The Starks are descended from Bran the Builder, a legendary figure from the Age of Heroes, thousands of years in the past, who built Winterfell and the Wall. They were Kings in the North until Torrhen Stark submitted to Aegon the Conqueror at the end of the War of Conquest. From that time until the Red Wedding, the Starks held the North for the Kings of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men as Lords of Winterfell, Lords Paramount of the North, and Wardens of the North.
Eddard Stark, informally called "Ned", was Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. He is a POV character. He and Catelyn Stark, formerly Tully, with whom he has five trueborn children, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Eddard also has an illegitimate son, Jon Snow, who Eddard raises among his trueborn children. Eddard is known for his sense of honor and justice; he dislikes deceit, intrigue, and secrecy. Though his family finds him kind, some consider his reserved personality a sign of coldness and disdain. Ned is also a devout follower of the Old Gods, the gods of the First Men. These gods are also said to be the gods of the Children of the Forest, original inhabitants of Westeros.
Ned was fostered by Jon Arryn at the Eyrie, alongside Robert Baratheon. Ned befriended Robert, and came to consider Lord Arryn a second father. King Aerys II Targaryen demanded that Arryn send him the heads of the two wards. Arryn refused, launching a rebellion in which Ned and Robert joined as lords of their houses and chief commanders. Shortly before the final battles of the rebellion, Ned married Catelyn Tully, who had been betrothed to Ned's brother Brandon before his death. Ned was present, along with Howland Reed, at a tower on the Dornish border known as the "Tower of Joy" when his sister Lyanna died there, an incident that haunted Ned ever after.
Once the conflict had ended and Robert had taken the throne, Ned returned home, bringing with him an infant boy, who Eddard claims as his own illegitimate son Jon. Eddard refuses to speak about Jon's mother and her identity remains unknown. He spent the next fifteen years as Lord of Winterfell. Eddard rarely left his lands, and did not involve himself in the complex intrigues of the southern courts.
Following the death of Jon Arryn under mysterious circumstances, King Robert travelled to Winterfell to ask Eddard to replace Arryn as Hand of the King, the monarch's closest advisor. Ned wanted to decline, but went south at his wife's urging to investigate Arryn's death. He discovered that Robert's children were actually sired by Cersei's brother, Jaime Lannister. Pursuing his usual forthright, honorable approach, he confronted Cersei, giving her opportunity to flee in disgrace. Instead, Cersei used her time to orchestrate Robert's assassination. Upon Ned's refusal to recognize Joffrey Baratheon as Robert's heir, Cersei imprisoned Ned for treason and her council arranged banishment for a plea bargain. However, Joffrey capriciously had him publicly beheaded, against Cersei and her council's wishes.
Eddard Stark is played by Sean Bean in the HBO adaption of the books.
Robb is Eddard Stark's eldest legitimate child, and the heir to Winterfell. He bears great responsibility with scant complaint, and shares his father's devotion to honor and justice. His appearance favors his Tully side, with a stocky build, blue eyes, and thick auburn hair. His companion direwolf is named Grey Wind.
When Eddard became the King's Hand, Robb remained at Winterfell to rule in his father's stead. Upon Eddard's execution, Robb was declared King in the North by his father's bannermen, who rallied to his cause. Robb won many great battles against the Lannister armies, which led him to be known as the "Young Wolf", but he believed that he botched the non-martial aspects of the war.
His downfall was triggered by failure to fulfill one of his mother's pacts that cemented his shaky alliances. As part of an agreement with House Frey, Catelyn pledged to Lord Walder Frey that Robb would marry a Frey woman. Instead, Robb married Jeyne Westerling, daughter of a minor House serving House Lannister. In grief over the news of his brothers' deaths at the hands of Theon Greyjoy, Robb finds comfort and solace with Jeyne and they eventually have sex. In order to preserve her honor, Robb quietly weds Jeyne, naming her his queen. The controversial marriage incites the rage of House Frey. Robb offers an apology to Lord Frey for breaking his pledge, and believed the matter resolved.
Lord Frey's apparent forgiveness proves false when Robb attends his uncle's wedding to Roslin Frey: Robb, his wolf Grey Wind, his mother, and many of his men are murdered by Frey soldiers. Roose Bolton personally kills the young king, and Robb's body is defiled. Because of the bloodshed, this event became known as the Red Wedding. The incident outraged Robb Stark's surviving loyal bannermen, and sullied the honor of House Frey, which had violated one of the oldest traditions of the Seven Kingdoms: that of the safety of guests who have been given food and shelter.
