- "In my family we say, 'A naked man has few secrets, a flayed man, none.'"
- ―Roose Bolton
Lord Roose Bolton is a major character in the fifth and sixth seasons. He initially appeared as a recurring character in the second, third and fourth seasons. He is played by starring cast member Michael McElhatton and debuts in "Garden of Bones." Roose Bolton is the Lord of the Dreadfort and the head of House Bolton, the current ruling Great House of the North after usurping the position from House Stark. He is the father of Ramsay Bolton, his legitimized bastard, and an unborn son from his wife, Walda Frey.
Roose Bolton is the head of House Bolton, a vassal family to House Stark of Winterfell. He is the Lord of the Dreadfort. Roose takes pride in his house sigil; the flayed man. Although torture is outlawed in the North, his family is famous for flaying the skin from their enemies as a means of torture and execution. Roose fought for Lord Eddard Stark in the civil war against House Targaryen known as Robert's Rebellion and proved his worth as a soldier in the Battle of the Trident. He advised Robert Baratheon to execute Ser Barristan Selmy, a legendary Kingsguard sworn to the Targaryens, but Robert overruled Roose and pardoned Selmy.
House Bolton banners are present among Robb Stark's forces as they assemble at Winterfell and march south to fight House Lannister following the imprisonment and execution of Lord Eddard Stark. Robb is proclaimed King in the North by his bannermen following the death of Eddard, although Roose is not present.
Roose fights for King Robb Stark in his decisive victory at the Battle of Oxcross. The following morning Roose reports that they killed five Lannister men for every casualty they suffered. He expresses concern over the volume of prisoners they have taken, saying that they are struggling to feed their own men. Robb insists that the prisoners be treated well and rejects Roose’s suggestion that they torture the officers, reminding him that the Boltons' traditional practice of flaying their enemies is outlawed in the North. Roose warns Robb that the high road is pretty but difficult. Robb counters that he is treating his prisoners as he hopes the Lannisters will treat his sisters.
They come across a nurse, Talisa Maegyr, and a silent sister treating a wounded Lannister soldier. The healer is preparing to amputate his leg to prevent a wound infection spreading. The soldier is begging her not to proceed but she insists on the necessity of amputation. Roose criticizes her spending time on the Lannister soldiers and she retorts that the Northmen are not her men. Robb helps to restrain the wounded man as she saws off his lower leg.
He later brings Robb and Catelyn Stark news of Winterfell's fall at the hands of the turncloak Theon Greyjoy. He reports that there is no news of Robb's brothers, but that Ser Rodrik Cassel has been killed. An enraged Robb declares that he must return north to retake his castle and save his brothers, but Roose counters that they have the Lannisters on the retreat, and must continue their offensive. He tells the King that he can have his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, muster several hundred men to retake Winterfell. Robb relents, but orders that the safety of his brothers is paramount. Robb insists that Theon must be brought to him alive so he can inquire as to why he betrayed the North - and so that Robb can execute him personally.
After the Battle of the Yellow Fork Robb's bannermen gather to hear Queen Regent Cersei Lannister's rejection of their peace terms. They complain that the prison cells are overflowing. Robb leaves the camp with a small force to negotiate the surrender of the Crag. Catelyn releases Jaime Lannister, enraging Robb and his bannermen and resulting in her being placed under guard. Roose meets with Robb to discuss the situation of Winterfell. Robb details a plan to offer mercy to Theon's men so that they will abandon him allowing them to retake the castle with minimal bloodshed. Roose is confident that it will work. Their discussion is interrupted by Talisa and Roose leaves them alone.
Roose, along with the rest of the Northern host, arrives at Harrenhal, finding the ruined castle abandoned and the captives slain, save for a man in maester robes named Qyburn. While Robb and Talisa attend to the man's injuries, Roose discusses Jaime Lannister's escape with Rickard Karstark, and assures him that the dead will be avenged in time.
Messenger-ravens come to Harrenhal bearing news of Hoster Tully's death, and of Winterfell's destruction. Roose delivers the messages to Robb, who charges Bolton with holding Harrenhal with a portion of the Northern army, while he and the bulk of his forces ride for Riverrun.
