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Our final character summary is on Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell.
Eddard “Ned” Stark is head of House Stark and Lord paramount of the North. Eddard and his wife Catelyn have five children, and Eddard has one bastard son, whom he took back home with him after Robert’s rebellion. He and King Robert Baratheon started as childhood friends when they were both fostered by Lord Jon Arryn, Robert Baratheon’s Hand at the start of the series.
In the beginning of Game of Thrones, Eddard has to deal with a deserter of the Night’s Watch by executing the young man, and brings his sons Robb, Jon, and 10-year-old Bran to accompany him and learn. He executes the man himself, and in teaching Bran about being dutiful, explains that the one who orders the execution should be the one to carry it out and take responsibility for his actions. Right away you can tell this man has earned his respect honestly and honorably.
After Jon Arryn’s death, King Baratheon goes to Winterfell, along with his court, to persuade Eddard to take on the position of Hand of the King. During the time of King Baratheon’s visit, it is revealed that Jon Arryn may have been assassinated so he reluctantly accepts the position of hand so he can investigate Jon Arryn’s death. Unfortunately, that means he has to leave Winterfell and his wife behind as she stays to keep watch over the now comatose Bran Stark, after he fell from one of the abandoned towers, supposedly by accident. Before he leaves, he sends his bastard son, Jon Snow, off to be part of the Night’s Watch, and reminds Jon that he is a Stark even though the Stark name was not given to him, and he also promises to tell Jon of his mother when they meet again.
He brings with him his two daughters, Sansa and Arya, to King’s Landing to have them introduced to the court, as Sansa is betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, the King’s son and heir to the throne. Being sympathetic to Arya’s frustrations of being forced to act as a lady, he hires a swordmaster for Arya to learn proper swordfighting techniques.
Two things that Eddard finds upon arriving at King’s Landing is that the crown is majorly in debt, mostly to Lord Tywin Lannister, and that Jon Arryn had been inquiring around the city searching and finding King Baratheon’s bastard children. He is also forced to kill Lady, Sansa’s direwolf, after Joffrey accuses Arya and her own direwolf, Nymeria, of inflicting injury on him. Because Arya ran her direwolf off, Lady is killed in Nymeria’s place.
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Later, during a council meeting, King Baratheon wants to execute and order to have Daenerys Targaryen killed when he finds out that she is pregnant. Although Eddard has no love for the Targaryen’s, being that one Targaryen in particular was responsible for the capture, imprisonment, and death of his sister, Lyanna Stark, he refuses to agree to killing Daenerys and her unborn child, and steps down as Hand. As he is about to leave for Winterfell, he is stopped by Jaime Lannister, who is angered that Catelyn Stark has taken Jaime’s brother, Tyrion, prisoner for the attempted murder of Bran Stark. Their dispute turns deadly as Jaime’s men kill all of Eddard’s men and Eddard is injured. It is during this time of recovery that King Baratheon visits him and practically forces him to retake the position of Hand of the King, which Eddard does.
As he resumes his duties as Hand, he researches and discovers, after an offhand comment by Sansa, that Robert Baratheon’s children are not really his. Robert’s supposed children are actually the result of Robert’s wife Cersei and her incestuous affair with her twin brother Jaime Lannister. This is what Lord Jon Arryn had apparently discovered that got him assassinated. When Eddard confronts Cersei about this matter, he tells her that he will inform Robert of this, but gives Cersei a chance to flee with the children before he does. Unfortunately, Cersei plots to have Robert killed before he ever finds out. Also unfortunate is that her plan works.
Robert Baratheon comes back from his hunting party, severely wounded and has Eddard write down his will and put Joffrey’s name as heir to the throne, also naming Eddard as Protector of the Realm until Joffrey is of age to take the throne. Eddard writes down “rightful heir” instead of putting Joffrey’s name on the will. He also doesn’t have to the heart to inform Robert of Cersei’s children not being his.
When Robert dies, Joffrey takes the throne with his mother as part of the counsel. Eddard tries to overtake the throne and have both Cersei and Joffrey arrested, but Cersei rips up the will in front of all who are there and Eddard finds that he is betrayed. Eddard is taken prisoner for treason, while Sansa is held captive by the Lannisters and Arya escapes into the city.
Thus starts the coming of a war as news of Eddard’s capture reaches Winterfell. Eddard at first refuses to admit to treason and does not want to swear fealty to King Joffrey, even if it means his death. However, because Sansa is still being kept by them, he realizes that may be the only way to save her. So, he reluctantly agrees, with the reassurance that his daughters will be released. This also ensures that he will not be executed, but exiled to the Wall instead, serving the Night’s Watch as punishment.
Unfortunately, as honorable and dutiful and even sympathetic as he has been to those around him, he is not treated with the same courtesies. After Eddard admits to treason and swears fealty to King Joffrey, Joffrey has him executed right then and there anyway, in public and with Sansa watching. Arya also watches from a distance, but Eddard can see that Yoren, an actual trustworthy man, will take care of Arya as he hides Arya from his beheading.
His death becomes the ultimate catalyst for the War of the Four Kings.
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Eddard is definitely one of the most honorable men in this series and the basic “good guy” as far as good guys go in Westeros. He is not without fault, though, seeming too trustworthy of people and even giving mercy to those who probably don’t deserve it. It is these faults that ultimately become part of his downfall.
Eddard Stark was played by Sean Bean. He is a well respected actor and best known in recent years as Boromir from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a part in which is character dies most dramatically as well. The guy knows how to die honorably, I gotta say. He also played the King in the Snow White comedy movie, Mirror, Mirror, which just came out the Friday before the start of the second season of Game of Thrones on HBO. And he played the Greek God Zeus in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. No word on if he’s going to reprise his role for the upcoming Sea of Monsters, though. I love this actor and I so wish his character hadn’t died just so I can see more of him in the series, but alas, the Game of Thrones isn’t about keeping all the good characters alive. Sean Bean will be missed!