Shortly before Robb was murdered, he may have designated an heir, believing his brothers and his sister Arya to be dead. Robb and Catelyn agreed that Sansa (believed to be the only other surviving lawful child of Eddard Stark) should be removed from the line of succession due to the marriage to Tyrion Lannister in order to prevent Winterfell from falling into Lannister hands. Robb intends to name his half-brother Jon Snow as his heir as Jon was raised in the Stark way and is a son of Eddard Stark. The current status of this will is currently unknown. While many of the lords that knew the identity of Robb's chosen heir were slain at the Red Wedding, others still live that know who it is.
Although young, Robb was a brilliant tactician and strategist. He demonstrated this brilliance on several occasions, such as when he outmaneuvered Lord Tywin Lannister and rescued Riverrun, subsequently capturing Jaime Lannister. It is also revealed that he planned to assail the impregnable Moat Cailin from three directions and his commanders were confident the plan would work. However, he never had the chance to put the plan in action. Like his father Ned, Robb was short-sighted of the political games being played throughout the war, a flaw that cost him the alliance of the Freys, the Karstarks and the Boltons and ultimately, his life.
Robb Stark is played by Richard Madden in the HBO adaption of the books.
Catelyn and Eddard's elder daughter, Sansa (a POV character) has traditional feminine graces and is a strong believer in the world of chivalry portrayed in stories and songs. She is classically beautiful, with high cheekbones, vivid blue eyes, thick auburn hair and grows up with a tall and graceful figure. Sansa excels at many traditionally feminine activities, including singing, dancing, dress-making, needlepoint, and social graces. She has a strained relationship with her sister Arya, whose interests are opposite in many respects and bewildering to Sansa. Her direwolf companion was named Lady.
When her father Eddard became the Hand of the King, eleven-year-old Sansa was delighted at the prospect of life at court in King's Landing, and thrilled to be betrothed to the handsome Prince Joffrey. She adored Joffrey in spite of his violent mood swings. Still trusting those at the royal court to be noble, she unknowingly aided the queen's plot against Eddard. It was only when her father was beheaded at Joffrey's command that Sansa saw Joffrey for what he really was.
No longer certain whom she could trust, she remained courteous to everyone she met, including Joffrey's scarred personal bodyguard Sandor Clegane, who was by turns brusque and gentle with her. During this time she also learned to lie, or at least to say things that could be misinterpreted to her advantage.
Sansa was forced to marry the king's uncle, the sardonic dwarf Tyrion Lannister. Dismayed by her new husband's hideous appearance and horrified by the deaths of her siblings and parents, a now thirteen-year old Sansa hid her feelings and tried to present a genteel facade though repelled at the thought of sex with her misshapen husband. Tyrion never forced her to consummate the marriage.
Sansa escaped King's Landing on the day of Joffrey's wedding during the chaos caused by Joffrey's poisoning and death. She was yet again disillusioned when she learned that her gallant rescuer was paid by Petyr Baelish. Baelish took her to the Eyrie, incognito as Baelish's bastard daughter. Baelish married Sansa's aunt, Lysa Arryn, whom Baelish later killed. Sansa became the mistress of the Eyrie and learned something of courtly intrigues from Baelish. Baelish planned for her marriage to Harrold Hardyng, the heir to House Arryn, followed by the eventual revelation of her true identity and the reclaiming of Winterfell in her name.
Sansa Stark is played by Sophie Turner in the HBO adaption of the books.
Arya (a POV character) is a spirited tomboy with an interest in fighting and exploring. Her character contrasts with her elegant sister Sansa, whom she often describes as "stupid". Arya displays great resourcefulness, cunning, and an unflinching ability to accept hard necessity. She is skinny, athletic, and often mistaken for a boy. She has strong Stark family features, with a long face and brown hair. She is said to take after her fiery aunt Lyanna in temperament and appearance. Her direwolf companion was named Nymeria.
Arya was forced to abandon her direwolf Nymeria to protect the animal's life after it bit Prince Joffrey to defend her; since then she carried a grudge for the crown prince and the queen. While at court, she trained under Syrio Forel, a celebrated Braavosi swordsman. Under his strict but creative tutelage, Arya learned to fence in the Braavosi style. During the purge of Starks from the Red Keep, Syrio held off Arya's attackers, and she lived on the streets until the day of her father's public execution. Yoren, a recruiter from the Night's Watch, smuggled her out of the city.
