This post will be discussing plot points from the first four seasons of Game of Thrones. This is your usual spoiler warning. But this is just boilerplate, because everyone’s up-to-date on Game of Thrones. Or at least all the cool kids are.
It’s now December, and Winter, you know, is HERE! (It would have been depressing to say Winter is merely Coming when last month I was walking my dogs in the pre-dawn sub-freezing temperatures. But you guys don’t need to hear all this.)
Anyway, I’m expecting we’ll be seeing more snowfall soon, and that made me want to write about my two favorite Snows in HBO’s Game of Thrones: Jon Snow and Ramsay Snow.
(To be perfectly clear… the only reason Ramsay Snow is my second favorite Snow is because there aren’t any other bastard-born children of northern nobility presented in the show. It’s also fair to say that Ramsay is my *least* favorite Snow, and Jon is a comfortably second-least-favorite.)
Hey Snow, You Bastard!
I’m a fan of the Jon Snow character, so Catelyn Stark would probably not consider me a friend at all since she famously hated Jon. Why was that?
Yes, I know that when Ned brought back baby Jon to Winterfell after the war, to his young bride and their infant son Robb, an otherwise harmonious domestic situation was marred. Jon was a living reminder to Cat of her husband’s infidelity, his insistence on raising Jon at Winterfell was an insult she had to live with, and Ned was closed off to her in regards to the identity of Jon’s mother.
Rather than aim this resentment at Ned, she focused on Jon.
But I feel that deep-down, Catelyn Stark was predisposed to disliking Jon. I think she just doesn’t like bastards. At all.
Okay, I don’t usually bring up book details, but this isn’t too major and I think it’s relevant here.
In A Game of Thrones, Catelyn’s ascent to the Eyrie was quite dramatic and arduous. It’s hard to get up to the castle (the TV show really underplays the awesomeness of the Eyrie, a castle hugging a mountain over a vast space, near a point where the waters of a higher-up waterfall sublimate into mist.) The path up required mules and an experienced mountaineer to guide those animals.
Catelyn met the mule-handling guide, a young lady of 17 or 18, prior to the ascent.
“I promise you, my lady, no harm will come to you. It would be my honor to take you up. I’ve made the dark climb a hundred times. Mychel says my father must have been a goat.”
She sounded so cocky that Catelyn had to smile. “Do you have a name, my child?”
“Mya Stone, if it please you, my lady,” the girl said.
It did not please her; it was an effort for Catelyn to keep the smile on her face. Stone was a bastard’s name in the Vale, as Snow was in the north, and Flowers was in Highgarden; in each of the Seven Kingdoms, custom had fashioned a surname for children born with no names of their own.
— A Game of Thrones, Catelyn’s POV, Chapter 34
Catelyn bristled at Mya’s illegitimate status, probably partly because any bastard reminded her of Jon, but I think also because Cat was forced to place her trust in the type of person she’d been raised to be suspicious of.
Northern Snows are Rivers Elsewhere
Catelyn’s from the Riverlands, part of the Seven Kingdoms that historically had no king of their own. (The only kings they have known had been foreign kings, Ironborn or Targaryen.) Her homeland was made up of fractious collections of Riverlords, who owed a kind of imposed loyalty to the Iron Throne and to the designated overlord House, the Tullys.
Riverland history is probably rife with quarrels and feuds, warring families and treachery. (I think I just described the entirety of the history of the Freys.)
Growing up, Catelyn would have probably been taught about the dangers of ambitious cousins, resentful uncles, and most particularly: bastards.
When Ned Stark brought home young Jon Snow, Catelyn certainly viewed it as an insult. But having him raised at Winterfell made him a threat to her own children. Jon would be raised in quasi-legitimacy, seeing his brothers (particularly his younger, vulnerable brothers) accorded respect and privilege that would be withheld from him.
Robb would be lord one day, and some lands set aside for Bran and Rickon. If they lived.
I’m almost surprised Cat didn’t blame Jon for Bran’s fall (good thing she found a long blond non-Jon hair in the old tower), because when Catelyn regarded Jon Snow, it was as if she was seeing the worst he could potentially be.
In other words, someone like Ramsay Snow.
Yes yes, Ramsay recently got legitimized and is now technically no longer a Snow.
The term bastard still applies to him (at least the informal usage of the word that, in my opinion, doesn’t apply to Jon.)
Ramsay’s history hasn’t been revealed on the show (hey, Jon Snow has some mysterious backstory to clear up too, right?) but it’s not hard to see how being the illegitimate son of the Lord of the Dreadfort could mess someone up. And give them an urge to mess someone else up. (In no way should this be considered a defense of Ramsay’s behavior. He’s reprehensible.)
Luckily, despite Jon’s less than ideal upbringing in Winterfell, practically the Cinderella to Catelyn’s role as the Wicked Stepmother, Jon’s gentle and honorable nature won out. We can’t say for sure what traits he might have inherited from his unnamed mother, but pretty much everyone speaks highly of his father. (With a few notable royal detractors. Some might observe how the dear departed dad’s poor decisions shattered the unity of the Seven Kingdoms.)
Thankfully Jon didn’t end up like Ramsay.
Snows in the North
Season Four had Jon and Ramsay on weirdly parallel tracks, at both times similar and disimilar.
Both were responding to foreign invasions of the North, with Jon defending the northern geographical boundary, the Wall, against the Wildlings, and Ramsay trying to open up the marshy southern approach for his father’s forces by retaking swamp-road-dominating Moat Cailin from the entrenched Ironborn.
Jon pursued his course of action with bravery and honor. When all seemed lost, he contemplated assassinating Mance, but was caught short when faced with the fact that he’d accepted Mance’s hospitality during their negotiations. With Stannis’ arrival, Jon urged Stannis to treat the prisoners honorably, a request King Stannis took seriously as acknowledgement of Ned Stark’s righteous support of Stannis’ claim.
Ramsay efficiently captured Moat Cailin by having the broken Theon Greyjoy convince the Ironmen to surrender with promises of safe conduct. (The fact that Moat Cailin was an incredibly unpleasant place in a fetid swamp helped make the case.)
Those Iron Islanders should have gone down fighting, as they were not granted this promised safe-conduct, and were flayed. Ugh. I’m not a fan of the Ironborn, but … ugh.
Our two Snows ended the season with varying fortunes: Ramsay became a legit Bolton and was on his way to Winterfell, while the best we could say for Jon Snow – at least he didn’t seem to be in danger of imminent death (which is always a win for anyone affiliated with Team Stark.)
But Jon was getting the ominous glance from Melisandre. And that usually isn’t good.
Hey, I’ll wrap this up with an advertisement for my secret, invisible-to-search-engines backup blog, where I have more spoilery content. I know people love to talk Game of Thrones more in-depth, and Jon Snow is the spark that ignites spoiler-bonfires, so if anyone wants to talk these deep speculative details, please head to my Safe Spoiler Page and we can do just that.
Stay warm, everyone. It’s December! (You southern hemisphere folks, stay cool. But you can’t help it. You’re naturally cool.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones, obviously.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text (other than the passage from GRRM’s A Game of Thrones.) So there.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved