When we first meet Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones, it isn’t hard to hate him. He treats a young Jon Snow like a freak, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t quite belong inside the Stark family that he has been living with for the past nine years. Over the course of the show’s run, though, it’s become clear that Theon is a much more complicated character then he may initially have seemed.
We come to understand the pressures put on him by his father, and we’ve witnessed his brutal torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. It’s true, of course, that Theon has done some horrendous things in his time on the show and in the books. But, in the years since he was first introduced, Alfie Allen has turned Theon, aka Reek, into a character well worth watching. He’s had one of the best arcs in the run of both the show and the books, but he also has a history that’s well worth exploring.
Theon’s life didn’t begin with the beginning of the show, and some of the most interesting elements of his character haven’t been explored on screen. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Theon (And Reek).
15. He Has Four Brothers and Sisters
Although we’ve only been introduced to one of Theon’s siblings in the world of the show, Theon has quite a few siblings in the books. Theon is the youngest of his brothers, and so is last in line to succeed his father. Although Theon originally had more siblings, both of his older brothers were killed during Greyjoy’s rebellion, which is also how Theon came to be under the care of Ned.
Greyjoy’s rebellion involved an attempt by the Iron Islands, and Balon Greyjoy specifically, to secede from the Seven Kingdoms and become independent. The rebellion took place nine years before the events of the books and show. Although this makes Theon the heir to the Iron Islands, we learned during Game of Thrones’ sixth season that the folks in the Iron Islands actually elect their leaders. In this way, the ironborn are unique in the world of Westeros, as most of the kingdoms follow a system of dynastic rule.
14. He was believed dead by King Tommen
Theon does not get point-of-view chapters in every one of Martin’s books, and so it’s not always totally clear what’s happening with his character. In A Feast for Crows, King Tommen’s small council seems to suggest that Theon is most likely dead after the Boltons take Winterfell and become the Wardens of the North. Of course, we know that’s not actually the case, but it does speak to the power of Martin’s point-of-view structure.
When you aren’t privy to any sort of omnipotent descriptions of what is occurring in Westeros, it becomes much harder to filter out information you know to be false. If the small council suggests that Theon is dead, the reader has no idea whether they are misinformed or not until we see him pop up again. The world of Westeros is big, and all of the news that travels around it isn’t reliable, which makes navigating the world treacherous for both the characters and book readers.
13. He’s a Skilled Archer
Although the show doesn’t take advantage of this too much, Martin’s books make it clear that Theon is quite good with a bow and arrow. This would of course make him quite handy in combat, although the show version of the character rarely gets to use that particularly skill. We do know that he’s particularly bad at executions, as evidenced by his botched killing of Ser Rodrik Cassel. Theon passed the sentence, but he really couldn’t swing the sword.
Up through this point, Theon’s most memorable archery moments have come when someone else held the bow, as was the case when he saved Sansa from Myranda’s bow as she tried to escape Winterfell. Still, there’s plenty of time for Theon to make use of his archery skills in the wars to come. A bow may not be terribly useful against a white walker, but it’ll hurt Lannister men well enough.
12. His Cocky Attitude Contrasts With the Northerner’s Modesty
Theon is an outsider throughout his time in the North. He feels removed from the Starks not only because of his knowledge of his own family lineage, but because his personality differs from that of the northerners fairly significantly. Theon always walks with an air of supreme confidence, and does little to hide his feelings or opinions. That’s true from the moment we first meet him. He may be able to reserve himself on solemn occasions, but most of the time he’s fairly arrogant.
This serves as an enormous contrast with the Starks, and northerners in general. The Starks are taught to keep many of their emotions to themselves. They’re fairly conservative people, and while that doesn’t keep them from having personalities, it does keep them from bragging too often about their own stature. In fact, most of them seem to be naturally humble, unwilling to take credit. This makes Theon feel like even more of an outsider.
