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"Northern Allegiances to House Stark" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season. It is narrated by Sophie Turner as Princess Sansa Stark.

Synopsis

Sansa Stark recounts the history of the North, as well as the rule of House Stark and the loyalty of the other Northern houses.

Narration

Sansa Stark: The North is the oldest and largest of the Seven Kingdoms, but House Stark has not always held it. When Bran the Builder raised Winterfell and founded our line, we were vassals to the Barrow Kings, who claimed descent from the First King and thus dominion over all the First Men. But after the Long Night, it was our house who built the Wall and set the Night's Watch to guard the realms of men whilst our king sat in his barrow. My ancestors eventually revolted, waging what singers call the Thousand Years War to free our lands. Other families joined us, recognising that the North is a cold and hard land and needed a king who served its people before himself. Finally, the last Barrow King bent the knee and House Stark became the Kings of Winter.

Yet we were kings in name only, for by then, the North had fractured into many petty kingdoms and my ancestors would struggle to unite it again for thousands of years. Rodrik Stark wrestled the Ironborn lord for Bear Island and granted it to House Mormont when he won. A younger son of our family, Karlon Stark, won his own keep after he put down a rebellion and founded House Karstark, one of the most powerful in the North. When the Manderlys were exiled from the Reach, my ancestors shielded them and gave them a home at the mouth of the White Knife in return for holding the river against pirates and invaders. Now they're one of the wealthiest houses in the North.

I'm not so naive to pretend that the entire North welcomed Stark rule. The last Warg King was slain at Sea Dragon Point along with all his sons and beasts. The last Marsh King died at the hands of King Rickard Stark and House Reed has held the swamps of the Neck ever since. Houses Greenwood, Towers, Amber, Frost... none survive today as more than names in dusty old books.

But my ancestors never wanted to destroy their foes root and stem. The Umbers of Last Hearth and the Glovers of Deepwood Motte bent the knee and became loyal vassals of House Stark. The Red Kings of House Bolton wore cloaks made from the skins of Stark princes they'd flayed, and one of the Boltons was even known as the Redarm because he liked to plunge an arm into the bellies of captive Starks and pull out their entrails with his bare hand. The North deserved to be wiped clean of them. Yet my ancestors spared them after their defeat because they believed the North couldn't afford to fight itself any longer.

Time soon proved them right. When the Andals swept into Westeros they obliterated all the kingdoms of the First Men except the North. Each of the southern kingdoms fought the invaders on its own, but the North fought as one. When the Andals tried to sail on the White Knife, the Manderlys fell on their ships. When the Andals tried to march an army through the Neck, the Reeds fell on their soldiers. King Theon Stark even sailed his own army to the Andal homeland for vengeance and slew hundreds of Andal warriors. When he returned, he planted their heads on spikes along our coasts. A warning to other would-be conquerors.

The warning was heeded for thousands of years, until Aegon the Conqueror. The south had already fallen to Aegon and his dragons. Only the North remained. My ancestor, King Torrhen Stark, marched the North down to the Trident and beheld Aegon's army, larger than Torrhen's own by half and with three dragons circling overhead. Many northern bannermen wanted to attack anyway, claiming northern valor would carry the day. Others wanted to fall back to Moat Cailin and make a stand there. But Torrhen had heard how the armies of the Rock and the Reach had burned on the Field of Fire and had seen the fires still glowing beneath the rubble of Harrenhal. He knelt and laid his ancient crown as Aegon's feet and rose as a king no more but Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Some Northerners still sneer at my ancestor as "The King who Knelt", forgetting that because of Torrhen they're alive today to sneer. Their ancestors didn't leave their burned bones at the Trident and their twisted swords didn't fill Aegon's new throne.

Now many say that House Stark is dead and gone and House Bolton holds the North. But the North remembers who united it, the North remembers who defended it and the North remembers who stole it. Long ago my ancestors spared the Boltons, trusting their oaths of fealty. I shall correct that mistake. Even the North can forget when there's nothing left to remember.

