The Curious Case of Domeric Bolton

Hey everyone,

I’ve been planning to write this post for a while but just hadn’t found the time or the inspiration to do so. I have long since considered the death of Domeric Bolton to be a mystery  that is often looked over or dismissed by fans as just another one of Ramsay’s many, many crimes. However, I have a different theory about who could have possibly killed Domeric that could cast doubt on the assumed guilt of Ramsay Snow. This is a topic that I have been contemplating and theorising about since last year so I hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.

The Case

File:Sardag bolton domerick.jpg

Domeric Bolton by Sardag

In the year 297 AC, Domeric Bolton passed away in the confines of the Dreadfort. While Maester Uthor suspected a sickness of the bowels to be the cause of Domeric’s untimely passing, a more insidious cause was suspected by many, including Lord Roose Bolton and Lady Barbrey Dustin – murder. Simply put, both Roose and Barbrey suspected that Domeric had been poisoned by his sadistic, bastard half brother, Ramsay Snow.

“Ramsay killed him. A sickness of the bowels, Maester Uthor says, but I say poison. In the Vale, Domeric had enjoyed the company of Redfort’s sons. He wanted a brother by his side, so he rode up the Weeping Water to seek my bastard out. I forbade it, but Domeric was a man grown and thought that he knew better than his father. Now his bones lie beneath the Dreadfort with the bones of his brothers, who died still in the cradle, and I am left with Ramsay. Tell me, my lord … if the kinslayer is accursed, what is a father to do when one son slays another?”

The Victim

Domeric Bolton, heir to the Dreadfort and son of Roose and Bethany Ryswell.

“Domeric. A quiet boy, but most accomplished. He served four years as Lady Dustin’s page, and three in the Vale as a squire to Lord Redfort. He played the high harp, read histories, and rode like the wind. Horses … the boy was mad for horses, Lady Dustin will tell you. Not even Lord Rickard’s daughter could outrace him, and that one was half a horse herself. Redfort said he showed great promise in the lists. A great jouster must be a great horseman first.”

Domeric, by all accounts, was a decent, quiet, and accomplish young man who craved the brotherly companionship that he received from Horton Redfort’s sons while he squired in the Vale.

Causes of Death?

If Roose is to believed, poison was the ultimate cause of Domeric’s death. However, while I don’t doubt that Domeric was murdered, we should mention that a Maester believed that Domeric died due to bowel sickness. Additionally, there is the apparent family history of dead Dreadfort children that Roose himself mentions:

“Now his bones lie beneath the Dreadfort with the bones of his brothers, who died still in the cradle, and I am left with Ramsay.”

A genetic cause is also possible, that may or may not be related to the strange physical appearance that the members of House Bolton tend to have.

At this point, we don’t entirely know what did or did not kill Domeric but I’m going to assume that poison was responsible for his passing.

Rounding up the Usual Suspects

File:The Bastard of Bolton Tribemun.png

Artwork by Tribemun

Lead Suspect – Ramsay Snow

Ramsay Snow is the byproduct of a rape between Roose Bolton and a miller’s wife. A year after this crime, the miller’s wife arrived at the Dreadfort with the newborn Ramsay to seek the help of Roose after her dead husband’s brother stole the mill and cast her out. Roose, despite almost killing both the woman and the child, gave the woman the mill along with a pig, several chicks and a bag of stars every year on the condition that she never reveal to Ramsay the truth about who his father was. Additionally, Roose also had the husband’s brother’s tongue removed to silence any complaints he might spread to Rickard Stark, Roose’s liege lord.

Ramsay’s mother returned to the Dreadfort several years later claiming she needed help in raising the wild and unruly Ramsay. Roose sent Ramsay a stinking servant known as Reek. Despite being intended as a joke towards both Ramsay and his mother, Ramsay and Reek grew inseparable.

“No one could stand to be near him, so he slept with the pigs … until the day that Ramsay’s mother appeared at my gates to demand that I provide a servant for my bastard, who was growing up wild and unruly. I gave her Reek. It was meant to be amusing, but he and Ramsay became inseparable. I do wonder, though … was it Ramsay who corrupted Reek, or Reek Ramsay?”

Now that he had an equally monstrous companion, it wouldn’t be long before Ramsay’s infamy spread throughout the North and his list of crimes would grow.

“The boy is a sly creature by all accounts, and he has a servant who is almost as cruel as he is. Reek, they call the man. It’s said he never bathes. They hunt together, the bastard and this Reek, and not for deer. I’ve heard tales, things I can scarce believe, even of a Bolton.”

However, despite all of his cruelties, why would Ramsay kill Domeric? Well, as anyone who has read the series can tell you, Ramsay loathes being a bastard and has always sought to improve his position in life, a trait that supposedly originated with his mother and Reek, both of whom apparently continued to remind Ramsay of his “rights” according to Roose. However, despite Ramsay not being the sharpest knife in the Dreadfort, he is not a total moron. His loathing of being a bastard clearly shows that he is aware of his status in life. He is a bastard and bastards don’t inherit lands or titles even in the absence of true born heirs. Although, there does remain the possibility that Ramsay just assumed that Roose would make him his heir in the event of Domeric’s death.

In addition to this, there is a serious question mark surrounding the alleged poison that Ramsay apparently used to kill Domeric and how he managed to both acquire said poison and dose Domeric with it.

Anyone who has read the books and taken particular notice of both Ramsay’s character and his crimes with tell you one thing: Ramsay is a sadistic monster who both enjoys inflicting pain and watching the effect it has on his victims. His hunting, raping, flaying, and killing of women, the murder of Donella Hornwood, his torture of Theon Greyjoy and Jeyne Poole, and the killing of the Ironborn at Moat Cailin also tell us that Ramsay enjoys inflicting terror and physical pain using sharp instruments. The Bastard of Bolton is not one for subtlety when it comes to rape, torture, and murder. Does it strike anyone as odd that Ramsay would use poison against Domeric when he cannot witness the effects that it has on his brother and where he cannot take pleasure in the fear and pain that it inflicts? Additionally, where would Ramsay get said poison? He doesn’t seem to have the smarts for herbalist or alchemy skills and poison is a bit of a specialist item that you tend not to find at a local market. Even if he did acquire poison, how would he access Domeric in such a way that he could dose him with it? Granted, this is the weakest part of my criminal defense of Ramsay. There is the very clear possibility that Ramsay could have poisoned Domeric while they spent brotherly time together. It isn’t impossible that he would be able to do this, he isn’t without cunning. Plus, Ramsay does strike me as the type of person arrogant enough to think he could get away with poisoning Domeric right under Roose’s nose.

However, the fact remains, there are reasons for doubting Ramsay’s culpability in the murder of Domeric.

Suspect – No.2 – Reek with the Perfume in the Dreadfort

File:Heke TheMico.jpg

Artwork by The Mico

Now, you may wonder why Reek is also a lead suspect in my examination of the murder of Domeric Bolton and you’d be right to ask as my theory requires a fair amount of conjecture in order to ascertain reasonable doubt of Ramsay’s guilt. However, I believe that my conjecture has some merit in this case so we’ll crack on. My first piece of evidence:

“I knew the first Reek. He stank, though not for want of washing. I have never known a cleaner creature, truth be told. He bathed thrice a day and wore flowers in his hair as if he were a maiden. Once, when my second wife was still alive, he was caught stealing scent from her bedchamber. I had him whipped for that, a dozen lashes. Even his blood smelled wrong. The next year he tried it again. This time he drank the perfume and almost died of it. It made no matter. The smell was something he was born with. A curse, the smallfolk said. The gods had made him stink so that men would know his soul was rotting. My old maester insisted it was a sign of sickness, yet the boy was otherwise as strong as a young bull. No one could stand to be near him, so he slept with the pigs … until the day that Ramsay’s mother appeared at my gates to demand that I provide a servant for my bastard, who was growing up wild and unruly. I gave her Reek. It was meant to be amusing, but he and Ramsay became inseparable. I do wonder, though … was it Ramsay who corrupted Reek, or Reek Ramsay?”

Did you catch it?

