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Lothloreen

Theon killed his children in ACOK

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Asha Greyjoy made a penetrating comment to Theon when she visited him in Winterfell.

(Theon V, ACoK)“I treated Bran and Rickon generously,” he told his sister. “They brought their fate on themselves.”
“As do we all, little brother.”

Here is the brief encounter of Theon with the hooded man of Winterfell.

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)Farther on, he came upon a man striding in the opposite direction, a hooded cloak flapping behind him. When they found themselves face-to-face their eyes met briefly. The man put a hand on his dagger. “Theon Turncloak. Theon Kinslayer.”
“I’m not. I never ... I was ironborn.”
“False is all you were. How is it you still breathe?”
“The gods are not done with me,” Theon answered, wondering if this could be the killer, the night walker who had stuffed Yellow Dick’s cock into his mouth and pushed Roger Ryswell’s groom off the battlements. Oddly, he was not afraid. He pulled the glove from his left hand. “Lord Ramsay is not done with me.”
The man looked, and laughed. “I leave you to him, then.”

As we will see, even without determining the identity of the man, the exchange is quite meaningful.


Contents

1. The Encounter
2. The Kinslayer
3. The Miller's Boys
4. The silent Squire
5. The Inquiry

1. The Encounter

As a preliminary remark, it is not natural to meet someone walking alone in the castle at that moment. Several murders just happened. It's snowing. Night is falling. The yard is deserted.

Let's collect a few immediate impressions.

The hooded man is armed with a dagger, not a spear, not a sword, not a crossbow. So he is probably not a mere guard relieved from duty, especially those usually come in pairs (see the Battlements Gate). It seems every man has a dagger, since they are the only weapons allowed in the Great Hall. He has no distinctive sign: no pin to clasp his cloak, nor any sigil sewn on his clothes.

Since he comes across Theon, he is about to reach the Great Hall. At this moment, one can only circulate in Winterfell by following the snow trenches. But going to the Great Hall means risking being seen by all in the castle. Indeed, Roose has a good view of the entirety of the hall from the dais:

(Theon, ADwD)He turned his head, his pale cold eyes searching the hall until they found the bard Abel beside Theon. “Singer,” he called, “come sing us something soothing.”

Hence the Great Hall is not a good place for a secret meeting. The hooded man has no fear being seen by Roose et al.

Let's turn now to the reaction of the hooded man. There is surprise at coming across Theon (the hand on the dagger, the exclamation of recognition, the surprise at Theon's continued existence). So he has not seen Theon for some time, presumably since Theon turned his cloak. Then it's noticeable that he recognizes Theon at all. Indeed Asha and Arnolf Karstark could only see an old man in front of them. So the hooded man is particularly perceptive.

Since the wedding happened about fifty days before, the hooded man has recently arrived in the castle and was not among the guest on the wedding day.

More problematic is Theon's reaction. Did he recognize the man he came across? He could see the eyes, since "they found themselves face-to-face their eyes met briefly". But since the hood was up, could he see the face in its entirety? The encounter is preceded by the following passage, which itself preceded a scene of humiliation of Reek by the Bastard boys in the Great Hall.

Outside the snow was coming down so heavily that Theon could not see more than three feet ahead of him. He found himself alone in a white wilderness, walls of snow looming up to either side of him chest high. When he raised his head, the snowflakes brushed his cheeks like cold soft kisses. He could hear the sound of music from the hall behind him. A soft song now, and sad. For a moment he felt almost at peace.

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

Could it be that Theon could not see clearly the face because of the hood and the snow? I think it should be said more clearly if it were the case.

Face recognition is not Theon's strength. He identified neither Asha at Pyke, nor Whoresbane at the Dreadfort, despite being recognized by both. Here is an incident during the escape. Theon, Holly, Frenya and Jeyne have to pass a couple of guards at the Battlements gate.

(Theon, ADwD)“Who goes there?” one called out. Theon did not recognize the voice. Most of the man’s features were covered by the scarf about his face. Only his eyes could be seen. “Reek, is that you?”
Yes, he meant to say. Instead he heard himself reply, “Theon Greyjoy. I ... I have brought some women for you.”

What Theon sees of the guard's face is similar to what Theon saw of the hooded man. In both cases, Theon was recognized without recognizing. Note the contrast with the hooded man: the guard called Theon "Reek".

So the analogy with the guard at the Battlements Gate, and the absence of name in Theon's internal monologue make me ready to accept that Theon did not recognize the hooded man. It could be that Theon has recognized the man, but the author choses not to let us know. So, I remain on cautious on this conclusion, which is of no consequence for the rest of what I have to say. It remains to explain the way Theon reacted to the encounter, that he justified himself, to be contrasted with how untouched Theon is by the contempt of the northmen.

(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)“Theon Turncloak,” someone said as he passed. Other men turned away at the sight of him. One spat. And why not? He was the traitor who had taken Winterfell by treachery, slain his foster brothers, delivered his own people to be flayed at Moat Cailin, and given his foster sister to Lord Ramsay’s bed. Roose Bolton might make use of him, but true northmen must despise him.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)And even such as these made mock of Theon Turncloak. Let them laugh. His pride had perished here in Winterfell; there was no place for such in the dungeons of the Dreadfort. When you have known the kiss of a flaying knife, a laugh loses all its power to hurt you.

One needs to explain why Theon feels he has to defend himself of the accusations. Is it because he felt a particular outrage or because he has a particular relation to his accuser? It can only be the former if Theon has not identified his interlocutor.

