House Stark

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House Stark of Winterfell
House Stark.PNG
Words "Winter is Coming"
Seat None, scattered (formerly Winterfell)
Region The North
Title Warden of the North
Lord of Winterfell
King in the North
Overlord None; sovereign (disputed by House Baratheon of King's Landing)
Cadet Branch House Greystark
House Karstark
Ancestral Weapon Valyrian steel sword Ice
Founder Likely Bran the Builder
Founded Age of Heroes

House Stark of Winterfell is one of the Great Houses of Westeros and the principal noble house of The North; many lesser houses are sworn to them. In days of old they ruled as Kings of Winter; since the Targaryen Conquest they have been Wardens of the North. Their seat, Winterfell, is an ancient castle renowned for its strength. Their sigil is a grey direwolf racing across a field of white, and their words are "Winter Is Coming," one of only a few house mottoes to be a warning rather than a boast. [1] Members of the family tend to be lean of build and long of face, with dark brown hair and grey eyes. Several of the main point of view characters of the series are members of this house.


The Starks are an ancient house, descended from Bran the Builder, a legendary figure from the Age of Heroes, who raised their ancestral home at Winterfell thousands of years in the past, as well as the Wall. They are descendants of the First Men[1] and still follow some of their ancient traditions and the Old Gods of the forest. The Starks were Kings of Winter in the North for many thousands of years from the Age of Heroes, possibly beginning with Bran the Builder. Ever since Bran constructed the Wall, the Starks have been friends of the Night's Watch, and have manned the Wall for thousands of years. The Night's King, the attainted 13th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, is said to have been a Stark, among his many possible origins. The Starks also helped repel several major wildling invasions, such as when they and their Umber bannermen defeated the Kings-Beyond-the-Wall like the brothers Gendel and Gorne, as well as Bael the Bard, who both sired and fought a Stark.

For several millennia, the Starks were not the uncontested Kings of the North, but their primary antagonists the Boltons of the Dreadfort swore fealty some 1,000 years ago, ending their flesh-flaying ways. Meanwhile King Jon Stark drove pirates from the White Knife, and the Wolf's Den was built at its mouth. This stronghold and the city which grew up around it (White Harbor) was often granted to sons and grandsons of the King in the North or other bannermen before finally being granted to the Manderlys, a house exiled from the Reach and taken in by the Starks. King Jon's son Rickard defeated the Marsh King and married his daughter, bringing the Neck into Winterfell's realm under the lordship of House Reed. The Karstarks were founded when Karlon Stark, brother to the reigning king, helped crush a revolt of the Boltons and was granted a keep for his service. Finally, The Mormonts were granted Bear Island when King Rodrik Stark won it from the ironborn in a wrestling match. The Starks fought the Arryns of the Vale for the Three Sisters, eventually ceding control of the islands.

Aside from the Karstarks, the Starks of Winterfell may have distant relatives elsewhere in the North, possibly in White Harbor and Barrowton. [2]

The last Stark King of the North was Torrhen, who submitted to Aegon the Conqueror at the end of the War of Conquest. Since that time the Starks have held the North for the kings of the Seven Kingdoms as Wardens of The North.[3]

Around 213 AC, House Stark faced a difficult succession. Several Lords of Winterfell had perished fighting wars in the North against rebellious Skagosi, the wildling king Raymun Redbeard and other threats, leaving Beron Stark as the lord of the house. As he too lay slowly succumbing to wounds he received fighting Dagon Greyjoy and his ironborn, his wife and four other recent Stark widows struggled over who would succeed him. There were a number of potential heirs, with some ten Stark children about. [4] [5]

Recent Background

Lord Rickard Stark and his maester, Walys Flowers, sought to further southron alliances by betrothing Rickard's heir Brandon to Catelyn Tully of Riverrun. Petyr Baelish, a ward of Catelyn's father, loved Catelyn and challenged Brandon to a duel for her hand. Brandon won their duel, but did not kill him in concession to Catelyn's pleas. Meanwhile Lyanna was betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon, who was infatuated with her from a distance. Lyanna, however, was not as ardent in her love for Robert, and was fully aware of his philandering ways. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen after winning the Tourney at Harrenhal, crowned her Queen of Love and Beauty, passing over his wife, the Dornish princess Elia, in her favor. The exact nature of her relationship with Rhaegar is not presently clear, but shortly thereafter she disappeared in Rhaegar's company and Robert and her brother Brandon Stark believed that Lyanna had been taken against her will. Brandon was on his way to Riverrun to wed Catelyn Tully when he heard this news. He and four companions rode to King's Landing to seek her return, but both he and Lord Rickard were executed on the order of the Mad King. Lord Jon Arryn refused to hand his wards Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon over when Aerys demanded their heads, and civil war broke out.

