Roose Bolton

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Roose Bolton
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Game of Thrones
Roose Bolton-Michael McElhatton.jpg
Michael McElhatton as Roose Bolton
First appearance
Last appearance
  • Television:
  • "Home" (2016)
Created byGeorge R. R. Martin
Portrayed byMichael McElhatton
(Game of Thrones)
  • Novels:
  • The Leech Lord
  • Lord Leech
  • Lord of the Dreadfort
  • Warden of the North
  • Lord Paramount of the North
  • Television:
  • Lord of Winterfell
FamilyHouse Bolton
  • Unnamed first wife
  • "Fat" Walda Frey
  • Novels:
  • Bethany Ryswell
  • Domeric Bolton
  • Ramsay Bolton
  • Television:
  • Unnamed newborn (with Walda)
  • Television:
  • Ramsay Bolton
KingdomThe North

Roose Bolton 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, Bolton, a northern lord with his seat at the Dreadfort, is a retainer of Lord Eddard Stark. Bolton is known for being cold and calculating. Bolton's heir is his bastard son Ramsay Snow. Bolton joins Robb Stark's rebellion as (along with Greatjon Umber) one of Stark's lieutenants. He marries Fat Walda (Frey), after having been offered any Frey bride's weight in silver as a dowry by Lord Walder Frey. With the help of Arya Stark and the Brave Companions he takes and holds Harrenhal until rejoining Robb Stark ostensibly to help retake the Neck (occupied by the Greyjoys), but in truth as a conspirator orchestrating the Red Wedding, receiving the title of Warden of the North from the Lannisters.

Roose is portrayed by Irish actor Michael McElhatton in the HBO television adaptation.[1][2][3]

Character description[edit]

Lord Roose Bolton is a significant vassal of Lord Eddard Stark. His seat is the Dreadfort and his sigil is a flayed man, an homage to the ancient Bolton tradition of flaying enemies. He is nicknamed "the Leech Lord" for regular leechings meant to improve his health. He is known to be a cold, cautious and calculating man.


Roose Bolton 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 Catelyn Stark, Arya Stark and Theon Greyjoy/Reek.[4]

Portrayal and reception[edit]

Roose is portrayed in the HBO TV series by Irish actor Michael McElhatton, who has received positive reviews for his performance.[5]



Early history[edit]

Roose practiced an ancient and illicitly banned tradition called the first night, in which a lord had the right to bed a commoner's wife. One day, prior to Robert's Rebellion, Roose was fox hunting along the Weeping Water when he came across a young woman washing clothes in the stream, whom was married to the old miller without Roose's knowledge. Desiring the woman, and angered for not being informed of the marriage, Roose had the miller hanged and violently raped the woman beneath the tree where her husband still hung.

A year later, the woman comes to the Dreadfort with a newborn boy who she claims is Roose's bastard Ramsay. Roose considered having the woman whipped and the baby killed before realizing that the baby is indeed his. He decides to give the woman money and annual supplies to raise Ramsay, and had the tongue of the miller's brother cut out to prevent Lord Rickard Stark from being informed of his illegal activites. Roose later participates in Robert's Rebellion and (according to a semi-canonical source) the Greyjoy Rebellion.[citation needed]

Despite Roose's orders, Roose's only trueborn son, Domeric, seeks out Ramsay. Domeric dies soon after, and Roose suspects that Ramsay poisoned Domeric to become his heir. Roose, left without a trueborn heir, brings Ramsay to the Dreadfort, where he later serves as the fortress's castellan.

A Game of Thrones[edit]

Roose is amongst the lords who travel to Winterfell to aid Robb Stark in his campaign against the Lannisters. His intelligence and caution sees him given command of part of the Northern host when the army splits up at the Twins, and he leads the attack on Tywin Lannister's army in the Battle of the Green Fork. The battle ends in a Lannister victory and Roose retreats with the survivors to the causeway of Moat Cailin.

