What Will "The Winds of Winter" Bring for Theon Greyjoy?
Warning: Spoilers Lie Ahead
The Winds of Winter is the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. This article will take a look back at the previous five installments as well as make predictions on the next chapter in the series. The reader has been warned that spoilers lie ahead.
One of ASOIAF's Greatest Character Arcs
To tell the truth from the start, Theon Greyjoy has always been my favorite character throught the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Many things factor into my liking of the young kraken, his cocky, unfounded arrogance, his misconception of his own importance in his familial hierarchy and also the lengths of the extremes his character goes through from the start of the series to his transformation in the most recent A Dance with Dragons.
Theon truly is the embodiment of the well fleshed out, lifelike characters that George R. R. Martin has come to be known for. In a series where basically all of the characters is neither black nor white, Theon is the shining example of the grey area in which Martin places his creations.
As the series begins we come to meet young Theon in Winterfell. He is a ward to Lord Eddard Stark who is the Warden of the North and one of the most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms. Theon has grown up with Eddard's children Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon and is seen in their eyes as one of Winterfell's own. Theon however, is not from Winterfell and feels an outcast. He is the sole living son of Lord Balon Greyjoy who resides over the Iron Islands.
Balon Greyjoy had had two other older sons but as he rebelled against the Seven Kingdoms in the past, Eddard Stark was dispatched to quell the rebellion. Theon's older brothers were killed in the battle making Theon the heir to the Iron Islands. Once Lord Balon surrendered he was made aware that his sole surviving son Theon would be taken as hostage or basically insurance that Balon would never rise again to threaten the Kingdoms. Thus, Theon is taken from his father and surviving sister, Asha, to go and live with the Stark's.
The series open and Theon being close to the same age as Robb Stark, Lord Eddard's eldest son, and Jon Snow, Eddard's bastard, has formed a close relationship with Robb over the nine years he has come to live with them. He sees Robb as a brother but Jon Snow as a nemesis as they are both outsiders of the main Stark family vying for their attentions.
Lord Eddard brings Theon to the execution of a run away from the Night's Watch, a group of soldiers who protect the northern wall of the Kingdom, where he personally beheads the runaway as part of his Warden of the North duties. The other Stark children watch as the father performs the act but see this as duty, Theon however smiles the smile he always seems to have plastered to his arrogant face and kicks the head after the beheading has occurred.
The events of the series begin to unfold as Lord Eddard is asked by King Robert to leave Winterfell and become his Hand of the King in the capitol city, King's Landing. A mysterious plot sees Eddard reluctantly accept and he leaves Robb Stark as acting Lord of Winterfell since a Stark must always rule over the city. Jon Snow also leaves at the beginning of the first book to become a member of the aforementioned Night's Watch since there a very few positions that bastards can attain.
These departures leave Robb in charge of Winterfell with his friend Theon by his side. Robb's younger brother Bran Stark had been injured when the King arrived in Winterfell by being thrown out of a window by Jaime Lannister as Bran witnessed him having intercourse with Cersei Lannister, Queen to King Robert and Jaime's twin sister. Yes, the plot is pretty thick and these happenings are the basis for Eddard leaving Winterfell to find the truth. Bran is now crippled and doesn't remember the event but has a special saddle design given to him by Jaime's young brother Tyrion Lannister, who feels bad for the boy.
One day as Bran is out riding on his horse he is attacked by a group of Wildlings, the savages who live north of The Wall that the Night's Watch protect. He is held at knife point as Robb tries to stop the Wildlings but Theon being an expert marksman with a bow shoots and kills the Wildling holding Bran hostage and they take a female captive. Robb later criticizes Theon for recklessly taking the shot that could have killed his brother had he missed, bruising Theon's ego.
As time goes by, Lord Eddard discovers more truths in King's Landing and is eventually beheaded due to his investigations. Robb, who is completely distraught, rallies the men of the North who called his father their liege Lord and declares war against the capitol and the Lannisters who appear to be behind all of this. The Lannisters who are now in control of the Seven Kingdoms after King Robert is mysteriously killed lead their forces into the war with the Starks behind supreme tactician Tywin Lannister, father to Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion.
Robb upstages Tywin however by redirecting his forces and with Theon by his side as his trusted adviser they capture Jaime Lannister together in their first of many large victories. The northern men say they don't want to bow to anyone but a northerner and proclaim Robb King of the North signaling the norths first attempt to secede from the Kingdoms.
