|World of Westeros - People|
|Thursday, 15 April 2010 18:34|
5th Level (Man-at-arms 2 / Noble 2 / Commander 1) - Deceased
Yet Robb only said a quiet word, and in a snarl, and the blink of an eye Lord Umber was on his back, his sword spinning on the floor...his hand dripping blood where Grey Wind had bitten off two fingers. “My lord father taught me that it was death to bare steel against your liege lord,” Robb said, “but doubtless you only meant to cut my meat.” The Greatjon struggled to rise, sucking at the red stumps of fingers...but then, astonishingly, the huge man laughed. “Your meat,” he roared, “is bloody tough.”
Robb is the eldest child of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. At 14, he is everything his father could wish for in the heir to Winterfell. Strong and hardy, Robb fears very little; he has a firstborn’s natural tendency to jump in first and think later. It is no surprise that Robb discovers the dying direwolf and her pups. He is a mover and shaker and he makes things happen. Small wonder he names his pup Grey Wind, for pup and boy are quick to learn and even quicker to put learning into action.
Each wolf is linked to a child of Stark with all the intensity of the wild. Grey Wind could be called Robb’s totem, the embodiment of his soul at its most raw and potent. Together, they are masters of their environment, in tune with the land and themselves. The inheritors of Winterfell all have challenges to face and prizes to win. Robb’s is the most immediately attractive. He is going to be given tangible power and respect, even before he earns it. He learns to keep those gifts and use them through meshing the instincts of the wolf with the understanding of the man.
It may seem strange that Robb Stark, of all men, should have the makings of a great king. He seems almost too ordinary at first, just a boy among other boys, pleasant enough but hardly special. On first appearance, Robb looks more like a Tully than a Stark. Those who believe that talent is bred in the blood would consider this a bad omen. Hoster Tully’s lineage is famed for tenacity rather than strategy. It is not the Tully blood that rules Robb, though. He loves like his mother, fully and with all his heart, and thinks like his father, the cold Lord of Winterfell. It is a powerful and rare combination of qualities.
At the outset of his father’s instigation as King Robert’s Hand, Robb shows no sign of having any unusual talents. If anything, he acts like a typical fourteen year old, especially when faced with the unbearable Prince Joffrey. When Joffrey taunts Robb, secure in the belief that as prince he is safe from the young Stark, Robb rises swiftly to the bait, ready to prove him wrong. A diplomatic incident is only narrowly avoided. At this point, Robb is the snarling young wolf: brave but unthinking, all heart and no brain. It is an attitude he is soon to outgrow.
Eddard often lets his eldest son listen on his councils, and his patience has its reward. When he goes south, he leaves Robb behind to sit in his place and rule as he has ruled. This is no easy task, but Robb grows into it despite a few initial mistakes. When Tyrion returns from the Wall to Winterfell bearing a message from Jon Snow, Robb shows his lack of experience. With unsheathed sword and no offer of hospitality, he shows Tyrion a lack of manners worthy of a Frey. Tyrion’s only crime is to be a Lannister, for which he is insulted, has a blade waved in his face, and is set upon by the Stark wolves.
Apart from calling Robb a boy, Tyrion keeps remarkably calm, gives the message, and provides Maester Luwin with plans for a saddle for Bran. Robb sees that Tyrion’s kindness is at odds with his preconceptions about Lannisters and promptly prepares to reconsider his ideas. Awkward and embarrassed, he still does the right thing and offers hospitality. His words may be stilted this time, but he is growing into his role. The important thing about Robb is that once he has learnt a lesson, he never needs to be taught it again. One of the things his mother will marvel at most about the change from boy to man to king is his ability to listen carefully, decide clearly and follow through on his decisions without delay.
