House Stark has seen better days. Once celebrated as the Kings of Winter and the Kings in the North, the most recent generation of Starks has been all but wiped out by war, betrayal and political subterfuge. Author George R.R. Martin’s deconstruction of conventional fantasy tropes throughout “A Song of Ice and Fire” has imbued his series with an innate unpredictability that keeps fans on their toes. Nobody is safe in his dark, gritty fantasy world, not even his protagonists. Nowhere is this more evident than in the tragedies suffered by House Stark. Martin seems to have saved the worst atrocities for a family that seemed to represent one of the last bastions of hope and honor in a realm suffocating under a pall of self-serving political manoeuvring and endemic corruption.
From the horrific events of the Red Wedding to the tragic price paid during the Battle of Winterfell, the Starks have endured hardship and tragedy on a scale that far surpasses that experienced by other great houses. But how well do we really know this family of stern Northmen and their tragic history? Can they weather the coming winter storm? Take our quiz to gauge your knowledge of the beleaguered Kings of Winter.
What is the motto of House Stark?
The Stark motto serves as a warning and a reminder that this season is always near. As the northernmost great house in Westeros, the Starks remember the old ways far better than their southern counterparts. They know well the dangers of this season; their battle-hardened vassal lords remain vigilant against potential Wildling incursions invading from beyond the Wall. Despite its cold climate and frequent snowfalls, until recently the North enjoyed what it considered a long Spring. However, the white raven was recently released by the Maesters of Oldtown, officially signalling the arrival of this season.
This giant northern predator is the sigil of House Stark.
Every great family in Westeros boasts a distinctive sigil that represents their house. The Starks of Winterfell’s sigil is a massive lupine predator that prowls the North. Far larger than other beasts of its kind, these creatures grow so large they are capable of bearing a rider. At the beginning of “A Song of Ice and Fire” the Stark children find a litter of this animal's young and raise them as pets. Only two of the litter remain alive. Ghost hunts by Jon Snow’s side in the North and Arya’s Nymeria prowls the Riverlands leading a large pack of her smaller cousins.
What is the ancestral seat of House Stark?
Legend has it the first of the Stark line, Bran the Builder constructed their ancestral seat thousands of years ago, with the help of Giants. Located on a natural hot spring, the castle enjoys hot water all year round, thanks to a clever system of indoor plumbing. Built around one of the last remaining godswoods in Westeros, the fortress boasts a massive weirwood, where the Northmen still worship the Old Gods. Most recently, Jon Snow retook his family home from the traitorous Ramsay Bolton and once again raised the Stark direwolf standard over the ancient castle’s ramparts.
He gave his life “holding the door.”
In one of the most heart-wrenching scenes of the entire TV series, the reason for this genial giant's mental disability was finally revealed as a combination of Bran’s warging abilities and his power to travel through time in his dreams. As the Night King’s undead army lay waste to the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, Bran takes over his friend's body, while remaining in the past, where he witnesses his terrible seizure. Meera cries for him to “hold the door” so that she and Bran can escape, traumatizes his younger self, closing the time loop and killing him in the present.
She was recently revealed to be Jon Snow’s mother.
In “Game of Thrones” Season Six, it was revealed she was Jon Snow’s mother and that Prince Rhaegar was his father. At the time, most people believed Rhaegar kidnapped her, installing her in the Tower of Joy to keep her from the enraged Robert Baratheon, who went to war to get her back. However, certain characters have hinted that the romance was consensual. When Sansa suggests to Littlefinger that her aunt was raped, his sly smile would seem to indicate he knew better. Additionally, Barristan’s tale of Rhaegar singing to his people suggested that the prince was not a violent man.
He lost his head in King’s Landing.
This lord of Winterfell never wanted to be the King’s Hand. A man of honor has no place in King’s Landing, a cesspool of greed and corruption unparalleled in all of Westeros. After uncovering the illegitimacy of his claim to the Iron Throne, he refused to recognize Joffrey as king. However, cooler heads prevailed and he was given the opportunity to recant his treasonous claims surrounding Joffrey’s legitimacy if he joined the Night’s Watch. Joffrey reneged on the deal and ordered Sir Ilyn Payne, the King’s Justice, to behead him using his own greatsword Ice.
He was raised as Ned Stark’s bastard son.
By now everybody knows the truth about this bastard's parentage, even if he himself remains in the dark. As revealed last season in “Game of Thrones,” Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna was this young man's mother, forcing her brother to hide the truth on her deathbed. As the offspring of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen, his existence throws a potential wrench in the works of Daenerys Targaryen’s bid for Iron Throne. Despite his illegitimacy, he's done okay for himself, rising to the position of the Night’s Watch’s 998th Lord Commander and staking his claim as the true King in the North.
