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Characters / A Song of Ice and Fire - House Bolton

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This is a character listing for the members of House Bolton in A Song of Ice and Fire.

For the main character index, see here

For the main Northern entry, see here

House Bolton of the Dreadfort
"Our blades are sharp."
Bolton House words according to Word Of God

Based in the appropriately named Dreadfort, the Boltons are largely the Token Evil Teammate of House Stark and their most powerful bannermen. Centuries ago they used to be The Rival to the Starks in dominance over the North, ruling as the Red Kings. They have a morbid practice of skinning their enemies and displaying all their skins. Their aforementioned seat, the Dreadfort, is a castle on the brinks of the Weeping Water with legendary torture chambers. The "Leech Lord" Roose Bolton is the current head of the house, which seems to consist only of him and his bastard son Ramsay. They have icily pale eyes and their sigil is a red flayed man on a pink field, and their house words (as revealed by GRRM) are, "Our blades are sharp." They do, however, also have a popular saying, which works as second, unofficial motto, namely "A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."


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    Tropes related to House Bolton 
  • Badass Boast: Subverted — at first glance "Our Blades are Sharp" seems to be this, but anyone who knows anything about the Boltons will realize that it isn't referring to swords or battles, but to knives; knives for skinning and backstabbing you with.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Subverted, as there aren't that many of them — which is decidedly odd for such an old, established House. However, the existing family dynamic? Is anything but healthy. Exactly what games Roose and Ramsay are actually playing with each other are debatable: the death of Domeric may even play a part in that mess. Not to mention that marrying into the family should come with a health warning, if not an insurance plan.
    • Considering the numbers, one has to wonder, whether the fate of Domeric Bolton was a solitary case or the last of a series of unfortunate events for the whole Bolton family.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: This seems to be the "hat" for the Boltons ("Our Blades Are Sharp", anyone??). Roose at least considers the pros and cons first. Ramsay, on the other hand, will do it because he can't really control himself (see Stupid Evil below). During the war, Roose betrays the Starks and assists the Freys and Lannisters in orchestrating the "Red Wedding," where he murders Robb himself. Also note that on a careful reread, Roose has been backstabbing the Northern Alliance almost as soon as he was put in charge of part of Robb's army. He deliberately sends in the forces of other Northern families while holding his own Bolton forces back, and in the battle against Tyrion's vanguard, has his archers engage in a little Unfriendly Fire with the forces engaging Tyrion's troops.
  • Les Collaborateurs/The Quisling: They hold the North as a result of them betraying the Starks to the Lannister regime who also legitimized Ramsay Snow as Roose's heir. It's clear in A Dance With Dragons that it's only the threat of the lives of Northern hostages in the clutches of the Iron Throne and their Frey stooges that is actively holding back a full rebellion. The Boltons are actively hated. Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and last known Stark of the North, becomes the person people like Alys Karstark turn to for justice.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Bolton "look" seems to be dark brown hair and freakishly pale eyes of the Icy Blue Eyes/Creepy Blue Eyes kind.
  • Color Motif: Their sigil colors are red and pink for fairly obvious reasons.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The Boltons allegedly keep the skins of those whom they've flayed at the Dreadfort, including several former Kings in the North.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: They represent the realistic dangers of The Hero having a Token Evil Team Mate among their supporters. The Boltons betray the Starks once they see a weakness that can benefit themselves way more than remaining loyal will — why? Because that's what antisocial types who look after Number One first and foremost do when they think their odds of a decent pay-out will get better by doing that. It's all in the Wild Card-style cost-benefit analysis.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The whole family is this, when they're not being overtly over-psycho about it — or, even when they are. The Boltons have had a very prominent role in the North for most of its history. Everybody knows just how creepy and conniving they are as a bunch, so it's been quite an impressive feat to juggle this trope for such a long time without getting ended.
  • The Dreaded: Every major House has a traditional representation of character. For the Boltons, it's this crossed with aspects of Better the Devil You Know and Glad They're On Our Side. But, mainly... it's The Dreaded.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Both Roose and Ramsay swap out regular garb to don their imposing Dark Is Evil suits of armor during the series. Ramsay's, in particular, is described as terrifying. And squicky. Because... Ramsay.
  • Famous Ancestor: Tales of the Red Kings of the Dreadfort still exist to terrify pretty much everyone.
    • King Royce II Bolton once took and sacked Winterfell.
    • King Royce IV Bolton repeated his ancestor's feat of sacking Winterfell (apparently a family tradition). He was also known as Royce Redarm for his habit of plunging his arm into the stomach of his captives to pull out their entrails.
    • King Rogar Bolton, known as Rogar the Huntsman, was the last of the Red Kings, swearing loyalty to House Stark and sending his sons to Winterfell as hostages.
    • Lord Belthasar Bolton, who participated in the Rape of the Three Sisters and lived in the Pink Pavilion, made of the flayed skins of a hundred Sistermen.
    • Lady Barba Bolton was one of the many young maids presented to King Aegon III, although she merely used her turn to say her people were starving because of the harsh winter.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Not a straight example at all, but they are reminiscent of Vlad Tepes and Gilles de Rais. Roose would be a more pragmatic and Machiavellian version of Tepes, and Ramsay would be a mix of the worst characteristics of both historical figures.
    • Another possible inspiration is the Dark Ages Kingdom of Essex in England. A minor vassal, like the Boltons, the Kingdom of Essex likewise held to older practices than their neighbours, flip-flopping between Christianity and Paganism. And, like the Boltons, were said to skin their enemies. In the case of Essex, this proved to be the Vikings, whose flayed remains were displayed on church doors.
  • Flaying Alive: Their traditional execution method which has a fond place in many a grisly Northern horror story of legend, for some reason. Roose apparently does it as a punishment or, less often, to gain information, while Ramsay does it mainly just for fun.
  • Foil: They serve as this to House Stark. While the Starks represent all the best qualities of the hard, unforgiving North, like honesty, humility, and cooperation, House Bolton represents all the worst parts of the North, such as cruelty, dread, and betrayal.
  • Genuine Human Hide: Associated with this. In fact, older Bolton lords were said to wear cloaks of human skin. When Ramsay tells his dad he wants to make boots out of human leather, his father is disgusted, but not for the obvious reason. He knows from experience that human leather is too fragile and weak for such purposes!
  • Grim Up North: Of all the various Northern Houses, they are probably the only ones to play this straight.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Their ancestral home is called "The Dreadfort".
  • In-Series Nickname: Just like Starks are dubbed "wolves" and Lannisters "lions", Boltons and their retainers are dubbed "Skinners".
  • It Runs in the Family: Although it's not outright stated, tales of the past ones added to how the current crop of Boltons (and their retainers) have turned out seem to indicate a remarkably high incidence of antisocial personality types produced within and by the family, even for the violent setting that Westeros can be. The relatively normal one we know about for certain... didn't last long enough to marry, so there could be a good reason for this. Be it genetic or cultural, it's what they do.
  • The Lancer: The most powerful bannermen of House Stark, and a stark moral contrast to their squeaky clean nature as the seeming plucky heroes of the story. Roose serves as Robb's second in command throughout the entirety of the War of Five Kings. This all turns out very poorly for everyone when the Starks find out the hard way why it is not a good idea to keep a rival, Token Evil Teammate house with a history as The Starscream in any sort of position of power, and, even worse, in a location far beyond your oversight.
  • Meaningful Name: The Boltons were an English Dukedom whom, along with many others, defected from James II to William III of Orange during the Glorious Revolution.
  • Obviously Evil: They live in a place called The Dreadfort. Their sigil is a flayed man. What about that says "trustworthy"? Although Ramsay's weird tendencies at least seem to be an open secret in the North and they do start out on the "good" side.
    • "Our blades are sharp," anyone? The Starks were practically begging for it.
  • Psycho Pink: The official colors of House Bolton are red and pink. They're best known for flaying people alive and betraying their king and allies to gain control of the North.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Their colors are pink and red, the colors of a flayed man. The effect isn't effeminate so much as creepy and nauseating.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Hot-blooded, impulsive id-monster Ramsay; and his cold, calculating, and seemingly emotionless father Roose.
  • The Rival: To House Stark, in times past. House Bolton was House Stark's chief competitor for supremacy in the North but the Starks eventually won out and made the Boltons their vassals. Now House Bolton rules the North.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: With the Umbers. Boltons don't generally hold them in very high regard, for all they have regularly clashed over the years and know each other very well (they are neighbors, after all). In comparison with that with the Starks, though, this rivalry is strictly comedy hour from the Bolton perspective.
  • The Sociopath: The family seems to have a genetic predisposition towards antisocial personality disorder. Or, at least, the cluster B personality disorders care of the DSM-V. Neither Roose nor Ramsay seems capable of sympathy or empathy on any meaningful level whatsoever. Hell, they just barely seem to tolerate each other.
    • Roose would have had a shot at Moral Sociopathy, if you allow yourself to squint a lot, and if he hadn't broken his own rules from time to time. Not because of any actual morals, as such, but because he has standards of practicality he (mostly) adheres to. If only to get by with by taking pains to not encourage the more powerful neighbours to group up to tar and feather him before killing him. However, "be polite, don't get yourself outright caught red-handed and always obscure any facts just in case you do get a little caught" isn't much of a developed ethical code, and it surely isn't moral. So, no: close, but no cigar. Ramsay only seems to have "do what seems like a great idea at the time, also... do it hard and in technicolour". Again: nope — not even trying, laddie. That's more of an immoral goal, not a code to survive by.
  • The Starscream: To House Stark. Roose Bolton kept an elite garrison at the Dreadfort just in case the opportunity arose to destroy Winterfell.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The house functions as one to the Starks, before their betrayal and rise to power.
  • Token Good Teammate: Domeric Bolton served as this for the family's most recent generations, having been by all accounts a well-adjusted young man, with a fondness for horses and desire for brothers to pal around with. The latter trait drove him to seek out Ramsay as a companion, which almost certaily lead to his death.
    • On a historic basis, the only Bolton whose notability doesn't revolve around horrific acts of violence is one Barba Bolton, who used her turn during the Maiden's Day Ball to petition Aegon III for aid as the North was suffering mass starvation during a particularly brutal winter.
  • Torture Technician: Seems to be the hat worn by their entire house.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: House Bolton betrays House Stark to the Lannisters and through their treachery win the wardenship of the North after House Lannister cements its status as the war's victor. The Lannister powerbase collapsing can practically be called a mathematical certainty at this point, and House Bolton (along with House Frey) have to square off alone against Stannis and some very pissed off Northmen. In the middle of what is implied to be the long-winter where the Others will finally return to conquer Westeros. If and when they do, the new Bolton domain will be the first thing to fall.

