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George R.R. Martin has taken a breather from working on his long-anticipated Winds of Winter, but the Game of Thrones author has now revealed that one of the Starks almost got left out of the show. Hint: It was not Ned. So which one of the Starks almost got cut during the adaptation process?
HBO had a huge task ahead of it when it came to adapting George R.R. Martin’s expansive tome for television. When you consider the magnitude of the cast, the show had to look at streamlining. Martin recently shared that there was talk of leaving out a certain Stark, which he noted in the upcoming book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon (via EW):
The biggest thing was Dan and David called me up and had the idea of eliminating Rickon, the youngest of the Stark children, because he didn’t do much in the first book. I said I had important plans for him, so they kept him.
Yes, much like when Game of Thrones opted to leave Ghost out (of almost everything), the showrunners wanted to leave out Rickon Stark. However, George R.R. Martin made it clear that Rickon had a larger part to play despite his low impact in earlier books. Martin was not overstating the matter (as viewers eventually learned), so the Starks’ little brother stayed in the game.
Rickon ended up playing a critical role in the Starks’ endgame in an unexpected way that moved the story forward. Whether or not Martin uses him the way the show did is still anyone’s guess at this point. Martin has talked about there being “discrepancies” between his books and the show.
Spoilers for Game of Thrones lie ahead.
Rickon and Bran were both presumed dead at one point on Game of Thrones, after Theon Greyjoy faked their deaths. (He had two local boys killed in their place). Bran and Rickon ended up going their separate ways, though, and the evil Ramsay Bolton ultimately captured Rickon.
The youngest Stark sibling figured heavily into what ensued on Game of Thrones, as Ramsay threw his capture of Rickon in the Starks’ faces, setting Ramsay and Jon Snow’s much-anticipated showdown into motion in Season 6. From there, “The Battle of the Bastards” commenced wherein Jon Snow heroically rushed in to rescue Rickon from Ramsay’s clutches.
In the climactic Game of Thrones sequence, Ramsay had a freed Rickon run towards his brother, as Ramsay shot arrows at him. Unfortunately, Rickon never learned to zig-zag (why George R.R. Martin, why?) and, just as Jon Snow reached his little brother, Rickon was hit by one of Ramsay’s arrows. That is when “The Battle of the Bastards” really ignited, ultimately leading to Jon pummeling Ramsay before dogs consumed him.
So as you can see, Rickon had a considerable part to play in Game of Thrones, as his death became the rallying cry for the Starks could at long last take back their ancestral home. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones’ ending means Jon Snow will not get to enjoy the fruits of his bravery. All in all, Rickon was essential to one of the series’ most famous moments.
To relive the youngest Stark’s importance, you can stream every season of Game of Thrones on HBO Max. While you wait, continue anticipating the upcoming spinoff, House of the Dragon, after this fall’s premieres.