Snows, Love Them or Hate Them

Posted: December 9, 2014 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , ,

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.


Hey! FIRE and ICE!

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.


Just Sitting Around, Reminiscing About the Virtues of Dead Bastard Baby Boys

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.

Ramsay Bolton!

Yes yes, Ramsay recently got legitimized and is now technically no longer a Snow.


Sorry About the Lack of Bloodstains. The Cleaning Staff Laundered It when I wasn’t Looking.

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.


What? I Suppose You Mean Legitimate? With a Proper Name?

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.


Good? Bad? Kind of Depends on Your Tolerance for Leeches.

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

  1. KG says:

    I hate that character Ramsay (Snow/Bolton) for very obvious reasons, but was wondering why they didn’t show how he captured and duped Theon in Winterfell. It was sort of slightly important to Theon’s characterization rather than Ramsay’s. Jon Snow’s character is a little boring (a little too good I think) when compared to the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think they could work it all in in season 2, which I agree was a shame. I even miss Big Walder and Little Walder.

      So they had to compress the Ramsay/Reek story, and have Dagmer fill in sort of.

      That’s why I’m forgiving of the show spending a lot of time in season 3 abusing Theon, they had to establish Ramsay’s awfulness.

      Ramsay is just the worst!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. charllin90 says:

    Since the beginning I’ve had a soft spot for Jon Snow. I admired the fact that he managed to stay so kind and gentle even though he grew up in a family where the closest thing to a mother figure absolutley loathed him. I also understand why Catelyn has a hard time accepting Jon but to treat him like she does when he’s just a child…That I don’t understand.

    Oh Ramsay, I love how well (even though some of his evil is lost in the series but that’s given when we’re talking about a book-turned-movie/TVseries)he’s portrayed. I do not like his character at all though, but who could really? He’s awful but as you said, one can absolutley see how he became what he is.

    And I haven’t thought of the fact that Jon very well could have turned out similarly to Ramsay with his upbrining, so that was an eye-opener for me! Made me like Jon even more actually!
    So well made points in this post!


    • Thank you so much for this feedback!

      I’m pleased that the Ramsay/Jon comparison gave you a better appreciation for Jon, I’m a big fan of his storyline.

      When I started planning my Game of Thrones articles to fill the time between Seasons 4 and 5, I knew I wanted to write about Jon and Ramsay, I just didn’t know what I would be writing at first.

      Eventually, Catelyn’s view of Jon was my inspiration.

      Like you, I can kind of understand Cat’s view, but only to a point. Her treatment of Jon really is her biggest flaw for me.

      Again, thank you tons for stopping by, and leaving such a great comment!


  3. Denise says:

    Good character, Cat, but she’d had her time. Not quite as complex as some of the others, her main headspace seemed to revolve around resenting people and being slightly cross.


  4. jennnanigans says:

    That IS a good point about Jon not growing up like Ramsay, despite them both being bastards. I think that had a lot to do with Ned’s upbringing though – even if he was distant, he was an honorable man. Roose Bolton is…

    Here’s how I see Roose Bolton (and I’m avoiding spoilers, or trying to): He’s a doctoral candidate psychopath who has figured out how to avoid getting caught or drawing attention to his weirdness. He doesn’t seem to enjoy flaying people so much as taking it as part of his “job” as lord of the Dreadfort. Since it’s part of his family heritage I’m sure some weird little sparking part of his brain is going “Yay me! I am upholding traditions!” He has his little idiosyncrasies that do make him ALMOST likeable (in the book I recall him being obsessed with leeching and drinking clean water, which makes him the Ice and Fire version of a health nut). Not that he has the same style or joie de vivre, but he at least has a lot of the same behaviors as Hannibal Lecter. I recall him advising Ramsay to tone down his crazy and the latter just blowing him off. I think the book character is better realized than in the series, but they only have so much time!

    Ramsay is just awful. He’s a cunning psychopath and I hope he falls off a cliff and lands on a huge spike up his bottom. Like five times. That’s not a spoiler (unless I have somehow plucked it from GRRM’s mind through the ether) but I really hope it is. And I LOATHE how he says “Reek.” The little whispery “hRee..k” Kudos to that actor for really and honestly making my skin crawl every time he’s on screen!


    • Thank you so much! As always, your comments are delightful, but outlining Roose Bolton’ psychopathy (or possibly sociopathy…) is just the best.

