell by Bran the Builder, successive Kings of Winter conquered rival kingdoms until they laid claim to and ruled the entire North. The North remained the last kingdom founded by the First Men even after the Andals took over southern Westeros. This only changed in relatively recently when King Torrhen Stark, last King in the North, bent the knee to Aegon Targaryen during Aegon’s conquest. The Stark kings who swore allegiance to no man finally succumbed to Aegon the Conqueror. The North has been part of the Seven Kingdoms ever since. Kings became Lords, with the Lord Stark of Winterfell holding the title of the Warden of the North for the Iron Throne. Note that like his ancient ancestors, Robb, King in the North, no longer swears allegiance to the Iron Throne.
The Stark kings are interred in the Crypts of Winterfell, a huge cavern consisting of several levels descending into the earth. Each King has his carved stone likeness with a stone direwolf at his feet and a naked sword across his lap. How the mother of the direwolf pups found by Robb crossed south of the Wall is unknown but Robb discovering the first direwolves after 200 years of their absence mirrors Dany’s hatching of dragons, also the first after a couple of centuries.
The kings in the crypts are often thought of as vengeful, at least their spirits are. The iron swords across their laps are supposed to keep these vengeful spirits in the grave. The bare sword worn across the lap is also the traditional sign of denying guest right. Clearly, the stone kings are not pleased to see visitors; to those who enter the crypts they appear alive, listening and often disapproving. In a dream, Eddard perceives them as watching him pass with eyes of ice, he remembers them looking on with cold stone eyes when he visited the crypts with King Robert. They rise from the grave in Jon’s and Theon’s dreams. Some of the iron swords have rusted away to nothing and Ned wonders whether this means the vengeful spirits are free to roam the castle. Theon also worries about this when he visits the crypts with Barbary Dustin and notices swords missing from several tombs (the swords taken by Bran, Hodor, Osha and Meera upon leaving the crypts after the destruction of Winterfell). In life, Robb Stark mirrors his vengeful ancestors.
Robb shows Tyrion no curtesy when the Imp returns from the Night’s Watch with his gift, a blueprint for a special saddle for Bran. Robb’s anger is palpable, and he is incredibly rude to his guest:
Robb was seated in Father’s high seat, wearing ringmail and boiled leather and the stern face of Robb the Lord […]
Bran could sense the anger in the hall the moment that Hodor carried him through the doors. “Any man of the Night’s Watch is welcome here at Winterfell for as long as he wishes to stay,” Robb was saying with the voice of Robb the Lord. His sword was across his knees, the steel bare for all the world to see. Even Bran knew what it meant to greet a guest with an unsheathed sword. “Any man of the Night’s Watch,” the dwarf repeated, “but not me, do I take your meaning, boy?” Robb stood and pointed at the little man with his sword. “I am the lord here while my mother and father are away, Lannister. I am not your boy.” aGoT, Bran IV
So, Robb sits in his father’s high seat, akin to a throne, dressed to fight. His sword is bare across his lap, denying guest right and he makes no effort to disguise his aggression towards Tyrion. He even goes as far as pointing his sword at Tyrion. Robb mirrors the stone kings in the crypts and in this scene, is a living example of a “vengeful spirit.” Rickon then bursts in with the direwolves at his heels. Bran senses the anger in the hall and so must the wolves sense Robb’s anger toward Tyrion because they seem to identify him as an enemy and attack the little man immediately.
Robb does not seem too keen on the brothers of the Night Watch either. He informs them that there are rooms prepared for them and invites them to the evening meal. But:
He spoke the words so awkwardly that even Bran took note; it was a speech he had learned, not words from the heart, but the black brothers thanked him all the same.
Robb’s anger boils up again when Yoren of the Night’s Watch answers his question regarding Uncle Benjen:
“The Old Bear sent him out to look for Waymar Royce, and he’s late returning, my lord.” “Too long,” Yoren said. “Most like he’s dead.”
“My uncle is not dead,” Robb Stark said loudly, anger in his tones. He rose from the bench and laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. “Do you hear me? My uncle is not dead!” His voice rang against the stone walls, and Bran was suddenly afraid.
aGoT, Bran IV
As before, Robb is well out of order here. He’s not only shouting, he is also reaching for his sword against a man of the Night’s Watch! Should Robb ever be Night’s King, then the Night’s Watch will be one of his chief adversaries and this seemingly inconsequential passage shall turn out to have been serious foreshadowing!
The next time we see the King in the North in the stance of his kingly ancestors in the crypts, the situation appears more appropriate:
When the guards brought in the captive, Robb called for his sword. Olyvar Frey offered it up hilt first, and her son drew the blade and laid it bare across his knees, a threat plain for all to see.
aCoK, Catelyn 1
The prisoner is Ser Cleos Frey, captured at the Whispering Wood while fighting with the Lannister army. Robb is civil here and Ser Cleos is much more afraid of Grey Wind, especially when the direwolf comes forward for a sniff. Robb has prepared an offer of peace with a list of terms to be met which Cleos is to deliver to Queen Cersei. After publicly reading the offer Robb uses Grey Wind again to cow the messenger:
Robb tossed the rolled parchment at the knight’s feet. “There are the terms. If she meets them, I’ll give her peace. If not—” He whistled, and Grey Wind moved forward snarling. “—I’ll give her another Whispering Wood.” aGoT, Catelyn 1
The ancient kings are vengeful, so vengeful that that their spirits must be confined to their tombs in the crypts of Winterfell. Robb Stark has good reason to be vindictive. His father was treacherously beheaded with his own sword at the command of the boy King Joffery. Robb lost Winterfell, betrayed by Theon whom he trusted and regarded as a friend. He believes his younger brothers dead at the hands of Theon and his sisters held hostage by the Lannisters. Then followed the betrayal and murder by Frey, Bolten and Lannister, a massacre of great magnitude. Why wouldn’t Robb’s spirit be as vengeful and restless as the spirits of his ancestors?
