For viewers, it has been over three years since the Red Wedding episode, “The Rains of Castamere” of Game of Thrones aired on HBO. For readers, it was the year 2000 when A Storm of Swords first came out. For me, it was 2012 that I first read the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. While many have poured over every page dissecting every word for theories on where the series will go my To-Be-Read pile has only gotten bigger keeping me away from rereading the series until recently.
Robb Stark, the eldest son of Eddard Stark, has been ever present in my mind as I reread the series. Mostly, in relation to what has happened to the North after book three / season three and what has happened to Jon Snow in season six. Spoilers ahead.
Game of Thrones post-Red Wedding was an odd place. In the book series by George R.R. Martin, the fallout from the death of the King in the North lingers in the North all the way up to the last chapter of Jon Snow in A Dance with Dragons and probably will leak into The Winds of Winter going forward. Television though is television, and once Gane of Thrones moved on to season four there were other storylines that had to go forward. Part of the gift of the book series is there is time to focus on the smaller folk and the consequences of these famous families going to war. Game of Thrones isn’t so lucky.
So here come Game of Thrones season six, the first chapter with more material with no book out to compare it to. In it, the North below the Wall regained a major focus. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark defeat Ramsey Bolton then retake Winterfell. Lyanna Stark gives her brilliant speech advocating for Jon Snow to be King in the North. Suddenly there are other northern houses declaring their fealty to Jon Snow, chanting him as King in the North. For me, it was exciting because I had not expected that path for Jon Snow and for that reason it left me kind of confused. It didn’t feel organic to me as a reader of the books. Stannis is still alive, Jon Snow is still stabbed to death, and bastards are still seen as second-class citizens to most of Westeros.
That all changed when I started rereading A Storm of Swords. It all comes down to one Catelyn chapter that completely changed my perspective on the entire Jon Snow: King in the North scenario. It’s the one right before the Red Wedding. With the Karstarks gone, the Greyjoys invading the North, and the Freys on to-be-determined alliance depending on Edmure Tully’s wedding Robb is left determining the future for the North. From his perspective, “Winterfell and the north would pass to [Sansa]” and “her lord husband” Tyrion Lannister if Robb “should die in [his] next battle.” Robb must “name another heir, until such time as Jeyne gives [Robb] a son” because “Arya’s gone, and the same as Bran and Rickon.” There’s a risk “[the Lannisters will] kill Sansa too once the dwarf gets a child from her” but luckily for Robb “[his] father had four sons.”
Despite Catelyn’s objections and prejudice against bastards, Robb’s argument for naming Jon Snow his heir is sound and logical. Jon was raised in Winterfell making him “more a Stark than some lordlings from the Vale who have never so much as set eyes on Winterfell.” Though members of the Night’s Watch are “sworn to take no wife and hold no lands” and “take the black for life” this didn’t stop Joffrey from “stripping the white cloaks from Ser Baristan Selmy and Ser Boros Blount” to remove them from the knights of the Kingsguard who are also serve for life.The argument continues but Catelyn makes a poor show of hiding her personal prejudice against Robb’s half-brother and due to her own recent treason by releasing Jaime Lannister Robb is not open to taking his mother’s advice. If Robb “should die without] he is “set on” on Jon Snow “succeed[ing him] as King in the North.” Robb doesn’t say Lord of the Winterfell or Warden of the North but specifically the King in the North.
The chapter ends with Robb “[picking] up a sheet of parchment” and “commanding” Lord Jason Mallister, The Greatjon, Galbart Glover, Maege Mormont, and Edmure Tully to “fix [their] seals to this document as witness to [his] decision” on the subject of “who might follow [Robb].” My first thought on finishing this chapter was a loud exclamation of “Where is that document now!?” I turned to the best source of close readers of A Song of Ice and Fire that I know, the tinfoil hat wearing members of r/asoiaf, the subreddit for the book series.
ComradeAri does a job of explaining why Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover are not currently carrying the document. His reasoning for these two not carrying the letter is sound but the idea that news would spread of Jon Snow’s legitimacy by Robb’s witnesses is conjecture. Cantuse‘s explanation of where Robb’s letter would be seem much better. After delivering the news of what the Iron Born are up to the captain of the Myraham is another witness to document though he has no major role to play in Robb’s battle plan to take back the North after Edmure’s Wedding. This has led Cantuse to believe the Captain of the Myraham’s role is to carry the document out of the hands of his enemies and being a “merchanter out of Oldtown” what better place to bring the document then back home?Robb even foreshadows this decision when speaking on his mother and his wife being left in separate places. To give Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover the document would be “keep[ing] all your treasures in one purse” which would “make it easier for those who would rob you.” Why Oldtown though?
Oldtown is the hometown of the Citadel, headquarters to the Maesters. Who better to hold on to an important document then the Maesters? Especially since Robb and the maesters must know by now that Master Luwin has been slain. Winterfell will need a new maester and what better way for this new maester to be introduced then by walking in with a document from the former King in the North legitimizing Jon Snow and declaring him heir to Robb Stark’s title? Also, in Oldtown by the end of A Feast for Crows is a close friend and ally of Jon Snow, the book-loving Samwell Tarly. If no new maester comes to Winterfell with the document, then why not Sam?
The show obviously has no Maege Mormont, no Galbart Glover, no captain of the Myraham (though his daughter was in season 2), and no document declaring Robb Stark’s heir. Still, Dan Weiss and David Benioff are privileged to know a basic outline of where the story is going past A Dance with Dragons. In comes that scene in season six. Ramsey Bolton is dead, Lyanna Mormont pledges her loyalty to Jon Snow putting the other Northern houses to shame, and Jon Snow is declared the new King in the North. I remember thinking “This is awesome but does it make senses?” It felt… off like there was no precedent for Jon Snow to become the new King in the North but it was so cool the first time D&D thought why not?
Martin proved me wrong with one chapter of A Storm of Swords. If Jon Snow becomes King in the North in The Winds of Winter I am looking forward to how it’ll play out different than in the show thanks to this one chapter.