Lyanna Stark

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Lyanna Stark
House Stark.PNG
House Stark.PNG
Lyanna stark by dreambeing.jpg
Lyanna Stark by Dreambeing ©

Alias The She-Wolf
Allegiance House Stark
Culture Northmen
Born In 267 AC
Died In 283 AC, at Tower of Joy
Book(s) A Game of Thrones (Mentioned)
A Clash of Kings (Mentioned)
A Storm of Swords (Mentioned)
A Dance with Dragons (Mentioned)

Lyanna Stark was the younger sister of Lord Eddard Stark and was betrothed to Ned's childhood friend, Robert Baratheon. Her abduction by Rhaegar Targaryen was the event that ultimately triggered Robert's Rebellion and led to the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty.

Appearance and Character

See also: Images of Lyanna Stark

Lyanna is described by all who knew her as beautiful, with the dark hair, grey eyes and long face that characterize the Starks.[1] Ned refers to her, like their brother Brandon, as "wolf-blooded" - headstrong, willful, courageous and hot-tempered. He goes on to compare her to his tomboyish daughter Arya in both appearance and personality, adding that Lyanna probably would have carried a sword if their father had allowed it. She is noted to have been an extremely skilled rider.[2] Lyanna was very fond of the blue winter roses that grew at Winterfell.[3]

Lyanna rode horses like a northman. Harwin compares her riding skills to those of Arya Stark.[4] Barbrey Dustin reports that both Brandon and Lyanna loved to ride. She compares them to a "pair of centaurs".[5] Roose Bolton claims that Lyanna was "half a horse herself", probably meaning a centaur, however, he also claims that his son, Domeric Bolton, could out-race her.[6]

Robert was deeply infatuated with Lyanna and remains very much in love with her memory over a decade after her death, to the point of causing major strain in his marriage to Cersei Lannister.[7][8] Ned, however, points out that Robert never really knew Lyanna very well, and suggests that they might not have gotten along as well as Robert imagines; while Robert believes Lyanna would never have publicly opposed him the way Cersei does, Ned says that Robert saw only Lyanna's beauty, and never recognized her boldness and strength of will.[9] Lyanna may have been considerably less enthusiastic about the marriage than Robert was, as she commented to Ned at that Robert's love for her would not prevent him from being unfaithful after their marriage.[10]

Arya Stark resembles Lyanna in appearance, according to Eddard Stark.[2] Margaery Tyrell is also said to resemble Lyanna. While in King's Landing, Renly Baratheon had Eddard examine a miniature portrait of Margaery, painted in the style of Myr. He wanted him to confirm the supposed resemblance, but Eddard failed to see a connection between the two women.[11] Kevan Lannister recalls Lyanna having a "wild beauty" about her. But her looks paled in comparison to a young Cersei Lannister: "however bright a torch might burn it could never match the rising sun."[12]


Lyanna, her brother, and Rhaegar by M.Luisa Giliberti ©
Lyanna, wearing a crown of blue winter roses – by Enife ©

Early life

When Bran Stark has visions through the heart tree of Winterfell, a scene seems to involve a girl looking like Arya. Two children are seen duelling with broken branches, using them as swords. The girl is older and taller than the boy. She defeats the boy, slashing him across the thigh. The boy loses his balance and falls into the pool. He starts splashing and shouting. The girl warns him to be quiet, or Old Nan will hear him and notify their father. She then kneels and pulls her younger brother from the pool. The scene shifts to another vision before Bran has a chance to see more of the two children.[13] It is implied that the girl is Lyanna and the boy is her younger brother, Benjen Stark.[14]

Lyanna was at Winterfell when her father promised her hand to Robert Baratheon. That same night she confided to Eddard concerning her opinion of Robert: that the man will never keep to one bed. She had heard that Robert had an illegitimate daughter in the Vale of Arryn, apparently Mya Stone. Eddard attempted to persuade her that what Robert did before the betrothal was insignificant and that Robert would change. She was not convinced.[10]


Lyanna was present at the Tourney at Harrenhal. There she found Howland Reed being bullied by three young squires, none older than fifteen-years-old. She roared "That's my father's man you're kicking" and attacked them with a tourney sword. The bullies scattered and Lyanna "the she-wolf" took the injured man back to her "lair," probably a tent. She cleaned his wounds and bound them with linen. Then she introduced the guest to her brothers Brandon Stark ("the wild wolf"), Eddard Stark ("the quiet wolf"), and Benjen Stark ("the pup").

