If the Starks aren’t your favorite Game of Thrones family, what the hell is wrong with you? Okay, well the Targaryens and Tyrells, the latter of which is pretty much wiped out, do deserve some love too. Most fans, though, root for House Stark for many reasons.
First of all, from the pilot, they seemed to be the protagonists of the show. We were shown this strong family unit, all of whom seemed to be morally sound characters and it seemed like everything was going to be good for the House Stark. Sansa was on her way to being Queen and Ned was going to be the Hand of the King. That was before shit hit the fan.
The Starks may have endured worse than any other family on the entire show. Ned, Catelyn, Robb and Rickon (Baby Stark, we never even knew ya) are all dead. Jon Snow, who we now know is only half Stark, was killed by his own men – of course, he came back from the dead but he was still stabbed to death. He also held the woman he loved as she died in his arms. Arya was blind. Bran is a cripple. Sansa was raped. Things have not been easy for House Stark, and that seems to only make fans like the Stark family even more. Watching them go through hell and come out on the other side is an essential part of the hero story, though who knows if they will be the heroes or if they will all die. This is Game of Thrones we’re talking about after all.
That being said, the Stark name goes back a long, long time – about 8,000 years before the show even begins to be exact. Because of that long lineage, there are most likely a few things that you may not know about House Stark and below are fifteen of them. By the way, spoilers below.
8 No Stark Swords Are On Iron Throne
The Iron Throne is made up of a ton of swords, but not a single sword belonged to a Stark. That’s pretty badass in a way.
The throne was created by Aegon the Conqueror when he united all of the kingdoms. He took the swords of all of the people he conquered and used dragon fire to meld the swords into the infamous throne. House Stark was indeed powerful at the time of Aegon’s conquest, but instead of battling the Targaryens, the Starks bent the knee. They decided to surrender instead of leading their men into a battle that they would surely lose.
For bending the knee, Torrhen Stark was named Warden of the North and all the Starks were allowed to keep their swords instead of handing them over for the Iron Throne.
14. The Bolton Hate Goes Way Back
House Bolton and House Stark have hated each other for, like, a really long time. It didn’t just start when they turned on Robb Stark and helped orchestrate The Red Wedding. That hatred has been cooking for a while.
In The Age of Heroes (a super cool name for an old time period in the books), The Starks were working to unite The North under one King in the North. The Boltons were totally against this. They battled the Starks and when they would defeat the Starks, the Boltons would sometimes flay them alive and wear their skin. So yeah, the Boltons always sucked.
When The Starks won, they made the Boltons give up the lovely practice of skinning their victims. So, for years and years, the Boltons have been wanting to overthrow the Starks because they really missed skinning people. When they got the opportunity to take Winterfell, the Boltons began flaying people again, as a middle finger to the Starks' rule.
In the end, we all know what happened – that is, if you’re caught up on season six. Sansa Stark fed Ramsay Bolton, the last living Bolton, to his own dogs, effectively ending the Bolton line. That’s how it’s done, Sansa.
7 Starks Descended From The First Men
The First Men are the men who first inhabited Westeros. First Men fought the Children of the Forest, the original inhabitants, who seem to be magical forest creatures. The Children were mad as hell when the First Men started cutting down their trees. Finally, a pact was made, giving the Children their trees and First Men the areas near the coast.
If you’re caught up on the show, you’ll also know that before the pact, the Children created White Walkers to be used as a defense against First Men, you know, until White Walkers turned on the Children.
After this mess was sorted out with their pact, the Andals invaded the area, marrying into many noble families. The North, however, fought off the Andals, keeping the bloodlines more pure. Because of this, many of the Northern families, the Starks particularly, can trace their linage back to the First Men.
6 The Night King Might Be A Stark
That scary ass dude might be a Stark. For real.
This season, we saw exactly how the Children created the White Walkers as their intended defense against First Men. The plan was great, except for the fact that the White Walkers turned on them. Note to everyone: if you create a zombie army with the plan that they will defend you, they will almost definitely turn on you.
