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"House Stark, The Kings of Winter" is the sixth chapter of Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season. It is narrated by Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Harry Lloyd as King Viserys Targaryen.

Synopsis

Sansa Stark relates the story of how her ancestor Torrhen Stark earned the nickname, "The King Who Knelt."

Narration

Sansa Stark: With most of the South in Aegon's hands, the best chance to throw back the Conqueror now lay with the North, if we cared enough to try. Unlike our southern rivals, the Stark Kings of Winter didn't force the North into one kingdom for glory or gold (there was little of either here), but to survive.

Alone in Westeros, the North remembered when worse than dragons lay waste to armies. Thousands of years ago, the sun set on the realms of men and the Long Night began. A new race emerged from the ice and snow: the White Walkers. They demanded no crown, offered no terms, spared no life, and the dead marched with them. With humanity facing extinction, a Stark sought out the Children of the Forest, the most ancient beings in Westeros, and convinced them to ally with the men they'd once fought.

Together, the two races pushed the Walkers back into the Land of Always Winter and sealed it off from the Seven Kingdoms with the Wall, three hundred miles of ice, stone, and earth rising nearly seven hundred feet tall. To guard it, they established the Night's Watch, a brotherhood sworn to defend the living from the dead, whose vows erase both titles and crime.

Viserys Targaryen: After the Long Night, the North tried to forget it belonged to a continent. Perhaps through pride, perhaps through sheer ignorance. You never can tell with the North. But as news of Aegon's dragons spread, Torrhen Stark, the King of Winter, knew he couldn't forget Westeros any longer and summoned his lords to Winterfell. Many fools shrugged off the threat while the rest placed wages on how long the South would take to burn. Torrhen silenced them with a command to assemble their armies and descend from the North in force.

Sansa: As the kings of the Rock and the Reach burned on the Field of Fire, the greatest Northern force since the Long Night crossed the Neck into the Riverlands. But when King Torrhen arrived at the Trident, he saw on the opposing riverbank the combined strength of all Aegon's conquered kingdoms. A force larger than Torrhen's own by half, and with three dragons.

Viserys: That night, King Torrhen called a conference of all his lords and advisors. Some wanted to fight and trust Northern valor to carry the day (and burn on the Trident). The wisest of them wanted to withdraw to Moat Cailin, the fortress which had thrown back every southern invasion (and burn there). One suicidal lord even wanted to ambush Aegon's camp in the dark and kill the dragons as they slept, or at the very least their riders. Hard to tell what would have been his fate. Burning? Beheading? Dismemberment? Perhaps all three.

Sansa: My ancestor listened to their counsel, and in the morning crossed the Trident under a flag of parley. Then King Torrhen of House Stark laid his ancient crown at Aegon's feet and was named Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.

Viserys: And the King Who Knelt.

Sansa: He had no choice, and thanks to him our soldiers returned to their homes whole and unharmed. The swords that Aegon took from them were not twisted, burnt or mangled.

Viserys: Yet.

Notes

  • The "suicidal lord" who volunteered to sneak into the Targaryen camp at night, to kill the three dragons (or at least, their three riders) was actually Torrhen Stark's own bastard half-brother, Brandon Snow.
  • Sansa says that by the time Torrhen reached the Trident, the Targaryen host - now swelled by armies from all the southern kingdoms that had submitted to him - was half again as large as his own. The books say that Torrhen's northern host was 30,000 strong, and thus by that point the Targaryen army had swelled to 45,000. The Targaryens only had 3,000 men at their initial landing, at the mouth of the Blackwater; the Riverlords willingly joined them, adding somewhere between 5,000 to 8,000 men, but the combined Targaryen army at the Field of Fire only numbered 11,000 - many of them lords who bent the knee in prior conquests (and of dubious loyalty). Robb Stark, meanwhile, marched south during the War of the Five Kings with 20,000 men - he had fewer men than Torrhen because Robb had to hurry south, but Torrhen spent more time gathering men from across the large distances of the North. This also highlights how utterly decisive Aegon's conquest was due to his dragons: starting with a scant 3,000 men, and three dragons, he conquered the Seven Kingdoms - but Robb, with 20,000 men and no dragons, faced a protracted war against his enemies in the south.
    • Daenerys Targaryen was hesitant to immediately invade Westeros after capturing Meereen, despite having a larger army of 8,000 Unsullied (compared to Aegon I's 3,000), because she only had juvenile dragons not yet big enough to ride, and she was their only rider (meaning two wouldn't have the direction of a rider). In contrast, Aegon I had three adult dragons, each with a rider, who could thus split up and pursue three different objectives at once.

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