The Red Wedding: Where a Bookie Cackles in Delight

Enjoy the wedding. (Source)
I have listened to wailing, hair pulling, and general shock about a little event called The Red Wedding, shown recently on a certain TV show called Game of Thrones. Actively followed by a lot of my friends. Dare I say, with a certain amount of glee and evil cackling, that I have been enjoying their comments and reactions immensely? *ducks head* We book lovers read about this event in A Storm of Swords in, wait for it..........the year 2000.

Even Jon Stewart appears to be a fan of the books,
and spoofs the Red Wedding on The Daily Show.
Yes, I do mean 13 very long years ago!!

So we've known for some time that this little pearler was going to happen on the show. Bookies were dying to know how it would translate onto the screen, since reading the scene had been pretty horrific for this fan. I mean, I might have slapped the book down a few times and cried, "How could George R.R. Martin do this to me?" Yet as I have continued to read, I have realised that it is all part of his cunning plan. I'm still along for the ride hook, line, and sinker.

If you've recovered sufficiently from the shock of watching these events play out before you, whether you were expecting them or not, click through to read my reader's perspective on this stunning scene.

If you are spoiler averse, it would be wise to not step over the jump. Spoilers are unavoidable.

Season 3 of Game of Thrones is over. What do we know now that the Red Wedding has taken place?

  • Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark are dead in the TV world.
  • Never trust a Frey.
  • The laws of hospitality do not apply.
  • The Lannisters have a price on their heads now. Thank you, Freys. Of course this has implications for my beloved Jaime Lannister later on in the books. Who knows how it will play out in TV land? *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* I know what is to come!

Dear, Tragic Robb Stark

Being noble and ruled by your penis both have a price. Old man Frey has bred enough bastards over the years that he was not going to let a slight go unnoticed. Marriage in Westeros is about political alliance. One of the many "rules" that the King in the North must observe if he was ever going to have any chance of success. Thus Robb's marriage to Jeyne Westerling (on the TV show his wife is Talisa) is a critical mistake. A critical mistake that old man Frey would not forgive. He was bound to look for other king pretenders to court. So while Robb was off winning battles and marrying, Frey was plotting his revenge. Robb Stark needed an alliance with the Lord of the Crossing to ensure he had enough troops to defeat the Lannisters, and he needed access to The Crossing due to its strategic position. Without these things, he would never be able to win the battle for Westeros. Robb's marriage virtually shat on his own team. Thus, from the instant of his marriage, his fate is sealed.

Wench Donna's Reaction

Well, I read the book, so I knew it was coming. I wasn't surprised, except when Robb's wife got stabbed in the stomach—since that wasn't in the book. It was kind of fun watching everyone have a meltdown on the Internet.

Wench Merit's Reaction

I felt very uneasy throughout the episode. From the time Robb went back on his promise, it was clear to me he was doomed. Yes, he was in love, but this was not the Stark way. Killing them all was too harsh, but I must say it was not that shocking. I've learned to expect it from GRRM.

Why Robb Stark was Doomed from Day One

In the books, George R.R. Martin's Robb Stark never has a point of view (POV). This is the first indication the reader gets that all is not going to be well in Robb's world. Sure, we have had POV characters die, but every other Stark child has a POV, except Rickon, who is too young for his thoughts to be required in the story. We must consider the lack of Robb's POV as a clear signal of his destiny, and that his fate is actually sealed before his marriage, from the first book. Everything we know about Robb is pretty much told from his mother Catelyn's POV. Hence everything is second hand. As such, we never get a glimpse into what Robb is actually thinking. We can interpret what he thinks and feels only through his actions. Which tell us that he is brilliant on the battlefield, much like his father Eddard Stark.

Via the medium of a TV show, Robb appears in the scenes like any other character. The only reading we get from any of the TV characters is what they say, and their facial expressions and body language. So no wonder TV viewers were shocked out of their socks. Viewers never had the advantage that readers had, with the glaring omission of no Robb POV.