Roose's minion, Locke, successfully recaptures Jaime Lannister, and delivers him to his Lord at Harrenhal. Roose is visibly angered at Jaime's mutilated state. Jaime asks Roose about Cersei. In a moment of callousness, Roose explains the details of the Battle of the Blackwater, in which Stannis Baratheon attacked King's Landing, and appears on the verge of telling Jaime that Cersei is dead, only to tell him that Tywin Lannister arrived at the last minute and fought Stannis off. Jaime's relief sends him to his knees, visibly amusing Roose.
Roose negotiates with Jaime and Brienne of Tarth over dinner. Bolton weighs up his options; bluntly informing his captives that the safest course of action would simply be to murder both of them, and discreetly dispose of their bodies. Although Jaime attempts to sway Roose by reminding him of the consequences of crossing his father, Roose is unperturbed at the prospect of having Lord Tywin as an enemy, as the war is keeping him fully occupied. Ultimately Roose relents, agreeing to release Jaime, and return him safely to King's Landing on the condition that he inform his father that Bolton had no part in the loss of Jaime's hand. He also retains Brienne as a hostage, stating his intention to charge her with treason.
Afterwards, Roose arrives at The Twins to attend the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. However, he has been secretly plotting with House Frey to ultimately bring about the downfall of the Starks. During the wedding, Roose stays seated beside Lady Catelyn, and just prior to the massacre he directs her gaze to his arm, coaxing her to pull back his sleeve to reveal chain mail underneath. Upon her discovery, he flashes her a sinister grin, revealing that the Starks have been betrayed, causing her to slap him across the face and yell at Robb to run. Bolton runs to safety as the Freys turn on the Starks. In the aftermath, he approaches Robb and whispers in his ear "the Lannisters send their regards", as he stabs him in the heart.
After killing Robb, Roose climbs to the top of The Twins and watches the massacre of the Stark forces. The next day, he and Walder Frey gloat over the deaths of the Starks and the capture of Edmure Tully, though Roose is wary about the escape of Brynden Tully, concerned that he will reach the safety of Riverrun before he can be found. Walder comments that it must have been difficult following Robb Stark, and Roose notes that Robb never once listened to his advice. Walder jokingly raises a toast to the Young Wolf, and Roose says that he will now be forever young. Roose then explains to Walder what really happened at the Sack of Winterfell: it was actually Roose's bastard son Ramsay Snow, leading a force of Bolton soldiers, who burned Winterfell to the ground. Roose falsely reported to Robb that Theon and the ironborn were responsible to deflect suspicion from the Boltons - while Ramsay captured Theon and has been sadistically torturing him in the Dreadfort's dungeon. Roose decided to betray Robb long ago, after the Lannisters defeated Stannis Baratheon at the Battle of the Blackwater, and was simply feigning loyalty this entire time, even as he was plotting the Starks' destruction.
Roose is forced to smuggle himself back into his own lands, due to the ironborn holding Moat Cailin. Arriving at the Dreadfort with his new bride, Roose introduces Lady Walda to his bastard son, Ramsay, before ordering the latter to bring the Boltons' prized hostage before him. Ramsay brings "Reek" to Roose, who becomes furious with his son for torturing and mutilating a valuable hostage, as it gives them less leverage over the Greyjoys. He notes that Tywin Lannister might have named him Warden of the North but he has given him no assistance towards controlling it. Roose explains that he wanted to trade Theon for Moat Cailin, and for that he needed him unharmed. Ramsay stands by his treatment of Theon, whom he has taken to calling "Reek", but Roose laments that he puts too much trust in his son, prompting Ramsay to prove himself to Roose. He orders Reek to shave him with a razor, demonstrating that he will never betray them, and adds that his methods revealed key information; that Theon did not actually kill Bran and Rickon Stark. When asked if he has any ideas as to where they went, Reek tells them that Jon Snow is at Castle Black. Roose orders Locke to hunt down the Stark boys and kill them before the Northerners discover that they are alive, and Ramsay suggests they should kill Jon as well since he is half-Stark and may pose a threat to their future hold on the North. Roose instructs Ramsay to head south with Theon and reclaim Moat Cailin, which will allow their army to return north and help them conquer their lands, and he will reconsider Ramsay's position.
