Robb Stark

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Robb Stark
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Game of Thrones
Robb Stark-Richard Madden.jpg
Richard Madden as Robb Stark
First appearance Novel:
A Game of Thrones (1996)
"Winter Is Coming" (2011)
Last appearance Novel:
A Storm of Swords (2000)
"The Rains of Castamere" (2013)
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by Richard Madden
(Game of Thrones)
Aliases The Young Wolf
Gender Male
Title Lord of Winterfell
King in the North
King of the Trident
Family House Stark
Spouse(s) Jeyne Westerling (books)
Talisa Maegyr (TV series)
Relatives Ned Stark (father)
Catelyn Tully (mother)
Sansa Stark (sister)
Arya Stark (sister)
Bran Stark (brother)
Rickon Stark (brother)
Jon Snow (half-brother; books)
(cousin/foster brother; TV series)

Brandon Stark (uncle)
Benjen Stark (uncle)
Lyanna Stark (aunt)
Lysa Tully (aunt)
Edmure Tully (uncle)
Robert/Robin Arryn (cousin)
Kingdom The North

Robb Stark is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin, and its television adaptation Game of Thrones.

Introduced in 1996's A Game of Thrones, Robb is the eldest son of Eddard Stark, the honorable lord of Winterfell, an ancient fortress in the North of the fictional continent Westeros. He subsequently appeared in Martin's A Clash of Kings (1998) and A Storm of Swords (2000).

Robb is portrayed by Richard Madden in the HBO television adaptation.[1][2][3]

Character description[edit]

Robb is fourteen years old at the beginning of A Game of Thrones (1996). He is the eldest son of Eddard "Ned" Stark and his wife Catelyn, and has five siblings: Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon, and the illegitimate half-brother Jon Snow. Robb is constantly accompanied by his direwolf, Grey Wind.

Robb is the eldest legitimate son of Lord Eddard Stark, and heir to Winterfell. When Lord Eddard relocates to King's Landing to become the King's Hand, Robb remains at Winterfell to rule in his father's stead. When Eddard is beheaded by Ser Ilyn Payne, Robb declares himself King in the North rather than swear fealty to the Lannister king, Joffrey Baratheon, drawing the banners of the north and of the riverlands to his cause. Despite displaying a proficiency in military manners in his victories against the Lannisters, he makes numerous political and tactical errors, culminating into his betrayal and murder by disgruntled allies Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, all under discreet command of Tywin Lannister at the wedding of his uncle, Edmure Tully, to Frey's daughter Roslin.

Development, overview and reception[edit]

Robb Stark is not a point of view character in the novels, so his actions are witnessed and interpreted through the eyes of other people, such as his mother and Theon Greyjoy. Robb is mostly a background character in the novels.[4]

James Poniewozik of Time describes Robb as less eager to seek retaliation than his father Eddard Stark but also as more pragmatic.[5][6] His overview of the television version of Robb focuses on his role as a foil for Eddard:

Robb has risen to take his father’s place, as a lord of Winterfell and as a focal character in the show. We never saw what kind of warrior Ned was in the field, but in King’s Landing, he fought a straight-ahead battle, telegraphing his moves, and died for it. Robb, seeing the Lannisters' numbers, shows himself capable of feints and deceptions—albeit at the cost of 2,000 men and the guilt of having sent them on a suicide mission.[7]

In the third novel, A Storm of Swords, Robb Stark is assassinated in an event called the Red Wedding, which was inspired by the Black Dinner and Glencoe Massacre from Scottish history.[8] George Martin has said that he decided to kill Robb Stark because he wished to keep the story difficult to predict: "I killed Ned because everybody thinks he’s the hero ... The next predictable thing is to think his eldest son is going to rise up and avenge his father. And everybody is going to expect that. So immediately [killing Robb] became the next thing I had to do."[8]

In their 2015 book, Game of Thrones and Business, Tim Phillips and Rebecca Claire agree:

But the Internet-crashing shock wasn't fundamentally about death. There's loads of that on TV. What really made this stand out was that it broke the rules – the story just wasn't supposed to go this way. We'd invested in the revenge story of Robb Stark and his family who, in Hollywood narrative terms, should clearly win the war against the Lannisters because that's the way things are done in fairy stories.[9]

The Scottish actor Richard Madden has received positive reviews for his role as Robb Stark in the TV series.[10]


A coat of arms showing a gray wolf on a white field.
Coat of arms of House Stark

A Game of Thrones[edit]

When his father leaves for King's Landing to be made King Robert Baratheon's Hand, Robb becomes acting Lord of Winterfell. After his father's arrest for presumed treason on the death of Robert Baratheon, he marches south with an army in attempt to free his father. To secure passage through the Green Fork at the vital crossing of the Twins, Robb consents to the marriage of Walder Frey's daughters or granddaughters negotiated by his mother Lady Catelyn Tully. After crossing the river, he surprises and destroys the Lannister army besieging Riverrun, capturing Jaime Lannister in the process. Upon hearing of his father's execution at King's Landing, Robb is crowned the King in the North by his bannermen, and the Riverlands lords also swear loyalty to him.