We will return to the accusations. But, it is worthwile to discuss how Theon defends himself.

Generally, Theon is ashamed to have been crippled. See how Theon reacted in front of Roose etc in the solar of the Great Keep, just a few hours later.

Lady Dustin spoke up. “Take off your gloves.”

Theon glanced up sharply. “Please, no. I ... I ...”

“Do as she says,” Ser Aenys said. “Show us your hands.”

Theon peeled his gloves off and held his hands up for them to see. It is not as if I stand before them naked. It is not so bad as that. His left hand had three fingers, his right four. Ramsay had taken only the pinky off the one, the ring finger and forefingers from the other.

“The Bastard did this to you,” Lady Dustin said. “If it please m’lady, I ... I asked it of him.” Ramsay always made him ask. Ramsay always makes me beg.

“Why would you do that?”

“I ... I did not need so many fingers.”

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

In front of the hooded man, he decided to appear as Ramsay's victim and did not hide his shame. So there is something odd about Theon's reaction to the encounter.

It is common knowledge that Theon has been flayed by Ramsay.

(Jon, ASoS)“Your brothers were avenged,” Grenn said. “Bolton’s son killed all the ironmen, and it’s said he’s flaying Theon Greyjoy inch by inch for what he did.”

But, as the exchange in the solar proves, it is not common knowledge that Theon has been crippled by Ramsay. Of course, the Bastard's boys know, the Walders as well. So do Whoresbane who had been riding with them for months, and Roose, and probably Lady Dustin, who has hosted Theon for some time.

Much earlier, Ramsay's cruel treatment of Theon has been publicized by Roose for all the north to see. Before the Red Wedding, the northern army join in the Riverlands.

(Catelyn, ASoS)Roose Bolton removed a ragged strip of leather from the pouch at his belt. “My son sent this with his letter.”
Ser Wendel turned his fat face away. Robin Flint and Smalljon Umber exchanged a look, and the Greatjon snorted like a bull. “Is that... skin?” said Robb.
“The skin from the little finger of Theon Greyjoy’s left hand. My son is cruel, I confess it. And yet... what is a little skin, against the lives of two young princes? You were their mother, my lady. May I offer you this... small token of revenge?”

Not long before, Robett Glover had been with Roose in Harrenhal and he possibly saw the letter. That would explain this remark.

(Davos, ADwD)Davos thought back on the tales they’d heard. “Winterfell was captured by Theon Greyjoy, who had once been Lord Stark’s ward. He had Stark’s two young sons put to death and mounted their heads above the castle walls. When the northmen came to oust him, he put the entire castle to sword, down to the last child, before he himself was slain by Lord Bolton’s bastard.”
“Not slain,” said Glover. “Captured, and carried back to the Dreadfort. The Bastard has been flaying him.”

During the night that followed the encounter with the hooded man, Rowan, Holly and Myrtle find Theon in the godswood.

“Did the Bastard hurt you?” Rowan asked. “Chopped off your fingers, did he? Skinned your widdle toes? Knocked your teeth out? Poor lad.” She patted his cheek. “There will be no more o’ that, I promise. You prayed, and the gods sent us. You want to die as Theon? We’ll give you that. A nice quick death, ’twill hardly hurt at all.”

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

Rowan does not mention flaying, but crippling. Recall that she asked Theon how to dance when she came to meet him for the first time.

(The Turncloak, ADwD)“Why do you eat alone, m’lord? Come, rise, join the dance.”
He went back to his porridge. “I don’t dance.” The Prince of Winterfell had been a graceful dancer, but Reek with his missing toes would be grotesque.

She did not know then that Theon has been crippled. At this point, Rowan knows precisely what Ramsay did to Theon. Did she learn it from the hooded man? We will see there are more indications that the hooded man's words reached the washerwomen.

Now we return to the conversation with the hooded man.

2. The Kinslayer

The most interesting point of the exchange, in my opinion, is the kinslayer epithet. Calling Theon a turncloak is perfectly understandable, and Theon makes no effort to dispute it (see above). Everybody in the north calls Theon a turncloak. It has started with Benfred Tallhart on the Stony Shore.

(Theon III, ACoK)“I have questions for him first,” said Theon.
“Puck your questions.” Benfred hung bleeding and helpless between Stygg and Werlag. “You’ll choke on them before you get any answers from me, craven. Turncloak.”

Before the sack of Winterfell, it was on every northman's lips, beginning with Ser Rodrik.

(Theon VI, ACoK)Soon enough the boy Cley Cerwyn appeared before the gates carrying a peace banner on a tall staff, to announce that Ser Rodrik Cassel wished to parley with Theon Turncloak.

Later Sam, Roose, Asha, Jon, Walton Steelshanks etc would call Theon Turncloak. There is not need to insist further on that.

But nobody called Theon a kinslayer before the hooded man did. The accusation is grave, since it implies a damnation, a curse in the eyes of gods and men, to use the familiar expression. That explains Theon's need to defend himself: I’m not. I never ... I was ironborn. So Theon proclaims not being of the same blood as Bran and Rickon, and he adds: The gods are not done with me. Hence the gods have been offended and should be in charge of punishing Theon. I find interesting, but irrelevant to the present discussion, that Theon feels that Ramsay is the envoy of the gods to administer the appropriate punishment.

Let's examine whether the accusation can be justified by the murder of Bran and Rickon. The notion of kinslaying is defined by blood relations. Indeed, here is Cregan Karstark warning Jon Snow.