    Lord Roose Bolton 

Lord Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, Warden of the North

The Leech Lord

"Fear is what keeps a man alive in this world of treachery and deceit."

The patient, calculating, cruel Lord of the Dreadfort and current head of House Bolton. He is fond of leeching himself, believing that it improves his health.

  • Ascended Meme: In-universe, a saying of Roose Bolton is "a naked man has few secrets, but a flayed man's got none."
  • Animal Motifs: While his House doesn't have one, Roose himself is frequently associated with leeches due to his habit of using them to bleed himself.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Barbrey Dustin believes that Roose "aspires to more than mere lordship," and suggests that he might be planning to crown himself King in the North in the future, now that Tywin Lannister is dead. When you consider how quickly he seized the opportunity to sabotage Robb Stark's rebellion, or even how relentlessly his son pursues his own ambitions, she might not be wrong.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: In addition to his sadism, he's one of the most elitist characters in the series, threatening servants with torture merely for speaking out of turn.
  • Ax-Crazy: Underneath the supposed lack of emotions lies a violent psychopath who flays people for as small offenses as spilling a drop of wine. He just does a good job of keeping his urges in check most of the time.
  • Badass Boast: "I am not a man to be undone, ser."
  • Better the Devil You Know: Several northerners are content with having Roose as a liege lord on this principle, having experienced far worse rulers. See the Villain with Good Publicity quote below.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Theon kicks himself later for having mocked his quiet voice and tendency to merge into the background, and also can't believe he missed the danger signs hung around the softly-spoken sociopath like baubles. Even Jaime Lannister, of all people, is disturbed by Roose's silence, realizing that it is more frightening than any threat.
  • Big Bad: Of the North storyline (i.e. to the Starks, Stannis, and their supporters), starting from the middle of the third book. As of the start of the sixth book (Winds of Winter), he is one of only two major faction leaders in Westeros who is both powerful enough to matter and unambiguously villainous, the other being Euron. Littlefinger is another contender, but his lack of any real hard power is limiting.
  • Book Burning: Another of his quirks is that after reading any book or letter he throws it on the fire.
    • According to the author, this scene was written in order to show what sort of person Roose is—after reading an old book, he burns it to prevent anyone else from gaining the same knowledge as him... any kind of knowledge.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Roose telling Theon how he fathered Ramsay Snow. He was out fox-hunting when he came across a comely maid who had married without letting him, as her liege lord, invoke his right of "first night". In the end, he says, the fox got away, his favorite horse came up lame and had to be put down, and the woman he raped wasn't nearly as good a lay as he'd hoped, which made for a pretty lousy day in the end.
  • The Chessmaster: Roose is a master manipulator constantly taking advantage of the situation to undermine his own allies to the betterment of his position.
    • In fact, you could argue that the only person to truly put a wrench in Roose's long-term game... was Young!Roose. He fathered (and accepted) Ramsay on the spur of the moment when he could easily have avoided having this wrecking ball attached to his House. Or, he could have raised it properly, instead of trying to cover it up as a first option.
  • Creepy Monotone: Roose's voice always stays flat and calm, even when angry. The couple of times he raises it are when things are getting out of his control.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Roose has his moments of sardonic wit.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Seriously, dude wrote the book. And, burned it. What about him, exactly, is remotely trustworthy? And no one saw his betrayal coming. No one. Well, except maybe some of the readers... and Vargo Hoat.
  • The Dreaded: Even his liege lord (Robb Stark) fears him. Maybe if Robb had feared him even more he'd still be alive...
  • Droit du Seigneur: Still believes in this, despite the Starks outlawing it. Indeed, this is where Ramsay came from.
  • Establishing Character Moment: After his men hunt some wolves, including pups, Roose orders some gloves made from the pups' fur.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite being sociopathically cruel, Roose refuses to engage in kinslaying. This sole standard explains why Roose hasn't killed Ramsay despite the difficulties his son's cruelties have caused him. This trait isn't shared by Ramsay though, since he most likely murdered his legitimate brother to become the sole heir to his house.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Genuinely fond of both his deceased son who he believed was murdered at Ramsay's hands and his new wife, and seems to have at least some grudgingly affection towards Ramsay.
  • Evil Counterpart: He and Eddard Stark are both Wardens of the North, stoic, and observed to have cold eyes. Both rebelled against their kings and they both have illegitimate sons. However, Ned is actually a kind family man who loves all of his children, cares about upholding the law and ruling the North well, rebelling against the tyrannical Mad King to avenge his relatives and protect himself. Roose is a cruel and treacherous man who rebels against his King to benefit himself and cares about keeping order only for his sake while his affection for his family seems limited to not killing one son to avenge the other.
    • Their relationships with their illegitimate sons are also a dark counterpart to each other. Ned loves his illegitimate son Jon Snow, openly acknowledges him as his child, and raises Jon in his home castle as part of the family alongside his trueborn children, giving Jon a highborn upbringing. Roose, on the other hand, treats his bastard son Ramsay very poorly, leaves Ramsay to his peasant mother, and only gives her money to keep Ramsay away from his home castle, refusing to acknowledge him until he has no other choice.
  • Faux Affably Evil: "Power tastes better when sweetened by courtesy" is one of his phrases. But, the problem is: what most likely lies under the courtesy is likely not at all nice when it's given a chance to play in private. It's unclear to most others in-world whether Roose is this or merely Affably Evil, as he spins some very good PR to muddy the waters. To readers, however, it becomes clear rather quickly that his affability is a carefully constructed affectation he has chosen to use.
  • The Fettered: Roose walks a line between this and The Unfettered. He has rules, but they are his rules and one gets the impression he'll bend and adapt many of them at need. Particularly when nobody else is looking — or would survive to tell tales. There are a few he doesn't seem inclined to tweak, though, like "active kinslaying is a no-no", "don't be overtly sadistic in public" and "the Villain Ball is tempting: don't pick it up without thought". It's wisest to assume that any interpretations of rules he's ostensibly using are not the same as anybody else's, even if it looks that way on the surface.
  • Gaslighting: What he does to Jaime and Brienne over dinner has strong shades of this particular brand of psychological torture. The selection of a sinister-pink, ill-fitting dress, the type of food provided, the shape of goblet and the cutlery? Not an accident. And, all primed to hit both of their egos in very tender places, put them at a disadvantage... and just to amuse him. All in all, he'd probably pull all the various tricks of the trope on somebody, given the time and inclination to.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Roose has creepy "pale" eyes. When casually discussing the moment a woman he raped came to him claiming she'd bore his bastard child, Roose admitted the moment he saw those same eyes staring back at him, he accepted Ramsay was his son.
  • Happily Married: Weirdly enough, given Roose's general characterization. But while their relationship probably cannot be really termed 'love,' Roose and 'Fat' Walda Frey seem quite content with each other.
  • Hidden Depths: Of the flat-out terrifying variety. The quiet, stoic persona he keeps up for appearances is quite clearly just a veneer used to disguise his true nature as a sadistic, sociopathic chessmaster with absolutely zero empathy and a monstrous streak a mile wide. He simply acts the way he does for the sake of getting by in life, and we are shown horrifying glimpses of his true nature whenever an opportunity to exercise his pointless cruelty presents itself.
  • Hypocrite: He condemns Ramsay for being feared all over the North, and claims men tell no tales of him... despite the fact before he's even put a single stage of his plan into action, Bran Stark (a child who's never even MET him before) already knows the rumours of him flaying people. In fact, fear is just about the only thing keeping the Boltons in charge of the North, and they're certainly not ruling through respect or love, so Ramsay is, if anything, doing a better job keeping the lords in line than Roose is.
  • In-Series Nickname: "The Leech Lord," due to his habit of submitting himself to periodic leechings, believing it improves his health by ridding him of the "bad blood."
  • Kick the Dog: After Helman Tallhart sends word that the Lannister garrison occupying Castle Darry has surrendered, Roose replies that King Robb commands that all prisoners are to be put to the sword and the castle burned.
  • Lack of Empathy: Roose seems utterly incapable of forming connections with people, at his most gracious treating someone with fond amusement. He's devoid of emotion when recounting the murder of his son, Domeric, while simultaneously stating the likelihood that Ramsay will kill any other trueborn children he has with just as much verve. Summed up perfectly by Lady Barbrey Dustin:
    Lady Barbrey: 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 child, we are but his playthings.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Unlike his TV series counterpart, who resembles Vladimir Putin.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Roose is certainly very good at this, given he's pretty much convinced most in the North that he's not that bad, really, and Ramsay takes after him when he plays Theon like a harp while he's in disguise. A crucial difference between them is that Ramsay's sadistic psychopathic tendencies make him impulsive and prone to shooting himself in the foot. Roose has endeavored to show no such weakness in public.
  • Mask of Sanity: He has very clear Ax-Crazy and risk-taking tendencies hidden under very strong layers of self-control and stoicism. He will let those urges of his out given the opportunity to, though. If he considers the possible fall-out worth the enjoyment of the carnage.
  • Meaningful Name: Roose Bolton is described as being a health nut. The word 'Roose' is Celtic for "health". It also sounds a lot like 'ruse', and Bolton is certainly an untrustworthy character.
  • Morton's Fork: He's faced with a doozy of a dangerous one during the siege. If he lets everybody stay as they are, they'll fragment even further into murderous factions and weaken the siege from within by picking each other off: Game Over. If he sends the most dangerous out into the snow, they may side with Stannis or die: Game Over — either he's left with too few to defend the walls, or Stannis gains more numbers quite directly. If he keeps the worst with him and puts them on lockdown, his whole army can't be an effective defensive force against Stannis and the troublemakers may still try killing him and others: Game Over. If he sends a mix of supporters and dangerous tools outside to fake surrender to Stannis, they may achieve something — or, more likely, get caught thanks to Teeth-Clenched Teamwork not working: Game Over. If he's found a way out of this by picking the snowdrifts and being creative with who he sent outside, it'll be fun to see. All in all, General Winter has not been kind to either him or Stannis by arriving when he did.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Totally averted. One of the first hints that Roose Bolton is not a friend of the Starks or shares their values is when Nan (Arya Stark incognito) serves as his cupbearer. Out of concern for her own safety, Nan/Arya asks Roose if she could accompany him on his travels (presumably back to Robb Stark and her mother), Roose coldly rebukes her for her familiarity and reminds her to know her place and then taunts her that he's going to leave her behind when he abandons Harrenhal to the Brave Companions. Roose also rebukes Brienne for interrupting him since he outranks her.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Roose pulls this on Jaime and Brienne at Harrenhall. With the former, Roose is trying to make absolutely sure that Jaime will make it clear to his father that Roose was not responsible for the loss of his hand. With the latter, he is simply providing a nice meal and a courteous welcome to Harrenhal before telling her that he's leaving her to the Bloody Mummers.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Very loosely, but several prominent features of his (sociopathic, pale and ageless, proponent of Cruel and Unusual Deaths (via flaying), and association with bloodsucking creatures (leeches)) give the impression that he's based off of Dracula, both the real person and the fictional vampire. His similarity to the former can be noted in using peasants as slave labour to rebuild Winterfell, then executing them once the work was complete, in the same way Vlad enslaved the local boyars and their families as a work force on his new castle, then impaled any who hadn't been worked to death. He's also often illustrated looking quite a lot like famous Dracula-alikes Strahd von Zarovich and Graf von Krolock.
