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Characters / Game of Thrones - House Karstark

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House Karstark
"The Sun of Winter."

"We are kin, Stark and Karstark."
Rickard Karstark

A powerful vassal house in the North, and distant kinsmen of the Starks, who held fealty to House Stark prior to the execution of Lord Rickard Karstark. Their stronghold is Karhold on the eastern coast of the North. From the books... 

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    In General 
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: After Alys' death in the Battle of Ice and Fire (as it's named on The Wiki), House Karstark is now extinct.
  • Fatal Flaw: The Karstark's Revenge Before Reason tendencies are what ultimately do them in, as shown by both Rickard and Harald.
    • Rickard's rage and grief over the death of Torrhen and Harrion drives him to commit a war crime by murdering two Lannister boys in cold blood. When confronted by Robb Stark, he does nothing but further antagonize him through insults. The boys were completely innocent; he just wanted to inflict pain on all and any Lannisters. His actions lead to Robb executing him, though the aftermath of his death plays with this trope, as his men then abandon Robb's army and save themselves from being slaughtered at the Red Wedding.
    • In season 6, Harald takes it to both intensely stupid and extremely horrifying levels. As soon as he hears about the brewing conflict between Ramsay Bolton and Jon Snow, he immediately allies with the Boltons for revenge on the Starks because Robb executed his father. Never mind that Robb killed Rickard for war crimes, that Robb, his mother, his wife, and pretty much everyone who fought with him are long dead after being betrayed and murdered in the most horrific and cruel manner possible, and that House Stark is pretty much gone and none of its remaining members had anything to do with Rickard's execution. Not to mention that the Boltons are despised by pretty much everyone in the North, Harald is further endangering his house by siding with them, and the White Walkers are on their way. Harald's best bet would have been to simply bury the hatchet and team up with Jon Snow, where his house could have survived. Instead, his insatiable desire for vengeance leads to his death and his men getting wiped out in the battle for Winterfell.
  • It's Personal: Lord Rickard towards the Lannisters after Jaime killed his two sons. Later to House Stark after Robb executed Lord Rickard for killing two Lannister squires, to the point that they sided with House Bolton when Sansa and Jon start reclaiming the Northern seat.
  • The Power of the Sun: Their house sigil is a white sun.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Their forces bailed on Robb after he executes Lord Rickard, which prevents them from getting an invitation to the Red Wedding.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: What really pisses them off about Robb executing Lord Rickard is that the Stark and Karstark are kin, and kinslaying is considered a despicable crime, forgetting that what really pissed off Robb Stark was Lord Rickard executing two harmless children who weren't even remotely guilty of Jaime's crimes.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Robb executing Lord Rickard greatly fractures their ties with House Stark. Catelyn freeing the murderer of Lord Rickard's children probably did not help.

    Lord Rickard Karstark 

Lord Rickard Karstark
"Those who stand between a father and his vengeance shall taste death!"

Played By: John Stahl

"It's treason to free your enemies. In war, you kill your enemies. Did your father not teach you that, boy?"

Lord of Karhold and head of House Karstark. A powerful Stark bannerman and one of Robb's two most important commanders in the War of the Five Kings. He betrayed his king by killing two young Lannister hostages, for which he was convicted of treason and executed by Robb Stark with his own hand. With his last breath, Lord Karstark cursed Robb for a kinslayer due to the ancient blood ties between Houses Stark and Karstark.

