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The Red Wedding is a massacre during the War of the Five Kings arranged by Lord Walder Frey as revenge against King Robb Stark for breaking the marriage pact between House Stark and House Frey. During the massacre, King Robb, his wife, Queen Talisa, his mother, Lady Catelyn, most of his bannermen and men-at-arms are murdered following the marriage feast and bedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey.
Unbeknownst to most, however, is the fact that the true mastermind of the Red Wedding is Tywin Lannister, who conspired with Frey and Lord Roose Bolton to betray the Northern army in return for clemency and rewards. The breaking of the marriage pact was merely a cover for the massacre.
- "My honored guests, be welcome within my walls and at my table. I extend to you my hospitality and protection in the light of the Seven."
- ―Lord Walder to King Robb and his entourage
King Robb was lulled into a false sense of security by Walder Frey because he had extended guest right to the Starks by formally eating salt and bread from the same bowl as his guests. To break guest right is to break all the laws of gods and men, thus while Robb and Catelyn were always wary of Walder Frey's intentions, they never thought that even such a despicable man as he would sink so low as to break such a sacred pact. The North was ready to charge towards Casterly Rock, with House Forrester as the vanguard.
The betrayal was scheduled to occur after the formal ceremony and the bedding, with Edmure and Roslin safely away in another part of the castle to consummate their marriage.
The door of the great hall was closed and barred by Black Walder. Meanwhile, Roose Bolton and his men were to position themselves around the hall, secretly armed and armored. Very carefully, they all sat behind Stark soldiers and very few of them, including Roose, consumed little alcohol, so as to keep their inhibitions in tact. The signal for massacre to begin was for the musicians to play an instrumental version of "The Rains of Castamere".
- "Your Grace, I feel I've been remiss in my duties. I've given you meat and wine and music, but I haven’t shown you the hospitality you deserve. My King has married and I owe my new Queen a wedding gift."
- ―Lord Walder signals for the massacre to begin.
Walder Frey eventually holds a hand up to cue the musicians to cease playing, addressing Robb and claiming that he has been negligent in his duties as a host by failing to present his king with a proper wedding gift. At this moment, Roose Bolton gives Catelyn a knowing look and glances towards his left arm. Her eyes follow his gaze and she sees a bit of chain mail peaking out from his sleeve. She then lifts up his sleeve which reveals the chain mail he is wearing underneath. Roose smiles ominously and Catelyn realizes that they have been led into a trap: she slaps Roose across the face and then shouts to warn Robb, but it is too late.
At Walder Frey's signal, Lothar Frey approaches Talisa Stark from behind and begins to repeatedly stab her in the abdomen with a dagger, killing her unborn child instantly and causing her to quickly succumb to her wounds. The musicians hired for the wedding reveal themselves to be a group of assassins, brandishing crossbows and firing on Robb Stark and the Northern leadership gathered in the main hall. After the first volley, the Northern guests are attacked in the main hall by armed Frey and Bolton men, while the crossbowmen continue to pick off survivors. Some of the Northerners killed by the Freys fall dead into their meals.
Outside of the keep, Frey and Bolton men turn on the other Northern soldiers in the camps who had been heavily drinking during the celebrations, taking them completely by surprise. Four Frey crossbowmen approach Grey Wind, Robb's direwolf, who has been forbidden from entering the castle to prevent him from defending Robb during the massacre, and fatally shoot him with crossbows while he is trapped inside a pen. Arya Stark, who had snuck into the courtyard in the hopes of reuniting with her mother, witnesses the direwolf's killing while hiding behind some nearby barrels. While battling the Freys, Rodrik Forrester is crushed under a horse.
