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In episode 4 of season 2 Lord Baelish "Littlefinger" delivers a chest containing Eddard Stark's remains.

Why is the chest so small? Does it only contain Eddard's head or ashes?

  • 1
    Because he didn't quit while he was ahead. – Omegacron Jun 24 '15 at 15:53
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In Westeros, the prevalent practice is to give the body to a religious order known as the Silent Sisters. These women swear vows of chastity and silence, and their duties are preparing the bodies of the deceased. This includes embalming the body for viewing, and preparing it for burial. Sometimes this means boiling the flesh off, until only the bones remain. This is done when the body is to be buried in a distant land and needs to be transported. That is the case for Eddard Stark's body, whose body was already detorirated and needed to be transported all the way from King's Landing to the Stark family crypt in Winterfell. The casket shown in the series contains only his bones, which is why it's so small.

  • Also, he had no head. – Anthony Mar 18 '13 at 14:08
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    @anthony-arnold - The head (or rather the skull) was sent back along with the bones. – System Down Mar 18 '13 at 18:01
  • Oh right. Withdrawn. – Anthony Mar 18 '13 at 23:36
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I haven't seen the show, but in the book his bones are returned to Catelyn in Riverrun. It's his skeleton, which I imagine wouldn't take up a lot of room, but the book doesn't say specifically.

It does say:

They had laid him out on a trestle table and covered him with a banner, the white banner of House Stark with its grey direwolf sigil. "I would look on him," Catelyn said.

"Only the bones remain, my lady."

And then

His hands were clasped together over his chest, skeletal fingers curled about the hilt of some longsword, but they were not Ned's hands, so strong and full of life. They had dressed the bones in Ned's surcoat...

The head had been rejoined to the body with fine silver wire, but one skull looks much like another, and in those empty hollows she found no trace of her lord's dark grey eyes...

  • 1
    Great answer but ... you haven't seen the show??? You're mad. – TheMathemagician Mar 18 '13 at 9:41
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    @TheMathemagician The books are many times better than the TV-show. The plots have started to diverge now too, to the point where they are almost two different stories. – TLP Mar 18 '13 at 9:58
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Funerary practices have varied considerably over the centuries. We've not always been so squeamish about such things. If you think about it for a moment, without modern embalming a corpse would become skeletonized rather quickly. Well under a year in most circumstances, including if you were buried in a casket.

In many places in Europe, cemeteries would become full within a few generations. And rather than expand them outward, the oldest graves would be dug up, and the bones removed. These were treated with some measure of respect, they didn't just dispose of them. They'd be placed in what's called an ossuary.

And so, I suspect, the people of Westeros had similar practices. At other times, we've heard his wife talk about him being placed underneath Winterfell in catacombs with the rest of his ancestors and family (catacombs being a rather traditional place for such ossuaries).

Couple that with the many months in between his death and the return of his "body", and we're certainly talking about only his bones being returned to her. They'd probably have been cleaned, and possibly wrapped.

Modern cremation often makes the "ashes" available to loved ones, but technically they're not even ashes... they are those parts that won't burn, ground down to powder. That would only be available from a modern crematorium, while various methods of cremation existed prior to modern times, they wouldn't leave much to be gathered up into an urn or chest.

Nor would it be just his head, such a gesture would be that of taunting the enemy. If you wanted to prove someone dead or send a message to those who were friendly with the person... you'd send the head after all. She would have been very upset had that been done. It's only a gesture of good will if he returned everything possible to return.

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