    • A treacherous noble who betrays his northern realm to a southern kingdom who has been in a union with the northerners, sporting a barbaric coat of arms featuring a dead enemy and being responsible for a infamous nasty party? Gustaf Trolle is a pretty good match.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: He may complain about his son's tendency towards Stupid Evil, but, at root, the apple didn't fall that far from the tree. Ramsay just has different ways of expressing and channelling pretty much the same underlying urges Roose has. It may be one of the reasons why he seems happy enough (for now) to accept and use his bastard child, as he very likely fully understands where he's coming from.
    • House Bolton in general is this to just about every other major house in Westeros. All of them rose to the top by being merciless bastards, even the Starks. It does not excuse any of the house's monstrous deeds, but pretty much everyone else has blood on their hands, as well. Some like the Lannister's and even the Targaryen's are straight up on their level. However, the Boltons are much more open about their practises.
    • Roose Bolton himself invokes this vis-a-vis his practice of Droit du Seigneur, which he states is also practised by the moral loyal Stark retainers like the Umbers. Though this is what he says and he is hardly a reliable character.
  • Not So Stoic: When Hosteen Frey starts a fight with Wyman Manderly, after the latter makes a jape about a murdered Frey boy being spared the cruel fate of growing up to be a Frey, Roose is out and out shouting with very visible anger for everybody to "stop this madness." With just cause: sieges are often broken by a falling out from within that snowballs.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Roose will take any opportunity to commit evil acts for his own benefit or even amusement, but what makes him likely worse than similar Westerosi lords is that he makes sure he can get away with it beforehand.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: All of Roose's legitimate children are dead by the beginning of the books. Most died as infants, while the only one who survived infancy (Domeric) died under suspicious circumstances; Roose personally believes that Ramsay was responsible.
  • Pet the Dog: Roose claims to be quite fond of Fat Walda. (Although, since he was saying as such to Theon, it's uncertain how sincere he was being... or what he meant by "fond", for that matter.) He also did seem to love his legitimate son Domeric, and tried to warn him that riding off to go make friends with his psycho half-brother was a bad idea. The one time Roose admits to feeling conflicted is when he tells Theon that he wishes to avenge Domeric, but the taboo of kinslaying prevents him.
    • Subverted in that he manages to look like a saint when standing next to his bastard Ramsay (as if that is an accomplishment), so keeping him around actually has utility value. As, Roose is really just as bad as his son and this sort of general impression, when coupled with his typically quiet and reserved personality, is part of what makes him incredibly dangerous. Roose acts similarly to Ramsey, as the story of the latter's conception proves, when he can get away with it.
    • When Ramsay's mother was beaten bloody and kicked from her mill by her dead husband's brother, Roose was sufficiently "annoyed" by the act that he cut the man's tongue out and gave the mill to her. Downplayed, of course, what with Roose spawning the disaster in the first place by killing the miller and raping his wife, but nevertheless.
  • Plausible Deniability: Oh, he probably knows that you're afraid that he likely did it (or, at least, was involved in it — whatever "it" is, this time). But, he seems to take positive delight in hiding behind fig leaves, cat's-paws, smokescreens, scapegoats and silences when in polite company. He may even get a kick out of knowing that you know that he knows that you suspect. Suppressing positive proof is one of the more active sides of his personal catchphrase.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: One of Roose's catchphrases is "A peaceful land, a quiet people." He doesn't care that Ramsay is cruel, since Roose himself is just as sadistic, but rather that his son lacks any discretion regarding his cruelty. He especially dislikes Ramsay's actions toward Fake Arya, who is the key to maintaining Bolton control over the North, though he's not lifting a finger to stop them.
  • Properly Paranoid: Roose always minimizes any chances of being harmed. While traveling through the Neck on the return north, Roose uses a decoy and travels in a litter because he did not trust the crannogmen in the area. Roose also points out that "fear is what keeps a man alive in this world of treachery and deceit", and that he is Properly Paranoid of all his bannermen.
    • The problem is he may turn out not being paranoid enough. He is not aware that Manderly is certain about his involvement in the Red Wedding and Winterfell's fall thanks to (a barely) surviving eyewitness testimony — and, so hasn't taken that into account when dealing with him. He does, however, suspect that Manderly is up to something funny.
  • The Quiet One: First few times he is mentioned.
  • The Quisling: For the North after the Red Wedding. Soon, however, he finds his lieges in no position to support his grasp on the North.
  • Rape and Revenge: A possible example; Roose paid off the mother after raping her on condition she not tell anyone Ramsay was his bastard. Instead she told Ramsay who his real father was and that he had the 'right' to be his heir. Ramsay ends up poisoning Bolton's trueborn son to ensure this.
  • Sadist: It's played low key. But, the hints start stacking up that he's probably just as much one as his son is, if with slightly different tastes. He's a lot better at hiding it and/or rationalizing it within the setting of Westeros. Westeros certainly does give plenty of opportunities for a clever sadist to get their fix without it looking too much out of place.
  • Serial Rapist: He practises right of the first night, which makes him this by definition. His only known victim is Ramsay's mother, but he may have more.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: A male example. Roose may look harmless and quiet on the surface, but this veneer hides a very dangerous and sociopathic Chessmaster.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Roose is always very polite and speaks softly to the point people have to strain to hear him- but they always listen, since people know not to cross him. Theon/Reek remembers in ADWD that he used to sneer at Roose for his quiet voice, and berates himself for his stupidity in not noticing this fact.
  • The Sociopath: Take a look at all these tropes and try saying he isn't the picture of the classic, calculating, high-functioning sociopath.
  • The Starscream: To Robb Stark, killing him at the Red Wedding.
  • The Stoic: Roose never raises his voice, forcing others to shut up and listen, and always acts calm and cool.
  • Straight Edge Evil: The "evil" part should be obvious by now, but Roose Bolton also has himself regularly bled by leeches because he believes it cleanses his system and removes bad humors. He drinks hippocras because it improves digestion and eats prunes for much the same reason. All told, he's the closest thing the setting has to a health nut.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Played with: other than his eyes, Roose has an entirely mundane appearance. On the other hand, it's almost too mundane, what with his ageless appearance, lack of expression, and oddly masklike features.
  • Tranquil Fury: Difficult to tell with Roose. He never raises his voice or shows actual anger but on a few occasions, he makes it clear that he's displeased (normally when some potentially disastrous situation has emerged that would make most people furious). Whether he is genuinely angry and is just very good at controlling it, or he's incapable of feeling anything stronger than mild displeasure is currently unknown.
    • Worth noting that even after everything he's been through by that point, the thing that *really* scares the crap out of Jaime is the way that Roose Bolton goes quiet after Jaime lets slip one of those poorly timed, ill-conceived one-liners that seem to be a Lannister curse.
  • Troll: He certainly gets a kick out of making Robb's skin crawl while advising him using some carefully made, creepy statements while not outright crossing lines. Then, there are the little... pranks... he pulls on Jaime and Brienne in Harrenhal under the cover of a "friendly" meal. There are those calculated, little digs he gives various people during the Red Wedding, just to see various dawning Oh, Crap! moments, too. Oh, yes: he's a troll. A very careful and understated one who doesn't draw it out to the point where the victim can't always be entirely sure how much he has just trolled them and, therefore, making them that much more uneasy. It's really not a good sign if he indulges himself around you, though. (It usually means that he's not worried about the possible consequences and considers it worth the risk — which can mean "you're dead" or "nobody will care about or believe you".)
  • Uriah Gambit: Roose Bolton does this with a skill verging on Magnificent Bastard status. Even before he realizes that Robb Stark can't win the war, Roose starts whittling down the forces under his command by placing them in situations where they'll be cut off and destroyed by Lannister forces. And after he throws his lot with Tywin Lannister, he sends Northmen not sworn to him on strategically irrelevant missions - later claiming they were acting on their own. By the time of the Red Wedding, only his own men and the Karstarks are left untouched. In ADWD, faced with the Freys and Manderly at each other's throats and potentially plotting treason, he sends them out into the snow to fight the forces of King Stannis, while keeping his own men safe in Winterfell.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Sort of. While few of the Northern lords actually love him and several are quite scared of him, it seems nobody knows Roose was one of the architects of the Red Wedding and the one who personally killed Robb, placing the blame for the massacre entirely on the Freys.
    • Roose's motto of "A peaceful land, a quiet people" aims at achieving this status.
    Member of House Locke: Roose Bolton's cold and cunning, aye, but a man can deal with Roose. We've all known worse. But this bastard son of his... they say he's mad and cruel, a monster.
    • However Wyman Manderly claims that he knows Roose played a darker role in the Red Wedding than he claims.
    • Also Theon realises that Roose is a lot more dangerous than the other villains on the North.
  • Wham Line: "Jaime Lannister sends his regards," as he stabs Robb Stark in the heart.
  • You Have Failed Me: He is not afraid to leave erstwhile retainers, supporters and/or allies high and dry in the worst possible conditions to then be picked off by others (if doing so himself is not a viable option, of course) if they've managed to disappoint too much or have passed their use-by date. See the Uriah Gambit entry above and cross with what happened to the Brave Companions. Ramsay should really be taking more note of those instances, as well as the Red Wedding, and be a little more wary of pushing his father too far. He could wind up getting murdered by proxy as The Scapegoat — it seems to be part of Daddy's signature style.

