House Karstark

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House Karstark of Karhold
House Karstark.svg
The Sun of Winter
Coat of arms A white sunburst on black
(Sable, a sunburst argent)
Seat Karhold
Region North
Title Lord of Karhold[1]
Heir Alys Karstark
Founder Karlon Stark
Founded "a thousand years ago"
(Possibly around ~700 BC)[N 1]

House Karstark of Karhold is a noble house from Karhold in the north. They were founded as a cadet branch of their overlords, the Starks of Winterfell, and are among their principal bannermen.[1] Their blazon is a white sunburst on black[2] and their motto is "The Sun of Winter".[3]


Karstarks are big, fierce men, bearded and long-haired, with brown hair and blue-grey eyes.[2][4] Lord Rickard Karstark and his daughter, Alys, have long, narrow faces.[5][6]

Karstarks and their men wear thick cloaks made of the pelts of seals, bears, and wolves, or black woolen cloaks patterned with the white sunburst.[2][4] Karstark soldiers wear black iron halfhelms,[2] mail hauberks or shirts of sewn rings, and heavy boots.[4] Lord Rickard wears black mail.[5] Karstark warhorns sound deep and mournful.[7]


The Karstarks descend from Karlon Stark, a younger son of Winterfell. Possibly around 700 BC,[N 1] Karlon put down a rebel lord and was granted lands for his valor.[4] The castle he built near the Grey Cliffs was named Karl's Hold, but that soon became Karhold, and over the centuries the Karhold Starks became Karstarks.[4]

Over the centuries, several Karstarks have wed Starks. These include Margaret Karstark, who was wed to Bennard Stark, the second son of Lord Benjen Stark, with whom she had three sons; Alys Karstark, who was wed to Lord Brandon Stark, with whom she had three children; And Lysara Karstark, who was wed to Alys's grandson Artos Stark, whom she gave two sons.[8]

During Robert's Rebellion, Lord Rickard Karstark fought alongside Lord Eddard Stark at the Battle of the Trident.[4]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

The Karstarks answer the summons of Robb Stark when he calls the banners of the north. Led by Lord Rickard Karstark and his sons, Harrion, Eddard, and Torrhen, they bring three hundred horse and near two thousand foot to Winterfell, singing hymns and marching to the rhythm of a big drum. The Karstark family enters the castle to pay their respects to the Starks.[2]

On the march south, the Karhold men quarter in the Drunkard's Tower at Moat Cailin. Catelyn Stark warns her son Robb that he cannot seem indecisive in front of men like Lord Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark.[9] When the Stark host splits at the Twins, Rickard's heir Harrion leads the Karstark spears with Lord Bolton's infantry, while Rickard and his other sons accompany Robb with their cavalry.[10]

Eddard and Torrhen are two of the thirty sons of lords who ride with the Young Wolf during the battle in the Whispering Wood, where the brothers are killed by Ser Jaime Lannister.[7]

Among others, Tyrion Lannister sees the Karstark sunburst among the enemy banners in the Green Fork. He follows Ser Gregor Clegane's charge against a double crescent of Karstark spearmen waiting behind tall oaken shields with the sigil of Karhold. Harrion is captured during this battle on the Green Fork and brought to Harrenhal.[10]

Rickard desires vengeance for his sons, but Jaime is needed as a prisoner. After the Battle of the Camps, Lord Karstark is seen by Catelyn praying at Riverrun's godswood with Robb and other followers of the old gods. He is perceived by Catelyn as a man in a nightmare, gaunt and hollow-eyed in his grief. Rickard remains loyal and is the second man to proclaim Robb the King in the North after Lord Greatjon Umber.[11]

A Clash of Kings

The Karstarks are one of the families with ties to House Hornwood through the female line, and thus one of the houses interested on the inheritance of the Hornwood lands after the deaths of Lord Halys Hornwood and his heir, Daryn.[12]

Lord Karstark campaigns with Robb through the westerlands, driving a lance through Ser Stafford Lannister's chest at the Battle of Oxcross[13] and raiding along the coast thereafter along with Galbart Glover.[14]

