Benjen Stark is the youngest child and third son of Lord Rickard Stark, the head of House Stark and Lord Paramount of the North. The North is one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and House Stark is one of the Great Houses of the realm. House Stark rule the region from their seat of Winterfell and Rickard also held the title Lord of Winterfell. He attended the the Great Tourney at Harrenhal.
Benjen is the younger brother of Brandon, Eddard and Lyanna. Rickard, Brandon and Lyanna were all killed in the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion. Eddard inherited his father's titles and responsibilities.
Benjen joined the Night's Watch, the military force which patrols the Wall and guards the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms. He earned the rank of First Ranger. Benjen is viewed as a hero by his nephew Jon Snow.
Benjen travels south from the Wall to attend the feast welcoming King Robert Baratheon to Winterfell. He brings news about strange events beyond the Wall. Benjen tells Eddard that the young Night's Watch deserter he executed was a good and loyal man who would not desert his post lightly. His nephew Jon asks to join the Night's Watch despite Benjen's warning that it is a hard life. Eddard agrees to become the Hand of the King. A few days later, the royal party heads south. Benjen accompanies them to the Kingsroad and then escorts Jon and Tyrion Lannister north to Castle Black. Along the way they are joined by fresh recruits, including a rapist named Rast.
Jon begins to realize that the Watch may not be the noble institution he thought it was, and upon arriving at Castle Black Jon begins his training. Benjen tells Jon that he is going north of the Wall on a ranging. Jon asks to go with him, but Benjen tells him that he is not ready and cautions that on the Wall a man only gets what he earns, not what his birth entitles him to. Benjen says farewell to his friend Yoren, a recruiter for the Watch. He also exchanges words with Tyrion, who is about to head south with Yoren. Benjen feels that Tyrion holds the Watch in disregard despite Tyrion's protests to the contrary.
Days later Benjen's horse returns to Castle Black, but there is no sign of Benjen himself. Shortly afterwards, two of the rangers who accompanied Benjen, Othor and Jafer Flowers, are found dead in the forest beyond the Wall. They are brought back to Castle Black for Maester Aemon to study, but in the middle of the night they reanimate as wights. Both are killed again and their bodies are burned. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont vows to take the Watch beyond the Wall in force to investigate what's going on and promises Jon that they will find Benjen alive or dead.
During the Great Ranging beyond the Wall, Mormont and his men stop at Craster's Keep where Mormont tells the wildling Craster that Benjen has said he planned to stop there on his way to the Frostfangs. Craster gruffly replies that he hasn't seen Benjen for three years and hasn't missed him, saying that Benjen "always treated me like scum."
Jon, who has now been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, ends up alienating many of his fellow black brothers when he brings back several thousand wildlings that were driven away from Hardhome and allows them safe passage through Castle Black. His personal steward, Olly, lures him into a trap by claiming one of the wildlings that he brought back says he knows Benjen. As Jon walks outside to see if this is true, Alliser Thorne (who Jon has since named First Ranger in place of the missing Benjen) adds that this wildling claims he saw Benjen at Hardhome on the last full moon. However, this is revealed to be nothing but a ruse as Alliser, Olly, and four other black brothers proceed to fatally stab Jon.
Benjen appears in a vision experienced by Bran Stark. Benjen is shown training with Ned under a young Rodrik Cassel in the courtyard of Winterfell, though his skills are far inferior to Ned's. Lyanna appears and playfully teases Benjen about not having a sparring partner after Ned goes to the Eyrie, and suggests that Wylis take up swordplay. Benjen almost has a match with him, but he is led away by Old Nan. Benjen is seen later in another of Bran's visions saying goodbye to Ned shortly before the latter heads off to the Vale.
Beyond the Wall, when Bran and Meera Reed are being chased by an army of wights, a hooded figure with a concealed face arrives atop a horse, wielding a flaming chain, to burn the wights and rescue the pair. When the wights become too numerous to fight off, he pulls Bran and Meera onto his horse and rides away. The next day, the hooded man feeds Bran the blood of a dead rabbit, and says he arrived to help because the Three-Eyed Raven requested it.
When questioned on his identity, he pulls down his scarf and hood, revealing himself as Benjen Stark. Benjen explains that, during his fateful ranging beyond the wall, he was attacked by White Walkers, one of whom shoved an ice sword into his gut and left him for dead. He was discovered by the Children of the Forest, who stopped him from falling to the control of the White Walkers by shoving a piece of dragonglass into his chest.
Benjen eventually escorts Bran and Meera to the weirwood tree nearby the Wall. When asked by Meera why he cannot travel any further south, Benjen explains that ancient spells carved into the foundation of the Wall prevent the dead from passing through it. Benjen says he will continue to fight for the living as long as he can, before departing.
When Jon, who has been left beyond the Wall by his group, is about to be swarmed by the army of the undead, Benjen suddenly comes riding in in the last moments, slaying wights from his horse. When he stops in front of Jon, he jumps off his horse and removes the scarf from his head, revealing his survival to the stunned Jon. To save Jon, Benjen heaves him onto his horse and orders him to ride back to the Wall. Jon asks Benjen to come with him but Benjen refuses, instead sending off the horse and drawing his flaming morningstar to make his final stand. As the wights swarm him, Benjen fights back but is eventually overwhelmed and killed by the army of the dead.
|Game of Thrones: Season 1 appearances|
|Winter Is Coming||The Kingsroad||Lord Snow||Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things||The Wolf and the Lion|
|A Golden Crown||You Win or You Die||The Pointy End||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Game of Thrones: Season 6 appearances|
|The Red Woman||Home *||Oathbreaker||Book of the Stranger||The Door *|
|Blood of My Blood||The Broken Man||No One||Battle of the Bastards||The Winds of Winter|
* Bran's vision
|Game of Thrones: Season 7 appearances|
|Dragonstone||Stormborn||The Queen's Justice||The Spoils of War|
|Eastwatch||Beyond the Wall||The Dragon and the Wolf|
|Bran I the|
- Benjen Stark: "The Night's Watch is a joke to you, is it? Is that what we are, Lannister? An army of jesters in black?"
