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In the 2nd season of Game of Thrones, we see Tyrion Lannister, in a plot to find out the traitor among counsels, offer Baelish the control of Harrenhal. Then later on, we are shown Harrenhal when Arya Stark is brought there among others. But we are not given much information to what it is.

Is it like a prison of the Seven Kingdoms or like a concentration camp? Who controls it? Also, we see through the series that people committing crimes are given a choice. Either lose their hands or serve on the wall. So why aren't prisoners of Harrenhal (if it is a prison) given that choice?

  • This is all in the books – Gaius Sep 2 '14 at 13:17
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Harrenhal is not a prison at all. It is said to be the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms. Before it was offered to Baelish, it was the castle of House Whent.

It is also said to be haunted by the ghosts since its founder, Harren the Black, died in flames with all his family when Aegon the Conqueror invaded Westeros with his dragons. The next Houses that occupied in Harrenhal were cursed by the ghosts and lived tragedies. Because of that, Harrenhal have a bad reputation in the Riverlands.

When Game of Thrones begins, Lady Shella Whent is the last member of the family Whent. Her husband and her sons are all dead. When she sees the Lannister's army that want to take that castle and that she can't defend it, she just decides to flee and suddenly disappears, letting Harrenhal to the Lannisters. Joffrey and Cersei award Harrenhal to Janos Slynt, commander of the gold cloaks, for the part he played in apprehending Ned Stark in King's Landing. Later, it is given to Petyr Baelish.

So, if prisoners of Harrenhal don't have the choice between justice and the Wall, it's because Lannisters don't want to let them that choice.

  • Then why are Arya Stark & others brought to Harrenhal & not to King's Landing as Lannisters are controlling both at that moment. – KharoBangdo Aug 6 '13 at 9:18
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    Tywin Lannister brought them to Harrenhal because it is his headquarters at that moment and he wants to control everything himself since he knows that his grandson Joffrey is not a good king (and probably because Joffrey wouldn't care about some prisoners). – AGuif Aug 6 '13 at 9:27
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    Remember that before being given to Petyr Baelish, it was given to Janos Slynt. Your answer is good but incomplete, you should try to add the "it is said to be haunted" part of the castle's reputation – Kalissar Aug 6 '13 at 10:06
  • @Kalissar Thanks, I forgot that it was said to be haunted by Harren. I edited my post. For Janos Slynt, I didn't mention him because he didn't even have the time to go to Harrenhal before it was given to Petyr Baelish. – AGuif Aug 6 '13 at 10:26
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    The captives at Harrenhal are prisoners of war, not criminals, so different rules apply. They might be used later in an exchange of prisoners, or simply released at the end of the war. Also, Tywin had plenty of room for them at Harrenhal, so there was no reason to march them several hundred miles to King's Landing, which was already overcrowded with refugees. – Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 2 '14 at 9:22
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Harrenhal is a castle, the largest one in Westeros. It was originally built by Harren the Black the last monarch of the Kingdom of Iron Isles and Riverlands. When Aegon the Conqueror (the first Targaryen king) offered him surrender, Harren refused trusting in the strength of the walls of his newly built castle. In retaliation, Aegon deployed his dragons and roasted Harren and all his heirs and remaining forces inside their towers. This has resulted in the molten look of the castle and its sinister reputation for being haunted by ghosts.

At the begining of the story, Harenhal belonged to House Whent a vassal of House Tully. Later, when hostilities break between the Lannisters and the Tullys, Harrenhal is captured by Tywin Lannister. Tywin then makes it the headquarters for his operations against the River lords. Which is why all captives are sent to Harrenhal. The highborn captives to be held there until they are ransomed or exchanged, and the lowborn captives to work as servants for the huge castle.

And now that Harrenhal is without a lord, it becomes an important bargaining chip as it's a very rich prize that many people would desire.

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You will find answers to all your questions in westeros.org's excellent wikipedia: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Harrenhal Here is an excerpt:

The castle was built by Harren the Black, king of the Iron islands and the Riverlands, and it was damaged by Aegon the Conqueror when he took the castle and killed Harren. It is not a prison or any such thing, it was simply used by various armies during the rebellion, with Tywin Lannister being the first to hold it. The owner Shella Whent reportedly died at some point without heir, leaving the castle open for grabs.

That prisoners are being held there is only because it happens to be a castle with room to spare in the right place -- the Riverlands. The Riverland lords were rebelling against the crown, there was likely not that many castles to spare. And King's Landing is far away.

It it interesting to note that the same thing (house being extinguished) happened to house Darry, with the common denominator being that both houses had a member in Mad King Aerys' Kingsguard, Oswell Whent and Jonothor Darry.

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Harrenhal is a symbol of Hubris. All men who inhereit Harrenhal are confronted with the ghosts of hubris, whether it be Harren the Black who built it as a testament to himself only to be defeat by a change in rules (Dragons/Aerial Warfare), Janos Slynt's greed/ambition, or Tywin's unbreakable traditions.

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In the 2nd season of Game of Thrones, we see Tyrion Lannister, in a plot to find out the traitor among counsels, offer Baelish the control of Harrelhal. Then later on, we are shown Harrenhal when Arya Stark is brought there among others. But we are not given much information to what it is.

We actually do get snippets of if throughout the season.

Is it like a prison of the Seven Kingdoms or like a Concentration camp. Who controls it.

It is not a prison but the seat of House Whent. Largest Castle of the Seven Kingdoms. Razed almost to the ground by dragons of Aegon.

Also, we see through the series that people committing crimes are given a choice. Either lose their hands or serve on the wall. So why arn't prisoners of Harrenhal(if it is a Prison) not given that choice.

The loosing of a hand is a speciality of Vargo Hoat and his head torcherer the Tickler.

You get sent to the wall if you are Lucky enough to be of high birth OR if a Black Brother happens to come by a Castle that has a full dungeon. If not the cuplrits are hung or beheaded or killed in any way that the Lord of the Castle sees fit.

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Harrenhal aka Black Harren's folly/Black Harren's monstrosity is the largest Castle in the seven Kingdoms.

It was build by the Last Hoare King, Harren the Black, who was King of the Rivers and Isles.

It is located near God's Eye in Riverlands. You can see it on the map here:

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Before the Castle war built, the Iron Kings of Rivers and Isles used to hold a small castle near Fairmarket as their seat. Harren however wanted something grand. It took forty years to build the Castle and thousands of men died slaving away to build it. The venture beggared both of Harren's Kingdoms (Riverlands and Iron Islands). The same day as Harren moved in the Castle, Targaryen invasion begun. Harren thought his Castle was invincible so he refused to surrender to Aegon I. Aegon burnt the Castle and Harren burnt with all his sons and family.

The Castle ever since has a sinister reputation. Every House which touched it perished.

The Reason why Arya along with Other Prisoners is brought to Harrenhal is because that's where Tywin Lannister made his headquarters after Robb Stark defeated Jaime in the Whispering Woods. Tywin retreated from Ruby Fork and positioned himself at Harrenhal so that he could be in a defensible position and close enough to defend King's Landing itself. To maintain the Army, Labour was needed. So the Villagers were rounded up and brought there to serve the Lords and Knights and their retinues.

Prisoners of Harrenhal aren't Criminals. They are just people of the losing side and they have been turned into forced labor for their captives. That's why they don't get a choice, they have done no crime other than being who they were.

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