Robb, wounded with several crossbow bolts, crawls towards Talisa and embraces her, devastated over the loss of his wife and unborn child. Lord Walder, seeing that Robb has survived the initial onslaught, raises a hand to halt the carnage and watches Robb's suffering with cruel amusement. Catelyn, who had taken refuge under her table, notices that Walder Frey's eighth wife, Joyeuse Erenford, is hiding beneath Walder's table and rushes forward, dragging her out and putting a table knife to her throat. She beseeches Walder to end the slaughter and allow Robb to leave. She offers herself as a hostage in exchange for Robb's life, desperately screaming at Robb to walk out while he can but he is too shocked over his beloved wife's death and instead poignantly looks at her corpse.
When Robb fails to respond, she turns back to Walder and promises that they will not retaliate if he is allowed to live, swearing an oath. Walder fires back that she already swore an oath to him that Robb would marry his daughter, finally revealing his motive for the betrayal. In a last plea of desperation, she swears on her honor as a Tully and a Stark that if Robb is not allowed to leave the chamber, she will slit Joyeuse's throat. Walder appears to consider her offer for a moment before glibly responding that he will simply "find another" wife.
Robb then somehow finds the strength to drag himself back onto his feet, and weakly calls out "Mother!" to her in a daze. As Catelyn looks into Robb's eyes, Roose Bolton steps in front of Robb and tells him that "the Lannisters send their regards", stabbing him through the heart. Robb is killed instantly and shares a final, lifeless look to his mother before he dies next to his wife.
True to her word, Catelyn slits Joyeuse's throat and lets out a wail of grief, believing all of her sons to be dead. Walder is barely concerned over his wife's death or the ongoing massacre, nonchalantly sipping his wine. Catelyn then becomes catatonic, silently staring at Robb's corpse in shock and utter despair, not reacting as her own throat is slit nearly to the bone from behind by Black Walder Rivers.
Afterward, as the massacre of the Stark army encamped outside the Twins raged on, observed by Lord Bolton from the battlements, the Freys horrifically desecrate Robb's corpse by decapitating it and skewering the head of his dead direwolf, Grey Wind, in its place. They then parade it around the keep atop a horse, a final insult to the King in the North. Even the defenceless soldiers are given no mercy, most of them are not even granted a quick death; some are burnt alive in their tents, one was carried away with his legs ripped off and several were hanged from trees.
Catelyn's corpse is also desecrated (although we do not see this happen in the TV version): in cruel mockery of traditional House Tully funeral customs, which involve cremating a body on a burning boat set adrift in the Trident River, the Freys unceremoniously fling Lady Catelyn's corpse naked from the battlements of the Twins, throwing it into the river to rot as if it were merely trash. Amidst the chaos, Arya escapes on horseback with Sandor Clegane, while Gared makes his way into the woods with Lord Gregor Forrester. Gregor is too badly wounded to continue and thus gives Gared the Forrester greatsword to return to Ironrath. He tells Gared to tell his uncle that 'The North Grove must never be lost' before two Freys approach Gregor as Gared retreats in the forest with the greatsword. Gregor stays to fight off the two Freys but is quickly slain.
- "The Red Wedding, they're calling it. Walder Frey committed sacrilege that day. He shared bread and salt with the Starks. He offered them guest right... The gods will have their vengeance. Frey will burn in the seventh hell for what he did."
- ―A Riverlands farmer loyal to the Tullys.
The events of the Red Wedding effectively end the conflict between House Stark and House Lannister in a decisive victory for King Joffrey Baratheon and House Lannister. Not only was Robb Stark himself killed in the betrayal, but the entire Northern army that Robb Stark led to southern Westeros was also destroyed; save only for those forces of House Karstark which had earlier abandoned Robb to return home, and the forces of House Bolton and their bannermen which turned on the other Northern Houses. For his part in the betrayal, Lord Frey was granted the castle of Riverrun and promised Lannister protection from any northern retaliation. Lord Walder had his men capture Edmure Tully out of his marriage bed alive, as Riverrun had not yet fallen to Lannister forces and Lord Edmure was a valuable hostage to hopefully negotiate its surrender in the near future. Roose Bolton, for his part in the Red Wedding, is awarded the title of Warden of the North, drastically elevating his House's stature. The Boltons are also granted the lands of Winterfell itself.
