“The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”—Eddard Stark, A Game of Thrones
Despite his rather brief appearance, Ned Stark is one of the most beloved characters in both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, depending on whether you’re talking about the TV show or the book series that inspired it.
Whether on the page or from his portrayal by Sean Bean, Stark is one of the series’ most honorable characters, with the most stable and loving family life… at least until his tragic death and the ensuing War of the Five Kings which ruined and scattered his House (because George RR Martin is a sadist).
But what do you really know about the Lord of Winterfell—the man known throughout Westeros as the Quiet Wolf? What was his life before we encountered him? What went into his character? Read on to find out more!
42. Praise Ned!
It’s safe to say that as far as awards and accolades go, Sean Bean has been robbed throughout his career. However, he was nominated several times for his performance as Ned Stark.
Of course, because there’s apparently a rule that says he can’t be acclaimed on his own, he was nominated along with the rest of the cast for Best Ensemble at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards. Maybe that rule is written just under the one which says Bean must die in any movie he’s in!
In a bit of morbid fun behind the scenes of the show, Sean Bean took time to play a game of soccer with his own severed head! Although, if anyone could be that nonchalant about their own death, it’s Sean Bean—I mean, he’s died so many times already.
40. The Brother from Another Mother
When Ned was just eight years old, he was sent to the Vale to be fostered by Jon Arryn, the Lord of the Vale and Warden of the East. It was done in an effort to strengthen ties between the North and the Vale, and it seems like it worked, as Ned began looking to Jon Arryn as a second father.
It was in the Vale, while being fostered by Jon Arryn, that Ned met a young Robert Baratheon. Robert was also being fostered in the Vale, and the two boys became close friends for the rest of their lives. In fact, they became so attached to the Vale that when he turned sixteen, Ned spent his time going back and forth between the North and Vale.
39. How Times Change
Ned wasn’t always meant to marry Catelyn Tully; his brother, Brandon, was. It was seen as an advantageous marriage since Brandon was set to become Lord of the North after his father, while Ned was only a second son. But this is George R.R. Martin, so of course nothing is going to go according to plan.
38. Role Representation
Aside from Sean Bean portraying the mature Ned Stark in season one, season six brought Ned back through flashbacks. As a child, he’s portrayed by Sebastian Croft, while the young adult version is played by Robert Aramayo.
37. A Stark by Any Other Name
Ned’s full name is Eddard Stark, but he is often referred to as “Ned.” The mountain clans in the North go one step further and call him “The Ned” in the same manner that they title their own chieftains.
36. Age Before Beauty?
According to the canon of the books, Ned was around 36 years old when he died. That means the show aged him up somewhat when they cast the 52-year-old Bean to play him.
35. Family Tree
Ned was the second son of Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. He had an older brother, Brandon, a younger sister, Lyanna, and a younger brother, Benjen.
34. Who’s Missing?
According to The World of Ice & Fire, Ned’s mother was Lyarra Stark. She was the second daughter of Rodrik Stark and Arya Flint. She was also a cousin once removed of her husband, Rickard Stark. This is Westeros, after all!
33. Shared Distinction
Sean Bean is one of only two actors on Game of Thrones who appeared in all the episodes of the show before they were killed off. The only other person to achieve that was Mark Addy, who coincidentally played Ned Stark’s best friend, King Robert Baratheon.
32. The Bromance was Real!
Speaking of Mark Addy, he and Sean Bean have apparently known each other for years and consider each other good friends. This chemistry managed to come out on the show as well when the two had scenes together.
When Sebastian Croft was cast as the child version of Ned Stark, he borrowed the first five seasons of the show from his brother to watch. It apparently took him just ten days to watch all 50 episodes—kids these days!
30. Oopsy Doopsy!
By now, the show has established that Ned Stark is not, in fact, the father of Jon Snow. However, you might have already known that before season seven if you’d seen an interview with Vulture that Sean Bean gave before the airing of season five. He accidentally gave away the news that he was NOT the father, as it were. To be fair, though, his character was already long dead on the show, what more can they do to him at that point?
29. Martin/Tolkien Crossover!
If you look closely at the Iron Throne, you might notice that one of the many swords forged into it is a nigh-identical copy of Glamdring, the sword used by the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. Sean Bean famously played Boromir in that same film trilogy.
28. Awkward Engagements
One of the more ambitious Stark bannermen was Lord Rodrik Ryswell. He hoped to marry off his daughter, Barbrey, to either Ned or his older brother, Brandon. In fact, Brandon took Barbrey’s virginity while he was being fostered nearby in Barrowton. But by then, Brandon had already been betrothed to Catelyn.