11. His Castration Hasn’t Been Confirmed in the Books
Although it’s fairly clear in the world of the show that Theon has been castrated, the books have made it much more ambiguous. While many in the world of the books have speculated that he no longer has his manhood, Martin has never been clear about whether he was stripped of it. Although he never made it clear in his novels, Martin actually wrote the episode in which Theon was castrated on the show. This has led many to justifiably guess that this was Martin’s way of confirming that Theon is castrated in the books as well.
It could be the case, however, that Martin has decided that the needs of his story in book form are different than what the show needs. It could be that he felt Theon’s torture needed to be more graphic on the show than its book counterpart in order for audiences to understand just how broken he became. After all, it’s pretty clear that Theon placed a high value on his penis, so losing would come as a crushing blow.
10. There are Legends of His Sizable Manhood
One of Theon’s first scenes on the show takes him inside a brothel, one where he appears to spend quite a bit of time on the show. While he may not be the skilled lover that Podrick apparently is, there are rumors about Theon’s sizable manhood throughout the world of Westeros. These rumors only make Ramsay’s eventual castration of him all the more ironic.
Theon was clearly the kind of man who took considerable pleasure in making use of his natural gifts, so the fact that Ramsay decides to relieve him of it is especially ironic. Of course, castration is a traumatic experience no matter who you are, but for Theon, it’s something that he takes particular pride in.
9. Theon Stark is His Namesake
Theon is a Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, but his namesake is actually a Stark, or so he claims. During a scene in the crypts of Winterfell in the books, Theon sees a reference to Theon Stark, and remarks that he was named for the ancient king in the North. When he ruled over the North, Theon Stark had a reputation for constant warfare, and was also known for his gaunt appearance.
This gauntness may foreshadow Theon’s own radical weight loss at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, even as Theon Stark’s war-happy nature parallels Theon’s own quest for greatness and validation. The fact that Theon’s namesake was a Stark and not a Greyjoy speaks to the way Theon’s allegiances have been torn since the series began. Part of Theon belongs to his adopted family, even as he feels drawn toward his home in the Iron Islands. He’s a child of two worlds.
8. He is 23 Years Old
While it can seem like the characters on Game of Thrones are quite old, many of them are actually new to adulthood. Theon, for example, is only 23 years old as of the show’s seventh season, which means he may have even been in his teens when the series started.
For much of the show’s run, many of its main characters were actually children, and although they’ve been aged up for the show, it’s good to remember just how young the people we’re watching really are.
At the young age of 23, Theon has already experienced more than most people will in their entire lives. He’s been tortured, mutilated, and he’s fought in several historically significant battles. Histories of the realm will probably mention him, and Theon’s part in the story of Game of Thrones isn’t done yet. Now that he’s teamed up with Daenerys, it’s clear that despite his young age, Theon may prove important in the wars to come.
7. Reek’s Torture Happens Offscreen in the Books
Game of Thrones came under some scrutiny during its third season when it chose to depict the torture of Theon in some detail. In the books, Theon’s torture happens off the page, which likely saved us from some of the more brutal aspects of his transformation into Reek. On the show, the creators decided that Alfie Allen’s performance was too good to keep him off the show for a year. As a result, they decided to give us a depiction of just how Theon Greyjoy became Reek.
While this depiction was controversial, it certainly helped viewers understand what this kind of brutal treatment could do to a person. It also made us more painfully aware of how villainous Ramsay was. He knew exactly how to torture Theon into Reek, and he executed it perfectly. Hearing Theon refuse to acknowledge his own name is horrifying in and of itself, but it’s way worse when you know how he got to that point.
6. He’s Appeared in 39 of 60 Episodes
Game of Thrones is a sprawling show with at least 100 named characters. There are the show’s central characters, like Jon and Daenerys, who are featured in almost every episode. Of course, these prototypical heroes aren’t the only characters who get the spotlight on the show. Part of what makes it interesting is its willingness to take on a variety of perspectives, one of which happens to be Theon’s.
Although Theon may not be a main character, he’s a prominent supporting figure, and he’s been featured in 39 of the show’s 60 episodes thus far. What’s more, he’s managed to survive for at least six seasons and has had one of the more compelling characters arcs in that time.