The War of the Five Kings continues, however, as Balon Greyjoy still fights for the Iron Islands' independence and to hold on to his conquest in the North, while Stannis Baratheon continues to dispute Joffrey Baratheon's right to the Iron Throne.
Brynden Tully, also known as the Blackfish, had been present for the wedding but incidentally, he had left the keep to relieve himself on a tree outside before the massacre in the main hall began. He then managed to fight his way out of the assault on the camps and slip away from the Twins during the confusion of the night-time ambush. Roose Bolton ruefully notes to Walder Frey the next day that he had escaped. Lord Walder is dismissive and says he won't get far, but Bolton is clearly concerned that the Blackfish will manage to reach the safety of Riverrun before he can be found. Although the Blackfish is able to take back Riverrun, House Frey, with the aid of House Lannister, takes Riverrun back in the Second Siege of Riverrun. The Blackfish is killed during the siege.
Greatjon Umber, one of the most powerful and loyal bannermen of House Stark, is not present at the Twins for the wedding, which made him one of the few bannermen of House Stark that wasn't killed during the massacre. However, Greatjon later died of unknown causes. His son, Smalljon, defects to the Boltons and hands over Rickon Stark to Ramsay Bolton. Smalljon is later killed by Tormund during the Battle of the Bastards.
Architects and Perpetrators
- Tyrion: "Walder Frey is many things... but a brave man? No. He never would've risked such an action if he didn't have certain assurances."
- Tywin: "Which he got from me."
- — Tyrion and Tywin Lannister[src]
- Lord Tywin Lannister, who arranged the massacre with Walder Frey and Roose Bolton and offered them protection and titles.
- Lord Walder Frey, oversaw the massacre.
- Lord Roose Bolton, personally killed the injured Robb Stark with a dagger thrust to the heart.
- "Lame" Lothar Frey, stabbed Queen Talisa Stark to death. Previously acted as envoy to lure the Tullys and Starks to the Twins.
- "Black" Walder Rivers, slit the throat of Catelyn Stark. Previously acted as envoy to lure the Tullys and Starks to the Twins.
- Lady Joyeuse Frey, her throat slit by Catelyn Stark.
- "The Northerners will never forget."
- ―Tyrion Lannister expresses his fear of retribution for the Red Wedding.
- Robb and Talisa's unborn child
- Lord Edmure Tully
Behind the scenes
Author George R.R. Martin revealed that he was hoping to play one of the casualties at the Twins, but his schedule prevented him.
In the books
The Red Wedding plays out somewhat differently in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. To begin with, most of Robb's leading bannermen, prominent members of other major Houses from the North, are killed in the betrayal. Many of these were secondary or tertiary recurring characters such as Dacey Mormont, Lucas Blackwood, or Wendel Manderly, who had become regular fixtures in chapters focusing on the Stark storyline, but could not realistically have all been fit into the limited running time of the TV series. Almost every major noble House in the North loses at least one immediate family member in the massacre. Thus, the impact of the massacre is even deeper in the book narrative, since many established characters besides Robb and Catelyn are also killed.
As author George R.R. Martin has repeatedly said, he refused to plot out the books down to the slightest detail before he began, and if writers can be categorized into "architects" who plan out everything in advance, or "gardeners" who assemble a general plan for where things are planted but then lets them grow on their own, Martin definitely considers himself a gardener. Even so, he did establish a general outline which planned out the largest plot points and most important character deaths before the first novel was even published. Like the execution of Ned Stark at the end of the first novel, Martin always planned that Robb Stark and his entire army would be killed at the Red Wedding, as it was one of the most pivotal events in the entire storyline, concluding the Stark-Lannister war while setting new plotlines into motion.
