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"Any man who stands between a father and his vengeance asks for death!"
―Rickard Karstark[src]

Lord Rickard Karstark was the Lord of Karhold and the head of House Karstark, a vassal of House Stark.



Rickard Karstark is the Lord of Karhold and the head of House Karstark, a vassal family to House Stark of Winterfell. He is a close ally and distant relation of House Stark.[1] He has three sons, Torrhen Karstark,[2] Harrion Karstark,[3] and Harald Karstark, and one granddaughter, Alys Karstark.

Season 1

Lord Karstark listens to the debate between Robb, Jonos Bracken and Greatjon Umber about whether they should join forces with Renly or Stannis. When the Greatjon names Robb as the King in the North and lays his sword at his feet, Rickard is the second to join him, saying he'll have peace on those terms.[4]

Season 2

Rickard listens as Alton Lannister delivers the Queen's response to their peace terms.

Rickard Karstark is among Robb's host in the Westerlands and is present when Alton Lannister gives Cersei's response to Robb's peace terms, including the independence of the North, which she rejects. Karstark's son Torrhen is later killed by Jaime during an escape attempt. After Jaime's recapture, Rickard demands Jaime's execution in revenge for the murder of his son, but Catelyn speaks for his life.

Rickard argues with Catelyn.

After Lord Rickard's threatening reaction, she reminds him that he has sworn an oath of loyalty to Robb and that Jaime is a prisoner of war. She says that he should remember who his king is and who she is. She promises him that Jaime will be punished for what he did. Reluctantly Lord Karstark gives in, but demands retribution when his King returns from the Crag. During the confrontation with Lady Catelyn, Lord Rickard also dismisses Talisa as a "foreign bitch".[2]

An angered Rickard confronts Catelyn.

Catelyn sends Jaime to King's Landing with her sworn sword Brienne to exchange him for her captive daughters, fearing that Rickard or his men will kill him if he remains in the camp. He is furious that she has denied him his vengeance and rejects her argument that Jaime may yet save the lives of her children, adding that he personally would happily exchange his life for those of his deceased children, Torrhen and Harrion, even if it meant captivity for them. Robb tells Catelyn that she has betrayed him and orders her kept under guard.[5]

Season 3

Rickard and Roose Bolton find the slaughtered prisoners at Harrenhal.

Rickard's faith in Robb continues to deteriorate as the Northern host arrives at Harrenhal, finding the castle's inhabitants had been put to the sword. Roose Bolton attempts to reassure Rickard, telling him that he has sent his best hunter in pursuit of Jaime, and that the dead will be avenged in time. Karstark, however, is clearly unconvinced, losing confidence in Robb's sense of leadership and the possibility of a Northern victory.[6]

Rickard and Robb discuss the movement of troops to Riverrun.

Lord Karstark manifests his disapproval of the march to Riverrun for the funeral of Hoster Tully, considering it a distraction from the war effort. When questioned by Robb if he has lost faith in the Northern cause, Lord Karstark insists that if the cause is revenge he will keep faith "until it snows in Dorne", but adds that he believes Robb lost the war the day he married Talisa, a political nobody with no influence in Westeros.[7]

Rickard and his men kill Martyn and Willem Lannister in the dungeons of Riverrun and are brought before Robb Stark. He openly insults the King in the North and claims the war is a lost cause. Remaining true to his honor just like his father, Robb decides that Lord Karstark must die for his treason. Though Edmure, Talisa, and Catelyn attempt to advise Robb to hold Karstark hostage and send him to the Night's Watch after the war - on the basis that the Karstarks form a significant portion of Robb's army, and they will abandon Robb if he executes their lord. Despite the warnings of all of his councilors, Robb refuses to listen.

Rickard is executed for treason by Robb.

Before he is executed, Karstark reminds Robb that the blood of the First Men run through both of their veins; that he fought alongside Eddard during Robert's Rebellion and alongside Robb himself against Joffrey; finally, he states that they are both kin, since House Karstark was founded by Karlon Stark. Robb tells him that all of it didn't stop him from murdering the Lannister boys and it will not save him now. Rickard states contemptuously that he does not want to be saved, but he wants it to haunt him for the rest of his days. True to the traditions of the North and his father, Robb personally beheads Karstark with a single strike of his sword after Rickard curses Robb and renounces all allegiance to him.[3]

In the aftermath, the Karstark forces abandon Robb and return home. In the meantime, while he is being tortured in the Dreadfort, Theon incorrectly assumes Ramsay Snow to be Rickard's son, keeping him prisoner on Rickard's orders, since he is Robb's bannerman, remaining unaware that Rickard has been executed.

