Shocking deaths were part and parcel of Game of Thrones, and after the death of Ned Stark in the first season fans knew that there was no protagonist off-limits. Still, since audiences are so trained in following story convention it only made sense to put hope in Ned's eldest son Robb as the great hope of Westeros, and as he stormed into battle along with his direwolf, Grey Wind, to great military success he seemed to be off to a promising start.
The infamous Red Wedding brought that success to a bloody end, with Robb's death at the centerpiece of one of the series' most shocking moments. But fans of the show might even be more shocked to discover the death was even worse in the books because Robb actually died twice.
The Red Wedding was a bloody massacre that ended the North's efforts in the War of the Five Kings that split Westeros apart. It came during a crucial moment during Robb Stark's journey southward as his campaign was forced to pass through the Twins of the Riverlands, a well-guarded and invaluable passageway in the continent. To secure safe passage, Robb negotiated with the Lord of the Twins, Walder Frey, and put down his guard as the custom of guest rights made it an unforgivable sin to betray those welcomed into one's home. It is for that reason that Robb acquiesced to the Freys' request to kennel his greatest protector, Grey Wind, outside as he and his mother went inside for the wedding that would secure the alliance. But that should have been his first red flag.
The Stark children each had an animal companion in the direwolves they raised from pups, and throughout both the books and the television series their connection to the animals was outright mystical. Known as warging, and far more detailed in the novels, unbeknownst to most of the Stark children they could even enter their animals' minds to inhabit their bodies. This is what leads to one of the most tragic details of the Red Wedding as it occurs in the books that the HBO series changed. On screen, Robb's final words before his death are to call out to his mother, Catelyn, but in the books, his final words are for Grey Wind. In both, Grey Wind dies, but that final call for Grey Wind hints that in the books Robb was forced to suffer a second death after inhabiting his companion's body.
There are parallels with Jon Snow's later death which underline the tragedy here. Jon similarly called out to his own direwolf, Ghost, in the final moments before his death and it is a popular theory in the books that he currently inhabits Ghost's body. But Grey Wind was not as lucky as Ghost in surviving his master's death, and at the Red Wedding, the direwolf was slain in his kennels without much of an opportunity to fight back. To add insult to injury, Robb's body is fit with Grey Wind's severed head and paraded around the castle grounds as his enemies mocked him in his death.
Even without the knowledge of warging the death would be tragic, but the double death that warging implies makes it even more so. It offers one final opportunity that Robb had to survive his end that was immediately cut down and spat upon by his foes. The irreverence for the show's primary heroic figure at that show is characteristic of the series which refuses at almost every opportunity to translate such reverence into the plot-based armor that seems to reward protagonists in most stories.
The show never quite goes as explicitly into detail on the Stark children warging as the books do, and yet there remains a mysticism about their connection to the animals. Even as late as the final season when Arya briefly meets with Nymeria it is clear that they still share their affinity despite Nymeria's years in the wild, so it would not be totally out of left field to apply the same tragic circumstances that repeated Robb's death in the books to the television show.
As if the Red Wedding's massacre was not sad enough, fans unfamiliar with the books can rewatch the series with the double death in mind. The series was upfront with its viewers that those who play the game of thrones either win or they die. What it neglected to mention is that sometimes players can even die twice.
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