It was Ned who first brought word of a possible engagement between Robert Baratheon and his sister, Lyanna Stark. The betrothal was made, but Lyanna was skeptical. She questioned Ned on the existence of Mya Stone, Robert’s first illegitimate child, and Ned couldn’t deny that Robert liked to fool around. I’d say that’s putting it lightly.
26. Touring Around
As Lord of the North, Ned would frequently travel across his vast territory, visiting his bannermen. This included traveling into the mountains to meet the mountain clans, who were pleased to have “The Ned” as their honored guest.
Ned would sometimes take his children with him when he traveled. His daughter, Arya, accompanied him on two trips to White Harbor, the largest city in the North.
25. Eddard of Troy
Game of Thrones isn’t the first project that Sean Bean has done with its showrunner David Benioff. Benioff had previously written the screenplay for the sword-and-sandal epic Troy, featuring Bean as Odysseus. It also featured two other actors from Game of Thrones: James Cosmo (Lord Commander Jeor Mormont) and Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle).
24. Who’s That Guy?
In the books, Ned is made aware of the King Beyond the Wall, a deserter from the Night’s Watch named Mance Rayder. He decides that the time might come for him to call his banners and march north to help the Night’s Watch defeat Rayder in battle. Little did Ned know that when he hosted King Robert Baratheon at Winterfell in the first few chapters of A Game of Thrones, Rayder was secretly in attendance as well!
23. A Terrible Moment
Ned was present at the Tourney of Harrenhal when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was named champion and bypassed his own wife, Elia Martell, to crown Lyanna Stark the queen of love and beauty. As Ned later recalls, it was “the moment when all smiles died.” A year later, Rhaegar and Lyanna disappeared, leading to utter mayhem (more on that later).
22. Time for War
Ned was in Jon Arryn’s castle, the Eyrie, when he received word that his older brother and father had been executed by Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King, when Brandon had gone to King’s Landing to confront Rhaegar for allegedly kidnapping Lyanna.
In addition to informing Jon Arryn of what happened, the Mad King demanded the heads of Ned and Robert Baratheon from Lord Arryn. Instead, Lord Arryn declared war against the Iron Throne to save his wards’ lives.
21. Like Father Like Daughter
Of the five children Ned had with Catelyn Tully, only one of them shares a physical resemblance with him. Unlike her siblings, who have the features of House Tully, Arya Stark has the dark hair, long face, and grey eyes of House Stark.
20. A New Friendship
One of Ned’s biggest supporters was Howland Reed, the Lord of the Neck, a vast marshland in the southern portion of the North. Howland and Ned first met at the Tourney of Harrenhal, when his sister, Lyanna, saved a young Howland from being bullied by three squires and took him to the siblings’ tent.
19. Could it Be?
Ned and Howland Reed shared a personal tent together the night before the Mystery Knight rode in the tourney. This anonymous figure defeated the three knights whose squires had attacked Howland when he’d first come to Harrenhal.
It remains ambiguous who the Mystery Knight was, with some suggesting it was Lyanna, Ned, or Howland himself. Either way, Howland and Ned became close friends to the point that Howland left the Neck to join Ned when he rode to the Tower of Joy to save Lyanna.
18. Getting Home
Traveling from the Vale to the North was no easy task for Ned. He had to travel across the mountains of the Vale to the region known as the Fingers, where he bribed a fisherman to sail him to White Harbor.
17. Did They Also Catch some Red Herring?
Unfortunately, Ned and the fisherman were caught in a storm in which the fisherman drowned. However, as the story goes, Ned and the fisherman’s daughter managed to get the boat to a group of islands known as the Three Sisters.
The fisherman’s daughter is named as the mother of Jon Snow by a character in the book, but with the revelation of Jon Snow’s parentage on the show, it’s unlikely that that’s true.
16. Stark Stamp
In honor of Game of Thrones, ten actors from the show appeared on postage stamps for the UK’s Royal Mail. Bean, as Ned Stark, was one of them.
According to George R.R. Martin, he knew almost from the first day of writing the series that Ned was going to die. One thing that Martin has always strived for in his fiction is a lack of predictability. This was first shown with the execution of Ned since he was shaping up to be the novels’ protagonist.
Showrunner David Benioff later admitted that he was “in shock” when he first read the book and realized that Ned was going to be killed off so unceremoniously.
14. Diplomatic Nuptials
Since the engagement between Catelyn Tully and Brandon Stark had ended with Brandon’s death, and since Ned was now the Lord of Winterfell, he married Catelyn in an effort to get her father, Lord Hoster Tully, to join the rebels against the Mad King. Their wedding was held at the same time as the wedding of Jon Arryn to Catelyn’s younger sister, Lysa.
13. Ignoring Tradition
When it came time to bury the bones of his father, brother, and sister, Ned laid their remains in the crypt of Winterfell. However, he broke protocol by having statues carved of his siblings, despite the fact that they hadn’t been Kings in the North or Lords of Winterfell.
12. You Know Nothing, Kit
The showrunners and producers apparently asked Sean Bean if he could do anything other than his own accent for the character of Ned Stark, to which Bean simply replied “No.” As a result, the actors playing the other male Starks were encouraged to imitate Bean’s accent.
Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, was personally tutored on the accent by Bean himself, leading to the two bonding behind the cameras. Ironic, then, that they only have one single scene together in the whole damn season!
11. Double Standard
In an odd twist, neither of the actresses playing the Stark daughters were required to take on the northern accent to play their characters. Maybe they’re supposed to take more after their mother in the show?
10. Undeserved Credit
During Robert’s Rebellion, it was Ned who rode to Storm’s End to end the long siege it had been under. The mighty Tyrells hadn’t gotten into Storm’s End thanks to the efforts of Stannis Baratheon, and because the Targaryens had been overthrown, they offered no resistance and surrendered peacefully.
Robert later praised Ned for his victory at Storm’s End, snubbing Stannis for the umpteenth time.
9. My Dear Ashara
It turns out that before he ever married Catelyn Tully, Ned was hopelessly in love with another woman. Lady Ashara Dayne was the younger sister of Arthur Dayne, better known as the Sword of the Morning.
Ashara and Ned were both at the tourney in Harrenhal when Brandon, Ned’s older brother, asked Ashara for a dance on Ned’s behalf. Ned was too shy to ask her himself. That’s right, even George R.R. Martin has written a meet cute.
8. A Tragic Ending to Romance
Unfortunately, this romance was never to happen. Not only did Ned end up marrying Catelyn during Robert’s Rebellion, but he also found himself crossing swords with Arthur Dayne in an effort to save his sister from the Tower of Joy in Dorne.
It’s unknown what exactly happened during that fight (though the show has an idea or two about that), but we do know that Dayne was killed, and Ned honorably brought Dayne’s famous sword back to his family. When Ashara found out what had happened, she threw herself from a tower in grief. Now that’s a little more Martin-esque.
7. Like a Woman Scorned
In the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s revealed that Barbrey Ryswell holds a serious grudge against Ned. After she missed out on an engagement to Brandon Stark, she was married to the young lord Willam Dustin. When Ned called his banners to fight with Robert, Willam joined him, over Barbrey’s protests, riding a fine red horse he’d been gifted by her. Willam would meet his death at the Tower of Joy, fighting for Ned.
However, Ned didn’t bring Willam’s bones back north; he brought the horse back instead. After Ned dies, and word gets out that his bones are being returned north, Barbrey swears she’ll make sure they never rest in Winterfell.
6. So Where’s Ned?
It’s actually unknown in the books where Ned’s remains are. Last heard, they were traveling north with a small escort. However, the Ironborn later take Moat Cailin, which is where the procession would have had to pass through.
It’s thought that Ned’s remains are hidden in the Neck, possibly with Howland Reed, but the books have yet to answer that mystery. Keep writing, George!
Since Sean Bean played Boromir and Ned Stark, George RR Martin was asked whether he thought Boromir or Ned would win if they fought. Martin determined that Boromir, being the more powerful warrior, would triumph against Ned. To be fair, we’ve seen The Fellowship of the Ring and we’re inclined to agree with him.
4. Late to the Party
Ned was the first leader of the rebel army to arrive at King’s Landing during Robert’s Rebellion, but Tywin Lannister had gotten their first. The Lannisters were sacking the town when Ned arrived, and the Mad King was murdered by Jaime Lannister, who from then on would be known as the Kingslayer.
3. A Serious Spat
The sack of King’s Landing infuriated Ned, but what really pushed him over the edge was when Tywin Lannister presented Rhaegar Targaryen’s children to Robert. The children were killed by Tywin’s soldiers (quite brutally, it would turn out), and their bodies were wrapped in scarlet Lannister cloaks.
Ned and Robert argued over whether that was murder or justice, with Ned leaving the capital in cold fury. Not even Jon Arryn could settle their argument, and it wasn’t until Lyanna’s death that they were reconciled.
2. I’m Coming for You
Ned was hardcore about his beliefs that a man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. He took this so seriously that he personally started traveling to Bear Island when he found out that its lord, Jorah Mormont, was selling men into slavery for profit. He’d have personally executed Jorah if Jorah hadn’t managed to flee Westeros before Ned arrived.
1. Warging Powers
We know one Stark child can Warg, but another far-fetched theory that we wish was true is that Ned Stark is still alive. He is believed by many die-hard fans to have warged into Ilyn Payne right before the axe fell. Could this be true? If so, that would add a whole other layer to the already interesting things we’ve seen throughout the series. Sadly, as this one is maybe the most “out there” of the fan theories, it’s also the most unlikely to be true.