He was known as the Young Wolf during the War of the Five Kings.
After word reached Winterfell of Ned Stark’s execution by King Joffrey Baratheon, his eldest son almost immediately responded by severing ties to the Iron Throne and declared himself the new King in the North. Rousing the Northern lords to his banner, he led a surprisingly successful campaign against Lannister forces, earning the nom de guerre “the Young Wolf” for his cunning tactics and ferocity in battle. Alas, his success on the battlefield didn’t translate to politics and he was betrayed and murdered by his supposed allies during the infamous Red Wedding.
She was trained as an assassin by the Faceless Men.
As fierce a fighter as any of her brothers, she showed an interest in arms early on, even besting her brother Bran in archery. It wasn’t until she came under the tutelage of the Faceless Men in Braavos that she really got serious about killing. There, she was taught the skills of surveillance, disguise, silent killing and poisoning. She even spent weeks as blind beggar, temporarily robbed of her vision by her teachers after she was incapable of giving up her old life.
He helped a young Ned Stark defeat Arthur Dayne of Starfall.
Sir Arthur Dayne was one of the greatest swordsmen ever to wield a blade (or two). Dayne crossed swords with Ned Stark and his companions in the aftermath of Robert’s rebellion against Aerys II. Dayne was protecting Lyanna Stark, whose elopement with his master Prince Rhaegar sparked the rebellion. Dayne more than lived up to his reputation, killing most of Ned’s party and would have killed the young Stark heir as well, if it hadn’t been for this man stabbing him in the neck from behind.
He ordered the execution of Ned Stark.
He quickly became one of the most hated young men on TV due to his vile treatment of pretty much everybody around him. Even his own family couldn’t rein in his sadistic impulses. When Ned Stark refuses to acknowledge his claim to the Iron Throne, due to questions surrounding his true parentage, he is first ordered imprisoned. Later a deal was brokered that would have seen Ned take the black and join the Night’s Watch in exile. However, the new king ignored the deal and his own mother’s counsel and ordered Ned’s execution instead.
Finish this sentence: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the…”
Ned Stark uttered these words to Bran after executing a deserter of the Night’s Watch in the boy’s presence. A lesson about the sanctity of life—even that of a man who deserves death—the rest of the quote from “A Game of Thrones” reads, “If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.” Talk about your wickedly ironic foreshadowing...
In the books, she is resurrected as Lady Stoneheart.
In the novel “A Storm of Swords,” after she is murdered at the Red Wedding by the Freys and the Boltons, her body is thrown into the Green Fork where it floats for three days until it is retrieved by Beric Dondarrion. Himself resurrected several times thanks to the Red Priest Thoros of Myr, Dondarrion gives up his life so that she can be resurrected as Lady Stoneheart, a mute harbinger of death. She leads Dondarrion’s brotherhood without banners on blood-drenched campaign of terror across the Riverlands against the Freys and Lannisters.
On the TV show, she was forced to marry Ramsay Bolton.
Her journey from spoiled princess to formidable player of the Game of Thrones wasn’t an easy one. On the TV show, forced to watch her fortunes crumble after the execution of her father, she was passed off to Tyrion Lannister as his unwilling bride and later sold to the Boltons by Petr Baelish. As Ramsay Bolton’s wife she suffered all manner of abuse and degradation, until Theon Greyjoy helped her escape his sadistic clutches. She currently stands beside her bastard half-brother Jon, supporting his claim as the next King in the North.
In "Game of Thrones," he was murdered by Ramsay Bolton during the Battle of the Bastards.
The Battle of the Bastards was one of the most epic, grisly battles portrayed on “Game of Thrones.” It also marked the end of this young man. In a successful attempt to bait Jon Snow into attacking his larger army, Ramsay Bolton released his youngest brother on the battlefield outside Winterfell, before murdering him with an arrow to the back. Jon fell for the ploy and his smaller army was nearly exterminated, until Petyr Baelish and Sansa turned the tide, leading the Knights of the Vale onto the field.
He lost a pair of fingers to Robb Stark’s direwolf Grey Wind.
As the lord of this old northern house, he was one of the first of the Stark bannermen to heed Robb Stark's call to march south. However, his family’s feud with House Glover almost caused him to abandon his new King. When Robb chose a Glover to lead the vanguard, he objected and threatened to pull his support. When Robb countered by threatening to arrest him as a traitor, he pulled a dagger on the Young Wolf. Robb’s direwolf Grey Wind took exception to his manners and gulped down two of his fingers, giving a new meaning to "finger-licking good."
This former ward of the Starks later betrayed his adopted family.