That evening, Lyanna persuaded Reed to attend the feast marking the start of the tournament. She insisted that he was highborn and had as much right to attend as anyone. The "wolf maid" was not easy to refuse. Benjen found a suitable garb for Reed. Within Harrenhal, Reed ate and drank with the Starks. During the feast Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, a noted musician, performed a sad and beautiful song that made Lyanna weep; when Benjen teased her for crying, she poured wine over his head.[15]

During the feast, Lyanna recognized the three bullying squires. One serving a pitchfork knight (House Haigh), one serving a porcupine (House Blount), and the last boy serving a knight of two towers (House Frey). She pointed them out to her brothers. Benjen volunteered to find armor for Reed, in case the crannogman wished to challenge them. Reed slept in the tent of Eddard that night. During the first two days of the tournament, the porcupine knight, pitchfork knight, and the knight of the two towers each won a place among the champions. But then the Knight of the Laughing Tree challenged and defeated all three of them, winning custody over their horses and armor. When the defeated trio sought to ransom back their former property, the Knight declared his terms: that they ought to teach their squires honor. The trio proceeded to chastise their squires sharply.[15] It is uncertain whether Reed, Lyanna, or one of the other Starks hid behind the mask of the Knight.[14]

The Knight attracted unwanted attention. Robert Baratheon and Richard Lonmouth were determined to unmask him, while Aerys II Targaryen was certain that the man was his enemy. By the next morning, the Knight disappeared. An angry Aerys sent Rhaegar to search for the vanished Knight, but only the shield of the Knight could be found.[15] Rhaegar went on to win the tournament and shocked all present by passing over his wife to crown Lyanna, then already betrothed to Robert Baratheon, as queen of love and beauty. According to the recollections of Eddard Stark, that day Rhaegar managed to unseat Brandon Stark, Yohn Royce, Arthur Dayne, and Barristan Selmy. Robert Baratheon was among the spectators, jesting with Jon Arryn and Eon Hunter. Then the victorious Rhaegar urged his horse past Elia Martell, laying the blue winter rose laurel of the queen of beauty in Lyanna's lap. At that moment "all the smiles died".[3] Selmy blames himself for failing to defeat Rhaegar that day, for then he would have had a chance to crown his own lady love: Ashara Dayne.[16]

Disappearance and consequences

Lyanna by eliafernandez©

At some time after the tournament, Lyanna was kidnapped by Rhaegar with the help of Arthur Dayne and Oswell Whent.[17] The story (as told by Robert Baratheon) goes that Rhaegar carried her off and raped her.[18] Barristan Selmy is convinced that "Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna," though that love sent thousands to their respective deaths.[16] According to Viserys Targaryen, Rhaegar was simply not happy with his marriage. If Rhaegar was happy with Elia, he would not have needed Lyanna. He once blamed their sister Daenerys Targaryen for being born too late to marry Rhaegar. A happily married Rhaegar would need neither Elia nor Lyanna. Daenerys countered that, by the same logic, it was the fault of Viserys that he was not a girl, because then he would be the sister destined for Rhaegar. Viserys beat her cruelly for her insolence.[19] Cersei Lannister, who was infatuated with Rhaegar, believes that the madness led King Aerys to deny Lord Tywin's proposal of marriage between her and the crown prince; Cersei thinks that if she herself had only married Rhaegar as the gods had intended, he would have been satisfied in his queen and never have looked twice at the "wolf girl".[20]

Lyanna Stark by riavel ©

Her eldest brother Brandon Stark was on his way to Riverrun when the news of his sister's disappearance reached him, and instead he went straight to King's Landing. Entering the Red Keep with a few companions (Ethan Glover, Jeffory Mallister, Kyle Royce, Elbert Arryn), he roared for Rhaegar "to come out and die." But Rhaegar wasn't there. King Aerys had Brandon and his companions arrested, accusing them of plotting murder and charged them with treason. Aerys summoned their fathers to court, supposedly to answer the charge against their sons. When they presented themselves, Aerys decided to kill them all, fathers and sons together. Brandon and Lyanna's father, Lord Rickard Stark, demanded a trial by combat, and the king granted him the request. Lord Stark was allowed to armor himself for battle but was then suspended from the rafters over a blazing fire, Aerys choosing "fire" as his champion. He had Brandon watch as Rickard slowly roasted, the young son attached to a device which tightened a cord around his neck whenever he moved. Trying to reach for his longsword and rescue his father, Brandon strangled himself. They died with no real trial.This was a primary impetus for Robert's Rebellion. Aerys next demanded the heads of Robert and Eddard. They were both wards of Jon Arryn, the Lord of the Eyrie having pledged to protect them. Arryn responded to Aerys by raising his banners in revolt.[21][22]

