Of Flayed Men and Mermen: A Comparison of Roose Bolton and Wyman Manderly

Very few non-POV characters incite a visceral reaction quite like Roose Bolton and Wyman Manderly. But these reactions come as a result of very opposing reasons. Roose incites rage, hatred, a begrudging respect for political manoeuvring, and fear from most characters in the series, save for Fat Walda, as well as from the  fan base itself. On the other side of the coin we have beloved Lord Large, Wyman Manderly, a man who makes speeches as good as his famous pies. Wyman inspires love, praise, and loyalty from his fans but scorn and mockery from most of the in-universe characters within A Song of Ice and Fire series.

This particular essay is intended to show both the similarities and differences between the two men and highlight how the North’s finest political operators are in fact two sides of a very similar coin.

Lords Leech and Lamprey


Artwork by Mihai Radu and User

To begin, I’d like to first showcase the differences between the physical descriptions of the two men as it gives our first insight into how these two men serve as polar opposites of one another.

Roose Bolton’s appearance is one that seems intended to invoke horror, distrust, and fear. His body, attitude, and personality seem impress fear and silent terror; from his pale eyes, his use of leeches, and his whisper soft speaking voice, Roose’s appearance and manner of speaking is unnerving.

He had a plain face, beardless and ordinary, notable only for his queer pale eyes. Neither plump, thin, nor muscular, he wore black ringmail and a spotted pink cloak. The sigil on his banner looked like a man dipped in blood. – ACOK – Arya IX

Bolton’s silence was a hundred times more threatening than Vargo Hoat’s slobbering malevolence. Pale as morning mist, his eyes concealed more than they told. – ASOS, Jaime IV

His face was clean-shaved, smooth-skinned, ordinary, not handsome but not quite plain. Though Roose had been in battles, he bore no scars. Though well past forty, he was as yet unwrinkled, with scarce a line to tell of the passage of time. His lips were so thin that when he pressed them together they seem to vanish altogether. There was an agelessness about him, a stillness; on Roose Bolton’s face, rage and joy looked much the same. All he and Ramsay had in common were their eyes. His eyes are ice. Reek wondered if he ever cried. If so, do the tears feel cold upon his cheeks?

Once, a boy called Theon Greyjoy had enjoyed tweaking Bolton as they sat at council with Robb Stark, mocking his soft voice and making japes about leeches. He must have been mad. This is no man to jape with. You had only to look at Bolton to know that he had more cruelty in his pinky toe than all the Freys combined. – ADWD, Reek II

On the other hand, Wyman Manderly is always associated with his colossal weight. Smallfolk and nobles alike mock him with their epithets; Lord Lamprey, Lord Too-Fat-to-Sit-a-Horse, etc. His weight is used as means to take him as a weak and foolish coward. His appearance and character seem like a deconstruction of the trope of the jolly fat man.

“Wyman Manderly had a great booming laugh. it was small wonder he could not sit a saddle; he looked as if he outweighed most horses. As windy as he was vast Wyman Manderly had a great booming laugh. it was small wonder he could not sit a saddle; he looked as if he outweighed most horses. As windy as he was vast…” – ACOK, Bran II

No one can be trusted. “He’s a fat old man, and frightened. However, he is proving stubborn on one point. He insists that he will not bend the knee until his heir has been returned to him…If one head was enough to appease a prince of Dorne, a bag of them should be more than adequate for a fat northman wrapped in sealskins. – AFFC, Cersei IV

“His lordship’s cushioned throne was wide enough to accommodate three men of common girth, yet Manderly threatened to overflow it. His lordship sagged into his seat, his shoulders slumped, his legs splayed, his hands resting on the arms of his throne as if the weight of them were too much to bear.” – ADWD, Davos III

However, to Manderly’s eternal credit, he is smart enough to take advantage of this perception in order to use it as a cover for his more secretive activities:

“I am fat, and many think that makes me weak and foolish. Mayhaps Tywin Lannister was one such. I sent him back a raven to say that I would bend my knee and open my gates after my son was returned, but not before. There the matter stood when Tywin died. Afterward the Freys turned up with Wendel’s bones … to make a peace and seal it with a marriage pact, they claimed, but I was not about to give them what they wanted until I had Wylis, safe and whole, and they were not about to give me Wylis until I proved my loyalty. Your arrival gave me the means to do that. That was the reason for the discourtesy I showed you in the Merman’s Court, and for the head and hands rotting above the Seal Gate.” – ADWD, Davos IV

The physical descriptions of both men appear to serve a common theme in ASOIAF; the nature of identity. Roose appears as this silent force of utter malevolence that everyone fears despite any lack of imposing strength whereas Wyman is treated as a weak joke of man because of his weight related mobility problems. Yet both men are political forces to be reckoned with; with each having individually conspired to implement radical political changes in the North despite their unique appearances.

