Everybody ready to get their Dame on? Today we’ll be talking about Catelyn Stark, one of a too-small number of people in Westeros with some perspective and a sensible head on her shoulders. Well, not on her shoulders anymore. Wait, no, that’s her son. I’m sorry, was that too soon?
Warning: This edition of Dame of Thrones features major book spoilers for a particular plot twist that we’ve heard won’t actually be in the show. You know. That thing. (Spoilers at the link!)
Name: Catelyn Stark, née Tully, aka Cat, current street name Lady Stoneheart, Menace of the Freys.
Family: As far as the Tullys are concerned, Catelyn has two adult family members (fan favorite Brynden the Blackfish and adorable dipshit Edmure) still kicking around, plus one sister-in-law whom she’d probably kill if she got half a chance. She has one dead husband and one dead child, though she thinks she has anywhere from three to five dead children. Just… don’t mention her children to her. For your own good.
Known Associates: Cat’s social circle diminished somewhat after that pesky thing where she was killed. She’s currently trekking around the North with the remnants of the Brotherhood Without Banners, their old leader Lord Beric Dondarrion having given up his freaky quasi-zombie existence so she could come back to life.
Weapon of Choice: Cat doesn’t physically fight like some of the other Westerosi women do, but she’s a major player driven by an unwavering sense of justice and familial loyalty. Before she died, her moral uprightness earned her the loyalty of such as Brienne of Tarth. After she died, her convictions took a more brutal turn: She wants to see those who harmed her family suffer. It’s a more primal justice system that really taps into the “I am done with all this War of the Five Kings bullshit” mentality felt by much of the North during A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. But more on that below.
What’s Her Deal?: Long ago, the Stark family lived in harmony. But everything changed when King Robert Baratheon visited. One of Catelyn’s sons was thrown off a tower and paralyzed for life. Her husband lost his head in King’s Landing, and she got separated from her daughters. She found out that Bran and Rickon were killed when Theon Greyjoy took Winterfell—they weren’t, but she had no way of knowing that. Then, of course, Catelyn and her eldest son Robb Stark were killed at the Red Wedding. She was found and resurrected three days later, then adopted the moniker Lady Stoneheart and began traveling around the countryside with her band of merry, murderous men, killing anyone who could be construed as even vaguely responsible for what happened to her family. Freys beware: she’s coming.
Yup. Catelyn Stark has not had the best year.
Why Is She Awesome?: Pre-Red Wedding, Catelyn Stark was a voice of reason in tumultuous times, pointing out to her son Robb that maybe he shouldn’t let his head get too far up his rump with this whole “war” thing. Y’know, because the point of the war is saving lives, not the war itself. Cat didn’t always make the smartest decisions—arresting the king’s brother-in-law based on circumstantial and ultimately false evidence that he tried to murder her son, for example, was not her best moment—but even that was consistent with her character: Catelyn Stark will move heaven and earth to protect her family.
That is, when she still has a family.
Which brings me to Lady Stoneheart and the burgeoning Revenge of the North plotline.
The Stark family is the North, and the North has been through a hell of a lot over the past five books. Villages destroyed, countless civilians murdered by multiple invading armies, plus scattered bands of Wildlings. And, by and large, they had to put up with it, because they’re outnumbered and they’re up against the crown, which has Tywin Lannister on its side. All attempts to resist, to play by the rules of war, have ultimately been fruitless. They end up subjugated at best, killed at worst.
And then Lady Stoneheart comes back, and she’s pissed. She has no interest in fulfilling the traditional role of a noble David fighting a monstrous Goliath. If you’re on her bad side, or even if your family is, she will straight up murder you, even if you’re a child, even if you yourself have done nothing wrong. She is 100% done. Her band might be small in numbers now, but boy-o, her ambitions are not small. This character development parallels what’s been happening with the North as a whole. You have Wyman Manderly revealing to Davos that he’s been plotting against the Lannisters ever since the Red Wedding. Sansa, flying under the radar, is emerging as a skillful political manipulator. Arya’s learning to be an assassin, all the while refusing to give up her Stark identity, even when she’s outright ordered by her new surrogate family to do so. Rickon’s being raised by a Wildling on cannibal island, for Chrissakes—you think he’s not going to cause some hell when he comes back home?
Its enemies think the North’s been beaten, that it’s not a threat anymore, not worthy of concern. They think it’s dead. But it’s not dead. It’s a freaking zombie, come back to sorta-life with a taste for blood and a rope to hang everyone who’s ever done its family wrong.
And that’s a lot of people.
Best Quote: “*indecipherable gurgle*” Oh, fine. “They have your sisters. We have to get the girls back. And then we will kill them all,” if you want something different.
Most Badass Scene: The Lady Stoneheart reveal in the A Storm of Swords epilogue. C’mon. You knew I was going to go with that. Now fingers crossed that we actually get to see the scene.
Fan Theory Du Jour: One theory states that Brienne’s sword Oathkeeper—part of which was previously Ned Stark’s sword Ice—is actually Azor Ahai’s sword Lightbringer. It will be “forged” into such when Brienne stabs Lady Stoneheart in the heart with it, enabling it to absorb the spark of life passed from R’hllor to Beric Dondarrion to Catelyn.
Merch Me Up: Let’s get the weird one out of the way: Who wants an iPhone case with Cat getting her throat slit? If you don’t, you can go with this more sedate case with art by jozvoz instead. There’s an I Survived the Red Wedding shirt, if you were lucky enough to, and another one warning you to always listen to your mother. There’s House Tully merch as well, like these ear gauges, this tote, and this shirt.
It Belongs In a Museum, AKA Fanart:
“Catelyn Tully” by Elia, Illustration. Prints available on RedBubble.
I’m leaving the subject of the next Dame of Thrones up to you. Who do you want? Drop me a comment. I’m leaning toward Arianne Martell, Jeyne Westerling/Talisa of Volantis, or Gilly. As a reminder, I’ve already done Daenerys, Sansa, Margaery, Cersei, Ygritte, Arya, Melisandre, Brienne, and Asha.