    Ramsay Snow/Bolton 

Ramsay Bolton (ne Snow), castellan of the Dreadfort, Lord of the Hornwood, Lord of Winterfell

The Bastard of Bolton, the Bastard of the Dreadfort, Red Helm, Monster

"Snow, my wife called me before she ate her fingers, but I say Bolton."

Roose's bastard son, now legitimized by royal decree, Ramsay is a sadistic man who takes great pleasure in the suffering of others. Widely considered to be the most despicable character in the entire series, which is really saying something when you think about the likes of Joffrey and the Mountain. He took the title Lord of Hornwood by force in A Clash of Kings.

  • 0% Approval Rating: Nobody in the North likes Ramsay, and even Roose's supporters are wary of him and what will happen if he becomes Warden of the North. Frankly, not even his own father does more than tolerate him and will only do so because Ramsay is his only remaining heir; Roose is rapidly coming to think of Ramsay as The Millstone in his attempts to dominate the North.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Roose believes his son's Start of Darkness occurred the day he became discontent with a humble peasant's life.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: How his first marriage went down. He forced himself on the widowed Lady Hornwood in order to claim her lands; when the deed was done, he starved her and flayed her fingers until she bit them off to ease the agony.
  • Animal Motifs: A savage, vicious dog, to contrast the Noble Wolf motif of the Starks. Ramsay is a commonborn thug who loves nothing more than tearing people to bits. He even owns a pack of hunting dogs himself.
  • Ax-Crazy: He is sadistic, capricious, and almost always a bomb waiting to go off. To the point that one viable interpretation of the entire Bolton betrayal of the Starks is of a father trying desperately to contain the damage of his bastard boy's bloody explosions and move to any vaguely stable position within the rubble he could find. At least, it wouldn't take much spin for Roose to present what he's done this way.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: As poor Theon Greyjoy and Rodrik Cassel experienced the hard way.
  • Bastard Bastard: A modern Trope Codifier. He was conceived when Roose raped a miller's wife after hanging her husband, for the crime of the miller not asking his permission to get married.
  • The Beastmaster: Ramsay takes great pride in raising packs of dogs and training them to fight wolves and hunt women.
    • Considering the significance of wolves in the story, it seems only natural Ramsay would boast that his pack could tear apart a direwolf. Unfortunately for him, the only two direwolves his pack is likely to encounter are Ghost and Shaggydog.
  • Berserk Button: Reminding him of his bastard status is a good way to end up short a head. Or worse.
  • The Berserker: Deconstructed. His fighting style is described as wild and frenzied, more like a butcher with a cleaver than a proper swordsman. It's also clear that this is not ideal and that while he's strong, he's probably going to wind up in trouble if he ever fights someone who knows what they're doing.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: He was apparently in the process of forcing his terrified new wife to perform sex acts on one of his dogs. Thankfully, she escaped.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: He owns a pack of at least nine vicious, mean-tempered female dogs, called the "bastard's girls," that he uses to hunt wolves and peasant women. Each one is named after a girl he's raped and murdered with his own hands.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: In contrast to his father's attempt to achieve Villain with Good Publicity status.
  • Book Dumb: Ramsay isn't thick. At all. However, Domeric got the squireship and education you'd expect an heir to have; Ramsay got ignored and, only after his mother pushed for something, he got given Reek. As a result, much of Ramsay's dumb moves have this as a reason behind them.
  • Boomerang Bigot: He hates the fact that he's a bastard and seems to hate other bastard children too because of his issues, especially now that he's legitimized—he insults Jon Snow for it no less than four times in the same letter.
  • The Brute: Very much so. Granted that while he does have a lot more going for him than is usual for this trope, no amount of power or privileges can mask him for what he truly is: A thug.
  • Cain and Abel: Domeric (Abel) and Ramsay (Cain), according to the way Roose talks about their relationship.
  • Child by Rape: Thanks to Droit du Seigneur being more than a legend, even if currently frowned on in the North.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In truly over-the-top, flamboyant ways. Just ask Theon.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Ramsay couldn't care less about things like honor or fairness, so he mainly wins by deceiving his enemies and attacking them while they're off guard.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Once upon a time, Roose hanged a miller and raped his wife for getting married without his knowledge or permission. The resulting Child by Rape grew up into a violent, Ax-Crazy sociopath who killed Roose's trueborn heir and continues to derail his father's carefully laid-out plans by being the epitome of Stupid Evil.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Oh boy, Ramsay loves these.
    • His falchion, dagger, and flaying knife have hilts made of yellowed bone. It's not stated whether they're human or animal bone, though considering Ramsay, it could be the former as easily as the latter.
    • He hunts peasant women for sport, then takes their skins back to the Dreadfort after he kills them.
    • Each of his hunting dogs is named after a woman he's raped and flayed, but only if she puts up a good fight before dying.
    • He also suggests making a pair of boots from Barbrey Dustin's skin when she gets on his nerves, but only stops when his father points out that human hide is weaker than cow leather.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: He pretends to be Reek, his slain serving man.
  • Depraved Bisexual: It's strongly implied that he rapes women regularly, but his relationship with "Reek" is filled with nightmarish sexual undertones.
  • Domestic Abuse: Ye gods, is he a terrifyingly abusive husband. Poor Jeyne. Plus, look what he did to his first wife. Brrrr...
  • Diabolus ex Machina: When Ramsay triumphs at the end of A Clash of Kings, despite all odds being against him. His meteoric rise to power also reeks of this trope. From being a lowly bastard son, all the way to Lord of Winterfell and the next Warden of the North.
    • His sole presence and actions during A Clash of Kings destroy all semblance of order in the North and ruin the Starks' chances to repel the invading Ironborn as well as to win the war against the Lannisters, with his brutal takeover of lady Hornwood and her lands, him serving as Theon Greyjoy's advisor with an increasingly nefast influence on Theon, his murders of "Bran" and "Rickon" that led to Robb marrying Jeyne Westerling and Catelyn's release of Jaime Lannister, and his killing of Ser Rodrik and his men and following sacking of Winterfell. As such he's responsible in no small part for the Red Wedding.
  • The Dragon: He sees himself as this to his father Roose, but the contemptuous Roose doesn't think highly of him and uses his son's "talents" to better serve their regime as The Brute. The position of The Dragon better fits Vargo Hoat, at least until the end of A Storm of Swords.
  • The Dreaded: Ramsay is widely feared throughout the North, a fact he's quite proud of. Roose, on the other hand, believes this evil reputation is a detrimental thing.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Subverted. He wears his hair long, garbs himself in splendorous clothing with a penchant for pink, and often sports an earring (the text also places a lot of emphasis on his lips), but he is described as a somewhat ugly young man in spite of it all.
    • The first Reek tried it too, going as far as to wear flowers in his hair..
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Ramsay is embarrassed to be the "The Bastard of Bolton" as he despises the fact that he's a bastard and goes berserk when he's reminded of it.
  • Enfant Terrible: He was apparently a troublemaker as a child, growing up so wild and unruly that his mother demanded help raising him. What she got was a necrophiliac rapist named Reek, whom Ramsay managed to befriend and then cow into complete obedience in short order.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subtly implied. Ramsay speaks highly of his mother, referring to her relationship with Roose as a poetic and Love at First Sight kind of romance. In reality, Roose raped her on a whim, was disappointed by how poor of a lay she was, and didn't think she was all that attractive in the first place.
