- "The Starks lost my house the day King Robb cut off my father's head. It's time for new blood in the North."
- ―Harald Karstark to Roose Bolton
Lord Harald Karstark was the youngest son of Lord Rickard Karstark and the new head of House Karstark and Lord of Karhold after his father's execution by Robb Stark and the deaths of his two older brothers, Harrion and Torrhen Karstark, during the War of the Five Kings.
Following Robb's death at the Red Wedding, Harald declares for House Bolton, the new Great House of the North. Harald later answers Roose Bolton's call for help after Sansa Stark's escape from Winterfell against eventual Lannister retribution, and pledges allegiance to Roose's son, Ramsay Bolton, after Ramsay kills every last member of his own family and usurps control over the North. Harald later participates in battle against the forces of Jon Snow, where he ultimately perishes.
Harald is the youngest son of Rickard Karstark and younger brother of Harrion and Torrhen Karstark. When his father and brothers followed Robb Stark into war against House Lannister, Harald remained behind at Karhold as its castellan. However, following the deaths of his two brothers earlier in the war, and then his father's execution at the hands of Robb Stark for treason, Harald became the new head of House Karstark and forswore his allegiance to Robb, summoning the Karstark forces back to Karhold.
Harald appears before Roose Bolton and his son Ramsay at Winterfell, reporting that his men had found the remains of the Bolton hunting party that was sent to track down Sansa and Theon. Harald nods in agreement when Ramsay proposes that they storm Castle Black to retrieve Sansa and kill Jon Snow. He counsels Roose that, despite being a bastard, Jon still presents a threat to the Boltons' rule of the North as Eddard Stark's last surviving son. He affirms his house's loyalty to House Bolton, saying that he will never follow a Stark again after Robb executed his father. When Maester Wolkan arrives to announce that Walda Bolton has given birth to a boy, Harald congratulates Roose but then witnesses Ramsay quickly kill his father to save himself from being disinherited in favor of his new trueborn half-brother. When Ramsay orders Wolkan to send ravens bearing false news that Roose was poisoned by his enemies, Harald chastises Wolkan for failing to address Ramsay as "Lord", and makes no effort to dissuade Ramsay from murdering Walda and her baby as well.
Harald and Ramsay later meet with Smalljon Umber, the new Lord of Last Hearth. Harald notes that the Umbers are loyal to House Stark, but Smalljon retorts by noting that the Karstarks share blood with the Starks, yet Harald is now pledged to Ramsay Bolton. Harald casts doubt on the possibility of the wildlings taking Winterfell, but Smalljon says that, with Jon in command, it would be possible. When Smalljon brings in Osha and Rickon Stark, he quips that Harald has an interest in young boys, visibly angering him.
When news of the Karstarks and Umbers declaring for Ramsay reaches Sansa at Castle Black, she says the Umbers can hang for giving her brother to Ramsay but the Karstarks did so without knowing that they had "another choice." However, Davos reminds her of Robb's folly when he executed Harald's father.
Harald accompanies Ramsay to a parley with Jon and Sansa, and departs with his Lord back to Winterfell when negotiations turn sour. He later leads his army into battle at the Battle of the Bastards, and leads the cavalry charge when Jon is standing all by himself in the middle of the battlefield. However, they are met head on by the Stark cavalry, and fired upon by their own archers on Ramsay's orders. Harald is killed in the ensuing carnage.
In a meeting with the Lords of the North, following Harald's death, his daughter, Alys Karstark has become the new Lady of Karhold. Despite Harald's treachery, Jon forgives House Karstark when Alys swears fealty to House Stark.
Harald is shown to be a calculating, calm and vengeful man who harbors a deep hatred for House Stark after Robb executed his father, even though his house is a cadet branch of House Stark; the founder of his house had himself been a younger Stark son who earned his lands and titles as a reward for helping to put down a rebellion by House Bolton. Despite the fact that Roose had killed the man who executed his father, Harald inexplicably shows no surprise and makes no attempt to intervene when Roose is killed by his own son Ramsay. He also makes no effort to dissuade Ramsay from murdering Walda and her baby as well, even though their deaths would have most likely led to a conflict with House Frey had they ever found out before Ramsay's defeat.
|Season Six 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|
Behind the Scenes
The Behind the Scenes featurette (at 3.08 mn) of the Battle of the Bastards, show that while Lord Umber is later leading the infantry, the man leading the Bolton cavalry is in fact Lord Karstark. After Ramsay orders his cavalry to attack the lonely Jon Snow, Karstark is the officer leading the charge. The Bolton/Karstark cavalry is seemingly wiped out during the initial clash with the Stark cavalry ironically due in large part to Ramsay ordering his own archers to fire on them, but HBO Viewer's Guide does not list Harald Karstark as deceased, unlike the cases of Ramsay Bolton and Smalljon Umber.
Harald's fate was revealed in the Season 7 premiere as having simply died in battle.
- Spoken by Harald
- "You're talking to your Lord. Show some respect."
- ―Harald to Maester Wolkan
- Spoken about Harald
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, there is no "Harald Karstark" - he is a condensation of different Karstark characters from the books, such as Arnolf Karstark, Harrion Karstark and Alys Karstark.
