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House Bolton

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House Bolton of the Dreadfort is a noble House of The North in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Though the franchise is famous for having mostly morally ambiguous characters and factions, House Bolton is infamous for being one of the few true villainous factions, as they are usurpers of House Stark, the closest faction the franchise has to a true hero faction.


Every great lord has unruly bannermen who envy him his place. My father had the Reynes and the Tarbecks, the Tyrells have the Florents, Hoster Tully had Walder Frey. Only strength keeps such men in their place. The moment they smell weakness .... during the Age of Heroes, the Boltons used to flay the Starks and wear their skins as cloaks.
~ Jaime Lannister to Brienne of Tarth

Like House Stark, House Bolton was founded in The Age of Heroes. They ruled as the Red Kings from their set the Dreadfort. Their lands were plagued by seemingly never ending rebellions from unsatisfied subjects and invasions from rival houses and Ironborn invaders. This world of violence forged House Bolton into a ruthless House that used fear to control their subjects and terrify their enemies. They primarily did this by skinning their enemies and displaying their corpses. They were even rumored to wear their enemies skins as cloaks.

They were sworn rivals to House Stark, the Kings of Winter and the two houses waged countless wars against eachother, some of which ended in Bolton victories. But eventually, House Stark was victorious and the last Red King bent the knee. Nonetheless, House Bolton resented their liegelords and constantly plotted their revenge.

House Bolton entered the Seven Kingdoms when King Torren Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conquorer.

During Robert's Rebellion, Lord Roose Bolton joined with Lord Eddard Stark's army in their rebellion against House Targaryen. After Lord Robert Baratheon killed Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, Roose urged Robert to kill Ser Barristan Selmy, who fought in the royal army. But Robert spared the knight's life and had his own maester tending his wounds.

Lord Roose Bolton's trueborn son and heir was Domeric Bolton, a shy boy who was nice for being a Bolton, and everyone in the Noth liked him. However one day, Domeric was poisoned by his gelous half-brother Ramsay Snow, forcing Roose to take him at the Dreadfort.

War of the Five Kings

When Robb Stark decides to rebel against the Iron Throne, he calls on his bannermen, including Lord Roose Bolton who answers the call. Roose commands more than half or the northern army against Lord Tywin Lannister's host in the Battle of the Green Fork, where he loses and he's chased away, while Robb's force defeats Ser Jaime Lannister's force at the Whispering Wood and Riverrun. After Lord Eddard Stark's death, Robb's bannermen and the river lords declare him King in the North.

In the North, Ramsay Snow acts like a mad dog and his actions soon become known in the North. Ramsay's favorite activity is hunting down young girls with his servant Reek and raping them before leaving their dead bodies to Reek for having sex with them. After Ramsay takes the widow Lady Donella Hornwood (née Manderly) as his prisoner and marries her, he provokes the wrath of the houses Hornwood and Manderly. Ramsay locks his wife and lets her starve, while the wolfswood is a scenario of fightings between Bolton men against Hornwood and Manderly men. The Manderlys take the Hornwood. Winterfell, ruled by Prince Bran Stark, sends Ser Rodrik Cassel to execute Ramsay. However Ramsay changes identity with Reek, and the latter is killed by Rodrik as Ramsay. Lady Donella dies of starvation.

During the war, Roose's army fights the Lannister forces in the riverlands, while Robb's army invade the westerlands in the hope of baiting Lord Tywin out of Harrenhal and keep his army busy there while either King Stannis Baratheon or King Renly Baratheon take King's Landing. Eventually the Brave Companions betray the Lannisters and join with King Robb's cause, helping Lord Bolton in taking Harrenhal at Robb's orders and killing Ser Amory Lorch. When he receives a letter informing him about Ramsay's "death", Roose considers himself well rid of his psychotic son. He sends Lord Vargo Hoat and his riders to rout out the Lannisters from the towns of the riverlands, while Ser Helman Tallhart's northern garrison at the Twins leave the castles and is sent by Roose to besiege Castle Darry, which ends with the surrender of the Lannisters. Lord Bolton marries Fat Walda Frey, the 15 years old daughter of Merrett Frey and sister of Little Walder Frey. He choses her due to Walder promising a dowry of the weight in silver of the Frey Roose marries.