Later, Roose and his army meet Ramsay near Moat Cailin where Ramsay presents him with the fortress's flag. Roose instructs Ramsay to walk with him, and they climb a hill. He asks if there has been any word from Locke, who was killed in his attempt to abscond with Bran, and Ramsay answers that there has been nothing. Roose dismisses this as unimportant, speculating that the Stark boys are most likely dead. At the top of the hill, Roose points out that the north is larger than all of the other kingdoms combined, and that, thanks to Ramsay's actions, he now has control of it. He then hands Ramsay a document, legitimizing him as Ramsay Bolton. After Ramsay swears to honor him and uphold his traditions, Roose leads his forces towards Winterfell, presumably moving his base of operations to the ruined fortress.
Roose Bolton's hold on the North is opposed by the remaining Northern lords, most of whom lost sons and men at the Red Wedding. While scolding Ramsay for needlessly flaying a Northern lord, along with his wife and brother, alive for refusing to pay their taxes, Roose claims that they do not have enough men to rule the North should the Stark bannermen rise against them, reminding Ramsay that the pact they made was with Tywin Lannister, who is now dead, meaning that the Lannisters will likely no longer support them. He tells Ramsay that the best way to strengthen their hold is not by flaying people and subsequently enraging their loved ones, but by marrying into good families. He has arranged with Petyr Baelish to have Ramsay marry Sansa Stark.
When Baelish and Sansa arrive, Roose greets Sansa with courtesy and she reciprocates, despite knowing he personally killed her brother. Later, while speaking with Baelish, Roose expresses his doubt as to whose side Baelish is truly on and is visibly concerned with reprisals from Cersei should she find out Sansa is marrying Ramsay, though Baelish assures Roose that the Lannisters have lost a great deal of power in the wake of Tywin's death. Roose reveals that he has read a letter sent for Baelish from Cersei before handing it to him, and demands to read Baelish's reply to Cersei before it is sent off.
While having dinner with Sansa and his family, Roose grows increasingly annoyed with Ramsay when he begins to torture Sansa emotionally by having Reek apologize to her for allegedly murdering Bran and Rickon, and suggesting that Reek give Sansa away at their wedding. Roose turns the tables on Ramsay by revealing that he and Walda are expecting a son.
Ramsay later confronts Roose about this, and Roose counters that Ramsay disgraced himself at dinner. He then regales Ramsay with the tale of how he met his mother, a miller's wife who got married without paying Roose homage. Roose had the miller hanged and raped his wife beneath his swaying corpse, even thought she fought him the whole time. Roose was later visited by this woman carrying Ramsay and claiming he was his son. Roose reveals to Ramsay that he very nearly killed both him and his mother, but stayed himself when he realized by looking into Ramsay's eyes that he was his son after all. Ramsay is visibly stunned after hearing all of this from his father. Roose then changes the subject to Stannis Baratheon, who is garrisoned at Castle Black but will surely make another attempt for the Iron Throne, for which he will need to take the North from the Boltons. Roose reminds Ramsay that the North is theirs, and they vow to counter the coming attack on Winterfell.
A few nights later, Roose officiates Sansa and Ramsay's wedding ceremony in the godswood.
As Stannis's army approaches Winterfell, Roose discusses how to retaliate with his council. Roose advocates remaining inside the castle to wait out Stannis's siege, since Stannis's army will break before they run out of supplies. Ramsay, however, suggests that his father meet Stannis in open battle to show him how he will deal with Southern invaders. He asks Roose for "twenty good men" as part of a sabotage mission, one that destroys Stannis's supplies, breaks the morale of his army, and causes his sellswords to desert.
Although Stannis is easily defeated by the Bolton army in the ensuing battle when he reaches Winterfell, it turns out to be a pyrrhic victory for them as Sansa escapes from Winterfell with Theon, stripping Roose of his easily most powerful political asset.
Roose and Ramsay plot their next move in the wake of Sansa's escape.
Roose Bolton is cautious, intelligent, ruthless, and easily capable of unspeakable cruelty. He has a very calm and calculating personality, never publicly expressing anger, happiness, or sadness. Politically astute, he frequently offered the most pragmatic advice to Robb Stark, albeit the most ruthless (such as recommending that they put prisoners to the sword because they were having difficulty feeding them all).
