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All the Ways Game of Thrones’ Ramsay Bolton Is Way Worse in the Books

Photo: HBO

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, as well as A Song of Ice and Fire.

We knew Ramsay was beyond despicable. We’ve known him to flay men who surrendered to him, hunt down women with his dogs, torture and castrate Theon, and rape Sansa. And ever since Roose Bolton announced that his wife was pregnant, we have feared for that baby — partly because of Ramsay’s nature, but also because we know he’s killed a brother before: In the books, Ramsay also killed Roose’s previous child. And his cruelty didn’t stop there. If you think Ramsay’s bad on Game of Thrones, here are all the ways he’s even worse in the books.

He kills at least one brother, maybe more. Ramsay killed any legitimate highborn sons Roose had, since they were a threat to his becoming the heir of House Bolton. Roose’s baby sons die while still in the cradle, and an older brother, Domeric, makes the mistake of trying to befriend Ramsay. “I forbade it,” Roose notes, before saying he expects Ramsay to kill all his brothers. “The trueborn sons my young wife has promised me would never have been safe while he lived,” he writes in one letter, after he thinks Ramsay has been executed. “I could myself well rid of him.” Later, he decides it’s better to just keep Ramsay, even if he kills all his other sons. “That’s for the best. I will not live long enough to see new sons to manhood … Walda will grieve to see them die, though.”

He rapes, flays, and kills the women he hunts. “Lord Ramsay loved the chase and preferred to hunt two-legged prey.” We got a sanitized version of Ramsay’s hunting trips on the show, and we were spared some of the reasons why he does this. As Ramsay alluded to during his conversations with Myranda, he doesn’t need much of a reason — being bored is reason enough. Or making his lover jealous. Or getting pregnant. Do any of these things, and he would strip you naked, release you into the forest, and hunt you with his pack of feral dogs. If his victims gave “good sport,” he would rape them and then wait to flay them once dead. If they did not give “good sport,” he would rape them and then flay them alive. Another bonus if you give good sport — he’ll name a dog after you. “The ones who weep and beg and won’t run don’t get to come back as bitches.” The skins of these women are displayed as trophies, and their bodies fed to his dogs.

He sets up a loyal servant to die for his crime. After committing one of his hunting rapes with his original servant, Reek (after whom Theon is later named), Ramsay spots riders nearby. He shoves his clothes in his servant’s hands, and tells him to ride to bring help. “Take my horse, he’s swifter, and here, wear the ring my father gave me, so they’ll know you came from me,” he tells Reek. Reek, dressed as Ramsay, riding Ramsay’s horse, is then killed by Ser Rodrik Cassel, believing him to be Ramsay. Ramsay at this point pretends to be Reek, so that he’ll be kept alive.

He kills Rodrik Cassel. In the show, Theon beheads Ser Rodrik Cassel because he’s bullied into it, and makes a mess of it. In the books, Ramsay slices off his arm when Cassel offers a hand in friendship, and then later blames this murder on Theon.

He kills the two miller’s boys presented as the Stark boys. Theon didn’t commit this particular crime in the books either, as he did on the show. Ramsay, pretending to be the original Reek as well as Theon’s ally, flays the bodies beyond recognition. And then he kills three Ironborn who knew about it. 

He kills a peasant
. For the crime of calling him “Lord Snow” instead of “Lord Bolton.” “Calling him Snow reminded him of his bastardy and sent him into a black rage.”

He forces his brides to marry him. Ramsay’s first wife, Lady Donella Hornwood, did not consent to marry him. Their wedding was not an arranged marriage for a political alliance, but an act of war. Ramsay seizes her castle and takes her lands, forces her to marry him before both a septon and a weirwood heart tree, “consummates” the marriage before witnesses, and makes her sign a will naming him as heir. When Ramsay marries again, it’s rumored that he keeps his bride naked and chained to a bedpost.

He forces Theon to participate in rape. First, he orders Theon to cut his bride’s clothes off. Then, after jamming two fingers inside his bride, causing her to gasp in pain, he decides she’s too dry and orders Theon to perform oral sex to “get her ready.” “And be quick about it,” he tells him. “If she’s not wet by the time I’m done disrobing, I will cut off that tongue of yours and nail it to the wall.” Given Ramsay’s history, that’s not an idle threat.

He rapes his wife with dogs. Sansa never marries Ramsay in the books. Instead, his bride is a different “Stark,” or someone masquerading as a Stark: Sansa’s childhood friend Jeyne Poole, who has been presented as if she were Arya. (The show gave Sansa this poor girl’s story line.) When a rescue is attempted, like Reek, she resists, thinking it a trick. “This is just some test to make sure that I love him … Tell him, you tell him. I’ll do what he wants … whatever he wants … with him or … or with the dog or … please … he doesn’t need to cut my feet off, I won’t try to run away, not ever, I’ll give him sons, I swear it, I swear it …” Later, her breasts are covered with teeth marks, and it’s not clear whether the bites are canine or human.

He starves his victims. After marrying Donella, Ramsay locked her away in a tower and neglected to feed her so that she starved to death. When Ser Rodrik Cassel smashed down the door, “he found her with her mouth all bloody and her fingers chewed off.” When another starving prisoner eats a rat, after not being fed for several days, Ramsay is infuriated. “All the rats in the Dreadfort belong to my lord father. How dare you make a meal of one without my leave.”

He breaks his victims’ teeth. This is just another way of Ramsay starving people, but more sadistic. Theon has trouble eating, even when food is offered to him, because Ramsay took a hammer to his teeth because he “hated [his] smiles.” He’s left with so many broken teeth that “chewing was an agony.” When he’s offered meat, he has to cut it up very small, suck on each piece, and spit it out. “That way, at least he had the taste, and some nourishment from the grease and blood.”

He makes his victims beg to cut off body parts. “Lord Ramsay would never simply cut off a man’s finger. He preferred to flay it and let the exposed flesh dry and crack and fester. … It was the sort of pain that drove men mad. Soon or late, the victim would scream, ‘Please, no more, no more, stop it hurting, cut it off,’ and Lord Ramsay would oblige.” Theon had lost the little toe off his right foot, three from his left foot. He was reduced to seven fingers, having lost two fingers off his left hand and the pinky off his right. And he predicts that when his fingers and toes are gone, Ramsay will take his hands and feet, “but only when I beg for it, when the pain grows so bad that I plead for him to give me some relief.” Theon tries to end the pain of a flayed digit with his own teeth, and Ramsay is not pleased. “The offense had cost Reek another toe.”

He forces his victims to live in filth. Even when Roose Bolton offers Theon a bath, he’s afraid to take him up on the offer. “You are wearing rags. Filthy things, torn and stained and stinking of blood and urine,” Roose remarks. But Theon knows he’s forbidden to take his clothes off, forbidden to wash, that he would be forced to “roll in shit again” and wear his clothes until they rot.

He’s cruel to animals. When Ramsay sacks Winterfell, he sets Theon’s horse aflame.  “That was the last sight he had seen the day the castle fell: Smiler burning, the flames leaping from his mane as he reared up, kicking, screaming, his eyes white with terror.”

He breaks an oath. While pretending to be Reek, Ramsay swears obedience to House Greyjoy and King Balon. It’s a lie, of course, because he’s planning to betray Theon. Comparatively, this one doesn’t seem so bad!

GOT’s Ramsay Bolton Is Way Worse in the Books