Lord Eddard put his pride and honour aside when he revoked his accusation against Cersei and her illegitimate children, confirming Joffery as the rightful king. He did this for Sansa’s sake. Robb sent the Lannisters a peace offer stipulating certain conditions, but he was not about to kneel to return to the King’s peace. He was adamant about that. Peace was no option for Robb Stark.
“You would not be the first king to bend the knee, nor even the first Stark.” His mouth tightened. “No. Never.” “There is no shame in it. Balon Greyjoy bent the knee to Robert when his rebellion failed. Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror rather than see his army face the fires.” “Did Aegon kill King Torrhen’s father?” He pulled his hand from hers. “Never, I said.” aSoS, Catelyn
Neither Ned’s nor Robb’s bones have returned to Winterfell to rest securely in the crypts. Their remains are out there somewhere. While Ned’s bones were on their way to Winterfell but have not turned up since, there has been no sign at all of Robb’s body since the Red Wedding.
Like Ned, we may wonder if this means their spirits are free to roam about. We must ask ourselves if there is a possibility that they may return from death to have their vengeance.
A Gruesome Resurrection
… “Could you bring back a man without a head?” Arya asked. “Just the once, not six times. Could you?” “I have no magic, child. Only prayers.
aSoS, Arya VII
The narrative introduces the reader to various undead characters resurrected by different magical processes, each with distinct characteristics. Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart (Catelyn) were raised by fire (the Lord’s Kiss) while Coldhands and the wights beyond the Wall appear to have been brought back by what we think of as ice magic.
Then there is Patchface, lost for three days at sea, drowned and thought dead but returned to life after washing ashore. His resurrection remains unexplained but according to the smallfolk he was rescued by a mermaid who taught him to breathe in exchange for his seed. The Ironborn believe in “what is dead can never die, but comes back stronger and harder” and Aeron Damphair, priest of the Drowned God, ritually drowns men and returns them via CPR. We can also add the whispering heads of one time Clarence Crabb to the list, brought back to life by the kiss of his wife. A statue of the legendary Shrouded Lord is also said to have been brought back to life by the kiss of a grey woman.
Mirri Maz Duur performed a blood magic ritual to save Khal Drogo’s life. She sacrificed both his red stallion and Daenerys’ unborn child Rhaego in the process. The Undying of Qarth were intent on rejuvenating their lives by feeding off Daenery’s life force, her life fires. And of course, there is Ser Gregor Clegane, now named Robert Strong, reanimated by the former maester Qyburn who allegedly lost his chain for dabbling in necromancy. This last example is interesting because we find a suggestion of Robb Stark in the name Robert Strong (Stark meaning strong in German).
Where are Robb Stark’s remains?
Not a word has been said about his corpse since the Red Wedding. Though I have not discovered any concrete evidence for either, two likely locations come to mind: The Twins or the Dreadfort. Both Roose Bolton and Walder Frey are cunning men who might want to keep the bones (or preserved body) of the King in the North as a bargaining tool, a trophy or for some other sinister purpose. In the past, the Boltons flayed their slain enemies and there is many a gruesome account of ancient Boltons wearing the skins of Starks as cloaks. Though the practice of flaying is long since forbidden, Ramsay Bolton relishes it, submits Theon to it and flays the unfortunate girls he hunts down with his hounds. Roose definitely makes Robb feel uneasy in this regard:
Lord Roose never says a word, he only looks at me, and all I can think of is that room they have in the Dreadfort, where the Boltons hang the skins of their enemies.”
aGoT, Bran 1
Before the wedding feast begins at the Twins, Roose informs Robb and Catelyn that both Winterfell castle and the winter town have been burned by the ironmen and that some of their people were taken back to the Dreadfort by his son Ramsay. When Robb asks for news of Theon Greyjoy, Roose produces a piece of skin flayed from Theon’s little finger:
“Did Ramsay mention Theon Greyjoy?” Robb demanded. “Was he slain as well, or did he flee?” Roose Bolton removed a ragged strip of leather from the pouch at his belt. “My son sent this with his letter.” Ser Wendel turned his fat face away. Robin Flint and Smalljon Umber exchanged a look, and the Greatjon snorted like a bull. “Is that … skin?” said Robb.
“The skin from the little finger of Theon Greyjoy’s left hand. My son is cruel, I confess it. And yet … what is a little skin, against the lives of two young princes? You were their mother, my lady. May I offer you this … small token of revenge?” Part of Catelyn wanted to clutch the grisly trophy to her heart, but she made herself resist. “Put it away. Please.” aSoS, Catelyn VI
Robb is confronted with proof of his fears regarding the Boltons and appears shaken by the sight of Theon’s skin. Perhaps this is an indication of where Robb ends up – in a room beneath the Dreadfort, the last place he would have wanted to be, dead or alive. Catelyn’s secret reaction to the capture and flaying of Theon Greyjoy could be a hint as well; she would have never wanted that inflicted on her own son, but then again, life is not a song and the possibility remains. Perhaps these clues along with Ramsey sporting Robb’s own symbol, a wolf’s head and a real one at that, support the idea that Robb’s remains were carried off to the Dreadfort. Alternatively, Roose may have taken the body with him to Winterfell, not to have it interred but for safekeeping.
Robb’s body at the Twins
Robb’s body could still be at The Twins. When Brienne is captured by the former Brotherhood without Banners now operating under Lady Stoneheart, she learns the following:
“She wants her son alive, or the men who killed him dead,” said the big man. “She wants to feed the crows, like they did at the Red Wedding. Freys and Boltons, aye. We’ll give her those, as many as she likes. aFfC, Brienne VIII
Lady Stoneheart wants her son alive – a sinister notion that we should take seriously and another reason I believe strongly that we have not seen the last of Robb Stark. Lady Stoneheart is on a path of extreme vengeance. If she wants her son alive, she will have to find his body. She herself is living undead proof that resurrection is possible even after a corpse begins to decay. Lady Stoneheart is not in good shape, her wounds have not healed, portions of her skull are visible beneath her shredded face. She looks a frightful mess and yet is still capable of thinking, speaking and following her goals. No doubt her outlaws cross-examine the men they capture, not only to identify those who took part in the massacre at the Twins but likely also to discover where Robb’s body is hidden. Merrett Frey sings like a canary when he is captured by Stoneheart’s men:
“So you sewed his head on Robb Stark’s neck after both o’ them were dead,” said yellow cloak.
