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The Game of Thrones Novels Brought Catelyn Stark Back…as a Zombie?!

Catelyn Stark returns as Lady Stoneheart in A Song of Ice and Fire, offering a direction for the character totally unexplored in the HBO series.

There is only so much that the HBO adaptation Game of Thrones could fit from A Song of Ice and Fire, and that often meant that certain characters found completely different directions on screen than they went in the pages of the novels. Fans of the HBO series may be surprised to learn how the lives of the Stark children went differently in their source material, but none of them are as different as the progression of their mother, Catelyn Stark. Though Catelyn died much the same at the Red Wedding in the show and in the books, her return as Lady Stoneheart in the books proved for her death was not the end, raising questions about how this was possible and who the zombified Lady Stoneheart is.In both versions of the story, Catelyn Stark begins much the same leading up to her death. As the matriarch to the Stark family, she is a wellspring of support and guidance to her husband, Ned, and her children. Following Ned’s death, she is a valuable counsel to her eldest  Robb, as she begins his march southward to participate in the War of Five Kings, ultimately guiding him through the diplomatic minefield of joining forces with the Freys in order to cross the northern army through the Twins. Yet, the Freys betray Catelyn and Robb, leading to their deaths.


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The HBO series treats death as the end for Catelyn with her surviving only in the memory of those who loved her. For instance, her youngest, Arya Stark, later returns to murder the Freys in retribution for the Red Wedding by poisoning their feast toward the end of the series. However, the HBO adaptation outpaced the novels in terms of the timeline, and since it made its own changes along the way, that meant the two series will likely end differently. Perhaps no element in the series diverges more than the story of Catelyn who returns in the novels as the resurrected Lady Stoneheart. Following the defilement of her corpse and disposal in a nearby river, the direwolf Nymeria finds Catelyns body and pulls it ashore, where Beric Dondarion and his Brotherhood without Banners find her. Possessed with revitalizing magic and surviving several deaths of his own, Beric gives the last of his life in a kiss to Catelyns corpse, prompting his death and her resurrection. Still corpse like and nearly incapable of speaking, the new Catelyn bears little resemblance to the old. She takes over leadership of the Brotherhood, leading them as the revenge-seeking Lady Stoneheart who is as much a friend as a foe in the series. Lady Stonehearts ultimate goals remain mysterious where the timeline of A Song of Ice and Fire sits presently, though the Brotherhood becomes a lawless gang of muscle men under her direction. She even captures Brienne of Tarth and Podrick and spares no sympathy for their mission to rescue Catelyns daughter, Sansa showing that some fundamental change took place in her desire for vengeance. From that place, there is little possibility she would continue through the rest of the series without massively affecting the surrounding plotlines that already diverged in their own ways in the show.

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Most notably, she is not the only resurrected figure stalking Westeros. The Wights are a growing threat in the North, as the Long Night sets in, but whether she would aid in the fight against the undead or join as one of their own could be one of the most major directions to be investigated in the remainder of the series. Though the franchise has a reputation for cutting many plotlines short with punctuated anticlimaxes, it strains credibility to believe all the effort of resurrecting Lady Stoneheart would end without her story creating massive consequences.At the same time, it’s easy to see why the series truncated Catelyns arc with her death. As a fitting and emotionally powerful moment, her death lends the Red Wedding greater consequence and weight that is minimized by her resurrection. With such an expansive cast of characters, the show took its opportunities to cull the simultaneous arcs it could whenever possible, so reintroducing them later would only complicate matters further when there was less time to resolve conflict. Still, fans of both the books and show are likely to fantasize about how cool a zombified ice queen leading a band of outlaws could have been on screen.

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