After destroying the Lannister host and killing Ser Stafford Lannister at Oxcross, the northeners fight in many battles in the westerlands and the riverlands and score many victory against House Lannister. Robb's plan is to drive Lord Tywin and his host out of Harrenhal by threatening them with a possible attack of Lannisport and Casterly Rock. The true reason why he didn't return to Riverrun and attack the Lannisters in the riverlands, is because Robb's purpose is to distract Tywin in a long pointless chase in the westerlands while King Stannis takes King's Landing and kills King Joffrey I Baratheon and Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. However when news reaches the army that most of the North and Winterfell has been seized by the Ironborn, under King Balon Greyjoy, most of the army gets more concerned of their homes and lands, and hope that Stannis will defeat the Lannisters so they can fight the Greyjoys. When Theon has Ramsay killing two farmer boys to disguise them as Bran and Rickon, Ramsay is the only living person to know the truth, as Theon ordered him to kill his men who witnessed the truth and executed Farlen for it.

After the Battle of the Blackwater and King Stannis Baratheon's defeat, Robb's campaign against the Lannisters fails, and he retreats back to Riverrun with the intention of marching back to the North and fight the ironmen of House Greyjoy. The Freys warn Roose that Robb can't win his war now that the Lannisters and the Tyrells are allies, and want Robb to make peace with the Lannisters and if not, they suggest Roose to find a way out of this on their own. Robb even backs out of his arranged marriage with House Frey to marry Jeyne Westerling, a noblewoman from the Crag (changed in the TV series with Talisa Maegyr, a noblewoman from Volantis), causing the Frey army, led by Ser Ryman Frey and Black Walder Frey to have an aggressive argument with Robb and retreat back to the Twins. Despite this, the Frey force in Roose's army remains with the northeners at Harrenhal even after receiving the letter about the denial of the marriages with Robb and Arya. Robett Glover and Ser Helman Tallhart are sent by Roose to besiege the port-town and castle of Duskendale in the crownlands.

Ser Rodrik Cassel's force marches to besiege Winterfell and before they arrive, Prince Theon Greyjoy allows Ramsay to ride back to the Dreadfort to gather reinforcement for Winterfell, since Theon's father, sister, and uncles have forsaken him. Ramsay rides back to the Dreadfort and it's possible that he received orders from his father. Roose might have sent Ramsay to "liberate" Winterfell. Ramsay kills Ser Rodrik and betrays the northern army loyal to the Starks in the first Battle at Winterfell; his men kill most of the force, among the dead also Lord Cley Cerwyn and Leobald Tallhart. The rest scatters in the wolfswood and return to their villages. Ramsay then betrays the ironborn, sacks and burns Winterfell, and kills everyone inside, except Prince Theon, Little Walder Frey, and Big Walder Frey. The only survivors Bran Stark, Rickon Stark, Jojen Reed, Meera Reed, Hodor, Osha, the direwolves Summer and Shaggydog, and Wex Pyke, Theon's squire.

The Red Wedding

Since Stannis's defeat Roose already knew that Robb's cause is lost, and in fact he had already sent a large portion of the northern army to its own destruction in the Battle of Duskendale, where they are destroyed by the Iron Throne forces led by Lord Randyll Tarly and Ser Gregor Clegane. At least 1,000 men die, Ser Helman Tallhart among them, while Robett Glover and Harrion Karstark are captured with many others. Roose puts the blame to Robett Glover, stating that he acted out of rage since the ironborn took Deepwood Motte, causing Robb to promise a punishment for Glover.

Lord Rickard Karstark is executed for treason and Martyn Lannister is freed in exchange of Robett Glover, who takes a ship back to the North. The Karstark army abandons Robb's cause, however the Karstarks at Harrenhal stay with Lord Bolton. Robb's army is now too weak to retake the North and they need the support of the Freys to cross the kingsroad back to Moat Cailin. Roose decides the time has come for House Bolton to take their revenge of their hated lieglords and exchanges letters with Lord Tywin Lannister and Lord Walder Frey where they agree to betray and murder Robb and his forces at the Twins, during the wedding of Lord Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. During the funeral of Lord Hoster Tully, Robb meets the Freys to arrange the wedding and apologize with the family. 

Despite Vargo Hoat's attempt to avoid the Boltons' betrayal by cutting off Ser Jaime's hand, Roose makes an agreement with Jaime and abandons Harrenhal and the Brave Companions to Tywin's wrath. While marching from Harrenhal to the Twins, Roose and Ser Aenys Frey have trouble to cross the ruby ford of the Trident. Once Roose reaches the Trident, torrential rains make fording impossible and the northmen are forced to use small boats to cross. Bolton has gotten two-thirds of his force across by the time Ser Gregor Clegane arrives. Ser Wylis Manderly command the rear guard who still waits to cross and Gregor attacks them with heavy cavalry, killing most of the men and taking captive the survivors, including Wylis. Other survivors manage to flee. Roose, unable to aid the men across the ford, continues on to the Twins, leaving behind 6,000 men spearmen from the Rills, the mountains, and the White Knife, a hundred longbow archers from House Hornwood, some freeriders and hedge knights, and some Stout and Cerwyn men under the command of Ronnel Stout and Ser Kyle Condon to prevent Gregor from crossing the Trident.