“I knew the first Reek. He stank, though not for want of washing. I have never known a cleaner creature, truth be told. He bathed thrice a day and wore flowers in his hair as if he were a maiden. Once, when my second wife was still alive, he was caught stealing scent from her bedchamber. I had him whipped for that, a dozen lashes. Even his blood smelled wrong. The next year he tried it again. This time he drank the perfume and almost died of it. It made no matter. The smell was something he was born with. A curse, the smallfolk said. The gods had made him stink so that men would know his soul was rotting. My old maester insisted it was a sign of sickness, yet the boy was otherwise as strong as a young bull. No one could stand to be near him, so he slept with the pigs … until the day that Ramsay’s mother appeared at my gates to demand that I provide a servant for my bastard, who was growing up wild and unruly. I gave her Reek. It was meant to be amusing, but he and Ramsay became inseparable. I do wonder, though … was it Ramsay who corrupted Reek, or Reek Ramsay?”

You see it now, don’t you? Yes, the first Reek had attempted to treat his ailment by drinking perfume that almost killed him. Perfume that, if ingested, could essentially act as a poison and lead some to assume death by “a sickness of the bowels”. It wouldn’t be completely unreasonable to theorise that Reek may have slipped Domeric this perfume as a substitute for poison. Reek certainly knew his way about the Dreadfort, would have had access to Domeric at some point, and knew exactly what that perfume did to someone when ingested. However, even if Reek did poison Domeric, a significant question remains. Why?

I have considered many motives and narrowed it down to several possibles options.

Jealously

It’s a motive as old as written history and still holds true to this day. In Ramsay, Reek had found a friend, a companion, and person somehow more screwed up than he was. It is more than possible that Reek saw Domeric as a threat to his relationship with Ramsay and decided to poison his competition in order to ensure that he and Ramsay would remain together without interference.

A Gift

Not an entirely unreasonable assumption, there remains the possibility that Reek may have possibly poisoned Domeric as a gift to Ramsay in order to improve his master’s lot in life. This is especially interesting when you consider Ramsay’s deep loathing for being a bastard, a loathing he no doubt expressed to Reek at some point or another so Reek may have taken matters into his own hands and murdered Domeric in order to help Ramsay. However, there is also the distinct possibility that Ramsay ordered Reek to murder Domeric or suffer the consequences of refusing to do so.

Revenge

A motive also as old as jealously, revenge is no doubt a reasonable motive for murder but who’s revenge? Reek had been reasonably well treated under House Bolton, save for the whipping he recieved for stealing perfume, and he didn’t seem to complain that much about being sent to Ramsay so why would he now seek revenge against House Bolton. The fact is, Reek mostly likely wouldn’t but another would. Another person had plenty of reason to want revenge against House Bolton. That person was raped by the lord of House Bolton, had her husband murdered, was inflicted with a wild, monstrous child, and then inflicted with a stinking and equally monstrous servant by that same lord, continually reminded her bastard son of his rights, and seemed to have no issue standing up to Roose Bolton. That person, that woman, would have plenty of motivation to seek revenge against House Bolton and enlist her son’s loyal companion in helping her seek revenge if it helped out Ramsay as well. That particular woman also happens to be my final main suspect in the murder of Domeric Bolton.

Suspect No.3 – Hell Hath no Fury like a Woman…who had terrible things done to her

Untitled

Artwork by Pixshark.com (Note: Not actually Ramsay’s Mother)

While we know little of the actual woman, other than her apparent lack of fear towards Roose Bolton and the Dreadfort, we do know the crimes committed against her by the Lord of the Dreadfort. It is not unreasonable to assume that the monstrous crimes committed against Ramsay’s mother might have prompted a response from her, a response that may have taken on the form of vengeance.

“The moment I set eyes on her I wanted her. Such was my due … The miller’s marriage had been performed without my leave or knowledge. The man had cheated me. So I had him hanged, and claimed my rights beneath the tree where he was swaying.”

“All you have I gave you. You would do well to remember that, bastard. As for this … Reek … if you have not ruined him beyond redemption, he may yet be of some use to us. Get the keys and remove those chains from him, before you make me rue the day I raped your mother.”

Not one to mince words, Roose Bolton coldly regards the woman he committed a savage crime against.

