Sometimes, looking for an explanation about why somebody is rotten to the core can feel futile. Some human beings are just programmed for debauchery, villainy and sadism, and based on his animalistic behavior in #GameOfThrones, you'd probably say that Ramsay Bolton falls squarely into that category. Why give him a sad backstory when sometimes it's just more fun to be bad?
Either way, a new fan theory posted on Reddit offers an interesting perspective on how Ramsay was twisted into the handsome, baby-killing psychopath he took so much pleasure in being, and why he spent so much time behaving like such a colossal dickhead toward his powerless plaything Theon Greyjoy.
The Redditor Polarbjarn observes a minor detail in the clip which could be more significant than it seems — when Roose asks his bastard son "What is your name?" Ramsay grits his teeth in a way that suggests this has been an ongoing humiliation ritual throughout his life. His answer, Ramsay Snow, affirms that he is not a legitimate heir to the House Bolton and will probably never have his father's love or respect (except that now, finally recognized as a Bolton, he does).
Although the above scene is from Season 4, it actually lends backward-perspective to a scene from the Season 3 finale, specifically this one in which Ramsay gifts his prisoner Theon Greyjoy the charming nickname Reek.
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The language Ramsay uses during his torture of Theon ("What's your name?") perfectly mirrors Roose's aforementioned humiliation ritual, and just as that was designed to keep Ramsay certain of his place in the Bolton hierarchy (by denying him the use of real name), Ramsay now establishes a context in which he wields power by denying Theon the use of his name. As a psychological torture method, it's so effective that when Yara comes to rescue Theon, he tells her his name is Reek, Ramsay having beat that humiliation into his mind.
In a Season 4 scene he also asks "Do you love me, Reek?", mirroring the love he strived for, but never received, from his own father.
Essentially, it's Roose's repeated, casual humiliation of his son which ultimately causes Theon to suffer such an awful fate at the hand of Ramsay. Don't think I'm advocating that anyone should feel bad for Ramsay, though — he truly is rotten to the core, a straight-up sadistic fuck, where Roose was just cold. But it's still cool to get an idea of how the boy became the monster, and as theories go I reckon this one is pretty much spot-on. Check out the full Reddit thread right here.
Do you believe Roose asking "What's your name?" helped turn Ramsay into the abusive freak who maimed and destroyed Theon?