“If you mean to kill me, do it and be damned for a kinslayer. Stark and Karstark are one blood.”

(Jon X, ADwD)

The scene takes place in a chapter placed shortly after the one where Theon encounters the hooded man. It might be intended to illuminate the kinslayer accusation. But Karstarks and Starks are only very distantly related. The warning echoes an earlier scene between Robb Stark and Rickard Karstark.

(Catelyn III, ASoS)“Old gods or new, it makes no matter,” Lord Rickard told her son, “no man is so accursed as the kinslayer.”
“Kneel, traitor,” Robb said again. “Or must I have them force your head onto the block?”
Lord Karstark knelt. “The gods shall judge you, as you have judged me.” He laid his head upon the block.
“Rickard Karstark, Lord of Karhold.” Robb lifted the heavy axe with both hands. “Here in sight of gods and men, I judge you guilty of murder and high treason. In mine own name I condemn you. With mine own hand I take your life. Would you speak a final word?”
“Kill me, and be cursed. You are no king of mine.”

The Red Wedding would prove Rickard right about the curse, but isn't it strange that such distant family relations (the Karstarks separated from the Starks a thousand years ago) still count?

We hear all kind of characters consider kinslaying. Here is Jaime Lannister.

(Jaime VII, ASoS)Kinslaying was worse than kingslaying, in the eyes of gods and men.

Jorah Mormont and Tyrion.

(Tyrion VII, ADwD)“Might be all I want is to see you pay for crimes. The kinslayer is accursed in the eyes of gods and men.”
“The gods are blind. And men see only what they wish.”

Ygritte makes a particularly important point: kinslaying does not have to be deliberate to make the perpetrator accursed.

Thirty years later, when Bael was King-beyond-the-Wall and led the free folk south, it was young Lord Stark who met him at the Frozen Ford... and killed him, for Bael would not harm his own son when they met sword to sword.”

“So the son slew the father instead,” said Jon.

“Aye,” she said, “but
the gods hate kinslayers, even when they kill unknowing
. When Lord Stark returned from the battle and his mother saw Bael’s head upon his spear, she threw herself from a tower in her grief. Her son did not long outlive her. One o’ his lords peeled the skin off him and wore him for a cloak.”

(Jon VI, ACoK)

Asha is well placed to believe that Theon has executed Bran and Rickon, but she never calls her brother kinslayer. To show that she wouldn't hesitate to do so, here is an exchange she has with Tristifer Botley about kinslaying.

(The Wayward Bride, ADwD)“I think the Damphair’s dead. I think the Crow’s Eye slit his throat for him. Ironmaker’s search is just to make us believe the priest escaped. Euron is afraid to be seen as a kinslayer.”
“Never let my nuncle hear you say that. Tell the Crow’s Eye he’s afraid of kinslaying, and he’ll murder one of his own sons just to prove you wrong.”

A ward is often simultaneously a hostage and a foster child, and are sometimes executed by their host. That doesn't constitute kinslaying by any mean. And Theon was aware that he could be killed by Eddard Stark in quality of hostage.

(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)Lord Stark had not treated him cruelly, but the long steel shadow of his greatsword had always been between them. He was kind to me, but never warm. He knew that one day he might need to put me to death.

And Roose tells Theon as much.

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)“I was a boy here before the war. A ward of Eddard Stark.”
“You were a hostage,” Bolton said. “Yes, m’lord. A hostage.”

So Roose wouldn't call Theon a kinslayer on the basis of the murder of Bran and Rickon. (Of course, Roose knows that Bran and Rickon have escaped.)

It the executions of Bran and Rickon were kinslaying, so would have been Eddard Stark putting his ward Theon to death. So everything confirms that kinslaying is defined by blood relations. Let's return to Theon in Winterfell.

The kinslayer epithet would come back later in the mouth of Rowan.

“Say it again and I will rip your lying tongue out, kinslayer.”

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

And Theon replies a moment later.

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)“I have done terrible things ... betrayed my own, turned my cloak, ordered the death of men who trusted me ... but I am no kinslayer.”
Stark’s boys were never brothers to you, aye. We know.
That was true, but it was not what Theon had meant. They were not my blood, but even so, I never harmed them. The two we killed were just some miller’s sons. Theon did not want to think about their mother. He had known the miller’s wife for years, had even bedded her. Big heavy breasts with wide dark nipples, a sweet mouth, a merry laugh. Joys that I will never taste again.

Rowan is well aware that Bran and Rickon were not true siblings of Theon... and she seems to persist in her accusation. However it is possible to understand her persistence as mere sarcasm. This is how Theon appears to understand her. Theon's understanding might come from his earlier conversation with Rowan.

(The Turncloak, ADwD)“You could pay me with a smile. I’ve never seen you smile, not even during your sister’s wedding feast.”
“Lady Arya is not my sister.” I do not smile either, he might have told her. Ramsay hated my smiles, so he took a hammer to my teeth. I can hardly eat. “She never was my sister.”
“A pretty maid, though.”

So Rowan was mistaken during her initial conversation with Theon. Theon probably thought she repeated the mistake. Of course, she knows better. In particular, Rowan knows that Jon Snow is Arya's half-brother.

After the escape, Theon tells Mors Umber, as soon as he meets him.

(Theon, TWoW)"I am — "
" — a turncloak and a kinslayer," Crowfood had finished.

Theon offers another confused denial to his sister at Stannis' camp, I suppose in reaction to Crowfood's accusation.

Reek made him kill those boys, not him Reek but the other one. "I am no kinslayer," he insisted.