Tyrion Lannister, the acting Hand of the King, plans to exchange Harrion Karstark and Ser Wylis Manderly for Willem Lannister, but the negotiations fail. Harrion is released from captivity after the fall of Harrenhal to Lord Roose Bolton.[15] Roose sends him as part of Robett Glover and Ser Helman Tallhart's force to take Duskendale.[16]

Theon Greyjoy notices few Karstark banners among the army commanded by Rodrik that gathers at Winterfell to expel the ironmen. They are betrayed by Ramsay Snow and the garrison of the Dreadfort during the battle at Winterfell, however.[17]

A Storm of Swords

After the Sack of Winterfell, Bran Stark considers going to the Umbers or the Karstarks, whom he considers loyal. He remembers that his father Eddard Stark always said Karhold was a strong castle.[18]

In the battle at Duskendale, Harrion is captured by Lord Randyll Tarly's army, and he then is held at Maidenpool.[19] Some of the Karstark foot that survive the battle rejoin Roose Bolton's forces.[20]

Lord Karstark returns to Riverrun from the westerlands with the rest of Robb's army. Finding that Catelyn Stark had freed Ser Jaime Lannister from captivity in an effort to retrieve her daughters, Sansa and Arya, Rickard feels she has robbed him of his vengeance. Driven to desperation, he and seven of his men murder the captive squires Tion Frey and Willem Lannister, killing two Tully men and injuring three Umbers in the process.[4] Meanwhile, he sends his cavalry to scour the riverlands for Jaime, as Rickard has promised the hand of his daughter Alys to whomever brings him Jaime's head.[21]

For his crime, Robb Stark sentences Rickard to death and beheads him. In his speech before his execution, Rickard appeals to his and his family's loyalty to House Stark, and he curses Robb with an accusation of kinslaying due to the ancient relation between Karstarks and Starks.[4]

Karstark men search the crownlands and riverlands, including Acorn Hall,[22] Blackbottom Bend,[22] the Hayford road,[22] Sallydance,[22] and Sow's Horn.[23] Maidenpool,[24] Stoney Sept,[25] and an unnamed village[24] are attacked by northmen, possibly Karstarks. Jaime is eventually captured by the Brave Companions and brought to Lord Bolton at Harrenhal.[26] To protect Jaime from roving Karstarks, Roose has Steelshanks Walton escort the Kingslayer from Harrenhal to King's Landing.[27]

Some Karstark infantry are part of the force that Lord Bolton keeps with him after the fighting at the fords of the Trident. They march with Roose to the Twins for the wedding between Lord Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey,[20] and the incognito Arya hears their songs in the tents outside the castles.[28] During the Red Wedding, mailed men in shaggy fur cloaks—presumably Karstarks or Boltons—join the slaughter of men loyal to Robb, such as Smalljon Umber.[29]

Maester Aemon sends a raven to Karhold in a plea for help to defend Castle Black from wildlings.[30]

A Feast for Crows

Brienne of Tarth spots the badge of House Karstark among those that have been collected from the dead around Duskendale.[31]

Ser Roger Hogg, the Knight of Sow's Horn in the crownlands, tells Ser Jaime Lannister that he had been attacked by men wearing the white sunburst.[23] Ser Daven Lannister confesses to Jaime that he had sworn not to cut his hair until avenging his father, Ser Stafford Lannister, but he could not accomplish his goal once Rickard Karstark was executed by Robb.[32]

A Dance with Dragons

With the death of Lord Rickard, Harrion Karstark becomes the new Lord of Karhold. With Harrion in Lannister captivity, however, Rickard's uncle Arnolf Karstark, the castellan of Karhold, declares for King Stannis Baratheon. House Karstark is the only major northern house to do so.[33] Stannis considers granting Winterfell to Arnolf.[34]

