The Men Who Would Be Kings: Perspectives on the Would Be Kings of Westeros: Robb Stark

The Wolf in the Night or the King Who Lost the North

Artwork by Riotovskaya

Robb Stark is a mostly beloved character by fans of the series and several characters within the series itself. While never having his own POV we do gain many different perspectives and opinions on Robb from various POV and non POV characters. This essay will incorporate many of these opinions and perspectives in order to build up a more complete picture of the man who would be named King in the North and King of the Trident.

Tywin Lannister

For a man who considered Robb his enemy and who was ultimately responsible for his murder, Tywin had an oddly objective and neutral perspective on Robb. However, as they were indeed enemies, Tywin’s opinions were likely biased. That said, the Lord of Casterly Rock’s opinion on Robb is a necessary inclusion if we are to have a truly balanced perspective of him.

“No sword is strong until it’s been tempered,” Lord Tywin declared. “The Stark boy is a child. No doubt he likes the sound of warhorns well enough, and the sight of his banners fluttering in the wind, but in the end it comes down to butcher’s work. I doubt he has the stomach for it.”

Here we are given the first insights into Tywin’s opinion on Robb. It clear that Tywin saw Robb as a green child who liked the idea of war, the grandness of banners and warhorns, but when it comes down to the actual bloody work of battle, Robb’s youth would get the better of him and would ultimately lead to Robb balking at the sight of the horrors on the battlefield. Tywin’s opinion wasn’t a unique one as Robb was untested in battle and still quite young. Assuming that he wouldn’t be able to handle the sights and acts of butchery is a fair assessment. There is no way that Tywin could have known that Robb had a talent for battle and that he would heed the advice of the various experienced advisors he was surrounded by. However, as an aside, it is quite interesting that Tywin would judge Robb for his youth and inexperience when Tywin was in much the same position several decades earlier when he was putting down the Reyne/Tarbeck rebellion in the Westerlands.

Lord Tywin drained his cup, his face expressionless. “I put the least disciplined men on the left, yes. I anticipated that they would break. Robb Stark is a green boy, more like to be brave than wise. I’d hoped that if he saw our left collapse, he might plunge into the gap, eager for a rout. Once he was fully committed, Ser Kevan’s pikes would wheel and take him in the flank, driving him into the river while I brought up the reserve.”

Here we see again that Tywin’s assessment of Robb’s inexperience and youth led him to believe that Robb would easily fall into his trap at the Battle of the Green Fork, that he would choose bravery over wisdom and go for what appeared to be an easy rout. However, Tywin had a few problems, Robb wasn’t at the Green Fork and Tywin was facing off against a wiser and more calculating foe, Roose Bolton.

“It was to be an arrow, at Edmure Tully’s wedding feast. The boy was too wary in the field. He kept his men in good order, and surrounded himself with outriders and bodyguards.”

However, as the War of the Five Kings progressed, Tywin’s opinion of Robb changed. He no longer saw Robb as a green boy, unwise and inexperienced, but an adversary who was worthy of his respect. Tywin’s change of opinion regarding Robb was likely informed by the Young Wolf’s series of devastating victories in the Westerlands. Notice in the quote that Tywin referred to Robb as “too wary”, a markedly different opinion from the one he had on the Green Fork where he described Robb as “more like to be brave than wise”.

“He is a boy of sixteen,” said Lord Tywin. “At that age, sense weighs for little, against lust and love and honor.”

“Jeyne Westerling is her mother’s daughter,” said Lord Tywin, “and Robb Stark is his father’s son.”

However, even though Tywin’s opinion of Robb as a battlefield commander improved, he still considered Robb a boy in every other aspect, lust, love, and honour. Although, despite Robb’s breaking of his vows to the Freys, Tywin likely sees how honour, with regards to his similarities with Ned, played into Robb’s decision to marry Jeyne Westerling.

“He chose the girl’s honor over his own. Once he had deflowered her, he had no other course.”

Even Kevan Lannister, Tywin’s brother, agreed with this assessment of Robb’s marriage to Jeyne.

Both Tywin’s change in opinion and tactics regarding Robb Stark seems to signify that Tywin had come to respect the Young Wolf in a way that his only his allies really did. He overlooked Robb’s age and inexperience, and finally saw a man who could pose a significant threat if left unchecked. Instead of facing him on the battlefield, where Tywin had the greater numbers, Tywin marginalised Robb by picking off a few key bannermen, Roose Bolton and Walder Frey. That Tywin referred to such methods seems to imply that he wished to avoid facing Robb on the field to avoid further unnecessary casualties and to prevent Robb from escaping back north and continuing the war. Tywin used brutal and dishonourable yet practical methods to dispose of Robb Stark and this seems to imply a remarkable if not bizarre level of respect for Robb’s abilities as a leader and military tactician. However, despite his assessment of Robb as a commander, Tywin still recognised that Robb was still youthful and unwise in other areas.