Robb Stark brings most of his army to the Twins, meaning to march against the ironborn right after Lord Edmure's wedding, while Ser Brynden Tully and Robb's wife, Queen Jeyne, remain at Riverrun, holding it against the Iron Throne. Edmure's wedding turns into a massacre known as the Red Wedding. The massacre is a success, with also the help of the Boltons and the Karstarks, and Roose personally slains King Robb. For betraying Robb and the Kingdom of the North and the Trident, Roose Bolton is proclaimed Warden of the North. The Iron Throne even promises to legitimize Ramsay as Roose has no trueborn heir. After the Red Wedding, Ser Gregor and his men take back Harrenhal and seize the ruby ford, giving the traitor Vargo Hoat a slow death, and taking Ser Wylis Manderly and other northeners from the ruby ford at Harrenhal as captives. The ruby ford may have been a calculated move by Lord Bolton to bleed Stark supporters to prevent them from retaliating once he turned cloak. 

House Bolton is guilty of many war crimes against not only the Starks, but most of the North. Roose's traitorous actions with Duskendale, the ruby ford, and the Red Wedding makes him responsible of many deaths, but no one can prove the guilt of his actions beside the Red Wedding. The same cannot be said about Ramsay, who's considered a loud mad dog with no self-control and he became hated by the entire north with his rapes, murders, and tortures of girls and commoners, his actions against the Hornwoods, the Cerwyns, and the Tallharts, his betrayal in the Battle at Winterfell, and the Sack of Winterfell. Only Roose can try to keep the North under the Boltons' control, and Lord Walder gives him a Frey force to help him. The army stays in the south as the ironborn still hold Moat Cailin even after the Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet, Victarion Greyjoy, returned to the Iron Islands after King Balon's death at the hands of Euron Greyjoy. At the Dreadfort, Ramsay has turned Theon into a mere servant called Reek. After bringing back Jaime to King's Landing, Steelshanks Walton and his men ride back to Lord Bolton after Lord Tywin gives them Arya Stark. In reality this girl came from one Lord Petyr Baelish's brothels and is actually Jeyne Poole, an innocent northern girl who remained in the capital since Eddard's northern party was massacred back when King Robert died. As Tywin promised, King Tommen I Baratheon officially legitimize Ramsay Snow as a trueborn Bolton.

Rule of the North

All you have I gave you. You would do well to remember that, bastard. As for this... Reek... if you have not ruined him beyond redemption, he may yet be of some use to us. Get the keys and remove those chains from him, before you make me rue the day I raped your mother.
~ Roose to Ramsay

But right from the start, things start going wrong for House Bolton. Most of the other Northern houses resent them for their actions and betrayal and hate House Frey for killing their relatives, especially the Manderlys, the Cerwyns, the Hornwoods, and the Umbers. Nonetheless, some of the more powerful houses support the Boltons.  Euron Greyjoy becomes the new ruler of the Iron Islands and styles himself King of the Isles and the North, meaning he has no intention to withdraw his men from the seized northern castles and lands, despite Ramsay's letters about Theon being his captives. The Boltons try to get the favor of the northmen by helping them to take back the North. After liberating Moat Cailin from the surviving ironborn forces of the garrison, House Bolton returns to the North and remains in the Neck at Barrowton, hosted by the Dustins. Roose ins infuriated by Ramsay's lack of self control, as he keeps killing innocents and lose his temper even at Barrowton.

To make matters worse, King Stannis Baratheon of Dragonstone challenges them as well, with the support of some northern houses. The Boltons are warned about Stannis by Arnolf Karstark, castellan of Karhold and false supporters of Stannis. After their plan to lure Stannis's army into a trap at the Dreadfort fails, the Boltons and the Freys march to Winterfell where they are soon joined by the military forces of other northern houses, personally led by their lords and ladies. To secure dynastic legitmacy, Roose arranges a marriage between Ramsay and "Arya Stark"(but is really Jeyne Poole). Through this marriage, Ramsay becomes Lord of Winterfell. A sudden snow blizzard infuriates in the North and both Roose and the Queen's men think its the Old Gods challenging Stannis and the Lord of Light. However Winterfell is full of tension and fear, due to Stannis marching on Winterfell and the lack of food and loyal men. To make it worse, someone is suddently murdering people at Winterfell, causing fights and quarrels between the northeners and the Freys. Also, the northeners know that Ramsay is behaving like a mad dog and torturing "Arya Stark", and all this makes impossible for Roose to keep order, and for the first time he starts to show fear. It's believed that most of Roose's army plans to betray him for Stannis, in fact Lord Davos Seaworth, Hand of King Stannis, has been sent by Lord Wyman Manderly and Robett Glover to retrieve Rickon Stark on the island of Skagos before the Boltons find him. The Glovers are already supporting Stannis.

