Is Roose Bolton is the original Rat Cook?
“All the rats in the Dreadfort belong to my lord father. How dare you make a meal of one without my leave.”
The Rat Cook was a Brother of the Nights Watch hundreds of years before Aegons landing. He may be so old that he could have been around during the Long Night. There may be future implications as Roose once swore the Nights Watch oath. Perhaps by saying the oath at gate by the Night Fort, his former home that may bring him beyond the wall for something important. Oh and also doom him as a traitor and oathbreaker who will incur the wrath of Bran.
Why Roose May Be The Rat Cook
GRRM gives out family trees like candy. Yet there is no Bolton family tree. That is because if you want to make a family tree, first you must stop devouring your own tree saplings to drink their blood and suck the life force from them.
Or maybe not.
“It wasn’t for murder the gods cursed the Rat Cook, or for serving the King’s son in a pie… he killed a guest beneath his roof… that’s something the gods can’t forgive.” ―Bran Stark
What is interesting is that Bran is now essentially an Old God. This is lining up Bran to battle Roose eventually.
The Rat Cook is the subject of legends and myths in the Seven Kingdoms. According to these legends, a King once paid a visit to the Nightfort, then the chief castle on the Wall. Due to some offense by the king, the cook killed the king’s son and served his flesh in a pie to the unknowing king. The king enjoyed the pie so much he asked for a second helping.
Does that story sound a bit familiar? The Rat Cook killed his liege lords son at a feast. Roose Bolton killed Ned Starks son, his former liege Lord (Lord Paramount is pretty much the same as king in this context) at the feast of the Red Wedding. So there is a direct parallel between the Rat Cook of “old” and the possibly very very old Roose Bolton today.
The Rat Cook is the ultimate historical story of breaking guest right. That is what the Red Wedding is today.
Roose led the planning and literal execution of the Red Wedding. The connections are clear and direct.
Roose not only got the Freys involved in it, but he married into the Freys, making them kin and symbolizing they too are Rat Cooks. Too many cooks in the kitchen, methinks.
“Due to some offense by the king, the cook killed the king’s son.”
Roose is also very easily offended and his response to perceived offense is deadly. Several characters describe Roose as not possessing real human emotions, and he never raises his voice in anger even when frustrated or threatened – instead, he will silently stare intently at whoever offended him, mentally calculating how to destroy them. According to Jaime, Roose’s silence is a hundred times more threatening than Vargo Hoat’s slobbering malevolence.
The gods cursed the cook by turning him into a fat, white rat which could only survive by feasting on its young. He was condemned to run the halls of the Nightfort, eating his own offspring. The gods were not offended by the murder, nor even by cooking the son and feeding him to his own father, for a man has a right to vengeance. What the gods could not forgive and cursed the cook for was that he broke the laws of hospitality and protection, which are held to be sacred above all others.
George R.R. Martin may have drawn inspiration for the Rat Cook from the Greek myth about the curse of the House of Atreus. The two brothers Atreus and Thyestes were feuding over the kingship, and Atreus discovered that Thyestes was having an affair with his own wife Aerope. Atreus exacted revenge by inviting Thyestes to dinner at his home, then secretly killed Thyestes’ sons, cooked their meat, and served it to the unknowing Thyestes. After he had finished consuming his own issue, Atreus revealed to Thyestes what he had done and taunted him with the severed heads and hands of his sons. This is the source of modern phrase “Thyestean Feast”, one at which human flesh is served. I would love to see GRRM’s food descriptions in that meal.
This is The Song of Rats and Sows.
So they went exploring, Jojen Reed leading, Bran in his basket on Hodor’s back, Summer padding by their side. Once the direwolf bolted through a dark door and returned a moment later with a grey rat between his teeth. The Rat Cook, Bran thought, but it was the wrong color, and only as big as a cat. The Rat Cook was white, and almost as huge as a sow.
Bran should have trusted his intuition, grey is the right color for the Rat Cook.
“Roose Bolton’s own face was a pale grey mask, with two chips of dirty ice where his eyes should be.
The technique Roose would use to skinchange the flayed skin is the same as from the Faceless Men. If Roose’s face is a mask, he is faceless. It is the ruse of Bolton.
“Huge as a sow” is a curious turn of phrase Bran used to describe that rat. Take a look at this exchange between Lord Walder Frey and his son Merrett regarding Merretts daughter, Fat Walda Frey, Roose’s wife:
“He picked her because she’s fat,” Lord Walder said. “You think Bolton gave a mummer’s fart that she was your whelp? Think he sat about thinking, ‘Heh, Merrett Muttonhead, that’s the very man I need for a good-father’? Your Walda’s a sow in silk, that’s why he picked her, and I’m not like to thank you for it. We’d have had the same alliance at half the price if your little porkling put down her spoon from time to time.”