Jaime Lannister

Artwork by Michael Kormack

For someone who fought against and even attempted to kill Robb, Jaime Lannister is another of Robb’s enemies who has another oddly objective yet positive perspective on Robb. Yet, there remains a chance that Jaime’s opinions could contain bias as Robb Stark was his enemy and kept Jaime in prolonged captivity after defeating him at the Whispering Wood.

Jaime felt almost sorry for Robb Stark. He won the war on the battlefield and lost it in a bedchamber, poor fool.

Here Jaime highlights the belief that Robb had won the war by winning his battles, clearly expressing some respect for Robb’s prowess in battle. However, in the same sentence, he expresses pity for Robb and calls him a fool for wedding Jeyne Westerling. He even goes onto express the belief that Robb lost the war because of his marriage.

Defeated in the Whispering Wood by the Young Wolf Robb Stark during the War of the Five Kings. Held captive at Riverrun and ransomed for a promise unfuffilled. Captured again by the Brave Companions, and maimed at the word of Vargo Hoat their captain, losing his sword hand to the blade of Zollo the Fat. Returned safely to King’s Landing by Brienne, the Maid of Tarth.

In the White Book of the Kingsguard Jaime writes about how he lost to Robb in the Battle of the Whispering Wood. He doesn’t negate his loss or embellishes Robb’s victory. Jaime simply writes what happened in the most neutral terms possible unlike certain other stories in the White Book.

This near to King’s Landing, the kingsroad was as safe as any road could be in such times, yet Jaime sent Marbrand and his outriders ahead to scout. “Robb Stark took me unawares in the Whispering Wood,” he said. “That will never happen again.”

As he sets out from King’s Landing for Riverrun, Jaime again reflects on the Battle of the Whispering Wood and his defeat at the hands of Robb Stark. He acknowledges how Robb took him by surprise, learns from his defeat, and uses this knowledge to change his tactics when riding for the Second Siege of Riverrun.

“As you will.” Jaime turned to the daughter. “I am sorry for your loss. The boy had courage, I’ll give him that. There is a question I must ask you. Are you carrying his child, my lady?”

After the Second Siege of Riverrun is lifted and Jeyne Westerling is brought before Jaime, he expresses acknowledgement of Robb’s courage to his wife. Although, there does remain the chance that Jaime was just attempting to express sympathy to Jeyne in order to be kind.

Despite his loss in the Whispering Wood, the destruction of his army in the Battle of the Camps, and his extended captivity, Jaime seems to hold no real enmity towards Robb Stark. On more than one occasion he even acknowledges Robb’s courage and battle prowess. However, Jaime is not entirely positive in his opinions of Robb. Jaime does call Robb a fool for marrying Jeyne and attempts to irritate Robb when he tells Roose Bolton to give Robb his regards when he sees the king at the Twins. It seems to me that Jaime’s opinion of Robb likely evolved in much the same way as Tywin’s did; from seeing Robb as a green boy to an adversary worthy of respect.

Stannis Baratheon

As another king fighting for his claim to the Iron Throne, Stannis Baratheon’s opinions and comments on Robb provide the reader with a unique insight into how one of the claimants to the Iron Throne views a would be king like Robb. However, as Robb was technically his enemy, Stannis’ opinions on him may be somewhat biased.

“A green boy,” said Stannis, “and another false king. Am I to accept a broken realm?”

“You presume too much, Lady Stark. I am the rightful king, and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well.”

From this we can see that despite Robb’s victories at the Battle of the Whispering Wood and the Battle of the Camps, Stannis still sees Robb as a green boy. Stannis goes on to declare Robb a false king and refuses to ally himself with him or accept a split kingdom. It seems clear that Stannis, at this stage, is still concerned with his right to the Iron Throne and his true kingship, and that he will not make common cause with a traitor rebel who names himself king. Stannis even goes so far as to threaten Robb and name him a traitor to his mother.

“Good men and true will fight for Joffrey, wrongly believing him the true king. A northman might even say the same of Robb Stark. But these lords who flocked to my brother’s banners knew him for a usurper. They turned their backs on their rightful king for no better reason than dreams of power and glory, and I have marked them for what they are.”

