Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
They once believed Stannis Baratheon survived his death by Brienne of Tarths sword Oathkeeper, some were in denial about the nature of Roose Boltons death (while playing along with Ramsays official stance on the matter), and now some people are holding onto hope that one of the sadder Game of Thrones deaths to date is only a ruse.
In Oathbreaker, Ramsay is seen in Winterfell meeting with Smalljon Umber, who wants the Boltons help with the wildlings who have settled south of the Wall after Jon let them pass. In return, Ramsay wants Smalljon to bend the knee and swear his loyaltysomething he refuses to do. Instead, he brings Ramsay a gift in the form of the wildling Osha, Rickon Stark (who hasnt been seen since the end of season 3), and Rickons direwolf Shaggydog.
Its that last one that particularly gutted fans because Smalljon Umber brings Shaggydogs severed head to Ramsay when he asks for proof that Rickon Stark is legitimate.
On the surface, the betrayal by House Umber seems out of character, especially to book readers. House Umber was fiercely loyal to the Starksso loyal that Bran instructed Rickon and Osha to seek them out at the Last Hearthso the idea of giving Rickon up after likely housing him for so long seemed a bit out of character. And something seemed off about the size of Shaggydogs head, especially compared to Grey Winds after the Red Wedding. Soon enough, the Shaggydog truthers began to step out of the woodwork. Could Shaggydog still be alive in a classic switcheroo?
Its a theory that, Art Parkinson, who is reprising his role as Rickon after being away for three years, has debunked.
Uh, yeah, Id say so, Parkinson told The Huffington Post on Monday when asked if the dead wolfs head on the table was actually Shaggydog. It was a little bit disappointing because, you know, looking at the dogs we had on set … and that youd never really get to hang out with them again. When I read that Shaggydog was dead, I was definitely a little upset.
Confirmation of Shaggydogs death from Rickon himself will likely not sway the people hoping for some grander conspiracy, and the interaction between Ramsay Bolton and Smalljon Umber might be enough to start planting some seeds. If the Umbers are secretly conspiring against the Boltons, it could be a setup for a hell of a twist.
The North Remembers
The North Remembers is the name of a season 2 episode and an often-uttered phrase by people in the North; an older woman at a Bolton-led Winterfell uttered it to Sansa early in Game of Throness fifth season, and Ramsay said it to Sansa when he explained his reasons for turning Theon Greyjoy into Reek. It essentially boils down to, We dont forgive or forget the injustices done to us and those were loyal to, although one theory suggests it couldve originally referred to the weirwood trees located across the North.
And some even believe that Ramsay holding Rickon hostage will become Game of Throness version of the Pink Letter, the taunting letter from Ramsay that threatens to cut out bastards heart and eat it if he doesnt meet his long list of demandssome that include returning his wife (Jeyne Poole in the books, Sansa in the show) and Reek, turning over Selyse and Shireen Baratheon, Melisandre, and Mance Rayders wife and baby. If Ramsay threatens Jon’s half-brother, that might be the set-up to pin bastard against bastard since Jons watch has ended.
But will Wyman Manderly show up? House Manderly was namedropped by Harald Karstark as one of the other Northern houses on the Boltons side; Karstark and Umber were the other two, and we saw how House Umber showed their loyalty to Ramsay.
Another loyal Northern house
Even if House Manderly and Umber remain loyal to the Boltons, there is still at least one major house that could pull some of this off: House Mormont.
Located on Bear Island, an island located far northwest of Winterfell and separated by water from the rest of Westeros, the Mormonts are an old and proud family loyal to the Starks. Theyre also quite bold. Look what Lyanna Mormont, the 10-year-old Lady of Bear Island, sent Stannis Baratheon when he asked for their support.
We also know House Mormont through Jeor, the one-time Lord Commander whom Jon served as a steward in past seasons (Jeor also gave Jon his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw), and Jeor’s banished son Ser Jorah, whos still looking for Daenerys Targaryen and hiding a worsening case of greyscale. House Mormont as a key ally instead of House Manderly, a family TV fans havent really met, would give viewers a recognizable family to root for, one thats being led by a badass whos still loyal to the Starks even though all of the Stark boys are dead according to public knowledge.
Why it might not happen
Parkinsons debunking is reason enough to let go of the notion of a Grand Northern Conspiracythats if you don’t think he’s lying. But there may be another reason for it: Even though Game of Thrones is doing the Greyjoys kingsmoot plot in season 6, tying in something as big as the Grand Northern Conspiracy might be too much of a task, even for a show of this grandiose nature.
It involves Northern houses we barely know and are asked to trust (yes, even the Mormonts), bringing back the least-familiar Stark who’s been absent for three seasons, and with numerous storylines being told this season, there simply isnt enough time to develop the Umbers or another Northern family to lead the Grand Northern Conspiracy like there is in the books.
The show has reached a point where excess characters are getting killed off in droves, one redditor wrote. Even big characters are dying a lot, see Roose Bolton or Alliser Thorne. Rickon, while he is still alive, is a loose end that hurts other storylines (because he is a living, male, legitimate heir to Winterfell who is known to be alive), and has no storyline of his own. He needs to die, and he will die this season.
And if Art Parkinson is right and Shaggydog is dead after all?
We should probably be very, very worried about Rickon.
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