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Jack n' Hagger

Capable Northern Commanders.

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Hello all, first time poster here, but by all means don't be gentle. Papa likes to play rough :P

I've been lurking on these forums for quite a while now, but I've yet to come across a topic highlighting my query below (if there has been a topic like this then I sincerely apologize).

Who else could've commanded Robb's levies at the Green Fork, aside from Roose Bolton?

AFAIK, Bolton was the best suited for such a task, due to his cautiousness and calculating behavior. Even so, I think it might've have been more prudent for Robb to keep Roose close to his side, especially during Robb's campaigns in the Riverlands and the Westerlands. I'm not saying that Robb should not have trusted Roose with his armies, but wouldn't it have been better if the kid had had ol' Roose by his side to lend him some invaluable advice on warfare? He fought in Robert's Rebellion alongside Ned, and I'm sure that he has military experience in spades. In addition to this, wasn't it Ned himself who once told Robb that he did not trust Roose all that much? Seems to me here that the Young Wolf should've kept his friends close, but his enemies closer.

Now, when I voiced out my opinion to my friends, avid readers of the ASOIAF saga as well, they told me that Robb was pretty much left with no other choice. In short, he was fucked. 

Pardon my French. 

When you come to think of it, leaving Roose at the Green Fork was one of Robb's soundest decisions. Heck, how was the kid gonna know that Roose would betray him somewhere down the road? We believed Bolton to be true until the Red Wedding, and we had access to all the POVs. I mean, who else could've filled in The Roose's shoes? It would have to be someone responsible and sensible, someone who was not too eager to shower himself in glory, at the risk of losing all of Robb's men at the Green Fork in some stupid assault against the Lannisters or whatever. If you don't believe that Roose was the best suited for the job, then let's go over the list of candidates together:-

1) Greatjon Umber

Arguably Robb Stark's biggest dick rider and fanboy, and one of his most fearsome warriors too. I don't doubt his abilities in inspiring his men to fight, but he's a goddamn oaf when it comes to military strategy, placing him against Tywin Lannister of all people would have been nothing short of suicide for Robb's levies. In terms of brightness, Catelyn Stark might've been a 3 watt, but this big fucker here is a wet match in a dark cave.

2) Wyman Manderly

The richest Stark bannerman, and probably the one with the best toys, but something tells me that the Northern soldiers at the Green Fork would have preferred to shove their own swords up their bungholes that listen to a man who only slightly outweighs an entire African village. Wyman Manderly can barely ride a horse, and I doubt if either one of his equally corpulent sons could make a difference. 

3) Rickard Karstark

The one closest in terms of blood to the Young Wolf, but you wouldn't know it by the way he insisted on bending over Robb Stark's plans and fucking them in the arsehole. This dickhead is so stupid, he makes phone operators seem smart by comparison. No, fuck that, he makes GREATJON UMBER look like Hannibal of freakin' Carthage. Yes, we get it, he lost his two sons, but tons of other people have lost their children to wars. This fuckface should've been grateful to the gods for sparing him Harrion Karstark and his daughter Alys at home, and if he had half the wits Hodor had, he would've have been more focused on rescuing his heir and getting back home to save his daughter from the clutches of his sleazy, dirtbag Uncle Arnold. Sure, beheading him was a stupid decision on Robb's part, but this dickhead more than deserved it for what he did to those two kids. 

4) The Glover Brothers

Catelyn suggested to Robb to let Robett Glover, or either one of his other bannermen to command Robb's armies as they marched south. Thank God he did not. So far throughout the Wot5K, all Robett had ever accomplished for the Starks was getting duped by Roose Bolton in a foolhardy attempt to ravage Duskendale with the help of Benfred Tallhart, and lose his brother's stronghold in the North to a bunch of ironmen. He even had to rely on Arya, in the guise of a dirty peasant, to free him from the cells of Harrenhal. And he barely even thanked her for doing so. Galbart Glover on the other hand, must be a really heartless motherfucker of something like that. I mean, to just leave your holdings to be defiled by the ironmen, and then not even bothering to return north to try and help your sister-in-law and her kids? Sure, Robb gave him some ultra-secret mission to accomplish with Howland Reed or whatever, but that was before he died, and before the Lannisters effectively won the goddamned war. Some 'Master of Deepwood Motte' you turned out to be, Galbart. I doubt if he could even raid a squirrel nest, let alone the entire south. 

5) Lord Dustin

Deceased. Widow hates Ned Stark .