We Want a Hero

I think part of the issue is that some viewers want the happy ending. There are now five children who have been left without their parents. (For my purposes here, let's include Jon as well. One way or the other, he is part Stark.) Ned is dead, Catelyn is dead, Jon Snow's parent/s I think are long dead. They are now all orphans and scattered across the landscape. As the story progresses, they continue to be separated. We want the hero to succeed, and to many viewers, Robb does seem like a hero early on. He wins early victories and, though young, has a head for strategy. It is the Stark family we are introduced to early on in the series, and for many, myself included, it is the Starks' story that we are invested in. Thus when Robb is killed, it is with a sense of disbelief by the reader and in turn the TV viewer. How could the author kill off a hero? How could the author kill off this young, vibrant man who was going to save Westeros for us? How could he kill off someone we wanted to keep the Stark flag alive since the death of Eddard Stark? Yet Eddard's death should have been another clue for us. We might have held grandiose beliefs that Robb would find his family, and they would all be reunited within the confines of Winterfell. After all, that is what the hero does in the movies we watch and the vast majority of books we read. But this is Westeros. No one is safe.

Wench Veronica's Reaction

My reaction to the Red Wedding scene, as someone who has not read the books. I guess I didn't learn from Ned's execution, but I really kept expecting ONE of the Starks to take someone out, escape, and survive. In a typical TV/movie sequence, that's what would have happened. At the very end I thought at least Robb or Catelyn were going to find a way out of this. So I was absolutely floored; I was in such shock that I couldn't process what I'd just seen. The Red Wedding is definitely going to affect how I approach the rest of the series, though, because I know for sure now that NO ONE is safe. No one.

Spoiler Alert

Let me give you a little spoiler if you are hoping for a Happily Ever After anytime soon. I've read through the end of book 5, and the Starks are not back together yet. Taylor Swift wrote a song about it, I believe: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Tongue in cheek, of course. Well, I hope so. My fingernails might not survive if somehow a couple of Starks don't end up seeing each other again, and I'm sure my liquor cabinet would be drained dry. I might have given up on Bran ever seeing his siblings again, but please, Martin, give me some peace. (Don't fret, Bran isn't dead. I love stringing people along who haven't read the series. I just want you to read and catch up to me, Wench Amanda!)

Wench Zee's Reaction

As someone who read the books years ago, I knew it was coming. But I had distanced myself from the books (and vowed not to pick them up again till GRRM was DONE!), so I guess it wasn't as fresh in my mind. Because it hurt watching it. I did smirk a little at my sis, who did not expect it (mainly because I have been telling her to read the books FOREVER!), but I was definitely WAY more attached to Richard Madden's King of the North than I was to Robb in the books. Plus, the violence was just... hard to watch. Especially stabbing his wife in the stomach repeatedly—ugh. Something I didn't expect since it wasn't a part of the books. The way he said "Mother"... damn.. you could feel his despair. It was heart wrenching. Even for someone who expected it. And it made me remember why I vowed to stay away from the story till GRRM was done massacring everyone.

Catelyn Stark

The death of Catelyn Stark was a bigger shock to me than Robb's. As a reader, we have had Catelyn eyewitness many events in the books. She has been our eyes when we have needed them in the Stark camp. However, with Robb's death, we no longer need Catelyn relating the story to us. Thus, our mirror into this aspect of the story is no longer required. We've also seen a mother making the choice to go off with her son, Robb, to act on his behalf. Meanwhile her daughters are "trapped" at King's Landing, and her two young sons are at home. Perhaps Catelyn thought her children would be safe, but the death of Ned Stark should have given her plenty of warning. She made the decision to stay with Robb, when really, in my opinion, she should have returned to Winterfell. I think that would have helped stave off events at Winterfell. Who knows? I know I thought that Catelyn's love and loyalty for Robb would have made it impossible for her to leave him. It's all hearsay, as her throat was cut and her part of this story is concluded.........