    • Roose believes that Ramsay's mother, while troubled by Ramsay growing up "wild and unruly," eventually came to encourage his heinous behavior and spur him forward to claim his "rights" from Roose.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • He and Jon Snow are both are noble-born illegitimate sons of Northern houses and Northern lords. While they both disliked their illegitimate status, Jon was able to acknowledge he wasn't a legal Stark and accepted it; Ramsay's primary berserk button is being reminded of it. Jon is one of the most heroic characters in the series and strives to do the right thing while Ramsay is a sadistic and monstrous character. Jon turns down his chance at legitimization out of loyalty to his father's gods, duty to the Night's Watch, and defends his half-sister's claim to Winterfell. Meanwhile, Ramsay jumped at becoming a Bolton and likes to pretend he was never anything but that. Both Jon and Ramsay are befriended by their trueborn half-brothers but while Jon loves his half-brothers and sisters deeply and is loved by them, Ramsay quite possibly poisoned his half-brother.
    • The relationships they have with their fathers is also a dark counterpoint to one another. Ramsay was treated poorly by Roose, disinherited, and was only acknowledged once Roose's trueborn son died. In contrast, Jon's father, Ned Stark, loves and raises Jon as one of his sons and as part of the family.
  • Evil Gloating: He's fond of this.
  • Evil Mentor: Ramsay is this to Little and Big Walder Frey, the former of whom was well on his way to becoming Ramsay the Second.
  • False Friend: To Theon in Clash of Kings. His Bastard's Boys are this to him, apparently reporting back to Roose.
  • Family Eye Resemblance: He has his father's eyes, described as "small, close-set, and oddly pale, like two chips of dirty ice". When Ramsay's mother first brought him to Roose as a baby, apparently the resemblance of Ramsay's eyes to his own ones was the only thing that stopped Roose from having the woman whipped and the baby thrown down the well.
  • Fat Bastard: Not an extreme example, but he's notably chunky, and it's mentioned that the extra mass will probably turn to fat when he's older. If he lives to be an older age: even in Westeros, people of this kind do not have a high life expectancy if Joffrey is of any indication.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Occasionally lapses into this. It never lasts.
  • Flaying Alive: A hallmark of House Bolton, though Ramsay's penchant for it deserves special mention.
  • For the Evulz: Ramsay's motivation for torturing people in various ways — some quite publicly. He'll even allow himself to go through an ordeal or two to do it: pretending to be Reek, for example, couldn't have been a bed of roses. His father wishes he'd stick to It Amused Me behind closed doors, only. But, nope: not Ramsay.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: From peasant to mass-murdering Lord.
  • Genuine Human Hide: He sends Asha Greyjoy a patch of her brother's skin and claims to have made Mance Rayder a cloak from the skin of his six spearwife companions.
    • He makes an offhand remark about turning Lady Dustin, whom he finds irritating, into a pair of boots when Roose brings her up. Hilariously, Roose goes on to list the various political reasons that would be a bad idea, and concludes by claiming the resulting boots would be ''inferior,'' as human hide is weaker than cow.
  • General Failure: Stannis considers him to be this, asking Theon to name one battle he has fought and won against an enemy who would have given him a fair fight. Whether he actually is this is still open for debate, given both the contents of the pink letter and how, unknown to Stannis, Ramsay did manage to defeat the larger relief force headed by Rodrik Cassel, even if through treachery.
    Stannis: Tell me, turncloak, what battles has the Bastard of Bolton ever won that I should fear him?
  • Hate Sink: Perhaps the most unambiguously vile character in the series next to Joffrey. And even Joffrey showed at least some love for his "father." His only possible competition for "most hateful character" would be Gregor Clegane and Euron Greyjoy.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: In an extremely depraved way, with his original servant "Reek."
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: One of Ramsay's "hobbies." It should be noted this trope is in name only: he hunts naked, terrified, exhausted women, and he has the help of a pack of dogs. Sounds fair, right?
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Unwittingly on his part, but that warm, hearty slice of pork pie he enjoys at his wedding to “Arya Stark” is heavily implied to have the flesh of his Frey allies in it, courtesy of Wyman Manderly.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Roose believes him to be this.
  • Indy Ploy: In A Clash of Kings, pretty much everything he does. First, he takes advantage of Lady Hornwood's widowhood to kidnap her on her way back from Winterfell, marry her, and leave her to starve to death, and thus becomes Lord of the Hornwood. When Ser Rodrik Cassel hunts him down, he pretends to be Reek. Reek is killed as the "real" Ramsay, and Ramsay is brought back to Winterfell for questioning. While there, the Ironborn invade the North. Ser Rodrik marches out, and Theon Greyjoy takes the castle. That's no problem; Ramsay ingratiates himself to the conquering Theon, and promises to return with reinforcements to hold the castle. When Rodrik puts Winterfell to siege, Ramsay returns with Dreadfort men, approaches Ser Rodrik, and kills him. The Stark army is taken completely by surprise and is scattered. Ramsay enters Winterfell, and then captures Theon and burns the castle. In the span of the book, he goes from being a hunted criminal to destroying the Stark power base in the North, all through some by-the-seat-of-his-pants planning.
  • Insistent Terminology: After being legitimized, he constantly refers to himself as trueborn, even signing letters as "Trueborn Lord of Winterfell".
  • ...In That Order: One of Ramsay's favorite past times is to strip women naked, turn them out into the woods, give them a head start, then hunt them down with his hounds and rape them. If they put up a fight and give him some entertainment, he'll cut their throats before he flays them and name one of his newborn bitches after the victim. If they don't, he does it the other way round.
  • Irony: Most bastard-born children lack property and inheritance rights in Westeros and face Westerosi prejudice claiming they are disloyal, untrustworthy and a threat to the inheritance claims of trueborn children because they were conceived out-of-wedlock, but these prejudices aren't true of many bastard born children. Yet, the only bastard — Ramsay — who we see being legitimized in the main series is a straight up Bastard Bastard and is extremely untrustworthy and disloyal; not only is he made legitimate (by King Tommen, a bastard son who is being passed off as legitimate), he is rewarded with the lands and titles of one of the oldest castles in the Seven Kingdoms, while the ones who are dutiful, loyal, good-hearted and work to earn their own honour (Jon Snow, Gendry, Mya Stone, Edric Storm, and others) get to stay in line.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Sends a raven to Jon Snow, supposedly claiming that he's murdered Stannis and captured Mance Rayder. Whether or not he's telling the truth remains to be seen.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Despite having a propensity of being Stupid Evil in contrast to his father's Pragmatic Villainy, it can be argued that his suggestion to crush the incoming army of Stannis Baratheon head-on before he could gather more allies in the North had more merit than Roose's plan, which was to simply hold out in Winterfell with their Frey allies and Northern supporters and let winter waste away Stannis's army. By supporting the Northern lords opposed to Bolton rule, Stannis was able to gradually win over more allies to his cause without much opposition. Not only that, intrigue within Winterfell itself is causing dissension amongst Roose's Frey and Northern allies, some of whom (the Manderlys, for example) are deliberately seeking to undermine Roose's hold in the North.
  • Karma Houdini: Ramsay being alive and heir to Winterfell counts. Especially if you believe his final raven to Jon.
  • Lack of Empathy: Like father, like son. Oh, Ramsay may occasionally switch the charm on, pretend to care about what you feel and even work some of how you should be feeling out, given the situation, and even say as much. Don't believe it means anything for a second.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Ramsay is essentially what Roose would be if Roose lacked any inhibitions whatsoever. And if anything, Ramsay certainly inherited Anti-Social Personality Disorder from his father.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Like father, like son. While he may not be a Machiavellian sort like Roose is, Ramsay is fully capable of being patient and subtly playing others to his advantage, especially when they have him at a disadvantage. It just doesn't come up as much because he's less into manipulating people and more into, well, mutilating them.