During its course, Eddard honored his late brother's betrothal to Catelyn Tully as part of an alliance to bring her house into the rebel fold. He was one of the principal commanders in the war, but had a falling out with Robert after he accepted the treacherous aid of House Lannister and condoned the brutal murders of Rhaegar's wife, son and daughter out of his hatred for the Targaryen prince. After the Sack of King's Landing, Eddard and six companions went to retrieve Lyanna at the fortress Rhaegar had named the Tower of Joy. They fought three Kingsguard knights stationed there, who killed all but Eddard and Howland Reed. Eddard found Lyanna dying in a "bed of blood" and clutching a withered wreath of blue roses. She forced him to make a promise to her, the contents of which are unknown, but which haunted Eddard for the rest of his life. She was sixteen years old at the time of her death and was buried in the Stark family crypt in Winterfell beside her father and brother. Ned and Robert were reconciled in their shared grief, but Ned still disdained the court since Robert married Cersei Lannister and allowed her brother Jaime to remain a Kingsguard even after slaying his liege. Ned returned from the war to be presented with his trueborn son Robb, but he carried the infant Jon Snow, whom he presented as his bastard son. Six years later, Ned helped his foster brother crush Balon Greyjoy's rebellion, taking Theon Greyjoy as a ward of Winterfell. Lord Rickard's youngest child, Benjen, joined the Night's Watch, eventually becoming First Ranger. Eddard ruled the North in Robert's name, keeping distant from the intrigue-ridden, Lannister-infested politics of King's Landing.

A Song of Ice & Fire

Eddard Stark ‎- © 2012 John Picacio

The Starks joined forces with House Tully to drive the Lannisters away from the Riverlands during the War of the Five Kings; however in the process they lost dominance over the North to the Boltons, while the family members were either killed or driven into hiding.

A Game of Thrones

King Robert visits Winterfell to offer Eddard Stark the position of Hand of the King, recently empty due to the death of their foster father Jon Arryn. A letter arrives from Lysa Arryn, Jon's widow and Ned's wife Catelyn's sister, who claims the Lannisters were behind Lord Arryn's sudden death. At Catelyn's urging, Ned grudgingly accepts the Handship and a betrothal of their daughter Sansa to Prince Joffrey. During the royal party's stay, Ned's second son Bran spies Queen Cersei having sex with her twin brother Ser Jaime; he is thrown from a tower in hopes the fall would kill him, but is "merely" crippled and comatose. Ned rides off to King's Landing along with his daughters, while Catelyn remains at Winterfell with their sons. Meanwhile Jon Snow rides north with his uncle Benjen to join the Night's Watch. Catelyn is inconsolable in her worry for Bran, ignoring her duties as steward, but is jolted back to reality by an attempt on his life thwarted only by his direwolf. As Bran lies comatose, he begins to have visions of a Three-eyed crow.

On the Kingsroad, Arya Stark defends her friend Mycah from the aggressions of Prince Joffrey, upsetting Sansa. This is exacerbated when Sansa's direwolf Lady is ordered dead in place of Arya's, which has escaped. In King's Landing, Eddard is outraged to find that the crown is heavily in debt (largely to Tywin Lannister) and that Robert intends to throw a lavish tourney in his honor.

He investigates the death of Jon Arryn, determining that he was looking into the king's bastard brood. When Robert holds a small council meeting to arrange the death of the exile Daenerys Targaryen (who had wed a mighty Dothraki khal), Ned refuses to condone the assassination and resigns the Handship. In the streets of the capital, he is waylaid by Lannister men in retaliation for Catelyn's abduction of Tyrion (whom her foster-brother Petyr Baelish had told her was responsible for the attempt on Bran's life.) His leg is broken and his best men slain, but Ned survives and Robert re-confirms his appointment as Hand before going out on a hunt and leaving Ned to sit the Iron Throne. In this capacity he sends men to stop Gregor Clegane from raiding the Riverlands. Gregor's attacks were ordered by Lord Lannister; since Lord Stark was wounded he was not lured into the field and thus could not be captured and traded for Tyrion. The men sent after Ser Gregor are ambushed and many are slain; the survivors go on to found the Brotherhood Without Banners. On the Wall, Jon Snow deals with the cruel tutelage of Ser Alliser Thorne while making friends such as Samwell Tarly and learning lessons from his elders. He also encounters a hint of the evil that supposedly lies beyond the Wall when the corpses of two of his uncle's men rise from the dead and go on the rampage at Castle Black; Jon saves the Watch's commander, Jeor Mormont from being killed by one of the wights.