(Theon, TWoW)

So three characters accuse Theon of having murdered his kin: the hooded man, Rowan and Mors Umber.

Rowan did not call Theon a kinslayer the night before the escape in the godswood. She was content to call Theon turncloak. So it is reasonable that the hooded man brought the accusation in Winterfell and that Rowan heard from him. Note that Theon met the hooded man after dinner, a few hours before Mors Umber made all the noise in the night. If the hooded man just arrived from the outside when Theon met him, he might have been in contact with Crowfood.

But we have not answered the basic questions: Why is the accusation justified? Who is the hooded man? How is it that he entered the castle? Why is there a Rowan-hooded man-Crowfood axis to accuse Theon?

In fact, we don't need to explain why the accusation is justified. We need to explain how certain people became convinced that Theon is a kinslayer.

The washerwomen are certainly fervent believers in the old gods. There is a sign that the children of the forest are implacable towards the kinslayers. Here is a little tale Arya recalls about High Heart.

(Arya IV, ASoS)The smallfolk hereabouts shunned the place, Tom told her; it was said to be haunted by the ghosts of the children of the forest who had died here when the Andal king named Erreg the Kinslayer had cut down their grove.

It's easy to guess that Erreg the Kinslayer cut down the grove to escape the curse hanging over his head. Let's consider why would Theon be called kinslayer.

We have a foreshadowing of Theon not recognizing his kin in the incident with "Esgred".

(Theon, ACoK)“I’m Esgred. Ambrode’s daughter, and wife to Sigrin.”
He had not known that Ambrode had a daughter, or Sigrin a wife... but he’d met the younger shipwright only once, and the older one he scarce remembered. “You’re wasted on Sigrin.”
“Oho. Sigrin told me this sweet ship is wasted on you.”
Theon bristled. “Do you know who I am?”
“Prince Theon of House Greyjoy. Who else? Tell me true, my lord, how well do you love her, this new maid of yours? Sigrin will want to know.”

Like in the story of Oedipus, incest and kinslaying are linked. And, if we want to continue on greek myths, the life of Theon at the Dreadfort seems like a deserved sojourn in Tartaros.

It seems possible to list all people put to death by Theon. In AGoT, we have Stiv, a deserter from the Watch, in a group of wildlings. Later, we have Todric, an ironman killed by accident, but without regrets. Then Benfred Tallhart, a friend of Theon and Robb, drowned by the Damphair orders. In Winterfell, Theon kills or orders the killing of Mikken, Septon Chayle, the miller's boys, the miller's wife and Farlen. It's not clear whether the death of Aggar, Rednose and Gelmar have been ordered by Theon. It doesn't seem so.

Almost all the victims appear in a nightmare.

(Theon V, ACoK)That night he dreamed of the feast Ned Stark had thrown when King Robert came to Winterfell. The hall rang with music and laughter, though the cold winds were rising outside. At first it was all wine and roast meat, and Theon was making japes and eyeing the serving girls and having himself a fine time . . . until he noticed that the room was growing darker. The music did not seem so jolly then; he heard discords and strange silences, and notes that hung in the air bleeding. Suddenly the wine turned bitter in his mouth, and when he looked up from his cup he saw that he was dining with the dead.
King Robert sat with his guts spilling out on the table from the great gash in his belly, and Lord Eddard was headless beside him. Corpses lined the benches below, grey-brown flesh sloughing off their bones as they raised their cups to toast, worms crawling in and out of the holes that were their eyes. He knew them, every one; Jory Cassel and Fat Tom, Porther and Cayn and Hullen the master of horse, and all the others who had ridden south to King’s Landing never to return. Mikken and Chayle sat together, one dripping blood and the other water. Benfred Tallhart and his Wild Hares filled most of a table. The miller’s wife was there as well, and Farlen, even the wildling Theon had killed in the wolfswood the day he had saved Bran’s life.
But there were others with faces he had never known in life, faces he had seen only in stone. The slim, sad girl who wore a crown of pale blue roses and a white gown spattered with gore could only be Lyanna. Her brother Brandon stood beside her, and their father Lord Rickard just behind. Along the walls figures half-seen moved through the shadows, pale shades with long grim faces. The sight of them sent fear shivering through Theon sharp as a knife. And then the tall doors opened with a crash, and a freezing gale blew down the hall, and Robb came walking out of the night. Grey Wind stalked beside, eyes burning, and man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds.

The dream is clearly structured: Theon sees first Robert and Ned, then the dead from Winterfell's houseshold, then the people he has put to death, then the dead Starks from the crypts, and finally Robb and Greywind (foreshadowing for the Red Wedding).

Among Theon's victims, Todric is missing. That can be explained by the fact that all the dead are related to Winterfell, and Todric doesn't fit here. And the miller's boys are missing as well. This is all the more curious that their mother is among the ghosts. Why are the miller's boys missing at the feast of Theon's victims?

Why do the dead Starks appear at the feast? It seems that we have the dead Starks from the crypts: Lyanna, Brandon, Rickard, and the pale shades with long grim faces.

The dream happens as Theon sleeps in Ned Stark's own bed.

3. The Miller's Boys

Among all the dead, only the miller's boys can reasonably thought as being Theon's kin. It feels weird to consider such a possibility, but so much points into that direction that it needs to be examined thoroughly. Theon recalls having been the lover of the mother of the two boys.

Theon knew the mill. He had even tumbled the miller’s wife a time or two. There was nothing special about it, or her.