When reflecting with Davos outside of Storm’s End Stannis expresses the opinion that he understands why good men would fight for their various kings despite them not being legitmate kings. Despite Robb actively rebelling against the crown and attempting to take half the country for his kingdom, Stannis still tells Davos that he understands why people would follow the likes of Robb. I find the comparisons Stannis makes between Joffrey, Renly, and Robb quite interesting in this case. He says that people would fight for Joffrey because they wrongly believe him to be the king and says the same of the men who fight for Robb yet, laws of succession, conquest, etc. aside, Robb was more similar to Renly whom Stannis correctly brands as a usurper as Robb was essentially claiming half of Westeros despite having no real claim to it. To me at least, this really seems to speak to Stannis’ opinion on Robb. Stannis grants more legitimacy to a rebel attempting to claim half of his rightful kingdom than to his brother who was attempting to do the very same albeit on a larger scale.

The leech was twisting in the king’s grip, trying to attach itself to one of his fingers. “The usurper,” he said. “Joffrey Baratheon.” When he tossed the leech into the fire, it curled up like an autumn leaf amidst the coals, and burned.

Stannis grasped the second. “The usurper,” he declared, louder this time. “Balon Greyjoy.” He flipped it lightly onto the brazier, and its flesh split and cracked. The blood burst from it, hissing and smoking.

The last was in the king’s hand. This one he studied a moment as it writhed between his fingers. “The usurper,” he said at last. “Robb Stark.” And he threw it on the flames.

I always thought the leech ceremony quite telling when it came to Stannis’ true feelings about Robb. Notice how he declares Joffrey and Balon as usurpers first yet leaves Robb for last. It could imply that Stannis has come to sympathise with Robb and his cause but ultimately her burns the leech because Robb is a usurper. He also starts off plainly saying Joffrey’s name with little reflection on the leech before tossing it into the fire. Stannis then loudly declares Balon’s name before he flipped it onto the fire yet when Stannis comes to Robb’s leech he pauses a moment and returns to only saying Robb’s name instead of declaring it loudly. I took this to mean that Stannis probably saw Robb as the least of his “enemies” and wished to pause a moment before he sentenced him to death. Granted, this is all my inflection of the scene so there is a good chance that it is incorrect.

“Your father was a man of honor. He was no friend to me, but I saw his worth. Your brother was a rebel and a traitor who meant to steal half my kingdom, but no man can question his courage. What of you?”

“Your brother was the rightful Lord of Winterfell. If he had stayed home and done his duty, instead of crowning himself and riding off to conquer the riverlands, he might be alive today. Be that as it may. You are not Robb, no more than I am Robert.”

It appears that Stannis’ opinion of Robb was that he was a traitor and a rebel who wanted half of Stannis’ rightful kingdom when he should have stayed at Winterfell and done his duty for his rightful king. However, despite Robb’s treason and rebellion, Stannis still notes that Robb was courageous and that no man can question that.

Roose Bolton

Artwork by Jortagul

As the very man who continually betrayed and eventually killed Robb, it seems obvious that we should include Roose Bolton’s opinions on the king he eventually came to murder.

“His Grace is a boy of sixteen.”

“And I the King in the North. Or the King Who Lost the North, as some now call him.”

“By now he has come to the same realization. With Stannis broken and Renly dead, only a Stark victory can save him from Lord Tywin’s vengeance, but the chances of that grow perishingly slim.”

“Won every battle, while losing the Freys, the Karstarks, Winterfell, and the north. A pity the wolf is so young. Boys of sixteen always believe they are immortal and invincible. An older man would bend the knee, I’d think. After a war there is always a peace, and with peace there are pardons… for the Robb Starks, at least. Not for the likes of Vargo Hoat.”

“The north. The Starks were done and doomed the night that you took Winterfell.” He waved a pale hand, dismissive. “All this is only squabbling over spoils.”

As we can see above Roose Bolton regards Robb without emotion. He plainly states the facts as he sees them in a cool manner. He continually voiced his opinion on Robb’s youth and how it was ultimately his downfall. In Roose’s mind, Robb’s youth led him to marry Jeyne, lost him the Freys, Karstarks, Winterfell, and the North, and prevented Robb from even considering surrender. It seems clear that Roose saw Robb as an immature boy who was doomed to failure with no hope of victory.

