Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. This week is a family BROTP: House Stark.
Who Are House Stark?
House Stark is one of the major players in Game of Thrones. They are one of the great houses of Westeros, and have been involved in most of the drama that has occurred in the show. There are quite a few members of House Stark, including Sansa, Arya, and Bran, as well as Jon Snow.
The eldest of the remaining Starks, Sansa Stark is an underestimated and unexpected powerhouse. When we first met Sansa in season one, she was a spoiled teenager, who wanted more than anything else in the world to marry Prince Joffrey and become queen one day. But everything changed for Sansa in King’s Landing, where her world became a lot less sheltered.
After Joffrey executed Sansa’s father, Ned, she was kept in the capital as a sort of bargaining chip. House Stark had started a rebellion against the crown, so Sansa was a prisoner. This was when Sansa started learning. She soon changed from the spoiled, sheltered girl she had been, learning from the best political minds Westeros had to offer.
Things went from bad to worse for Sansa long before they got better. Joffrey threw her over and married her to his uncle Tyrion. While Tyrion didn’t mistreat Sansa, she wasn’t happy in the marriage. She escaped with Littlefinger, her mother’s supposed friend, when Joffrey was murdered. Littlefinger manipulated Sansa into supporting him when he murdered her aunt, one of her few remaining family members.
Continuing her downward spiral, Littlefinger then sold Sansa off in marriage to Ramsay Bolton, who had recently captured Sansa’s home of Winterfell. Ramsay was scum of the earth, horribly mistreating Sansa. She eventually escaped and set herself to never be a victim again. As the new Lady of Winterfell, Sansa wields a great deal of power and looks set to hold on to that power.
Though Sansa and Arya are the only daughters of House Stark, they couldn’t be more different. While young Sansa was very feminine and dainty, excelling in needlework and other such pursuits, Arya wanted to be a warrior. She rebelled against traditional notions of what a girl could do in Westeros, even defying her father when he said she would one day marry a great lord.
Arya’s first rebellion came when her half-brother, Jon Snow, gave her her own sword. Knowing that Arya liked fighting, he prepared her for the dangers of the capital. When Ned discovers that Arya has a sword, he sets out to make sure she knows how to use it, engaging a “dancing instructor” to teach her Braavosi style of fighting. When Ned is captured, Arya escapes with her instructor’s help.
On the road away from the capital, Arya goes through some rough patches. She is captured by the enemy and forced to serve them, though no one figures out her true identity. She makes friends in her fellow captives, who at first don’t realize she is a girl. The real change comes when she befriends Jaqen H’ghar, a Braavosi assassin. He tells her she can learn if she goes to Braavos.
Taking Jaqen’s advice, Arya goes to Braavos and joins the order of the Faceless Men, assassins who can change their faces. She struggles to fit in, but soon becomes incredibly skilled. However, she realizes that she doesn’t want to be faceless or have no name; she is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and she won’t give that up. She goes back home and rejoins her family to prepare for the coming war.
The youngest remaining Stark and only remaining son of House Stark, Bran Stark unwittingly precipitated the entirety of Game of Thrones. Early in the series, when Bran was just 10, he liked to climb the towers of Winterfell. Unfortunately, this led to his downfall. He climbed a tower that he thought was empty and stumbled upon the queen having sex with her brother.
To protect their secret, they threw Bran out of the tower. He was comatose for a while, and when he awoke he couldn’t use his legs. Suspecting foul motives, Bran’s mother Catelyn starts a crusade against the Lannisters, the house of the queen and her brother. This would eventually lead to the war of the seven kings, and the beginnings of the end for many great houses.
After losing use of his legs, Bran was initially despondent. He was able to get around thanks to his servants, but would never be the warrior he wanted to be. Life chose a different path for Bran, though. When Winterfell is captured, Bran and his brother Rickon sneak out and head North, to the Wall that encircles Westeros. It is beyond the Wall that Bran changes.
Bran becomes the Three Eyed Raven, an all-seeing personage with magical powers. Using his powers to warg, Bran is able to take over the bodies of animals or even people. He can travel through time and memory. He is able to learn secrets, including the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage. Bran will likely play a major role in the battle to come.
Of House Stark and not of House Stark, Jon Snow is in an uneasy position. Jon came to Winterfell as a baby with Ned Stark, and Jon was believed to be Ned’s bastard son. So Jon was raised at Winterfell, both among and not among his siblings. He had a good relationship with most of them, except for Sansa, who followed her mother’s example and snubbed Jon.
