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Why did Howland Reed not send men and/or come himself to fight with Robb in the war of the 5 Kings or with Jon at the Battle of the Bastards? And why did Bran send Rickon to the Umbers and not Reed when Rickon needed to be hidden away.

  • 12
    out-of-universe... given that Reed is the only living person who know's Jon's parentage, I suspect GRRM is intentionally keeping him safely "off-screen" for the time being. – KutuluMike Jul 11 '17 at 13:02
  • 1
    He sent Meera and Jojen. What else did they need? :) – Paul Jul 11 '17 at 16:29
  • I've been wondering some of these things myself. But Bran didn't send Rickon and Osha to Howland because the Crannogmen are notoriously difficult to find (as mentioned numerous times in the book). Unless Meera were to go with Rickon, there's no way that mission would have ended in success. – nasukkin Jul 11 '17 at 18:21
  • with Carmen Sandiego... – Edmund Dantes Aug 4 '17 at 8:18
16

Books

Battle of the Bastards didn't happen in the books....yet.

Robb's orders

As to your main question , Because Robb ordered Howland Reed to stay there and bleed the Lannisters if they decide to march on the North.

"If he comes so far, but no one thinks he will," Robb said. "I've sent word to Howland Reed, Father's old friend at Greywater Watch. If the Lannisters come up the Neck, the crannogmen will bleed them every step of the way, but Galbart Glover says Lord Tywin is too smart for that, and Roose Bolton agrees. He'll stay close to the Trident, they believe, taking the castles of the river lords one by one, until Riverrun stands alone. We need to march south to meet him."
AGOT- Catelyn VIII

Historical traditions of the Crannogmen

Bear in mind, this is the historic role Crannogmen have played, guarding the Southern gate of the North.

The northern boundary of the Stark domains was protected by the Wall and the men of the Night's Watch, whilst to the south, the only way through the swamps of the Neck passed below the ruined towers and sinking walls of the great fortress called Moat Cailin. Even when the Marsh Kings held the Moat, their crannogmen stood staunch against any invaders from the south, allying with the Barrow Kings, Red Kings, and Kings of Winter as need be to turn back any southron lord who sought to attack the North. And once King Rickard Stark added the Neck to his domain, Moat Cailin proved even more imposing—a bulwark against the powers of the south. Few sought to push past it, and the histories say that none ever succeeded.
TWOIAF- The North: The Kings of Winter

Liege Levies from Crannogmen

While Lord Reed was going to stay behind, he most certainly sent his levies as was his duty.

"He must march soon, or not at all," Maester Luwin said. "The winter town is full to bursting, and this army of his will eat the countryside clean if it camps here much longer. Others are waiting to join him all along the kingsroad, barrow knights and crannogmen and the Lords Manderly and Flint. The fighting has begun in the riverlands, and your brother has many leagues to go."
AGOT- Bran VI

Robb's shield and strong hand

Later when the North was overrun by Squids, it was Howland Reed Robb had pinned his hopes on. (Although it is unclear if Howland Reed ever received the missive from Robb):

"Tell Howland Reed that he is to send guides to me, two days after I have started up the causeway.

[...]

"Go upriver flying my banner. The crannogmen will find you. I want two ships to double the chances of my message reaching Howland Reed. Lady Maege shall go on one, Galbart on the second." He turned to the two he'd named.

[...]

Galbart Glover rubbed his mouth. "There are risks. If the crannogmen should fail you . . ."

"We will be no worse than before. But they will not fail. My father knew the worth of Howland Reed." Robb rolled up the map.
ASOS- Catelyn V

Personal choice

Another reason is, since coming back from the Rebellion, Howland Reed became a recluse. Bran noted that as well:

Finally all of the principal vassals of House Stark had been heard from save for Howland Reed the crannogman, who had not set foot outside his swamps for many a year
ACOK- Bran II

Northern Resistence

Later it was the Crannogmen and Lord Reed who carried on Northern resistance against the Ironborn:

"I beached her beneath Norne Goodbrother's castle and rode across the island." She sat upon a stool and helped herself unasked to Nute the Barber's wine. Nute raised no objection; he had passed out drunk some time ago. "Who holds the Moat?"

"Ralf Kenning. With the Young Wolf dead, only the bog devils remain to plague us."
AFFC- The Iron Captain

How did Rickon end up where he ended up?

Bran didn't decide where Rickon was gonna go. It was Maester Luwin. He told Asha that the boys should not be together and left the rest to her. That's what she did. In the books, there is rumor that Rickon is in Skagos, not in Last Hearth.

"Listen," Luwin said to Osha, "the princes . . . Robb's heirs. Not . . . not together . . . do you hear?"