  • Mercy Kill: He killed a dying Luton this way. Even if it was just to silence his screaming, this is as close to the concept of "mercy" as Ramsay could ever get.
  • Mind Rape: Ramsay is a master of this. Both Theon (Reek) and his wife Jeyne Poole/"Arya Stark" are so scared of what Ramsay will do to them they're afraid to go with rescuers when they arrive.
  • Monster Knight: His suit of armor was designed to invoke this, the red helmet depicting the head of a flayed man howling in anguish. His behaviour certainly lives up to the Monster bit, but actually fails dismally to meet the Knight part of the trope.
  • Mood-Swinger: Overlaps with a Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Offing the Annoyance: Ramsay is sent out to find some missing Freys, but fails. On the way back, in a sour mood, he runs into an old man who makes the mistake of calling him "Lord Snow" rather than Bolton. Ramsay cuts his head off in retaliation, at the very least, though given Ramsay's tastes it's entirely possible the death was nowhere near so quick or clean.
  • Overlord Jr.: He fancies himself as this.
  • Personal Mook: Ramsay's original sidekick was a necrophiliac rapist named Reek, who was just as depraved as Ramsay himself. Reek dies before Ramsay even appears on-page, as he quickly disposed of Reek when his presence became inconvenient.
  • Pet the Dog: Subverted, with an ironic twist; if a woman gives Ramsay enough “sport”, he'll name a bitch after her.
    • Ramsay's relationship with the first Reek might also give off this vibe; while he was quite willing to let the real Reek get killed in his place, the lengths to which he goes to recreate Reek in Theon might suggest something beyond simple sadism, degradation and domination. Whether Ramsay is capable of affection on some level, or whether it's just some disturbing obsession he has (one of several) is difficult to know. He even has a twisted form of this trope with Theon himself; after the horrific torture and agony he initially puts Theon through, Ramsay later deigns to provide him better food, and allows him to accompany his other dogs as another "pet".
    • Ramsay's attitude towards his little Frey squires. He seems terribly incensed when Little Walder is murdered, and offers to flay whoever was responsible. He also seems quite fond of the Bastard's Boys: when Yellow Dick turns up murdered, Ramsay vows to flay the killer alive when they're caught, cook their skin and make them eat it.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Special? Hell, no: it's just another tool to use. Especially when others think this. The Irony of this is, apparently, lost on him, though, considering how he is in denial about how he was conceived.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: What his practice of naming dogs after women he's brutally raped and murdered seems based on.
  • The Resenter: Ramsay resents being a bastard.
  • Sadist: A bit of an understatement.
  • Serial Killer: We don't know how many people he's killed in inventive or just plain ordinary ways. But, you can bet your life savings on the figure being a big one.
  • Serial Rapist: He rivals Gregor Clegane in this category.
  • The Sociopath: Although this term is never used, since Westeros is a fantasy world in Medieval Stasis.
    • The hot-blooded, hair-trigger psychopath Foil to his cold-blooded, calculating sociopath of a father, in short. Together, they're a wonderful demonstration of the extremes of the antisocial personality disorder spectrum in action; albeit one you really wouldn't want to see up close.
  • The Starscream: He pulls a Starscream twice in the same battle. First to Ser Rodrik and the northern forces trying to reclaim Winterfell, and then on Theon.
    • Ramsay doesn't really trust his father, and instructs Reek to "tell him nothing" and to report back everything Roose has said. Whether he has any deeper intentions is unclear.
    • Being Ramsay, he quite likely doesn't have a completely set goal to off his dad to take his place. A mix of hopes, dreams, the nagging thought about the possibility and several schemes to do different things (like causing chaos he can "fix" to look good later)? Certainly. But, should the opportunity of a weak dad present itself? He'd probably go for it right then, of course.
  • Stupid Evil: Ramsay is very much this, fully indulging his sadistic urges and not caring about the effect this has on his House's reputation. Roose does not appreciate this. However much he attracts the Villain Ball, though, it's not wise to assume he's actually thick. When a plan involves treachery, brutality and deception and therefore plays to his sadistic impulses, he can really pull off some scarily cunning feats of brilliance. He just doesn't give a damn about most things others do — and, that can hamstring him as often as it helps him.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Is implied to likely be in his late teens and is easily the most vile character in the setting.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: He forced the elderly and widowed Lady Hornwood to marry him so he could claim her lands, then locked her in a tower to starve to death.
  • Too Clever by Half: Ramsay is plenty clever and cunning enough when he has to get himself out of a real bind. Problem is, his impulsive cruelty and a tendency to bite off more than he can chew are usually what get him into those binds in the first place.
  • Troll: Will go out of his way to put the "fun" in your funeral. Well, more likely into your lingering death, at least. For a given definition of "fun", too. Not-so-much one for an equal battle of wits, our Ramsay, though. He will only trot this out in all its glory when he's placed you at an extreme disadvantage, when on a one-to-one basis and where he can draw it all out before laughing in your face about it. Otherwise, flashes of it can show in a larger crowd, but not the whole package. He actually seems to prefer a more private setting (and letting other people's imaginations run wild with the relatively little they do get to know about it).
  • Underestimating Badassery: He may incline to Stupid Evil, but he's very good at thinking on his feet and has pretty incredible survival skills. See his Dead Person Impersonation stunt for a fairly horrific example: he evaded near-certain death, sent his partner-in-crime off to die in his place, befriended the new ruler of Winterfell, and secured his own safe escape from the castle when the tide turned unfavorably—only to come back at the head of an army, betray both Theon and the northern forces, take down a force in the thousands losing only "twenty or thirty" men of his own, and then burn Winterfell to the ground, taking a royal captive in the process.
    • In The Winds of Winter, Theon advises Stannis not to underestimate Ramsay, ensuring the king that he "doesn't know" what the Bastard of Bolton is capable of.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Ramsay was apparently taught how to fight by the first Reek, who had no formal training. This has resulted in Ramsay wildly hacking at his opponents as if his sword was a butcher's cleaver. He seems to have gotten pretty good at it, though, since he was able to cut off Ser Rodrik Cassel's arm while shaking his hand.
  • Vague Age: Ramsay's exact age isn't given; he's described simply as a "young man". His black humour, sexual predations, experience commanding men, and fearsome presence has led some fans to assume he's somewhere in the later spectrum of young manhood, but his style, appearance, and interactions with his father make him sound like a medieval teen rebel. It's never elaborated upon. The only thing that can be ascertained is that Ramsay was born in 282 AC at the latest because that was the year Rickard Stark was burned alive and he was still alive when Ramsay was born.
  • Viler New Villain: Downplayed- Ramsay is worse than his sociopathic father Roose as an open Serial Killer, but it's less Even Evil Has Standards and more that Roose finds it self-destructive. He does lack the one definite standard his father has (no kinslaying), being heavily implied to have killed his legitimate half-brother, while Roose won't even kill off someone as Stupid Evil as Ramsay if they're blood.
    • Played straight in relation to Joffrey; the true depths of Ramsay's depravity weren't brought to the fore until Joffrey's death had left an "evil young bastard"-shaped hole in the story. Ramsay is the monster Joffrey might have grown into.
  • Villain Ball: Ramsay can't stop mistreating people he needs, such as the fake Arya, who he needs to cement his relationship with the other northern lords. He abuses her openly and her weeping and screams can be heard all over the castle.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Would flay and kill them, too. This also applies to his treatment of the fake Arya; since Arya is 11 at this time and people think Jeyne is Arya, he's technically raping an 11-year-old.