“My father did that. All I did was drink. You wouldn’t kill a man for drinking.” Merrett remembered something then, something that might be the saving of him. “They say Lord Beric always gives a man a trial, that he won’t kill a man unless something’s proved against him. You can’t prove anything against me. The Red Wedding was my father’s work, and Ryman’s and Lord Bolton’s. Lothar rigged the tents to collapse and put the crossbowmen in the gallery with the musicians, Bastard Walder led the attack on the camps . . . they’re the ones you want, not me, I only drank some wine . . . you have no witness.” Epilogue, aSoS
Lady Stoneheart is holding Robb’s crown as she speaks to the captured Brienne. Prior to this, we see the crown at the siege of Riverrun, on Ser Ryman Frey’s whore’s head. Jamie aims to break the siege by negotiation. Ser Ryman is Walder Frey’s heir and in charge of the siege. Jamie dismisses Ryman, asking him to leave the crown behind. How then did the crown come into Stoneheart’s possession?
There are two possibilities: Ser Ryman and his party were captured and hanged by Stoneheart’s outlaws after setting off from Riverrun so perhaps Ryman defied Jamie’s order and took the crown along, the latter ending up in the hands of the outlaws. I doubt this because there was a Stoneheart outlaw present during the negotiations – Tom of Sevenstrings, a harper and singer who had joined Ryman’s camp to sing for the men. Tom is obviously Stoneheart’s spy digging for information at the Frey camp. It is thought that he relayed information on Ryman’s whereabouts that led to the capture of the Freys.
Knowing how important the crown would be to Lady Stoneheart, we can assume he found an opportunity to steal it while Jamie was busy dealing with Lord Edmure. After the surrender of Riverrun to Emmon Frey, Tom opts to stay on as a singer and take the place of the last singer, Whitesmile Wat, rather than accompany the Freys to the Twins. Being in the constant service of Emmon Frey means he might learn more as well as find opportunities to visit the Twins and search for clues on the fate of Robb Stark’s body.
From the clues available to date, any of these places might serve as a location for Robb Stark’s body: the Dreadfort, Winterfell or the Twins. There remains another possibility, however:
Raynald Westerling (knight of seashells), brother to Robb’s wife Jeyne was present at the Red Wedding. He was in the yard when crossbow men began firing at Grey Wind and he attempted to cut the wolf free of the net that bound him. According to reports, Raynald took a shot to the shoulder and gut but managed to escape by throwing himself into the river. His body was not found, neither was he amongst those taken captive so he may have survived. Robb and Raynald got on well. Catelyn thought of him as a replacement for Jon and Theon at Robb’s side. If a bond of friendship existed between the two, it’s possible Raynald may have somehow acquired Robb’s body and buried him in a secret location. There’s a precedent for this scenario: Loras, Knight of Flowers, buried King Renly in a secret place unknown to anyone else.
Raising Robb Stark
Lady Stoneheart wants her son alive. What would prevent her from passing the fire of life that Beric passed to her, to her son so that he might live again? Catelyn was very passionate about her family and professed to be willing to do anything to get her children and Ned back:
My son lies here broken and dying, Luwin, and you wish to discuss a new master of horse? Do you think I care what happens in the stables? Do you think it matters to me one whit? I would gladly butcher every horse in Winterfell with my own hands if it would open Bran’s eyes, do you understand that? Do you? aGoT, Catelyn III
Robb, if that sword could bring him back, I should never let you sheathe it until Ned stood at my side once more… but he is gone, and a hundred Whispering Woods will not change that. aGoT, Catelyn XI
That said, there is the problem of the state of Robb’s body, were it to come to a raising. Having been deceased for a long time, his body may be in an advanced state of decay, if not mummified. He could be reduced to his bones or perhaps preserved in wine or brine. Either way probably not a pretty sight. We shall have to consider the pros and cons of different types of magic.
Qyburn succeeds in bringing Gregor Clegane back as Robert Strong, indeed stronger than ever. That Robert Strong is Gregor Clegane is not actually revealed but suspected by many:
Kevan Lannister had a strong suspicion of just who this Ser Robert really was beneath that gleaming white armor. A suspicion that Mace Tyrell and Randyll Tarly no doubt shared. Whatever the face hidden behind Strong’s helm, it must remain hidden for now. The silent giant was his niece’s only hope. And pray that he is as formidable as he appears. aDwD, Epilogue
Robert Strong does not speak and his face is kept hidden beneath his greathelm. He does not require food or drink and does not visit the privy. Qyburn claims the newly appointed Knight of the Kingsguard has sworn a vow of silence, vowing never to speak until King Tommen’s enemies are dead and evil is driven from the realm. Clegane definitely succumbed to Prince Oberyn’s poison. Qyburn assured Cersei that he had the Mountain’s head removed to be sent to the Prince of Dorne. It was gilded with gold, sent on its way and arrived at its destination. It is not known what manipulations Qyburn employed to reanimate Ser Gregor. Perhaps a mixture of scientific knowledge and bloodmagic? The unfortunate women delivered to the fallen maester by Cersei probably contributed to the success of his endeavor. Robert Strong’s reanimation is good, but not perfect.
Gregor’s decapitation has fans debating the possibility that Robb Stark’s head adorns his shoulders. I think not. I suggest the author shows us this resurrection in part to let us know that the dead can be raised and functional without a head. During Bran’s flying dream shortly before he wakes from his coma, he sees a vision of a man who in all likelihood is Robert Strong. We can expect the vision to be a true one because the other two apparitions are easily recognizable as Jamie and the Hound.
Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood. aGoT, Bran III
Compare that description with Catelyn’s perception of Robb after Olyvar Frey hands him his helm:
He strapped Robb’s shield in place and handed up his helm. When he lowered it over the face she loved so well, a tall young knight sat on his grey stallion where her son had been. It was dark among the trees, where the moon did not reach. When Robb turned his head to look at her, she could see only black inside his visor. ” aGoT, Catelyn X
“...where her son had been.” Robb appears almost like a stranger to his mother. Both men are headless inside their helms, there is nothing but darkness. Fact is both lost their heads. No doubt this quote foreshadows the Young Wolf’s cruel fate, but considering Gregor Strong is back amongst the living, these passages also support the idea that the King in the North will eventually return. What’s more, as a member of the Kingsguard, Robert Strong with his gleaming white armor now shares all the paralles we see between that institution and the Others. We shall now have a look at other types of magic that we have more information on.
Fire, Ice and Blood
With both cold and fire wights, reanimation is possible even when the body is badly mutilated or decayed. The limbs of ice-wights even continue to move and pursue their course of action when cut off from the body. They see through their blue eyes but cannot speak. Headless ice-wights are still capable of attacking and killing their victims. When Ser Alliser Thorne takes Jafer Flowers’ wighted hand to King’s Landing it eventually rots. Presumably, ice-wights benefit from the preservative properties of the cold and from their proximity to the corresponding animating magic. The wounds of ice-wights do not heal when raised but the animating principle is so strong that they can only be deactivated by hacking to pieces or preferably, by burning.
Ice magic preserves memory, which is a good thing and something that an undead Robb Stark will need to retain. He will however also need to communicate, a property we do not see in regular ice-wights raised by the Others. Coldhands is physically similar to the regular ice-wight except that he does speak, and does not have the characteristic blue eyes so his raising probably precluded a spell binding him to the Others.
Though fire-magic heals wounds when the resurrection occurs shortly after death, the same is not true for bodies raised after several days – see Lady Stoneheart. Because fire consumes, Beric loses his memory over time and with every reanimation. Fire-wights also appear to be less resilient than ice-wights. Stabbing and slashing vital body parts or organs will not stop an ice-wight while fire-wights are mortal in this regard. Undead Beric experienced several deaths (by hanging, sword, spear etc.), thus fire-wights will succumb and die just like the living if mortally wounded.
Mirri Maz Duur’s blood ritual seems promising, at least regarding the complete restoration of physical flesh and vital functions. Khal Drogo’s body was in good shape, his wounds healed but with one caveat: he was blind, deaf, insensitive to touch and he had lost his wits, no longer capable of intelligent thinking. Catelyn’s remarks are interesting in this context: “I would gladly butcher every horse in Winterfell with my own hands if it would open Bran’s eyes”. Khal Drogo bathed in the blood of his splendid red stallion sacrificed as part of the gods-wife’s ritual. Perhaps the sacrifice of a horse, a red stallion in particular, is an important ingredient.
A Mermaid’s Magic
Patchface emerged from the sea with his body and vital functions intact. He talks and sings, capers about and compared to Drogo, has only partially lost his wits. Patchface’s miraculous survival is still a mystery but let’s consider what the smallfolk think:
The fisherfolk liked to say a mermaid had taught him to breathe water in return for his seed. aCoK, Prologue
Now this is an awful prospect, but what if a semi-raised Robb Stark would have to copulate with a woman to improve his undead condition? Or a corpse for that matter? Perhaps to revive his breathing capacity as suggested by the fisherfolk? Ramsey’s first Reek enjoyed violating the corpses of women while they were still warm. In fact, the connection between raping a woman and returning from death is in line with the wolf’s head observation and demonstrated by the same event:
Reek disguised as Ramsay is killed by Ser Rodrik’s men shortly after Reek rapes a dead girl. Ramsay who is disguised as Reek is taken as a prisoner to Winterfell. In essence, thre real Reek is killed but “returns to life” in Winterfell.
Since we are talking about Robb Stark’s transformation to Night’s King, well, Night’s King was said to have chased and loved a woman as cold as ice, with eyes like blue stars, his corpse bride.
The King’s Crown
Robb’s crown is worth looking at more closely in this context. Before coming into Lady Stoneheart’s possession we last see it on the head of Ryman Frey’s whore. Jamie inquires who the woman is:
“Lady? I’m no lady. I’m the queen.” “My sister will be surprised to hear that.” “Lord Ryman crowned me his very self.” She gave a shake of her ample hips. “I’m the queen o’ whores.” aFfC, Jamie VI
We never learn her name. Wearing Robb’s crown, she identifies as the queen of whores. Most sex workers in Martin’s world do not have a choice in whom they must service. In times of war, the wives and daughters of commoners and nobles alike suffer rape. Some of the characters relevant to this investigation are infamous for their violation of women. In Ramsay’s case, rape, coupled with the idea of reincarnation go hand in hand. When Jon and Ygritte enjoy each other in the cave beyond the wall, Ygritte wants Jon to repeat what she calls “the lord’s kiss:”
I’m not done with you, Jon Snow.” She pushed him back down on the clothes and straddled him. “Would you …” She hesitated. “What?” he prompted, as the torch began to gutter. “Do it again?” Ygritte blurted. “With your mouth? The lord’s kiss?” aSoS, Jon III
Recall Thoros of Myr resurrecting Beric Dondarrion – he achieves this with prayers and with “the last kiss.” Perhaps the concept of sex as a means to resurrection is not so far-fetched because sex between male and female is essentially an act of procreation. Sex is the first step to creating a new life.