Wench Anne's Reaction

The Red Wedding is awful no matter what the medium. Reading or watching, there is no way around the fact that it is absolutely devastating for both the reader/viewer and the characters. I've told some of the Wenches this little anecdote since this episode came out, but I think it's pretty indicative of most people's reactions to the Red Wedding: I listened to the books on my 40-minute commute to and from work. So I was listening to this section in the car, crying and trying not to crash. I got home, stormed into the house, pointed my finger at my husband, and yelled "What the hell did you get me into?" He just laughed and said, "You got to the Red Wedding then, I assume." This is pretty much a perfect breakdown of first-time readers/viewers and people who know what's coming. As for the TV rendition of the Red Wedding, I think that hearing Catelyn's cries and watching Robb stagger over to Talisa made it even more horrible than reading (or just listening to) it. In the book, they just say that Catelyn cries out. You don't hear it. Hearing and seeing all of those emotions made it that much more real and that much more horrifying. And (!) starting the massacre with Talisa being stabbed multiple times in the stomach/womb was absolutely horrible. Robb's wife doesn't come to the Red Wedding in the books, so having her there in the show gave it that much more gravitas and emotion. All in all, I think the creators translated that scene really well from book to screen, even if some things were changed.

Significance of the Red Wedding

To the reader, it seemed like the Lannisters had finally won. With Robb dead, there is no one to rally the North. After all, where are his heirs? Let's remember that at this point Arya, Bran, and Rickon are all missing/presumed dead. The reader and viewer know differently; however, this fact remains hidden from many players in the game of thrones. Sansa is married to Tyrion, and Jon has his own problems along The Wall.

Does this mean the Lannisters have finally won? No. It means that chess pieces have merely been reassembled on the table and are ready for the next move.

Winter is Coming.

So did the Red Wedding send you into a tailspin of disbelief, or were you gleefully lapping it up because you know what was to come? Were you backing Robb Stark to be alive at the end?

Images from


  1. I had heard of The Red Wedding in ominous tones from people who were reading the books, and I knew characters they cared about died there. But I didn't know whose wedding it would be or who would die. I was not surprised, really, that it was at the Frey wedding, since it didn't happen at Sansa's and old man Frey did have a grudge to nurse. Though there were plenty of reasons I thought it could also have been Joffrey's.

    So it wasn't a complete surprise and I wasn't shocked by the deaths. I wasn't overly fond of Robb Stark and didn't think he was such a hot shot strategist either. He ignored good advice and did stupid things. Repeatedly. Like get married. He did not yet have the wisdom and maturity of decades of experience, like Tywin has. It was obvious to me he wasn't destined to win this game, and Eddard taught me that GRRM will kill anyone.

    But the brutality of the scene was absolutely horrific to view. I was stunned into silence for a long time. There are scenes I will never be able to clear from my mind and wish I could. Like the pregnant belly, the fountains of jugular spray, the direwolf head atop Robb's body (one of the hardest things for me to watch is "killing" the animals), and finally the way Catelyn just stood there completely and utterly defeated for what seemed like soooooo long. Still makes me cry to type about it all.

    I am absolutely amazed that so many folks who had not read the books were able to remain spoiler free and thus be tortured like this! This was a huge deal for you bookies to be able to keep mum about, and I appreciate your efforts. I'll even forgive your cackling at my tears. ;-)

    1. Kathi, I think we had been harden and had so long to get use to the event, plus so few people had read the books compared to the explosion of book sales since the tv series came out.

  2. Angela, your post is a real treat,you gave me a deeper understanding of the story.I plan to read the books when I retire,when I'll have a lot of free time.

    1. I'm sure you won't be disappointed Merit. :-)

  3. Kathi--I'd heard whisperings of the Red Wedding, too. And I was hoping upon hope that it was about Joffrey's wedding. Alas, twas not to be.

    The thing that strikes me about the Starks--and I guess this means mostly Eddard, Robb, and Catelyn--is that they are always concerned with doing the right and moral/ethical thing, vs the thing that is the most right for their family and their survival. And so far that's gotten them absolutely nowhere.

    And then you have the Lannisters, with Tywin putting strategy above all else. I wonder where that will get them, in the end?

    I've heard Daenerys is portrayed somewhat differently on the show than in the books, but so far she seems to be some sort of balance between strategy and doing what is morally "right." Still, though, based on what's happened so far I'm still waiting for some gigantic wrench to get thrown into her plans. Season 3 was entirely too good to her.

    1. Veronica, the tv series definitely portrays Danys in a better light than the books in my opinion, mainly because there is only 10 episodes a season, but honestly in the books it is hard, for me at least, to not be yawning as I was reading her scenes from Book 3 onwards. I found them a tad boring, the beauty of tv is it doesn't have that time to make something boring when there are so many characters, whose story needs to be told in a short space of time.


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