Eddard Stark, Ned
|World of Westeros - People|
|Thursday, 15 January 2009 00:00|
14th Level (Man-at-arms 3 / Noble 5 / Commander 6) - Deceased
Bran’s father sat solemnly on his horse, long brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest. He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.
On first meeting, Lord Eddard Stark seems as cold as the land he rules. “Winter Is Coming,” is the motto of his house. Until then, the Starks grow wild as wolves in their ancient fastness of Winterfell, preparing for the cold years. Eddard Stark has hard features, and seldom smiles to those outside his family circle. “They say it grows so cold up here that a man’s laughter freezes in his throat and chokes him to death,” Ned tells his liege. “Perhaps that is why the Starks have so little humour.”
What the Starks lack in humour, however, they make up for in pride. The Starks trace their lineage from the Kings of the North, harsh and grim people with the blood of the First Men running through their veins. Their earliest royal predecessor was Brandon the Builder, and the scions of Winterfell never forget their historical links to the wall he created. The warmth between Eddard and his younger brother Benjen is a prime example of the link between Winterfell and the Wall. Duty always comes first, but respect and affection still thrive. After all, they are forever facing the same old enemy out of the North.
In gentler times, Eddard would never have succeeded to the Lordship of Winterfell. When Lord Rickard and his elder son, Brandon, were tortured to death by Aerys II, however, Eddard inherited the North. The new Lord of Winterfell joined forces then with Robert Baratheon to drive the lunatic from his throne. Robert and Eddard were already close friends, having fostered together with Jon Arryn. Theirs was a friendship that would never fade, although it did have its tumultuous times, such as when they quarrelled over the death of Rhaegar’s children.
After the final rout of the Targaryen forces, Baratheon took the Iron Throne and Stark went home to his duties as Warden of the North, the two of them brothers in all but blood. That final bond was a dream cherished by both, but never realised. The dream had a face and a name, though: Lyanna Stark.
Lyanna was Eddard’s sister, abducted by Prince Rhaegar only to die soon after. After her death, Eddard brought her body back to Winterfell to lie with her family. He regularly brings flowers to her crypt.
Eddard Stark had his chance to ascend the Iron Throne, but he chose otherwise. The North is his land, his home, and his responsibility, and there was no one else who could take it from him. It would not be hard to dismiss this man as hard work and dull company, but he inspires trust and affection from those who know him well: his family, servants, and bannermen. For all his reserved reputation, Stark never distances himself from the people around him. Each night in the great hall, Eddard dines with some of the men in his employ and learns about the things that concern them from day to day. He gets to know them, and they in their turn, learn about him.
Like Eddard’s sword, “Ice,” Stark loyalty cuts both ways. Stark’s principle is to hold to one’s duty, to love that duty if one can, and respect it because one must. This is why Eddard goes back to rescue Jory Cassel, captain of his guard, when the Lannisters attack his men. Love and honour run through the blood of the Starks like the hot springs beneath Winterfell. This House breeds a hard integrity in its folk, a family of healthy minds and hearts.
Still, there is life beyond duty, even for Eddard Stark; Jon Snow is evidence enough of that. The liaison occurred during the wars, early in his marriage when Eddard and Catelyn had been a year apart. Had Eddard ignored or forgotten the woman, Catelyn would have been content to do the same. Eddard brought the child to live with him at Winterfell, though, and claimed the boy as his son. All that can be deduced from Stark’s silence and insistence on Jon’s presence in his home is that Eddard Stark loved Jon’s mother very much. Eddard tells Robert that Jon’s mother was called Wylla. This may be the nearest Eddard comes to covering his tracks. Servants at Winterfell tell a far more romantic story, of a beautiful woman with violet eyes, Lady Ashara Dayne of Starfall, whose brother, armed with the Sword of the Morning, was thought the mightiest of the Kingsguard. Rumour claims that this very sword was brought back to Lady Ashara by Eddard Stark, the young lord who had defeated Ser Dayne in single combat, and that after he left her, she threw herself into the sea. A beautiful, if hauntingly tragic tale of a wolf in love, far from the cold eyed man the Targaryens learned to hate ... but the whole story is still a mystery.
When Catelyn asks Eddard the truth of it, he silences her just as he silences the servants. He even clips the tongue of King Robert on the subject. Eddard is very prickly with regard to Jon Snow’s mother, and describes himself as having besmirched his own honour and shamed his wife. Unfortunately, Eddard’s inability to talk about Jon Snow’s origins has long-lasting effects on his family. When Catelyn takes the opportunity to sunder Jon’s link with her children, Eddard is astonished by what he describes as her cruelty, little realising that a secret he keeps as a matter of honour is a matter of heartbreak to her. Eddard loves his wife and treats her opinions with respect — one of the reasons why this marriage, born in obligation, has thrived so successfully. Perhaps because he feels she must be sure of his heart, Eddard doesn’t understand why his silence on this one matter makes her react so irrationally. He expects her to accept it as a less pleasant aspect of her duty to him as wife. In reality, however, all that
The sigil of House Stark is the direwolf, a beast of power. Alongside its strength, though, the direwolf has a lesson to teach, and it matters to Eddard that his family understand it. Though they are children of summer, his children are fated to face the winter, a destiny born in the blood. A loving and conscientious father, Eddard speaks to Arya about the true strength of the wolf — its pack. The wolf that faces winter alone dies, but the wolf within the pack survives. If House Stark is to survive, the family must work
Far from all that gives him strength, Stark is at a disadvantage. Robert may recognise his honesty and integrity, but these qualities have no place at King’s Landing. The game of thrones can be won by force of arms or by political astuteness. Eddard’s men are far away and he refuses to become a politician, so endgame for him draws perilously close. A wolf needs companions he can trust. The small council is a pack of another kind. Eddard tries to make it work for Robert’s sake. He also wants to find the
Eddard also suffers a tendency to believe that others have a sense of honour, or at least occasional shame. When he learns Cersei’s secret, he gives her a chance to leave. When Cersei makes it very clear that she has no intentions of doing so, Stark makes a grave miscalculation. Eddard is a shrewd and powerful man when his instincts are combined with his judgement, but he finds himself wrong-footed in the intricate game of thrones, possibly because the game has never interested him. Eddard ignores his own instincts; he follows his wife’s example of trusting Petyr Baelish, and he underestimates Cersei’s abilities because he assumes that her husband is her main source of power. These errors of judgement prove fatal for him. Cersei has enough
Eddard is the embodiment of everything one could wish for in a Lord of Winterfell. He can be cold as the winter in judgement and authority, but all the while, he holds Summer deep in his heart. That is the secret he hoped to teach his children and his legacy to them: that winter is coming, but together they will survive.
|Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 18:34|