After his father Balon Greyjoy’s ill-fated run at the Iron Throne failed, his youngest son was taken by House Stark to ensure his continued compliance. Less a hostage and more of a ward, he was raised by Ned Stark alongside his own children. This young man never forgot he was Ironborn, though and didn’t hesitate to take advantage of Winterfell’s lack of protection while his friend Robb waged war in the south. He seized Winterfell but was unable to hold it and was later captured and tortured by Ramsay Bolton, who transformed him into the odious lackey Reek.
He was crippled when Jaime Lannister pushed him out of a window.
During King Robert Baratheon’s visit to Winterfell, he unwittingly witnessed the incestuous union between Queen Cersei and her twin Jaime Lannister. Cersei ordered Jaime to push him off the window ledge in order to preserve their secret. He awoke after being comatose for an extended period without the use of his legs. It is about this time that he begins to dream of the three-eyed raven, the last living greenseer in Westeros. He embarks on a journey north to find the raven, accompanied by Hodor, Meera and Jojen Reed and his direwolf Summer.
He was First Ranger of the Night’s Watch.
One of the most mysterious members of House Stark, Ned’s younger brother volunteered to join the Night’s Watch, rising to the rank of First Ranger. A kind uncle and fierce warrior, he went missing after leading a ranging north of the Wall. He wasn't seen for months and was presumed killed by Wildings. Although his final fate remains unknown in the books, on the TV show, he was revealed to be Coldhands—a mysterious ally of Bran’s, whose identity remains unknown in the novels. He reveals he was saved from becoming a White Walker by the Children of the Forest.
This horrific event was hosted by Walder Frey.
The notoriously cunning Walder Frey is perhaps one of the most reviled characters in “Game of Thrones.” Along with Roose Bolton, he betrayed Robb Stark Edmure Tully's wedding, violating not only his oath to the self-proclaimed King in the North but also trammeling all over the custom of guest rights, which is supposed to guarantee the safety of one’s guests while breaking bread. This gruesome event was reportedly one of the hardest scenes of the entire series to shoot, a fact echoed by Martin, who also confessed that it was the most difficult scene he wrote in the novels.
Robert Baratheon asked Ned Stark to take over this position after Jon Arryn died.
This appointment is the most powerful position in the kingdom after the king. Selected by the ruling monarch, this advisor is the king’s most trusted councillor and is responsible for much of the day-to-day operations of the kingdom. In some cases, he even rules in the king’s absence. King Robert Baratheon asked his close friend Ned Stark to sit by his side after Jon Arryn died. Despite having no desire to accept the appointment, Ned complied out of loyalty to his friend. It is a move that ultimately cost him his life, after he discovered the illegitimacy of Robert’s heirs.
She accompanied Bran on his quest for the Three-Eyed Raven.
She is the daughter of Lord Howland Reed, the man who helped Ned Stark defeat Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy. Utterly loyal to House Stark, she accompanies Bran on his journey north of the Wall in search of the Three-Eyed Raven, last of the enigmatic greenseers. Like Bran, her brother Jojen possessed precognitive abilities and helped him come to terms with his burgeoning powers as seer and skinchanger. An accomplished fighter and loyal to a fault, she remained by Bran’s side even after her brother died on the journey north.
The sigil of this treasonous house is the flayed man.
This northern house's hatred of their traditional rivals House Stark ran deeper than anyone knew—especially Robb Stark, newly proclaimed King in the North. A house with a long, dark history well-represented by their sigil of a flayed man, they were once known as the Red Kings. When the opportunity arose to seize power in the north, their lord betrayed Robb at the Red Wedding, casting his lot in with the Freys and Lannisters. After murdering Robb and his mother, he travelled north to secure Winterfell as the new Warden of the North.
This Great House is House Stark’s long-time enemy in both the books and on TV.
There’s never been any love lost between this great southern house and the Starks. While House Stark claim descent from the First Men and Bran the Builder, they boast that a clever trickster from the Age of Heroes, is their progenitor. Immensely wealthy and known for their ruthless approach to both business and war, this house used its financial strength and political savvy to install Cersei as Robert Baratheon’s queen. Their sigil is a golden lion on a field of crimson; their words, appropriately enough, are “Here Me Roar.”
He is also known as Littlefinger.
A dangerous, enigmatic man, who knows more than he lets on, he worked his way up the royal ranks by masterfully playing the Game of Thrones. Originally from a small house with few prospects, his talent for making and saving money garnered him the nickname Littlefinger. Historically, he has always coveted the daughters of House Tully, particularly Catelyn, who went on to marry Ned Stark. He married Lysa Tully after the death of her husband Jon Arryn but later murdered her. His attention seems to have transferred to Catelyn’s daughter Sansa, in one of the show's creepier developments.