With no family or home, and being hunted for a highborn prisoner, Arya traveled with several groups under different names. She and her chance companions were captured and recaptured numerous times. During one skirmish, Arya saved the lives of a Braavosi assassin called Jaqen H'ghar and two others. At Harrenhal, she worked as a servant girl. Jaqen recognized Arya on arriving at the castle, and offered her three murders for the lives she saved, to restore cosmic balance. She named two choices. For the last death, she chose Jaqen himself. In an effort to make her unsay his name he helped her free the imprisoned northmen, her father's men; before they parted, Jaqen gave her an ancient coin, which would ensure free passage on any Braavosi ship. Arya escaped once more, and was captured again.
Sandor Clegane then stole her away to return her to her brother Robb and collect a rich reward. Clegane and Arya reached the Frey castle just as Arya's brother and mother were slaughtered. Clegane decided that the only place left to take her was to the Vale of Arryn, which was ruled by Arya's aunt, the Lady Lysa. On the way, Clegane took a seemingly mortal wound, and Arya retrieved her stolen sword Needle from a corpse. Clegane's wound deteriorated, and Arya left him to die. Arya then caught a ship to Braavos at the nearby town of Saltpans. Upon arrival at Braavos, she became an acolyte of the Faceless Men, the elite and terrifying company of professional assassins to which Jaqen H'ghar belonged. Arya's training included abandoning all personal identity. One night she drank milk with a "bitter aftertaste" and awoke blind the next morning.
Arya Stark is played by Maisie Williams in the HBO adaption of the books.
Catelyn and Eddard's second son, Bran is a boy who enjoys climbing and exploring Winterfell. He is a POV character and is adventurous and tough-minded, "almost a man grown" at seven years old. He is named for his deceased uncle Brandon, elder brother of Eddard. He dreams of one day being a great knight. His direwolf companion is (eventually) named Summer.
King Robert visits Winterfell to convince Eddard Stark to serve as his Hand. Many of the party go hunting in Winterfell's woods, but Bran is deemed too young and stays behind. He climbs numerous castle walls, and sees a curious thing: Queen Cersei and her twin brother Jaime Lannister in an intimate situation. Jaime pushes Bran from the window to preserve their secret. Bran survives, although comatose with a broken back. Catelyn is hysterical with grief and remains at his bedside day and night. A would-be assassin is dismayed to find Catelyn in Bran's room. Catelyn successfully defends her life. As they struggle, Bran's fiercely protective direwolf enters and tears out the assassin's throat. Catelyn leaves Winterfell for King's Landing to confront the assassin's boss.
Bran has visions of himself falling again, and dreams of a three-eyed crow flying by his side. He experiences a number of seemingly prophetic visions. He awakens from his coma, and is immediately greeted by his direwolf, Bran names the wolf "Summer". Bran is paralyzed from the waist down and has repressed the events immediately before his fall. By the time Bran wakes up, he is saddened that most have his family had to leave Winterfell due to varying circumstances: Eddard, Arya, and Sansa had already left for King's Landing and Jon had left with Benjen for Castle Black. Over time, Bran slowly realizes that he has gained the ability to assume Summer's wolf consciousness. The rare individuals in Westeros who are able do this are referred to as wargs.
After Robb is crowned King in the North, Bran, as Robb's heir, became the Prince of Winterfell and ruled the castle while his brother is at war with the Lannisters (the War of the Five Kings). Meera and Jojen Reed of Greywater Watch stay at Winterfell to help him. They are the children of Eddard Stark's trusted comrade, Howland Reed, come to pledge the fealty of House Reed, Jojen Reed recognizes Bran's ability as a warg and instructs him on how to use this skill properly. Jojen claims that if Bran goes north beyond the Wall, he could find his three-eyed crow. When Theon Greyjoy betrays the Starks and captures Winterfell, Bran and his companions Meera and Jojen head north. They eventually end up at the Nightfort, an abandoned castle at the Wall. Inside, they meet Samwell Tarly, who, at the behest of Coldhands, takes them through "The Black Gate", a hidden gate at the bottom of a well.
Bran is played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright in the HBO adaptation of the books.
Eddard's youngest child, only three years old when the series begins. Rickon is a naturally aggressive and strong-willed child. However, his youth makes it difficult for him to cope with the terrible changes that are brought upon his life and family by war. His direwolf companion is named Shaggydog.
Shortly after Eddard's death, both Bran and Rickon shared a vision of their father's spirit in the family crypts. Alone with his crippled brother Bran at Winterfell, Rickon developed an unruly, often violent temper. His fear and rage were reflected in his direwolf, Shaggydog, who turned largely feral and savage, attacking several people before being restrained. Several times Bran's direwolf Summer forced Shaggydog into submission. Rickon hid with Bran in the crypts during Theon Greyjoy's brief reign at Winterfell. When Winterfell was sacked and burned, the brothers are claimed to have been killed by Theon Greyjoy. However, Bran and Rickon managed to safety. The wildling woman Osha took Rickon and Shaggydog to parts unknown.
