House Bolton

 Jesse Brauner
House Bolton

The sigil of House Bolton from Game of Thrones.


Based on George R.R. Martin’s famous series of novels (collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire”), the television series “Game of Thrones” first premiered in 2011 on the channel HBO. It is set in a fantasy world heavily based on the society and culture of the European Middle Ages. Two primary continents, known as Westeros and Essos, make up the bulk of the visible landmass in this world, with the former being featured in storylines much more frequently. While typical elements from fantasy stories, such as dragons and various forms of magic, are seen throughout the series, in the long run these generally take a backseat to the military conflicts, political machinations and family dynamics that are the principle focus of the story.

The continent of Westeros is made up of many different regions, each of which has its own culture and history. Most of these regions form constituent parts of a single political realm, which is presided over by a ruling monarch. While the monarch holds ultimate power over the realm, local governance of each region is handled by a “Great House”, a noble family whose members answer directly to the sovereign. Each region also possesses any number of “Vassal Houses” who owe their loyalty to the governing Great House in one capacity or another. House Bolton is one of the Vassal Houses in The North (or rather was, until the end of the third season). Their ancestral keep is known as The Dreadfort, a castle located on a small river called the Weeping Water. The sigil of House Bolton is a red man flayed of his skin on a white “X”, which in turn is placed on a field of black, and their motto is “Our Blades Are Sharp”. There is also a second set of words that are common among members of the House; “A naked man has few secrets, a flayed man none”.

As their words and sigil imagery imply, House Bolton has a history of flaying captured enemies alive. According to some stories, previous generations of the House even wore those flayed skins as garments. While the practice of flaying was outlawed in The North prior to the time of the series, some people whisper that the Boltons still secretly carry on the tradition. In fact, this tradition ends up playing a key role in the program’s third season. The current head of the House is Lord Roose Bolton, whose actions set up a number of key plot points for season four; after betraying his own overlords (House Stark) at the end of season three, Lord Roose is given charge of the entire region of The North, essentially turning House Bolton from a Vassal House into an acting Great House.