Theon Greyjoy: How do I Hate Thee? Let me count the ways…

By Eleonora Iafano on Jun 26, 2012 to Game of Thrones

It seems to me that the worst lots in Game of Thrones tend to survive and prosper. The same can be said for Theon Greyjoy, who originally hails from Pyke, on the Iron Islands. He was taken from his home as hostage and lived with the Starks of Winterfell in exchange for his father’s ‘good behaviour.’

Bad enough you are an outsider. Shameful to know that your father – Balon Greyjoy – had rebelled against Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark was forced to surrender, after two of his sons were killed during the battle. What’s worse is that you are forced to leave the only home you’ve ever known, to come live in a strange place, with people you don’t know and home becomes nothing but a distant memory.

That’s not to say that it was a horrible experience. Theon got to train with Ser Rodrik Cassel, who was the Stark’s most trusted and seasoned warrior and weapons expert. He was allowed to dine in the Stark hall, had food, clothing, shelter and an education provided by Maester Luwin. It really wasn’t such a bad experience. To hear Theon whine about it constantly would make a person think he was starved daily and thrown into the dungeons on a regular basis.
Would you like some cheese with that whine, Theon? Or how about I give you fifty cents, so you can go call someone who cares! Oh wait, there are no payphones, only ravens. You get my meaning!

Oh, poor Theon. Life is rough. You wear the best chain mail and cloaks, ride the nicest horses and practice with the finest swords. Forgive me – I have a burning desire to go all medieval on Theon – and teach him a lesson in humility. Theon Greyjoy is arrogant, cocky and well, to be quite honest, rude.  In the books, that was the way he was painted. In the series, he came across the same way. Actor Alfie Allen does such a convincing job – when you watch Theon Greyjoy, you get the idea he is angry, confused at times, conflicted with who he really is and that beneath his exterior, something wicked is brewing. Theon walks around with a swagger. He thought he was the ultimate bad ass fighter. I’d like to see him go against someone like Syrio Forel or Barristan Selmy. Theon wouldn’t last five minutes. But, I digress.

He also thinks that he is quite a ladies’ man. This is evident in the first season’s premiere, when Theon is speaking to Ros in a bedchamber. As a woman, I laughed when Ros rubbed it in Theon’s face that Tyrion was, ahem, how shall I say politely – ‘talented’ when it came to certain skills in the boudoir. Theon instantly felt threatened about this – any man that has to put down another instantly shows just how deep his insecurities lay. “I don’t want to pay for it,” whispers Theon. “Then get yourself a wife,” counters Ros. Score 1 for Ros, 0 for Theon.  Theon is always trying to prove that he is a man, that he is the best lover, the best fighter, the best archer. (how about the biggest idiot?) In “The Kingsroad,” Lady Catelyn gathered together with Ser Rodrik, Maester Luwin, her son Robb and Theon, in the Godswood, divulging what her suspicions are, regarding Bran’s accident. Robb, upset over what has happened to Bran, gets angry and states that the Lannisters have done a great injustice by coming to Winterfell, indulging on Stark hospitality, only to try and hurt a member of his family. The first thing that Theon said to Robb – “If it comes to war, you know I’ll fight with you.”  Maester Luwin hit the nail on the head when he counseled, “Too often words of war become acts of war.” How prophetic, considering what we see happening in the second season.

Besides being the ward of Winterfell, we could also add another title: Big man on campus. Really, Theon, where are your brains? More to the point: where is your LOYALTY?! In “The Night Lands,” friendships become a thing of the past and family position becomes very important. So important to Theon, in fact, that he betrays Robb Stark and decides that he has to man up and start acting like a Greyjoy. Geez. Let’s see, a decade with the Starks, a few days with your sister and your father back on the Iron Islands and that is what you want to fashion your life around?! To say that things between Theon and Balon are ‘strained’ is being polite. I just don’t understand why you would want to ruin a solid friendship, all for the sake of trying to impress your father, who you barely know. As if the Iron Islands are on par with Winterfell. Theon has a great deal of anger and resentment and unfortunately, because he is so desperate to be known as the heir to the Iron Islands, he commits stupid, senseless acts of violence. He thinks he’s in control of his own actions but he’s just a little puppet on a string. Dagmar Cleftjaw, the Seabitch crew, Yara, Balon, they all goad him on, needling at his pride until it gets the better of him.