Season 6

Rickard is mentioned by his last living son Harald when he meets with the Boltons at Winterfell. Harald makes it clear that his House will never support the Starks again after Robb executed his father. Despite the fact that Roose avenged his father by killing Robb at the Red Wedding, Harald makes no attempt to intervene when Ramsay kills Roose after the birth of his half-brother, whom Ramsay also murders along with his stepmother, Walda Bolton.[8]

While planning to counter the Boltons' claim to the North, Sansa expresses her belief that the Karstarks will support them when they learn of Jon's resurrection, but Davos reminds her that Rickard was executed by Robb, which is likely why Rickard's last surviving son has sided with the Starks' enemies and not out of ignorance as Sansa had hoped.[9]


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 2 appearances
The North Remembers The Night Lands What Is Dead May Never Die Garden of Bones The Ghost of Harrenhal
The Old Gods and the New A Man Without Honor The Prince of Winterfell Blackwater Valar Morghulis
Game of Thrones: Season 3 appearances
Valar Dohaeris Dark Wings, Dark Words Walk of Punishment And Now His Watch Is Ended Kissed by Fire
The Climb The Bear and the Maiden Fair Second Sons The Rains of Castamere Mhysa

Family tree


Lady Karstark



Lady Karstark



Spoken by Rickard
"I'll have peace on those terms. They can keep their red castle and their iron chair too! The King in the North!"
―Rickard declares Robb Stark the King in the North after Greatjon Umber's declaration.[src]
Rickard Karstark: "Stand back! I want his head! (Stark soldiers block Rickard's way) Any man who stands between a father and his vengeance asks for death!"
Catelyn Stark: "Lord Karstark! This man is our prisoner!"
Rickard Karstark: "This monster killed my son!"
Catelyn Stark: "And crippled mine!"
— Rickard and Catelyn about Jaime Lannister.[src]
Rickard Karstark: "Where is our King now?"
Catelyn Stark: "You know very well! He has gone to the Crag to accept their surrender!"
Rickard Karstark: "Aye, gone to the Crag, but not to negotiate! He took that foreign bitch with him!"
Catelyn Stark: "How dare you!"
— Rickard and Catelyn about Robb.[src]
Brienne of Tarth: "To threaten my lady is an act of treason!"
Rickard Karstark: "Treason!? How can it be treason to kill Lannisters!?"
— Rickard and Brienne of Tarth[src]
Catelyn Stark: "Wise men do not make demands from Kings."
Rickard Karstark: "Fathers who love their sons do. I'll have his head!"
— Rickard shows his desire to kill Jaime Lannister.[src]
Rickard Karstark: "I lost one son, fighting by your son's side. I lost another to the Kingslayer, strangled with a chain. And you commit treason because your children are prisoners? I would carve out my heart and offer it to the Father if he would let my sons wake from their graves and step into a prison cell."
Catelyn Stark: "I grieve for your sons, my lord..."
Rickard Karstark: "I don't want your grief, I want my vengeance, and you stole it from me."
— Rickard to Catelyn Stark on releasing Jaime.[src]
Rickard Karstark: "200 Northmen slaughtered like sheep."
Roose Bolton: "The debt will be repaid, my friend. For them, and for your sons."
Rickard Karstark: "Will it? They rot in the ground while their killer runs free."
Roose Bolton: "The Kingslayer won't remain free for long. My best hunter's after him."
— Rickard and Roose Bolton[src]
Rickard Karstark: "We're at war. This march is a distraction."
Robb Stark: "My grandfather's funeral is not a distraction."
Rickard Karstark: "Are we riding to battle at Riverrun?"
Robb Stark: "No."
Rickard Karstark: "Then it's a distraction."
— Rickard Karstark about Hoster Tully's funeral.[src]
Robb Stark: "Have you lost faith in our cause?"
Rickard Karstark: "If it's revenge, I've still got faith in it."
Robb Stark: "If you no longer believe....."
Rickard Karstark: "I can believe until it snows in Dorne, but it don't change the fact. We don't have the men."
— Rickard Karstark and Robb Stark.[src]
Rickard Karstark: "May I speak my mind, Your Grace?"
Robb Stark: "Have you not been "speaking your mind", Lord Karstark?"
Rickard Karstark: "I think you lost this war the day you married her."
— Rickard Karstark and Robb Stark.[src]
"It's treason to free your enemies! In war, you kill your enemies! Did your father not teach you that, boy!?"
―Rickard to Robb Stark[src]
"Leave me to the King. He wants to give me a scolding before he sets me free. That's how he deals with treason. Our King in the North. Or should I call him 'the King who lost the North'?"
―Rickard to Brynden Tully[src]
Rickard Karstark: "The blood of the First Men flows in my veins as much as yours, boy. I fought the Mad King for your father. I fought Joffrey for you. We are kin, Stark and Karstark."
Robb Stark: "That didn't stop you from betraying me, and it won't save you now."
Rickard Karstark: "I don't want it to save me. I want it to haunt you to the end of your days."
— Rickard expresses his disdain to Robb before his execution.[src]
"Kill me and be cursed! You are no King of mine!"
―Rickard's last words to Robb[src]
Spoken about Rickard
Robb Stark: "I'm not fighting for justice if I don't serve justice to murderers in my ranks, no matter how high-born! He has to die."
Catelyn Stark: "The Karstarks are Northmen. They won't forgive the killing of their Lord!"
Talisa Stark: "Your mother's right. If you do this, the Karstarks will abandon you."
— Catelyn and Talisa warn Robb of what will happen if he executes Rickard.
Catelyn Stark: "Spare his life, keep him as a hostage."
Edmure Tully: "A hostage. Tell the Karstarks that as long as they remain loyal, he will not be harmed."
— Catelyn and Edmure strongly advise Robb to keep Rickard as a hostage to no avail.[src]