During the war, Lyanna's fiancé Robert and brother Eddard were important leaders, together with Jon Arryn, who had been their foster father. Rhaegar spent much of the war at the Tower of Joy with Lyanna. He left to join the war effort when Aerys sent Gerold Hightower to find him. Rhaegar left Gerold with Arthur and Oswell to guard Lyanna. The decisive battle of the war came at the Trident, where Robert slew Rhaegar in single combat and the rebels defeated the royal army.[7] According to the stories of Viserys Targaryen, Rhaegar had fought and died for "the woman he loved."[23] Daenerys Targaryen believes in that version of the story.[24] One of the visions Daenerys sees in the House of the Undying, seems to depict the last moments of Rhaegar. Rubies are flying from his chest like drops of blood. Then his knees sink into the water. He whispers Lyanna's name with his last breath.[25][17]

Following the Battle of the Trident, the remnants of Rhaegar's army retreated toward King's Landing. Robert was wounded and unable to pursue them, but he entrusted Eddard with the pursuit. Eddard expected to find the city gates closed, with Aerys II and several thousand Targaryen loyalists leading the defense. He reached the city just after the Sack of King's Landing by the forces of House Lannister. For most of the rebellion, the Lannisters had remained neutral, ignoring calls to arms by both the rebels and the loyalists. Then Tywin Lannister and 12,000 of his soldiers reached the capital. Aerys opened the gates to them, mistaking them for allied reinforcements. Instead they were there to sack the city and join the rebels.Pycelle had managed to convince Aerys II to open the gates. The King did so, unaware that Pycelle himself was only loyal to Tywin. Aerys ignored the warnings of Varys to not trust Lord Tywin.[1][26]

Aerys II had one last plan: the Wildfire Plot, a way to burn the capital, leaving for Robert only ashes, charred bones, and cooked meat. He commanded Rossart, the Hand of the King, to activate the plan, making certain to take the Lannister forces with him to his funeral pyre. Meanwhile, he gave Jaime Lannister orders to decapitate Tywin and bring the head to him. Jaime instead killed Rossart and then attacked Aerys himself, killing him. Elys Westerling and Roland Crakehall then entered the throne room, finding Jaime with the corpse. At about the same time, Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch were scaling the walls of Maegor's Holdfast as Eddard Stark was leading his own forces through the city gates. When Eddard entered the throne room, he found Jaime seated on the Iron Throne.[27][26]

Death and burial

‎Promise me Ned - by Asiulus ©

After these events, Ned rode south to the Stormlands to lift the siege of Storm's End. The Lords Tyrell and Redwyne bent the knee, and swore fealty to Robert. He then rode to the Tower of Joy in the mountains of Dorne with his six companions (Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull, Ethan Glover, Mark Ryswell, Howland Reed and Willam Dustin), and found the three remaining loyalist members of the Kingsguard - Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent, and Ser Gerold Hightower - guarding it. Only Ned and his bannerman Howland Reed survived the ensuing battle. Ned found Lyanna inside the tower in a "bed of blood", dying. When Eddard recalls the conflict in a dream, there is an additional detail. While the combatants clash, Lyanna screams. The dream then switches to a storm of blue rose petals, blowing across a blood-streaked sky. It is uncertain if these details are accurate memories.[28]

Lyanna died in a room that smelled of "blood and roses". A fever had taken her strength. Her voice had been faint as a whisper. There was fear in her eyes, while she called for "Ned" to promise her something. When her brother gave his word, the fear left her. She smiled, and her fingers clutched his own in a tight grip. They were still holding each other as she "gave up her hold on life". Rose petals slipped from her palm, dead and black. Later, Howland Reed found Eddard still holding the corpse. Howland managed to separate the hands of the living man and the dying girl, though Eddard had no recollection of what happened after Lyanna died.[7] Shortly before her death, Lyanna extracted a promise from Ned.[10] Neither the content of the promise nor the cause of her death are currently known. Her final words were a phrase that would haunt her brother for the rest of his life:

Promise me, Ned.[7]