In “The Old Gods and the New,” Bran Stark asks Theon a very blunt question: “Did you hate us the whole time?” once Winterfell has been taken. With no proper reinforcements and not in a position to do anything, the little Lord of Winterfell surrenders the castle to Theon and his crew, thinking it was the safest thing to do. However, ‘Judas’ should be Theon’s middle name and he doesn’t disappoint us. In fact, he horrifies us all with his botched execution of Ser Rodrik Cassel and the massacre of two innocent orphan boys from a farm on Winterfell lands. All to save face. Because remember, it’s more important to be cruel then to be kind. It’s really too bad Osha didn’t geld him with her knife or slit his throat when she had the chance. GOD. Talk about a MISSED OPPORTUNITY!

Hey! Remember me?! I’m Theon, the Prince of Pyke! I have to prove myself! Even if it means being a real nasty turd! And backstabbing my best friend! And insulting him by taking his castle and treating his two little brothers like chattel! I have to be curt and not listen to prudent advice from Maester Luwin. (I’m still steamed that in “Valar Morghulis” Maester Luwin died from being lanced by Dagmar and it was all because of Theon getting knocked out). Someone just put this ‘Prince’ out of his misery.

Theon, I hope that you also remembered the Stark’s words: “Winter is coming.” Karma, like winter, always comes around. You’ve been warned, Theon Greyjoy. Watch your back.

  • ana arias

    I love theon. he’s super complex.

    the Starks were his captors and Ned played a part in killing his brothers. i actually feel really bad for theon because robb never missed a chance to point out to theon that he wasnt a Stark which is something that theon wanted to be because he loves Ned. he wanted to marry sansa simply because he wanted to be ned’s son by marriage.Robb was kindof a piece of shit to him and yes ned is a very kind man and didnt do anything bad to him but he’s still ned’s hostage in the very same way that Sansa is Cersei and Joffrey’s hostage. If anything theon lucked out that he was taken in by ned and not someone else but his family are the Greyjoys but his love for Ned still stands. can you blame him though? have you heard all the POVs?! everyone seems to dislike or mistrust him including catelyn. even after all those years. he’s not a member of that family. thats not his home. he seems to be seen as an unwelcome guest by most people. he’s treated only slightly better than Jon and thats only because catelyn is too busy hating jon to focus her energy on disliking him. Bran, Jon and cat all admit they dislike him and the only person who supposedly likes him (robb) makes it a point to discredit his loyalty to Ned at any chance he gets by reminding him that winterfell isn’t his home and that he’s not a Stark. Theon owes nothing to the Starks and yet he still loves them and felt he was wrong. Theon has good sentimental heart and that his problem. he really just wants to belong somewhere. no different than sansa, tyrion or arya,

    if you still disagree let me ask you a question:

    in the event that tywin, cersei and joffrey were indifferent to sansa’s presence in Kings Landing, rather than cruel, if they hadnt publicly beat her, humiliated her, or marry her to someone she did not like, do you think she should owe them her loyalty even though they killed her father, mother and brother? simply because they treated her with some basic human decency (not to be confused with kindness)? because thats what happened to theon and you expect loyalty to the starks from him.

  • Dennis

    On Theon as a lover, in the books he’s actually a very handsome guy and gets girls all the time. He hates prostitution and wouldn’t be caught dead with a prostitute. Being good looking is a big part of his character in the same way that being ugly is a big part of Tyrions character and the fact that he’d not only sleep with Ros, but that she preferred Tyrion is a big deviation for both of their characters from the books.

  • Dennis

    On Theon as a lover, in the books hes actually a very handsome guy and gets girls all the time. He hates prostitution and wouldn’t be caught dead with a prostitute. Being good looking is a big part of his character in the same way that being ugly is a big part of Tyrions character and the fact that he’d not only sleep with Ros, but that she preferred Tyrion is a big deviation for both of their characters from the books.

  • Riadne

    I kinda like Theon. He is one of the most developped and interesting characters in the books. Yes he made some mistakes, but that only makes him more human in my eyes. More realistic then a perfect hero character. He isn’t black, he isn’t white, he is a grey character. He deserves his name Theon GREYjoy. Hehehe sorry for the bad pun.