(Theon IV, ACoK)

And Theon has nightmares just after the death of the miller's boys.

(Theon V, ACoK)All his dreams had been cold of late, and each more hideous than the one before. Last night he had dreamed himself back in the mill again, on his knees dressing the dead. Their limbs were already stiffening, so they seemed to resist sullenly as he fumbled at them with half-frozen fingers, tugging up breeches and knotting laces, yanking fur-trimmed boots over hard unbending feet, buckling a studded leather belt around a waist no bigger than the span of his hands. “This was never what I wanted,” he told them as he worked. “They gave me no choice.” The corpses made no answer, but only grew colder and heavier.

And the mother gives Theon nightmares after the murders.

(Theon V, ACoK)The night before, it had been the miller’s wife. Theon had forgotten her name, but he remembered her body, soft pillowy breasts and stretch marks on her belly, the way she clawed his back when he fucked her. Last night in his dream he had been in bed with her once again, but this time she had teeth above and below, and she tore out his throat even as she was gnawing off his manhood. It was madness. He’d seen her die too. Gelmarr had cut her down with one blow of his axe as she cried to Theon for mercy. Leave me, woman. It was him who killed you, not me. And he’s dead as well. At least Gelmarr did not haunt Theon’s sleep.

Since the mother has stretch marks in the rememberance, it must have happened after the birth of one of her children. But the choice of tense in the way she clawed his back when he fucked her indicates they met a number a times.

Theon has remorse much later in Winterfell.

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)He was trapped here, with the ghosts. The old ghosts from the crypts and the younger ones that he had made himself, Mikken and Farlen, Gynir Rednose, Aggar, Gelmarr the Grim, the miller’s wife from Acorn Water and her two young sons, and all the rest. My work. My ghosts. They are all here, and they are angry. He thought of the crypts and those missing swords.

Here again Todric is missing. Gynir, Aggar, Gelmar have not been put to death by Theon's order.

Theon thinks of the millers' boys when Roose evokes the reappearance of the Stark boys.

Ned Stark’s sons are all dead, Reek thought. Robb was murdered at the Twins, and Bran and Rickon ... we dipped the heads in tar ... His own head was pounding. He did not want to think about anything that had happened before he knew his name. There were things too hurtful to remember, thoughts almost as painful as Ramsay’s flaying knife ...

(Reek III, ADwD)

And Roose recalls the death of Domeric before Theon.

(Reek III, ADwD)Tell me, my lord ... if the kinslayer is accursed, what is a father to do when one son slays another?”
The question frightened him. Once he had heard Skinner say that the Bastard had killed his trueborn brother, but he had never dared to believe it.
He could be wrong. Brothers die sometimes, it does not mean that they were killed. My brothers died, and I never killed them.

Again this refusal to see. Later, in the Winterfell godswood, Theon is taken again by remorse. This time Theon seems close to face the truth.

(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)They know. The gods know. They saw what I did. And for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran’s face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood, staring down at him with eyes red and wise and sad. Bran’s ghost, he thought, but that was madness. Why should Bran want to haunt him? He had been fond of the boy, had never done him any harm. It was not Bran we killed. It was not Rickon. They were only miller’s sons, from the mill by the Acorn Water. “I had to have two heads, else they would have mocked me … laughed at me … they …”

Remorse comes to Theon again in the godswood, just before the escape.

(Theon, ADwD)That was true, but it was not what Theon had meant. They were not my blood, but even so, I never harmed them. The two we killed were just some miller’s sons. Theon did not want to think about their mother. He had known the miller’s wife for years, had even bedded her. Big heavy breasts with wide dark nipples, a sweet mouth, a merry laugh. Joys that I will never taste again.

Observe how much inhibition there is in Theon after the murder of the miller's wife and her two sons, which was never shown to us directly from Theon's point of view. Theon recalls that the mother implored him, but not the death of the boys. Killing children is horrific enough, but there might be a monstrosity that Theon does not want to see in the murder. One has the feeling that the veil of inhibition is dissolving slowly, and that the kinslayer accusation is not the product of a misunderstanding from Theon's accusers.

Since Theon did not kill any of his parents, and did not kill any of his siblings, to qualify as kinslayer he must have killed one of his children. We can see that Theon is careless with his lovers, since he told the daughter of the captain of the Myraham.

“Tell him he should be pleased. As many times as I’ve fucked you, you’re likely with child. It’s not every man who has the honor of raising a king’s bastard.” She looked at him stupidly, so he left her there.

(Theon I, ACoK)

The Myraham would reappear in Seagard a few months later, without news of the captain's daughter. The miller's wife is just one of the many women Theon has bedded.

Could Theon have fathered the miller's boys? It's not clear that the age of the characters would allow it. Let's determine Theon's age. As he reaches the Iron Island he is asked.

(Theon I, ACoK)As Theon shrugged out of his wet cloak, the girl said, “You must be so happy to see your home again, milord. How many years have you been away? “
“Ten, or close as makes no matter,” he told her. “I was a boy of ten when I was taken to Winterfell. As a ward of Eddard Stark.”

So Theon is twenty at the beginning of ACoK. And Bran is eight.

(Bran I, ACoK)“Bran, child, why do you torment yourself so? One day you may do some of these things, but now you are only a boy of eight.”

In ACoK, we are told Rickon's age.

(Bran, ACoK)When the Walders had arrived from the Twins, it had been Rickon who wanted them gone. A baby of four, he had screamed that he wanted Mother and Father and Robb, not these strangers.