Righteous In Wrath: The Hornwood Lands


Artwork by Scafloc

The Hornwood Land issue is where we get a key insight into the political machinations of both Roose, who I have no doubt carried out his moves through his agent and bastard born son Ramsay Snow, and Wyman. The issue of the Hornwood inheritance is directly influenced from both the War of the Five Kings and Roose’s actions as commander of Robb Stark’s foot in the Battle of the Green Fork. During the Battle of the Green Fork, Roose Bolton disobeys Robb Stark’s command and engages Tywin Lannister in a pitched battle in the Riverlands. During this confrontation, Roose keeps back his own men and engages Tywin Lannister using primary Stark loyalists. The result is a defeat for House Stark and, while Roose Bolton escapes back to the Twins with 2/3 of his force, certain houses bore the brunt of the casualties on the battle. One particular casualty was none other than Lord Halys Hornwood. Some miles away, Halys’ heir, Daryn is killed by Ser Jaime Lannister during the Battle of the Whispering Wood. I, along with others, claim that Roose Bolton willingly send Stark loyalists out to die during his military engagements in order to enhance both his military and domestic situations. Lord Halys Hornwood’s death was no accident, it was a tactic engineered by Roose and an opening move to press his claim, or lack of it, on the Hornwood lands.

“The Dreadfort has no claim that I know, but the lands adjoin, and Roose Bolton is not one to overlook such a chance.” – ACOK, Bran II

The fact that Daryn was killed by Jaime Lannister was just icing on the cake for Roose. The fact that the lands of House Hornwood are bordered by House Bolton and Manderly is no coincidence. Roose, in my opinion, would later utilise Ramsay’s savagery to press his claim further without any regard for the survival of his monstrous bastard.

The old knight was off east, trying to set to rights the trouble there. Roose Bolton’s bastard had started it by seizing Lady Hornwood as she returned from the harvest feast, marrying her that very night even though he was young enough to be her son. Then Lord Manderly had taken her castle. To protect the Hornwood holdings from the Boltons, he had written, but Ser Rodrik had been almost as angry with him as with the bastard. – ACOK, Bran IV

“Ramsay took Lord Hornwood’s lands by forcibly wedding his widow, then locked her in a tower and forgot her. It is said she ate her own fingers in her extremity … and the Lannister notion of king’s justice is to reward her killer with Ned Stark’s little girl.” – ADWD, Davos IV

However, on the other hand of the Hornwood issue we have Wyman Manderly. Wyman is no man to miss out on a political opportunity but approaches the manner in an entirely different manner, a marriage pact. Marriage pacts are a far more peaceful method of acquiring lands than outright violence and betrayal. While the intent of the two men remains the same, their methods contain stark differences from one another. That Ramsay forcibly married Lady Hornwood after Wyman suggested a peaceful marriage between the his son and Donella is hideous level of irony.

While tearing apart a bird with fat fingers, Lord Wyman made polite inquiry after Lady Hornwood, who was a cousin of his. “She was born a Manderly, you know. Perhaps, when her grief has run its course, she would like to be a Manderly again, eh?” He took a bite from a wing, and smiled broadly. “As it happens, I am a widower these past eight years. Past time I took another wife, don’t you agree, my lords? A man does get lonely.” Tossing the bones aside, he reached for a leg. “Or if the lady fancies a younger lad, well, my son Wendel is unwed as well.” – ACOK, Bran II

The Flayer and the Father



Artwork courtesy of Game of Thrones

Fatherhood is approached in a very different manner by Roose and Wyman which should surprise no one given the differing personalities of Wyman and Roose. Although, there is a really odd coincidence about how the two men handle their children. Roose essentially despises his bastard son, Ramsay, for a laundry list of sins, no doubt written on human skin, but keeps him around due to the implications of kinslaying. However, Roose still works to improve his son’s position by arranging marriages and having him legitimised. These actions are odd enough for a man who hates his son. Another twist of the ironic knife is that Roose is also bears a great degree of personal responsibility for the death and torturous treatment of Wendel and Wylis Manderly respectively, Wyman’s beloved sons.