In fact, Daenerys attempts to revive Drogo by just this scenario:
“Remember, Drogo,” she whispered. “Remember our first ride together, the day we wed. Remember the night we made Rhaego, […]
Remember, and come back to me.” The birth had left her too raw and torn to take him inside of her, as she would have wanted, but Doreah had taught her other ways. Dany used her hands, her mouth, her breasts. She raked him with her nails and covered him with kisses and whispered and prayed and told him stories, and by the end she had bathed him with her tears. Yet Drogo did not feel, or speak, or rise. aGoT, Daenerys IX
Despite Dany’s efforts, Drogo remained as he was. Would he have been restored, had she been able to actually have sex with him? If Robb Stark is to be resurrected, then sex could play a role in that ritual. For him to be able, he may have to be partially restored, perhaps more so than Drogo. And perhaps the clue to this is a disquieting dream that Daenerys has much later on:
Beneath her coverlets she tossed and turned, dreaming that Hizdahr was kissing her … but his lips were blue and bruised, and when he thrust himself inside her, his manhood was cold as ice. aDwD, Daenerys VI
Raising the dead is a theme in a Song of Ice and Fire. Perhaps this was more common in the ancient past when magic flowed through the world. The price is high – death pays for life and perhaps an unwilling sex worker, slave or otherwise might be coerced into sleeping with undeath. Tyrion’s eternal question comes to mind: “Where do whores go?” My answer would be “to the darkest depths imaginable.”
A mixture of several kinds of magic will have to be performed for Robb to be restored and truely formidable. Ice magic to ensure physical durability and preservation of memory, fire magic to restore his intellience, his senses, his ability to communicate. Fire and blood magic to heal wounds and make the body whole, sex-magic to fully return his spirit / breath; something along these lines.
Jeyne Westerling’s possible role
This brings us to Jeyne Westerling, Robb’s bride, now a widow grieving for her betrayed husband and king. Jeyne’s mother Sybell stems from the Spicer family. Her grandfather was a merchant, a trader in saffron and pepper. He married a woman from the East, a priestess known as Maegi. She must have had a wide following because half of Lannisport was said to consult her for cures and love-potions. In fact, this Maegi is none other than Maggi the Frog, the witch-woman whose prophecies Cersei has come to fear. She also practiced bloodmagic, as evidenced by telling the future of her clients by tasting a drop of blood from their fingers.
Jeyne’s mother Sybell is proficient in making potions. Though Jeyne thinks her mother brewed her fertility potions to help her conceive a child, it’s clear that Sybell made certain her daughter would not get pregnant (orderd by Lord Tywin). It’s obvious that Sybell learned a thing or two from her maegi grandmother. We have ample evidence of the knowledge and power of a maegi relating directly to the theme of resurrection through Mirri Maz Duur and we must wonder whether similar skills were passed down to Jeyne.
When Jamie calls on the family after sorting out the siege of Riverrun, he finds Jeyne is in tears, her face is puffy, a scar upon her forehead. This is what he learns:
“She would not give up the little crown the rebel gave her, and when I tried to take it from her head the willful child fought me.” “It was mine.” Jeyne sobbed. “You had no right. Robb had it made for me. I loved him.”
aFfC, Jamie VII
Perhaps we have our Night’s Queen right here. Robb’s own bride who fights her mother, refuses to give up the crown he gave her and who may have access to knowledge that might bring Robb back from the brink. The Queen of Whores might not be needed after all.
While I’m certain we have not seen the last of Jeyne Westerling, another Jeyne, Jeyne Poole, is also worth looking at because she does fit into the general symbolism uncovered here. She was also rather fond of Robb, back in Winterfell. She’s one of the characters with a wolf’s head clasp but her association with undeath begins much earlier. Jeyne wants to marry Beric Dondarrion as soon as she first lays eyes on him. She thinks he is as much a hero as Ser Loras, ever so brave and gallant. Sansa is Jeyne’s best friend and knows she is in love with Lord Beric:
Of course, Jeyne had been in love with Lord Beric ever since she had first glimpsed him in the lists. Sansa thought she was being silly; Jeyne was only a steward’s daughter, after all, and no matter how much she mooned after him, Lord Beric would never look at someone so far beneath him, even if she hadn’t been half his age.
Jeyne Poole’s secret love, Beric, is killed and ends up being raised from death, not once, but 6 times. He is also an undead leader of men, the Brotherhood without Banners. He has red-gold hair, similar to Robb, and like Robb, he was also betrothed to someone else, the Lady Allyria Dayne of Starfall. The reader is reminded of Jeyne Poole’s love for Beric several times later in the story. Both Sansa and Arya think of her in connection with Beric. After the massacre of Ned’s household in King’s Landing, Lord Baelish places her in one of his brothels where she is trained as a sex worker, tieing her to the theme of whores discussed above. Then the poor girl is passed off as Arya and married to Ramsay who mistreats and sexually abuses her. Jeyne Poole thus first falls in love with someone who is later raised from death and is then forced to marry a monster who sexually abuses her and who is also associated with the idea of returning from the dead. Like Jeyne Poole, Jeyne Westerling and her family are not considered to have the right social status. Could Jeyne Poole’s fate be informing us on what will eventually transpire with Jeyne Westerling?
Another Jeyne Westerling, wife of the infamous Maegor the Cruel, is a close parallel to the current Jeyne Westerling. Coming from the same family, she was taken as a bride by Maegor and allegedly given a fertility potion by Tyanna of the Tower on the wedding night. Tyanna later confessed to having poisoned Jeyne’s child in the womb. Tyanna is analogous to Sybelle, current Jeyne’s mother here. Maegor I Targaryen was a tyrant, best summed up by the writings of Yandal:
Maegor, the First of His Name, came to the throne after the sudden death of his brother, King Aenys, in the year 42 AC. He is better remembered as Maegor the Cruel, and it was a well-earned sobriquet, for no crueler king ever sat the Iron Throne. His reign began with blood and ended in blood as well.
Horror stories circulated about the Young Wolf before and after his death. The King in the North allegedly led an army of wargs. After the Battle at Oxcross, Robb is said to have cut out Stafford Lannister’s heart and fed it to his direwolf. The Freys claim the Red Wedding was the Young Wolf’s work. He is supposed to have changed into a beast and torn out the throat of Walder Frey’s simple-minded grandson Jinglebell. We do not know what kind of personality the Young Wolf will display upon his return, but if his mother Lady Stoneheart is anything to go by, then we can expect something along similar lines.
