Game of Thrones: Everything You Need to Know About Benjen Stark
Among the many mysteries in Game of Thrones (like who are Jon Snow's parents? Is Daenerys "The Prince That Was Promised"? Will Brienne and Tormund ever hook up?), a lot of fans have wondered about whatever happened to Benjen Stark. In the season six episode "Blood of My Blood," his fate is finally revealed, as is whether or not he's Coldhands. There's more to Benjen than meets the eye, so read on to see who he is and why he's important.
He's Ned Stark's Little Brother and a Member of the Night's Watch
Benjen is the youngest son of Lord Rickard Stark, making him Ned's little brother. When he grows up, he decides to voluntarily enter into the Night's Watch, where he becomes a fearsome First Ranger (a member of the Night's Watch who ranges beyond the Wall on scouting missions to hunt down Wildlings). Jon Snow deeply looks up to him, and Benjen is the driving force behind why he later joins the Night's Watch himself.
He Mysteriously Disappears and Is Assumed Dead
In the show, we've only gotten a glimpse of Benjen three times: once in the first season, again in season six's second episode, and in season six's sixth episode. In season one, we briefly meet Benjen when he becomes a First Ranger and convinces Jon to join the Night's Watch. He goes on an ill-fated trip ranging north of the Wall with two others, Othor and Jafer Flowers, but never returns. Only his horse and the dead bodies of Othor and Jafer are found (which later turn into wights), so Benjen is widely assumed to be dead. Although there have been a few deaths that have gone down off screen (ex: Brienne executing Stannis), the show never actually delivers his body, so his fate was still up for grabs. Of course, now we know he has survived.
Five seasons later, Benjen appears as a little boy when Bran and the Three Eyed Raven flash back to the earlier days of Winterfell. Ned teaches Benjen how to fight, and it's adorable and heartbreaking, and a hint that Benjen's story isn't finished yet.
He and the Character Named Coldhands Are One and the Same
In "Blood of My Blood," Bran and Meera are rescued from a group of wights by a mysterious, hooded man on horseback, who quickly reveals himself to be Bran's Uncle Benjen. When Bran asks how he could possibly still be alive after vanishing without a trace north of the Wall, Benjen tells him how a pack of wights overpowered him and his companions during their ranging, and although the other two died, he was saved by the Children of the Forest. They used dragonglass to stop Benjen's body from turning into a wight, so now he's not exactly dead, but not exactly alive, either.
Even though no one in the episode mentions this name specifically, there's no doubt that Benjen is the highly-anticipated character of Coldhands. In the books, Coldhands first appears in A Storm of Swords to save Samwell Tarly and Gilly from wights after they escape Craster's Keep, and later links up with Bran, Meera, Jojen Reed, and Hodor to guide them to the tree of the Three-Eyed Crow. He's extremely important to Bran's future, so it will be interesting to see how the show interprets his character going forward.