“A fate he no doubt earned,” Bolton had written. “Tainted blood is ever treacherous, and Ramsay’s nature was sly, greedy, and cruel. I count myself well rid of him. The trueborn sons my young wife has promised me would never have been safe while he lived.” – ACOK, Catelyn VI

“His blood is tainted, that cannot be denied. Yet he is a good fighter, as cunning as he is fearless. When the ironmen cut down Ser Rodrik, and Leobald Tallhart soon after, it fell to Ramsay to lead the battle, and he did. He swears that he shall not sheathe his sword so long as a single Greyjoy remains in the north. Perhaps such service might atone in some small measure for whatever crimes his bastard blood has led him to commit.” He shrugged. “Or not. When the war is done, His Grace must weigh and judge. By then I hope to have a trueborn son by Lady Walda.” – ASOS, Catelyn VI

“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.” – ADWD, Reek III

“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?” ADWD, Reek III

“And won’t my bastard love that? Lady Walda is a Frey, and she has a fertile feel to her. I have become oddly fond of my fat little wife. The two before her never made a sound in bed, but this one squeals and shudders. I find that quite endearing. If she pops out sons the way she pops in tarts, the Dreadfort will soon be overrun with Boltons. Ramsay will kill them all, of course. That’s for the best. I will not live long enough to see new sons to manhood, and boy lords are the bane of any House. Walda will grieve to see them die, though.” – ADWD, Reek III

On the other side of the fatherhood coin, Wyman Manderly is immensely proud of his sons. He loves both boys and his family is his pride and joy. Wyman frequently boasts of his sons’ achievements and does his very best to better their situations. His pride extends to his grandchildren by his son, Wylis, after they showcase their worth against the Freys at White Harbour.

“He is off south guarding Lady Catelyn, but no doubt he will wish to take a bride on his return. A valiant boy, and jolly. just the man to teach her to laugh again, eh?” – ACOK, Bran II

“I would be loath to see my son languish at Harrenhal any longer than he must, however. That is an ill place. Cursed, they say..I pray some equitable exchange of captives can be arranged before too very long. I know Wylis would not want to sit out the rest of the war. Gallant, that son of mine, and fierce as a mastiff.” – ACOK, Bran II

“My lord, I bear you no ill will. The rancor I showed you in the Merman’s Court was a mummer’s farce put on to please our friends of Frey … Not every woman can be as brave as my Wylla and her sister Wynafryd … who did know, yet played her own part fearlessly. ADWD, Davos IV

“Wylla.” Lord Wyman smiled. “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. – ADWD, Davos IV

While Roose is emotionless upon hearing the presumed death of Ramsay, Wyman is devastated by the death of his son Wendel at the Red Wedding and plots violent retribution against those who murdered his beloved little boy.

One of the Freys stepped forward, a knight long and lean of limb, clean-shaved but for a grey mustache as thin as a Myrish stiletto. “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.”

Lord Wyman blinked back tears. “Wendel was always a brave boy. I was not surprised to learn he died a hero.” (ADWD, Davos III)

The betrayal of the Red Wedding leads to one of the greatest speeches in A Song of Ice and Fire and shows just how much Wyman loves both of his sons. He wants revenge but won’t act until the safety of his heir Wylis is assured.

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 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.” – ADWD, Davos IV

Wyman loves his boys and consistently praises them while Roose is apathetic to his children, both bastard and trueborn. Wyman will do anything to avenge his boys and keep them safe, even going so far as to fake the death of Davos Seaworth, have 3 three Freys murdered and cannibalised by their own family members, and going so far as to openly mock and antagonise the very family that murdered Wendel without regard for his own safety. Roose, on the other hand, is disinterested in the lives or deaths of his current and future children.

Guest Right and Guest Wrong


Artwork by Jake Murray for Fantasy Flight Games

Guest Right is an area where the actions of Wyman Manderly and Roose Bolton share certain similarities. Roose planned and coordinated the worst massacre in the series, even personally murdering Robb Stark, and helped to openly destroy the concept of sacred Guest Right, granted, he was neither guest or host in this particular scenario but his actions cannot be overlooked regardless of the technicalities involved. Although, one could make the argument that because of his marriage to Fat Walda, Roose is related to the Freys so therefore shares in their crime through blood and deed, should share in their guilt as well. Additionally, Roose openly threatened Jaime Lannister at Harrenhal despite him being under the protection of Guest Right, although Jaime did threaten and antagonise Roose beforehand.

“‘Tis scarcely chivalrous to threaten your host over his own cheese and olives,” the Lord of the Dreadfort scolded. “In the north, we hold the laws of hospitality sacred still.”

“I’m a captive here, not a guest. Your goat cut off my hand. if you think some prunes will make me overlook that, you’re bloody well mistaken.”

That took Roose Bolton aback. “Perhaps I am. Perhaps I ought to make a wedding gift of you to Edmure Tully… or strike your head off, as your sister did for Eddard Stark.” – ASOS, Jaime V

A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” He thrust his longsword through her son’s heart, and twisted. – ASOS, Catelyn VII

On the other hand we have Wyman Manderly, a man who respects the laws of Guest Right, if not the spirit of them. He treats his guests with respect and allows them safe passage, even offering guest gifts for when they leave. Although, he has them quickly murdered, baked into pies, and served to both Freys and Boltons at Winterfell. While Wyman does obey the basic tenets of Guest Right, I’m not sure this is what the gods had in mind when the concept of Guest Right was first founded.

“I shall go by barge and litter, attended by a hundred knights and my good friends from the Twins. The Freys came here by sea. They have no horses with them, so I shall present each of them with a palfrey as a guest gift. Do hosts still give guest gifts in the south?”

“Some do, my lord. On the day their guest departs.” – ADWD, Davos IV

“No. I never thought we would. They’re dead. Lord Wyman had them killed. That’s what I would have done if I was him.” – ADWD, Reek III

“The best pie you have ever tasted, my lords. Wash it down with Arbor gold and savor every bite. I know I shall.” – ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell

Lord Manderly was so drunk he required four strong men to help him from the hall. “We should have a song about the Rat Cook,” he was muttering, as he staggered past Theon, leaning on his knights. “Singer, give us a song about the Rat Cook.” – ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell

It seems pretty apparent that both Wyman Manderly and Roose Bolton share a unique appreciation for the technicalities of Guest Right. Both men appear to respect the laws of hospitality yet are unafraid to work around those laws in order to achieve their own ends.

The Sons of House Stark


Artwork by Ayca

Both the Lord of the Dreadfort and the Lord of White Harbour have opposing relationships with the sons of House Stark. Roose Bolton continually defies Robb’s orders, orchestrates the deaths of thousands of Stark loyalists, personally murders Robb Stark and possibly even has a hand in the destruction of Winterfell through his bastard son, Ramsay. Roose practically admits his distaste for Robb Stark and frequently insults him and yet continually advances in status under Robb Stark.

“His Grace is a boy of sixteen,” said Roose Bolton mildly. – ASOS, Jaime V

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

“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.” Bolton gave him a small smile. “Both sides have made use of him, but neither will shed a tear at his passing. The Brave Companions did not fight in the Battle of the Blackwater, yet they died there all the same.” – ASOS, Jaime V

Wyman Manderly however, loyally serves the sons of Eddard Stark despite his aspirations. He plans a mint for Robb’s Northern kingdom, builds a war fleet, treats the crippled Bran Stark with utmost respect, and is even planning the rescue of the young Rickon Stark who, even in spite of his age, he refers to as his liege lord. Manderly obviously wants his house to advance in status and may even plan a betrothal between one of his young granddaughters and Rickon in the future as well as a regency for the young lord of Winterfell but he still serves House Stark with deep reverence and loyalty, he still remembers the debt that the Manderlys of White Harbour owe the Starks of Winterfell, a debt that is no doubt told to every son and daughter of House Manderly as Wylla Manderly so ably demonstrated to the Merman’s Court.

As windy as he was vast, he began by asking Winterfell to confirm the new customs officers he had appointed for White Harbor. The old ones had been holding back silver for King’s Landing rather than paying it over to the new King in the North. “King Robb needs his own coinage as well,” he declared, “and White Harbor is the very place to mint it.” He offered to take charge of the matter, as it please the king, and went from that to speak of how he had strengthened the port’s defenses, detailing the cost of every improvement. In addition to a mint, Lord Manderly also proposed to build Robb a warfleet. “We have had no strength at sea for hundreds of years, since Brandon the Burner put the torch to his father’s ships. Grant me the gold and within the year I will float you sufficient galleys to take Dragonstone and King’s Landing both.” – ACOK, Bran II

His lordship waited until the table had been cleared before he raised the matter of a letter he had received from Lord Tywin Lannister, who held his elder son, Ser Wylis, taken captive on the Green Fork. “He offers him back to me without ransom, provided I withdraw my levies from His Grace and vow to fight no more.” “You will refuse him, of course,” said Ser Rodrik. “Have no fear on that count,” the lord assured them. “King Robb has no more loyal servant than Wyman Manderly.” – ACOK, Bran II

“Or we could steal a boat and sail down the White Knife to White Harbor town. That fat Lord Manderly rules there, he was friendly at the harvest feast. He wanted to build ships. Maybe he built some, and we could sail to Riverrun and bring Robb home with all his army.” – ASOS, Bran II

Or they could go south to fat Lord Manderly. At Winterfell, he’d laughed a lot, and never seemed to look at Bran with so much pity as the other lords. – ASOS, Bran I

“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.” – ADWD, Davos IV

“The Young Wolf is dead,” Manderly allowed, “but that brave boy was not Lord Eddard’s only son.” – ADWD, Davos IV

“Roose Bolton has Lord Eddard’s daughter. To thwart him White Harbor must have Ned’s son …and the direwolf. The wolf will prove the boy is who we say he is, should the Dreadfort attempt to deny him. That is my price, Lord Davos. Smuggle me back my liege lord, and I will take Stannis Baratheon as my king.” – ADWD, Davos IV

War Games


Artwork by Zippo

While the Manderlys have not really shown their military prowess outside of a few historical details and through the actions of Wylis and Wendel Manderly, Roose Bolton has more than shown how he acts in war time. Roose’ main tactic is to send his allies out to fight while preserving his strength at all costs. This is more than apparent throughout the series and is displayed at the Battle of the Green Fork, Harrenhal, the Battle of the Fords, the Siege of Darry, the Disaster At Duskendale, the fighting at the fords of the Trident, the Red Wedding, Moat Cailin, and at Winterfell. Roose uses deception to set up the forces of his allies and preserves his strength to the last.

