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In the book "A Game of Thrones", there was the Catelyn PoV chapter that ended in her calling upon men in a tavern that Tyrion Lannister has just entered to arrest him so that he could be tried for conspiring to murder Bran (and her, inadvertently).

The question is this: was this the action that started the war in Westeros? Yes, there was much political tension in the land at the time, and things were surely moving into place for war, but what I would like to know is there any evidence in the book/canon material that indicates that things would not have progressed as volatility as they had if not for her actions?

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    It was A factor but not THE factor, the biggest and most important one is Ned's beheading. – yondaime008 May 28 '15 at 19:08
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    Best swordsman of westeros? I don't think so, all the members of the kingsguard outskill him easily, including Jaime Lannister. But he wasn't arrested for those reasons, Ned was a fool for being honorable and confronting Cersei instead of taking actions immediatly when he found out about the bloodline, she acted quicker that's all. Another reason behind the rebellion of the north is that the north was one of the last kingdoms to bend the knee to the Targaryen king. Till then, they had their own king, the king in the north, killing Ned just made them want to reinstate the king in the north. – yondaime008 May 28 '15 at 19:21
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    @yondaime008 Well, we can't say for certain Ned's skill level with a sword, we never actually see him fight (though in the show, we do see that Jamie Lannister is very excited to get to go against Ned one on one before one of his men stab him in the leg). But, like I said, it was a theory (not my own I might add). And saying the North used to have its own king as the reason for wanting to break free is kind of moot, each of the "Seven Kingdoms" had their own kings before the Targaryens came ashore. – USFBS May 28 '15 at 19:26
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    Did Gavrilo Princip start World War 1 when he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria? Some say so, but of course that is not the whole truth. – TLP May 28 '15 at 21:43
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    "By my lights, it was you who started this," Lord Tywin replied (to Tyrion). "Your brother Jaime would never have meekly submitted to capture at the hands of a woman". Tywin at his best, showing his "fatherly" love. – Nika G. May 29 '15 at 11:08
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Why stop at Catelyn? Let's go further:

  • Catelyn arrested Tyrion based on Littlefinger's accusation WRT the dagger the assassin used to attempt to kill Bran.
  • That assassin was hired by Joffrey, who did so to please his father, sort of: to mercy kill the crippled Bran.
  • Bran was crippled due to his fall, but he was actually pushed by Jaime because Bran caught Jaime and Cersei in the act.
  • The Lannisters are at Winterfell because Jon Arryn got murdered.
  • Which was the work of... Petyr Baelish.

If you want to read a long, in-depth analysis of who's responsible for the War of the Five Kings, read Den Of Geek!'s "Game Of Thrones: The 9 Characters Who Started The War".

Now, about your question: "is there any evidence in the book/canon material that indicates that things would not have progressed as volatility as they had if not for her actions?" I'd say that if this hadn't happened, then Littlefinger would have engineered something else. But him pointing to Tyrion as the source of the dagger certainly looks like him attempting to stir up an incident.

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    +1 Agreed. So far everything indicates Littlefinger actively worked to start the war. His exact reasons can only be guessed at this point. – Andres F. May 28 '15 at 21:00
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    @AndresF. It seems that the motives were expressed by Petyr himself in season 2 AFAIR, he said to Varys that "chaos is a ladder". Baelish wants to become more and more important but in order to do that fast, major houses need to collide. It was all in the name of Glory and Wealth – yondaime008 May 28 '15 at 21:46
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    @AndresF. Couldn't agree more, in fact, I for once don't feel mad at D&D when they made Baelish give Sansa for Ramsay Bolton in the series, he'd do something like that with her anyway, she's just a valuable card in a massive poker game that's all it is for him. – yondaime008 May 28 '15 at 22:07
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    Makes me wonder how much could've been avoided if Robert Baratheon had just been a better husband to Cersei and fathered a few children with her instead of two dozen bastards. You could say that was the snowflake that started the avalanche. Then again, if Rhaegar Targaryen hadn't stolen/raped Lyanna, Robert never would have become King. And if Aemon Targaryen hadn't abdicated to join the Night's Watch... we could go on. – TylerH May 29 '15 at 1:36
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    One can go back decades or centuries to find a source for war. It is the same in our real world as in the fantasy world from Martin. But regarding the events of the books/show I think Petyr is the main driving force of unrest in Westeros. – Thomas May 29 '15 at 8:31
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We do not know so far exactly who or what started the war, but there were likely multiple reasons.