When he realized that Robb Stark had no chance of winning the war, he sought an alliance with House Frey and House Lannister. Roose's cold realism clashed with Robb's idealism. When all seemed lost, he did not attempt to fight for a losing cause and instead decided to safeguard his family's future by turning on his king. Roose does value the legacy of House Bolton as something bigger than himself.
Roose is a cunning strategist, both on and off the battlefield. His betrayal was sudden and unexpected, and it resulted in the utter decimation of the rebellious Northern lords and their armies while his own forces remained basically intact. This would allow House Bolton to overpower the now defenseless home territories of these other Houses in the North, ensuring Bolton rule.
Unlike Robb Stark, he believed that he wasn't a lord to indulge his own petty whims and that strengthening his House was his first priority: in that context, he married Walda Frey to guarantee his alliance with House Frey. As a result, Roose is somewhat critical of his bastard son Ramsay's more wild or shocking actions, because as Roose's only heir, Ramsay represents the future of House Bolton. Roose does enjoy sadistically toying with other people - as seen when he briefly taunted Jaime Lannister that King's Landing might have fallen to Stannis Baratheon - but a major difference between him and Ramsay is that Roose has caution enough to only partake in such amusements when he thinks he can get away with it. Roose is also cautious enough to realize that, despite his success in elevating House Bolton as a Great House of Westeros, this position is fragile and that only the proper alliances will allow him to retain his power. This is the main reason behind his decision to marry Sansa Stark to Ramsay and his willingness to consider an alliance with Petyr Baelish and the Lords of the Vale after Tywin Lannister's death.
|Season Two appearances|
|The North Remembers||The Night Lands||What is Dead May Never Die||Garden of Bones||The Ghost of Harrenhal|
|The Old Gods and the New||A Man Without Honor||The Prince of Winterfell||Blackwater||Valar Morghulis|
|Season Three appearances|
|Valar Dohaeris||Dark Wings, Dark Words||Walk of Punishment||And Now His Watch is Ended||Kissed by Fire|
|The Climb||The Bear and the Maiden Fair||Second Sons||The Rains of Castamere||Mhysa|
|Season Four appearances|
|Two Swords||The Lion and the Rose||Breaker of Chains||Oathkeeper||First of His Name|
|The Laws of Gods and Men||Mockingbird||The Mountain and the Viper||The Watchers on the Wall||The Children|
|Season Five appearances|
|The Wars to Come||The House of Black and White||High Sparrow||Sons of the Harpy||Kill the Boy|
|Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken||The Gift||Hardhome||The Dance of Dragons||Mother’s Mercy|
née Frey 15px
|Ramsay Bolton||Sansa Stark||Domeric Bolton|
Behind the scenesRedaguoti
Spoken by Roose
- "The Lannisters send their regards."
- ―Roose Bolton to Robb Stark, as he drives a dagger through Robb's heart.
- "The high road is very pretty, but you'll have a hard time marching your army down it."
- ―Roose Bolton to Robb Stark
- "In my family we say: A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."
- ―Roose Bolton
- "A touch of mercy is a virtue, Your Grace; too much..."
- ―Roose Bolton to Robb Stark
- "You're in no place to insist on anything. I would have hoped you'd learned your lesson about overplaying your... position."
- ―Roose Bolton to Jaime Lannister
- Roose Bolton: "You will give my regards to your father?"
- Jaime Lannister: "Tell Robb Stark I'm sorry I couldn't attend his uncle's wedding. The Lannisters send their regards."
- — Roose Bolton and Jaime Lannister.[src]
- Roose Bolton: "Lord Walder let me choose any of his granddaughters and promised me the girl's weight in silver as a dowry, so I have a fat young bride."
- Catelyn Stark: "I hope she makes you very happy."
- Roose Bolton: "Well she's made me very rich."
- — Roose Bolton discusses his new wife at the Red Wedding.[src]
- "The North is larger than the other six kingdoms combined. And I am the Warden of the North. The North is mine."
- ―Roose to Ramsay Bolton
- "Stop eating and listen."