Since the Starks descend from First Men, that does make it very plausible that the man the Children stuck the dragonglass in could have been a Stark. Furthermore, when Bran recounted some stories that Old Nan told him, he said that he was told the Night King was once a Stark, and even a brother to the King of Winter.
I suppose we’ll never know for good, unless the Night King sits down for a cup of tea with Sansa and tells her that he’s her great-great-great-great (probably even more greats) uncle.
5 Starks Gave Bear Island To The Mormonts
Let’s all take a second to talk about Lyanna Mormont. She is the 10-year-old with a seething stare, who was introduced just this past season. With only two seasons left, I’m upset that she wasn’t introduced sooner. It’ll be okay if HBO dedicates all of seasons seven and eight to her story line. Seriously, I no longer care about the Iron Throne. I just want to watch Lyanna Mormont for an hour every Sunday.
While she was hesitant to get behind the Starks when they first appealed to her, she’s since pledged her allegiance to House Stark, causing all the other drunken Northerns to chime in. I'm actually not sure if the Northerns were all drunk but I do like to imagine them as drunkards.
Well, Lyanna’s loyalty to Stark isn’t all that surprising. In fact, the Mormonts have been loyal to the Starks for quite some time. Part of the reason for this may be because Bear Island, the home of the Mormonts, was bestowed upon them by Rodrik Stark. Supposedly, Rodrik won the island in a wrestling match and gifted it to the Mormonts.
10. There Is Not A Real Bolton/Stark Marriage In The Books
Who the hell is Jeyne Poole? Well, she’s kind of a bigger deal in the books. In the show, she was played by an extra in the first episode. Literally, that’s it. Just one scene of Sansa gossiping to her about Joffery and she was done.
In the books, Jenye is Sansa’s bestie and comes with her to King’s Landing. After shit goes down at King’s Landing, Littlefinger marries Jeyne off to Ramsay Bolton, telling him that it’s Arya Stark. She is then the one who is raped and tortured by Ramsay, who forces her to perform sexual acts with Theon and even possibly his dogs.
She, like Sansa, escapes with Theon but when they leap off of the castle and fall into the high pile of snow, Theon falls on Jeyne and breaks a few of her ribs. Then, while they travel to Castle Black, Jeyne’s nose turns black from frostbite. Yeah, so Jeyne had it even worse than Sansa, which I actually didn't think was possible.
The show producers changed this, as it gave Sansa’s character a great storyline, with a wonderful character arc and pay off. However, it should be noted that in the books, there was never a real marriage between the Stark House and Bolton House, two families who have long hated each other.
9. The Direwolves Foreshadowed Everyone's Fate
In season one, when ol’ Ned Stark was still in the picture, the guys found a family of direwolves and adopted them, as they are a symbol of House Stark. That seemed all well and fine, but the wolves ended up foreshadowing the fate of all the Starks in an eerie way.
First, the mother wolf had died. She lied there dead with her little pups surrounding her. Both Catelyn and Ned would meet early ends in the show, not getting to see their young children grow, like the direwolf.
Grey Wind was Robb Stark’s dog, who, like him, was quite a warrior. He was said to sweep through their enemies when they met in battle. Both were murdered in a similar fashion at the Red Wedding – ambushed, locked in a small quarter and outnumbered.
Bran’s wolf was named Summer and he also met his end. He was killed in an attack from the White Walkers. The White Walkers killing Summer actually seems to foreshadow the story as a whole, as the White Walkers and the arrival of winter certain do bring about the death of summer. Though, something tells us that Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven-ness may be able to help in taking down the White Walkers.
Rickon named his wolf Shaggydog, which wasn’t a very clever name but he was young at the time so give him a break. Shaggydog’s head was presented to Sansa and Jon to show them that Ramsay did, in fact, have Rickon. Perhaps this should have been out first clue that Rickon would meet his end at the hands of Ramsay. It is said that his direwolf did not zig zag either. I made that last part up but it could totally be true.