It seems clear that Roose never respected or cared much for Robb Stark. He seems to be of the opinion that Robb was too young and too inexperienced to rule or lead as a king. Roose was also disrespectful towards Robb and frequently flouted his authority throughout his time within the Young Wolf’s campaign.

Stark Vassals and Allies

Northern Bannermen, Westerlings, and Spicers

Given that I have included the opinions of his enemies, I thought it prudent to include the opinions and actions of the Young Wolf’s allies as well. However, as mostly loyal followers of the King in the North and the King of the Trident, the opinions expressed by his bannermen may be positively biased in favour of Robb.

“My lord father taught me that it was death to bare steel against your liege lord, but doubtless you only meant to cut my meat.”

“Your meat, is bloody tough”

“MY LORDS!” he shouted, his voice booming off the rafters. “Here is what I say to these two kings!” He spat. “Renly Baratheon is nothing to me, nor Stannis neither. Why should they rule over me and mine, from some flowery seat in Highgarden or Dorne? What do they know of the Wall or the wolfswood or the barrows of the First Men? Even their gods are wrong. The Others take the Lannisters too, I’ve had a bellyful of them.” He reached back over his shoulder and drew his immense two-handed greatsword. “Why shouldn’t we rule ourselves again? It was the dragons we married, and the dragons are all dead!” He pointed at Robb with the blade. “There sits the only king I mean to bow my knee to, m’lords,” he thundered. “The King in the North!”

And he knelt, and laid his sword at her son’s feet.

“I’ll have peace on those terms,” Lord Karstark said. “They can keep their red castle and their iron chair as well.” He eased his longsword from its scabbard. “The King in the North!” he said, kneeling beside the Greatjon.

Maege Mormont stood. “The King of Winter!” she declared, and laid her spiked mace beside the swords. And the river lords were rising too, Blackwood and Bracken and Mallister, houses who had never been ruled from Winterfell, yet Catelyn watched them rise and draw their blades, bending their knees and shouting the old words that had not been heard in the realm for more than three hundred years, since Aegon the Dragon had come to make the Seven Kingdoms one . . . yet now were heard again, ringing from the timbers of her father’s hall:

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”


“Your Grace,” barked Lord Umber, the Greatjon, ever the loudest of Robb’s northern bannermen… and the truest and fiercest as well, or so he insisted. He had been the first to proclaim her son King in the North, and he would brook no slight to the honor of his new-made sovereign.

“Have no fear on that count,” the lord assured them. “King Robb has no more loyal servant than Wyman Manderly.”

“Benfred has raised his own company of lances. Boys, none older than nineteen years, but every one thinks he’s another young wolf. When I told them they were only young rabbits, they laughed at me. Now they call themselves the Wild Hares and gallop about the country with rabbitskins tied to the ends of their lances, singing songs of chivalry.”

“New,” said the younger knight, him of the seashells, “but fierce in our courage and firm in our loyalties, as I hope to prove to you, my lady.”

The Greatjon roared out, “King in the North!” and thrust a mailed fist into the air. The river lords answered with a shout of “King of the Trident!” The hall grew thunderous with pounding fists and stamping feet.

“I have fought beside the Young Wolf in every battle,” Dacey Mormont said cheerfully. “He has not lost one yet.”

“They killed Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn and King Robb,” she said. “He was our king! He was brave and good, and the Freys murdered him. If Lord Stannis will avenge him, we should join Lord Stannis.”

“I know about the promise … Maester Theomore, tell them! A thousand years before the Conquest, a promise was made, and oaths were sworn in the Wolf’s Den before the old gods and the new. When we were sore beset and friendless, hounded from our homes and in peril of our lives, the wolves took us in and nourished us and protected us against our enemies. The city is built upon the land they gave us. In return we swore that we should always be their men. Stark men!”

“Foes and false friends are all around me, Lord Davos. They infest my city like roaches, and at night I feel them crawling over me.” The fat man’s fingers coiled into a fist, and all his chins trembled. “My son Wendel came to the Twins a guest. He ate Lord Walder’s bread and salt, and hung his sword upon the wall to feast with his friends. And they murdered him. Murdered, I say, and may the Freys choke upon their fables. I drink with Jared, jape with Symond, promise Rhaegar the hand of my own beloved granddaughter…but never think that means I have forgotten. The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers, and the mummer’s farce is almost done. My son is home.”

“Wylla. Did you see how brave she was? Even when I threatened to have her tongue out, she reminded me of the debt White Harbor owes to the Starks of Winterfell, a debt that can never be repaid. Wylla spoke from the heart … not every woman can be as brave as my Wylla.”

