Player of Thrones: Roose Bolton (Lord of the Dreadfort)

Thank you for venturing back to WiC’s Player of Thrones. This is a series that focuses on individual and sometimes joint players in the Game of Thrones. In PoT, we engage in discussion about the player’s past, the moments that have led to where they are now, and the possibilities of the highlighted player to take the Iron Throne. In the Game of Thrones, you either win or die…

This week we are talking about someone that has played a major part for multiple allegiances. We have seen him go from a pawn to a contender. He is our newest Warden of the North, a huge title for a player to hold, and is on good terms with one of the strongest names (Lannister) in all of Westeros. He is a cold man, able to wait in the background with supreme patience, waiting for the right moment to strike. Strategy is the name of his game, and treachery is a big part of his fame. I present you The Lord of the Dreadfort and Warden of the North, Roose Bolton.

Roose is Lord of House Bolton, an ancient house with plenty of history to go around. Early on in the history of House Bolton, they are known for two things: Rebelling against The Kings of the North (House Stark), and flaying House Bolton enemies. Their home is the Dreadfort, a strong fortress located in the North, East of Winterfell. For centuries it was known that House Bolton flayed their enemies and hung their skins in the halls. To add dramatic effect to this behavior House Bolton’s words are “Our Blades are Sharp.” Their sigil “Carnation, flayed man proper.” In HBO’s Game of Thrones their house sigil has been altered and depict a flayed man on an torture board in the shape of an “X” and their home the Dreadfort can be seen in the opening credits. The Dreadfort in the opening credits of Game of Thrones

  Bolton Sigil as depicted in A Song of Ice and Fire

  HBO’s Game of Thrones version of House Bolton Sigil


After a failed rebellion against the Starks, House Bolton bent the knee to the King of the North and were commanded to cease their form of torture. They agreed to these terms and remained loyal to House Stark for centuries to come. Before Game of Thrones begins, House Bolton rises to the call of Banners in the North for Robert’s Rebellion under their Lord, Roose Bolton. They fought in the Battle of the Trident and helped support Robert’s effort to usurp the Iron Throne.

We then find the loyalty of House Bolton called upon again to join Robb Stark’s Army against the Lannisters to free Lord Eddard after he has been arrested in King’s Landing. Roose leaves his bastard Ramsay Snow behind as he followed Robb Stark and his call to banners.

We first meet Roose Bolton in Season Two Episode Four, “Garden of Bones.” After a successful night invasion titled the Battle of Oxcross, Robb Stark’s men overcame Stafford Lannister’s forces. Roose reports the numbers of lost Lannister soldiers 5:1. He then suggests that Robb torture the Lannister officers only to be reminded by Robb that torture is illegal in the North due to House Bolton’s past. From this point on we notice more and more of Roose through Robb’s campaign. As Season Two and Three go on Roose’s influence on Robb continues to grow. Here is a play by play of Roose’s growing influence over Robb:

– Roose delivers the news that Winterfell has fallen to Theon Greyjoy and that Ser Roderick Cassell has been killed. Robb wants to return to the North and take back Winterfell. Roose retorts that they cannot stop their offensive on the Lannister’s as they are in retreat. He then suggests that he could have his bastard son Ramsay take back Winterfell for Robb.

-Roose continues to deliver news from Winterfell to Robb keeping him in the loop. Robb asks Roose to take back Winterfell with as little blood shed as possible. Ramsay takes Winterfell, kills all the Ironmen, captures Theon, and burns Winterfell to the ground.

-After Jaime Lannister escapes, Roose sends Locke and his men to recapture Jaime. Locke


-When Robb, Roose, and their army arrives at Harrenhal to the destruction left behind by the Lannister host they receive word that Hoster Tully, Robb’s Grandfather, has died and that Winterfell has been burned to the ground. Robb asks Roose and his men to hold Harrenhal for the North while Robb and his mom ride to Riverrun for Hoster Tully’s funeral.

-While overseeing Harrenhal Locke returns with Jaime Lannister. Roose decides to send Jaime back to his father Tywin Lannister in return for not being responsible for Jaime’s maiming.

-After Jaime leaves Harrenhal so does Roose. He heads to the Twins for Edmure Tully’s wedding. After the bedding ceremony of Edmure and his new Frey wife, The Rains of Castamere begin to play, the doors are closed, Catelyn takes her seat next to Roose. As Walder Frey is providing a speech to The King of the North, Roose looks into Catelyn’s eyes and then down at his arm and back up to her. Catelyn uncovers Roose has his armor on and it’s a trap. She smacks Roose across the face and the bolts begin to fly. The Red Wedding is under way. As lady Talisa dies and Catelyn begs for mercy from Lord Frey, Roose Bolton puts the nail in the coffin. He stabs Robb square in the heart, murdering the King of the North.

