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A Games of Thrones – Catelyn 1

A Games of Thrones - Catelyn 1

In Winterfell’s godswood, Catelyn delivers news of Jon Arryn’s death to Eddard; King Robert Baratheon is on his way to Winterfell

Chapter Summary

In the godswood of Winterfell, Catelyn visits Eddard. Unlike House Tully, who follow the Faith of the Seven, House Stark keep faith with the old gods. He cleans the ancestral sword, Ice, beneath the heart tree—a great weirwood with a carved face. In the North, every godswood has its heart tree, unlike in the south where weirwoods have been cut down. Eddard mentions “winter is coming,” the motto of House Stark. Catelyn delivers news of Jon Arryn’s death, which affects Eddard deeply. Additionally, King Robert Baratheon is on his way to Winterfell, bringing further intrigue and tension to the ancient castle. 

Scene Setup

We are still in the setup mode, where the characters must be introduced and histories must be told. The best part about reading a well written epic fantasy for me is to learn about the background history, culture and religion about the world. The more detailed it is, the more it increases my respect for the author.

Introduction to religion

In this chapter, we are introduced to the diverse religious landscape of the world through Catelyn’s perspective. As an outsider, her observations highlight the stark contrasts between various faiths. The old religions are depicted with a somber tone, while the North’s religion is depicted as vibrant, symbolized by rainbows.

The gods of Winterfell kept a different sort of wood. It was a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. It smelled of moist earth and decay. No redwoods grew here. This was a wood of stubborn sentinel trees armored in grey-green needles, of mighty oaks, of ironwoods as old as the realm itself. Here thick black trunks crowded close together while twisted branches wove a dense canopy overhead and misshappen roots wrestled beneath the soil. This was a place of deep silence and brooding shadows, and the gods who lived here had no names.


Catelyn had been anointed with the seven oils and named in the rainbow of light that filled the sept of Riverrun. She was of the Faith, like her father and grandfather and his father before him. Her gods had names, and their faces were as familiar as the faces of her parents. Worship was a septon with a censer, the smell of incense, a seven-sided crystal alive with light, voices raised in song.

As we have discussed in the earlier post too, George R. R. Martin uses color as strong literary tool throughout the series. A very interesting observation about religion & color by a reddit user 

Another interesting point about the region was the mention of Isles of faces and green man. It wasn’t expanded much but I am interested to know more about it. 

In the south the last weirwoods had been cut down or burned out a thousand years ago, except on the Isle of Faces where the green men kept their silent watch.

Talk in numbers

In this chapter, Martin threw around a lot of numbers, which are easy to ignore. But noting it down to notice the grand scheme of things as we go further in the series:

  • Number of men remaining in the night watch – Less than 1000
  • Number of deserters – 4 in a year
  • Age of weirwood – 10,000 years
  • When the others & the children of forest where last sighted – 8000 years
  • Last weirwoods cut in the south – 1000 years ago
  • Age of the sword – 400 years
  • Age of characters: Rickon(3), Tommen(7) 


In the chapter, we delve into Catelyn’s point of view for the first time, revealing her as a character imbued with motherly affection and protectiveness. However, her paranoia soon casts a shadow over these initial impressions. The previous two chapters were full of dark elements, but somehow this chapter felt gloomier than the earlier ones, due to underlying critical tone throughout. Despite years of marriage and residing in the North, Catelyn’s sense of alienation is palpable, underscoring her struggle to find a sense of belonging.

There is one very interesting observation discussing about symbolic archetypes about Catelyn on this reddit thread

Have you noticed?

Important Swords

As I mentioned in my previous post, Martin has spent a lot of words describing the swords and their history. In this chapter we are get to know more about the history of the ‘Ice’ which was introduced in the last chapter.

It had been forged in Valyria, before the Doom had come to the old Freehold, when the ironsmiths had worked their metal with spells as well as hammers. Four hundred years old it was, and as sharp as the day it was forged. The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes, when the Starks were Kings in the North.

Missing history

George R.R. Martin is masterfully unfolding the history of Westeros, ensuring that readers are not overwhelmed by an information overload. Instead, we receive fragments of the story, which collectively construct the historical backdrop. These gaps in information act as tantalizing puzzle pieces, inviting readers to engage more deeply with the narrative.

In the current chapter, we learn that Robert holds the throne. His ascent to kingship is marked by the dethroning of the ‘Mad King’ Aerys, following a rebellion spearheaded by Lord Arryn. This revelation raises intriguing questions which we will piece together as we read:

  1. What led to King Aerys being labeled as ‘mad’?
  2. What prompted his demand for the heads of Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon?

Ned had fostered at the Eyrie, and the childless Lord Arryn had become a second father to him and his fellow ward, Robert Baratheon. When the Mad King Aerys Targaryen had demanded their heads, the Lord of the Eyrie had raised his moon-and-falcon banners in revolt rather than give up those he had pledged to protect.

Tales from the past

This chapter also introduces to some characters called ‘Children of the Forest’. We haven’t got a bunch of information about them yet, but it worth noting when they are mentioned. We also get to hear about Brandon the Builder and the heart tree.

At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. “The heart tree,” Ned called it. The weirwood’s bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle’s granite walls rise around them. It was said that the children of the forest had carved the faces in the trees during the dawn centuries before the coming of the First Men across the narrow sea

House Words

This chapter also introduced us to one of the most iconic quote of this whole series, i.e.; Winter is coming. More intriguing, however, is the exploration of the mottos of various houses. Observing how these house words reflect the characteristics and fates of their members will be an engaging aspect as the story unfolds.

Every noble house had its words. Family mottoes, touchstones, prayers of sorts, they boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage. All but the Starks. Winter is coming, said the Stark words.

King beyond the wall

In all the 3 chapters there is always some passing reference to Mance Ryder. Even though it is not expanded much we know in this chapter that he is an important threat as Ned is willing to do to war with him.

“And it will only grow worse. The day may come when I will have no choice but to call the banners and ride north to deal with this Kingbeyond-the-Wall for good and all.”

How was reading experience? Share any thoughts or any interesting thing you noticed in the comments

Interesting Links

Published inA Song of Ice and FireGame of ThronesReadalong

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