Jon is of an age with Robb and is 14-years old at the beginning of the series. Ned brought Jon home to Winterfell as a baby after Battle of the Tower of Joy, which only Ned and Howland Reed survived. Ned raised Jon himself alongside his trueborn children, causing friction with Catelyn. Jon has inherited the traditional Stark look with grey eyes, dark hair, and a long face. Aside from Arya, Jon looks more like a Stark than his trueborn siblings.
Jon possesses a strong morality and does his best to follow his father's lessons in honour and duty. He is close with his father and half-siblings, particularly Robb and Arya. Though he idolizes his father, Jon is wounded by Eddard's refusal to speak about his mother. Jon likewise looks up to his uncle Benjen Stark, First Ranger of the Night's Watch. Due to his illegitimacy and resulting inability to inherit his family's titles, Jon yearns to find his own place in the world where he can earn his own honor, and aspires to join the Night's Watch, which generations of Starks have joined. He goes with his uncle Benjen to Castle Black in hopes of becoming a ranger like his uncle.
At Castle Black, Jon is disillusioned by what the Night's Watch has become. While it is still staffed with ex-knights, sons of nobility, and highborn illegitimate sons like himself, it is also largely made up of criminals who have joined the Watch only to avoid execution and has fallen into disrepair as it has lost the support of all kingdoms except for the North. Jon initially looked down on the other recruits as some were criminals and untrained exiles and he easily defeats them in the training yard. However, when Donal Noye makes Jon realize his privileged castle upbringing while the other recruits are lowborn without any combat skills, Jon pushes aside his preconceptions, reaches out to the other recruits and teaches them how to fight. They become friends and when the cowardly but good-natured Samwell Tarly arrives, Jon and his friends protect Sam from the cruel master-at-arms, Alliser Throne. Jon came to accept the men of the Night's Watch as his new brothers. Initially resentful of his appointment to the steward corps as he had always dreamed of being a ranger, Jon soon came to realize he was being groomed for future leadership. Jon, as the Commander's eyes and ears, joined a scout expedition to investigate the disappearances of several rangers. On the orders of the veteran ranger Qhorin Halfhand, Jon infiltrated the wildling army led by the self-styled "King Beyond the Wall" Mance Rayder, and learned his plans to cross into the Seven Kingdoms. During this time, Jon fell in love with a wildling warrior named Ygritte. Though in love with Ygritte, he remained loyal to the Night's Watch, however, and eventually managed to separate from the wildlings and made his way back to Castle Black. During the wildling assault, Jon took command of the few men left defending the Wall. Despite overwhelming odds, Jon successfully held off the opposing forces until the timely arrival of Stannis Baratheon's army. Soon after, "Lord Snow" was voted the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
Jon's next challenge was Lord Stannis. Stannis needed a new Lord at Winterfell, one who could not only secure the North, but who would also pledge his allegiance to Stannis as the rightful king of Westeros. He offered his royal decree making Jon Snow into the Lord Jon Stark of Winterfell. Jon refuses Stannis's offer out of loyalty to his father's gods and his siblings' claims. Stannis and his army remain at Castle Black leading up to the events of A Dance With Dragons.
As Lord Commander, Jon Snow must contend with several difficulties, including satisfying Stannis, who saved the Night's Watch; preparing to feed and shelter the Watch, King's men, and the wildlings through winter; as well as prepare against the encroaching threat of the Others, an army of the dead. As Jon is trying to save as many as he can from the Others, including his efforts to save the wildlings, these decisions are met with opposition by Bowen Marsh and his other officers. His efforts to ally with and save the wildlings, as well as the aid he provides to Stannis as Stannis is one of the few supporting the Watch, causes contention between himself and a faction of his men. Toward the end of his last chapter, Jon receives a threatening letter from Ramsay Bolton, resulting in Jon announcing his intention to march south and confront Ramsay. Shortly after, Jon hears a scream of agony and rushes to the source. A bleeding Wun Wun has killed Ser Patrek of King's Mountain and as Jon is trying to prevent more loss of life, he is stabbed repeatedly by Bowen Marsh and other black brothers, who attack in tears while muttering "for the Watch". Whether or not Jon survives this attack is currently unknown.
Jon has no idea who his mother might be. In the first book of the series, Ned Stark claims that he "dishonored" his marriage to Catelyn with a wet nurse named Wylla who was employed at Starfall, but nothing more is known about her; Catelyn has also speculated that his mother was Ashara Dayne, also of Starfall, but when she brought it up, Ned refused to answer. Another theory claims that Eddard isn't Jon's father at all, but that Snow is the offspring of his sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. Howland Reed, who accompanied Ned to the Tower of Joy and from there to Starfall, is believed to be the only living character to know the truth.