A Clash of Kings[edit]

To form an alliance with House Frey, Roose is offered by Lord Walder Frey one of his female family members hand in marriage, as well as offering the prospective bride's weight in silver for her dowry. Roose chooses "Fat" Walda Frey, the fattest female member of House Frey. He also makes an alliance with the Brave Companions, Essosi sellswords employed by Tywin, to help the Northerners capture Harrenhal from the Lannister force occupying it. After capturing Harrenhal Roose takes Arya Stark as a servant, mistaking her for a commoner.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

Hoat brings Jaime Lannister to Harrenhal, having cut off Jaime's hand in hope of blaming Roose and preventing the Boltons allying with the Lannisters. Roose has Jaime sent back to King's Landing after Jaime assures Roose that he will not blame him. Roose then travels to the Twins for Edmure Tully's wedding to Roslin Frey, but at the wedding the Freys turn on the Starks and Roose personally kills Robb Stark. It is revealed that Roose had conspired with the Freys and Tywin Lannister to betray the Starks. As reward for his service, Tywin names Roose the new Warden of the North

A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons[edit]

Roose returns North with his forces, joined by two thousand Frey men. Meeting with Ramsay (now legitimised as a Bolton) and a captive Theon Greyjoy, the Boltons travel to Barrowton for Ramsay's wedding to Jeyne Poole, forced to assume the identity of Arya Stark. After hearing that Stannis Baratheon has captured Deepwood Motte, Roose decides to move the wedding to Winterfell to bait Stannis out. The Boltons and their Northern allies (many of whom are only grudgingly pledging fealty to the Boltons, or plan to betray them) remain at Winterfell after the wedding in anticipation of Stannis' attack. Tensions are high during the wedding due to the anger of the Northmen at the Freys. Three of the Freys who had been travelling with Lord Wyman Manderly of White Harbor, who lost his younger son Ser Wendel Manderly at the Red Wedding, have disappeared, and are heavily implied to have been put in pies which Wyman gives to the Freys and Boltons, eating some himself. Lady Barbrey Dustin of Barrowton, the younger sister of Bethany Ryswell, tells Theon that Roose has no feelings and plays with people for amusement. When one of Walder Frey's grandsons, Little Walder Frey, is found murdered (possibly by his cousin Big Walder Frey), their uncle Ser Hosteen Frey attacks Wyman, leading to a fight in which White Harbor and Frey men are killed. Roose is forced to send them both out of Winterfell to encounter Stannis.

Family tree of House Bolton[edit]

Roose[b]"Fat" Walda
  1. ^ Martin, George R. R. (2011). "Chapter 32, Reek III". A Dance with Dragons. ISBN 978-0553801477.
  2. ^ a b c Martin, George R. R. (2011). "Appendix: House Stark". A Dance with Dragons. ISBN 978-0553801477.
  3. ^ Martin, George R. R. (2011). "Appendix: House Frey". A Dance with Dragons. ISBN 978-0553801477.
  4. ^ Martin, George R. R. (1999). "Chapter 28, Bran IV". A Clash of Kings. ISBN 0-553-10803-4.
  5. ^ Martin, George R. R. (2011). "Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell". A Dance with Dragons. ISBN 978-0553801477.
  6. ^ Ramsay marries Sansa Stark in the television adaptation Game of Thrones.

TV adaptation[edit]

Roose Bolton is played by Michael McElhatton in the HBO television adaption of the series of books.[6] He and the rest of the cast were nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2014.[7]


A Bannerman of the North and Lord of the Dreadfort. The Bolton family have a nasty history of keeping to very old, and barbaric ways, including flaying their enemies alive, and Roose is no exception, being suspected of not feeling any emotion. His cunning makes him a valuable ally, but his unpredictable nature makes him a dangerous one.

Roose's background in the television series is much the same as in the books. However, in the television series he adopts Ramsay of his own accord when his mother dies soon after Ramsay's birth.

Second season[edit]

Roose declares for King in the North Robb Stark and serves as a chief member of his war council, although Robb sternly admonishes Roose when he advocates flaying Lannister prisoners to obtain information. After Theon Greyjoy betrays the Starks and seizes Winterfell, Roose brings the news to Robb and offers to send his bastard son Ramsay Snow with a force of Dreadfort men to oust Theon and the Ironborn from Winterfell.

Third season[edit]

The dagger with which Roose Bolton kills Robb Stark, and the knife with which Catelyn Stark kills Walder Frey's wife.