  • anon

    Lack of abuse is NOT an act of kindness. He didn’t owe the Starks ANYTHING. They were his captors, not his family. -.-

  • Julie

    Theon Greyjoy is my favourite character and I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one according to some people in the comments. Theon Greyjoy has had one of the most complicated lifes of all the people in whole freakin’ Westeros. Taken away from his family when he was 9, for a reason where he was not responsible for, he was helpless, couldn’t do anything. Kept captivated in a family which is not his and which they’ll make sure he knows all his life. Yes, they treated him neatly, but he was never their “son”, he was just an outsider. He’ll get to hear that several times, for example the time Tyrion made fun of him for being a Stark-slave and Robb for getting mad at him while he saved Bran’s life. And all those years Theon didn’t do anything wrong, he spoke positively about the Starks, protected them, and all he got was hate and shitty words. Duh, ofcourse he didn’t like it then as much with the Starks. And when he said he didn’t like it, he only heard “Theon you ungrateful little piece of horseshit.” Because yeah, it’s so nice to be taken captive for almost your whole life, dead brothers, a hating father, a bullying sister, a fake family who doesn’t like/trusts you, no friends… And when he gets to his father, all he gets is shit and hate, his sister makes fun of him, and to show his worth he only gets more shit, and then he’s taken captive by someone who completely destroys him more inside and out and everyone’s just like “well he deserved it” and that just makes me hate the world so much. Hate to see people don’t look further than their nose, maybe you should pay attention and THINK before getting on your high horse and start bragging about things you don’t even know everrything about.
    Not a personal attack by the way, just my opinion in general. Your article is nicely written by the way. (Excuse my maybe not so good English, I’m from the Netherlands (x )

  • Wolfkat

    I strongly dislike when people write articles that misconstrue the concept of karma. Karma is only the action, not the result, but nice try at the attempt to sound witty.

  • Deadtroll

    Theon Greyjoy is a Greyjoy and his alegiance is to his family as it should be. He was put in a really tough position. The fact of the matter is that both of Theon’s brothers were killed and he was held hostage by the Starks. Does it matter that they treated him well. So what. His brothers are dead, and he is prisoner. No good treatment will change that or wash it away. He is not a lovable character and he certainly is not a good man, but I can understand him. If he follows his family he betrays his best friend. If he Follows his best friend he betrays his family. Either way he is a turn cloak.

    • Lee-Sensei

      Agreed. To add to this, Theon was taken from his loving mother as a child. Two of her sons had been killed and the Starks taking her last son drove her insane. She now spends all of her time roaming her castle looking for her children. The only Stark that really treated Theon like a member of the family was Robb, but when push came to shove Theon chose his family over his best friend. If Robb were in the same situation, I’m sure he’d choose the Starks over the Theon. It’s only natural. It doesn’t matter how well the Starks treated him (and GRRM said that he was given the standard treatment for children of noble births). He was still a hostage with Ned Starks sword hanging over his head for half of his life.

  • Deadtroll

    Theon Greyjoy is a Greyjoy and his alegiance is to his family as it should be. He was put in a really tough position. The fact of the matter is that both of Theon’s brothers were killed and he was held hostage by the Starks. Does it matter that they treated him well. So what. His brothers are dead, and he is prisoner. No good treatment will change that or wash it away. He is not a lovable character and he certainly is not a good man, but I can understand him. If he follows his family he betrays his best friend. If he Follows his best friend he betrays his family. Either way he is a turn cloak.

  • Deadtroll

    Theon Greyjoy is a Greyjoy and his alegiance is to his family as it should be. He was put in a really tough position. The fact of the matter is that both of Theon’s brothers were killed and he was held hostage by the Starks. Does it matter that they treated him well. So what. His brothers are dead, and he is prisoner. No good treatment will change that or wash it away. He is not a lovable character and he certainly is not a good man, but I can understand him. If he follows his family he betrays his best friend. If he Follows his best friend he betrays his family. Either way he is a turn cloak.

  • Deadtroll

    Theon Greyjoy is a Greyjoy and his alegiance is to his family as it should be. He was put in a really tough position. The fact of the matter is that both of Theon’s brothers were killed and he was held hostage by the Starks. Does it matter that they treated him well. So what. His brothers are dead, and he is prisoner. No good treatment will change that or wash it away. He is not a lovable character and he certainly is not a good man, but I can understand him. If he follows his family he betrays his best friend. If he Follows his best friend he betrays his family. Either way he is a turn cloak.