The age difference between Theon and Bran is twelve years, give or take one year. And Theon is about sixteen years older than Rickon.

We have an estimate of the miller's sons' age.

The miller’s boys had been of an age with Bran and Rickon.

(Theon V, ACoK)

So it's barely possible that Theon fathered both boys, and certainly possible that he was the younger boy's progenitor. It is more reasonable to think that Theon fathered only the second son, at the cost of the elegance of the story. Indeed, Theon recalls his early love life.

(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)Theon Greyjoy was no stranger to this godswood. He had played here as a boy, skipping stones across the cold black pool beneath the weirwood, hiding his treasures in the bole of an ancient oak, stalking squirrels with a bow he made himself. Later, older, he had soaked his bruises in the hot springs after many a session in the yard with Robb and Jory and Jon Snow. In amongst these chestnuts and elms and soldier pines he had found secret places where he could hide when he wanted to be alone. The first time he had ever kissed a girl had been here. Later, a different girl had made a man of him upon a ragged quilt in the shade of that tall grey-green sentinel.

Since Theon arrived at Winterfell at the age of ten, the passage hardly leaves the impression that he could have fathered a son at eleven or twelve. But, boys of this age father children in the real world from time to time.

The different girl who had made a man of him had been named before.

(Theon IV, ACoK)Joseth who’d groomed his horses, Farlen who’d taught him all he knew of hounds, Barth the brewer’s wife who’d been his first-not one of them would meet his eyes.

Theon would not have any further thought for Barth the brewer's wife. She might be at the Dreadfort now.

It does not appear that the miller's wife believes that Theon is the father of her children, since she cried to Theon for mercy. Indeed she would have tried to save her sons' lives by telling the truth to Theon. Maybe she has, and Theon has suppressed that from his memory. It's not clear who put the children to death. Theon seems to remember having done the deed, and told so confusely to Asha.

(Theon, TWoW)He never wanted to do any harm to Bran or Rickon. Reek made him kill those boys, not him Reek but the other one.

Gelmar had killed the mother with his axe. Ramsay tells his father.

“Stark’s little wolflings are dead,” said Ramsay, sloshing some more ale into his cup, “and they’ll stay dead. Let them show their ugly faces, and my girls will rip those wolves of theirs to pieces. The sooner they turn up, the sooner I kill them again.”

(Reek III, ADwD)

It doesn't even prove conclusively that "Reek" murdered the children form his own hand. I suppose whether Theon ordered the death or did the act himself makes no difference to qualify as kinslaying.

When Roose mentions the possible reappearance of the two Stark boys, here are the thoughts that come to Theon. He is struggling with a process of memory suppression.

(Reek III, ADwD)Ned Stark’s sons are all dead, Reek thought. Robb was murdered at the Twins, and Bran and Rickon ... we dipped the heads in tar ... His own head was pounding. He did not want to think about anything that had happened before he knew his name. There were things too hurtful to remember, thoughts almost as painful as Ramsay’s flaying knife ...

In view of Ygritte's tale (the gods hate kinslayers, even when they kill unknowing), it would make sense entirely that Theon did murder his sons. But if the children were indeed Theon's, how could it be known? If we discard the omniscient old gods, I see two ways: somehow the miller's wife knew and told a few people, and it might have been more or less common knowledge among the small folk around the mill. But we are given no hints of that, and, as we just saw, it's unlikely that the mother believed Theon to have fathered her boys. Let's turn to the other possibility.

When the search for Bran and Rickon turns fruitless, in front of the whole hunting party (composed of Theon, "Reek", Gelmarr, Aggar, Rednose, Farlen, Wex, Little Walder, Luwin, Joseth and Gariss) "Reek" tells Theon.

(Theon IV, ACoK)“You know that old mill, sitting lonely on the Acorn Water? We stopped there when I was being dragged to Winterfell a captive. The miller’s wife sold us hay for our horses while that old knight clucked over her brats. Might be the Starks are hiding there.”

Here is the party who left with Theon and "Reek" to the mill.

(Theon IV, ACoK)“Gelmarr,” he said, wondering whom he could trust. None of them. “Aggar. Rednose. With us. The rest of you may return to Winterfell with the hounds."

(In principle, Wex is always with Theon. But I understand that Wex was left aside in this occasion). But not long after:

The very night they had returned from Acorn Water, Gelmarr the Grim had tumbled down some steps and broken his back. The next day, Aggar turned up with his throat slit ear to ear. Gynir Rednose became so wary that he shunned wine, took to sleeping in byrnie, coif, and helm, and adopted the noisiest dog in the kennels to give him warning should anyone try to steal up on his sleeping place. All the same, one morning the castle woke to the sound of the little dog barking wildly. They found the pup racing around the well, and Rednose floating in it, drowned.

(Theon V, ACoK)

It is likely that "Reek" is the murderer. After these deaths, only Theon and "Reek" know which children have been put to death. It would be terribly ironic, and another testimony of Ramsay's malevolence, that "Reek" knew that Theon had fathered the miller's boys, but we have no hint of that. Knowingly or not, Ramsay played the role traditionnally ascribed to the Devil: he led Theon to a terrible sin, and then tormented him in some form of Hell.

If any man of the hunting party were to learn that Bran and Rickon survived, he might tell that Theon and co went to the mill to find the boys.

Two other characters know that Bran and Rickon have escaped. According to the following exchange, Ramsay told Roose.

