Bastard, was the only word written outside the scroll. No Lord Snow or Jon Snow or Lord Commander. Simply Bastard. And the letter was sealed with a smear of hard pink wax. “You were right to come at once,” Jon said. You were right to be afraid. He cracked the seal, flattened the parchment, and read.
Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.
Your false king’s friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.
I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.
I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.
It was signed,
Trueborn Lord of Winterfell. ― Jon XIII, A Dance with Dragons.
Her childhood seems like a lifetime ago. Winterfell seems like a lifetime ago. The Winterfell she used to know, that is. She can scarcely believe it was only a couple years ago she was calling Arya names and fantasizing about her future husband with Sansa. It all seems so frivolous now, so stupid.
They had both been so sure their husbands would be good men, handsome ones, that they’d live their lives happy with a dozen children. What fools they were. She has Ramsay, and Sansa…well, no one knows where Sansa is anymore. Probably dead like everyone else.
It is strange, what she remembers from then, what sticks with her. So many memories have faded away now. She can hardly even remember Sansa’s face. Gods only know why she remembers that one day with Theon, a meaningless blip of a conversation so long ago, but she does. She had been upset that one of the boys in the yard had called her hair ugly, of all things; she’d thought that was the worst insult the world could hurl at her, a boy saying he didn’t like her hair.
But it had mattered at the time, and a drunken Theon had found her weeping on one of the staircases and she’d told him what happened. And then he’d told her he thought she was beautiful. He’d promptly thrown up and stumbled off to his chambers, and she doubts he remembers it and certainly knows he wasn’t serious, but for some reason it’s stuck with her through all the pain and despair. Theon had called her pretty, once. She’s not so anymore, if ever she was. Yet still, somehow, she holds onto that night like a tether. That stupid, childish, meaningless night, the last vestige of her innocence.
Theon wrenched his arm away from her. “I’m no … I’m no one’s man.” A man would help her. “Just… just be Arya, be his wife. Please him, or… just please him, and stop this talk about being someone else.” Jeyne, her name is Jeyne, it rhymes with pain. The music was growing more insistent. “It is time. Wipe those tears from your eyes.” Brown eyes. They should be grey. Someone will see. Someone will remember. “Good. Now smile.” ― The Prince of Winterfell, A Dance with Dragons.
Reasons real and imagined why Theon needs redemption:
Theon didn’t owe the Starks any allegiance whatsoever… until he swore
that Robb was his brother. There was no way out of this for him since
once asshole dad made up his mind to go to war with the North he was
doomed to betray one side or the other. I think the fact that Theon
chooses to betray Robb, who cares for him, instead of Balon, who clearly
doesn’t, is very frustrating for a lot of people. Theon is not the best at decision making.
2. Killing 2 kids was definitely wrong by all Westerosi moral standards. Even Asha
calls Theon out on this. He was not fighting the enemy or helping his
family here, he was just trying to maintain his own wounded pride. In fact, his
actions hurt the Ironborn cause by pissing off all of the North even
more. This is the most clear cut example of Theon fucking up and the
primary thing I think he needs to atone for.
3. Nobody ever
brings up Moat Cailin because nobody seems to care about a bunch of
Ironborn redshirts, but Theon definitely gave them up to a horrible end. To a person in his right mind, the correct course of action would be to warn the Ironborn of Bolton craziness and offer to fight alongside them to the death.
Of course, Theon is not in his right mind and is absolutely not responsible for any actions he took as a brainwashed slave. Still, it’s
something he blames himself for and I’ve never seen it mentioned so I
thought I’d put it on the list.
4. Some people think Theon is
complicit in the rape on Ramsay’s wedding night because he is forced to take part.
These people are idiots and should be ignored.
5. BOOKS ONLY: The assassinations of the Ironborn soldiers who helped him fake
the deaths of Bran and Rickon. He is so afraid that his own men will
talk that he orders Reek!Ramsay to kill them, and then blames these
murders on a man he knows to be innocent. Not cool, Theon.
6. BOOKS ONLY: The rape of Kyra. When things are falling apart for Theon at the end of A Clash of Kings he tries to restore a sense of his own power by abusing his commoner girlfriend Kyra and it is definitely not ok. However Kyra comes to him for help later and he tries to save her, and he is really upset that he fails, and I like to imagine that there was some kind of forgiveness there before the end. Then, at the end of A Dance with Dragons, he empathizes with and successfully rescues Jeyne Poole, another rape victim, at great peril to his own skin. Redemption!
Disclaimer: Theon’s sins add to the depth of his character and the power of his story arc. Lots of characters in A Song of Ice and Fire are like this. White- or blackwashing almost any character in this series is doing them a disservice. Yes, even Ned Stark. I love Theon and think about him constantly, so I may uncover a forgotten crime and add it to the list. :)