Like one of Vary’s over-enthusiastic little birds, I might be reading a bit too much into this theory. But hear me out. Cast your minds way back to season 1 of Game of Thrones, when Ned still had rosy cheeks and we all thought he was going to live forever. Robert Baratheon’s arrival in Winterfell begins an admittedly small sequence of events that many have given a hefty dollop of significance and a grandiose name - Robert’s Curse.
No, it doesn’t propose that Robert was secretly muttering spells over a flame in a deleted scene. The theory has its roots in the way he behaves towards particular Starks. When the king arrives at Winterfell, he meets with all the Starks - in fact, this is the only scene where all eight family members are together. He hugs Ned, Catelyn (to her vague embarrassment), ruffles Rickon’s hair, and grasps Robb by the shoulder. Notice anything that links those four Starks? That’s right: they all die. To some Robert’s touch appears to have cursed them with a drastically shortened lifespan, hinting that Sansa, Arya, and Bran might be safe from The Stranger’s grasp in season 8 (he doesn’t interact with Jon whatsoever in this short scene, so I’m going to give that Stark a miss).
Was it planned?
Don’t get too excited, though - Mark Addy (who played the boisterous king) apparently improvised the entire scene, so it’s unlikely that George RR Martin whispered anything in the scriptwriters’ ears about any kind of foreshadowing. Plus, if you take Robert’s rambunctious character into account, his behaviour really isn’t that extraordinary.
Of course he’d hug Ned - the two have been fast friends since Robert was betrothed to his sister Lyanna and you can bet they hadn’t seen each other for a good long while. Unlike many of his carefully coiffed courtiers Robert isn’t particularly fond of ceremony, so having him envelop Catelyn in a bearhug instead of graciously kissing her hand makes sense too. Plus, Rickon is the youngest so the hair ruffle is probably the only way Robert would feasibly be able to interact with such a young lad. With Robb being the eldest, Robert would be bound to honour him in some meaningful way as almost an equal considering he’s likely already begun to be tutored by his father in House Stark’s place in Westeros. His words to the remaining three Starks, however, are much more intriguing...
Okay, now that I’ve been rational please can I speculate the tiniest bit? Yes? Good. I’ll start off small: the first thing Robert says to Sansa is “my, you’re a pretty one”. This slightly foreshadows the way her beauty will make her a pawn in the various marriage schemes Littlefinger, Cersei, and even Ned and Catelyn (they did betroth her to Joffrey, after all) devise, but it is admittedly a slightly tenuous link. On to Bran. It’s a cruel twist of fate that Robert should ask to see his muscles, predicting he’d grow into a soldier - only then for the child to be crippled by his fall from the tower. Now things get interesting. To Arya - now known better as a Faceless Man who’s stuck by Lady Sansa’s side and intends to get revenge on those who wronged her family - Robert asks one question: “And what’s your name?”. Asking the name of a girl who will disguise herself as a boy when on the run in Westeros, spend months being no-one in Braavos, and continue to hide her identity until she returns home years later is simply too much foreshadowing to ignore. Not even mentioning the fact that for a while she was a nameless ‘no-one’ when undergoing her Faceless Man training. It’s almost as if Robert (or whichever mysterious forces were acting through him, like Westeros’ gods) glimpsed the Stark’s futures, which makes it sound like there might be something in the Robert’s Curse theory.
So, if Robert didn’t touch them and managed to predict their character arcs, does this mean Bran, Sansa, and Arya are going to live to a respectable old age? However much I want to believe it, knowing George RR Martin this seems highly unlikely. I’m willing to bet at least one more Stark will join their family in the Winterfell Crypt, but who it’ll be is anyone’s guess. Robert’s words aren’t particularly illuminating here either. Sansa seems to be at the most risk at the moment, considering she neither has Bran’s ability to see the past or Arya’s skills with a blade - although her political maneuvering will hopefully flourish in season 8. Forging wise alliances and perhaps even engaging in Littlefinger’s underhand tactics would make her a force to contend with, although it likely comes with significant enemies. Like Cersei.
Read more: 14 amazing fan theories for Game of Thrones season 8 (opens in new tab)
Arya, however, is likely to put herself in more immediate danger. While Sansa and Bran will probably stay behind the scenes, the youngest Stark girl is eager to get her blade acquainted with Cersei’s throat as she’s the last name on her list. To make it to her she’d have to get past the Mountain, as well as the guards an increasingly paranoid Cersei is likely to station all around her now that Jaime has fled King’s Landing. Mind you, she is armed to the teeth. Bran is the opposite. Unlike Sansa and Arya he doesn’t appear to have much interest in current events beyond trying to figure out how to stop the White Walkers. He’s also defenceless. Unless, that is, he can warg into someone - or something - nearby to defend himself, like he did with Summer when he helped Jon defeat the Wildlings.
Or - hear me out - the remaining Starks could make it to the finale of season 8 with blood still beating through their veins. The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives...and if the Stark’s dealings with Littlefinger are anything to go by, the siblings aren’t likely to betray each other anytime soon. We hope.