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Is Catelyn Stark still alive in Game of Thrones?

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Kayleigh Dray
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We need to talk about Lady Stoneheart and her potential role in Game of Thrones season 8…

As fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will obviously remember, our beloved Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) was killed off in season three’s bloody Red Wedding. And when we say killed off, we mean it in the definitive sense: we saw her throat slashed, and we saw her breathe her last.

However, as those who have read George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (upon which the TV show is based) will know, the story of Catelyn Stark’s character does not end there.

So, what happens to Catelyn Stark in the Game of Thrones books?

In the books, Catelyn’s naked body is thrown into the river after her throat is slit at the Red Wedding.

It is later found by the Brotherhood Without Banners and resurrected by Beric Dondarrion, who gives his life for hers through the last kiss of R’hllor.

However, she has been dead too long for the magic to work properly: mutilated and unable to speak, Catelyn is utterly consumed by vengeance and intent on killing each and every single person she believes to have betrayed her family.

“Her cloak and collar hid the gash his brother’s blade had made, but her face was even worse than he remembered,” reads the book’s description of her. “The flesh had gone pudding soft in the water and turned the color of curdled milk. Half her hair was gone and the rest had turned as white and brittle as a crone’s. Beneath her ravaged scalp, her face was shredded skin and black blood where she had raked herself with her nails. But her eyes were the most terrible thing. Her eyes saw him, and they hated.”

Shunning her past, Catelyn becomes known as Lady Stoneheart, mercilessly hunting down and hanging anyone associated with the Freys, Boltons, or Lannisters, even if they had nothing to do with the Red Wedding or if they are young boys, including Podrick Payne. 

And, in the most recent book, Stoneheart and the Brotherhood named Brienne a traitor because they found her carrying Oathkeeper, Jaime Lannister’s sword which was forged from Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel blade, Ice. 

Brienne swore that she was still faithful to her former mistress, but Stoneheart insisted she must prove it by killing Jaime. Brienne refused, even when threatened with a hanging. However, just before the noose was tightened, the knight shouted out a word of concession. The last we saw, she was leading Jaime alone right into the hands of Stoneheart…

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Will Lady Stoneheart make an appearance in the Game of Thrones finale, then?

Well, diehard Game of Thrones fans are convinced that the late Catelyn has already returned, insisting she made an appearance in Spoils of War, the fourth episode of the seventh season of the show.

Taking to Reddit, one viewer asked users to go back and watch the phenomenal sparring scene between Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).

In the scene, Arya – impressed by Brienne’s prowess on the battlefield – approaches her and asks her to train with her. Brienne, mistaking the young Stark for a little girl, insisted that it would be an unfair fight.

“Didn’t you vow to serve both my mother’s daughters?” asked Arya.

And here’s where things get interesting: when Arya said the word “mother”, a woman in a long green dress with long auburn wavy hair could be seen walking in the background. Her head was down and she was moving fast – but she looked a lot like the late Lady of Winterfell.

Check it out (the moment you need occurs at 1.14):

“If it’s unintentional, it’s awesome,” says GrennsGal. “If not, more awesome. It means that Catelyn is checking in on Brienne and making sure she’s keeping her vows.”

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Has Michelle Fairley been seen on the Game of Thrones set?

We don’t know if it’s true or not, but a Twitter user claims to have seen the Catelyn Stark actor enjoying a cup of coffee with an unnamed Game of Thrones actor in Belfast, near to where the Winterfell scenes of the show are filmed.

When questioned by another Twitter user about the identity of the other actor, @bienexorcizada responded, “No sé el nombre del actor, pero hizo del padre o tío de Michelle en las primeras temporadas.” 

This translates to: “I do not know the name of the actor, but was the father or uncle of Michelle in the early seasons.”

The tweet has since been removed from social media (curiouser and curiouser, eh?), but can be seen here

Of course, Fairley could just have been enjoying a coffee with an old friend. And, if she is filming scenes, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will see her as Lady Stoneheart: one theory states that Catelyn Stark will appear in a flashback scene that involves Bran Stark practicing his greensighting skills. Or perhaps all of our old (long dead) favourites will appear in the final scenes, raised to help defend Westeros from the White Walkers. 

Hey, it’s a theory.

The Game of Thrones season 8 trailer takes the Stark children back to the crypts of Winterfell…

Jon Snow, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya Stark are seen navigating the crypts of Winterfell in the teaser trailer, stumbling across statues of themselves in the shadows. Arya and Sansa’s statues depict them as they are now: young, beautiful, vibrant. Jon’s, however, sees him as an old man… suggesting he is the only one who survives the final battle.

However, what if this scene was included to remind viewers of Starks who have been lost along the way. Starks such as Ned (Sean Bean), Robb (Richard Madden), and…

Yes, and Catelyn.

What has George R R Martin said about the possible return of Catelyn Stark?

Martin famously said that the character had been cut from the TV version and that he was too busy trying to finish the books, otherwise he would have been more involved with the series and found a way to include her.

Game of Thrones director Mike Mylod agreed, saying: “I’ve genuinely had no discussions about Lady Stoneheart, so I genuinely couldn’t comment about whether that might or might not be in their minds for the future.”

Hmm. Then again, thse guys aren’t exactly known for telling the truth: remember how they all swore to high heaven that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was really dead? Exactly.

What has Michelle Fairley said about the possibility of reprising her role as Catelyn Stark?

Fairley previously stated that: “Yeah, the character’s dead. She’s dead.

“You respect the writers’ decision. I knew the arc, and that was it. They can’t stick to the books 100 percent. It’s impossible… they only have 10 hours per season. They have got to keep it dramatic and exciting, and extraneous stuff along the way gets lost in order to maintain the quality of brilliant show.”

Fairley is obviously very busy working on numberous TV and film projects, too. However, given the incredible make up that would be needed to depict Lady Stoneheart, it’s not inconceivable that they could simply cast someone else under all those prosthetics.

Could TV bosses have merged Lady Stoneheart with another character?

Some believe that the TV show, in order to simplify story arcs, will gift Lady Stoneheart’s quest for vengeance to one of her daughters. We have already seen Arya murder the likes of Walder Frey (David Bradley) and Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) without so much as a flicker of remorse… and we know she is hellbent on killing Cersei and Jaime, too.

And then there’s Sansa, who fed rapist Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) to his own dogs in season 7. She also seems to have inherited the urge to use a noose on those foolish people who have betrayed the Starks, as she states during a meeting in S06E05:

“The Umbers gave Rickon to the our enemies. They can hang.”

It’s certainly a compelling fan theory, isn’t it?

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Whatever happens in season 8, we can only hope that Catelyn has found her way to Winterfell at last… either in spirit, or in zombie.

Roll on the finale, already!

Images: HBO

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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