A flight of arrows descended on them; where they came from he could not say, but they fell on Stark and Lannister alike, rattling off armor or finding flesh. – AGOT, Tyrion VIII

He glimpsed the bull moose of the Hornwoods, the Karstark sunburst, Lord Cerwyn’s battle-axe, and the mailed fist of the Glovers . . . and the twin towers of Frey. – AGOT, Tyrion VIII

“My liege, we have taken some of their commanders. Lord Cerwyn, Ser Wylis Manderly, Harrion Karstark, four Freys. Lord Hornwood is dead, and I fear Roose Bolton has escaped us.” – AGOT, Tyrion VIII

“Tell him to put the captives to the sword and the castle to the torch, by command of the king. Then he is to join forces with Robett Glover and strike east toward Duskendale. Those are rich lands, and hardly touched by the fighting. It is time they had a taste. Glover has lost a castle, and Tallhart a son. Let them take their vengeance on Duskendale.” – ACOK, Arya X

“Gods know what the Karstark foot with Roose Bolton will do when they hear I’ve executed their liege for a traitor.” – ASOS, Catelyn III

“Harrion Karstark was captive here when we took the castle, did you know? I gave him all the Karhold men still with me and sent him off with Glover. I do hope nothing ill befell him at Duskendale… else Alys Karstark would be all that remains of Lord Rickard’s progeny.” – ASOS, Jaime V

“He did, my lady. I blame myself. I delayed too long before leaving Harrenhal. Aenys Frey departed several days before me and crossed the Trident at the ruby ford, though not without difficulty. But by the time we came up the river was a torrent. I had no choice but to ferry my men across in small boats, of which we had too few. Two-thirds of my strength was on the north side when the Lannisters attacked those still waiting to cross. Norrey, Locke, and Burley men chiefly, with Ser Wylis Manderly and his White Harbor knights as rear guard. I was on the wrong side of the Trident, powerless to help them. Ser Wylis rallied our men as best he could, but Gregor Clegane attacked with heavy horse and drove them into the river. As many drowned as were cut down. More fled, and the rest were taken captive.” ASOS – Catelyn VI

“I left six hundred men at the ford. Spearmen from the rills, the mountains, and the White Knife, a hundred Hornwood longbows, some freeriders and hedge knights, and a strong force of Stout and Cerwyn men to stiffen them. Ronnel Stout and Ser Kyle Condon have the command. Ser Kyle was the late Lord Cerwyn’s right hand, as I’m sure you know, my lady.” – ASOS, Catelyn VI

However, Roose Bolton is not the only Northern lord who fights using deceptive measures. Wyman Manderly does too. Wyman Manderly has hidden an entire fleet from the Boltons, faked the death of Davos Seaworth in order to orchestrate the rescue of Rickon Stark in exchange for an alliance with King Stannis Baratheon, and even had three Freys murdered and fed to their family members. Furthermore, it seems more than likely that Wyman plans to betray the Freys at the Battle of Ice by either outright attacking them or by abandoning them to the military genius of King Stannis Baratheon before securing an alliance with the One True King. If speculation is to be proven true, Wyman’s deception may go much further and he, along with many other lords and ladies of the North, may open the gates of Winterfell to Stannis before, during, or after the massacre of the Boltons in Winterfell.

“I have been building warships for more than a year. Some you saw, but there are as many more hidden up the White Knife. Even with the losses I have suffered, I still command more heavy horse than any other lord north of the Neck. My walls are strong, and my vaults are full of silver. Oldcastle and Widow’s Watch will take their lead from me. My bannermen include a dozen petty lords and a hundred landed knights. I can deliver King Stannis the allegiance of all the lands east of the White Knife, from Widow’s Watch and Ramsgate to the Sheepshead Hills and the headwaters of the Broken Branch.” – ADWD, Davos IV

Lord Wyman Manderly slapped his massive belly.

