Lady Catelyn Stark, formerly of House Tully, is the wife of Lord Eddard Stark (Ned); mother to Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon Stark; daughter of Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun and sister to Lysa Arryn of the Vale. She is a POV character for twenty-five chapters throughout A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords. Catelyn is proud, strong, kind, and generous. She is seen as honourable and upright by acquaintances, holding duty over desire as a governing principle of behaviour. Catelyn also has a strong grasp of politics and possesses considerable insight into what makes Westeros run. Nevertheless, Catelyn is also a fiercely protective woman and more often than not follows her heart rather than her head, especially when it comes to her family, whom she loves deeply.
Catelyn describes her childhood as a happy one, where she was close to her sister, Lysa, and her father Hoster, a kind and just ruler of his domain in the Seven Kingdoms. Upon her twelfth birthday she was betrothed to Brandon Stark, the heir presumptive of Winterfell. However, despite her betrothal, her childhood friend Petyr Baelish was very attracted to Catelyn and except for Catelyn’s intervention, might have been killed in a duel with Brandon. When Brandon’s sister Lyanna was apparently kidnapped by Crown Prince Rhaegar, Brandon was murdered alongside his father at King’s Landing by Aerys II. Catelyn married Brandon’s brother, Eddard, in Brandon’s stead in a double wedding ceremony at Riverun where her sister married Lord Jon Arryn. Catelyn became pregnant on her wedding night and birthed Robb while Ned was fighting in Robert’s Rebellion. Ned returned a year later with his illegitimate child Jon Snow. Catelyn always resented Snow, and did not interact with him as a mother or step-mother figure.
At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Catelyn tells Ned of Lord Arryn’s death and that King Robert’s arrival at Winterfell means her husband could be named the new Hand of the King. During the visit of Robert and his court, Catelyn receives a letter from Lysa claiming that the Lannisters were behind Arryn’s death. Telling Ned in private, Catelyn urges him to accept the king’s offer in order to learn the truth. As Bran clings to life after being shoved by Jaime Lannister off one of Winterfell’s towers, an inconsolable Catelyn has second thoughts and begs Ned to stay in Winterfell. But Ned will not back out of his commitment and Catelyn is entrusted with Winterfell and their sons while Ned takes Sansa and Arya to King’s Landing. After they leave, Bran is attacked by a would-be assassin and is saved from death by his direwolf, Summer. Catelyn decides to go to King’s Landing, in secret and accompanied by the Stark captain of the guard, Ser Rodrik Cassel, to find evidence against the Lannisters. When they arrive, she is brought to one of the brothels owned by Petyr Baelish, now Master of Coin, who offers his aid to her and Ned. On seeing the knife that was used in the attempt on Bran’s life, Petyr claims that it belonged to Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of Robert’s wife, Queen Cersei Lannister.
Ned promises Catelyn that he will find the truth and Catelyn begins her return to Winterfell. Stopping at an inn, Catelyn sees Tyrion and rallies her father’s allies to capture Tyrion and bring him to her sister in the Vale. Though warned by Tyrion that her sister is mentally unstable, Catelyn does not believe him as she has not seen Lysa in nine years. The truth of his statement is seen in the Vale, where Lysa breastfeeds her six year-old child, Robert, who is sickly and desperately spoiled. Lysa imprisons Tyrion in one of the Eyrie’s skycells, which are open on one side, with a several hundred-foot drop below. She accuses him of her husbands murder, but reluctantly releases him from prison after he is proved not guilty in a trial by combat. The dwarf leaves the Eyrie with a sellsword named Bronn. After Tyrion’s release, Catelyn meets Robb in the Riverlands and learns that after Robert’s death, Ned was arrested for treason against the new king, Robert’s son, Joffrey. Traveling with Robb and his army in a campaign to free Ned, Catelyn negotiates with Lord Walder Frey, promising a marriage between Robb one of Lord Walder’s daughters or granddaughters in return for the safe passage of Robb’s army into the Twins. Though victorious in their battles, Catelyn hides her sadness over Ned’s death while telling Robb that they must retrieve his sisters and destroy the Lannisters.
In A Clash of Kings, Catelyn does not have a great deal of influence with her newly crowned son’s military campaign. She visits with her father, now gravely ill and suffering from hallucinations, and brother Edmure for the first time in many years. The solitude allows her the time to think about her marriage to Ned, and she often hopes he is in a better place than the Seven Kingdoms. She begins to note that there were two people that had kept their marriage slightly strained: Brandon, whom Catelyn was destined to marry before Ned, and the unknown woman who had given birth to Jon Snow. Robb sends Catelyn to Bitterbridge to negotiate with Lord Renly Baratheon,the late King Robert’s youngest brother who is now also vying for the Iron Throne. While there, she also meets Renly’s elder brother Stannis, who also comes to speak to Renly. Renly refuses to give up his claim to the throne, as does Stannis, who claims to be the true heir to the throne as Joffrey and his siblings are illegitimate offspring of Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Later on, Renly is murdered in Catelyn’s presence by what appears to be a shadow. Catelyn flees with Brienne of Tarth, the only other witness and a member of Renly’s guard, and returns to Riverrun. While there, she meets with Jaime Lannister (twin brother of Queen Cersei), who had been captured during one of the battles. Jaime admits to Catelyn that he threw Bran from the tower window, but she frees him from prison on his oath that he will find Sansa and Arya and return them to her.
In A Storm of Swords, Catelyn is put under house arrest for her role in Jaime’s release but Robb eventually forgives her while she attends Hoster’s funeral service at Riverun. Robb has returned to Riverrun with a new wife, Lady Jeyne Westerling, and Catelyn is very concerned about the repercussions to come from this marriage. Robb had been sworn to marry one of the Freys and the marriage to Jeyne will nullify their alliance and not sit well with proud Lord Walder. She and Robb believe they repair the Frey alliance by promising that Edmure will marry one of Lord Frey’s daughters. Though the wedding goes as planned, during the bedding, Catelyn notices that the Freys’ guards are acting strangely and Lord Frey springs his revenge, killing most of those in attendance on the groom’s side. Though she held a lackwit grandson of Walder Frey hostage, Catelyn is forced to watch her son die. She kills her hostage in rage filled devastation before her throat is slit. Her body is thrown into the river in mockery of the Tully funeral ritual, is dragged from the river by a direwolf, presumably Nymeria, the direwolf of Arya Stark, as Arya dreamed of herself pulling her mother’s body from the river. Catelyn is soon found by the Brotherhood Without Banners. Beric Dondarrion gives his life to resurrect her. In A Feast of Crows, Catelyn, now known as Lady Stoneheart, takes on the leadership of the Brotherhood to seek her revenge on those who wronged her family.
Catelyn is a major character in the HBO adaptation of the novels. She is portrayed by Michelle Fairley. The role was played by Jennifer Ehle in the original pilot, but she passed on returning to the role when it went to broadcast.