Secretly, however, Arnolf is in a plot with the Boltons[35] to provoke the Lannisters into executing Harrion and then marry his son Cregan to Rickard's daughter Alys, and then turning against Stannis when his forces reach Winterfell.[6] Alys flees to the Wall seeking the help of Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Arnolf's plot to claim Karhold is foiled when Jon arranges a marriage between Alys and Sigorn, the Magnar of Thenn. Should Harrion die, lordship of Karhold would pass to Alys and the newly-founded House Thenn.[6] Cregan arrives at Castle Black only to find Alys already betrothed, and he is thrown into an ice cell. He is given the choice to join the Night's Watch and be cleared of all crimes or wait for the return of King Stannis and be executed for treason.[36] Jon has Clydas send a raven from Castle Black to Deepwood Motte in an attempt to warn Stannis of Arnolf's intentions.[36]

A captive Theon Greyjoy is present at the Dreadfort when Ramsay Bolton hosts Arnolf and Hother Umber.[37] Arnolf later joins Stannis at a crofters' village with four hundred spears, two score archers, and a dozen mounted lances.[38]

The Winds of Winter

This information has thus far been released in a sample chapter for The Winds of Winter, and might therefore not be in finalized form. Keep in mind that the content as described below is still subject to change.

Stannis learns of Arnolf's plot thanks to the letter sent by Jon Snow. Stannis summons Arnolf, his son Arthor, and his three grandsons to his presence under the pretext of breaking fast. Stannis's knights surround and arrest the Karstarks, injuring two of the grandsons in the process. Stannis offers the Karstarks a choice: a swift death in return for cooperation or being burned alive.[39]

House Karstark at the end of the third century

The known Karstarks during the timespan of the events described in A Song of Ice and Fire are:

first wife
second wife
Six grandsons
[Note 1]
  1. It is not known whether these are the sons of Cregan, Arthor or one of their sisters.

Historical Members


Old Nan said they had Stark blood in them, going back hundreds of years, but they did not look like Starks to Bran.[2]

—thoughts of Bran Stark

We are kin, Stark and Karstark.[4]

Stannis: I am more inclined to bestow Winterfell upon Arnolf Karstark. A good northman.

Jon: A northman. The Karstarks abandoned my brother amongst his enemies.

Stannis: After your brother took off Lord Rickard's head. Arnolf was a thousand leagues away. He has Stark blood in him. The blood of Winterfell.[34]

Ramsay: Scratch a Karstark and you'll find a Stark.
Roose: After the scratch the Young Wolf gave Lord Rickard, that may be somewhat less true than formerly.[35]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Catelyn Stark recalls that Karlon Stark put down a rebel lord "a thousand years ago" (A Storm of Swords, Catelyn III). It is unknown if this means one thousand years ago (seven hundred years before Aegon's Conquest) or if George R. R. Martin is being figurative. Martin has also said the Karstarks were founded "more than a thousand years ago." (So Spake Martin: Interview in Barcelona, July 28, 2012)


  1. 1.0 1.1 A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  3. The Citadel. House Karstark
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 20, Catelyn III.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 14, Catelyn II.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 63, Catelyn X.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 The World of Ice & Fire, Appendix: Stark Lineage.
  9. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
  10. 10.0 10.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 62, Tyrion VIII.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 71, Catelyn XI.
  12. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
  13. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 32, Sansa III.
  14. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 39, Catelyn V.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 47, Arya IX.
  16. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 64, Arya X.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 9, Bran I.
  19. A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
  21. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 31, Jaime IV.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 22, Arya IV.
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 27, Jaime III.
  24. 24.0 24.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 14, Brienne III.
  25. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 29, Arya V.
  26. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 31, Brienne VI.
  27. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  28. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 50, Arya X.
  29. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 51, Catelyn VII.
  30. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 55, Jon VII.
  31. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 9, Brienne II.
  32. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 33, Jaime V.
  33. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.
  35. 35.0 35.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
  37. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 12, Reek I.
  38. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 62, The Sacrifice.
  39. The Winds of Winter, Theon I
  40. The Winds of Winter, Chapter , Theon I.