House Bolton

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House Bolton of the Dreadfort
Coat of arms A red flayed man on pink de sang
Words Our Blades are Sharp
Seat The Dreadfort
Current Lord Roose Bolton
Region The North
Title Red King (Age of Heroes)
Lord of the Dreadfort
Warden of the North
Heir Ramsay Bolton
Overlord House Baratheon of King's Landing
Founded Age of Heroes

House Bolton of the Dreadfort is an old line descended from the First Men and dating back to the Age of Heroes. Their sigil is a flayed man, red on pink.[1][2] Their seat is the Dreadfort and they are one of the most powerful houses of the North. The Boltons are known for their practice of flaying their enemies.

According to George R. R. Martin, their words are "Our blades are sharp," while a common saying among the Boltons is "A flayed man holds no secrets."


Roose Bolton, the current Lord of the Dreadfort - by Sardag ©

The Boltons are an ancient and powerful house of the North who once ruled as Red Kings from the Dreadfort. Their land reached from the Last River and the White Knife to the Sheepshead Hills.[3] It has been suggested that the legendary Night's King was a Bolton.[4]

Since the Long Night the Red Kings were bitter rivals of the Kings of Winter, the Starks of Winterfell. The Boltons achieved some successes against the Starks, with Kings Royce II and Royce IV burning Winterfell.[5] The Boltons are said to have flayed the skins of several Stark lords and hung them in the Dreadfort. According to rumor, some Bolton lords wore the flayed skins of their enemies—including Starks, such as the son of Bael[6]—as cloaks. This practice has given the Boltons a sinister reputation. The last Red King, Rogar the Huntsman, submitted to Winterfell when the Andal invasion of Westeros was also beginning. King Theon Stark, the Hungry Wolf, and the Boltons defeated Argos Sevenstar and his Andals in the Battle of the Weeping Water.[3]

Thousands of years ago,[7] the Dreadfort rose in an unsuccessful rebellion with the Greystarks of the Wolf's Den against the Starks. The Boltons survived the rebellion, although the Greystarks did not.[8]

The Chronicles of Longsister state that during the Rape of the Three Sisters by the Kings of Winter, which occurred two thousand years ago,[9] Belthasar Bolton had a Pink Pavilion made from the the flayed skins of a hundred Sistermen.[10]

The Boltons threatened Winterfell during the reign of King Edrick Snowbeard.[11] At some point unspecified centuries ago, the Boltons rebelled against the Starks. The Stark armies besieged the Dreadfort for two years before the Boltons capitulated to King Harlon Stark and dipped their banners once more.[12]

Approximately a thousand years ago, the Boltons bent their knees to Winterfell and agreed to abandon their practice of flaying their enemies.[13] Also a thousand years ago, Karlon Stark built a castle on land taken from a rebel lord;[14] it is possible this land of House Karstark was taken from the Boltons. For many centuries the Boltons have remained loyal to the Starks, although rumors persist that they continue to flay their prisoners in secret and maintain a hidden chamber in the Dreadfort to display the skins of their enemies.[15]

When Lord Eddard Stark called the banners of the North to fight in Robert's Rebellion, Lord Roose Bolton took up arms, fighting in the Battle of the Trident. Afterward, he counseled that Lord Robert Baratheon should slash the throat of the legendary Kingsguard knight Ser Barristan Selmy, but Robert sent for his maesters instead.

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

After the arrest of Eddard Stark in King's Landing, Lord Roose Bolton responds to Robb Stark's calling of the banners to Winterfell. A Bolton man knifes a Cerywn man at the Smoking Log in the winter town outside the castle. Roose and Robett Glover demand a command. When the northern host splits at the Twins, Bolton receives his wish, commanding an army of mostly infantry to engage Lord Tywin Lannister. Forcing a march, Roose hopes to catch Tywin unawares, but is forced to retreat at the Battle of the Green Fork. Reforming his army at the mouth of the causeway, he begins to harass Lannister supply lines.