While Stannis is not far from Winterfell, camped at crofter's village, Theon and Jeyne escape Winterfell with the help of a singer named Abel, much to the Boltons' chagrin, putting their control in the North in more jeopardy. A letter is sent to Jon Snow at the Wall, apparently from Ramsay, claiming Stannis is dead. However the truth of this letter, or even if Ramsay wrote it, is uncertain.

Roose sends Ser Aenys Frey and Ser Hosteen Frey out to lead the cavalry against Stannis. Aenys is killed by a trap of Mors Umber, and the command passes to Hosteen. Meanwhile, Stannis arrestes Arnolf Karstark and the Karstark army for treason, and is informed of Roose's cavalry riding to crofter's village. He prepares his army for the first battle before the siege of Winterfell and plans a strategy to destroy the Frey army without losing too many men.

Rule of the North (TV show)

Like in the books, House Bolton captures Winterfell, Ramsay is legitimized, many northern houses resent the Boltons with only the wealthier houses supporting them, like the Manderlys, the Karstarks, and the Umbers. Roose marries Walda, and Stannis challenges them. However, Jeyne is removed from the show and replaced with Sansa Stark, who is married off to Ramsay by Lord Petyr Baelish, hoping to give Stannis a Wardeness of the North if he takes Winterfell. However, Ramsay's tactics of sabotage and supply drain damage Stannis's forces, causing him to reluctantly sacrifice his daughter Shireen to appease the Lord of Light. This accomplishes nothing and Stannis is defeated and killed. However Sansa and Theon escape.

Roose is angered by Sansa's escape, but is even more angered when Ramsay suggest their armies besiege Castle Black, where Sansa has run to, saying that every northern house would rebel against them. Shortly after, Maester Wolkan informs Roose that Walda has given birth to a son. Fearing for his title as future Warden of the North, Ramsay murders his own father in the same way he killed Robb, a knife to the chest. He then proceeds to kill Walda and the baby by feeding them to his dogs, making himself Warden of the North and Lord of the Dreadfort.

Battle of the Bastards

Lord Ramsay is presented Rickon Stark and the head of Shaggydog by Lord Smalljon Umber . Ramsay decides to use this as bait to lure Jon Snow, a surviving Stark relative and Sansa to Winterfell, hoping to wipe out House Stark once and for all. Jon, Sansa, along with their new allies in a group of the Free Folk set off to challenge Ramsay. They successfully recruit Houses Hornwood, Mormont and Mazin, but they are still outnumbered. Sansa in desperation sends a letter to Littlefinger asking for help from the Knights of the Vale.

During the battle, Rickon is killed and Jon's army is almost wiped out, but the Knights of the Vale provide reinforcements and wipes out most of Ramsay's army. The Stark loyalists capture Winterfell and Ramsay. Sansa then kills Ramsay the same way Ramsay killed Walda and the baby, by feeding him to his own hounds (whom he has starved). With Ramsay dead, and no other known Boltons left, House Bolton is now extinct.

With the North liberated, Jon Snow is legitimized and like Robb before him, is proclaimed King in the North, with also the lords of the Vale declaring for him.


Known captains

  • {Locke}, a cruel sadistic hunter of Roose Bolton. A character created by the television adapatation and the TV series counterpart of Vargo Hoat. Killed in the Haunted Forest beyond the Wall by Bran Stark, who warged into Hodor's body. In the TV series he is portrayed by Noah Taylor.
  • Walton, better known as Steelshanks Walton, a captain in service of Roose Bolton. He is known as Steelshanks for the steel greaves he wears over his long legs. He is loyal and brutal, but not cruel. He escorted Ser Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth to King's Landing and later brought Jeyne Poole to the North. He is currently at Winterfell. In the TV series he is portrayed by Jamie Michie. 

Bastard's Boys

I know what he said. You’re to spy on me and keep his secrets. As if he had secrets. Sour Alyn, Luton, Skinner, and the rest, where does he think they came from? Can he truly believe they are his men?
~ Roose Bolton to Reek

The Bastard's Boys are men-at-arms of House Bolton, in service of Ramsay Bolton. They assist him in everything he needs. Although they are favored by Ramsay, Roose Bolton claims that they actually report to him.