“The Young Wolf is dead,” Manderly allowed, “but that brave boy was not Lord Eddard’s only son. Robett, bring the lad.”

“Yes, Lord Umber, leave me to the king. He means to give me a scolding before he forgives me. That’s how he deals with treason, our King in the North or should I call you the King Who Lost the North, Your Grace?”

The girl turned her head away. “It is nothing,” insisted her mother, a stern-faced woman in a gown of green velvet. A necklace of golden seashells looped about her long, thin neck. “She would not give up the little crown the rebel gave her, and when I tried to take it from her head the willful child fought me.” “It was mine.” Jeyne sobbed. “You had no right. Robb had it made for me. I loved him.”

Save for Roose Bolton, Rickard Karstark, and Sybell Spicer, it seems obvious that Robb’s followers loved and worshipped him. Robb even managed to make staunch allies out of most of House Westerling. His followers seem to see him as a brave and courageous hero that they were absolutely loyal to. Robb’s legend and victories seemed to inspire the North, strengthen their resolve, and caused many to rally behind the Young Wolf in different ways. Benfred Tallhart founded the Wild Hares and Wyman Manderly built a fleet, planned a rescue of Rickon Stark, and even killed, ate, and fed three sons of House Frey to the attendees at Winterfell.

Riverlander Bannermen

“No. My king entrusted his queen to my keeping, and I swore to keep her safe. I will not hand her over to a Frey noose.”

“It might have been outlaws,” Ser Daven said, when Jaime told the tale, “or not. There are still bands of northmen about. And these Lords of the Trident may have bent their knees, but methinks their hearts are still… wolfish.”

The silver eagle of Mallister was nowhere in evidence; nor the red horse of Bracken, the willow of the Rygers, the twining snakes of Paege. Though all had renewed their fealty to the Iron Throne, none had come to join the siege. The Brackens were fighting the Blackwoods, Jaime knew, which accounted for their absence, but as for the rest…

“I know that song. Do you sing it to the tune of ‘The Rains of Castamere’? My men would sooner die upon their feet fighting than on their knees beneath a headsman’s axe.”

This is not going well. “This defiance serves no purpose, ser. The war is done, and your Young Wolf is dead.”

“You must be blind as well as maimed, ser. Lift your eyes, and you will see that the direwolf still flies above our walls.”

However, as seen from the quotes above, it was not just in the North that Robb inspired people. Even in the Riverlands after his death, Robb’s memory still inspired defiance in a few of followers, namely Tytos Blackwood and Brynden Tully. Tytos refused to surrender to Jonos Bracken despite the death of one of his own sons and the toll the prolonged siege was taking on his supplies and Brynden Tully defiantly refused to yield Riverrun to the Freys/Lannisters despite many of Robb’s other allies bending the knee. Additionally, despite their new found allegiance to the Iron Throne, it seems that many River Lords also did not take part in the siege of Riverrun. However, there is a chance that this could have been down to extenuating circumstances. It is also notable that Daven Lannister suspects that the River Lords may have had a role in the executions of several Lannister/Frey men throughout the Riverlands. Daven also notes that there are still groups of northmen roaming the Riverlands as well.

For the most part, Robb Stark’s bannermen, both in the North and in the Riverlands, appeared to have worshipped him and been steadfast in their love and loyalty to both the Young Wolf and House Stark. Robb’s stunning and continuous victories against House Lannister appear to have cemented him as folk hero in the North and his eventual murder by House Frey, along with thousands of his followers, resulted in the prolonged defiance of many River Lords and various plots by certain Northern Lords against the Freys and Boltons in the aftermath of the Red Wedding. Yet, each of the River Lords did eventually bent the knee to the Iron Throne but in the North, many still work against the Freys and Boltons. To many people in Westeros, Robb still remains a fierce figure who still holds the love and loyalty of many.

However, not all of Robb’s bannermen shared in this opinion. Roose Bolton continually undermined Robb, flouted his authority, and ignored his orders which culminated in Roose personally murdering Robb. Rickard Karstark lost faith in Robb and betrayed him after Catelyn freed Jaime Lannister and Robb refused to punish her for her crime; House Karstark even abandoned Robb’s cause. Sybell and Rolph Spicer plotted against Robb to deprive him of an heir under the orders of Tywin Lannister but the rest of the Westerling family seemed steadfastly loyal to the King in the North.