Bran’s Vision and the Birth of the Silver Wolf King
There were shadows all around them (his mother, father, Ser Rodrick, Sansa, Arya). One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood. aGoT, Bran III
Bran has a vision of the Hound, Jamie Lannister, and the giant in stone armor – Ser Gregor in his new identity as Robert Strong. The question is, what is the significance of of these three shadows? Let’s first look at the imagery surrounding the gilded skull.
- Gregor Clegane’s skull is gilded and sent to Dorne. Under Tywin Lannister he commanded Lannister troops and led them to battle. The Lannisters have usurped the Iron Throne. Gregor is reanimated, receiving a new identity as Robert Strong.
- the gilded skulls of dead captain-generals of the Golden Company are carried forth, leading soldiers into battle. The Company is backing Aegon Tagaryen, believed to have been killed as a baby by Gregor Clegane. They are currently in Westeros seeking to take the Iron Throne.
- Viserys is crowned and killed with molten gold by Khal Drogo. Viserys exchanged his sister’s hand in marriage in return for the Dothraki army with the aim of taking the Iron Throne. In this scenario it is Khal Drogo who is returned to the living.
Now consider the situation between Walder Frey and Robb Stark. Walder Frey withheld his troops at the beginning of the war, only committing his men and allowing the crossing after negotiating his price – several betrothals including Robb marrying one of his daughters or grand-daughters. So Robb gets to bolster his army as well as cross the river at the Twins. Note that the Dothraki also have a problem crossing a body of water. Robb and his army must cross Walder Frey’s bridge, while the Dothraki must cross the sea they fear if they are to fight to take the Iron Throne. And now we revisit Renly, or rather Renly’s “ghost:”
And do you know who led the vanguard? Do you? Do you? Do you?” “Robb?” It was too much to be hoped, but … “It was Lord Renly! Lord Renly in his green armor, with the fires shimmering off his golden antlers! Lord Renly with his tall spear in his hand! aCoK, Sansa
Dontos, full of excitement, tells Sansa about Renly, allegedly returned from the grave leading the power of Highgarden and Casterly Rock to victory against Stannis. His helm is crowned by the golden head motif, shimmering golden antlers, and Sansa initially hopes it is Robb who leads the vanguard.
The gilded skull is part of a theme revolving around the idea of returning from death to lead an army into battle.
The shadow hound is Sandor Clegane wearing his famous Hound’s Helm. It’s a similar image to Robb Stark wearing the head of his own direwolf after being murdered at the Red Wedding. The Hound too is thought dead but is currently digging graves on the Quiet Isle. His helm finds its way to the beastly Rorge, later killed by Brienne, and then to Lem Lemoncloack. In this way does the Hound live on, through his helm, although he is now associated with death – digging graves on the Quiet Isle.
Then we have Jamie Lannister, armoured like the sun, golden and beautiful. His sword hand will be cut off by a Dothraki, a member of Vargo Hoat’s Brave Companions. A golden hand replacement is later forged for the Kingslayer.
The imagery and parallels speak for themselves once recognized. Bran’s vision focuses on the outward appearance of all three shadows and if we spin this further, the clues help us to figure out the appearance of a raised Robb Stark: analogous to Jamie’s golden hand replacement, Robb Stark’s head shall be replaced by a helm. Not a golden helm, as suggested by the gilded skull and not a hound’s helm, but a silver wolf’s head helm. Following Jamie’s motif of the sun, golden and beautiful, we can expect Robb’s helm to be of the night, of the silvery moon. Silver is also the metal of the North, the preferred metal of currency. And there is this little tit-bit as well:
The armorer (Donal Noye) considered that a moment. “Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he’s copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day.” And what metal is Robb? Jon did not ask. aCoK, Jon I
This conversation between Jon and smith Donal Noye comes after news of Robb’s elevation to King in the North reaches Castle Black. We can answer Jon’s question with confidence! Silver. There’s a great candidate for crafting this wolf helm as well. Gendry, who was apprenticed to become an armorer, has not given up the trade. It is also well known to the reader that he fashioned his own bull’s head helm. Seeing as he remained with the outlaws currently serving Lady Stoneheart, he is also well placed to carry out this task. Arya once suggested Gendry smith for Robb Stark but he preferred to stay with and work for the Brotherhood without Banners. There is also a strong hint that such a direwolf helm will be crafted some day. When Ned Stark calls on Master armorer Tobho Mott in King’s Landing during his investigation of Jon Arryn’s death, the armorer offers to make him just such a helm:
“The direwolf is the sigil of House Stark, is it not? I could fashion a direwolf helm so real that children will run from you in the street,” he vowed. aGoT, Eddard VI
Well, his former apprentice Gendry has proven himself skilled enough for the task.
Symeon of the Starry Eyes
To complete the picture, the helm needs eyes. Robb had blue eyes but there is no access to a pair of new human eyes. This is where two star sapphires come into play. Old Nan’s tales come to mind once again – the tale of Symeon Star-Eyes.
“There was a knight once who couldn’t see,” Bran said stubbornly, as Ser Rodrik went on below. “Old Nan told me about him. He had a long staff with blades at both ends and he could spin it in his hands and chop two men at once.” “Symeon Star-Eyes,” Luwin said as he marked numbers in a book. “When he lost his eyes, he put star sapphires in the empty sockets, or so the singers claim. aGoT, Bran VI
Symeon Star-Eyes lost his eyes and replaced them with sapphires. Incedentally, Tobho Mott wore a sapphire pendant, large as a pigeon’s egg. The legendary Symeon is often mentioned in one breath with Aemon the Dragonknight and I daresay these two find their parallels in Robb Stark (Symeon) and Jon Snow (Aemon). Jon once remarked that Robb is better with a lance, while he himself is the better sword so the double-bladed staff, similar to a lance, is fitting to Robb as well.