    Lady Bethany Bolton 

Lady Bethany Bolton (née Ryswell)

Late second wife of Roose Bolton and mother to his trueborn child Domeric. Older sister of the Lady of Barrowtown, Barbrey Dustin.

For the main House Ryswell entry, see their section at the Northern Houses character page


    Lady Walda Bolton 

Lady Walda Bolton (née Frey)

Fat Walda Frey

Roose Bolton's third and current wife.

  • Big Beautiful Woman: She might only be 15 and have the typical chinless Frey look but otherwise, Walda rocks this trope. She's certainly bawdy enough to annoy any given Septa. And her likely being as enthusiastic in bed as she is in gushing about how happy she is (not to mention her being quite fertile) may well suggest a good reason why Roose is quite happy she's his wife.
  • Big Fun: Seems to be this among her family, since Walda's first on-page appearance was cracking bawdy jokes at Edmure's expense.
  • The Chew Toy: What she was back at the Twins for the other members of her family thanks to her weight making her a target of derision. It does take some doing when you prefer the Dreadfort to your childhood home...
  • Glurge Addict: Her sugary-sweet gushing over Roose Bolton seems to indicate this.
  • Happily Married: Walda seems to be genuinely happy with her husband, even though he doesn't reciprocate this to the same degree. By any means. Having said that: if he were to be seriously unhappy Walda would probably know about it.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Unwittingly, but she eats three slices of pork pie at her stepson's wedding that are heavily implied to have the flesh of her relatives Rhaegar, Symond, and Jared in them.
  • In-Universe Nickname: "Fat Walda."
  • Morality Pet: Almost, but not quite. Roose says that he is "strangely fond" of Fat Walda in the fifth book; although he certainly doesn't love her, or anyone else, this probably is the closest to affection that Roose can feel for another person.
  • "Near and Dear" Baby Naming: She is one of many Frey women named after the family's patriarch Walder in a bid to gain his favour.
  • Odd Couple: Giggly, fun-loving, over-eating Walda and emotionless, cold-blooded, health-nut Roose Bolton.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Roose isn't old, but he's well into his middle years and Walda is but fifteen.
  • Sad Clown: She has aspects of this, but not quite the whole package. Or, of possibly having been this once, at least.
  • Smug Snake: She may not have entirely escaped the Frey family curse(s). But, at least hers seems to be relatively high-functioning.
  • Stepford Snarker: For all that Big Fun persona she has and the abundant gushing over her husband she does, she manages to load a fair amount of acid and some razor-sharp cutting edges in the jokes and sugar she flings around about those she isn't so keen on that almost make it under the radar. This hints that she's probably not as jolly, soft or silly as you might think. Plus, this may be one of her otherwise mysterious charming traits as far as her husband is concerned — particularly if it does turn out to be a case of ice under that sugar.
  • Sugary Malice: Downplayed and mainly aimed indirectly at other Freys, funnily enough. But, she's done a fine job poisoning their old jokes at her expensive using "silly", backhanded means.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: According to Roose, unlike his previous two wives, who were silent and limp like a fish in bed, she makes a lot of noise and openly enjoys herself. He finds it somewhat amusing, and is one of the reasons she has endeared herself to him.

    Domeric Bolton 

Domeric Bolton

Roose Bolton's only trueborn child who survived past the cradle, Domeric was a quiet but accomplished man who died two years before the events of the series.