The wildling woman leaned on her spear. "Aye. Safer apart. But where to take them? I'd thought, might be these Cerwyns . . ."

Maester Luwin shook his head, though it was plain to see what the effort cost him. "Cerwyn boy's dead. Ser Rodrik, Leobald Tallhart, Lady Hornwood . . . all slain. Deepwood fallen, Moat Cailin, soon Torrhen's Square. Ironmen on the Stony Shore. And east, the Bastard of Bolton."

"Then where?" asked Osha.

"White Harbor . . . the Umbers . . . I do not know . . . war everywhere . . . each man against his neighbor, and winter coming . . . such folly, such black mad folly . . ." Maester Luwin reached up and grasped Bran's forearm, his fingers closing with a desperate strength. "You must be strong now. Strong."
ACOK- Bran VII


Show

This part is mere speculation. Given how show keeps skipping details (For many legitimate reasons), I tend to stay away from Show questions now. Will take it out once someone posts a Show-POV answer.

Bran didn't send Rickon to Greywater Watch Because the road to South was full of Ironmen. Moat Callin had fallen to the Ironborn along with many other coastal areas. Last Hearth, seat of House Umber was still safe.

As to why didn't Reed play a role in War of the Five Kings or the Battle of the Bastards, Well that's because D&D. They probably didn't think it was worth airtime.


GRRM's Position on when will Howland Reed appear

In correspondence with a fan, this is what George said:

Question 3: It had been stated that Howland Reed would come out in The Winds of Winter, which is the 5th book. Will he still come in the 5th book (A Dance with Dragon)?

Answer: He will appear eventually.

He will appear and play a more active role when George deems the time is right for, uh, the Grand revelation.


Conclusion (Books only)

  1. Howland Reed stayed behind personally because Robb commanded him to.
  2. He provided soldiers to Robb's Army when Robb called the banners.
  3. He is playing his part in the war very well.
  4. Bran had no control over Rickon's destination.
  5. Rickon didn't go to the Umbers.
  • You beat me with this? This is poor, expected better from the resident expert in GRRM – Edlothiad Jul 11 '17 at 12:45
  • @Edlothiad Indeed it is poor. I hope to make it better. You should add your answer however (Particularly from the Show because I am gonna skip that). – Aegon Jul 11 '17 at 12:47
  • 1
    Nah, I was going to provide the same answer as you are about to edit in. Bear in mind this from an Interview: Question 3: It had been stated that Howland Reed would come out in The Winds of Winter, which is the 5th book. Will he still come in the 5th book (A Dance with Dragon)? Answer: He will appear eventually. – Edlothiad Jul 11 '17 at 12:47
  • 1
    re: Reed becoming a recluse... I strongly suspect this was both in- and out-of-universe a result of what Reed knows from the Tower of Joy. – KutuluMike Jul 11 '17 at 13:03
  • @KutuluMike My thoughts as well. He will come out for the grand revelation. – Aegon Jul 11 '17 at 13:13
6

Don't forget it is Jojen and Meera Reed, Howland's own children who are at Winterfell to help Bran and Rickon escape! At the time it was too dangerous to head south.

Howland did help Robb in the War of Five Kings:

"If he comes so far, but no one thinks he will," Robb said. "I've sent word to Howland Reed, Father's old friend at Greywater Watch. If the Lannisters come up the Neck, the crannogmen will bleed them every step of the way, but Galbart Glover says Lord Tywin is too smart for that, and Roose Bolton agrees. - A Game of Thrones - Catelyn VIII

They may not been much of a great help to a standing army with heavy armor:

They were a poor folk, fishers and frog-hunters who lived in houses of thatch and woven reeds on floating islands hidden in the deeps of the swamp. It was said that they were a cowardly people who fought with poisoned weapons and preferred to hide from foes rather than face them in open battle. - A Clash of Kings - Bran III

But they still posed a threat, especially within their own lands:

Moat Cailin sits on the edge of the bogs. Lord Howland can make your uncle's occupation a visit to hell if he chooses, but so long as you hold his heirs he must stay his hand." - A Clash of Kings - Theon IV

"There are ways through the Neck that are not on any map, Uncle. Ways known only to the crannogmen—narrow trails between the bogs, and wet roads through the reeds that only boats can follow." He turned to his two messengers. "Tell Howland Reed that he is to send guides to me, two days after I have started up the causeway. To the center battle, where my own standard flies. - A Storm of Swords - Catelyn V

So "Where is Howland Reed"... He is in his own lands aiding the North in the best way he can due to his limited resources and lack of a large army.

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