Symeon Star-Eyes is also connected to the Nightfort, home to the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch turned Night’s King. At the Nightfort, Symeon saw two hellhounds fighting. There is no more to that tale but it is not too difficult figuring out two hellhounds fighting. Direwolves are hellhounds, we’ve witnessed them fighting in the Crypts of Winterfell for instance (Shaggy and Summer) and they stand in for their owners as well. No doubt this is a reference to the showdown between Brandon the Breaker and Night’s King, two Stark brothers, as Old Nan tells it.
So, this is how all the signs come together. Robb Stark returnes as Night’s Silver Wolf King. And who knows, if he is additionally glamoured, he might even look like a white shadow, an Other!
Glamouring Robb as Ned
Actually, this possibility is hinted at as well. Consider this: Ned Stark’s bones are still missing. I don’t think Barbary Dustin will ever find them to feed to her dogs. Think of Melisandre’s glamouring of Mance Rayder and Rattleshirt, the Lord of Bones. Mance was glamoured to take on Rattleshirt’s appearance. For the illusion to hold true, Mance had to wear Rattleshirt’s armor of bones, crowned with the skull of a giant, no less:
“What sorcery is this?” “Call it what you will. Glamor, seeming, illusion. R’hllor is Lord of Light, Jon Snow, and it is given to his servants to weave with it, as others weave with thread.” Mance Rayder chuckled. “I had my doubts as well, Snow, but why not let her try? It was that, or let Stannis roast me.” “The bones help,” said Melisandre. “The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.” aDwD, Melisandre
Central to this magic is Melisandre’s master ruby, worn at her throat, (think also of Tohbo Motts large sapphire pendant) which has a connection to the slave ruby set in an iron bracelet that Mance has to wear. When Melisandre touches her ruby and speaks a word, the illusion dissolves to reveal Mance Rayder beneath the bone armour:
Melisandre touched the ruby at her neck and spoke a word. […]
The ruby on the wildling’s wrist darkened, and the wisps of light and shadow around him writhed and faded. The bones remained—the rattling ribs, the claws and teeth along his arms and shoulders, the great yellowed collarbone across his shoulders. The broken giant’s skull remained a broken giant’s skull, yellowed and cracked, grinning its stained and savage grin. aDwD, Melisandre
I doubt we’re given this example of glamouring for the sake of of Mance alone. Ned’s skeleton is missing but it is complete. The Silent Sisters prepared Ned’s bones and attached his skull onto his body. This means anyone glamoured with his remains will take on his entire appearance, just as Mance takes on Rattleshirt’s appearance. The closest parallel to the idea of someone glamoured as Ned would be Ser Garlan Tyrell dressed in Renly’s armour to lead the Tyrell/Lannister alliance against Stannis in the Battle of the Blackwater. So perhaps this “ghost” with Ned’s face could be Robb returning with two different faces. It would certainly explain Jon’s dreams of beheading his brother and killing his father:
Whatever demonic force moved Othor had been driven out by the flames; the twisted thing they had found in the ashes had been no more than cooked meat and charred bone. Yet in his nightmare he faced it again … and this time the burning corpse wore Lord Eddard’s features. It was his father’s skin that burst and blackened, his father’s eyes that ran liquid down his cheeks like jellied tears. Jon did not understand why that should be or what it might mean, but it frightened him more than he could say. aGoT, Jon VII
Enmity between Brothers
If Robb really returns to life as a Night’s King figure, Jon Snow will have to face and fight against his half-brother sooner or later. Examples of enmity and feuds between brothers abound in the narrative. There’s no love lost between the Hound and the Mountain that Rides. Bloodraven and his half-brother Bittersteel hated each other. Prince Aemond Tragaryen and his half-brother Lucerys Velaryon fought each other on dragonback. Lucerys was slain, his body never found. Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk Cargyll were twins and members of the Kingsguard who chose opposing sides during the Dance of the Dragons. They fought a duel to the death even though they loved each other as some believe. Ancient Night’s King was finally brought down by his brother, Brandon the Breaker. Jon Snow beheads his brother Robb in dreams and has been forced to slay his own black brother, Qhorin Halfhand – a sacrifice deemed necessary by Qhorin himself to allow Jon to infiltrate the wildlings to gather information on their mission. Killing the Halfhand was awful for Jon. Having to eliminate his brother Robb will be exceedingly bitter for Jon Snow
Silver Wolf King, Leader of the Others?
The three shadow figures in Bran’s vision are / were all members of the Kingsguard. Jamie is the current Lord Commander. Think again of the very consistent parallels between the Others and the Kingsguard in the narrative. I believe the mirroring goes further than the obvious parallels we notice in the books. Members of the Kingsguard are not always honourable and do not always keep their vows. Many have broken their oaths. Some like Ser Barristan Selmy, Ser Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower have a spotless reputation and are chivalrous knights who keep their vows. Others are dishonourable, such as Ser Mandon Moore, Boros Blount, the Kettleblacks and yes, the three shadows above. Jamie is the Kingslayer, a white cloak who killed his king. The Hound was never a knight but raised to the honor. He deserted his post at the Battle of the Blackwater and left the Kingsguard. Gregor Clegane was an anointed knight who committed atrocious crimes before his undeath and appointment to serve as a kingsguard. All have broken their knightly vows a some point in the story. Robb also broke his word to Walder Frey.
The above picture suggests there might be three factions of Others or Others led by 3 different factions or characters in the story. And why would Others not be akin to humans in respect of their personality and preferences? Why would they not choose to follow different paths? I posit we will see three factions, to be led by three different men in the wars to come: Euron Greyjoy, Robb Stark, Jon Snow. We should also ask ourselves if there are other “Others” out there. Others is a collective word and in the context of the story, anything that is alien to human life can be described as such. Even the children of the forest and the giants are “others” in this context. The White Walkers could simply represent one particular kind or species of Other.
