Who Is Benjen Stark On 'Game Of Thrones'? Refresh Your Memory Before The End Of The Season
The last two seasons on Game of Thrones have been one long reunion, as characters from the early seasons who were left by the wayside return to the screen. But we knew the show meant business last year when it brought back "deep cut" Benjen Stark, Ned's long lost brother, and someone we hadn't seen since Season 1, Episode 2. But this character, despite his lack of screen time, may be one of the linchpins of the show. So, who is Benjen Stark?
Benjen is Ned Stark's younger brother, the third son of the Stark family from that generation. The oldest, Brandon Stark, was supposed to be the heir, and Ned, as the second son, was the "spare." In a family like the Starks, where honor and loyalty to the Night's Watch on their Northern border is a family tradition, that meant that Benjen would be the one to take the black. Not just because they need to send someone with the Stark name every generation, but because when there are extra sons having extra sons, that's how plots to overthrow rulers can happen.
Benjen didn't seem to mind his fate, and in fact took it as a way to escape all the pressure of having such an illustrious name. This was especially true after Brandon died, and the running of the North fell to Ned. But it should be noted, he didn't actually take the black until after Ned returned from Robert's Rebellion, in order to make sure there was always a Stark in Winterfell.
Benjen Goes To The Wall
When we meet Benjen, he's home for a family visit, on leave from the Wall. He's been stationed there for almost a couple of decades and holds the position of First Ranger. He seems to be on good terms with the family and has visited on several occasions before.
This trip, he's looking to check in on Jon Snow, Ned's bastard, who has taken it into his head to join the Night's Watch, since he's a well-raised bastard with no prospects in life.
Jon Snow Follows Benjen
Benjen worries that Jon's not cut out for the Wall, and doesn't know what he's giving up. But Jon is stubborn and insists, so when the party breaks up, Jon heads to the Wall too, following in Benjen's footsteps. He wants to be a ranger, just like Benjen.
But their reunion at the Wall is short lived. Benjen needs to head out to do his ranging, and though Jon is young and excitable, he's not going. He's too new to face such things beyond the Wall that he can't even imagine yet.
Benjen Is Lost
That's the last time we see Benjen.
Throughout the rest of Season 1, Jon is clearly hopeful that Benjen will turn up. He thinks about him and worries about him, and when there's a chance to go on the great ranging with Lord Mormont, he wants to go, partly to see if he can find his uncle.
Jon goes on that ranging, which is a complete disaster. But Uncle Benjen never shows.
Olly Uses Benjen's Name
The next time we hear about Uncle Benjen, it's the end of Season 5, and Olly is running in with the report that Uncle Benjen's been found! He's returned! After all these years.
Lord Commander Jon Snow is an idiot and falls for it, and that's how the traitors get him outside in the snow to stab him to death.
Benjen Saves Bran and Meera
But it was only the next season that Benjen finally did turn up, and this time it wasn't a fake out. He'd been merged with a semi-turned White Walker figure who travels with Bran and company in the books, and is known only as "Coldhands." (Martin has said emphatically that in the books, Benjen and Coldhands are two different people.)
Why Coldhands (and in this case Benjen) didn't turn all the way is never fully explained. But Bran and Meera are grateful for his turning up and saving their lives, and Benjen is rather impressed his nephew has become the Three-Eyed Raven, which he also inexplicably seems to know all about.
Benjen Leaves Bran At The Wall
But once again, the reunion is short lived. Upon leading Meera and Bran to the Wall, Benjen leaves them at the nearly weir tree stop. He can't get any closer to the Wall than that -- the magic that The Children infused in it so many centuries ago is too strong, and partly how it holds back the Army of the Dead so effectively.
But Benjen is surely on the far side, waiting for more Starks to cross who might be in need of him. Might he have followed the Army towards Eastwatch, and be there to help Jon in his hour of need? For that, we'll have to wait and see next week.