Jon Snow is played by Kit Harington in the HBO adaption of the books.
Eddard's younger sister, Lyanna, died at the end of Robert's Rebellion. As Lyanna was dying. Her last words to Ned Stark were, "Promise me, Ned".
Lyanna was described by those who knew her as a spirited young woman, and more than a little wild. As she was dying, she asked Eddard to bring her back to Winterfell to be buried in the ancestral crypts. She had been betrothed to Robert Baratheon, who was completely infatuated with her. Lyanna was not as ardent in her love for Robert, and was aware of his philandering ways. She was said to exhibit the typical Stark coloring, dark hair and gray eyes and was regarded as beautiful. Arya has been told that she resembles Lyanna, but she does not consider herself attractive. Comparisons are made between her and Arya, both in appearance and temperament several times in the books.
At the tourney of Harrenhal, Rhaegar won and presented the title of Queen of Love and Beauty to Lyanna Stark, instead of his wife Princess Elia of Dorne. Shortly thereafter Lyanna and Rhaegar disappeared together.
After Lyanna was taken by Crown Prince Rhaegar. Brandon Stark rode to King's Landing and demanded Lyanna's return and Rhaegar's death for his crimes. Aerys Targaryen had him arrested for treason. Brandon and Lord Rickard Stark were both executed by King Aerys who then called for the heads of Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon. Jon Arryn of the Eyrie and his two wards instead called up their bannermen and rose up to overthrow the royal house, in what would be called Robert's Rebellion. Eddard and six companions went to rescue Lyanna from the "Tower of Joy" in Dorne. They had to fight three members of the Kingsguard, including Ser Dayne the Star of the Morning. Only Eddard Stark and Howland Reed survived, but it was only to find Lyanna dying in a bed of blood. It is believed that she and Rhaegar were secretly married and were the true parents of Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow.
She is portrayed in flashbacks by Aisling Franciosi in the HBO adaptation of the books.
Characters from the Stark family
- Arya Stark, who has the alias Cat of the Canals
- Benjen Stark (Missing, presumed deceased.)
- Bran Stark
- Eddard Stark (Deceased)
- Catelyn Stark (Deceased, revived as Lady Stoneheart)
- Rickon Stark
- Robb Stark (Deceased)
- Sansa Stark, who has the alias Alayne Stone
- Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Eddard Stark.
The Stark direwolves
- Ghost, belonging to Jon Snow.
- Grey Wind, belonging to Robb Stark, slain by the Freys.
- Lady, belonging to Sansa Stark, slain at Queen Cersei's behest.
- Nymeria, belonging to Arya Stark, run off by Arya to avoid her being slain after attacking Joffrey.
- Shaggydog, belonging to Rickon Stark.
- Summer, belonging to Bran Stark.
Historical characters from the Stark family
- Brandon Stark, also called Bran the Builder, the first King in the North.
- King Brandon Stark, called the Breaker. Worked alongside Joramun the King Beyond the Wall against the Night King.
- King Theon Stark, called the Hungry Wolf
- King Jon Stark, who built the Wolf's Den at White Harbor after driving away sea raiders.
- King Rickard Stark, his son who defeated the Marsh King, extending their kingdom to include the Neck. He was called the Laughing Wolf.
- King Rodrik Stark, who won Bear Island from the ironborn in a wrestling match and granted it to House Mormont.
- King Edrick Stark, called the Snowbeard, ruled for nearly a century, although he lost the Wolf's Den to pirates from the Stepstones.
- Brandon Stark, called the Ice-Eyes. His great-grandson.
- Karlon Stark, a younger brother of the king and founder of the Karstarks.
- Osric Stark, son or brother of the King in the North, the youngest Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who served for 60 years.
- Brandon Stark
- Lyanna Stark
- Lord Rickard Stark
- Torrhen Stark, also called the King Who Knelt, pledged fealty to Aegon the Conquerer.
- Brandon Snow, bastard brother of King Torrhen.
- Lord Cregan Stark, who fought Aemon the Dragonknight
- Artos Stark, also called Artos the Implacable
- Willam Stark, father of Edwyle Stark, brother of Artos Stark
- Edwyle Stark, father of Rickard Stark
- Rodrik Stark, called the Wandering Wolf, father of Lyarra Stark, brother of Willam and Artos
- Lyarra Stark, daughter of Rodrik Stark and Arya Flint, mother of Brandon, Eddard, Lyanna and Benjen Stark.