If Robb has to learn how to listen and how to think, one natural talent he demonstrates is an instinctive understanding of the people around him. Affectionate and open, Robb is protective towards his sisters and Rickon, and shows great consideration towards Jon Snow. He tends not to have favourites, but he does make special room for his crippled brother. He talks to Bran, shares duties with him and tries to ensure Bran keeps his place and self-respect at the heart of Winterfell. Conversely, despite the fact that Theon Greyjoy and Robb are of an age to hunt, ride, and train together, Robb has the innate sense to keep an emotional distance between himself and the heir to Pyke. He enjoys Greyjoy’s company and bawdy stories, provided his siblings aren’t around, but he has few illusions about his companion. It isn’t Theon’s status as Eddard’s ward that makes Robb wary, it is Theon’s endless need to make himself the centre of attention. This awareness of people — what they are like, what they can do, and where they are best placed — is something Robb develops into a skill at least as finely honed as his military abilities.
When Eddard Stark is betrayed and open warfare becomes inevitable, Robb comes into his own. The men of the North are harsh and accustomed to battle, and few feel the need to defer to a boy with neither age nor experience to recommend him. Robb wins their respect, however, through his ability to face them all down, especially respect from Greatjon Umber. The Greatjon is ill-inclined to follow a boy “so green he must piss grass,” and grabs his sword to prove his point. This is the moment at which Robb must exert authority. He doesn’t need rage or indignation, for posturing does not impress these men. He needs to use and control the force at his command; his power must be calm, impressive and final. At a quiet word, Grey Wind bites off two of the Greatjon’s fingers. An act that would smack of gross brutality in the cultured south meets respect and laughter here; the Greatjon can do without those fingers, but he must have a leader worthy of him.
Imperceptibly, Robb stops being the lord and starts becoming the king. Before his men, he is the epitome of confidence and power; if he is quaking in his boots, as he confesses to Bran, his followers never guess it. Bran sees the difference between Robb the brother and Robb the lord, but it is Catelyn who watches him take up the challenge of a crown. To Catelyn’s credit, she realises that if Robb is to fulfil his destiny as a ruler, she must let him give up his boyhood. He cannot take responsibility for armies if she won’t let him be responsible for himself. To that end, she stops being an authority over him, and becomes his most reliable advisor.
At that point, a gentle role reversal occurs between mother and son. When Bran was unconscious and Catelyn stayed with him, so grieved she lost sight of how Winterfell needed her, it was Robb who helped her to face the responsibilities of her station. Now she is the one helping him to accept control over those around him when doubt or youth threaten to affect his judgement. She helps Robb the King check Rob the Boy on the very few occasions he misses his footing. Above all, she helps him focus on the result needed and how to get it without falling prey to personal preference. Take doubt and desire away, and Robb’s martial abilities are dynamic and cunning with his father’s cold cunning for battle.
Apart from the wise counsel of his mother, Robb has a deeply cherished ideal he endeavours to emulate. Nothing Eddard Stark ever did is lost on Robb. His benchmark in moments of uncertainty is always to consider what his father would have done. Each day, as his army marches, he invites a different lord to ride alongside him and speak with him. As he listens, he understands his men better and quickly gages where they will do best in battle. This understanding and a natural talent for warfare gives Robb the single most important asset in becoming a king: success. Defeating the combined might of Tywin and Jaime Lannister with all their prowess and experience is a dear task for the most experienced commander, defeating them with a raw boy in command is nothing short of a miracle. His men, inspired by him at first, become more exuberant with each hard-won victory. They are triumphant because their king is the stuff of legend, and for that, they will follow him anywhere.
Maybe it is because Robb is young and fresh in his strategies, or maybe because the injustice of his father burns bright in his heart; regardless, Robb wins battles he should lose and teeters on the verge of becoming mythical even as he becomes king. “Hail the King of Winter!” his followers call out, “Hail the King in the North!” These are old titles belonging to the far past of Nan’s stories, but if anyone can make them true, it is Robb: heir to Winterfell and called the Young Wolf, forever his father’s son.
|Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2012 19:45|