Friday, May 10, 2013

Robb Stark: The King in the North

We’re still on vacation, hopefully having an incredible time with Soul Sister, hopefully not fighting over our small, shared sleep space.  We return to our weekly arguments on Westerosi monarchs, moving on to the Young Wolf, Robb Stark.  We should probably only present the more serious brooding/smoldering king, but we are unreasonably (it’s not unreasonable!!) attached to those direwolf puppies.


Oh, Robb.  The King in the North is one of the non-POV characters who made quite the positive impression on me.  When listing my favorite characters after the first two books/seasons, Robb was solidly in the top the five.  A Song of Ice and Fire is a massive series, covering many topics and themes, one being the brutality of men and its lasting effects, specifically on youth, with many of the protagonists starting off as children. While some of them are very close to being considered adults in Westeros, none of them were alive or were old enough to remember the last major war in the realm, Robert’s Rebellion (nobody cares about the Greyjoy Rebellion).  The audience gets to experience a variety of reactions to the cruelties of war in these young characters, one of these being Robb Stark.  He makes a terrific king for the very qualities that initially drew me to him, his strength, sense of responsibility, tact, and humanity (which I find the most important and compelling, but may also be the most damning).

Before I unpack that and explain why exactly he deserves to be king, let’s discuss how everybody’s favorite gingery fox got there.  First of all, Robb essentially had to declare himself King in the North.  Joffrey ruined any chance for peace between the Starks and the Lannisters with his actions regarding poor old Ned.  How could Rob or any of his bannerman, swear allegiance to the King who had wrongfully imprisoned and murdered their father and lord?  Maybe that kind of shit flies with the Martells, but that scenario is impossible for any of the balky and just (sans a few unfortunate exceptions) northmen.  Things were moving quickly and it’s hard to form new alliances through back-and-forth raven trips.  Perhaps if Robb and his men had known at the time of Joffrey’s incestuous conception and if Stannis and Renly had created a united front, Robb could have remained Warden in the North and supported their claim, but that was not the case.

Let’s also not forget the important fact that Robb has never lost a battle.  He gains his nickname, the Young Wolf, due to his excellence in the field combined with the presence of his direwolf, Grey Wind (great direworlf or greatest direwolf?).  Presumably, if he were able to keep up that impressive streak, Tywin Lannister would be forced to give in to Robb’s demands at some point, lest he risk losing King’s Landing or Casterly Rock.  It is also worth noting that between the land controlled by Starks and that of his Tully mother, Robb controls northern and central Westeros, including the majority of the Kingsroad which goes from King’s Landing all the way to the Wall.  Certainly nothing to scoff at.

Now, does Robb deserve to be a king?  Gods, yes.  Robb inherited the duty, honor, justice, and stubbornness of his parents, but is generally better at prioritizing and not allowing those qualities to be the sole guiding factors of his actions, like Catelyn and Eddard did.  Despite his young age, Robb quickly steps up to the plate and proves to be one of the better leaders we witness in the series.  Robb tries so hard to balance his competing roles of lord, brother, king, son, and husband, which, of course, leads to a few mistakes.  However, these mistakes turn what could be a static secondary character into a relatable and very human dynamic character, who is forced to grow and learn and adapt very quickly, all in front of a large audience, where the stakes are often life or death.  At the end of the day, Robb owns up to his failures and does his best to rectify them.  Admirable qualities of a great man, who is a great king.



Let me start by saying that it pains me to write anything bad about Robb Stark, because he is the second sexiest member of the Stark family, and by far the king I’d most like to fuck. Not least because he has a goddamn direwolf as a bodyguard, and winning over the heart of that giant shaggy pup would be the greatest achievement of my life as a character in A Song of Ice and Fire. My fantasies aside, I have to argue against Robb because we drafted our sides in these debates, and also because great in the sack does not equal great on the throne. Sadly.

Despite his shexy faux Scottish accent (?) and angelic curls, Robb is not cut out to finish his campaign and rule as King of the North as a secessionist. Those of us educated above the Mason Dixon line have learned time and time again that secession is really never quite as successful as the rosy visions of the revolutionaries would have us believe. This War of Northern Aggression is doomed to fail, and Robb should quit while he’s ahead and jump in bed with Stannis (and by Stannis I mean me!). But really, if he formed an alliance with Stannis and agreed to return as Warden of the North rather than King in exchange for Stannis’s help taking back Winterfell, things would be better for all of us. Believe me.

Granted, Robb is an ideal northman: tough, dutiful, just, carries out the beheadings that he orders, etc. He does his best to live up to his father Ned, and in some ways, comes out ahead (I can’t stop!). If there were to be a King of the North, he’s a great contender. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards, since none of the kings left in the race for the Iron Throne would accept a realm split basically in two. We know Stannis is a stickler for fealty and shit, and Joffrey is just too goddamn into revenge and gore to let Robb STARK of all people get away with chipping off a giant piece of his kingdom (even if it is a wasteland of permafrost).

His best bet would be for Joffrey and Stannis to wear each other down so far that the victor wouldn’t have time to try to reconquer the North before winter descends on Westeros, but even that would rely on the new king’s good judgment  and we all know that’s a foolish gamble. Neither Stannis nor Joffrey can afford to lose face in such a big way as letting the North go, especially after they’ve torn down each other’s claims to legitimacy. Neither of them are sufficiently afraid of the coming winter, and they would stretch their precious resources coming after Robb despite famine, poverty, zombies, etc.

In a way, the problem is that Robb was doing too well, and got so far South in an effort to reclaim Ned’s body and stick it to those douchebag Lannisters that he’s now stuck at the river, with his home taken by the worst combination of all the fuckheads in the series: Theon Greyjoy and Ramsay Bolton. Shit is not okay. My knight in shining armor needs to pack it in, leave his wife, get Stannis to chop the balls off of the Boltons, and settle in for a long winter’s night just him, me, and Grey Wind. In that order.


UPDATE: We knew what happened to Robb in last night's episode of Game of Thrones, "The Rains of Castamere", as soon as we saw the list of episode titles. Heartbreaking or heart wrenching, right? Even though we knew the Red Wedding was going down, it was like a punch in the gut watching Grey Wind get executed in a goddamn cage. In the book, he and Robb both go down fighting, which is a much more valiant end for that whirlwind of destruction on the battlefield.

ALSO, in the book Jeyne gets away, and when she shows up later as a hostage, there is rampant speculation among readers that it's not *actually* her. We don't know if the theories are bullshit, or if the show producers don't care, or if it's just another question George will let linger as he finishes the books but...that was a pretty fucked up fetal stabbing. Smacks of Downton Abbey, when everyone is really happy, fear death!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I'll ever watch that "Red Wedding" bullshit...