“…until the day that Ramsay’s mother appeared at my gates to demand that I provide a servant for my bastard, who was growing up wild and unruly. I gave her Reek. It was meant to be amusing, but he and Ramsay became inseparable.”

Furthermore, he wasn’t above tormenting and mocking her years after his crime. For all of the crimes and mockeries he committed against her, it is entirely understandable if the miller’s wife decided to seek revenge against the Lord of the Dreadfort in whatever way she felt best. There is the very real possibility that for raping her, murdering her husband, and inflicting both Ramsay and Reek upon her, the miller’s wife felt that murdering the newly visiting Domeric was the ideal revenge against Roose for his crimes against her.

However, many of you would ask exactly how such a peasant would have access to poison, the heir to the Dreadfort, and the Dreadfort itself, and you would be right in doing so. As I posited above, in the Reek section, I believe that the miller’s wife enlisted the aid of Reek in her scheme to poison Domeric by highlighting how it would increase Ramsay’s station in life and see Reek return to the more comfortable amenities of the Dreadfort. Plus, according to Roose at lease (who seems to be fairly apt at gaining the measure of people) both Reek and the miller’s wife frequently reminded Ramsay of his “rights” and the miller’s wife has previously shown a measured lack of fear when confronting Roose Bolton in person, just imagine how little fear she would show at the idea of poisoning his heir. Additionally, given his origins, Reek was the ideal partner in such a scheme given that he knew the layout of the Dreadfort, its inhabitants, and exactly what may make a good poison. Furthermore, the miller’s wife has also highlighted that she was having trouble handling Ramsay’s wild and unruly behaviour, I can’t imagine how much worse Ramsay would have been when having Reek, a companion who fed into Ramsay’s behaviour and mentality, around. Maybe the miller’s wife purely wanted to avenge herself on Roose, get rid of Ramsay and Reek, either by elevating their position or by framing them for the murder of son of the Lord of the Dreadfort – a sure death sentence, or some combination of both. I lean primarily to the combination of motives, although I doubt the miller’s wife wanted her son dead (still, it’s Ramsay, it’s isn’t completely out there to consider it) given that he is her son. The miller’s wife wanted revenge, more than justified, and wanted her son and his weird little friend out of her life so she killed two birds with one vial of perfume thus giving credence to the rare wisdom of Victarion Greyjoy:

“Poison was for cravens, women, and Dornishmen.”

Conclusion

There it is, folks. I think I’ve created reasonable doubt Ramsay Snow’s guilt in the murder of Domeric Bolton and in highlighting the means, motives, and opportunities of other potential suspects in this case, notably Ramsay’s mother/the miller’s wife and the original Reek. However, as in most cases, there remains the distinct possibility that Ramsay did in fact murder his true born half brother or even that Domeric died of natural causes, possibly genetic or otherwise, like Maester Uthor believed.

Thanks for reading, folks. Looking forward to hearing your feedback.

27 Comments

Filed under ASOIAF Analysis, ASOIAF Character Analysis, ASOIAF Espionage, ASOIAF Speculation

27 responses to “The Curious Case of Domeric Bolton

  1. Orys

    Awesome analyses. I admit that I didn’t pay much attention, I always considered Ramsay guilty. You definitely made me wonder and think otherwise.
    Even though Ramsay is the first suspect for Roose, now I tend to believe that it was Ramsay’s mother. And actually I want that. She deserved a little vengeance for all that had been done to her.

  2. waynebaker

    I was set to endure one of those tiresome ‘Roose killed Domeric’ speculations. Thank the gods this wasn’t the case here. Very well considered and presented. This adds so much more to the characters of Ramsay, Reek and the nameless miller’s wife, and shows that no-one is immune to tragedy in ASOIAF.
    Further consequences of Domeric’s death could explain Roose’s current situation and philosophies. Roose Bolton’s tenure as Warden of the North seems to run parallel to his time in Harrenhal and that book that has been the source of such tacky speculation i.e that somehow blood magic and it’s instructions were contained therein, and Roose burning it was for the purposes of covering his tracks or hiding a secret. I say that Roose treated that book the same way he will treat his rule; take a centuries old position, use it for all that it has to offer, and leave it in no condition for anyone else to make use of after him. Without Domeric to offer House Bolton the continuation of it’s prestige, the alternative poor substitution flaying, raping and slathering-through-gnashing-teeth his way through the North, knowing child Lords are the death of noble houses and no possibility of future heirs Roose is simply going to put the whole thing to torch once it is done with. It may be after the battle of ice, it may be when he knows he is too old and decrepit to maintain control over Ramsay and his low cunning and ham-fisted attempts at intrigue. Roose plays with people’s lives, and it is my belief that Roose want his passing to be in the same vein as his leaving Harrenhal; with monsters tearing each other to pieces, the winner ultimately a moot point, and ultimately a mess for someone else to clean up.