- Tyrion Lannister: "You don't have enough men to be an army, and aside from Yoren here, none of you are particularly funny."
- Benjen Stark: "I hope we provided you with some good stories to tell when you're back in King's Landing. That's something to think about when you're drinking your wine down there, enjoying your brothels... Half the boys you've seen training will die north of the Wall. Might be a wildling's axe that gets them, might be sickness, might just be the cold. They die in pain. And they do it so plump little lords like you can enjoy their summer afternoons in peace and comfort."
- — Benjen clarifies the relevance of the Night's Watch to Tyrion.[src]
- Tyrion Lannister: "I'm not sure what I've done to offend you. I have great admiration for the Night's Watch. I have great admiration for you as First Ranger."
- Benjen Stark: "You know, a brother once told me...that nothing someone says before the word "but" really counts."
- Tyrion Lannister: "But...I don't believe that Giants and ghouls and White Walkers are lurking beyond the Wall. I believe that the only difference between us and the wildlings is that when that Wall went up, our ancestors happened to live on the right side of it."
- Benjen Stark: "You're right. The wildlings are no different from us. A little rougher, maybe, but they're made of meat and bone. I know how to track them and I know how to kill them. It's not the wildlings giving me sleepless nights. You've never been north of the Wall, so don't tell me what's out there."
- — Benjen counters Tyrion's perspective on the lands beyond the Wall with his own.[src]
- Jon Snow: "Uncle Benjen! How?!"
- Benjen Stark: "You ride for the pass."
- Jon Snow: "Come with me."
- Benjen Stark: "There's no time. Go!"
- — Benjen sacrifices himself to save Jon.[src]
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Benjen is the First Ranger of the Night's Watch, a position of high honor and achievement. It is rumored he took the black to escape from Winterfell because his home reminded him of his lost family (Rickard, Brandon, and Lyanna). He is a noted tracker and fighter. Benjen attends King Robert Baratheon's visit to Winterfell and Jon approaches him at the feast about joining the Night's Watch. Benjen tries to talk him out of making such a permanent decision at such a young age, but Jon's mind is made up. Benjen later tells Maester Luwin of Jon's decision, who in turn notifies Ned and Catelyn.
As with the TV series, Benjen goes on a mission to assess the situation in the Haunted Forest, but disappears and is never heard from again. The Great Ranging led by Lord Commander Jeor Mormont is organized partly in response to Benjen's disappearance.
By the point the novels reached, Benjen's fate is still unknown.
According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "Benjen" is pronounced "BEN-jin", as opposed to "Ben-JENN" (the second syllable is short and not stressed).
Benjen has also taken over the role of "Coldhands", a mysterious character aligned with the three-eyed crow, whom GRRM has confirmed as not being Benjen Stark, debunking fan theories indicating otherwise.
On the way to the Wall from Craster's Keep, Sam and Gilly arrive at an abandoned village, where they are surrounded by dozens of wights. They are saved by a flock of ravens and a mysterious man who rides a great elk. The stranger is muffled head to heels in mottled blacks and greys and calls Sam "Brother", implying that he belonged to the Watch. Sam soon discovers the stranger is dead, but not a wight, because his eyes are not blue and he can speak. His hands are black and cold, so Sam and Gilly call him "Coldhands" (his real name is not revealed). He is constantly followed by a flock of ravens, only six at daylight, and much more at night.
Coldhands tells Sam and Gilly he was sent by the three-eyed crow to bring some people to his cave. They arrive at the Nightfort. Coldhands cannot pass through the Black Gate, since there are old and strong spells woven into the Wall. Sam and Gilly enter the Nightfort, where they meet Bran and his escorts and tell them about Coldhands. Sam and Gilly continue to Castle Black, while Bran's group go with Coldhands.
On the way, Coldhands kills five of the Mutineers, one of whom is presumably Ollo Lophand (the one who killed Lord Commander Mormont). Meera and Bran question him about himself and the one who sent him, but receive only ambiguous answers.
After going north for days, they finally reach the cave of the three-eyed crow. They are attacked by wights, but reach the cave without any casualties. Coldhands remains outside the cave due to the magic guarding it, which prevents dead things from entering. Bran is worried about Coldhands, but Leaf tells him "They killed him long ago".
Like the show version of Benjen, Coldhands is an undead former member of the Night's Watch, but (according to Leaf) he is centuries old, and also rides an elk instead of a horse.
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Stark entry
- "The Great Tourney at Harrenhal"
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Stark - Rickard Stark entry
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Stark - Brandon Stark entry
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Stark - Lyanna Stark entry
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Stark - Benjen Stark entry
- "Winter Is Coming"
- "The Kingsroad"
- "Lord Snow"
- "You Win or You Die"
- "The Pointy End"
- "Fire and Blood"
- "The North Remembers"
- "Mother's Mercy"
- "Blood of My Blood"
- "The Winds of Winter"
- "The Dragon and the Wolf"