The Freys

File:House Frey.png

As one of the main conspirators of the Red Wedding and the killers of many of Robb’s friends and followers, the opinion of House Frey on the Young Wolf is an important inclusion in this essay. However, as Robb broke his vows to House Frey and the Freys carried out an infamous massacre in a flagrant disregard of the sacred laws of Hospitality, there is more than a good chance that their opinions may be biased.

“He shamed us, the whole realm was laughing, we had to cleanse the stain on our honor.” His father had said all that and more.

“Not murder.” His voice was shrill. “It was vengeance, we had a right to our vengeance. It was war. Aegon, we called him Jinglebell, a poor lackwit never hurt anyone, Lady Stark cut his throat. We lost half a hundred men in the camps. Ser Garse Goodbrook, Kyra’s husband, and Ser Tytos, Jared’s son… someone smashed his head in with an axe… Stark’s direwolf killed four of our wolfhounds and tore the kennelmaster’s arm off his shoulder, even after we’d filled him full of quarrels…”

“The Red Wedding was the Young Wolf’s work. He changed into a beast before our eyes and tore out the throat of my cousin Jinglebell, a harmless simpleton. He would have slain my lord father too, if Ser Wendel had not put himself in the way.”

“They say?” Rhaegar Frey sported a silky beard and a sardonic smile. “His enemies say, aye … but it was the Young Wolf who was the monster. More beast than boy, that one, puffed up with pride and bloodlust. And he was faithless, as my lord grandfather learned to his sorrow.” He spread his hands. “I do not fault White Harbor for supporting him. My grandsire made the same grievous mistake. In all the Young Wolf’s battles, White Harbor and the Twins fought side by side beneath his banners. Robb Stark betrayed us all. He abandoned the north to the cruel mercies of the ironmen to carve out a fairer kingdom for himself along the Trident. Then he abandoned the riverlords who had risked much and more for him, breaking his marriage pact with my grandfather to wed the first western wench who caught his eye. The Young Wolf? He was a vile dog and died like one.”

“Stark dishonored us. That is what you northmen had best remember.”

As you can clearly see above, the Freys hold a particular hatred and enmity of Robb Stark due to his breaking of the marriage pact between Houses Frey and Stark. They see Robb as a dishonourable and prideful traitor who humiliated and betrayed House Frey, and abandoned both the North and the Riverlands. Some of the Freys even go so far as to create fables about the Red Wedding, blaming it on Robb and claiming self defence from an attack by wargs. However, other Freys try and justify the Red Wedding and claim that it was House Frey’s only recourse in removing the stain of dishonour that Robb had inflicted on them.

House Frey’s opinion of Robb is clearly a negative one that has largely been informed by the Robb’s breaking of the Frey/Stark marriage pact. Their hatred of him and their slighted honour led them to commit one of the most infamous and dishonourable acts of violence in the series that involved flouting the ancient and sacred custom of Guest Right. The wounded pride of House Frey even led them to go so far as to mutilate the bodies of Robb Stark, his direwolf Grey Wind, and his mother Catelyn Stark.

Some Final Thoughts…

From the various perspectives that I have brought together in this essay, it seems clear that Robb Stark inspired a variety of opinions from both his enemies and his allies. Robb’s men and true allies worshipped him and went so far as to crown him a king in open defiance of the Iron Throne. Of his enemies Robb Stark inspired respect, disrespect, or outright hatred. Even the opinions of experienced commanders like Tywin Lannister and Stannis Baratheon change over the course of the series. Their first opinions of Robb as a green boy and a rebel changes to one of respect and acknowledgement of the Robb’s courage and intelligence on the battlefield despite his being a rebel. However, due to certain decisions and actions on the part of Robb, he did incite hatred and disrespect from the likes of Roose Bolton, Rickard Karstark, and House Frey. Their opinions of Robb paint him as an immature boy puffed up on pride who neither enforces justice nor keeps to his oaths.

At least from my perspective, both sides have their points. Robb won battles against the odds and was a superb battlefield tactician who easily inspired loyalty from his friends and respect from his adversaries. However, Robb was still a boy and made a boy’s mistakes. He held on too dear to the memory of his father and the teachings Ned bestowed on him as a boy. He put honour before practicality, trusted poorly, communicated badly, and did not enforce the law equally. He often failed to see the greater strategic and political picture when it came to fighting the Lannisters. However, given the way he was raised, it is entirely understandable why Robb did not account for the politics of war. The North rarely plays the political games of the south and focuses more on preparations for winter. They have little time for high level political scheming. The Northern views on honour, and in particular Ned’s honourable and trusting nature, may explain why Robb put honour above practicality and trusted in the wrong people at times as well.