“White Harbor does not fear to ride with you, Ser Hosteen. Lead us out, and my knights will ride behind you.” – ADWD, A Ghost in Winterfell

“I sent my Onion Lord to treat with him, and Lord Too-Fat butchered him and mounted his head and hands on the walls of White Harbor for the Freys to gloat over.” – TWOW, Theon I



Artwork by Marc Beà

Over the course of the series it appears that both men have recruited a number of allies, of varying loyalty and reliability, for use in their future plans. Roose has made use of his connections to the Freys, Dustins, and Ryswells, as well as a number of Northern lords, mainly the Karstarks.

“Some five hundred horse and three thousand foot, my lady. Dreadfort men, in chief, and some from Karhold. With the loyalty of the Karstarks so doubtful now, I thought it best to keep them close. I regret there are not more.” “It should be enough,” said Robb. “You will have command of my rear guard, Lord Bolton. I mean to start for the Neck as soon as my uncle has been wedded and bedded. We’re going home.” – ASOS, Catelyn VI

“The maid tells it true,” declared a stocky man in white and purple, whose cloak was fastened with a pair of crossed bronze keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a man can deal with Roose. We’ve all known worse. But this bastard son of his … they say he’s mad and cruel, a monster.” – ADWD, Davos III

South of Moat Cailin, another army was coming up the causeway, an army of Boltons and Freys marching beneath the banners of the Dreadfort. – ADWD, Reek II

A long supply train had come with Bolton and his friends of Frey up through the Neck, Lady Dustin had brought food and fodder from Barrowton. – ADWD – The Turncloak.

“Barbrey Dustin is my second wife’s younger sister, Rodrik Ryswell’s daughter, sister to Roger, Rickard, and mine own namesake, Roose, cousin to the other Ryswells. She was fond of my late son and suspects you of having some part in his demise. Lady Barbrey is a woman who knows how to nurse a grievance. Be grateful for that. Barrow-ton is staunch for Bolton largely because she still holds Ned Stark to blame for her husband’s death.” – ADWD, Reek III

“Old Whoresbane is only here because the Freys hold the Greatjon captive.” ADWD, The Turncloak

Ser Hosteen Frey pushed to his feet. “We should ride forth to meet them. Why allow them to combine their strength? Because Arnolf Karstark awaits only a sign from Lord Bolton before he turns his cloak, thought Theon. – ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell

However, even Roose recognises the unreliability of some of the Houses that have come to Winterfell to pledge him fealty:

“Fear is what keeps a man alive in this world of treachery and deceit. Even here in Barrowton the crows are circling, waiting to feast upon our flesh. The Cerwyns and the Tallharts are not to be relied on, my fat friend Lord Wyman plots betrayal, and Whoresbane … the Umbers may seem simple, but they are not without a certain low cunning. Ramsay should fear them all, as I do. The next time you see him, tell him that.” – ADWD, Reek III

Although, Manderly is not without his own alliances either. He holds the loyalties of those placed East of the White Knife along with the Glovers and Umbers. Additionally, it seems he likely has the support of the leftover Hornwood men, Harwood Stout, the Cerwyns, and possibly even Lady Dustin. Wyman also has a planned alliance with Stannis Baratheon due to his pact with Davos Seaworth so he is far from alone in this campaign.

Ser Rodrik pulled at his whiskers. “You have forests of tall pine and old oak. Lord Manderly has shipwrights and sailors in plenty. Together you ought to be able to float enough longships to guard both your coasts.” “Manderly?” Mors Umber snorted. “That great waddling sack of suet? His own people mock him as Lord Lamprey, I’ve heard. The man can scarce walk. If you stuck a sword in his belly, ten thousand eels would wriggle out.” “He is fat,” Ser Rodrik admitted, “but he is not stupid. You will work with him, or the king will know the reason why.” And to Bran’s astonishment, the truculent Umbers agreed to do as he commanded, though not without grumbling. – ACOK, Bran.

“Them as have no other place to live. Smallfolk from up the White Knife, most o’ them. Hornwood’s people too. With that Bastard o’ Bolton running loose, they all want to be inside the walls. I don’t know what his lordship means to do with all o’ them. Most turned up with no more’n the rags on their backs.” – ADWD, Davos.

“Oldcastle and Widow’s Watch will take their lead from me. My bannermen include a dozen petty lords and a hundred landed knights. I can deliver King Stannis the allegiance of all the lands east of the White Knife, from Widow’s Watch and Ramsgate to the Sheepshead Hills and the headwaters of the Broken Branch.” – ADWD, Davos.

“And do you imagine the Hornwood men have forgotten the Bastard’s last marriage, and how his lady wife was left to starve, chewing her own fingers? What do you think passes through their heads when they hear the new bride weeping? Valiant Ned’s precious little girl.” – ADWD, The Turncloak.

Elsewhere one-armed Harwood Stout talked quietly with the cadaverous Whoresbane Umber. – ADWD, The Turncloak.