- ―Roose to Ramsay
- "You disgraced yourself at dinner. Parading that creature before the Stark girl."
- ―Roose to Ramsay
- Roose Bolton: "You've never asked me about your mother."
- Ramsay Bolton: "Why would I? She had me, she died. And here we are."
- Roose Bolton: "She was a peasant girl, pretty in a common sort of way. She was a miller's wife. Apparently they married without my knowledge or consent. So I had him hanged and I took her beneath the three where he was swaying. She fought me the whole time. She was lucky I didn't hang her too. A year later she came to my gates with a squalling baby in her arms. A baby she claimed was mine. I nearly had her whipped, and the child thrown to the river. But then I looked at you. And I saw then what I see now. You are my son."
- — Roose telling Ramsay the story about how he met his mother.[src]
- Roose Bolton: "Stannis Baratheon has an army at Castle Black but he won't stay for long. He wants the Iron Throne and the road to King's Landing comes right through Winterfell. He means to take the North but the North is ours. It's yours and mine. Will you help me defeat him?"
- Ramsay Bolton: "Yes."
- — Roose to Ramsay[src]
Spoken about Roose
- "My mother taught me not to throw stones at cripples... but my father taught me, 'aim for their head'!"
- ―Ramsay to Theon Greyjoy
- Jon Snow: "Not him."
- Samwell Tarly: "Then who? I'm sorry, but we need men and supplies. And Roose Bolton is the Warden of the North."
- Jon Snow: "He murdered my brother."
- Samwell Tarly: "We swore to be the Watchers on the Wall. We can't watch the Wall with 50 men. And we can't get more men without help from the Warden of the North."
- — Jon Snow balks but then reluctantly signs a letter requesting aid from his brother's killer.[src]
In the booksRedaguoti
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Roose Bolton is noted for his practice of having regular leechings, which he believes improves his health and has earned him the nickname of "the Leech Lord". He is extremely pale skinned, some say due to his leechings. As in the TV series, he is also a teetotaler, refusing wine and ale and drinking only hippocras. Roose intentionally speaks very softly, thus forcing those who listen to do so intently. He's described as being mild mannered, but also cold, calculating, and capable of great cruelty. Several characters describe him as not possessing real human emotions, and he never raises his voice in anger even when frustrated or threatened - instead, he will silently stare intently at whoever offended him, mentally calculating how to destroy them. According to Jaime, Roose's silence is a hundred times more threatening than Vargo Hoat's slobbering malevolence. Theon Greyjoy used to mock Roose's silence during Robb's war councils, but after being held a prisoner in the Dreadfort and after Roose's participation in the betrayal at the Red Wedding, he sees Lord Bolton for what he really is, and notes that one only has to look at Roose to realize that he has more cruelty in his pinky toe than all of the Freys combined. Despite his penchant for cruelty, he's rather discreet about it, thus his personal motto of "a peaceful land, a quiet people."
During Robert's Rebellion, Bolton followed his liege lord Ned Stark and participated in the Battle of the Trident. After the battle he suggested to Robert Baratheon that he execute the captured Ser Barristan Selmy, who had fought for the royalist army and had been severely injured. Robert, however, was impressed by Selmy's courage and sent his personal maester to treat him.
Prior to marrying Fat Walda, Roose had two wives. Nothing is known about his first wife (other than that he apparently had no children by her). His second wife was Bethany Ryswell, sister of Lady Dustin, and mother of Domeric Bolton, who died from a sickness of the bowels (Roose suspects that Ramsay killed him). Bethany died of fever two years after her son. Roose does mention in passing once that Domeric actually had at least two brothers, but they all died in the cradle.
During the War of the Five Kings, Roose is the commander of the northern forces at the Battle of the Green Fork, which differs from the TV series' portrayal of the conflict. Roose Bolton meets Tywin's host of 20,000 with a diversionary force of 16,000, retreating in good order after their surprise attack had failed and they had bought enough time for Robb Stark's success at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Northern casualties were relatively light, though several of their lords are either killed or captured.
Roose's army, based at the Twins, continues to operate independently of Robb Stark's. When Tywin Lannister leaves Harrenhal on his way to King's Landing, Roose quickly marches his army in to occupy the castle after cutting a deal with the Brave Companions. Arya ends up serving Roose as his cupbearer, but is unnerved by his use of regular leechings. She decides to leave the castle incognito instead of revealing her true identity, despite Roose's position as a vassal to her brother.