  “The Lannisters send their regards….”

-The next day we find out that Roose had been in allegiance with the Lannisters and the Freys the entire time. In return for his treachery he has now been named Warden of the North. Lord Frey then asks what happened to Winterfell. Roose explains that they convinced the Iron Born to betray Theon thus granting Ramsay Winterfell and Theon Greyjoy as a hostage. In return the Iron Born would be sent free. Ramsay killed the Iron Born and took Theon hostage. Then he burned Winterfell to the ground.

-Roose then returns to the Dreadfort. He finds a damaged Theon, now turned Reek. He had to smuggle himself back from the Riverlands because the Ironborn hold Moat Cailin which stood between him and his home. In order to hold his allegiance to Walder Frey, Roose marries Walda Frey to join houses.

-Roose finds out that the North is not secure because Theon confesses he did not burn the Stark kids AKA the heirs of Winterfell and the true Warden of the North. He fears the Northmen will raise their banners again for House Stark and that they are the first to go after the treachery of the Red Wedding. He sends Locke to find the Stark boys believing they are hiding with their brother Jon Snow at the wall. Locke tries to steal Bran but in turn is killed.

-Roose also tells Ramsay to take Theon to Moat Cailin to convince the Ironborn to retreat so that he can open the North allowing his army to return home and secure the North.

At this point in Season 4 this is the point we have reached with Roose. Ultimately the man who was just an advisor and commander in Robb Stark’s army, gained the trust of Robb, took and destroyed Winterfell, captured Theon Greyjoy a valuable hostage as he is heir to Pyke, controls Harrenhal, end’s Robb Stark’s rebellion, gains strong allies in Walder Frey who is now Lord of the Riverlands and the Lannisters who control the Iron Throne for now,  and he also becomes Warden of the North.

Roose has the potential to become one of the most powerful men in Westeros. The things that could ultimately unravel his rise to power are the following:

  • The biggest obstacle is Bran and Rickon Stark still being alive. They are believed to be dead and now that House Bolton holds the North there is no one to bring the banners together as the Starks could. If either Stark boy were to come forth and call the banners of their Northern Allies House Bolton would then be demolished by the Force of the The Entire North.
  • Moat Cailin is another obstacle. The Bolton army is still in the Riverlands. This is due to the Ironborn holding the fort that separates the North from the Riverlands. At the expense of losing strength in numbers he did not want to march on the nearly impenetrable Moat Cailin but instead smuggled himself into the North and asked his bastard son Ramsay to escort Theon Greyjoy to retake Moat Cailin.
  • The Ironborn, Mance Rayder, and The Vale of Arryn all are not in allegiance with House Bolton. They have strong numbers on all sides of the Bolton’s and all could continue to descend upon him. Luckily for Roose there is a Wall in front of Mance Rayder, Theon Greyjoy for the Ironborn, and a now leaderless Vale.

If Roose can take Moat Cailin and secure his army into the North, he will easily become one of the most powerful men in all of Westeros. He would also need to find and kill Bran and Rickon Stark in order to make sure the Banners of the North do not rise up against him.

Being the strategic and careful think Roose is here is my break down in his Player of Thrones questionnaire:

Title: Warden of the North; Lord of the Dreadfort
Current Role to the Throne: Ally, Warden of the North
Lands: The Dreadfort, Harrenhal (holding), Winterfell
Wealth: I would imagine after the Red Wedding he was rewarded handsomely.
Army: He has one just not with him yet! (GOLDEN/SILVER FAT WALDA)
Likelihood to become the next King of Westeros at this moment: Better than most. He has an army, he has allies, and he is very strategic
What would it take for him to become King: He would have to turn his back on the Lannisters (obviously not a problem) and rally a large host to march South. Whether it means becoming allies with Balon Greyjoy, whoever will become protector of the Vale, or even Mance Raydar and take that host South — he could then do to Tywin what Tywin did to Aerys in Robert’s Rebellion.
King Name: The Dreaded King that Flayed The Lion and The Wolf. 

What do you think? Do you believe Roose has what it takes to become the first Northerner to sit on the Iron Throne? Do you think he has what it takes to get to the Throne? Commence your conversations about Roose Bolton.

Please remember to flay your comments with the black spoiler veil or we’ll sick Ramsay on you…

Check out these other Player of Thrones posts:

Oberyn Martell, The Red Viper
Melisandre, The Red Priestess
Jojen and Meera Reed, The Crannogmen
Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger
Ser Davos Seaworth, The Onion Knight
Sandor and Gregor Clegane (The Hound and The Mountain)

Done in the light of the Lord….