There are numerous stories and legends about merling-type creatures for instance. Selkies, mermaids and squishers, Deep Ones. The priests of the Drowned God claim the Ironborn are a race apart from common mankind, that they came from beneath the seas, from the watery halls of the Drowned God. On the Three Sister Islands, people are born with webbed hands even today. Lord Celtigar is said to own a horn that can summon krakens from the deeps. The Grey King married a mermaid and there are tales of selkies being driven back into the sea, as well as of invaders from the sea.
From the Forsaken chapter of the Winds of Winter, it is clear that Euron Greyjoy is heavily involved in diabolical magic. Who knows what he might summon that will qualify as “Other”? The idea is in line with his identity as an Iron Islander and man of the sea. The reavers of the Ironborn have also been called ‘wolves of the sea;’ Symeon Star-Eyes two fighting hellhounds could also be a pointer to a battle between these ‘wolves of the sea’ and ‘wolves of the land.’ Robb Stark has a bone to pick with Theon Greyjoy and with the Ironborn at large. His main priority after Edmure’s wedding was dealing with the Ironborn in the North. Perhaps he will continue where he left off. Though the evidence is mainly circumstantial, I’m fairly confident that the Silver Wolf King will be instrumental in dealing with Euron Greyjoy. Look out for invaders from the sea!
Robb Stark and his direwolf Grey Wind both perished at the Twins. Were the direwolves of the ancient kings of winter slain to accompany their masters into the afterlife? In many cultures, servants, slaves, animals and even wives were slain to accompany their kingly husbands to the underworld. In the context of warging and skinchanging as we understand it, when man and direwolf die together there can be no second life for the man within the wolf. Unlike the Kings of Winter whose spirits are contained within their tombs by the power of their iron swords, Robb’s spirit is possibly free to wander and available for resurrection. Perhaps this is the point behind keeping the spirits of the Kings of Winter locked up – to prevent reanimation or to reanimate by releasing the spirit when necessary. The direwolves in the crypts sit at feet of the stone kings of winter. Robb’s direwolf’s head adorns his own shoulders. This is the very image of canine-headed Egyptian Anubis, god of death, the afterlife and the underworld.
Wolves are nocturnal predators. They are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk and primarily hunt at night. To this end they have well developed night-vision plus a great sense of smell and of hearing. They are social animals, mainly living in packs consisting of a mated pair and their offspring. Most other activity also takes place during the night. It is the time when they mate and defend their territory. The eyes of wolves glow at night. This is due to a layer of tissue in the eyes called the tapetum lucidum which reflects visible light back through the retina and is the attribute that gives them superior night-vision. Wolves are often associated with danger and destruction because of their predatory nature but they are also depicted as noble and loyal in folklore.
A number of these properties link the Stark direwolves to the White Walkers – nocturnal activities, hunting prey at night, the glowing eyes and night vision, dangerous and destructive and mayhaps even the issue of territory. The Others leading an army of the undead is akin to a shepherd herding sheep (when the undead are not in fighting mode) but also to an alpha-wolf leading a pack (when the undead are unleashed to attack). And I suspect this is the idea behind the direwolves. The Others are made of ice and exist in the cold beyond the Wall. They seem not to be around all the time and as such cannot be compared to the dragons of Valyria who lived side by side with their human counterparts. GRRM has solved this problem by using the wolves as proxys to the Others. The direwolves likely represent White Walkers of the past associated with the Starks and as suggested by the kingsguard brotherhood, their original function may well have been one of protection. The White Walkers have a language and appear to be sentient thinking beings. The original white walkers may have even sworn an oath to defend the Starks. But as we’ve seen with the kingsguard and with Robb Stark, vows are not always kept and so it may be with the Others. As Ser Kevan remarked:
“When a dog goes bad, the fault lies with his master.”
Think of it this way: Jamie (the dog) went ‘bad’ because his master Aerys was a murderous King who committed all manner of atrocities and intended to burn King’s Landing and its entire population to the ground. Jamie was forced to choose between his oath and his master. Gregor Clegane, Tywin Lannister’s personal dog, burned, raped and killed in a particularly brutal manner on his masters order’s. Little did Tywin care about chivalry or a knight’s sworn vows and his ‘dog’ acted accordingly. In a twist to the theme of the “dog going bad,” a “bad dog or wolf” may actually end up saving the day.
With Nymeria and her pack of wolves terrorizing the Riverlands, Night’s King Robb Stark could have a great army of wolves at his disposal. Will he also command a faction of the Others, as well as have the power to raise the dead? And will he be presented to the reader with two different faces – that of the vengeful Silver Wolf King and later that of his honorable father Ned Stark?
Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper? Yes, I’m referring to the splitting of the Stark ancestral sword Ice here. Robb will be the rightful Lord of Winterfell, should he return to life, and by rights, those two swords belong to him.
At the Red Wedding, as the greviously wounded Robb Stark struggles to rise, Lord Walder has a last quip for the King in the North:
“Heh,” Lord Walder cackled at Robb, “the King in the North arises. Seems we killed some of your men, Your Grace. Oh, but I’ll make you an apology, that will mend them all again, heh.” aSoS, Catelyn VI
Little does Lord Walder envision the truth of this.
What did Old Nan say about Night’s King?
A woman was his downfall.
This holds true for Robb Stark too!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Please feel free to comment!
Wolf King (title image) by adrianriom on deviantart.com: https://www.deviantart.com/adrianriom
(reduced in size to fit the title image slot)
Wolf’s head by Doc_Oscar: https://pixabay.com/users/doc_oscar-13687495/
Moonlit Graveyard by cocoparisienne: https://pixabay.com/photos/moonlight-night-horror-full-moon-703553/
Wolf howling at the starry sky: https://pixabay.com/photos/galaxy-night-mystical-starry-sky-4633314/
Fire and Ice by jojoesart on deviantart.com: https://www.deviantart.com/jojoesart