A Clash of Kings[edit]

Robb continues to win victories against the Lannister army, and earns the nickname "Young Wolf" for his ferocity in battle. He sends his mother Lady Catelyn to negotiate an alliance with Renly Baratheon, but Renly is assassinated by his brother Stannis Baratheon with blood magic from the red priestess Melisandre. As Stannis and the Starks still share a common enemy, Robb invades the Westerlands in order to strategically assist Stannis's campaign against the Lannisters. He also sends Theon Greyjoy to Pyke in hope to win the alliance of Theon's father Balon Greyjoy, ruler of the Iron Islands. However Balon decides to take advantage and attack the North instead. Theon joins his father and seizes Winterfell by surprise, where he is believed to have murdered Robb's youngest siblings Bran and Rickon, though in reality they have escaped and gone into hiding.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

During one of his assaults in the Westerlands, Robb is wounded, at the same time learns the news of his brothers' apparent murder. Falling ill due to mourning and injury, he falls in love with the noble maiden in charge of nursing him, Jeyne Westerling, taking her virginity. To preserve Jeyne's honor, Robb marries her, rescinding the previous marriage arrangement with House Frey, causing the Freys to desert his army. Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon, who has suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Blackwater, is urged by Melisandre to use blood magic with leeches to curse the three rival kings Joffrey, Robb and Balon.

After Stannis's defeat at the Blackwater, Robb withdraws from the Westerlands and returns to Riverrun to attend the funeral of his grandfather Lord Hoster Tully. Upon returning, Robb learns that his mother Lady Catelyn has secretly released the prisoner Jaime Lannister in the hope of exchanging her hostage daughter Sansa in King's Landing. This leads to the mutiny of Lord Rickard Karstark, whose two sons were slain by Jaime during the Battle of Whispering Woods, forcing Robb to execute Lord Rickard and losing the Karstark support. As the war situation is looking bad, Robb tries to repair the alliance with the Freys, by bargaining his uncle Edmure Tully to marry Roslin Frey, hence rebuilding the marriage alliance. The Freys then demanded Robb to personally attend the wedding at the Twins as a gesture of apology.

On their way to the Twins, Robb learns that Balon Greyjoy has accidentally died, and the ironborn commanders are returning to the Iron Islands to attend Kingsmoot. He decided to lead his army to retake the North immediately after the wedding is complete. He soon learns that his sister Sansa has been forcibly married off to Tyrion Lannister. To prevent the Lannisters from claiming Winterfell through Sansa's child by Tyrion, against the opposition of his mother Catelyn, Robb disinherits Sansa and signs a decree legitimizing his half-brother Jon Snow as his heir if he happens to die with no children, and requests the Night's Watch release Jon from service. He then entrusts the decree to Lord Galbart Glover and Lady Maege Mormont, sending them to secretly sail up the Neck seeking contact with Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch, so he can launch a coordinated attack to recapture the strategically crucial Moat Cailin. However at the Twins, the Northern convoy, who are unarmed in attendance to the wedding, are betrayed and massacred by the Freys during the wedding feast in an event known as the "Red Wedding". Robb is personally murdered by his chief vassal lord Roose Bolton, who has also secretly defected to the Lannisters and rewarded with the title of the Warden of the North.

Family tree of House Stark[edit]

TV adaptation[edit]

Richard Madden plays the role of Robb Stark in the television series.

Robb Stark is played by Richard Madden in the television adaption of the series of books.[11] There are some slight differences between the TV portrayal and the book version of Robb. Due to the child characters' ages being increased, Robb's age is changed from 14 to 17 years old at the start of the series. Instead of marrying Jeyne Westering (as in the novels), he marries a healer from Volantis named Talisa Maegyr, who is also killed during the Red Wedding. And while Robb is a background character in the books, not having any chapters told from his perspective, he is listed ahead of Michelle Fairley, who plays POV character Catelyn Stark in the books, in the opening credits of many episodes, and we see the Stark's storyline in Seasons 2 and 3 revolve more around Robb in the viewers' eyes as opposed to the readers'.

James Poniewozik comments on Madden's performance in "The Pointy End" in Time, saying "both the script and Richard Madden show in deft, quick strokes how the crisis focuses him. (This is another case where having a live actor does a better job of showing a transition that seemed more abrupt in the book.)"[6]

Madden said that he learned that the character would be killed off early on but otherwise read the books season by season, focusing primarily on the scripts: "I'm, as an actor, forced to bend the path I put Robb on and change it and keep the surprises coming. Hopefully, I managed to do that."[12]


Robb Stark is the eldest son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark and the heir to Winterfell. His dire wolf is called Grey Wind. Robb becomes involved in the war against the Lannisters after his father, Ned Stark, is arrested for treason. Robb summons his bannermen for war against House Lannister and marches to the Riverlands. Eventually, crossing the river at the Twins becomes strategically necessary. To win permission to cross, Robb agrees to marry a daughter of Walder Frey, Lord of the Twins. Robb leads the war effort against the Lannisters and successfully captures Jaime. After Ned is executed, the North and the Riverlands declare their independence from the Seven Kingdoms and proclaim Robb as their new King, "The King in the North".