Following the Northern army's arrival at Harrenhal, Roose presents a letter from Ramsay claiming that the Ironborn sacked Winterfell before fleeing. Robb orders Roose and the Bolton forces to hold Harrenhal while the rest of his army rides to Riverrun. One of Roose's man-at-arms, Locke, captures the escaped Jaime Lannister and his escort Brienne of Tarth, cutting off Jaime's swordhand in the process, before bringing the two to Harrenhal. Roose agrees to let Jaime go, but keeps Brienne as a hostage, though Jaime later returns to secure her release. He then meets up with the Stark army at the Twins for the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. However, it is revealed that Roose has conspired with Lord Walder Frey to betray the Starks, and after the wedding the Freys and Bolton slaughter the Stark forces, with Roose personally killing Robb. As part of the Bolton-Frey alliance, Roose agrees to marry Walder's daughter Walda - Walder offers him the bride's weight in silver as dowry, so Roose decides to marry the fattest of Walder's daughters. In the aftermath of the massacre, Roose hints to Walder that his betrayal of Robb was motivated by resentment at having his advice ignored by Robb. Roose also reveals that Winterfell was actually sacked by his bastard Ramsay, who subsequently flayed the Ironborn garrison there and took Theon prisoner, for his own amusement. As reward for his defection, Tywin Lannister names Roose the Warden of the North.

Fourth season[edit]

With the Ironborn holding Moat Cailin - the fortification barring passage between the North and the rest of Westeros - Roose is forced to smuggle himself back into the North. Upon his return to the Dreadfort, he chastises Ramsay for having gelded Theon and sending terms of surrender to the Greyjoys without his approval, while reminding Ramsay of his bastard parentage. Insulted, Ramsay demonstrates how effectively he has broken Theon (whom he has since renamed "Reek") by having Reek shave him, even after revealing Roose's murder of Robb, while also coaxing Reek into revealing he faked the deaths of Bran and Rickon Stark. After Ramsay points out that the other Northerners will turn on the Boltons if it is revealed that there is a living male Stark, Roose tasks Locke with hunting down Bran and Rickon and killing Jon Snow, Robb's bastard half-brother. Roose also sends Ramsay and Reek to lift the siege of Moat Cailin; when Ramsay is successful, Roose presents him with a royal decree of legitimisation as a trueborn Bolton. Roose subsequently moves to rebuild and occupy Winterfell.

Fifth season[edit]

In the aftermath of Tywin Lannister's death and Ramsay's murder of a disobedient vassal and his family, Roose seeks to secure House Bolton's position by arranging to have Ramsay marry Sansa Stark, supposedly the last trueborn Stark alive. In doing so, Roose seemingly secures an alliance with the forces of the Vale and its Lord Protector Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (unaware that Baelish intends on having the Bolton army decimated by the approaching Baratheon army before defeating the victor with the Vale's army). After Ramsay torments Sansa by having Reek serve them at dinner, Roose announces that he and Walda are expecting a son. However, later Roose privately reassures Ramsay of his position as his heir, and asks him to assist in defeating Stannis Baratheon's army. To this end, Roose permits Ramsay and his men to launch a sneak attack on Stannis' camp, destroying the army's supplies. With the supplies destroyed and most of Stannis' army subsequently deserting him, the Boltons easily defeat the Baratheons when they attempt to lay siege to Winterfell, but in the aftermath of the battle Reek and Sansa manage to escape, severely jeopardizing House Bolton's rule in the North.

Sixth season[edit]

Despite their victory over Stannis, Roose warns Ramsay that the North will someday have to face the Lannisters, and chastises him for allowing Sansa and Theon to escape, as Sansa was crucial to unifying the North. He implies that if Sansa is not recovered, Ramsay's position as heir may be usurped by Walda's baby. Soon afterwards, it is announced that Walda has given birth to a boy; Ramsay immediately kills Roose by stabbing him in the stomach, before setting his dogs upon Walda and the baby, severely jeopardizing House Bolton and leaving Ramsay as the last remaining Bolton. Ramsay is ultimately killed when Jon Snow retakes Winterfell in the Battle of the Bastards, leaving House Bolton extinct.