  • Academic Athlete: He was both a well-read young man and an accomplished, passionate horse rider, on par with Lyanna Stark according to his aunt Barbrey Dustin.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Apparently Domeric always wanted to have a brother. Which is why he rushed off to meet Ramsay despite being warned against it. He paid dearly for trying to befriend him.
  • Cain and Abel: Abel to Ramsay's Cain: he wanted to befriend Ramsay, Ramsay probably poisoned him.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: His death may or may not have been this to Roose, though given his nature it's highly ambiguous.
  • Posthumous Character: Died before the series began. Likely at his brother's hands.
  • The Squire: He served as a squire to Lord Horton Redfort for several years, becoming good friends with all of Lord Horton's sons. Him missing the companionship he had while a squire was part of his motivation to find his half-brother.
  • Stupid Good: Trying "friendship is magic" with Ramsay. The Stupid Good die early in this 'verse. Although in Domeric's defense, he really had no way of knowing how much of a monster Ramsay was - all he knew was that Roose didn't want him to seek Ramsay out, and given the standard Westerosi prejudice against bastards, this didn't tell him anything about Ramsay's character.
  • Token Good Teammate: He was apparently this for House Bolton. His father and half-brother are both cruel, heartless people and his ancestors were known for flaying their liege lords alive. Domeric on the other hand had a friendly and generous nature, ironically making him far less like Roose than the bastard son Ramsay turned out to be. As he was close with his mother and aunt, we can assume his better traits came from his Ryswell side.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: More precisely, "Too Good For This Sinful House".
  • White Sheep: The Boltons have historically been a cruel house of torturers and sadists, but Domeric was very much the opposite of what people expect a Bolton to be. He was a well-read, athletic and personable young man who wanted nothing more than to befriend his half-brother. Sadly, his half-brother is a cold-blooded sociopath so that didn’t go so well.


    "Steelshanks" Walton 



One of Roose Bolton's captains and most trusted soldiers.

    Maester Tybald 

Maester Tybald

The Dreadfort's resident maester.

  • Bring My Brown Pants: Maester Tybald pisses himself when Stannis informs him he's aware of Arnolf's treachery and that Tybald is the Dreadfort's maester and not Karhold's.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The threat of this at the hands of Clayton Suggs is enough to make him start talking to Stannis.
  • Defiant to the End: Subverted. Tybald initially refuses to tell Stannis what information he's sent to Roose Bolton, but swiftly cracks when Stannis threatens to have the maester tortured by some of the more brutal members of his retinue.
  • Evil Redhead: He's described as having red hair and is plotting against Stannis.
  • Just Following Orders: Tries to claim this by insisting he's just obeying his vows as a maester. Stannis doesn't buy it.
  • The Mole: Sent by Roose Bolton along with Arnolf Karstark as a spy among Stannis Baratheon's forces. He is exposed in The Winds of Winter.



A serving man of House Bolton, he'd go on to become Ramsay's childhood friend and future partner-in-crime. He was afflicted with a disease that caused him to smell terrible, hence his nickname. He wasn't happy about this and went to lengths to try and cure himself (including stealing the late Lady Bolton's perfumes and drinking them), to no avail. He was the first of three people to operate under the alias of Reek: Ramsay impersonated him after his death, and later "recreated" Reek in a physically and emotionally broken Theon Greyjoy.

  • Character Death: He is killed by Rodrick Cassel's men, who believe him to be Ramsay.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Ramsay pretends to be him after his death.
  • Evil Duo: With Ramsay.
  • Evil Mentor: To Ramsay. Apparently, at least: as it turns out, Ramsay cowed him into complete obedience, to the point where he'd run off to near-certain death on Ramsay's command.
    • He also taught Ramsay how to fight, explaining his Ax-Crazy style of swordsmanship.
  • Evil Smells Bad: And nothing smells as bad as Reek.
    Roose Bolton: The smell was something he was born with. A curse, the smallfolk said. The gods had made him stink so that men would know his soul was rotting.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: He and Ramsay were apparently as thick as thieves, sharing in the joys of sowing terror everywhere they went. Filling the void is probably why Ramsay made a new Reek.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Like Ramsay, he was fond of running down peasant girls. He'd have his turn with their corpses after Ramsay had raped and killed them.
  • I Love the Dead: He was a necrophiliac, though he apparently also "liked them warm."
  • The Igor: Physically unpleasant, runs errands for an Uberwald-esque villain, very loyal, cannot fight but does nasty things to those who cannot defend themselves.
  • Legacy Character: After his death, he's impersonated by Ramsay, who then "recreates" a new Reek using Theon.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: It's vaguely mentioned that his given name may be "Heke", but he's only ever referred to as Reek.
  • The Pig-Pen: He had some kind of medical condition that caused him to smell horrible. Because of it, he was obsessed with cleanliness, bathed often, stole perfume, and wore flowers in his hair. It didn't help.
  • Posthumous Character: Dies off-page before we ever meet him, and is impersonated by Ramsay.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Ramsay disposes of him off-page the moment he becomes inconvenient, and later steals his identity to trick both the Starks and the Greyjoys.

    The Bastard's Boys 

Damon Dance-for-Me, Ben Bones, Grunt, Sour Alyn, Skinner, Yellow Dick, and Luton

Ramsay's men-at-arms, who share his penchant for cruelty and torture. However, they also report on him to Roose without Ramsay's knowledge.

  • Asshole Victim: Yellow Dick.
  • Character Death: A couple of Bastard Boys have died so far:
    • Luton is caught in between Frey and Manderly men who get into an argument, which results in his stomach being cut open and his guts spilling out. Ramsay puts him out of his misery with a spear.
    • Yellow Dick was murdered by the spearwives Mance Rayder brought to Winterfell.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Yellow Dick is on the receiving end of one of these, being stabbed to death and shoved under a snowbank with his namesake shoved down his throat.
  • A Dick in Name: Yellow Dick, although if his real name is Dick is unknown.
  • Elite Mooks: For Ramsay Bolton.
  • Evil Old Folks: Ben Bones, who is the kennelmaster of the Dreadfort and the one responsible for training Ramsay's dogs to hunt humans.
  • False Friend: Towards Ramsay, according to Roose, who claims they all report to him.
  • Groin Attack: Yellow Dick meets his end when an unknown assailant stabs him to death, cuts his penis off, and shoves it into his mouth so forcefully three of his teeth are broken.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Sour" Alyn due to his rotting teeth giving him bad breath, Skinner due to his skills at skinning, Grunt due to his muteness and lack of tongue. The reason for Yellow Dick's nickname is unknown and impossible to find out, since when he is murdered, his genitals are cut off, shoved down his throat, and turn blue due to the cold.
  • Jerkass: That doesn't begin to cover it.
  • Kick the Dog: They hurl a freerider off the castle wall and leave him to freeze to death in the snow, just for wondering if Melisandre's fires could melt the blizzard outside.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After Yellow Dick turns up dead, Roose commands those who found the body to get rid of it and never mention the matter again. Unfortunately, by midday pretty much everyone in Winterfell knows what happened to Dick, mostly due to Ramsay going around swearing when he gets his hands on the killer, he's going to flay them, cook their skin up like crackling and make them eat it.
  • Mercy Kill: Luton receives one from Ramsay, having been fatally injured while trying to break up a fight between Manderly and Frey soldiers after Hosteen Frey attacks Wyman Manderly.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Damon Dance-for-Me and Skinner.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Skinner, Grunt, and Yellow Dick.
  • Scary Teeth: Sour Alyn has rotten teeth.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Theon remarks that the boys assigned to guard the fake Arya's door — namely Grunt and Sour Alyn — will be on the receiving end of this when Ramsay finds out they allowed her to be smuggled out of the castle.
  • Token Good Teammate: While not exactly "good" by any stretch of the word, Ben Bones seems to be by far the most decent of the group; he prefers the dogs to Ramsay, and occasionally allows Theon to feed with the dogs. He also gives him half a chicken and a blanket. Compared to the active malice of the others, he's practically a saint. Downplayed with Luton, who is given such little development that he doesn't do anything particularly evil, and his death is sufficiently horrible that you'll likely feel a little sorry for him.
  • Tongue Trauma: Grunt lost his tongue for "speaking carelessly" about something in Lord Roose's hearing.
  • Torture Technician: Damon Dance-for-Me and Skinner, who are the most feared of the group.
  • Whip It Good: Damon Dance-for-Me specializes in using a whip for torture.