      Actually, the idea of Ramsay dropping 5 times on a spike is the best.

      You remember Roose’s traits well from the books, especially the leeching.

      If I can talk books for a moment (nothing spoilery, you people who haven’t read) Arya ended up being Roose’s cupbearer, as opposed to Tywins, the way they had it in the show.

      On my first read through, I didn’t really understand why Arya didn’t reveal herself to Roose. As a Stark, and him a Stark bannerman, I assumed she’d just get aid.

      Arya sensed things that I was missing. I totally understand why she didn’t trust him.

      I remember being Super Shocked that he ended up betraying Robb. I can’t even explain why I had trust in Roose, he was so weird, maybe I thought it was cool, the way Jaqen H’ghar was so cool.

      I need to rein in my Roose talk. I’m hoping to have a Roose posting one day.

      Anyway, thank you again, so much, for the great feedback!


  5. sb2711 says:

    I have read about Snow turned Bolton on a site and I suppose his servant had a major role in making him what he is? Reek? Jon Snow is a mirror image of Ned Stark in his words and actions as far as I have seen the series…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I HATED Ramsay. He might be smart and all, but just no, I can’t stand him. I liked Jon just fine, he’s more of your typical fantasy hero than most of the characters in this series. I hope he lives, but I’m not planning on it. I wasn’t a fan of Catelyn, but she’s at least cooler now. Always nice to read your thoughts on the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. krisweinrich says:

    I’ve read so many character profiles on book based GOT wiki pages that I totally forgot the show does nothing to show Ramsay’s backstory. Wow.

    Ramsay Snow is a serial killer born into circumstances that foster his blood lust. Had he been born in our world and age he would have been written into our bloody history along names like Bundy, Ramirez, and Rader. He’s a misogynistic, torturous, homicidal creep of the first order.

    You know that scene in “Sin City” where Dwight remarks that Marv isn’t crazy, he just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century? That had he been born during the Roman empire he would be having a grand old time as a gladiator? I think that Ramsay is both crazy and unfortunately for the Westeros, was born into an area and an era that provides socially acceptable outlets for his brutal nature.

    Ramsay and Jon are fascinating polar opposites in the strange Westerosi custom of the highborn bastards. Both were privileged and underprivileged at the same time. Jon was lucky to have been raised by the Optimus Prime of the Northmen, whereas Ramsay was raised by a single mother and a severely disturbed servant sent to “help” her raise an unruly child (read up about the original Reek).

    There is a popular fan *theory* that Jon Snow is not Ned’s son, but his nephew. The theory is that Lyanna Stark resented being betrothed to Robert Baratheon and she willingly ran off with Rhaegar Targaryen whom she loved. Allegedly, Lyanna handed an infant Jon on her deathbed to Ned and begged “Promise me Ned!”. That would explain why Ned took him home; to protect him from Robert’s wrath. After all, the subsequent falling out between Ned and Robert wasn’t just over pardoning Jamie Lannister: it was over not prosecuting Clegane and the Lannisters for the war crimes of slaughtering the Elia Martell and the Targaryen children. It would also explain why Ned kept quiet to Cat and never legitimized Jon as a Stark.

    If the theory is true, I am disappointed in Ned for not confiding Jon’s parentage to at least Cat somewhere down the line. Granted, they were married shortly before Ned marched off to war and he didn’t know her well enough trust her with this info, but damn it, they grew to love each other over the years! That has to count for something!

    I have a strong feeling Cat would have understood; Ned already lost his father and two siblings to the war, why lose his infant nephew too?


  8. rizlatnar says:

    Great post!
    I still really want a Ramsay POV. It would be interesting to see if GRRM can make a character with almost no sympathetic traits into an interesting main character. (Hey, he did it with Cersei. Then again, Cersei had her children going for her, whereas Ramsay…… I can’t think of anything that makes him good. He killed his own brother, which even Cersei never did.) In many ways, he’s like Littlefinger. Smart, intelligent and cunning. After all, Littlefinger pushed his bride down a well.

    I may not like Ramsay, but you do have to admit that he knows how to play the game. He’s meant to not even know his father, but he kills his elder brother and becomes the acknowledged son of Roose, and he additionally takes Winterfell.

    So yes, I’d like a Ramsay POV.

    Liked by 1 person

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