  • Anti-Villain: Of the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds variety. His villainy is the result of his grief over the deaths of his sons.
  • Asshole Victim: Murdering unarmed kids'll do that.
  • Badass Boast: By the Old Gods, he's got some awesome ones at that.
    Catelyn: Wise men do not make demands of kings!
    Lord Rickard: Fathers who love their sons do. In the mornin', I will have this murderer's head.
  • Brutal Honesty: To Robb in "Dark Wings, Dark Words".
    Robb: If you no longer believe—
    Karstark: I can believe until it snows in Dorne. It don't change the fact: we've got 'alf the men.
    Robb: You don't think we can win.
    Karstark: May I speak my mind, Your Grace?
    Robb: Have you not been speaking your mind, Lord Karstark?
    Karstark: I think you lost this war the day you married 'er. (Nods at Talisa)
  • Colonel Badass: Along with Roose Bolton, he's one of Robb's principal subordinates. He may have reached his elderly years, but it hasn't stopped him from being a badass having earnt his reputation during Robert's Rebellion.
  • Commander Contrarian: To Robb and Catelyn, though his points are usually good.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has his moments:
    Karstark: We're at war. This march is a distraction.
    Robb: My grandfather's funeral is not a distraction.
    Karstark: We ridin' ta battle at Riverrun?
    Robb: No.
    Karstark: Then it's a distraction.
    Robb: My uncle Edmure has his forces garrisoned there. We need his men.
    Karstark: Unless 'e's been breedin' 'em, 'e won't 'ave enough ta make a difference.
  • Defiant to the End: Karstark shows no fear at his own execution, only disgust directed at Robb.
  • Demoted to Extra: In Season 1, although he becomes Robb's most visible bannerman in the second and third seasons.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: To Catelyn, after she frees Jaime who had just killed Karstark's son.
    Karstark: I don't want your grief. I want my vengeance. And you stole it from me!
  • Dying Curse: He points out that Stark and Karstark are not only descendants of the First Men but also kin, and wants the curse of kinslaying to haunt Robb for the rest of his days. From the Books 
    Karstark: Kill me and be cursed. You are no king of mine.
  • Grumpy Old Man: His responses when Robb asks him about possible lodging for Ser Alton show that he is a rather irritable man. Justified, as the North has recently lost Winterfell, which calls into question Robb's worthiness as King in the North. He was right about Robb marrying Talisa costing him the war. The Freys weren't too happy about it.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Does not appear in the series until Season 2.
  • Jerkass: Granted, we only really see him after the deaths of his sons, which would put him in a bit of a poor mood...but Karstark is still a Grumpy Old Man.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Karstark is right that it was foolish of Catelyn to free Jaime Lannister, and it was foolish of Robb to marry Talisa and thus forsake a vow made to Walder Frey.
  • Manly Facial Hair: He probably has the most epic beard in the series thus far (with the possible exception of Tormund Giantsbane). Looks almost like an old photo of grim and bearded American frontiersmen. Doubles as Beard of Sorrow after the death of his sons.
  • Off with His Head!: By Robb himself, as per summary execution.
  • Old Soldier: He's a capable general in Robb's army, having fought against the Mad King. From the books... 
  • Outliving One's Offspring: The death of his two sons from Jaime's hands are the main driving force of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Lannisters.
  • Papa Wolf: He comes within inches of striking Catelyn because she refuses to let him kill Jaime for killing his son, who was guarding the cell Jaime was in.
    Karstark: I lost one son fighting by you son's side. I lost another to the Kingslayer, strangled with a chain. You committed a treason, because your children are prisoners? I would carve out my heart and offer it to the Father, if he would let my sons wake from their graves and step into a prison cell!
  • Revenge Before Reason: He wants to execute Jaime even though he's a valuable hostage. He's even aware that it doesn't make sense, but his love for his sons ran deep.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Karstark murders Willem and Martyn Lannister, two unarmed teenage hostages, just because he wants to do damage to a Lannister, any Lannister.
  • Spanner in the Works: While not a terribly major player in the War of Five Kings, it's his killing of two Lannister boys (and Rickard's summary execution) that causes the Karstarks to abandon the Stark cause, which plays a great part in losing them the war. On top of that, the killing of the two Lannisters also provokes the Lannisters to vengeance, leading to the Red Wedding. In a sense, Rickard Karstark set the entirety of Robb's downfall in motion.
  • Straw Hypocrite: He taught his sons to fight, kill and die for the glory of their house and their lord. When they die in battle, suddenly It's Personal.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Has taken over for Roose Bolton as this in Season 3, due to child murder. Ultimately subverted, by Bolton himself, who (perhaps unsurprisingly) turns out to be even eviller in "The Rains of Castamere", and gets a Klingon Promotion to Warden of the North in the package. At least the Karstarks never killed their King.
  • Tragic Villain: The deaths of his sons and the subsequent lack of retribution (including Catelyn freeing Torrhen's killer) drive him mad. Thanks to John Stahl's intense performance and his entirely understandable motives, it's hard not to feel pity for Rickard Karstark. The man lost both his sons and the killer went free.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Driven mad by grief and rage, Karstark brutally and mercilessly murders Martyn and Willem Lannister; two young children who were barely squires, all for the crime of having a Lannister name.

    Torrhen Karstark 

Torrhen Karstark

Played By: Tyrone McElhennon

One of Rickard Karstark's sons. Killed by Jaime Lannister during his escape attempt.

  • Ascended Extra: From throwaway Posthumous Character in the books to actually appearing and having lines in one episode.
  • Overranked Soldier: What's a top bannerman's son doing guard duty for?
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Instead of as a casualty of battle, TV Torrhen is assigned to guard Jaime during his captivity and is killed by him during an escape attempt. This makes Karstark's obsession with killing Jaime more understandable than in the books.
  • Red Shirt: Gets no characterization before being killed.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Only for a while. He survives farther into the storyline than his book counterpart, who dies in the Battle of the Whispering Wood protecting Robb from Jaime.

    Harrion Karstark 

Another of Rickard Karstark's sons. Killed by Jaime Lannister during Robb's first battle.

  • Composite Character: His death comes from that of his own brother Eddard Karstark, who seems to have been Adapted Out to prevent confusion with Ned Stark.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the books Harrion is captured at the Battle of the Green Fork, imprisoned at Harrenhal and released when Arya and Jaqen H'ghar liberate the northern prisoners and the Brave Companions turn on Amory Lorch and deliver the castle to Lord Bolton. In the novels, Rickard has three sons and two of them die, one of which is named "Eddard Karstark" after Eddard Stark. Given the TV series's reluctance to use the books' intentional aversion of the One-Steve Limit rule, because they thought the audience would be confused, they swapped Eddard Karstark's death with Harrion — though whether "Eddard Karstark" will take his brother's place from the storyline in later novels, or if he will be renamed, or simply be Adapted Out, is anyone's guess.
  • Killed Offscreen: Killed by Jaime during Robb's first battle at Riverrun.
  • Posthumous Character: In Season 2, Lord Rickard mentions two of his sons are dead. In Season 3, Robb calls him by name.