Theon has gone from an arrogant boy to a meek servant to a humbled soldier over the course of his six seasons on the show, and Alfie Allen has managed to communicate quite a bit about the character without appearing in every episode.
5. He May Have Killed His Own Sons
When Theon makes the decision to take Winterfell while it’s defenseless, he has to confront Bran, who is the current lord of Winterfell. When Bran refuses to surrender the castle, Theon pretends to have killed both Bran and Rickon, although he actually killed farmboys from a neighboring village. According to the theory, these farm boys were actually Theon’s children, as he had a tendency to frequent neighboring villages and engage in a fair bit of sexual activity.
What’s more, Theon claimed that he lost his virginity to these farmboy’s mother. If Theon did kill his own children, that would make him a kin slayer, which is one of the worst acts you can commit in Westeros. Theon’s kin slaying may have contributed to some karmic retribution, and may help explain why he was treated so horribly by the Boltons. Of course, murder is a heinous enough crime in and of itself, so he might have deserved some torture anyway, whether or not the boys were his sons.
4. He Always Felt Ned Was Cold Toward Him
While Theon claims that Ned was like a second father to him, his point-of-view chapters make it clear that he always considered Ned to be quite cold toward him. Although a good chunk of who Theon is comes from his relationship with Ned, Theon always felt that Ned treated him differently than he treated his actual children. This is probably at least partially true.
After all, Theon was already quite a few years into his upbringing before he became Ned’s ward, and he’d probably been shaped by his biological father.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Ned didn’t try as hard as he could to ingratiate Theon into his family. Theon did become quite close with Robb, and every scene Ned appears in makes it clear that he’s a really outstanding father in a world filled with terrible ones. Although Theon may be a Greyjoy first, his time with Ned clearly gave him a sense of honor that leads to a great deal of turmoil and guilt for him through the rest of the series.
3. Alfie Allen Originally Auditioned for Jon Snow
Like several other actors who managed to earn roles on the show, Alfie Allen originally auditioned to play Jon Snow. Although he ultimately lost out on the part to Kit Harrington, he still got the chance to play a significant role in shaping the show moving forward. Several other notable actors originally auditioned to play Jon Snow, including Iwan Rheon, who went on to play Ramsay, and Joe Dempsie, who plays Gendry.
The beauty of a show like Game of Thrones is in the number of parts. Although none of these actors were ultimately right to play Snow, they all fit well into other roles on the show. Iwan Rheon got to be way creepier than he would have been as Snow, while Alfie Allen managed to turn an arrogant, annoying character into someone deeply sympathetic.
2. He Liked Winterfell Better Than The Iron Islands
It becomes clear very quickly that Theon feels no great loyalty to the Stark family. Although he grew up with Robb and considered him a close friend, he betrays him to take Winterfell for his father, and loses the trust of every Stark in the process. All this might be true, but Theon still considered his life in Winterfell to be better than his early years in Pyke.
Of course, his father was known to be a harsh man, as is made clear during his appearances in both the books and the show. By contrast, Ned was always depicted as a kind and caring father. While Theon may have found him cold, he likely had a better life under Ned than he ever had under his own father. If Ned was anything, he was a good father to his children. He taught them the right ways to live their lives, and that seemed to be true of his treatment of Theon as well, at least to some extent.
1. Theon is Depicted as a Sociopath in the Books
While Theon’s a sympathetic character in the show, his depiction in the books shows the character in a much harsher light. Martin makes it clear that once Theon is no longer being supervised by a Stark, he feels free to let his true self out. He begins to rape and pillage without discrimination, and seems to feel that the weak and defenseless deserve to be attacked simply because they’re weak and defenseless.
In fact, in the books, he moves through villages the same way we hear the Mountain does. He has little regard for human life, and feels powerful when he gets the chance to take it. Of course, Iron Islanders have a reputation for this kind of pillaging, but Theon apparently takes much more joy in his actions in the books than he does on the show.
The show version of Theon is much more conflicted, unsure of what his role is and of how to perform it honorably.
Do you have anything to add about Theon Greyjoy (or Reek)? What do you think his fate will be in Game of Thrones? Sound off in the comments!
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