(Reek III, ADwD)“Stark’s little wolflings are dead,” said Ramsay, sloshing some more ale into his cup, “and they’ll stay dead. Let them show their ugly faces, and my girls will rip those wolves of theirs to pieces. The sooner they turn up, the sooner I kill them again.”
The elder Bolton sighed. “Again? Surely you misspeak. You never slew Lord Eddard’s sons, those two sweet boys we loved so well. That was Theon Turncloak’s work, remember? How many of our grudging friends do you imagine we’d retain if the truth were known? Only Lady Barbrey, whom you would turn into a pair of boots ... inferior boots.

And moment earlier Roose had said.

(Reek III, ADwD)We have powerful friends in the Lannisters and Freys, and the grudging support of much of the north ... but what do you imagine is going to happen when one of Ned Stark’s sons turns up?

(Roose does not say if, but when.)

It's likely that Roose and Ramsay didn't tell anyone else, beside, perhaps, Barbrey Dustin, since Roose seems certain he could keep her as an ally in all circumstances. Let's return to the survivors of the Sack of Winterfell: the Reeds, Osha, Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Theon, Ramsay, Wex and the Walders. Two more ironmen had escaped Winterfell before the sack: Stygg and Urzen. Neither them nor the Walders should know that Bran and Rickon are alive.

In a few instances Theon could defend himself by saying he did not kill Bran and Rickon, but only common boys. For instance when he hears Stannis talk with Asha of his execution.

(Theon, TWoW)"Wise. I am sorry for your mother, but I do not spare the lives of turncloaks. This one, especially. He slew two sons of Eddard Stark. Every northman in my service would abandon me if I showed him any clemency. Your brother must die."

A bit earlier, Theon has only on his mind:

"The north remembers. The Red Wedding, Lady Hornwood's fingers, the sack of Winterfell, Deepwood Motte and Torrhen's Square, they remember all of it."
Bran and Rickon. They were only miller's boys.

(Theon, TWoW)

Theon could defend himself and try to tell the truth, if only to his sister. But the truth is even more terrible for him.

4. The silent Squire

We first see Wex in Pyke on Theon's return to his homeland.

(Theon II, ACoK)He had told Wex to wait at the inn. The common room was so crowded that Theon had to push his way through the door. Not a seat was to be had at bench nor table. Nor did he see his squire. “Wex, - he shouted over the din and clatter. If he’s up with one of those poxy whores, I’ll strip the hide off him, he was thinking when he finally spied the boy, dicing near the hearth... and winning too, by the look of the pile of coins before him.
“Time to go,” Theon announced. When the boy paid him no mind, he seized him by the ear and pulled him from the game. Wex grabbed up a fistful of coppers and came along without a word. That was one of the things Theon liked best about him. Most squires have loose tongues, but Wex had been born dumb... which didn’t seem to keep him from being clever as any twelve- year-old had a right to be. He was a baseborn son of one of Lord Botley’s half brothers. Taking him as squire had been part of the price Theon had paid for his horse.
When Wex saw Esgred, his eyes went round. You’d think he’d never seen a woman before, Theon thought. “Esgred will be riding with me back to Pyke. Saddle the horses, and be quick about it.”

Wex's intelligence would shine in several occasions. (Note also that if a twelve years old boy can see whores, a twelve years old boy can perhaps father children. In any case, Theon finds natural that a twelve-year-old boy seeks sex.) Observe that Wex recognizes Esgred as Asha. I wonder if he had seen her before (probably since Wex is native from Pyke) or if he spotted a resemblance with Theon. If we take the non-recognition of Asha as a foreshadowing of the non-recognition of the miller's boys, Wex might be the one who would realize that Theon had killed his own sons. When "Esgred" is revealed for who she is.

(Theon II, ACoK)When Theon turned away, Wex was smirking at him. He gave the boy a clout on the ear. “That’s for enjoying this so much.” And another, harder. “And that’s for not warning me. Next time, grow a tongue.”

The next time could be understood as foreshadowing, perhaps.

But Wex only saw the heads of the miller's boys after the flailing at the mill. He can't have noticed a resemblance with Theon, let alone guessed that they were Theon's sons.

Wex sleeps in Theon's bedroom in Winterfell, and is there when Theon is haunted by nightmares about the miller's boys etc.

Here is Theon's awakening after the terrible dream that followed the death of the miller's boys.

(Theon, ACoK)Theon woke with a scream, startling Wex so badly that the boy ran naked from the room. When his guards burst in with drawn swords, he ordered them to bring him the maester. By the time Luwin arrived rumpled and sleepy, a cup of wine had steadied Theon’s hands, and he was feeling ashamed of his panic. “A dream,” he muttered, “that was all it was. It meant nothing.”

What did Theon scream? Did he realize in his dream what he had done in real life, and expressed it as he woke before repressing again his crime – hence Wex's panic. In any case, Theon is evidently taken by extraordinary remorse. In war, many innocent people are killed, and a warlord should not lose any sleep over the death of common boys. Wex has seen all the other nightmares of Theon, like this one.

The sky was a gloom of cloud, the woods dead and frozen. Roots grabbed at Theon’s feet as he ran, and bare branches lashed his face, leaving thin stripes of blood across his cheeks. He crashed through heedless, breathless, icicles flying to pieces before him. Mercy, he sobbed. From behind came a shuddering howl that curdled his blood. Mercy, mercy. When he glanced back over his shoulder he saw them coming, great wolves the size of horses with the heads of small children. Oh, mercy, mercy. Blood dripped from their mouths black as pitch, burning holes in the snow where it fell. Every stride brought them closer. Theon tried to run faster, but his legs would not obey. The trees all had faces, and they were laughing at him, laughing, and the howl came again. He could smell the hot breath of the beasts behind him, a stink of brimstone and corruption. They’re dead, dead, I saw them killed, he tried to shout, I saw their heads dipped in tar, but when he opened his mouth only a moan emerged, and then something touched him and he whirled, shouting...