He wins a succession of battles in Season 2, earning him the nickname the Young Wolf. However, he feels that he botched the political aspects of war. He sends Theon to the Iron Islands hoping that he can broker an alliance with Balon Greyjoy, Theon's father. In exchange for Greyjoy support, Robb as King in the North will recognize the Iron Islands' independence. He also sends his mother Catelyn to deal with Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon, both of whom are fighting to be the rightful king. Theon and Catelyn fail in their missions, and Balon launches an invasion of the North. Robb falls in love with Talisa Maegyr, a healer from Volantis due to her kindness and spirit. Despite his mother's protest, Robb breaks his engagement with the Freys and marries Talisa in the 2nd season finale. On news of his grandfather, Lord Hoster Tully's, death, Robb and his party travel north to Riverrun for the funeral, where the young king is reunited with his great-uncle, Brynden Blackfish, and his uncle, Edmure Tully, the new lord of Riverrun. While at Riverrun, Robb makes the decision to execute Lord Rickard Karstark for the murders of two teenage squires related to the Lannisters, a decision that loses the support of the Karstarks and leads Robb to make the ultimately fatal decision to ask the Freys for their alliance. He is killed in the Red Wedding Massacre, after witnessing the murder of his pregnant wife and their unborn child. Lord Bolton personally executes Robb, stabbing him through the heart while taunting that "the Lannisters send their regards", in fact a promise made to Jaime (who had no knowledge of Bolton's impending treason) when leaving for the Twins. His corpse is later decapitated and Grey Wind's head is sewn on and paraded around as the Stark forces are slaughtered by the Freys and the Boltons. Though House Stark is stripped of all lands and titles by the Iron Throne as a result of Robb's death and his ultimately failed rebellion against House Lannister, he and his mother are later avenged in Season 6 when his half-brother Jon Snow and sister Sansa Stark successfully overthrow House Bolton and retake Winterfell and Jon is crowned the King in the North by the remaining Northern lords, wildlings, and Knights of the Vale, restoring Stark rule in the North in the process, while his youngest sister Arya Stark returns to Westeros and murders Walder Frey at the Twins, ultimately avenging the Red Wedding.

In other media[edit]

In his article "The War in Westeros and Just War Theory," Richard H. Corrigan uses Robb to illustrate the concepts of just cause and right intention in the decision to go to war: "Robb is not only fighting this war to ensure that his fellow Northerners have a just king [Robb's cause]. He is also doing it to avenge his father, Ned, and to recover his sisters Arya and Sansa [Robb's intention]." Corrigan speculates that Robb may be suffering from cognitive dissonance and says that, ethically, once Robb has achieved his cause, he is obligated to cease fighting even if he has not yet avenged his family.[13]

Robb's decision to renege on his promise to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters features heavily in the fifth chapter of Tim Phillips and Rebecca Clare's Game of Thrones and Business, "Keep Your Word: Robb Stark discovers too late the dangers of broken promises in business deals."[9]


  1. ^ "Game of Thrones Cast and Crew: Robb Stark played by Richard Madden". HBO. Retrieved December 25, 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Official Website for the HBO Series Game of Thrones - Season 4". HBO. 
  3. ^ "From HBO". Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. 
  4. ^ "Game of Thrones Viewer's Guide". 
  5. ^ Poniewozik, James (May 23, 2011). "Game of Thrones Watch: Talk to the Hand". Time. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Poniewozik, James (June 6, 2011). "Game of Thrones Watch: the Quality of Mercy". Time. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ Poniewozik, James (June 13, 2011). "Game of Thrones Watch: The Unkindest Cut". Time. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Hibberd, James (June 2, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' author George R.R. Martin: Why he wrote The Red Wedding". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Phillips, Tim; Clare, Rebecca (2015). Game of Thrones and Business: Strategy, morality and leadership lessons from the world’s most talked about TV show. Infinite Ideas. ISBN 1909652938. 
  10. ^ "Robb Stark shocker: 'Game of Thrones' actor talks heart-breaking twist". Entertainment Weekly. 
  11. ^ "'Game of Thrones' Q&A: Richard Madden on Robb Stark's Endgame". Rolling Stone. 
  12. ^ Maureen Ryan (February 7, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' Robb Stark Speaks: Richard Madden Addresses Shocking Developments". Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  13. ^ Corrigan, Richard H. (2012), "The War in Westeros and Just War Theory", in Jacoby, Henry, Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper than Swords, Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, 65, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 1118206053, retrieved February 7, 2016