(Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to my Ramsay Bolton essay from last week, I decided to make ASOIAF/Game Of Thrones Talk a weekly feature. A little warning, this week I’m covering a 100% book only idea.)
One of the more notable aspects of A Song Of Ice And Fire is the Targaryen madness. Throughout the history of Westeros, numerous Targaryens have had… quirks. There’s Rhaegal Targaryen, who danced naked in the Red Keep and Aerion Targaryen, who drank Wildfire and thought it would turn him into a dragon, and Aerys II, who burned men alive and was known as “the mad king.” The Targaryens have a long history of madness but what if they’re not the only House in Westeros with this condition? I think that House Tully might have a touch of madness as well.
The most striking evidence of this is Lysa Arryn (nee Tully). She’s been mad for seemingly her whole life, being obsessed with Littlefinger since she was a child. After Littlefinger’s disastrous duel with Brandon Stark, she rapes him while he’s in a delirious state. After he gets her pregnant later on, her father sneaks tansy (an abortion causing flower) into her system causing her to lose the child, driving her further into madness. She murders her husband Jon Arryn for Littlefinger, which helps spark the War of the Five Kings. Also, she still breastfeeds her son when he’s a child.
Speaking of him, her son Robin shows a touch of madness too. He is obsessed with throwing “bad men” out the Moon Door to their deaths. He’s constantly saying it, much like Aerys II constantly yelling “Burn them all!” Robin isn’t helped by Littlefinger manipulating him, furthering his madness… much like how Varys manipulation of Aerys II further his madness.
Catelyn Stark (nee Tully) is seemingly normal at first. She has a few weird hangups (her seething hatred for Jon Snow for example) but she’s normal. That all changed at the Red Wedding however. She loses her mind after seeing Robb die. She starts laughing hysterically and clawing at her face until the Freys slit her throat. She’s thrown in the river (a perversion of the Tully burial tradition) where the Brotherhood Without Banners find her body. Their leader Beric Dondarrion gives his life to bring her back, where she becomes the insane and violent Lady Stoneheart.
Barring the exact circumstances, this is remarkably similar to Aerys II’s start of darkness. He was a seemingly normal person with a few weird hangups at first. Then the Defiance of Duskendale happened. The people of Duskendale kidnapped him and held him captive for years. He was rescued by Barriston Selmy and Tywin Lannister but he was never the same afterwards.
There’s even a chance the Stark children have it too. Arya has a troubling violent streak, Sansa has started to have split personality issues as of A Feast For Crows, Rickon seems to be going feral, and Bran has had some troubling incidents (eating human meat while warging into Summer, taking over Hodor’s body despite him not liking it, etc.) Robb seems normal but it’s implied at several points that he’s about to lose it thanks to the stress of ruling.
Now, not all Tullys are mad much like how not all Targaryens were mad. Edmure Tully is relatively normal. He’s got some hangups but not anymore than usual. The Blackfish is stubborn but not without reason. It’s tempting to mention Hoster Tully tricking Lysa into ingesting tansy as an example of him being mad. But Tywin Lannister would probably do something similar and it seems to be standard order in Westeros. Hoster also feels remorse for the act, making this even more unlikely.
You may wonder why the Tully madness doesn’t seem as overt as the Targaryen madness but I’ve got an explanation for that too. The Tullys intermarried with other houses, diluting the possible madness. Meanwhile, the Targaryens frequently married other Targaryens, letting it fester. Or maybe I’m an idiot who reads to much into this. Both are very likely.