  • dandan1o1

    Theon grayjoy has to be my favorite character in the whole series, can’t but love to hate him :) never a dull moment when theons in the room :)

  • Eleonora

    Hi there! Well, for sure, GRRM is going to write in such a way so as to divide loyalties amongst his readers, especially when it comes to maligned or evil characters. I myself have read four of the books in A Song of Ice and Fire so far. However, I think it is safe to say that many fans feel the same way as I. I have my own particular reasons for not liking Theon, after reading several books and watching the series. What is interesting to note is that actor Alfie Allen portrays Theon in such a chilling light, that you can’t help but detest him, especially after Season II’s seige of Winterfell and execution of Ser Rodrik Cassel. As I start the fifth book, I’ll keep in mind that perhaps there is more to Theon then meets the eye. But the fact that he betrayed Robb and took Winterfell for his own, well, I wouldn’t trust him with a 10 foot pole. Thanks for reading the article and sharing your thoughts on it!

    • Sofy

      Hahaha. Luiza, love your Snape-analogy, spot on :) I totally agree. As for Theon’s actions, what options does he really have? He is trying to prove himself to two worlds who doesn’t really want him, and doing the best he can in the process. In fact, seeing as he did not kill the boys, but pretended he had, I actually see some Ned in him. He lies to protect them, and suffers much hate and scorn.
      Sure, he’s a bully, but really, bully = big insecurity issues. A.k.a. Theon. He is actually like a more complex Draco. He too does some pretty strong stuff to prove himself worthy.
      By the way, fellow westerosi, read the book “Beyond the Wall” :) There is a really interesting article in it about post-traumatic stress disorder, and how Arya and Theon represents (simplified) two diametrically opposite coping strategies.
      I love how he’s such an anti-hero, so misguided. But he’s nothing if not a survivor – as was our favourite Potions Master!

      • Eleonora

        Well said! Valid points to bring up! I’m going to read that essay! Thanks for reading my article!

  • Luiza

    Oh, so you don’t like Theon? Whoa, how surprising. MOST people don’t like him. But, you see, that’s just what George Martin wants. The mass believing the obvious. But there’s so much more inside, things you ordinary people can’t see. But you will. Martin has to make it like that so it’s a good story. “Ooooh, everybody thought Theon was bad, but now, look how wrong we were!” That’s the reaction he wants at the end of the series. Blind people will suddenly see, but only when Martin shoves it in your faces. Shame on you. Did you also believe Snape was evil? Maybe someday you’ll learn how to read between the lines.

    • a can of paint

      So glad someone understands. I personally love him – he’s just so misunderstood, and he really doesn’t have much choice in what he did. I’m pretty sure if it was someone else in his situation, they would handle it even worse than he did.

      To be honest I still don’t really know where exactly Theon’s loyalty lies, but I’m rooting for him.

    • nivekious

      Snape never killed innocent civilians to impress daddy. Nothing Theon does in the future can make up for that. War crimes are unforgivable.

  • Eleonora

    Hi there! Thank you for reading the article. I know, I’m a bit harsh towards Theon. I just started A Dance wirh Dragons. We’ll see if my critique was justified. :)

  • Dil master

    Theon is easily the most complex and conflicted character in A Game of Thrones. I think you are giving him a harsher critique than he deserves. He makes terrible decisions, but does so to redeem himself in his family’s eyes. Have you read all of the books? I would be interested to read your updated perspective once you do. Thanks for a fun article, keep it up!

  • Eleonora

    Thanks for reading my character profile. I guess we are all die hard fans of the series and we all have our favourite characters. That being said, I politely and respectfully disagree with Theon not being a traitor. He had the opportunity to send that letter to Robb. Taking the castle and killing Ser Rodrick Cassel and killing two innocent little boys and hanging them are not acts of kindness. Yes, he was upset and resentful of the fact he was the ward of Winterfell. But he had it pretty good there. I hope that things don’t go from bad to worse for him….but I’m on the 4th book. And that’s all I’m going to say at this point.

    • Danny

      Theon is a Greyjoy. To send a letter to Robb warning him of the attack would be a far greater betrayal. He resented the fact that he was a hostage and being a child hostage is never good.

  • greyjoy

    Theon is my favourite character. really. In your article you write many times about Robb. Well, i don’t think they were friends at all. Theon maybe liked him, but inside he didnt forget about you know, everything. he didnt trust him neither. He spent time with him but hated him inside. So he is not a traitor

    • BeepWRONG!!!

      A Dance with Dragons spoilers. He hears about the Red Wedding, then, ‘he lamented that he had ever betrayed the King in the North. Robb had been more his brother than Asha (Yara in the show) or the two who had died on the Isles.’

      • Dennis

        He said that Robb was a better brother than his brothers. He didn’t say anything about Asha.










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