Because he knew he would never truly fit in, Jon left Winterfell to go to the Wall and become a member of the Night’s Watch, who protects the realm. Although he frequently wanted to leave and return to his family – when Bran wakes up, when the Starks declare war on the Lannisters – he stays. This will make a big difference, as the Night’s Watch will change Jon.
North of the Wall, Jon discovers that the White Walkers, icy zombies who were thought to be myth, were not only real but coming for Westeros. He tries to stop them when he becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but loses his life to betrayal. Seeing the importance of this one man, though, a witch brings him back to life.
Jon leaves the Night’s Watch and goes to Winterfell, where he is proclaimed King of the North. He went to Daenerys Targaryan, a claimant for the throne of Westeros, to join forces against the White Walkers. Jon even starts a relationship with Daenerys. What neither of them know is that Jon is not Ned’s bastard, but the rightful heir to Westeros: Aegon Targaryan, Daenerys’s nephew.
The Lost Starks
There were a good number of other members of House Stark that have been lost to the so far seven seasons of Game of Thrones. Originally, the family numbered five children (not including Jon) and two parents. Now they are down to three children and Jon. The wars in Westeros have cost House Stark a great deal.
Ned and Catelyn Stark were adults at the beginning of the show. Ned Stark was the lord of Winterfell and protector of the North. His friend, King Robert, summons him to the capital to aid the crown. While there, Ned discovers awful secrets and loses his life in his quest to bring justice. After Ned’s death, Catelyn starts a war to avenge her husband and protect her family.
Robb Stark was the first son and heir of Ned Stark. He was raised in a position of privilege but wasn’t arrogant or cruel (though sometimes he could be a bit lordly). When Ned is killed, Robb is proclaimed King of the North and starts a rebellion against the crown. He worked with his mother to defeat the Lannisters, but they were eventually betrayed by their allies and butchered at a wedding.
There were a few other Starks we lost but didn’t really get to know. Benjen Stark was Ned’s brother and a member of the Night’s Watch. He is attacked by White Walkers and becomes a sort of almost zombie, aiding Jon before (presumably) actually losing his life. Rickon Stark was the youngest Stark kid. He went North with Bran, but was killed by Ramsay Bolton. Lyanna Stark was Ned’s sister. Her elopement with Rhaegar Targaryan was viewed as a kidnapping and prompted Robert’s Rebellion. She was Jon’s mother.
Why Is House Stark BROTP?
It can be argued that House Stark represents the good guys in Game of Thrones, so much as anyone can be called the good guys in this show. Most other characters are seen as violent, scheming, vicious, or downright evil. Nobody seems to be purely good. House Stark is the closest we can come, with Ned and Robb being shining beacons of honor.
The Starks that remain are up for a tough battle on multiple fronts, with White Walkers from the North and Cersei Lannister in the South. But if anyone can win the deadly game of thrones, it might just be the Starks. Most fans are rooting for Jon to become king, but I wouldn’t rule out any of the Starks (except maybe Bran, who is barely a Stark anymore). They might just surprise us all.
Ned Stark is a fucking idiot. It needs to be said. There is no way around that. He makes utterly horrible decisions that ultimately lead to his death, his children’s suffering, and war across Westeros that will kill untold numbers of citizens. He completely destabilized the seven kingdoms. But the thing is, Ned did all this because he was, ultimately, a person of honor.
Ned’s downfall came when he left the honorable North and traveled to King’s Landing, where secrets and schemes are the law of the land. There, he uncovers the truth: Robert’s children are not actually his. Instead of planning – he could have worked with Robert’s brother, Renly, who offered to support him – Ned is stupid. He tells Cersei he knows her secret, giving her time to undermine him.
The problem is that Ned assumes everyone is as honorable as he is. He assumes that people are good and honest. Ned has no ability to combat the politics of the capital, and that leads to his death. Whether for good or ill, he instilled this honor in his children. Robb’s sense of honor likewise led to his death, as did Jon’s. Jon wanted so much to be like his “father,” and he’s been acting just as dumb.
The “least” honorable Starks are the remaining Stark children. Sansa learned how to scheme from Cersei, and her political prowess might just save the North. Arya became a lying assassin and learned how to deny her very existence. Bran no longer considers concepts like honor, only knowledge. But these three are still far better than most of the characters in the show. They care about people, they care about doing the right thing, and they care most of all about family.