6) Lord Hornwood

Daryn Hornwood was but a boy before the Kingslayer killed him at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. 

7) Howland Reed

This mofo's so mysterious, he might not even be alive.

8) Mormont Women

Don't mean to be a sexist here, but they're women, and as much as we all love our Northmen, I'm pretty sure that equality was still a foreign thing for them to grasp.

9) Other Lords (Tallhart, Locke, Flint, Norrey etc.)

Doubt if they were even that important, or if any of them were notable fighters and captains. 

Now I'm beyond positive that the Stark fanboys would all but crucify me for my bias against all the Northern Lords, but listen to this why don't you? 

The Lannisters had Addam Marbrand, Strongboar, Forley Prester, and even the Mountain who all made good leaders and commanders. The Tyrells had Randyll Tarly, and the Arryns had Bronze Yohn Royce. Even the damn Martells had notable bannermen like Anders Yronwood, and their overall contribution so far to GRRM'S story (aside from the Arianne POVS) has been just about as pointless as Charlie Sheen telling the guy on his dick that they're both asleep and dreaming. I could go on with the Mallisters and Blackwoods for the Tullys, but I think you get my drift. Did George intentinally make all the Northern Lords useless and overly-reliant on Roose's advice in Robb's absence? Or are they simply hiding the really astute Northerners from us in Howland Reed's asscrack? 

Anyway, I look forward to hearing from the rest of you guys. Sorry for any grammatical errors, English ain't my first language :D


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To be fair, Robett was ordered by Roose to march south, and only Roose blamed it on him. So there was little he could do unless disobey direct orders. That does not mean he would have made a similiarly rash decision if he had been in charge of the northern army. So I would have put Robett in charge. 


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What about Rodrik Cassel? the only reason he ultimately lost winterfell(and his head) was because he was deceived by Ramsay Bolton, aside from him I do believe Wyman Manderly would have made a good commander, he seems to be quite smart and could draft good military strategies, you just need to built a chariot for him.

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I think the problem in trying to find a military commander in the North is that they are fighting a completely different enemy than the rest of Westeros. They fight for reasons that are far different than the other Houses, be they small or great. 

In the North, when the cold winter comes and food grows short, the elder men of a family or House will say they are going to go "hunting" and will return when they have something. Everyone knows this is false. This is the Northern way of cutting down the number of mouths to feed when winter comes. To go "hunting" during the winter is to go out and die in hopes of saving food that could save your family. No other place in Westeros has to contend with the cold as much as the North does. They base their entire LIVES around this season. 

Ironically, it's the cold that also gives them their power, for no other men are able to endure the drifts and snows of Winter like the Northerners can. During Stannis' March on Winterfell, it's said that the Northern Houses who rallied for Stannis were able to fair much better in the snows than Stannis' southern troops. 

The North are a practical and pragmatic folk. They don't wear fancy clothes because fancy clothes are usually made out of silk and in the North, silk is useless. For this reason, they value furs, wool, and animal skins to keep them warm. Moreover, they think jousting is stupid. To them, the point of fighting is to kill and win, not brag and prance around in glory. 

The reason there appears to be a stigma in terms of military intelligence and leadership in the North is that their main campaign involved declaring Robb Stark King in the North...and then riding south. Past Moat Caillin, there is no place for a Northern army. They do not have the numbers, nor the technology to effectively wage war against any of the Houses in the South. Sure, Robb won every battle against Tywin Lannister but Tywin Lannister had 20,000 men to himself plus another 14,000 commanded by his brother, Kevan as well as a 3rd army being formed up in Lannisport; not to mention the fleet of Lannisport. Robb Stark, our King who Lost the North, only had 20,000 men. That's all he ever had. The Battle of the Whispering Wood may have captured Jamie, but it cost Robb 2,000 men. The losses for the North weighed much much harder than the losses for any Southern Houses.

While 20,000 may seem small compared to the massive armies fielded by say, Highgarden, keep in mind of just how big the North is. It's as big as all the other 6 Kingdoms combined. There is no effective way to enforce and govern all of the North, which means a lot of what Northerners do comes down to loyalty. Those 20,000 men who followed Robb, while they were a small force, were willing to follow him to the ends of Westeros if need be. We can leave out the Boltons and their treachery given their centuries blood-feud with the Starks and the Karstarks for Robb's mistakes. The North doesn't forget what the Starks did for the Manderlys, or the Wulls, or the Flints, or the Liddles when the cold winter came. The North doesn't forget that the Starks and Winterfell were the reason many of the Northern Houses even survived many cold winters. The North doesn't forget their allegiance to the Starks. The North Remembers. 