Roose’s first wife has not yet been mentioned in A Song of Ice and Fire. His second wife was Bethany Bolton, with whom he had one son survive the cradle, Domeric.
“Survive the cradle” is a very interesting choice of phrase. Hinting that there were multiple other births, not just Domeric. But that something terrible just happened to those children at random. This had nothing to do with Roose Bolton devouring his own infant sons flesh, right? Right?
But devouring may be a Craster-like metaphor.
In 297 AC, Domeric died of a “bad belly.” Lord Bolton privately attributes his heir’s death to poisoning by his bastard son, Ramsay Snow. But we all know “poison is for cravens, women, and Dornishmen.” If it is one thing we know about Ramsay is he wants to make his enemies suffer, scream and beg for death. He is more of an impaler than poisoner. That is clearly a lie and it was Roose who killed his own children, those in the cradle and Domeric so he could eat them as the Rat Cook theory describes.
All of the things I mention in this post may not be literally the IRS, Irritable Ratbowel Syndrome, but symbolism pointing past itself to something greater. I wouldn’t be all too surprised, no I lie, I would be surprised if Roose becomes an anti-anti-hero as experience killing Starks may come in handy in the last book.
“Dirty ice” is interesting turn of phrase. As it directly connects to my recent essay on how Roose Bolton flayed Robb Stark so he can wear his skin as a cloak, in the same way Arya puts on face masks made of skin in the House of Black and White.
Frey Pies… a very bad idea?
Lord Wyman Manderly took the lemoncake when at the wedding of Ramsay Bolton to the fake Arya Stark, Lord Wyman, Manderly asks Abel the Bard to sing about the Rat Cook after he serves three large pork pies. I am sure Roose greatly appreciated that gesture. But there wasn’t just a song but dinner with that show at the wedding. A Frey Pie dinner. Roose being The Rat Cook puts a a whole new spin on Frey Pie theory as now that he married Walda, they are his own kin now. Lord Manderly of Wight Harbor may have done much more damage to his cause than he knows.
Roose Bolton doesn’t eat any of the food unless he sees Manderly eating off the same dish at Ramsays wedding. Now suppose Roose somehow knows about the Frey pie. He may have only chosen to eat Frey Pie laden food as his wife is a Frey and they are now his kin.
As the Rat Cook can only digest the meat of by eating his own kin. That implies he cannot digest the other food he might ingest which causes problems as he is a high lord with social obligations to meet and eat with lords.
So his social obligations causes him to have to eat things that do not agree with him. If this keeps happening he may suffer from sepsis and would need to remove some of the bad infected or tainted blood… by leeching.
“Frequent leechings are the secret of a long life.” – Roose Bolton
Roose must has gone through many leeches as he is very, very, very old. His blood may be very, very, very bad. He may be so old that he was around during the previous Long Night as the accounts of where the Rats Cook originated from was at least hundreds of years before Aegons conquest. Leeches are also mentioned in the Dornishman’s Wife song. The only other time we are shown leaches with blood, it is with Melissandre and there is overtly dark blood magic and death involved there.
Though Roose had been in battles, he bore no scars. Though well past forty, he was as yet unwrinkled, with scarce a line to tell of the passage of time. His lips were so thin that when he pressed them together they seemed to vanish altogether. There was an agelessness about him, a stillness; on Roose Bolton’s face, rage and joy looked much the same… His eyes are ice.
It is interesting how Roose discusses Ramsey’s blood, especially considering he shares Roose’ blood, down to the icy grey eyes and is the only child he allowed to reach adulthood.
“Tainted blood is ever treacherous, and Ramsay’s nature was sly, greedy, and cruel.
“Tell him … tell him to be afraid?” Reek felt ill at the very thought of it. “M’lord, I … if I did that, he’d …” “I know.” Lord Bolton sighed. “His blood is bad. He needs to be leeched. The leeches suck away the bad blood, all the rage and pain. No man can think so full of anger. Ramsay, though … his tainted blood would poison even leeches, I fear.” “He is your only son.”
And after the challenge of clean his dirty blood with leaches of there is the problem of getting that undigested food out of his system. A problem requiring requiring…. Prunes.
Roose Bolton “helped himself to a prune and ate it with small sharp bites. “Do try these, Ser Jaime. They are most sweet, and help move the bowels as well. Lord Vargo took them from an inn before he burnt it.” “My bowels move fine, that goat’s no lord, and your prunes don’t interest me half so much as your intentions.” –Jaime, ASOS.
So in closing, even if you don’t agree with my theory that I will share below, at least we can all agree that Roose is alive. Dead men need not shit.
” Meryn Trant claimed that Strong took neither food nor drink, and Boros Blount went so far as to say he had never seen the man use the privy. Why should he? Dead men do not shit.” –Kevan Lannister
Oh and great news guys… Fat Walda is pregnant! Mazel tov to the happy couple. Or should we say bon appetit?