Behind the scenes

Originally Vinnie McCabe had been announced in the role of Rickard Karstark, however he turned out to be playing a Lannister bannerman, Leo Lefford, in the same episode as Karstark's debut. Steven Blount appeared as a Stark bannerman in "Fire and Blood."[4] Blount's character was given lines spoken by Rickard Karstark in the book and his CV lists him as playing Lord Karstark.[10] For the second season it was announced that John Stahl was playing Rickard Karstark.[11] Stahl was named on screen as Lord Karstark in "A Man Without Honor."[2]

Bryan Cogman acknowledged that Rickard Karstark worships the Old Gods, so his line that he would cut his own heart out and offer it to the Father (one of the Seven) if it would bring his sons back is an error; Cogman reconciled this by saying that Lord Rickard's line should be understood as simply being very sarcastic, i.e. equivalent to if he had said "I'd rip out my heart and offer it up to the Great Stallion of the Dothraki if it would bring my sons back."

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Rickard Karstark is the ruling lord of House Karstark of Karhold. Their lands are along a heavily-forested headland far to the north-east of Winterfell, overlooking the Shivering Sea. He is named for Eddard Stark's father, and fought in Robert's Rebellion alongside his liege lord. He has four children: Harrion, Torrhen, Eddard (named after Eddard Stark) and Alys (who is in the television series depicted as Rickard's granddaughter).

Rickard is described as gaunt and long-bearded, and Jon Snow implies he is a fierce warrior. According to his daughter Alys, Rickard never bellowed like the Greatjon, but he was no less dangerous in his wroth.

Two of Lord Rickard's sons, Torrhen and Eddard, are struck down by Jaime in the Battle of the Whispering Wood, while he kills Stafford Lannister at the Battle of Oxcross. Lord Rickard's mention of losing a son to Jaime prior to Torrhen's death seems to reference Eddard's death at the Whispering Wood. Though clearly angered that Jaime is kept alive, Lord Rickard doesn't openly demand the execution of Jaime. Catelyn's decision to send Jaime back to King's Landing isn't caused by Karstark's actions (nor has she been prompted to do that by Littlefinger or anyone else), but of fear that Joffrey may execute Sansa on a whim, and of despair for losing Bran and Rickon, whom she believes Theon has killed. Lord Rickard is enraged at Catelyn for releasing Jaime, grows even more furious when Robb forgives Catelyn for her action, and eventually murders the hostages Willem Lannister and his cousin Tion Frey (the latter has been replaced by Martyn Lannister in the show). Robb subsequently executes Rickard, and as a result the Karstark troops abandon him.

Rickard is succeeded by his son Harrion, who is currently held prisoner by the Lannisters and his whereabouts are unknown (it is uncertain if he is still alive). Arnolf, Rickard's uncle and the castellan of Karhold, tries to take advantage of the situation in order to take over Karhold: he announces in public that he supports Stannis (while he actually collaborates with the Boltons), hoping that the Lannisters will react by executing Harrion, then Rickard's daughter Alys will become the heiress of Karhold; Arnolf plans to force Alys to marry his son Cregan, thereby to claim Karhold legally. Alys escapes from Karhold, arrives at Castle Black and tells Jon about her great-uncle's treachery. Jon immediately sends Tycho Nestoris to warn Stannis of the traitor in his host, and he does. Arnolf's scheme is foiled: Stannis arrests him, and Alys is wed to Sigorn son of Styr.

Rickard's execution has severe consequences in the books; while the TV series make it clear that all of the Karstark forces abandoned Robb, it is implied in the books that the few Karstarks, who remained with Robb following Rickard's execution, played a role in the Red Wedding.

See also