We are susceptible to believe the North doesn't hold any great commanders, but then you look back and realize that they all did one thing wrong ...they rode south. King Torrhen Stark went south and bent the knee. Rickard went south and he burned for it. Brandon went south and choked himself to death. Eddard went south and lost his head. Robb went south and lost a kingdom. When the Starks (and the North) go South, they fail. 

But in the North, each Lord becomes a commander in his own right. Rarely do the Houses in the North come together unless winter approaches or the banners are called. For this reason, the Houses tend to keep their armies at home. They learn the land and understand the terrain. Each House knows every rock and every tree that they govern. Given this knowledge and their resistance to cold, any foreign army would have an extremely difficult time trying to conquer here. This is the North's hidden strength. Here, in the vastness of the wild, in the wide plains and valleys, in the endless fields and towering mountains, reside the Lords of the North, who are ruled by their liege lords, the Starks, the Kings in the North and the Kings of Winter.

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Now that I think about it I haven't really ever associated "military commandership" with many Northern houses.

Frankly, it's amazing how well Robb's campaign went for him until the end. There seems to be a reason why not many Northerners venture below the Neck ordinarily - it's because it is a whole different ball game down there. Northerners are undoubtedly good on their home turf and their whole schtick is keeping people out rather than engaging in long military campaigns away from home. They are geographically isolated from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms and seem to like it that way. The principal houses - who could be called the Starks' "marcher lords" - all hold key defensive locations know their turf better than anyone else. 

Case in point, Howland Reed is "gatekeeper" of the North as far as Southron armies are concerned because he is the southernmost principle Lord, controlling the Neck. If someone attempts to come up the causeway to attack Moat Cailin, he'll know about it. He and his vassals know the treacherous terrain and use guerrilla warfare to deal with unwelcome intruders. Robb Stark sought him out specifically because no one else knows how to navigate the vast marshland, swamps and bogs of the Neck like the crannogmen. Take Howland out of the Neck to put him up against a conventional army, however, and he's not going to be much use; his team only ever plays at home.

While he is an extreme example, due to the crannogmen being especially introverted even within the isolated North, the point stands that you have a load of robust families like the Mandleys at White Habor, the Umbers just south of the Gift, and so on, all in places where they know their own business. I'd agree Wyman or Greatjon would probably know a bit more on how to handle an army that Howland would but I don't bank on them standing up against most southron commanders.

The short answer is... nope. The North really didn't have the commanders necessary to stand up to Tywin Lannister and his posse. It got to a point in the end where Robb's war was futile. He would have done better to stay home.

Edited by Faera

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Riding South was usually not a clever move ( although Torrhen did the wise thing when he bent the knee for Aegon), but the southern marriage is what really put House Stark in a no-win situation. Robb could not afford to not aid the family of his mother, and Tywin perfectly knew this. He was very satisfied when the Northern army went South.


Edited by 1/7 Maester
typing errors

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OK, here's my two pennorth on the North's military leaders, all just mho:


1) Robb was clearly the most talented field commander in the North; though lacking experience his instincts are sound at a tactical and strategic level. He totally sucked at politics, but made up for that to some degree by charisma and being the Stark, benefitting from the loyalty of the North.


2) Roose was a dogged and capable military leader, but not inspired, imho, but a consumate politician, a master manipulator. As a Lord, effective, but ruling by fear rather than the love of his subjects.


3) Wyman Manderley is easily overlooked - and that is no accident - he's a sly old dog. He would be a good field commander, though in no way a warrior himself. He is almost as manipulative as Roose, and thinks in the long term - the Frey Bentos Pies at Winterfell (c'mon, no-one believes they weren't, right?) prove that. He's a master stategiser and has held his House together in the stickiest of positions. A good politician, and he has the affection of his people.


4) The Glovers and Umbers all would be competant lieutenants under a good commader - give them a wing, even the van, and they'd see the job done. Neither seems politically subtle, but they are more 'clannish' than 'lordly', so their people tend to be fiercely loyal, and tough as old boots too.


5) The mountain clansmen - Flints, Norreys, Wulls etc - are your guerilla / special forces type, not for the grand pitched battle, but they'd go in and succeed at a tricky task where a more conventional battle leader might fail with a much larger force.


6) As for the frog-eating bog-devils - partisans par excellence. On their own ground they are invulnerable, and can tie up a much larger force until it gives up the will to live. But soldiers they are not.

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