|World of Westeros - People|
|Thursday, 20 May 2010 01:47|
Rickon had refused to come down. He was up in his chamber, redeyed and defiant. “No!” he’d screamed when Bran had asked if he didn’t want to say farewell to Robb. “NO farewell!” “I told him,” Bran said. “He says no one ever comes back.”
— Rickon and Bran Stark, A Game of Thrones
Rickon is a very little boy when Eddard Stark goes south. He may only be three years old, but no one who meets him can claim he is a blank slate of a child waiting for experience to give him a personality. Rickon’s wolf pup is Shaggydog, and the two of them are very alike: fierce, wild, and threatening to be entirely uncontrollable when they grow up. The similarities between Shaggydog and Rickon are strongly pronounced, but then the link between them is subtly different from the other wolf/child relationships at Winterfell. All the other children are surrogate parents to the orphaned wolf pups they choose. Rickon and Shaggydog grow from uncomprehending babyhood together; in fact, Shaggydog has a slight advantage, since he reaches maturity much sooner. Shaggydog loves the pack and Rickon loves his family; neither seem to differentiate between the two groups and both will attack an assumed enemy without a thought. Rickon is the wildest of the Starks, and only the gods know what will
As a young child, Rickon is the beloved baby of the family. He is born into a close, loving group that includes not only his older brothers and sisters but also parents who love one another deeply and a host of individuals who care for him as if he were their own. Rickon’s world quickly crumbles, however, after the king comes to Winterfell.
At such a tender age, Rickon is not capable of understanding anything outside his immediate experiences. He can’t be reasoned with or made to realise why the things he has known should change. He simply isn’t able to comprehend it yet. Within the span of a few short weeks, his father and sisters depart for the south, his older brother Jon leaves for the Wall, and Bran suffers a devastating injury and falls into a coma. His mother has no time for him and refuses to see him, and Robb is too busy keeping the household together to spare much time for his baby brother. Worst of all, no one can tell Rickon why any of this is happening — nor do they seem willing to try. It is a small wonder why he grows so deeply attached to his wolf, the one thing he loves that will never leave him behind.
When Catelyn sees her sister Lysa’s little boy, Robert, she is shocked by his weakness of mind and body. The Lord of the Vale is a fretful, fearful little creature. She makes the mental comparison to Rickon who, at half her nephew’s age, is ferociously independent and strong willed. The riot of Rickon’s personality is not without explanation. He is lonely, bored, and angry, with no way to express his feelings or relieve his sorrow.
Rickon has great strength of heart, and his love for his ruined father is as deep and yearning as Shaggydog’s mournful howls for Lady. He is enough of a Stark to feel the sorrow of what is happening to them, enough of a wolf to feel the pain of the pack, but too young to do anything about it other than mourn and howl to anyone who would listen. He has the feelings, the ideas and the powerful connection to the wilds of Winterfell, but he has neither the language nor the physical power to express any of it. Without Shaggydog, Rickon would be alone in a way even Bran could never understand.
Like Bran, Rickon has a true dream on the night of Eddard Stark’s death. Whether or not he will fully develop this ability over time is uncertain. In Rickon’s dream, Eddard tells him that he is coming home and to wait for him in the crypt. The meeting place alone is all too ominous. Whether Eddard really reached out and touched his son’s thoughts, or whether Rickon just “knew” Eddard’s fate the way the wolves know is beyond explanation. The important thing is that, faced with the hope of seeing his father again, Rickon is perfectly ready to brave the loneliness and darkness of the crypt as long as Shaggydog is with him. Moreover, he will fight to stay there, to do what father says and wait for when he arrives. Rickon knows loneliness, anger, and sorrow, but there is very little he actually fears. Perhaps he is used to Shaggydog’s protection, or it may be that the wolf at the heart of Stark grows fiercer in Rickon with every loved one he loses.
The losses Rickon has suffered have turned him into an intractable and stubborn child alongside an intractable and savage direwolf. It would be easy to dismiss the youngest of the Starks as being of no importance, but this would be a mistake. When playing the game of thrones, a skilled negotiator would see Rickon as a potential heir to Winterfell, possibly a hostage of great value, and certainly a bargaining chip. In the long term, Rickon has the makings of an extraordinary man with a heart as hot as his head and loyalties running too deep for time to erase. Of course, a childhood filled with abandonment and anger could instead turn him down a dark path as well, a possibility his family should consider if given the chance.