Greatjon Umber was present at the Red Wedding in the books, but Clive Mantle, who played him in Season 1, was unable to reappear for Season 2 or Season 3. Greatjon does not die at the Red Wedding but is taken prisoner. Several Freys enter into drinking contests with Greatjon to try to incapacitate him when the fighting started, but he drinks them all under the table, and is still able to put up a significant fight. It takes eight men to subdue Greatjon and even so he manages to kill one, seriously wound two more, and bite half the ear off another. However, Greatjon's son Smalljon Umber is decapitated by Bolton men.
The Greatjon is the only head of a noble House from the North present in the Twins at the time, which is why the Lannisters wanted him taken alive as a valuable political hostage. The heads of three other major Houses are not present for the wedding: Maege Mormont, Galbart Glover, and Jason Mallister. Robb had sent the three to treat with the crannogmen of House Reed to coordinate their plan to retake Moat Cailin from the ironborn and carry a letter naming Robb's heir - as Jeyne Westerling is not known to be pregnant at the time. Lord Jason left the other two to reinforce his home castle at Seagard. Lord Jason's son and heir Patrek Mallister is present at the Red Wedding. The whereabouts of Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover, remain unknown.
Nearly all of the Stark bannermen at the wedding were slain. The books mention only four who were taken alive, three from the Riverlands and one from the North: Edmure Tully, Marq Piper, Patrek Mallister, and Greatjon Umber. It is unknown if any of the other guests were taken alive too.
Another feature that was removed was that the Freys set up three tents for the Northmen. When the signal is given the tents collapse and are set alight.
Brynden Tully is not present for the wedding. Robb had him stay behind at Riverrun to command their rearguard and hold the line of the Red Fork, creating for him the title Warden of the Southern Marches. Brynden is shown leaving the main hall to relieve himself before the fighting starts in the show, however in the following episode Roose Bolton confirms that he has escaped, apparently heading back to Riverrun (to bring him back in synch with his book location). It is probable that the TV producers didn't want the audience to suspect that the Freys would betray Robb, which would be unlikely if the entire Stark-Tully family was present. In the books, Robb leaves Brynden and his queen at Riverrun because he is worried that the Freys will exact vengeance for breaking his betrothal, but if this had happened in the TV series it may have made their intentions too obvious. Even so, when Robb actually arrived at the Twins, his fears disappeared when Walder Frey formally extended guest right to him, as no lord ever breaks such a sacred pact, thus the Freys' betrayal was still a surprise.
Talisa Stark is the first to die in the episode but her book counterpart Jeyne Westerling is also not present at the Red Wedding, having been left behind at the safety of Riverrun with Brynden. Further, Jeyne isn't explicitly stated to be pregnant in the novels. According to Richard Madden (Robb Stark) the reason that the TV series has Jeyne/Talisa die at the Red Wedding is because they didn't want the audience to harbor any romantic illusions about her escaping to give birth to Robb's child who would one day dramatically return to avenge his death. This is one of the fantasy stereotypes that George R.R. Martin himself set out to deconstruct with the series, i.e. the assumption that Robb would live to dramatically avenge his father Ned's death. The TV series wanted to make it clear with the Red Wedding that Robb isn't going to live to avenge his father, nor is Robb's child going to live to avenge him. As Madden said, "I think it was important for her to die because it's a full stop to that train, the story of that army. I think if there was anything left... I think it's more tragic that there's nothing left over from it. There's no possibility that Talisa's in hiding, and she's going to have a baby, and one day that baby will take over as King in the North. I think there's something tragic about it all being cut short instantly."
Catelyn doesn't slit the throat of Walder Frey's young wife Joyeuse Erenford in the books. Instead Catelyn takes Walder Frey's mentally disabled middle-aged grandson Aegon Frey hostage. Aegon is the court fool at the Twins, derisively made to wear a jester's hat filled with bells, which is why he is more commonly known as "Jinglebell". The other Freys cruelly enjoy watching the fool caper and prance about. In their confrontation, Catelyn says she'll trade a son for a son, but Walder points out that Jinglebell is only a grandson and has never been of much use. While this does keep the already large number of characters down, it omits the revelation of Walder's hypocrisy: for all of his protestations that he values family above all else, in truth he would casually sacrifice a grandson without regret.
