This blog is published after the Game of Thrones simulcast. Unless you’ve seen season six, episode three, look away now…
Rickon Stark is back. Rickon Stark is also completely screwed, it would seem. He’s just been handed over to the new Warden of the North and keeper of Winterfell, Lord Ramsay Bolton, so Rickon’s lifespan would appear to have significantly shortened. He might be kept alive as a useful hostage for a while, but you know Ramsay will end up doing something horrible to him. Right? Well, maybe not. Here’s a theory that explains how.
Lord Umber, who brings Rickon to Ramsay in the latest episode, made a point of not swearing fealty to Ramsay’s father Roose Bolton when he took control of Winterfell. He’s historically a Stark sympathiser – so why’s he coming round to the Bolton way of thinking now? Fans think he’s just trying to convince Ramsay that he’s no longer loyal to the Starks. The pretence he’s using is that Jon Snow has allowed the Wildlings to cross the Wall, and they’re causing trouble. “We’re farther north than any of you fuckers,” he says. “Wildlings come down, we always have to fight them first.” It’s convincing reasoning, but our bet is he’s still loyal to the Starks, and this is a clever gambit.
He continues his trick by gaining Ramsay’s trust, in quite an unconventional way – by refusing to swear fealty to him, and thereby removing any blame from what fans think will be an upcoming betrayal. “I’m not kissing your fucking hand,” he says. “I’m not doing that [kneeling] either.” When Ramsay asks why he should trust someone who doesn’t honour tradition, he says, “Your father [Roose Bolton] honoured tradition. Knelt for Robb Stark. Called him King of the North. Was Robb Stark right to trust your father?” No – Roose Bolton was the man who stabbed Robb Stark through the heart at his uncle’s wedding/massacre. You can’t fault Umber’s logic.
So how does Umber seal the deal? With a ‘gift’ – Rickon and his ex-Wildling pal, Osha, and what looks like the head of Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog. But what if the gift is just a trap, and Shaggydog isn’t really dead? Ramsay has probably never seen a direwolf himself, and the head that Lord Umber brings in is way too small, in a lot of fans’ estimation.
What Redditor AlediVillarosa thinks this perhaps a little optimistic, but it offers hope to those worried about the littlest Stark. It feels legitimately Game of Thrones-y too – only this time it’s the villain getting played. According to this theory, as Lord Umber gains Ramsay’s trust, he’s also getting a Stark – one everyone thought was dead – back into Winterfell to stir up rebellion. Meanwhile, Osha has history of screwing over anyone who underestimates her. If Ramsay is convinced to confront Jon Snow and his army of wildlings outside Winterfell, only to be betrayed by the Umbers, you can see Osha leading the charge against those who remain within the walls. For poor Rickon’s sake, let’s hope this is the case – he must’ve had a rubbish few years.
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PS: King Tommen’s downfall is looking imminent.
Watch Tommen and Bran talk about Game of Thrones – The Musical