  3. אודי

    “…The Bastard of Bolton is not one for subtlety when it comes to rape, torture, and murder…” Is there actually a way to rape with subtlety?!

  4. PJ

    So no possibility it was Roose ? You speculate about crazy things and people that would have no reason to kill Domeric, but don’t speculate about Roose. That is laughable.

    • Grant

      So a woman who might be angry about being raped, losing her husband because of her rapist and having an uncontrollable son from this wouldn’t have a motive. And a man already known for being messed up, in a violent society (especially among the Boltons) who would see that his conditions could improve greatly with just one murder, wouldn’t have any motive. Uh-huh.

      • Goatlord

        Why would it have to be the perfume? Aren’t the stars referenced silver coins? Equally plausAble they purchased something, many common things can be deadly, ground glass, ect

  5. Sammy Manny

    I dunno, I think you have ventured into “Preston Jacobs” territory here: big consequences drawn from minor points and relating to throwaway characters.

    There is minimal or no reason not to take Roose or Barbary at their word. In fact you have to rely on their word to even establish that Domeric was a real person or that he even met Ramsay.

    The reality is that Domeric was introduced to provide extra reason to hate Ramsay, establish Roose’s weirdness and cruelty, and give Barbary Dustin something to talk about.

  6. jazzbumpa

    One cannot dismiss this out of hand, but it is not particularly convincing.

    Ramsay’s mother is a mysterious character. She might have seduced Roose, possibly even with some sort of magic. The fact that she was never afraid of him is very strange. She made demands the Roose could easily have ignored, and he could have had both her and Ramsey murdered, or worse. But he didn’t.

    His lack of regard for his other dead offspring is also bizarre and appalling.

    There is certainly a mystery here, and kudos for some outside the box thinking. But your solution doesn’t seem any more likely than the alternatives.

    Cheers!
    JzB

    • Grant

      Or she could have just been desperate and at her wits’ end. She doesn’t seem to have profited in any way from this and there’s not much indicating any use of magic.

  7. Colin

    Nice article, I also hadn’t considered that Ramsey might not have done it. But it fits GRRM’s style to show a crime and such an obvious culprit that we don’t even consider their innocence.

    An incomplete thought: within one castle there’s someone whose very blood stinks no matter how much they wash, and someone else who dies of a sickness of the belly. These both sound like symptoms of Widow’s Blood, the poison that shuts down excretions so the victim dies of their own poisons. I have no convincing explanation of how these could be related though…

    Unconvincing explanations? Maybe Reek fell into a cauldron of Widow’s Blood as a child (like a Stinky Obelix)? It’s not clear how the Widow’s Blood is made, maybe it’s purified from the blood of particularly toxic people? Also, they have a widow on hand, in case that’s important for the recipe

    Extra thought: Roose makes some comments about Ramsey’s blood being bad, and Reek corrupting Ramsay. Maybe he’s being more literal than we think.

    • Goatlord

      Wouldn’t that kill him if a baby fell into a deadly vat of widows blood?

      Good points altogether, let’s think about a disease maybe? Greyscale, whatever it doesn’t have to be based on rl fact

  8. Although I’m not a fan of the Roose Bolton killed Domeric theory (he obviously abhors both Ramsay and the possibility of having new children – “children are the bane of every house” and all that), I feel that you lacked to mention that Roose Bolton’s first two wives died as well (I assume the first one did, despite not being mentioned, because there’s no way for Roose to marry again if she hadn’t, right?).

