Robb Stark: never a POV character

Nina Friel took this question the other day:

Are you glad/satisfied/disappointed that Robb was never a POV character or would it have worked to have him become one (ala Barristan/Cersei/Jamie) during the course of his post GoT arc? TY

Her answer starts with this:

On the one hand, I think Robb would have been an interesting POV in ACOK. It would have been a unique experience to get an extended POV arc from this young commander on his victorious field campaign, and we might have gotten a little more information on Robb’s warg relationship to Grey Wind. I would have liked to see more of Robb’s vassals on campaign with him – the Mormont ladies, Greatjon and Smalljon, Rickard Karstark, I would have liked to get more of their personalities and interaction with Robb than the little we got. And, of course, the fact that we haven’t seen the Westerlands yet is entirely frustrating. Come on! I want to see the Crag, Castamere, Ashemark, all the places we’re teased about on campaign.

…and this is the part where I get my Smart-Ass on.

The fact is, GRRM has written his ASOIAF books from a limited number of POV characters, and those characters do not include Robb Stark. Which is interesting, because he does give POV chapters to both Robb’s parents, his half-brother and three of his full siblings. The only Stark characters who never get a POV are Robb and Rickon. GRRM had his reasons for that.

The way I see this question is, whether Robb “would have been” an interesting POV character is irrelevant. The fact is, he was not a POV character. And I think it’s interesting to look at who else never got to have a POV in the books! Look at the characters who have been POVs between the prologues and epilogues (which are special cases), and it’s sort of tricky to tell which ones GRRM chose because they’re thematically important, and which ones he chose just because he needed someone at that particular location at that time. In some ways, we actually learn more by looking at the ones who don’t get to take part in telling the story. The Tyrells are important to the plot, but none of them are ever POVs. None of the Baratheon brothers ever have a POV chapter; Stannis is still alive in early TWOW, but so far, no POV chapters for him. Up to this point, we’ve seen Stannis mostly through Davos, later through Jon, and for one chapter, Melisandre.

Just think about what that means: as much as Stannis shapes the plot of ASOIAF, he has not once yet had a chance to tell his story in his own words. Davos has had lots of chapters, Melisandre’s had one so far, but Stannis? Not even one.

We get chapters for all three Lannister siblings, but never Tywin. Even with Cersei, I suspect the main reason she got to become a POV character at all is because GRRM needed someone in King’s Landing after Tyrion flees for Essos. Cersei’s role is basically: 1) Be the main presence in KL once Tyrion and Jaime are gone, and 2) be a fun way to show us how to fuck shit up. None of her children have ever had POV chapters, and I don’t think that’s about to change.

None of the Tully characters ever have a POV, unless we count Catelyn, and I think Catelyn is best counted as a Stark. Littlefinger? Not a POV. Nothing for Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, Sandor Clegane, the Sand Snakes, Jorah Mormont, the Freys, the Boltons, Bronn, Podrick Payne, any of Arya’s peeps. Dany was the only POV character in Essos for the first three books; later we get some events in other parts of Essos through Quentyn Martell and Tyrion, and Barristan Selmy (also still alive in early TWOW) gets a POV once Dany flies off on dragonback and we need someone to show us what’s happening in Meereen. But that’s just the thing: sometimes, POV characters are chosen mostly for their location, rather than for their emotional impact. When GRRM isn’t even interested in their location, that should tell us something.

We get tons of POVs from the Starks, Lannisters, Greyjoys and Martells, but never from Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister, Balon Greyjoy and nothing yet from Doran Martell. The reason why most of what we see of Robb is from Catelyn’s POV is probably best explained as follows: how Robb’s mother feels about him is more important than what Robb does.

Jon Snow has a story to tell. Sansa, Arya and Bran all have stories to tell and events to share through their own eyes. Ned and Cat both had stories to tell for as long as they were alive. Robb Stark…didn’t.