Game of Thrones: Tyrion’s Champion Presents… by winteriscoming


  • You’re forgetting two things

    1| Roose is incompetent and has made enemies with every major house in the North and Riverlands besides House Frey

    2| Stannis Baratheon is still at large.

  • I think you shouldnt have the point: Desire to be King and what it would take him for every character. Sincs most times its not fitting. Most of the characters dont want to be king. Do some of them want more power? hell yeah, but that does not mean, they want to be king (and or queen).

  • Conor Lynch,

    Whoa whoa whoa… Incompetent? I don’t think so. Perhaps some time under my flaying knife will help you see things differently

  • pretty sure that even in show show cannon, Walder Frey is not the Lord of the Riverlands. In the books, one of his sons (emmon I believe) is made Lord of Riverrun but its stressed he is not lord of the riverlands(partly because he is married to a lannister already) but in the show they’ve just made Walder Frey Lord of Riverrun as well to simplify things.
    LF is lord of the riverlands, and the new seat of the lord paramount is harrenhal. Dont think its never explicity stated he has been made lord of the riverland after Tyrion features it in his fake offer to him in 4×02, but he later says harrenhal is back on the table if he tries to convince Cat to release Jaime (which would imply the other stuff he offered is also there)
    If they were making Walder Frey Lord the Riverlands they would have said he was that, not just ‘Lord of Riverrun’. Sorry if I was a bit long winded about that.

  • Many fans of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire have at least one character whose every appearance, either on screen or on the page, makes them irrationally happy. For me, that character is Roose Bolton – the Leech Lord, the Lord of the Dreadfort, and the Warden of the North.

    Lord Bolton might not be the most prominent of the show’s master game players, but one could make the case that he’s the coldest and most ruthlessly pragmatic of them all. So far he hasn’t demonstrated the same degree of omnipotence and high-level political savvy as either Tywin Lannister or Petyr Baelish, but unlike those two, he has never betrayed even the slightest tendency to allow emotions or personal grudges to compromise his strategic moves. Brilliantly played by Michael McElhatton, the show version of the character has a few noticeable differences from his book counterpart (namely the absence of his proclivity for leeches … so far), but I find him every bit as compelling, and sometimes more so. Maybe it’s because McElhatton’s screen presence helps to accentuate Roose’s wry sense of humor and add a more recognizably human dimension to a character that, in fairness, occasionally verges on supervillain territory in the books.

    My sole issue with this otherwise stellar season of television (my favorite of this great series so far) has been Roose’s relative lack of screentime. Granted, that’s partially my fault because I got my hopes up after it was reported that Michael McElhatton had become a series regular in the preseason press release (a report that was subsequently debunked by his absence from the opening credits). Oh well. There’s always next year.

    My fascination with this magnificent, thoroughly evil bastard is so great that even after he betrayed and killed one of my other favorite characters (Robb Stark) and sired one of the most despicable individuals in the series (Ramsay Snow), I just can’t stay mad at the guy. What all of that says about me, I don’t know. Probably nothing good, but I’m OK with that.

    So in summation … don’t hate the flayer, hate the game! Not that hating either one will do you much good, because Roose Bolton is a master of both.

  • You forgot to mention that Roose’s Frey wife is a flawless bundle of sunshine and rainbows. I just have a lot of Walda feelings.

  • Ah – I would say Roose has one more obstacle that goes unmentioned and that is Ramsay Snow. I know that Roose can order him about as his pawn and bastard son but think that we should always see Ramsay as a major wild card. Even Roose cannot be sure what he will do as illustrated in his conversation with Walder Frey when he says “…but Ramsay has his own way of doing things.”

  • I wouldn’t consider Roose to be allied to the Twins. Walder offered him a dowry of his bride’s weight in silver, and Roose found the fattest one, “She’s certainly made me rich”. Once he receives payment of the silver, I doubt Roose would do much to support the Freys.

    Lady Dustin puts it best, which i don’t think counts as a spoiler since it covers all the information that has been on TV
    “Roose has no feelings, you see. Those leeches that he loves so well sucked all the passions out of him years ago. He does not love, he does not hate, he does not grieve. This is a game to him, mildly diverting. Some men hunt, some hawk, some tumble dice. Roose plays with men. You and me, these Freys, Lord Manderly, his plump new wife, even his bastard, we are but his playthings.”

    Roose tolerates Ramsay, but I wouldn’t doubt he has thought about killing him. Ramsay is too much of a wild card, so far his actions haven’t negatively affected Roose too much. Roose would be content ruling the North. No more, no less.

  • Roose has a far more realistic prospect of being another contender for King in the North than he does to make a bid for the iron throne. All depends on how weak the Lannisters are or will become.