One thing remains clear though, Robb Stark has a dramatic impact on the story that continues long after his murder. Robb’s enemies still hate him and spread lies and half-truths about him but his friends and allies still loyally hold to the memory of Robb and House Stark in addition to nursing the deep wound left by the Red Wedding. How deep that loyalty goes remains to be seen but if certain theories are correct, House Stark is set to be brutally avenged by their allies and their return to power is all but guaranteed.

Side Note

Some of you may be wondering why I did not include the perspectives of Robb’s family, Catelyn, Sansa, Jon, Arya, and Bran, given that they can provide key perspectives and opinions on Robb. The answer is quite simple, I think that the perspectives of family members (particularly POV characters) already influence the reader’s opinion on various characters too much and bias the reader in particular ways. I feel that it is much more important and prudent to include the opinions of a character’s enemies, critics, and subjects over their family members. The opinions of family members in these discussions will not be included unless it is absolutely necessary, which will likely be the case in the instances of Joffrey and Balon’s essays.


Filed under ASOIAF Analysis, ASOIAF Military Analysis, ASOIAF Political Analysis

6 responses to “The Men Who Would Be Kings: Perspectives on the Would Be Kings of Westeros: Robb Stark

  1. new djinn

    In the end, Robb did emulate his childhood role-model, Daeron I the young dragon. He could’ve been something great but the stakes were too high too soon.

  2. Only one god,and his name is Death

    Robb was everything a King in the North should be.However,because he is only 15-16 years old,he hasn’t fully developed all of his talents,only warfare tactics and honour code.He isn’t fully developed in strategy,as well as pragmatism.If he only had a couple of more years to develop.However,Joffrey’s(or Littlefinger’s) murder of his father forced him to take the lead too early.

    If you could do Tyrion’s analysis as a military commander or his full analysis,I would be thankful.

  3. The Broke Howard Hughes

    The Freys opinion on Robb shouldn’t be taken seriously. Their opinions are biased by their actions. They are in way too deep to say anything about Robb but something negative. Notice they sent off the relatives they thought would take issue with what they were planning. Nobody even bothers to listen to their gripes and lies by the current point in the story. Nobody is on their side. Not the Iron Throne, not the Boltons, nobody. As for Roose he just saw a way to advance himself, but if Robb’s ‘Blunders’ can be attributed to his age, what about Roose’s. By this point in the story he knows his cause is doomed and if he’s as smart as he thinks he is he’ll probably high tail it out of town ASAP leaving Ramsay and the Freys to take the fall. But despite what he says about Robb being too young to see when his cause is lost lets see if HE’S smart enough to see the same thing when its his position on the line.

  4. Darkdoug

    “He put honour before practicality, trusted poorly, communicated badly, and did not enforce the law equally. ”

    Um, when? There would be nothing practical about leaving Karstark alive. He could have kept Lord Rickard and retained the services of his measly 300 cavalrymen (note that the infantry has not deserted and Harrion was still fighting with the northmen until his recapture), but that would have lowered his respect and profile. Lord Rickard’s scorn, defiance and disobedience would have encouraged more of the same.

    Robb did not trust anyone who betrayed him, he merely thought that the Freys would not be so colossally stupid as to do what they did. Their murder of their guests was an unimaginable betrayal by Westeros standards, and no one will trust them for generations after this. Every time a Frey wants to have a parley, the other side will insist on bringing security, because they don’t respect the customs that let people negotiate in peace. Why would anyone trust a Frey’s word of safe conduct or honorable surrender after the Red Wedding? Olenna jokes about scaring men away from weddings, but weddings are a key aspect of politics and diplomacy. Why would you make a marriage pact with a Frey, if this is how little respect they have for the institution? Where weddings are supposed to bring peace, the Freys shit all over that. If Robb erred in believing the Freys would not attempt the assassination, it was a pretty universal error anyone else would have made.