The members are:

  • Ben Bones, a kennelmaster of the Dreadfort and keeper of the Bastard's Girls. He was instructed to train the dogs to rape girls and kill humans and the wolves. He likes the dogs better than Ramsay. He makes a collar for Theon and lets him eat and sleep with the hounds. In the TV series he's the father of Myranda.
  • {Yellow Dick}, a squat, scrofulous, ill-favored man. Killed by Rowan, one of Mance Rayder's spearwives.
  • Damon-Dance-for-Me, a fair-haired and boyish man. He carries a long, greased whip.
  • {Luton}, died during a skirmish between the Freys and the Manderlys at Winterfell. As he tries to push his entrails back into his wound, crying noisily for his mother, Ramsay loses patience and drives a spear through Luton's chest.
  • Sour Alyn, a man with rotten teeth and foul breath. He is mean and witless.
  • Skinner, a torturer who flayed Theon's fingers for Ramsay.
  • Grunt, who lost his tongue for speaking carelessly within earshot of Roose Bolton. He is described as brutal.

Bastard's Girls

The "Bastard's girls" is the name given to Ramsay's hunting hounds by Theon Greyjoy. The pack is made up of all vicious, mean tempered bitches. The dogs are looked after by the kennelmaster Ben Bones, who under Ramsay's instructions also trained them to kill wolves. Ramsay uses the hounds to hunt peasant women. He releases them naked into the woods, giving them half a day's head start. When he catches them he rapes and kills them. Those that give him good sport are given a quick death, and Ramsay names a new bitch pup after the woman. Those that do not are denied a quick death, instead being flayed alive, and no pup is named after them. He feeds their corpses to his dogs.

In the TV series the Bastard's girls eat Ramsay Bolton after a short time of captivity after his defeat at Winterfell. The hounds hadn't eat for some days and didn't hesitate to betray their master and feed on his flesh. In the novels Ramsay is still alive and what Stannis Baratheon plans to do with him and his hounds is still unknown.

The hounds are:

  • Grey Jeyne 
  • Helicent
  • Jez
  • Alison
  • Kyra
  • Maude
  • Red Jeyne
  • Sara
  • Willow

Sworn houses

The houses sworn to House Bolton are House Cerwyn, House Dustin, House Hornwood, House Karstark, House Locke, House Manderly, House Ryswell, House Stout, and House Umber under Hother Umber. However they all hate the Freys with them, and this makes for them difficult to obey the Boltons. The Cerwyns and the Hornwoods hate Ramsay for killing Lord Cley Cerwyn and Lady Donella Hornwood, while Lord Wyman Manderly is not truly loyal to the Boltons and he and the Umbers follow Roose only because of Lord Greatjon Umber and Ser Wylis Manderly being captive of the Iron Throne. House Umber actually hates the Boltons for betraying the Starks and the death of Smalljon Umber in the Red Wedding; the Umbers under Mors Umber joined with Stannis's army in the march to Winterfell. Arnolf Karstark follows Roose in the hope that the Lannisters will kill the captive Lord Harrion Karstark, so he can become Lord of Karhold. However King Stannis and Lord Commander Snow found it out thanks to Lady Alys Karstark, and Arnolf's plan to betray Stannis in the battlefield is thwarted.

While in the novels the Smalljon died during the Red Wedding, in the TV series he's made into a anti-villainous character(Since he still dislikes House Bolton and only sided with them to fight the Free Folk, whom he views as barbarians), while the Greatjon died during the war. Even House Karstark, under Lord Harald Karstark is loyal to the Boltons. Thus in the show, the situation of these two houses are simplified as villainous, and don't have the grey situation and fracture from the novels.

Supporters of the Boltons


  • Though most of the ASOIAF/Game of Thrones characters and factions are morally ambiguous, House Bolton is infamous for having no positive traits at all and being a truly villainous faction, with the exception of Domeric Bolton.
  • In the books, House Bolton is still active and about to face Stannis in battle, while in the show they have defeated Stannis, but were defeated by House Stark. It is unknown how the Battle of Ice will take place in the books.
  • It is theorized that House Bolton may be currently extinct in the books. Some fans believe that Ramsay was tricked into believing Stannis was dead and sent the letter off, before Stannis' men revealed themselves and took Winterfell.
  • House Bolton's colors in the book are pink and red, while in the show their colors are black and red. This change was likely done to make House Bolton look more evil.

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