    There’s certainly been a lot of mysterious deaths in the Bolton house…

  9. BaelTheBard

    Are you going to continue your “Dragon’s Mercy” essay? I really loved first and second part and can’t wait for the next one.

  10. Grant

    I’d say it’s not so much reasonable doubt as there being several possible culprits (or in the case of the mother an indirect culprit). Of course that’s assuming that Domeric didn’t die of natural causes, which doesn’t seem probable but is possible.

  11. Interesting piece.
    I do want to raise one problem in your discussion of the original Reek as the culprit. While Reek did indeed know the consequences of ingesting perfume from his past experience, remember that he only managed to ingest that much perfume by deliberately drinking it in a vain attempt to fix his permanent stench. Perfume has a very noticeable scent (seeing how it is perfume after all….) and I imagine a noticeable (and probably disgusting) taste, not qualities of effective poisons. The Tears of Lys are odorless and tasteless, The Strangler must have a taste that is masked at least by wine, and while Sweetsleep has a very sweet taste, it can still be covered up with other sweets. Perfume however? After all, it is going to take more than a few drops to do the trick.

    Not to say that Reek is innocent here, just that if he is guilty, perfume is almost certainly not the chosen murder weapon.

  12. Lisa C

    You’ve convinced me. Poison doesn’t fit Ramsay’s MO at all and this part “He wanted a brother by his side, so he rode up the Weeping Water to seek my bastard out.” if Domeric visited them, surely he would’ve eaten with them, giving plenty of opportunity to poison him.

  13. Vanessa Lo

    Well thought out and interesting…one possibility I would like to mention is that maybe the intention was to poison Roose but Domeric got the brunt of it (maybe through sharing wine or a meal). Roose seems to be certain that he will not live long, it also seems like he has some digestive issues (prunes, little appetite, simple food, he was in the privy during red wedding)…Maybe the leachings are helping to delay the inevitable

  14. Jesse

    (sorry if someone else already mentioned this) but awesome theory! my only problem is that how would they have gotten him to drink the perfume? reek drunk a whole bottle of it and didn’t die, he almost did. He would have to drink a lot of perfume to die from it, and I can guarantee it doesn’t taste great. It’d be very noticeable.

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  16. birk opgård

    perhaps, domeric was a warg(his amazing riding skills could have devolped as a result of warging them) and the maester killed him for it, once ramsay showed up, and gave him an amazing skapegoat for the murder.

  17. Henry

    great job, but i want to point out one thing. It is very likely that Ramsay would know how to poison someone even at a young age without formal training. He was raised as a commoner, and as we learn in The Sworn Sword commoners tend to have a vast knowledge of local flora. I know the dangerous plants in my area, several of which could be used as potential poison, and i don’t depend on wild plants like a westerosi commoner would. Ramsay’s mother would have taught him from a young age to avoid dangerous plants. Being Ramsay he then likely was attracted to them and even experimented with them.

  18. This analogy may be way off and it def isnt perfect but I like comparing Domerics murder to the Red Wedding, with Robb Stark as Domeric, Walder Frey as Reek, Roose as Ramsay, and Tywin lannister as Ramsays mother, as my most likely division of roles.
    Tywin suffers a string of military defeats to Robb, akin to Ramsays mothers suffering at the hands of Roose.
    Tywin plays on the Boltons historic Stark rivalry and Rooses status as 2nd most powerful Northern lord to hatch a devious plot to supplant the Starks with the Boltons as Wardens of the North, just as the mother plays on Ramsays hated 2nd tier status as a bastard to hatch a devious plot to have Ramsay supplant Domeric as heir to the Dreadfort.
    The Freys and Reek, already looked down upon or resented by other lords & northmen, become the vehicles thru which Robb and Domeric are murdered, thereby executing the plans of Tywin & the mother to empower those loyal to them, Roose & Ramsay, as his new Winterfell lord and her son as the new Dreadfort heir, respectively.

    Actually, this might make no sense whatsoever, but I enjoyed thinking & writing it anyway.

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  20. rsb

    If it was Ramsay’s mother, it may explain Bran’s vision in ADWD of a woman praying for a son to avenge her

  21. rsb

    If it was Ramsay’s mother, it may explain Bran’s vision of a woman praying for a son to avenge her.

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