Eventually Ned arrives at the same conclusion at which Jon Arryn did: that Queen Cersei's children were not Robert's, but bastards born of incest between the Lannister twins, and determines that it was this secret for which Jon was murdered. He approaches Cersei with this truth, warning her to flee the city. Enlisting Lord Baelish to recruit the Gold Cloaks, he confronts Cersei after Robert's death from a hunting accident, insisting that Stannis Baratheon is now king by rights. Baelish betrays Ned - his men are slaughtered by Janos Slynt's Gold Cloaks and he is thrown into a black cell. Sansa is held hostage in the Red Keep, but Arya manages to escape thanks to Syrio Forel, the fencing master Ned had hired to train her in swordplay.

Robb, upon hearing this news, calls the banners of Winterfell and marches south. Catelyn arranges a marriage alliance with House Frey to negotiate a crossing of the Trident, and Robb breaks Lannister hegemony in the Riverlands and captures the Kingslayer. Ned initially refuses to name Joffrey as the true king, but in the end agrees in order to ensure the safety of Sansa. When he publicly announces this support, however, the capricious boy king orders his execution rather than allow him to join the Night's Watch. The lords at Robb's war council proclaim him King in the North and of the Trident, seceding from the realm of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile in the Far North, Benjen has gone missing beyond the Wall, and Jon Snow, after briefly contemplating deserting the Watch to join his half-brother's army, rides as part of The Great Ranging meant to determine his fate and the threats of the Others and wildlings.

A Clash of Kings

Leaving Lord Roose Bolton in command of the Northmen around the Trident, King Robb launches a wildly successful invasion of the Westerlands, winning a string of victories against Lannister bannermen. In an effort to gain allies, he sends envoys to Renly Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy (his mother Catelyn and his father's ward Theon Greyjoy, respectively). Catelyn makes diplomatic progress before Renly is assassinated by the red sorceress Melisandre, but Theon joins his family in attacking the North.

Arya journeys north with Yoren and his new recruits for the Night's Watch (including King Robert's bastard Gendry), but their band is ambushed by Westermen and she is taken into captivity. At Harrenhal, she is witness to myriad atrocities but remains strong, orchestrating several deaths of her tormentors (via the assassin Jaqen H'ghar) and freeing a band of Northmen prisoners. When the castle is taken by Roose Bolton, the incognito Arya is named his cupbearer, but doesn't trust her father's sinister bannerman and flees the castle. Meanwhile Sansa remains in custody at the Red Keep, betrothed to King Joffrey. She suffers abuse at his hands but makes tenuous relationships with Sandor Clegane and Dontos Hollard.

At Winterfell, Bran enjoys titular reign while Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrik Cassel deal with such issues as the Hornwood inheritance and the atrocities of Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton. With the guidance of the Reed children, Bran hones his gift for greensight and skinchanging. Theon seizes Winterfell, but is thrown out by a treacherous Ramsay Snow. Bran and Rickon are thought dead, but split up and flee towards remote Northern havens. Ramsay blames the slaughter on the ironborn.

Benjen remains lost beyond the Wall. Jon Snow joins Qhorin Halfhand on a scouting mission in the Skirling Pass, during which he refuses an order to execute a spearwife named Ygritte. On their return to Lord Commander Mormont, the pair encounter a wildling band led by Rattleshirt. Snow, on orders from Qhorin, joins the wildlings as a double agent, and is forced to kill the Halfhand to prove his earnestness. Ygritte, now with Rattleshirt, vouches for Snow.

A Storm of Swords

Zippo514 ©

With Baratheon power broken and the Tyrells and Martells allied with the Lannisters, the Stark-Tully forces stand alone against their foes, and the Greyjoys threaten the North. The news of Bran and Rickon's "deaths" drives two fateful decisions. Catelyn is confined to Riverrun for freeing Jaime Lannister in a desperate attempt to trade him for her daughters. Robb returns from his Westerlands campaign having wed the daughter of a minor Lannister bannerman, Jeyne Westerling, who had comforted him in his grief. This brings House Stark's alliance with the Freys into question. Meanwhile, Lord Rickard Karstark kills two Lannister prisoners in place of Ser Jaime, and is in turn executed by Robb, alienating a loyal bannerhouse. Lord Walder Frey offers to forgive Robb's breach of marriage contract by having his uncle Lord Edmure Tully stand in his place.

Rickon travels to Skagos with Osha and Shaggydog. Bran journeys north with Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed, and his direwolf Summer. They pass through the Wall at the Nightfort with the aid of Sam Tarly and Coldhands. Further north, Jon Snow ingratiates himself with the Free Folk, beginning a romance with Ygritte and befriending Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, and other wildling leaders. He scales the Wall with Styr, the Magnar of Thenn, and finally escapes to Castle Black in time to help prepare for the assault. When it comes, command falls to Snow after the death of Donal Noye. Ygritte is killed during the fighting. Jon does well until his rivals Aliser Thorne and Janos Slynt arrive and imprison him for "betraying his vows." They send him to assassinate Mance Rayder under a flag of parley, but Stannis Baratheon's arrival breaks the wildling host before the deed is carried out. After the battle, Jon is elected Lord Commander of the Night's Watch thanks to the maneuverings of his friend Sam Tarly.

