This is a question inspired by this. Ned Stark makes a series of very questionable decisions while in King's Landing, jeopardizing his own life and the lives of his family:

  1. He tells Cersei he knows the truth about her children and that he is going to tell the king about it.

  2. He doesn't suspect anything when Ser Hugh is killed by the Mountain in the tournament.

  3. In spite of being warned of the "eyes" everyone has in King's Landing, he doesn't get "eyes" of his own and proceeds to investigate the death of Jon Arryn.

  4. He trusts Littlefinger, a man who he knows is still in love with his wife. Littlefinger himself warns Ned not to trust him.

Is he portrayed as being just as naive in the books, or was he worse in the TV series?

  • 12
    and ignored warning from Arya, who, though young, was a reliable witness.
    – mcgyver5
    Dec 9, 2011 at 16:16

5 Answers 5


Ned Stark was, as we can see, and as he himself says, not at all comfortable or accustomed to the intrigues of court life. He was raised in a position of power, and he operated in a position of power at King's Landing. I think he grossly overestimated that power, even though it boggles the mind that someone can be that naive. As a lord, I imagine he felt that people should respect him because of who he was, not because they had to.

His real mistake was not securing absolute military power. That was one of the first things we saw Tyrion do when he was Hand: Remove the old leader of the gold cloaks Janos Slynt and put his own man in his place. Ned did go to King's Landing with a force of Winterfell men, but he sent some away with Beric Dondarrion, and the remainder of his men were ambushed and killed, apparently because they were not exactly expecting trouble.

I believe that Littlefinger was somewhat honest about helping Ned, but he really had no choice, since putting Stannis on the throne would effectively have ended Littlefinger's career. Something else that Ned probably should have known.

Ned made a lot of hard choices, that were correct from an honourable point of view. But the real irony is that what brought him down was stepping out of that character and doing something not quite moral. If you recall the passage when Ned asks Littlefinger to secure the aid of the gold cloaks, you will notice that Ned finds this hard to ask, because bribing men to capture his best friends children and wife is not honourable, in his mind.

So yes, he was as naive in the books. Albeit in greater detail.

  • Arguably, what brings him down is not doing something immoral, but failing to do it right. It's the key task, and someone absolutely trustworthy should have been doing it.
    – Tynam
    Dec 9, 2011 at 10:49
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    @Tynam You are splitting hairs. It was trusting LF that brought him down, and if you read the passage, that particular part was hard for Ned to stomach, because he found it dishonourable. Hence, the thing that brought him down was doing something not quite moral. That is ironic, IMO.
    – TLP
    Dec 9, 2011 at 17:23
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    True. (Also: Surely, hairsplitting is our primary activity?)
    – Tynam
    Dec 9, 2011 at 17:25
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    He's politically naive, yes. But I don't agree with your statement that "As a lord, I imagine he felt that people should respect him because of who he was, not because they had to." I'm sure many high-born did feel exactly that way but Ned Stark was extremely aware of the responsibilities that went with power. He wanted people to respect him for how well he fulfilled those responsibilities, not because he was a Lord. Jan 24, 2013 at 11:48
  • 1
    I think his basic mistake was underestimating Cercei. If he had acted instead of telling her what he knew, things would be different. He knew Stannis would kill her children, though and he tried to give her a chance to save them. In addition, if it was not for Sansa's betrayal(or stupidity, pick your choice), still he would had come on top.
    – ThunderGr
    Feb 15, 2014 at 11:52

I believe his portrayal onscreen was quite faithful to the books. However, I do not believe naive is the best word to use; idealistic would be my preference. Remember that he had absolute trust from the King; this translated into serious real power that he was wielding effectively, if bluntly. His only serious missteps occurred after the King died, and it's hard to make good choices when you have a short time to make difficult decisions.

  • 6
    And his previous absence from Court for like, 17 years?, no doubt contributed to his poor choices.
    – ohmi
    Dec 3, 2011 at 0:08
  • 6
    I think it was a realistic portrayal. In that there are many such men in the real world who try to follow their ideals like the proverbial bull in the china shop. I would be a bit disappointed had he been more savvy in the book. The line between being savvy and being cynical is a rather blurry one :)
    – HNL
    Dec 3, 2011 at 15:36

Eddard Stark suffers from a classical case of "Lawful Stupid". He is honorable and follows the rules to a flaw, without thinking too much about it. He believes that one has to always follow the law, speak the truth, etc., even if it is not in his own best interest.

While a normal lawful character might think twice about telling everything he discovers to pretty much anybody who happens to wander along, Ned believes so strongly in the concept of "truth and law are good" that he trusts people too much to keep their own word and stick to the law.


No, he isn't.

You do have to read the books to understand that:

a) Ned suffers from PTSD. He's had zero tolerance where the murder of kids is concerned, ever since he saw what Tywin did to the Targaryan kids. This, alongside the guilt of keeping that secret for so long, is what haunts his thoughts. It's not just a moral stance - he's traumatized. This is why he talks to Cersei.

b) Ned isn't interested in playing. You get this vibe from the show somewhat too, but in the show, it's Ned who insists that he must accept Robert's offer, out of a sense of duty. Whereas in the books, it's Cat who pushes him - he didn't want to leave home, and he definitely didn't want to play politics in King's Landing. Nor play at war, for that matter. It wasn't just kids; Ned wasn't keen on bloodshed in general. Honestly though, I don't think this aspect significantly contributes to his downfall - it's almost an non-issue. Tyrion failed because he was too interested in playing the game, too readily making enemies and trusting allies as friends. Tywin failed too. Littlefinger will fail soon. Ned's failure (and his weaknesses) is no bigger than theirs. They're all "naive" in different ways.

Also, I'm not sure he could have gotten "eyes" to rival the spymasters' (or that didn't belong to them outright), in their own territory, even if he wanted to, in the time that he had. He could have had a handful of loyal northerners try their hand at that for him, but I'm not sure how effective/worth doing this would have been.

And to be fair, Littlefinger intended that warning to make him appear more trustworthy. And Ned believing Littlefinger to still be in love with his wife (meaning he would act in her best interests, which were also Ned's) would be a reason to trust him, if anything. The problem with LF was that he wanted revenge for something that happened decades ago, and lusted for power more than his amicable facade might have suggested (this is another difference; book LF hides his malevolence better than in the show).

If anything, I'd say he was one of the wiser characters. And he's definitely not inexperienced as a ruler or soldier. I would call him slightly closed-minded, in that instead of keeping a more open mind, he dismisses Arya's story as a child's ramblings and doesn't consider it beyond that, and basically accepts Littlefinger as an ally because Cat trusts him, without much further consideration.


I believe Cersei said it best, "In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die". The "Game of Thrones" is not a game of honor, it is a game of deceit, lies, backstabbing, "good old dirty politics". Ned Stark is just too honorable to accept that. He believes a just king should sit on the iron throne and that it should only be passed on by tradition to a rightful heir. Well Ned, in this game there are no rules, winner takes all! Yes we all like Ned, he's arguebly the most moral character in the whole series, he just doesn't like to cheat I guess. Yes of course he fathered a bastard, but he had the decency to raise Jon Snow, he could of been a deadbeat dad like the rest of the lords in the Westeros.


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