I don't think Catelyn Stark's arrest of Tyrion Lannister was important enough to start a war, though it certainly didn't help. It can be argued that Robert Baratheon's death more directly caused the war. But even before Robert Baratheon's murder, there was Littlefinger's manipulation of crazy Lysa Arryn, which caused her to murder the previous Hand of the King, Ser Jon Arryn, setting the plot into motion at the start of A Game of Thrones.

Littlefinger's precise motives for pitting House against House are so far unknown, though he offers some (unreliable) explanations. We can only speculate about them.

  • Robert Baratheon's death does NOT predate Catelyn's arrest of Tyrion! Also, spoilertags? – Rand al'Thor May 28 '15 at 20:18
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    @randal'thor Right, fixed! I was unsure about that, and didn't have the book handy. Re: spoilers, I disagree with heavy use of spoiler tags; anyone not wanting to be spoiled about the reasons of the war should not even click on this question. – Andres F. May 28 '15 at 20:59
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    Indeed, at a certain point, one must assume that a basic knowledge of the very beginning of the material is required on a question about it. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 28 '15 at 23:39
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit although I do agree that it doesn't need spoiler tags but I wouldn't say it was knowledge of the very beginning. Who actual killed Jon Arryn was only reveiled at the end of A Storm of Swords – Ivo Beckers May 29 '15 at 7:28
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It is as true to say that was the start of the war as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand started WWI or the invasion of Poland started WWII

That is, not true to any real degree, but people will do it anyway.

The start of the war can be thought of in many ways. Two very common ones are.

The point at which the war became a near certainty. WWI = the buildup of alliances, colonies and military equipment by Britain, France, Germany. WWII = the signing of the treaty of Versailles. GoT = the revelation that Joffery was not a heir to the King.

The point at which the start date of the war was decided (which is usually what people think of as the start of the war) WWI = Franz, WWII = Poland, GoT = Catelyn arresting Tyrion.

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Catelyn's capture of Tyrion, followed by Jaime attacking Ned definitely created conflict between the Lannisters and Starks, however the war would have happened regardless. Remember Jon Arryn and Ned Stark had both figured out the true parentage of Cersei's children. This was the real cause of the war as this knowledge caused Cersei to accelerate the assassination plot, which forced Ned to try to give the throne to Stannis.

Without the initial conflict between the Lannister's and Stark's one of two things happens.

  1. (More likely) Nothing changes. Robert is still killed, Ned is arrested and beheaded for treason against Joffrey, the North rebels, Stannis and Renly declare themselves kings.

  2. (Less likely) Ned is able to tell Robert about Cersei's crimes, Robert has her executed, Tywin raises the west and marches on King's Landing.

Regardless, I believe the war still occurs, the difference is who is considered a rebel.

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No

There is more than one factor that caused the different parties in the war to join in.

Catelyn Stark takes Tyrion Lannister prisoner

@BCdotWEB's answer does a good job of summarising this point.

  • Catelyn arrested Tyrion based on Littlefinger's accusation WRT the dagger the assassin used to attempt to kill Bran.
  • That assassin was hired by Joffrey, who did so to please his father, sort of: to mercy kill the crippled Bran.
  • Bran was crippled due to his fall, but he was actually pushed by Jaime because Bran caught Jaime and Cersei in the act.
  • The Lannisters are at Winterfell because Jon Arryn got murdered.
  • Which was the work of... Petyr Baelish.

However, this only causes the Lannister's to mobilise their forces to try and get Tyrion back no other party actually starts yet.

Eddard Stark learns the truth

This is more the main reason that the War of the Five Kings starts. Ned learns the truth that the three children of Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister are actually the result of incest between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. When he finds out about this he intends to make Stannis Baratheon king as he is actually the rightful heir. This is what causes Stannis and Renly Baratheon to join the war as both of them want the throne.

Eddard makes a mistake

As we all know Ned is an "honourable fool" and as such when he learns the truth he confronts Cersei about it. This isn't just beyond stupid but he essentially tells her he plans to get rid of them off the throne and gives away his plans and intentions. This leads to Ned eventually being taken prisoner. This is what causes Robb Stark to join the war, to get his father back.

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It is just like World War I started because of assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

War was coming but only a cause is needed and Catelyn gave it.

  • "War is coming"... ominous overtones of "Winter is coming" – user32390 May 10 '16 at 8:46

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