After the Fall of Winterfell and the Battle of the Blackwater, Roose decides to betray King Robb. To weaken the Northern Houses and set up his own push to take over the North, he intentionally sends the forces under his command on suicide missions, to kill off as many Stark loyalists as possible. He puts about a third of his forces, three thousand men, under the command of Robett Glover and Ser Helman Tallhart, and sends them on a risky attack against Duskendale (possibly having outright forwarned the Lannisters via messenger-raven). At Duskendale they are surrounded by a combined Lannister-Tyrell army and annihilated, destroying most of the remaining Northern infantry in the process (though Robett Glover himself was taken prisoner). Bolton claimed to Robb that Glover and Tallhart carried out the attack on their own initiative, diverting blame from him and keeping his treachery secret. He then retreated his remaining six thousand men from Harrenhal back towards the Twins, but he intentionally marched his force too slowly, so that when they had to cross the Trident River at the Ruby Ford, his rearguard was caught out of position on the southern side of the river when the Lannister army led by Ser Gregor Clegane arrived. Clegane's men slaughtered the rearguard, which made up about one third of the remaining Northerners after Duskendale (roughly two thousand men). This move left Roose commanding a force of five hundred mounted and three thousand infantry, most of them his personal feudal levies from House Bolton's lands. By sending out the soldiers of other Northern Houses to die ahead of his own, the military strength of the rest of the North was crippled while Roose's own Bolton army was virtually unscathed. The surviving force also contained some elements sworn to House Karstark, at a time when the Karstarks had lost their lord to King Robb's justice and thus their loyalty was left in doubt.
During the Red Wedding, Roose leaves the feast prior to the massacre and returns in full armor leading similarly armed Bolton soldiers - for a split second the surviving Northern bannermen in the hall think he has arrived to help them, but Roose and his men then join the Freys in attacking the other Northerners. After Catelyn's final confrontation with Walder Frey, Roose personally kills Robb Stark by driving his sword through his heart (not simply a dagger as in the TV series). Roose's final words to Robb in the books are "Jaime Lannister sends his regards" instead of "The Lannisters send their regards" as in the TV series - this was the original line in the script, but the slight change was apparently made so viewers would not mistakenly think Jaime had anything to do with the Red Wedding, which he did not.
Another of Roose's customs is to burn not only letters but also entire books as soon as he's finished with them. Author George R.R. Martin has said that this is meant to be a microcosm of the entire character: Roose is so selfish, calculating, and ruthless that he would destroy a valuable book to preserve the advantage in knowledge it gave him over other people. Roose will destroy any advantage, even potential advantage, rather than let it continue to exist and run the danger that it might one day aid his enemies.
- ↑ HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Stark - Roose Bolton entry
- ↑ "Bastards of Westeros" promotional video
- ↑ "The Pointy End"
- ↑ 4,0 4,1 "Fire and Blood"
- ↑ 5,0 5,1 "Garden of Bones"
- ↑ "The Old Gods and the New"
- ↑ "A Man Without Honor"
- ↑ "The Prince of Winterfell"
- ↑ "Valar Dohaeris
- ↑ "Dark Wings, Dark Words"
- ↑ "Kissed by Fire"
- ↑ "The Climb"
- ↑ "The Bear and the Maiden Fair (episode)"
- ↑ "The Rains of Castamere"
- ↑ "Mhysa"
- ↑ "The Lion and the Rose"
- ↑ "The Mountain and the Viper"
- ↑ "High Sparrow (episode)"
- ↑ "Kill the Boy"
- ↑ "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"
- ↑ "Hardhome (episode)"
- ↑ "Mother's Mercy"
|Lord:||Lord Roose Bolton||Heir:||Ramsay Bolton||100px|
|Title(s):||Red King (former) · Lord of the Dreadfort · Warden of the North · Lord Paramount of the North · Lord of Winterfell|
colspan="5"| Rogar Bolton
colspan="5"| Domeric Bolton
colspan="5"| House Baratheon of King's Landing