The Pack Survives
Game of Thrones is a brutally deadly show. No one is safe from death (Jon’s death shocked everyone, though of course, he came back). The first season ended with the death of Ned, who was seemingly the protagonist at that point. Basically, the catchphrase “valar morghulis” – all men must die – is taken as gospel truth in Westeros.
And House Stark has seen a lot of deaths. Ned is the first to go, because of his foolish sense of honor. Robb and Catelyn follow. Though their rebellion is far more successful than assumed, they are also betrayed because they believe in the best of people. Later, Rickon dies for almost no reason, other than to show how horrible Ramsay is. Even Lyanna Stark’s death is important. Though it happened before the show, her death prompted Robert Baratheon to rebel against the Targaryen dynasty and depose them.
But despite all that death, House Stark is doing pretty well for themselves, all things considered. Of all the great houses, they are probably the best off. Houses Baratheon, Tyrell, and Martell are all gone, though they had decent prospects at the beginning of the show. House Targaryan has one remaining member, though to be fair she’s quite a powerhouse (they also have Jon, though almost no one knows yet).
The sweet revenge is that House Lannister, whose feud with House Stark started all this trouble, have fallen almost completely. There are only three Lannisters left, and they have no children to carry on their name after they die, which is sure to come very soon. Yet House Stark will likely live on (unless everyone dies, which is a possibility). As they say, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. House Stark sticks together, and that is why they will win.
What’s Next for House Stark?
Oh God, what’s next for anyone in Game of Thrones? The final season premieres in less than two weeks, and everyone is on tenterhooks waiting to see what will happen next. Since George R. R. Martin has not finished the Song of Ice and Fire books, no one knows what’s coming. But we do know it won’t be good.
When season 7 ended, things were looking pretty grim. Winter is here, and Westeros isn’t ready. The Night King, leader of the White Walkers, has amassed a huge army and is coming for Westeros. Though the Wall has held back the White Walkers for thousands of years, he finally found a way to destroy it when he enslaved one of Daenerys’ dragons to his own use.
Jon has allied with Daenerys against the White Walkers. With her armies and dragons, they stand a better chance. But their efforts to ally with Cersei failed. Though she said she would help them, she instead sent for a mercenary army to destroy them. Her double-cross could see the destruction of all life in Westeros.
The Starks are back at Winterfell, with the exception of Jon, who’s on his way there with Daenerys (his arrival is one of the few things we know is coming). Sansa, Arya, and Bran are united, though it seemed like they would be torn apart by Littlefinger’s scheming (his death was the most satisfying moment of the entire show, you can’t change my mind, fight me).
So what is next? We don’t know. There’s certainly a lot of bloodshed and death. The White Walkers are coming and Winterfell is the first defense. We’ll probably see a great battle. We might even see some or all of the last Starks die. But I wouldn’t count them out just yet.
Is House Stark Canon?
It’s kind of hard for a family BROTP to not be canon, honestly. They are joined by blood (even Jon, though he’s the Stark’s cousin, not their brother, as they all think). They were raised together by Ned, given his sense of honor. If nothing else, they are bound by Winterfell and the North, the place where they all belong. House Stark is definitely a canon BROTP.
But, to be fair, there were times when it seemed shaky. Sansa and Arya have always been at odds. In the first season, the last time they were together until season 7, they were constantly fighting. Their personality differences made them clash. With Ned’s death, they went on very different paths. Season 7’s reunion was definitely shaky. Lady of Winterfell Sansa and assassin Arya seemed doomed to destroy each other.
Jon has always been almost on the outside looking in when it comes to House Stark. While Ned raised him as his son, Catelyn always hated Jon and treated him accordingly. Sansa snubbed him, though the rest of the Stark children accepted him as one of their own. When he struck out for the Wall to become his own person, he could have lost the Starks forever. Indeed, he forsook their names.
But when they all come back to Winterfell, we see that their bond is stronger than anything they’ve faced. Jon and Sansa reconciled, and he named her Lady of Winterfell when he left, trusting no one but her to lead the North. Sansa and Arya – with Bran’s help – overcame Littlefinger’s scheme and banded together once and for all. They’ll need to stand together in the coming battle. But House Stark cannot be torn apart so easily, and that may be their saving grace.