Notes

  • The video is in error when it says that House Manderly helped fight off the Andal Invasion when they landed on the eastern coasts - the Manderlys were themselves Andals: the Andal Invasion occurred 6,000 years ago, and the Manderlys only moved to the North after being exiled from the Reach about 1,000 years ago. The Manderlys were later vital in fighting off invasions from the other Andals from the Vale to the south.
  • No mention has been made in the novels that the Starks were ever vassals of the Barrow Kings. The Barrow Kings did claim descent from the First King (a legendary figure) and thus claimed rule over all the First Men - but how thoroughly they ever managed to enforce this boast on the other lords in the North is unknown.
  • While the war between the Starks and Barrow Kings is called the "Thousand Years War", the maesters are fairly sure that it was closer to two hundred years, and wasn't one unbroken conflict but a series of wars fought for the same reasons.
  • The Starks didn't wipe out the Barrow Kings, the last one bent the knee and gave his daughter in marriage to the Starks; House Dustin of Barrowton claims descent from them. As the video says, House Umber and House Glover were also petty kings during the Age of Heroes but eventually submitted to the Stark Kings.
  • As the video implies, absolutely nothing has been revealed about the Greenwoods, Towers, Ambers, or Frosts other than their names, and it is possible that after over 6,000 years this is all that is remembered of them (written records only began after the Andals introduced their full writing system to Westeros).
    • There is a separate "House Towers" from centuries later which held Harrenhal for a time, but they are in no way related.
  • Sansa says that after the Long Night, the Starks were "Kings of Winter", but the North then fragmented into petty kingdoms and it took millennia to reunify it. Generally this is true: each of the Seven Kingdoms boasts of one "founder" in the Age of Heroes, but in truth they were ringleaders who had loose hegemony over the other local kings in times of foreign invasion, etc. So it's not so much that the North "fragmented" but that the alliances under one high king from House Stark fell apart, similar to the other regions. The World book also more fully explains that the Starks were known as the "Kings of Winter" during this early hegemony phase, but in later centuries when their hold over the other Houses strengthened they increasingly shifted to calling themselves "King in the North", explicitly claiming rule over the entire region.
  • As Sansa observes, the Starks kept the Northern Houses unified in the face of the Andal Invasion: exploiting disunity is specifically how the Andals invaded most of the other kingdoms. Actually, similar to the real-life English invasion of Ireland in the 1100s, the Andals were typically invited into different kingdoms as mercenaries in civil wars: then after the fighting ended, they wouldn't leave. This is how the Andals gradually took over the Vale, the Riverlands, the Stormlands, and the Iron Islands. The Starks were wise enough to realize this so they made peace with defeated rivals such as the Boltons to focus on fighting the Andals: it is said that no sooner did the Starks defeat the final Bolton king (Rogar Bolton) than the first Andal ships started landing on the eastern coasts, so this probably influenced their decision to treat the Boltons relatively leniently.
    • The Westerlands and the Reach are on the west coast so the Andals arrived there somewhat later: by that point the local First Men had witnessed the tide of the Andals advancing across the continent for several generations, and realized fighting was pointless, so instead focused on peacefully intermarrying with new Andal war-bands to bolster their own strength. Few Andals bothered seeking their fortune in the poor deserts of Dorne.
  • The video mentions that the Starks' swords were not taken by the Targaryens to build the Iron Throne, which is true. The Targaryens only built the Iron Throne by melting down the swords of their enemies who fought to the death, not those who honorably surrendered. They didn't even take the swords of those who fought them for some time, but ultimately surrendered, such as the Lannisters. Given that they had already submitted to their rule, the Targaryens didn't want to humiliate them in this fashion. Apparently the throne contains the swords from the armies of House Hoare, House Durrandon, and House Gardener.

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