Robb realizes he needs more allies if he is to win the entire war and cannot do that without help. He turns to his closest friend, Theon Greyjoy, and asks Theon to finally return home to the Iron Islands and their capitol on Pyke to ask his father to support Robb. He offers to allow Balon to proclaim himself King of the Iron Islands and also break away from the Kingdoms as he had tried almost a decade before if Balon and the Ironborn help him by attacking the Lannisters home city and coast so Robb can advance.
Theon accepts and sets off with pure intentions to unite his two families. On his travels towards Pyke he reflects on how grand his homecoming will be because the heir has returned home. He foresees his father being elated at the prospect of his lone son returning. His dreams are stopped short as he arrives in port at the islands and no one seems to know of his return.
His reunion with his father also does not live up to his large expectations as his father, Balon, and Uncle Aeron both criticize him and the way he has lived the past decade calling him soft and not made of Iron as they are. Balon has had long years mourning the deaths of his sons and defeat at the hands of Eddard Stark and Theon's return, dressed in clothes the Starks had given him, do not help his father see the son he lost but only an outsider. All of this is crippling for Theon as everything he pictured has not come true and the family he longed for does not accept him when he finally arrives.
His cockiness still shows through as he boasts, brags and forces himself on a woman he later sees who reciprocates his attractions and plays back at him. As he finds out it is his own sister, Asha, he has been groping Theon is truly lost at what his home is. Asha loves messing with her brother but also feels the same as he father in that Theon has been coddled by his new family and does not live up to their standards of an heir. The Ironborn are hard, grizzled warriors who take what they want and do not allow others to give them what they believe is theirs and in this they see Theon as failing.
He begrudgingly proposes Robb's plan to his family who scoff at the terms and reject them immediately. They believe Robb Stark cannot give them what is already theirs and fill Theon in on their plan to attack ravage the North. With Robb attacking the Lannisters in the South, the North is prime for reaving up and down the shores and accumulating their own wealth without any defenses. Lord Balon informs Theon that he is to take a ship and attack the shore towns as Asha is sent with a fleet to take a larger Northern city. Theon is immediately dismayed at how low his position is and cannot understand why his father wouldn't have him at the head of the offensive.
The grief in his heart to go against the family who raised him is only matched by the want for the family he's never had to accept him. He agrees to take the ships and raid the shore towns which he is accompanied by his Uncle and a warrior named Dagmer Cleftjaw. Theon is successful but upon hearing of Asha's great victories, an idea begins to develop in his head. He knows Winterfell, the main city of the North, he knows their defenses and realizes what needs to be done to take the city. He recruits Dagmer and goes against orders from his father. Dagmer marches on the city as Theon goes over the walls an overwhelms the small Winterfell guard that still remains in the town. The battle is over before it even begins and Theon visits Bran and his younger brother Rickon to inform them that he has taken the city and is now the Lord of Winterfell.
As Theon tries to assert his rule over the people he formerly lived with and around he finds that the respect he has been lacking from his family follows him here as well. Bran and Rickon cede Winterfell and Maester Luwin councils Theon but the population of Winterfell do not allow his rule to be easy. Along the way he frees a prisoner named Reek who begins to give him council on the northern people and is taken into Theon's confidence.
One night Bran and Rickon hatch an escape plan with the help of their confidants Hodor, Osha, Jojen and Meera Reed. In actuality they hide in Winterfells underground crypts but it appears they broke out of the castle and have escaped into the woods. Threatened that this will make him look weak, Theon launches a huge search party for the boys and is advised by Maester Luwin to show mercy on them if they are found. When the search fails, Theon makes his first real terrible bad decision at the urging of Reek when he decides to have two young boys the same ages and size as Bran and Rickon killed and burned in front of the Winterfell people to make an example of what happens to people who disobey him.
The spiral continues as Theon's men begin mysteriously dying and he must again make an example of one of his men who is blamed incorrectly while Reek had actually killed the Ironborn to protect Theon's secret about the Stark boys. Theon reaches out to his sister who holds another fort for more men as an army of northerners advance on Theon and his few men at Winterfell. Asha arrives and tells Theon she will not help and should abandon Winterfell as Ironborn were not meant to hold landlocked castles, their strength comes from their expertise in their ships. She abandons him and his despair grows as he knows not what to do to gain respect from either the northerners or his own Ironborn.
Theon sets Reek free after learning he can get men from another northern fort, The Dreadfort held by the Boltons, and sends him off to fortify his defenses. As the army advances on Winterfell, Maester Luwin finally convinces Theon of his misdeeds and presents a good case of how he could join the Night's Watch and start over there, hoping to gain some prestige back. Theon seemingly sees the benefits here but before he can surrender Reek arrives with the Dreadfort men and decimate the opposing forces. Theon is snapped back to thinking he has won and attempts to thank Reek who takes Theon prisoner and reveals his true identity of Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton's bastard who has been known to perform horrible torturous deeds. Before Ramsay leaves to thank Theon back to the Dreadfort he burns Winterfell to the ground, killing everyone that was left.