    Lord Harald Karstark 

Lord Harald Karstark
"The Starks lost my house the day King Robb cut off my father's head. It's time for new blood in the North."

Played By: Paul Rattray

Another son of Lord Rickard, and the new Lord of Karhold and head of House Karstark following his father's execution.

  • Absurdly Youthful Father: Season 7 revealed he has a daughter who has become lady of Karhold, and who looks around Arya's age.
  • Armored Closet Gay: After Smalljon snarks that he likes "young boys", Lord Harald slightly reacts violently.
  • Beard of Evil: He sports a trimmed beard and is described as ruthless and calculating.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: He commits it to Roose Bolton, when he does nothing to prevent his liege's murder by standing there in front of him and doing nothing while Ramsay kills him.
  • Canon Foreigner: Has no counterpart in the novels.
  • Composite Character: Seemingly a condensation of two characters from the books — Rickard's eldest son Harrion (the one of Rickard's three sons who lived in the novels, whose name is given to one of his dead sons in the show) and Rickard's uncle Arnolf, who becomes the new ruler of the House and sides with the Boltons. In addition, his resentment of Robb for killing his father is taken from Rickard's daughter Alys in the book.
  • The Dragon: To Ramsay Bolton. After Roose is murdered by his son, he switches allegiance to him straight away and he chastises Maester Wolkan for not referring to Ramsay as Lord.
  • Harmful to Minors: Smalljon Umber implies that he's a pedophile, although there's no real indication it's anything more than a baseless insult.
  • Hypocrite: Sided with Boltons because Starks killed his father. Yet, he is not bothered in the slightest when Ramsay murders his own father Roose who also avenged Harald's father. He also sided with the Boltons who were allied with the Lannisters whom his father had a hostile hatred and would never side with any house allied with them.
    • Not to mention that he doesn't seem to remember or care that the Boltons' Lannister allies killed his brothers, with Jaime Lannister himself having murdered Torrhen in cold blood. Combined with his cold demeanor, it really makes you wonder what his relationship with Torrhen and Harrion was like...
  • Jerkass: He is cold and unfriendly at the best of times.
  • Killed Offscreen: Its revealed in Season 7 he was killed during the Battle of the Bastards, though we never see him perish onscreen.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Seems to play this role to Ramsay, supporting his actions even when they go against the wishes of Roose.
  • Revenge Before Reason: He tries to convince the Boltons that they should kill Jon Snow because he still represent a Stark threat looming over their domain and because he wants to avenge his father, never mind that in his position as Lord Commander to the Night's Watch requires him to forsake any lands and titles and also trying to target the Night's Watch would quickly earns the enmity of all other Northern houses. Roose refuses to pursue this idea which leads to Harald becoming an accomplice by inaction to Roose's murder, letting Ramsay killing him so he can take his place and go through their plan to march into Castle Black.
  • The Sociopath: Doesn't seem to be bothered in the least by Ramsay murdering his father right in front of him (nevermind the fact that Roose avenged Harald's father, which is the entire reason why sided with the Boltons), and immediately begins telling others to address Ramsay as Lord Bolton. Lord Umber also implies that he's a pedophile.
  • You Killed My Father: He has despised the Starks ever since Robb executed his father.

    Lady Alys Karstark 

Lady Alys Karstark

Played By: Meg Parkinson

The young daughter of Harald Karstark, now the Head of House Karstark following her father's death.

  • Adaptational Wimp: In the book, she rides for days on a dying horse to reach Jon at Castle Black, forges an alliance with the Night's Watch, and then forges a political alliance with the Thenns at the Wall, gaining a small army of skilled warriors. Her role in the show is to accept the mercy of King Jon when she has no other choice.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Alys is described in the books as having brown hair, while she is a redhead here.
  • Decomposite Character: The role of the girl who arrives at Castle Black seeking Jon's help is taken up by Sansa in Season 6.
  • Demoted to Extra: Many aspects of her characterization from the source material (alongside Wylla Manderly) are given to Lyanna Mormont instead, especially her willfulness, her rebellious attitude, and her being openly vocal against her perceived oppressors.
  • Killed Offscreen: Last time she appeared, she's holding off wights in the Godswood to protect Bran along with Theon and others. The following scene in the Godswood then shows Theon as the last man standing.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: When Jon opts to spare her life alongside Umber's son, she kneels and swears her fealty to him wordlessly.
  • Last of Her Kind: She is the last surviving Karstark following the death of her father. She is killed in the battle at Winterfell in Season 8, rendering House Karstark extinct.
  • Plucky Girl: Despite being just a girl, she is carrying a sword with her.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: She's the daughter of Rickard Karstark in the books, and heir presumptive to the current Lord Karstark, her older brother Harrion. The show makes her Rickard's granddaughter, who succeeds her father Harald as Lady of Karhold.