In the novels, Rickard Karstark had three sons: his eldest son and heir Harrion was captured by the Lannisters at the battle of Duskendale, while his other two sons Torrhen and Eddard were killed in the Battle of the Whispering Wood by Jaime. Rickard also has a daughter named Alys. The TV series changed this around somewhat: instead of Torrhen and Eddard dying, it is stated - by name - that "Harrion" and "Torrhen" died, and no mention is made of Eddard Karstark - possibly to avoid the confusion of introducing another character named "Eddard" after Eddard Stark (Martin intentionally re-used first names for several characters because he thought it would be contrived if no one had the same name in an entire continent).
Due to the actor's young age, "Harald Karstark" in the TV version seems to be a condensation of Arnolf and Harrion from the books: Arnolf's status as the new ruler of House Karstark who is more willing to tolerate Bolton rule, and Harrion's status as Rickard's surviving son - thus saving the screentime it would have taken to introduce the internal politics of House Karstark from the book version.
After Robb Stark executes Rickard in the novels, the Karstark forces abandon him and return back to the North - and because Harrion is still a Lannister prisoner, Rickard's uncle Arnolf becomes acting head of House Karstark. Because the Karstark army did not remain in the south, it was not present at the Red Wedding to be destroyed along with the rest of the Northern army. This makes the Karstarks politically important in the post-Red Wedding North, as they are the only major Northern House (other than the Boltons) with their standing army still relatively intact - thus the Lannisters want to ensure that they maintain political leverage over them. Even after the Red Wedding, therefore, Rickard's surviving son and heir Harrion continues to be kept prisoner by the Lannisters - a tacit arrangement with Arnolf, who is much more willing to have House Karstark tolerate Bolton rule over the North when his new status as leader of his family is dependent on the Lannisters not releasing his great-nephew from captivity.
Arnolf is introduced in the fifth novel. He is not Lord, but the castellan of Karhold, though he's referred to as "Lord Arnolf" as a courtesy - similarly to how Varys or Tyrion are addressed as "Lord" despite not holding any lordships. He is described as thin and twisted, one of his shoulders is much higher than the other. His eyes are grey and greedy, his teeth yellow, his forked beard a tangle of snow and silver. Only a few wisps of white hair still cling to his spotted skull. He wears a cloak of grey wool trimmed with black sable and fastened at the shoulder with a starburst wrought in beaten silver. According to Jon, Arnolf has never been, even in his youth, the fighter Rickard was. Theon, who saw Arnolf briefly at Dreadfort, considers him as "a poor excuse for a man".
In the books, Harrion was taken captive by the Lannisters in the Battle of Duskendale. He was imprisoned in Maidenpool, but it has been almost a year since his surviving kin received news about it, and it is uncertain if he is still alive. It is unknown if in the books he was still loyal to the Starks after his father's execution: Robb was certain that would turn Harrion against him, because "the North remembers", even though the execution would make Harrion the Lord of Karhold. Indeed, the show character Harald reacts the way Robb predicted Harrion would. Arnolf, however, does not seek to avenge his nephew's death, nor does he hold any particular grudge against the Starks; he is interested only in his own goals, which are to destroy Stannis and to take over Karhold.
The books reveal how Harrion's sister Alys, also disinherited by Arnolf's new rule, feels about Robb for killing her father: she resents him, stating "I thought the whole reason they marched south was to kill some Lannisters". She knows for what crime her father was executed, but it does not make a difference for her. But, since Jon belongs to the Night's Watch, there is no blood feud between them, and she asks his help to save her from her great-uncle, who plots to force her to marry his own son so that he can claim Karhold legally.
In A Dance with Dragons, Arnolf is the only lord who declares for Stannis in his campaign to take Winterfell from the Boltons, though he is secretly working with the Boltons to betray Stannis at the right time. He pushes Stannis to attack the Dreadfort, but Jon (unaware of Arnolf's treachery) advises him otherwise, saving him from Arnolf's trap. Much later, Alys arrives at the Wall, having escaped from Karhold, and warns Jon of Arnolf's impending betrayal. Jon arranges for Alys to marry Sigorn, the Magnar of the Thenns and Styr's successor, and sends Tycho Nestoris to meet up with Stannis and warn him. In The Winds of Winter, Stannis has learned in time and taken Arnolf and his co-conspirators prisoner, intending to execute them for their betrayal when the time comes.
Harald's death in the television series puts him in sync with Eddard Karstark's fate in the novels.
In the television series, Smalljon Umber quips that Harald "likes young boys". So far in the novels, there is no mention that any member of House Karstark is either homosexual or a pedophile.
|Lord:||None, extinct||Heir:||None, extinct|
|Title(s):||Lord of Karhold|
|Ancestors:||Brandon the Builder · Rodrik Stark · Karlon Stark · Beric Karstark · Mara Karstark · Commard Karstark · Regan Karstark · Berrican Karstark · Petyr Karstark · Laurence Karstark · Jon Karstark · Uthor Karstark|
|Deceased members:||Rickard Karstark · Torrhen Karstark · Harrion Karstark · Harald Karstark · Alys Karstark|