Over the next two books Theon's fate isn't transparent as Ramsay seems to send pieces of his body to his family and apparent stories of Theon's death circulate through the kingdoms. He is however, reintroduced in the fifth book with a new name: Reek. He has been kept captive and tortured for months with multiple fingers and toes flayed before being cutoff at Theon's request, his teeth have been knocked out as Ramsay hates his cocky smile and Theon is forced to live in filth and never refer to himself as Theon Greyjoy or more torture will be enacted on him. We see and huge transformation from the cocky, misunderstood young Theon to an older, scared of his own identity Reek who spends each second fearful of what comes next.
Ramsay has been legitimized by his father Roose and is now Ramsay Bolton. It is revealed in these months that Theon had escaped but it was Ramsay who let him out and given him a days head start before he hunted him down with his hounds just for fun. In this, now that Theon can barely walk, eat or defend himself he is as broken as a man can be.
Roose Bolton is returning to the North after deceiving and killing Robb Stark and needs the Ironborn to surrender their Northern forts so he has Theon cleaned up and sent to Moat Cailin to negotiate surrender terms. The Ironborn agree if they will be spared but after they surrender Ramsay has them all flayed and displayed.
Theon then follows the party to Winterfell where Ramsay will be married to Arya Stark to have a claim on the Northern seat at Winterfell, Theon grew up with her and when he meets her again he realizes this girl is not Arya and in fact a fake. At the wedding she begs Theon to help her but Ramsay forces him to watch as he degrades her after the ceremony.
Bolton men begin being murdered in Winterfell and Theon is the immediate suspect before Roose says there is know way he could murder soldiers in his current condition. The deaths stir up tensions between differing groups of Northerners and a brawl breaks out, Theon flees and believes he sees Bran Stark in a tree which brings his mind back to who he really is for a moment.
The musician in Winterfell pulls Theon in and tells him he has been killing the Bolton men as he is really Mance Rayder, King of the Wildlings, and is helping Jon Snow in retrieving Arya. He asks Theon for help getting her out and they jump over the Winterfell wall into the deep snows that have accumulated during a blizzard. They are caught by northerners and taken to the army that is sitting right outside Winterfell ready to attack the Boltons which is led by Stannis Baratheon, who claims to be the rightful king. Stannis has rallied many northern groups to his army and is working with Jon Snow, along the way he has captured Asha who does not even recognize Theon as she sees him again.
Stannis tells him he plans to have Theon executed to help him gain more Northern Lords to his cause as they all despise him for what they believe to be Bran and Rickon's murder. Asha pleads for his life but as the attempt is in vain she asks Stannis to behead him quickly instead of burning him alive for his god which is where the fifth book ends.
What Will the Winds Bring?
Theon is yet again a prisoner, albeit to a much lesser evil than Ramsay Bolton. I believe Stannis will not kill him right away and will use his knowledge of Winterfell and the Boltons to his advantage so Theon will spend some time working for Stannis.
I do see Stannis' army prevailing against the Boltons in this huge battle that seems predestined to happen early in The Winds of Winter but I think Stannis will either be killed or gravely injured allowing Theon to escape with Asha as I do not see their story ending here.
Bran actually was in the tree and I think there is a link there and a redemption story may be in place where Bran will communicate with Theon through the weirwoods which will probably happen upon their initial escape. I think Bran will inform Theon of the evils that are accumulating North of the wall and will ask Theon for help. Here is where his story could go in a number of directions.
Theon could be sent to The Wall to inform the Night's Watch of what is coming but what I would like to see is Theon and Asha make their way back towards the Iron Islands where they will recruit the help of their evil uncle Euron Crowseye who has had many travels into the most mysterious places of the world and come back to talk about it. I do not see Euron agreeing as he has other plans in mind but if Asha were to kill him and the crew respected them enough to go with them as they reave into the far North I would love to see the Ironborn get their hands dirty in the ultimate battle at the end of the series.
Obviously, Theon has gone through the arrogant to misguided to evil to tortured and on the path of redemption arc and I would expect that he dies somewhere in the next two books but not before he does something to effect the rest of the characters in a positive way towards the end game of the series. But of course, in a series where nothing ever obviously works out Theon may just be burned alive by Stannis or killed by Ramsay in the first few pages of The Winds, we will all just have to wait and see. Either way, Theon Greyjoy has had one of the most tumultuous and fan pleasing arcs through the series and is a prime example of George R. R. Martin's skill.