“Flints, Cerwyns, Tallharts, Slates … they all had men with the Young Wolf.” – ADWD, A Ghost in Winterfell.

“So Crowfood set his boys to digging pits outside the castle gates, then blew his horn to lure Lord Bolton out. Instead he got the Freys. The snow had covered up the pits, so they rode right into them.” – TWOW, Theon I


The Lords of Houses Manderly and Bolton are extremely similar in their use of political and military strategy but differ in the intent behind the executions of these strategies. House Manderly, while politically aspirational, serves the North, itself, and the Starks as well as the common sense of justice and good, a welcome change from all of the houses seeking to advance purely for the sake of themselves. On the other hand, we have House Bolton, a house that embraces betrayal and violence for the advancement of its own interests at the expense of everyone else, allies and enemies included.

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Filed under ASOIAF Analysis, ASOIAF Character Analysis, ASOIAF Espionage, ASOIAF History, ASOIAF Military Analysis, ASOIAF Political Analysis, ASOIAF Speculation, Military Analysis

24 responses to “Of Flayed Men and Mermen: A Comparison of Roose Bolton and Wyman Manderly

  1. athelas6

    I like your analogy. I think Manderly will prevail and outlast Bolton in the end, at least as far as Houses are concerned. Things are beginning to unravel for Roose while things are weaving together for Wyman. Wyman knows more about Roose than his pale eyes can see. Wyman has knowledge that Rickon is alive and he can use that at a proper time. Though Lord Manderly may well be too fat to sit a horse therefore appearing to have everything out in the open, Roose truly has no idea of what lies beneath the girth. I feel that is the advantage. Of course, it may well be hopeful thinking on my part. Thank you for this interesting essay.

  2. Sir Theodred of Pennytree

    I think Roose wanted to kil lord hornhood but he couldnt have predicted that his son would die in the wispering wood if he had lived Roose s plan would have failed and that would mean that his son would be killed and he would loose some prestige because Ramsey used dreadfort men right? And how did he comunicated whith Ramsey being in the riverlands?, Roose s plan seems very risky and reliant on lucky things to hapen , or maybe i am missing something, but really good essay can t wait for more.

    • Militant_Penguin

      I think Daryn’s death at the hands of Jaime was just a stroke of luck and that Roose may not have acted on the Hornwood lands without the boy’s death.

      It’d be easy enough for Roose to send ravens to Ramsay/the Dreadfort from the Twins when he was camped there.

  3. Lands of always me

    Is there anywhere that explicitly says he put the greys in a pie? I admit I certainly thought it, but is there definitiv confirmation I’ve somehow missed?

    • Lands of always me

      *freys*…. Darn auto correct

      • Keith

        *Lands of always me*

        I don’t believe it is actually stated in the books word for word, but Lord Wyman heavily implies it, so my guess is that he did it. For all his jesting and near admission to killing them, it would truly be a weird curveball for George RR Martin to have the three Freys to randomly show up at Winterfell late for the wedding feast/celebration.

    • Militant_Penguin

      I think it was confirmed at a convention but it’s pretty damn explicitly shown in the books.

      • Lands of always me

        I agree, just wanted to be certain. Assumptions and George Martin don’t work out well for me 😉

        Eg. All the time Jon calls ned father, but ned doesn’t think of Jon when he thinks of all his children.

        For the record, I think he did it. Asking for a song of the rat cook after giving them the pies? Cheeky little devil. Wish I had been at that convention.

  4. The Broke Howard Hughes

    Roose may escape with his life but not with any sort of power. His gamble will ultimately cost him everything. His desire to usurp the Starks by ending their rule will ultimately be his own fate. The Boltons will lose the Dreadfort for the first time in thousands of years. Roose won’t have any support mainly because everyone knows he can’t be trusted. The things that allowed him to secure power are the very things that will prevent him from keeping it. Manderly on the other hand will thrive. Despite doing almost the exact same thing, albeit in a more acceptable manner, Wyman will advance his house, gain strength, respect, and loyalty from the North and it’s people. If he becomes Regent then he’ll ultimately get everything Roose wanted himself all without burning any bridges. I never noticed the strange symbiosis before. The only thing that would make it perfect is if Roose ends up in another part of the 7 Kingdoms a new bannerman of some other Lord swearing loyalty and service.

  5. commoner808

    My complements to Marc Bea on the lovely northern house shields. This was an enjoyable read.

  6. Measter Jason

    Very interesting read. They are near neighbors, I had assumed some space. that they were not direct rivals. Sheds light on some of the Reek chapters.

    I think it’s a lock ‘Lord too fat’ had the freys killed. It is not clear that he served them to his host ‘rat cook’ style. It is out of character and out of bounds. Which makes this essay a very interesting bit indeed. A lot going on in the north, heh?