Sana named her wolf Lady and hers, unfortunately, was the first to be killed. After lying to protect Joffery, Sansa’s wolf was sentenced to death after Cersei’s insistence. While Sansa did not literally die, the lady in her and her ladylike aspirations and dreams certainly did die at the hands of Joffery and Cersei.
Arya’s wolf, Nymeria, was a badass who bit Joffery. In order to save her from being put to death, Arya sent Nymeria away. We’ve yet to see Nymeria return, most likely because we also have yet to see Arya return to Winterfell. Like her direwolf, Arya had distanced herself from Westeros in order to survive.
Jon Snow was given the runt of the litter due to his “bastard” status and named him Ghost, which oddly foreshadowed the fact that Jon would return from death, very much like a ghost.
8. There May Be A Dragon Under Winterfell
Since we’ve discussed the direwolves, we should move on to discussing the other talked about animal on the show: the dragons. There is a theory that there is a dragon living under the Starks' Winterfell.
Winterfell was built over hot springs, which is why it can withstand winter. The hot water keeps the earth in Winterfell from freezing. This excerpt from the book describes the springs: “The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards. That was a little thing, in summer; in winter, it was the difference between life and death.”
Fans who are buying the theory that there is a dragon under Winterfell are theorizing that this dragon could be key in defeating the White Walkers. Others think that the readers who are into this theory may be reading too deeply into things. Then, there are also those who believe the dragon living below Winterfell is not literal but rather a metaphor for Jon Snow, who is of both Stark and Targaryen blood.
I guess we'll just have to wait for the final two seasons of Game of Thrones to find out.
4 The Founder Of House Stark Built The Wall
Bran Stark in the show is named after Brandon Stark, who was like the OG Stark. He was one of the First Men who lived in the Age of Heroes. He literally founded House Stark, so you have him to thank for all of your favorite Game of Thrones characters.
He was also known as Bran the Builder because he built a shit ton of stuff. He built The Wall, that gigantic structure that keeps out White Walkers. He, of course, had the help of magic and giants because one dude building that whole thing would be a lot of work. He built Winterfell, and he probably rolled over in his grave when Ramsay was running the show there. He also aided in building Storm’s End and Hightower in Oldtown.
So, basically, the OG Bran Stark was pretty busy building a ton of stuff, though if you read ahead, it gets weird.
6. Bran Stark May Be The Founder Of House Stark
There’s a theory floating around out there that our Bran Stark may also be Bran the Builder, the founder of the Stark House. It’s weird but follow us here.
In "The Door", we learned that Bran can not only look into the past but can also affect it. Due to his warging abilities, it seems that he is able to warg into people in the past, a la Hodor. Of course, what actually went down is up for debate, but it essentially seems that Bran may have warged Hodor, who then went on to repeat "Hold the door" for the rest of his life until meeting his end by holding the door. If you need to take a moment to cry, we understand.
Bran's ability and the montage he saw in season six has lead fans to also believe that Bran may have been responsible for The Mad King going mad. Bran’s vision of The Mad King was book-ended by two visions of White Walkers. There’s a theory that Bran may have warged The Mad King, who was not actually saying "Burn them all" in reference to the common people, but rather to the White Walkers.
With these Bran theories brewing, fans started speculating that Bran may have warged Bran the Builder, prompting him to build The Wall to defend against the White Walkers. So, Bran may have warged original Bran Stark, then founded of House Stark 8,000 years before he was ever even born. Mind = blown.
5. The Starks Gifted The Land That Belongs To The Night's Watch
For the most part, we just accept the way things are in Game of Thrones, without questions of how exactly everything came to be. For example, the Night’s Watch has a rather large chunk of land, but how did they get it? Apparently, The Starks, Bran Stark (original Bran who might be our Bran too but who knows) particularly, gifted them land, measuring twenty-five leagues south from The Wall.
