Episode 4 of Game of Thrones Season 6 gifted viewers with one long-awaited feel-good moment, the reunion of two Stark children. Accompanied by Brienne of Tarth and her loyal squire Podrick Payne, Sansa Stark arrived at The Wall, where she finally met up with one of her long-lost brothers, Jon Snow. The reunion was everything fans could hope for, emotional, touching, and punctured with levity as the siblings reminisced about formerly good times in which they squabbled at Winterfell. But this is Westeros we're talking about, and their happiness was short lived. Soon after Sansa's arrival, Jon Snow received a gruesome letter from Ramsay Bolton, which looks like it could be the catalyst for much of the action to come. But what does Ramsay's letter mean for Jon Snow in the coming episodes?
Here is the letter as read in the show in its entirety:
To the traitor bastard Jon Snow, You allowed thousands of wildlings past the Wall. You have betrayed your own kind. You have betrayed the North. Winterfell is mine, bastard. Come and see. Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon. His direwolf's skin is on my floor. Come and see. I want my bride back. Send her to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your wildling lovers. Keep her from me and I will ride north and slaughter every wildling man, woman, and babe living under your protection. You will watch as I skin them living. You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister. You will watch as my dogs devour your wild little brother. Then I will spoon your eyes from their sockets and let my dogs do the rest. Come and see. Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.
In forums across the internet, this letter is referred to as the "Pink Letter" as pink is the color of House Bolton, in reference to their sigil, the flayed man. Which, ugh. In the books, the letter reads quite differently:
Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore. Your false king's friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me. I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whore who came with him to Winterfell. I want my bride back. I want the false king's queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard's heart and eat it. Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell.
In the books, we did not see the battle in which Stannis was killed, and many book theorists have wondered if the letter was a fake, written by Stannis to get Jon to come to his aid, or by Mance to convince him to come to Winterfell and save him. No matter who actually wrote the letter, Ramsay, Mance, or Stannis, it worked, and Jon was spurred into action to gather a host of Wildlings to take back Winterfell, and Jon received it before his assassination. Jon was prepared to break his oath not to get involved in the wars of men and this was the last straw that inspired his brothers of the Night's Watch to betray and murder him.
With the letter arriving after Jon's resurrection, the show appears to be simply speeding up Jon's timeline. Having already died, he is released from his Night's Watch oath, and Mance and Stannis are already dead, leaving his only motivation to rescue his brother Rickon and take back his family's seat as Warden of the North, thus helpfully removing a lot of complex and confusing plot points and streamlining the whole narrative.
So what does the letter mean for Jon (and Sansa's) future? Some have theorized that Ramsay Bolton will actually succeed in spooning out Jon's eyes, pointing out that in the promotional posters, Jon Snow has blood on his face, perhaps in reference to a brutal eye-injury he is about to sustain. It seems unlikely, but it's possible. The letter also threatens that if Jon does not deliver Ramsay's bride – Sansa – to him, he will let his dogs devour Rickon as he watches. So presumably Rickon is relatively safe until Jon arrives. We all know that Ramsay likes to play with his victims, so perhaps Rickon will remain for the most part unharmed until Ramsay gets to make Jon Snow watch as he is brutally murdered by wild dogs.
Other theories still maintain that Ramsay didn't actually write the letter. Some other possibilities? Petyr Belish and Lord Umber. In the show, Baelish says to Robin Arryn, "Come and see," an echo of Ramsay's line in the letter. Perhaps Baelish wrote the letter to spur Jon into action. In the books, Baelish is plotted to lead the men of the Vale into battle in the North to take back Winterfell, so it's possible. Lord Umber has also been theorized to be secretly loyal to the Starks, and perhaps he wrote the letter to get Jon to take back Winterfell and return a Stark to the position of Warden of the North.
But as in the book, A Dance With Dragons, no matter who wrote the letter, Jon Snow is definitely about to march south to Winterfell.