    The only other misplaced trust were with Theon (who did his part – the betrayal was Balon’s, and Catelyn concedes that he might have struck anyway) and Roose Bolton, but Bolton did all that ROBB trusted him to do. It was not Robb who told him to move away from his blocking position along the Green Fork or attack Harrenhal. Robb intended that he wait on the kingsroad to block attacks to the North. Regarding Balon, Robb’s offered alliance was the most sane and rational course of action for him, especially if he wanted to rule the islands free of the Iron Throne. As Theon pointed out, whoever won the war would eventually seek to bring the Greyjoys back into line. Balon never offered a satisfactory solution to that issue, but that’s why it’s good to be king. You don’t have to answer tough questions. The idea of conquering the North was stupid, because as Asha points out to Theon, they can’t hold it. They lack the resources, and it will only tie men, trying to hold a country that hates them. Tywin says the same thing, believing that taking the North back from Balon will be easy. The only king who would be willing to allow, much less cooperate with the Iron Isles secession is Robb, who is trying to pull off the same thing. Balon is like the Joker murdering his fellow bank robbers BEFORE they turn off the alarms or enter the vault, just for the chance to rifle through his wallet. Robb’s only mistake, again, is assuming his potential allies are as smart as he, and can see that their best chance is to stick together, rather than betray one another and stand alone before a united Westeros.

    As for poor communications, he explicitly told Edmure to hold the castle. Even if you expand that to protecting the Riverlands, Tywin was trying LEAVE the Riverlands, and Edmure blocked the exit! Tywin was moving WEST, and Edmure was blocking the fords on the WEST banks. He was not coming after Riverrun. He started at Harrenhal, far to the east, and marched west, PASSING Riverrun, to come to the fords of the Red Fork, en route to his homeland. Edmure stopped him, and forced him to retreat east, back into the Riverlands. I’ll bet those rivermen in the place where Tywin was camped when the messengers found him were sooo grateful for Edmure’s protection! Robb told Edmure all he needed to. A grown man and trained soldier should not need to be told “And by hold the castle, I mean, don’t go running off to get in battles far out of sight of the castle.” As Robb says, “What part wasn’t clear?” Edmure expanded on his orders, while violating the spirit of even the most expansive interpretation, barring Tywin from leaving the region Edmure was supposed to protect.

    I have absolutely no idea what laws he failed to enforce equally, unless you are using Rickard Karstark’s self-serving and sarcastic jibes as a legal thesis. He forgave the Greatjon’s drawing his sword, because he (and Grey Wind) quelled that situation before it got out of hand and before any blood was shed except that of the perpetrator. He executed Karstark not for disobeying orders, but for committing murder. The treason was because the victims were under Robb’s protection, and Robb’s moral responsibility. They surrendered, because Robb promised they would not be harmed, and Lord Rickard made a lie of that promise. The Greatjon’s offense was curtailed before it had any consequences, and Robb was able to offer a face-saving way out. He could not give any such pretext to Lord Rickard without ruining his own reputation, and making himself subject to similar scorn as the Frey’s face.

  5. “Stannis grants more legitimacy to a rebel attempting to claim half of his rightful kingdom than to his brother who was attempting to do the very same albeit on a larger scale.”

    You have to remember here that Starks *were* Kings in the North before the conquest, and they continued to rule the North, albeit under the Iron Throne, even after that. So Robb Stark does have a claim to rule in the North, only question is wether he will acknowledge supremacy of the Iron Throne. On the other hand, all laws of succession state that Renly has no right on the Iron Throne, as he is Stannis’ younger brother; his entire “claim” is essentially “people like me more”, which might work in a democracy, but not in Westeros.

    In other words, Stannis is objective here – he grants Robb more legitimancy because Robb *has* more legitimancy, and Stannis being Stannis, he does not allow personal or emotional issues stand in the way of the law. I like to think that Stannis would have allowed him to rule in the North had he thought Robb will acknowledge Stannis’ supremacy, but that is questionable.

  6. Daniel

    I think there is an interesting little sidenote to be made when it comes to Stannis’ statement about Robb (“A northman might even say the same of Robb Stark.”). Remember that Stannis himself had taken part in a flat out rebellion, completely unjustifiable from the viewpoint of mere dynastic legitimacy, against an unjust king. I think from that standpoint a distinction can be drawn between Renly and Robb – or rather, between the supporters of Renly and the followers of Robb – IF we assume the latter believe Joffrey is the rightful king of Westeros, yet as unjust as Aerys the Mad was. IF they do not know that Stannis is their rightful king and just see the situation as analogous to that of Robert’s Rebellion, when considerations of legitimacy are overruled by considerations of basic justice, then Stannis cannot entirely fault their motivations (without being a hypocrite) – only regret their ignorance. A man who believes Stannis to be Robert’s legitimate successor and yet fights for Robb in his cause would be no better than a supporter of Renly, though. That is my guess, in any case.

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