Originally, the Night’s Watch tended to the land, but as numbers in the Watch dwindled, they didn’t have the hands necessary to nurture it so wild reclaimed much of the land. The Gift was followed later by The New Gift from Queen Alysanne Targaryen, in which she doubled the land gifted to the Night’s Watch, with hope that the towns within The New Gift would support the Night’s Watch with their taxes. This didn’t work, as many of the citizens who lived in the perimeter of The New Gift simply moved away. People really aren’t into supporting The Night’s Watch, I guess.
3 A Stark Has Ruled King's Landing
For the most part, the Starks have struck to the North and never showed much ambition for ruling King’s Landing. Robb Stark did end up making a bid for the Iron Throne but we all saw how that ended. Also, Ned did serve as Hand of the King for a second or two before he was beheaded.
Prior to them, Cregan Stark served as Hand of the King to an eleven-year-old Targaryen king. In six days, the king had arrested 22 men for the murder of the previous king. Many of the arrested men were sentenced to death. After witnessing this ordeal, Cregan resigned and went back to Winterfell. His time in King’s Landing would be known as the Hour of the Wolf. Are we about to see another Hour of the Wolf in King’s Landing? One can only hope.
2 The Theory Of Ned Warging Into Payne
Okay, so this is most likely not going down, but it is an interesting theory. Being that many of Ned’s children can warg, it could plausibly be assumed that Ned also has the ability to warg.
Fans speculate that perhaps Ned warged into Ilyn Payne, who beheaded him.While, for the most part, warging is solely done into animals, we have seen that Bran has the ability to warg into Hodor.
Being that Ilyn Payne’s tongue was cut out prior to the events of the show, Ned would not be able to communicate to anyone about having warged into Ilyn. There was a glance Ilyn shared with Sansa while she was in hiding with the women during Battle on Blackwater Bay. Could it have been Ned in there? Who knows.
In the end, this theory is very far fetched. Ned is dead, guys. Years later it still hurts but we've just got to let go. The patriarch is long gone.
1 There Are Other Stark Family Branches
In the finale of season six, we found out that Jon Snow is actually of both Stark and Targaryen blood, but this is not the first time that the Starks have mixed with other families. In fact, The Starks have branched out to many other different noble families, many of which are not really featured on the show.
The Greystark was another branch of the Starks and was created when the younger son of the Stark family was given lands and titles with which he could start his own clan. The Greystark is not longer in existence because they joined the Boltons and battled against the Starks in a rebellion – see, told you that the Boltons always hated the Starks. The Boltons survived the rebellion but the Greystark line was snuffed out.
The Karstarks are another branch and they, like the Greystarks, sided with the Boltons. Karstarks were actually loyal to the Starks for a long time, but after Robb was taken out in the Red Wedding, they sided with Ramsay. At this point in the series, it’s unclear if the Karstarks are around to bend the knee to Jon or if they were wiped out in the Battle of the Bastards.
1. Similarities To Noble York Family
Martin lifted much of Game of Thrones from actual history. He, of course, added his own flavor to the situations and characters. Much of what he draws from comes from The War of the Roses, a historical war between two noble families. The families who battled for the throne were the Lancasters and the Yorks.
The Lancasters provided inspiration for the Lannisters, as on their side there was an evil, young king and his ambitious mother who would do anything to keep him on the throne, despite the rumors that he may not actually be the king’s son – much like Joffery and Cersei.
On the Yorks’ side, there are many similarities to the Starks. Sansa is like both Anne Neville, a prized bride from the York side, who married the young king Edward of Lancaster (Joffery’s inspiration). There are also two young heirs on the York side who went missing, much like how Rickon and Bran have been missing from their family for a good chunk of the show.
Also on the York side was Edward IV, whose early life may have served for inspiration for Robb Stark. Edward’s father’s head also ended up on spike in an embarrassing manner, causing him to take a commanding role before he was ready.
While some of the details about our favorite family in Westeros may have come from history, we all still love the Starks for the flavor with which Martin has painted them. Long live House Stark!