...flailing for the dagger he kept by his bedside and managing only to knock it to the floor. Wex danced away from him.

(Theon V, ACoK)

Nothing proves that Wex has understood that Theon killed his sons. But it makes for a good story in my opinion. However, it was possible to understand that some other boys than Bran and Rickon had been murdered. Indeed, Luwin says:

(Bran VII, ACoK)“Bran,” he said softly when he saw him sitting tall on Hodor’s back. “And Rickon too.” He smiled. “The gods are good. I knew . . .”
“Knew?” said Bran uncertainly.
“The legs, I could tell . . . the clothes fit, but the muscles in his legs . . . poor lad . . .”

Of course, Luwin was much better placed than Wex to make this observation, since he was Bran's doctor. But Wex's intelligence is illustrated in this scene during the pursuit of Bran and Rickon.

(Theon V, ACoK)Theon dismounted and knelt beside the stream. He dipped a hand in it. The water was cold. “They won’t have stayed long in this,” he said. “Take half the dogs downstream, I’ll go up—”
Wex clapped his hands together loudly.
“What is it?” Theon said.
The mute boy pointed.
The ground near the water was sodden and muddy. The tracks the wolves had left were plain enough. “Pawprints, yes. So?” Wex drove his heel into the mud, and pivoted his foot this way and that. It left a deep gouge.
Joseth understood. “A man the size of Hodor ought to have left a deep print in this mud,” he said. “More so with the weight of a boy on his back. Yet the only boot prints here are our own. See for yourself.”
Appalled, Theon saw it was true.

So Wex has a remarkable sense of observation.

In any case, Wex survived the sack of Winterfell by hiding in the godswood, and witnessed the final moments of maester Luwin, and perhaps the final conversation between Osha and Luwin – it's likely that the last favor Luwin asked Osha was simply mercy. So Wex knows that the heads above the walls of Winterfell are not Bran's and Rickons' and he knows that Theon and "Reek" went to the Acorn Water Mill to find the boys.

Wex was devoted to Theon, as proved by the final hours before the fall in Winterfell. Theon contemplates being besieged in Winterfell and leaves his men the option to leave.

(Theon VII, ACoK)“Those who would stay and fight, step forward.”
No one spoke. The men stood in their mail and fur and boiled leather, as still as if they were made of stone. A few exchanged looks. Urzen shuffled his feet. Dykk Harlaw hawked and spat. A finger of wind ruffled Endehar’s long fair hair.
Theon felt as though he were drowning. Why am I surprised? he thought bleakly. His father had forsaken him, his uncles, his sister, even that wretched creature Reek. Why should his men prove any more loyal? There was nothing to say, nothing to do. He could only stand there beneath the great grey walls and the hard white sky, sword in hand, waiting, waiting . . .
Wex was the first to cross the line.

But Wex seems to have abandoned Theon after he was taken to the Dreadfort. Since Wex's service to Theon was predicated on the possession of the horse Smiler, it stands to reason somehow that Wex's service was terminated when Smiler died.

The last thing Theon Greyjoy saw was Smiler, kicking free of the burning stables with his mane ablaze, screaming, rearing...

(Theon VI, ACoK)

It's not clear why Wex made the choice to follow Osha and Rickon, and how he managed to know where they went.

Whatever knowledge Wex has on the boys killed in Winterfell, he is in a position to help an inquiry on Bran and Rickon's fate.

Another mute holds terrible secrets: Jaime Lannister has confided to Ilyn Payne his incest and other sins.

I very much enjoy the story structure I perceive: The horrific crimes were witnessed all along by the mute squire while Theon has suppressed them from his memory or chosen not to see. Theon's knowledge is inhibited just like Wex is silenced by his disability. Theon's coming to terms with his crimes is mirrored in Wex's acquisition of literacy. Both processes require building the (psychological or cognitive) apparatus to let the truth out.

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no one responded to this? I thought this was pretty interesting.

It's a doublepost.

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You only posted it two days ago...people are still trying to read it all!


But the research you have done, the quotes you've lifted in support, and the analysis do tend to suggest that it's possible theon killed his own child.



BUT you mention Reek as a part of Theon prior to Ramsay's brutalisation of him...I don't see that "Reek" existed prior to that. Ramsay MADE Reek. The name comes from Theon's stench due to the conditions Ramsay made him live in.


That doesn't contradict your conclusions, just a side note.



The other aspect of this is...and I hate to say it, but ...why?



It's seems such a minor issue, Theon is already cursed and haunted by his actions, killing children, sacking Winterfell, betraying the Starks...already sufficient to condemn him, why add more wood to a fire that is already burning so fiercely?



Put it this way, if Theon did, or did not kill his own child, how does this affect anything?

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New and interesting.

I do wonder why, though. Why Martin would go through all the minutiae of making this work out when Theon can clearly just be accursed for any number of his actions, from turning cloak to killing innocents. It just seems overly-intricate, even for Martin, to include this in the web of intrigue that is the North while the Grand Northern Conspiracy, the Pink Letter, and all the Stannis and Mace stuff is going on up there.

That being said, I definitely believe all this now.

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