Immediately following the airing of the Game of Thrones finale “The Children,” the internet exploded with fan outrage over the exclusion of the character Lady Stoneheart. In fact, there was even a Twitter hashtag devoted to it (#noladystoneheart), and I’ll admit that I spent a great deal of time last Sunday night perusing that thread, salving my bruised expectations by wallowing in collective outrage. Since then, I have noticed a lot of speculation about whether this character will be included in the HBO adaptation at all, as well as those who opine that she should not be, nor should she have been in the novels. Well, I am here to go to bat for Lady Stoneheart, and to argue forcefully and loudly not only why she should be included in the series, but also why she is an important, even pivotal, part of Martin’s original creation.
Spoiler warning: For those who do not know, Lady Stoneheart is the resurrected Catelyn Stark, brought back from the dead after her water-damaged corpse is discovered by Berric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners. Berric subsequently gives his life to save hers, and she becomes their leader, hunting down any and all she deems responsible for her son’s death. Ultimately, this includes Brienne, whom she believes sold herself to Jaime Lannister. Though we have not seen Lady Stoneheart since A Feast for Crows, we can reasonably assume that she is still alive (sort of), and that she will have some part to play in the novels.
However, the same cannot be said of the series. Benioff and Weiss have been ambiguous about what they plan to do with her, if anything. Fans had been led to believe that she would appear in the season four finale, as Lena Headey posted a photo with a heart made of stones. Not only that, but Catelyn has hovered over the entire season, as if the writers were priming us for her appearance at the very end. Alas, she did not appear, and I was much more disappointed than I probably should have been, but there you have it.
Now, for the novels, Catleyn’s appearance is just one more indication that old world type magic has come back into the world, along with other signs and wonders, including the infamous dragons and the Others. This is a world where the old rules that governed Westeros do not apply, including the ones that separate the living from the dead. Her brutal vigilantism is a far cry from her husband Ned’s form of justice, but that is just another sign that Westeros as a unified political body is coming undone at the seams.
And that is precisely why she is such an important character. While some might dismiss her as a rare misstep for Martin and a cop-out of the brutality of the Red Wedding, I would argue that precisely the opposite is true. It is important to point out that Catelyn has lost all of her beauty, and the horrible slash on her throat keeps her from being able to speak in anything other than a hoarse and almost unintelligible whisper. Lady Stoneheart may be alive, but the consequences of her resurrection–which does not, in Martin’s brutal world, include healing of the injuries sustained at the tiem of death–remain all too present on her body. Even magic, it seems, has its limitations.
In terms of the HBO series, Lady Stoneheart is just as important. In addition to serving the same function as the novels (since the series also portrays the dangers of a world falling apart at the seams), she is also a crucial part of the plotline that develops between Brienne and Podrick. If Lady Stonheart does not arrive to take them prisoner, it seems unclear what exactly they will be doing. Of course, we don’t know what plans Martin has for Brienne now that we know that she escaped hanging (a fact revealed in A Dance With Dragons), so perhaps the showrunners know something that we do not.
So, while some might doubt that Lady Stoneheart has a role to play in either the novels or the television series, to me it seems obvious that she is as important in undeath as she was in life. It remains to be seen, however, whether she will meet the fate of other characters that have not made the transition from page to screen. Only time will tell.