    One little bit about Roose and his luck strategy. Robb’s lack of military experience and discipline is clear. His army won some victories but his own trusting nature cost him his life. He told everyone he was going home (north). Roose just had to listen.

  7. Great essay about the Two Northern lords, the only thing I would have added is that Stark benevolence was the only reason why both houses were allowed to exist in the first place. The Boltons were arch enemies, but after their defeat they were allowed to exist when the proper solution should have been to eradicate them. This act of generosity allowed the Boltons exist and instead of being grateful, they continued to plot until they had a chance to take the North.Compared to the Manderlys who were exiled from their lands but were allowed to set up shop in the North with promises of loyalty and protection as a result Starks made a House great loyalists that continue to serve House Stark even at the eve of a horrible winter coming.

  8. JMK

    Reading this makes me feel even worse with regards to how the tv series handled the Northern Story arc (Jon/Stannis/Northern Lords). I really wanted to see more of Roose Bolton, to hear the North remembers speech, and see the Freys interact with the other Northern Lords. They rushed through the arc and skipped some very excellent material!!

    In response to the essay, I really like how you compared the Boltons and Manderlys. Of all the Northern houses, those two are by far the most ambitious. Their past histories seamlessly coincide with the decisions that both make in the present. Wyman in many ways covets a sort of Hand of the King/Master of ships role. Which coincides with the Manderly’s role as the least “northern” house and thus, they have the most to gain by expressing their loyalty to the starks and restoring them. While, Roose covets the entirety of the North, as a means to reaffirm the long sought after primacy of House Bolton in the scheme of Northern politics.

    Well done!!!

  9. One frustrating thing they have in common is an unwillingness to reveal their plans to viewpoint characters except in broad hints.

    1) Why is Manderley taunting the Freys to the point of violence? Does he think he has the support of enough Lords to be safe in Winterfell, or has he miscalculated?

    2) One hint from Roose drives me crazy. Why does Roose tell Theon that Roose won’t live to see Walda’s children reach adulthood? Does he have a terminal disease? Some kind of suicide plan? There’s no apparent reason he couldn’t expect to live fifteen years, unless he knows something we don’t, or unless he’s just messing with Theon, but if so, why?

    • Militant_Penguin

      1) I think Manderly is like those old men going hunting in the middle of winter. He’s on a suicide mission. Like he says in Davos IV: “My son is home.” Manderly has his heir’s safety secured. Part one of his mission is complete so now he is more than willing to taunt the murderers of his son, Wendel, and the families who perpetrated the Red Wedding. He’s aiming for a blaze of righteous vengeful glory and wants the Freys and Boltons to be burned up in his wake before he crashes.

      2) Roose is pretty old, 60s I think, and Winter Is Coming with a bloody vengeance against from the Northerners loyal to the Starks and families of victims of the Red Wedding. His position is increasingly untenable. He’d be stupid to think he’s likely to live long enough to raise more children when his children don’t have a great record of survival to begin with and with practically every Northern family gunning for him.

      • athelas6

        Yeah, those are good points to a couple of good questions. I wondered if it were possible that Roose thinks Ramsay may kill him?

      • Militant_Penguin

        I don’t think Roose fears Ramsay. He recognises Ramsay’s failings and that he can be easily outsmarted and outplayed.

      • athelas6

        Yeah true. Ramsay can be outsmarted. And also true that not many live to ripe old ages, especially when they have enemies and long winters.

      • Joseph

        2) In ADwD, Theon/Reek thinks that Roose is “well past 40”, which suggests just short of 50, but it’s not clear if he knows that for a fact or is basing it on Roose’s appearance. Domerick rode with Lyanna and was the son of Roose’s second wife.

        I can just barely get Roose to 49 with what I would call very aggressive assumptions (born in 251, 1st marriage in 66 widowed and remarried by 67, Domerick born in 68 and therefore 13 by the Tourney at Harrenhall). You could go a couple years younger by being even more aggressive (e.g. married and widowered as a child), but 50s is more plausible.

        All in all, you’re *probably* right – even health nut Roose might just be saying it’s not plausible for him to live to his late 60s, but on the other hand, maybe he knows something we don’t.

      • Great essay, as usual. A few thoughts. Yes, I agree he’s on a suicide mission. But as to not living through the winter, no. Roose is a sociopath. I can’t believe that Roose actually thinks he won’t live. That would be admitting a weakness. It’s got to be a ploy. I think he wants that information to get back to Ramsey.

      • Laural H

        Roose burns a book while at Harrenhal. It is a theory that the book explains about the curse of Harrenhal, and Roose is just being fatalistic.

  10. Pingback: Episode 12: Year in Review | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

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