A Game of Thrones • A Song of Ice and Fire NWN2 Persistent World • Low Magic Role Play

Catelyn Stark, Cat

World of Westeros - People
Thursday, 15 April 2010 18:15

5th Level (Noble 5)

She feared for Ned and her girls, and for the sweet sons she had left behind at Winterfell. And yet there was nothing she could do for any of them ... You must save your strength for Robb, she told herself. He is the only one you can help. You must be as fierce and hard as the north, Catelyn Tully. You must be a Stark for true now, like your son.
Catelyn Stark, A Game of Thrones

Catelyn StarkEldest daughter of Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun, Catelyn was originally betrothed to the heir to Winterfell, Brandon Stark — not to be confused with Bran, Catelyn’s son who was named after him. When Brandon died at the hands of the mad king, Aerys II, his younger brother Eddard inherited both his title and his bride to be. It was a match born of expedience and convenience, ever the way among the noble houses.

In this case it was more fortunate than most, for Catelyn is a true daughter of her house. The Tully motto, “Family, Duty, Honour,” runs as deep as the blood in her veins. Her affection and concern for her father, Lord Hoster; her younger sister, Lysa; her brother, Edmure; and her uncle, Brynden “Blackfi sh,” is both solid and reliable. Lord Eddard Stark could not have found himself a better mother for his children and wife for himself. For her part, Catelyn has wed a man who, while being very different from her, shares many of her values. Theirs may not have been a match founded in passion, but it has grown through friendship and respect. The result has been a lasting love and a family of five happy, healthy and comparatively normal children: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon.

While warm, loving and utterly loyal in the defence of her home and family, Catelyn is not without her faults. She has been lucky in her role as wife and mother, and seldom looks beyond it. In many ways, she is simply a woman of the world into which she was born. She can display remarkable insight when advising other people, but when it comes to making decisions for herself, her judgements tend to be based on what she feels rather than what she knows to be true. This is a common enough characteristic among the folk of Westeros, where parochial loyalties are often uppermost, but what constitutes a simple flaw in an ordinary woman can prove a severe limitation in Lady Stark.

Catelyn’s adherence to opinion over evidence has serious consequences. The chain of information leading to the clash between Lannister and Stark is founded upon a theory from her sister Lysa. Lysa’s secret message accusing the Lannisters of Jon Arryn’s death falls upon ears too ready to hear it. Although nothing is proven, Catelyn can imagine no reason for Lysa to make up such a dangerous lie. Besides, Lysa is her sister, therefore it must be true. Catelyn’s belief in her sister can hardly be criticised, however misguided it might be.

Family is the first word of their House motto, after all. Sisters can get things wrong, though, and Catelyn is forced to realise that Lysa is no longer rational; she is driven not by love or loyalty, but by fear to the point of hysteria. Catelyn is torn by pity for her sister’s loveless marriage and miscarriages, and guilt at having always been the lucky one: the one with the wonderful husband and healthy children, the one two boys were prepared to die for as they duelled for her love.

This preference for family also extends to her father’s ward and her childhood friend, Petyr Baelish, who provides Catelyn with more incendiary information. When presented with the dagger used in the attempt to kill Bran, Petyr tells Catelyn that the dagger is his, won from him by Tyrion Lannister. The idea that a man of Tyrion’s intelligence would give a killer a valuable and identifiable murder weapon seems unlikely. When Tyrion points this out later, Catelyn is forced to reconsider, at least momentarily. When she first hears the story, however, she swallows it without a moment’s thought, because the surname fits her profile of villainy and because Petyr is someone with whom she grew up, practically part of her family.

Catelyn knows very well that past knowledge of a person is no basis for present judgement. “You knew the man,” she tells Eddard when speaking of Robert, “the King is a stranger to you.” These are wise words. Unfortunately, Catelyn seldom listens to her own advice. Where Baelish is concerned, she thinks she is dealing with the boy who loved her, who fought for her hand and would never give up. In fact, she is dealing with one whose symbol is the mockingbird; Littlefinger’s treachery will kill her husband and shatter her House.

Thanks to Petyr Baelish, she has reason to doubt Tyrion. When Catelyn next encounters the Imp at the inn at the crossroads, she first tries to remain unseen, not wishing a confrontation. When he spots her, however, she makes the best of the situation with great resourcefulness and success. Taking the Imp prisoner makes perfect sense if she wants to question Tyrion, but by that time, she is convinced of his guilt.

Still, while Catelyn’s ears may deceive her, her eyes do not. When raiders attack Catelyn’s retinue, Tyrion acquits himself with much honour. She may detest the need to free him, but the decision is a good one — the Imp saves her life. Tyrion has no reason to rescue Catelyn, and yet he does. It is only then that she seems to realise that a man ready to defend her life is unlikely to have plotted her son’s death. When Lysa threatens the dwarf, Catelyn reminds her sister that Tyrion is her prisoner, and she does not want him harmed. Given time, Tyrion and Catelyn could have developed some kind of grudging mutual respect.

Jon Snow is a constant reminder to Catelyn that Eddard was once unfaithful. She sees him as an affront to her pride and a threat to the supremacy of her own children in Winterfell. It is bad enough that love overturned Eddard’s honour, worse that he won’t discuss it, and outrageous that Jon Snow is brought up in the castle as a near equal to Eddard’s legitimate children. It is obvious that Eddard loves the boy as much as he does the others; by extension, it implies that Eddard loved Jon Snow’s mother as much as he loves Catelyn. To her mind, it would have been better if Eddard had drunkenly bedded a tavern wench, then forgot her.

While doing very little to actively make Jon Snow’s life difficult, she treats the 14 year old coldly and correctly. When her husband is called south to serve the king, Catelyn makes it clear that Eddard Stark’s departure from Winterfell will end Jon’s stay there, irrespective of the fact that Winterfell is the only home the boy has ever known.

Catelyn is at her most magnificent when fighting the assassin paid to kill Bran, and at her most despicable when she wishes her son’s disability on Jon Snow. He is as innocent as Bran, he merely lacks her stamp of maternal approval. It should be remembered that at the time she is half out of her mind with grief — but heartbreak or not, she would never have dared say it in her husband’s presence.

Catelyn has some astonishing qualities. There are good reasons why her father, brother, uncle, husband, and son all respect her views and listen to her ideas. The insight she rarely uses for herself is quickly brought to work for those she loves. Her knowledge of people shows itself in a shrewd understanding of her world. She can be a canny councillor, with the ability to focus on the necessary and immediate.

There is a point where her eldest son Robb is mustering a host of warriors, making the transition from her son to her liege. In perhaps his last moment as “Robb the boy,” he asks her if she is going to send him home. This could be her moment to manipulate her son in true Cersei or Lysa-like fashion. She could make him her political tool or keep him as her precious child.

If Robb is to become Lord of Winterfell in truth, however, she must surrender her authority as his mother. Catelyn does so with good grace and becomes his most valuable friend and advisor. It is here that she does her best, speaking common sense when it is needed and stepping into the background when appropriate. This perhaps, is the most valuable power of mothering she has, and she uses it well, honing the qualities of Robb the boy and Robb the lord, so that almost without realising it, she helps to create Robb the King.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 18:25