The manner of Catelyn's death is also slightly different. In the books, Catelyn is so consumed by grief at the sight of Robb's death that she claws at her face, raking her fingernails across her cheeks until she has carved out long strips of flesh and is bleeding profusely. She becomes so hysterical out of a mixture of shock and grief that she goes half-mad and starts laughing uncontrollably, as the blood from her devastated face "tickles" until ultimately the horrified Freys, who had planned to take her hostage, put her out of her misery by slitting her throat. The TV series's version just has Catelyn stare vacantly in utter, silent despair, not even reacting as Black Walder slits her throat. Another change is that in the books Catelyn is killed by Raymund Frey, a relatively minor character who is the eleventh son of Lord Walder Frey, his sixth son by his third wife.
The Frey musicians do not stop playing The Rains of Castamere during the massacre. It was the signal used to Frey and Bolton men throughout the Twins and in the camps outside to begin the attack, thus the slaughter in the main hall began soon after they started playing. Catelyn and many other Northerners instantly realize something is wrong when they start playing "the Lannister song", as opposed to in the TV series where Catelyn sits worried and confused when the Frey musicians start playing it. The musicians continue to play the song loudly as fighting breaks out in the main hall, in order to signal men further away in the camps.
The books later clarify that the main architects of the massacre were Tywin Lannister, Roose Bolton, and Walder Frey. The plan loosely came about after the Battle of the Blackwater, when it became obvious that the Lannisters were winning the war. Tywin never met Roose and Walder in person, but conducted the negotiations through secret letters sent by messenger raven: quite probably, the letters he was nonchalantly writing earlier in Season 3 of the TV series were implied to be these very messages. In terms of the TV series, this means that Roose was secretly plotting to kill Robb during all of his earlier scenes in Season 3, even those between Roose and Robb himself: he was simply feigning loyalty the entire time. There was also a fourth major architect of the massacre, Lord Walder's son Lame Lothar Frey. Lame Lothar is the steward of the Twins and in charge of managing the castle. While Walder himself made the general decision to betray the Starks, Lame Lothar planned out the practical details of the betrayal, assigning specific tasks to each group of Frey soldiers. The TV series doesn't directly explain this, though it does have Lame Lothar personally kill Robb's wife Talisa.
Just as the music starts playing, Catelyn grabs Edwyn Frey by the arm and notices he is wearing chainmail underneath his outer clothing. She realizes this means the Freys are about to attack them, and she slaps him. This was changed to Roose Bolton in the TV version.
Robb's direwolf Grey Wind is let loose during the massacre by Ser Raynald Westerling, the older brother of Jeyne Westerling. According to Merrett Frey, he kills four wolfhounds and rips the kennelmaster's arm off before being brought down by crossbow fire. In the TV version he is mercilessly shot while inside his pen and incapable of fighting back at all, unable to do anything but growl.
Another minor change is that while Arya Stark did arrive at the Twins as the Red Wedding was taking place, the betrayal began slightly before she arrived and fighting was already breaking out in the camps. Arya thus never got close enough to personally witness the death of Grey Wind or her brother's mutilated corpse. In both versions, however, Arya still wants to rush into the castle to try to save her family, but Sandor Clegane knocks her unconscious to prevent her from trying - saving her life in the process, as he realized any attempt to intervene at this point was suicidal. In the books, he rides her down on horseback and hits her in the back of the head with the blunt end of a longaxe.
Another change is that Roose Bolton says "The Lannisters send their regards" in the TV version, but in the books he says "Jaime Lannister sends his regards." This is possibly because the TV producers did not want to give the false impression that Jaime was somehow involved with the Red Wedding, which he was not.
|Scourging of the Riverlands||
|The Young Wolf's campaign||
Purple Wedding · Tyrion Lannister (I) · Tyrion Lannister (II) · Tower of the Hand
|Ironborn invasion of the North||
The Dreadfort · Moat Cailin (II) · Deepwood Motte (II)