Ned and Robert visiting Lyanna’s tomb - by Pojypojy ©

Lyanna was only sixteen years-old at the time of her death.[8] Her tomb lies in the crypts of Winterfell, beside that of Rickard Stark. At the other side of Rickard's tomb stands the tomb of Brandon Stark. A statue of Lyanna has been carved in the stone of her tomb, though Robert Baratheon claimed that the stonemason failed to capture her beauty. Eddard claims that Lyanna herself asked him to return her to Winterfell. He reports bringing flowers to her tomb whenever he can, as his sister was fond of flowers.[7] Bran Stark notes that only the kings and lords of Winterfell are supposed to have statues in their likeness, not their family members. But Eddard wished to honor his beloved siblings.[18] Barbrey Ryswell informs Theon that the tomb is not a cenotaph (empty tomb). Eddard actually transported the bones of Lyanna all the way from Dorne.[5]

Named after Lyanna

The war galley Lady Lyanna has been named in honor of Lyanna Stark. King Robert named the galley in honor of the maid he had loved and lost. Davos Seaworth considers it a beautiful ship, likely its "beauty" inspiring the name.[29][30]

Lyanna Mormont, youngest daughter of Maege Mormont, is named after Lyanna Stark. Stannis Baratheon feels this was a transparent attempt to win the favor of Eddard Stark.[31]

Appearance in nightmares

Eddard Stark has a nightmare involving Lyanna and her statue. In the dream, Eddard walks through the crypts of Winterfell. He can hear the statue of Lyanna whispering: "Promise me, Ned". He notices the statue wearing a garland of pale blue roses, while her eyes weep blood. Eddard immediately wakes with his heart racing.[32]

Theon Greyjoy has a nightmare involving a feast of the dead at Winterfell. Many of the dead men and women attending are people that Theon knew personally or were slain by his own hand and/or command. But he also notices faces that he had never known in life. Among them is Lyanna: a slim, sad girl wearing a crown of pale blue roses and a white gown splattered with blood. Brandon Stark stood beside her, their father Rickard just behind them. Theon wakes up screaming when Robb Stark and Grey Wind, both bleeding, join the feast.[33]

Quotes by Lyanna

Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man's nature.[10]

Quotes about Lyanna

Beautiful, and willful, and dead before her time.[2]

Eddard Stark

You ride like a northman, milady. Your aunt was the same. Lady Lyanna.[4]

Harwin to Arya Stark

The boy was mad for horses, Lady Dustin will tell you. Not even Lord Rickard's daughter could outrace him, and that one was half a horse herself. [6]

Roose Bolton, comparing his son to Lyanna.

You never knew Lyanna as I did, Robert. You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath.[9]

Ned Stark

She was more beautiful than that. Ah, damn it, Ned, did you have to bury her in a place like this? She deserved more than darkness . . .[7]

Robert Baratheon

Eddard: A thousand other women might have loved him with all their hearts. What did he do to make you hate him so? Cersei: The night of our wedding feast, the first time we shared a bed, he called me by your sister’s name. He was on top of me, in me, stinking of wine, and he whispered Lyanna.[34]

Cersei Lannister


Jon Snow

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  3. 3.0 3.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 58, Eddard XV.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 17, Arya III.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard I.
  8. 8.0 8.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 8, Bran II.
  9. 9.0 9.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 35, Eddard IX.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 27, Eddard VI.
  12. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  13. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Beyond the Wall, Chapter: "History on a Personal Scale" Commenting on the uncertainties of the text in the novels: "Even what appear to be straightforward elements of backstory turn out to be more complex, more shrouded in doubt, than they first appear. ... We have also seen through the heart tree that Lyanna Stark was a skilled swordswoman, capable of besting her younger brother - the future First Ranger of the Night's Watch and a very capable soldier - in mock combat. This fuels speculation that Lyanna was the mysterious Knight of the Laughing Tree ... and gives another reason for why she and Rhaegar may have met and developed a connection."
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 24, Bran II.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Rhaegar Targaryen" entry in A World of Ice and Fire
  18. 18.0 18.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 42, Daenerys IV.
  20. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 24, Cersei V.
  21. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 55, Catelyn VII.
  22. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  23. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  24. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 64, Daenerys VIII.
  25. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 48, Daenerys IV.
  26. 26.0 26.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  27. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.
  28. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 39, Eddard X.
  29. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 41, Tyrion IX.
  30. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 58, Davos III.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  32. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard XIII.
  33. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 56, Theon V.
  34. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.