Sansa's engagement to King Joffrey is ended by his betrothal to Margaery Tyrell. She begins to mingle with the Tyrell women in King's Landing and is nearly betrothed to Willas Tyrell, but is wed to Tyrion Lannister instead; they never consummate their match. The pair are blamed for Joffrey's murder at his wedding feast; in truth it was orchestrated by Petyr Baelish and Olenna Tyrell. Baelish smuggles her out of the capitol, murdering his pawn and her "friend", Dontos Hollard. He brings Sansa to the Eyrie, where he marries her aunt Lysa. Littlefinger keeps her hidden by presenting her as his natural daughter; when Lysa drunkenly accuses Sansa of trying to steal Petyr, and reveals that she and Baelish had in fact killed Jon Arryn, Petyr throws her from the Moon Door.

Arya traverses the Riverlands, warging into her lost direwolf Nymeria and killing several sellswords of the Brave Companions chasing her. She joins with the Brotherhood Without Banners, but is abducted by Sandor Clegane, who hopes to ransom her at Edmure's wedding. Robb designates his heir (stated to be Jon Snow, in spite of Night's Watch vows) and resolves to march north to reclaim his homeland from the Greyjoys and attend Edmure's wedding at the Twins along the way. Lord Frey, however, has been conspiring with Tywin Lannister and the traitorous Roose Bolton - Robb, Catelyn, and many of their bannermen are murdered under guest right.

With Bran and Rickon thought dead and Sansa and Arya missing, House Stark is all but extinguished in the eyes of the world. They are supplanted as Wardens of the North by House Bolton. The rivermen return to the king's peace, and the northlords grudgingly accept Dreadfort authority. The Hound brings Arya toward the Eyrie in an attempt to ransom her to Lady Lysa, but they are attacked by Ser Gregor's men and he is stabbed. Arya leaves the Hound to die and uses the iron coin given to her by Jaqen H'ghar, and books passage across the narrow sea.

A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons

Lord Commander Snow begins an uneasy alliance with the Free Folk (executing the reluctant Janos Slynt), and tactfully deals with the imperious Stannis. While refusing the king's offer to be legitimized as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell and wed the "wildling princess" Val, Jon offers Stannis advice that helps him in his campaign against the Boltons and Greyjoys. When Jon gives orders to retake Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton, the high officers of the Watch turn on Jon for allying with wildlings and meddling in the affairs of the realm; it is not clear if he has survived their assassination attempt.

Sansa remains in the Vale, where she takes on a maternal role for her cousin Robert Arryn; Littlefinger plots to reveal her identity, wed her to Robert's heir Harrold Hardyng and use the knights of the Vale to retake the North in her name. Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole is wed to Ramsay Bolton in the guise of "Arya Stark" in an effort to legitimize Bolton overlordship. A disguised Mance Rayder, sent by Jon Snow, recruits a broken-willed Theon Greyjoy to rescue the girl and deliver her to Stannis. The real Arya arrives in Braavos, where she takes up training at the House of Black and White to become a Faceless man. Bran arrives at the cave of the three-eyed crow, where he meets the last children of the forest and begins perfecting the advanced arts of greensight. Rickon is said to be on Skagos, where Lord Wyman Manderly has requested that Davos Seaworth search for him, so that Stannis can rally the Northmen to fight in his name.

House genealogy

Jon Snow

The Stark house at the end of the third century

Historical Starks

No precise lineage of House Stark is known, but the individuals listed below are supposed to be in rough chronological order.


References in the books

A Song of Ice and Fire

  • After taking up his duties as Hand, Lord Eddard assigns 20 of Winterfell's household guard to assist the Gold Cloaks in keeping order in King's Landing.
  • 20 more greycloaks ride with Beric Dondarrion to hunt down Gregor Clegane; most of them are killed in the Battle at the Mummer's Ford. Alyn, Harwin, and others help found the Brotherhood Without Banners.
  • Ser Rodrik Cassel leads 600 Winterfell men, among others, to battle the ironborn under Dagmer Cleftjaw.
  • On his return to Winterfell, Rodrik and his men meant to liberate the castle from Theon Greyjoy, but were betrayed and routed by Ramsay Snow.
  • Soldiers bearing the colors of House Stark have washed up on the shores of the Quiet Isle. According to the Elder Brother, they are buried alongside their enemies.

Sworn Houses

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
  2. So Spake Martin:The Stark Family, June 10, 2003
  3. A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  4. So Spake Martin 1 and 2 February 17, 2006
  5. George R. R. Martin Not A Blog July 2, 2012
  6. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn

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