A Clash of Kings

Roose marries Walda Frey at the Twins and takes the ruby ford and the crossroads. Following orders from Ser Edmure Tully, Roose and Ser Helman Tallhart march on Harrenhal. Bolton is able to seize the fortress by making a deal with the Brave Companions sellsword company within, and is aided by Arya Stark and Jaqen H'ghar. At Harrenhal, Roose unwittingly takes the incognito Arya as his cupbearer. After learning that the Greyjoys have taken much of the North and of the Lannister-Tyrell victory at the Battle of the Blackwater, Lord Roose sends Helman and Robett Glover to attack Duskendale in Robb's name.[16]

Meanwhile, Roose's bastard son, Ramsay Snow, marries and kills Lady Donella Hornwood, taking the Hornwood lands for himself. He then leads the Dreadfort men in betraying the northmen under Ser Rodrik Cassel, burning Winterfell and capturing or slaughtering all within.[17]

A Storm of Swords

Bolton bannermen - by Amok ©

The northern army sent by Roose into the Crownlands is crushed in the Battle of Duskendale.[18]

When Ser Jaime Lannister is captured by the Brave Companions, Roose allows him to go on his way if he agrees to place all blame for the loss of his hand on the Brave Companions. Roose sends his captain Steelshanks Walton with 200 men to secure Jaime's passage.

The same day that Jaime leaves Harrenhal, Roose rides north to attend the wedding of Edmure Tully at the Twins. He watches as his rearguard under Ser Wylis Manderly is chewed up by Ser Gregor Clegane at the Battle of the Ruby Ford. He leaves six hundred men under the command of Ser Kyle Condon and Ronnel Stout to guard the Trident. Roose arrives at the Twins with three thousand foot and five hundred horse, most of which are Bolton or Karstark men.

Roose's actions culminate with his personal killing of his king, Robb Stark, in the Red Wedding, which he planned with Lord Walder Frey with the approval of Lord Tywin Lannister.[19] House Bolton usurps House Stark, with Roose being named the new Warden of the North by the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, Ramsay Snow is granted a royal writ of legitimacy by King Tommen Baratheon, becoming Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay has been amusing himself with the torture of the captive Theon Greyjoy.

A Dance with Dragons

The Boltons' authority is contested by Stannis Baratheon and several northern lords, and is begrudged by nearly all others. Lord Roose's strongest supporters are his relatives of House Dustin and House Ryswell.

Roose's horse marches north along with 2,000 men from the Twins. His passage is secured thanks to the forced efforts of Theon Greyjoy, whose will has been broken by Ramsay. At the Siege of Moat Cailin, Theon is able to convince the ironborn garrison there to surrender, and Ramsay has them flayed alive. In the North, Roose instructs Ramsay to behave more discreetly, and arranges the marriage of Ramsay to "Arya Stark", who is actually Jeyne Poole, in order to secure dynastic legitimacy.

The Bolton-Frey army quarters in Winterfell as the autumn snows fall, awaiting the assault of King Stannis. While there, Roose must deal with high tensions between the different factions, particularly between the Freys and Lord Wyman Manderly. Theon manages to escape with Jeyne Poole, much to Ramsay's chagrin. According to a letter purportedly sent from Ramsay to Jon Snow, the Boltons have smashed Stannis's army.

House Bolton at the end of the third century

The known Boltons during the timespan of the events described in A Song of Ice and Fire are:

Bethany Ryswell
"Fat" Walda Frey
Ramsay Snow
"Arya Stark"


House Bolton men lead a group of shackled prisoners to Harrenhal – by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games
The Bastard's Elite. © FFG

Historical Members

Sworn Houses

After Roose Bolton is raised to Warden of the North several houses swear fealty to their new overlord, not all willingly.


It is not happenstance that they put a flayed man on their banners.[20]
- Jon Snow to Stannis Baratheon

The Boltons have always been as cruel as they were cunning, but this one seems a beast in human skin.[8]
- Robett Glover

What did any Bolton ever know o’ honor?
- the Lazy Eel's proprietor

Let me bathe in Bolton blood before I die. I want to feel it spatter across my face when my axe bites deep into a Bolton skull. I want to lick it off my lips and die with the taste of it on my tongue.[21]

- Hugo Wull

References and Notes

  1. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  2. The Citadel. Heraldry: the North
  3. 3.0 3.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Kings of Winter.
  4. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
  5. The World of Ice and Fire.
  6. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon VI.
  7. According to A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, the Greystarks ruled the Wolf's Den before the wars between Winterfell and the Vale. This warfare began because of the Rape of the Three Sisters, which occurred two thousand years ago according to A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9.
  8. 8.0 8.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos IV.
  9. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
  10. The World of Ice and Fire, The Vale.
  11. The World of Ice and Fire, Winterfell.
  12. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.
  13. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon IV.
  14. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn III.
  15. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI, p 575.
  16. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 64, Arya X.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 19, Tyrion III.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Epilogue.
  20. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  21. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 42, The King's Prize.

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