Find out more about the deeper meaning of the house symbols on Game of Thrones, starting with the Starks: their grey & white, their motto, “Winter is Coming,” and their animal, the direwolf.
Works Cited & Consulted:
* Martin, George R.R. “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Bantam Books.
* Empower Yourself with Color Psychology
* Color Wheel Pro
* Color Meanings
* Harris, Elena. “Wolf Spirit Animal.” Spirit Animal.
* freeguess. “An Analysis of House Words.” /r/asoiaf on Reddit, 5 Jan. 2013.
Transcript provided by Youtube:
If you lose, your father dies. Your sisters die. We die
As if the plot of Game of Thrones wasn’t already hard enough to follow
Author George R. R. Martin loaded the story with layers of symbolism
And it’s often connected to the characters families or houses
Each house has a sigil, a sign or symbol that indicates the family
Colors, words by which to live by
And certain qualities that define them
Within the story, the importance of sigils underlines that
in this world with its highly structured society and medieval echoes
A person’s birth largely decides his or her fate
Meanwhile on the metaphorical level
the houses embody certain basic characteristics within human nature
which might exist in us all, but here they’re separated out and exaggerated in the individual houses.
We could say for example that the Lannisters embody selfishness
The Starks, strength and adversity.
The Targaryen, inner vitality
and The Baratheon, anger.
One of the deeper intrigues we feel watching
the houses battle for dominance is identifying with the families that
embody our own values and wondering which aspects of human nature may finally prevail
Beware: spoilers are coming after this point.
The first family the audience meets is the Starks
The Lords of Winterfell and arguably
the family that tugs most of your heartstrings
The sigil of the gray wolf
against a white background captures the family’s readiness for the hardship of winter
The struggle is against both the harsh elements of the north and their enemies in Westeros
HBO’s representation of the sigil makes the dire wolf look like armor
representing the Stark family’s willingness to fight
and their old-fashioned, medieval-feeling code of honor
Persecuted and beaten down over the course of the story
The northern Starks represent tough stoicism
strength of will and the determination to persevere against all adversities
Their motto “Winter is Coming” is one of the most memorable on the show
mostly because it’s said an absurd amount of time
And yes it’s a literal warning that a year’s long summer is
ending and winter will once again fall upon Westeros
When winter comes the White Walkers may return
A terrifying reality the Starks feel they must always be ready for
And the Starks motto also has metaphorical meanings
Martin has explained that we must expect dark periods of our lives
even if things may seem good now
We should always be prepared for fortunes to turn against us
On the family level, “Winter is Coming” foreshadows all the hardships the Starks will face
And the words show the stark families closeness to the elements
Their name “Stark” comes from the word that means hard and barren like the northern climate
Given the danger and hostility of their environment
Northerners have to stick together to brave the winter
While Southerners can play their political games because of their temperate climate
The North is not only geographically but also politically and emotionally
isolated from the games of the South
They speak plainly and truthfully, which can get them into trouble
A passage from the book emphasizes that all of the
houses family mottos “boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and
truth, swore faith and courage. All but the Starks.
It’s significant that the Starks don’t use their motto to brag about their best qualities
but to remind themselves and others to look up from our smaller infighting
and remember that there is an even bigger threat and a bigger fight
but now winter is truly
coming in the winter we must protect ourselves look after one another we’ve
come to a dangerous place we cannot fight a war amongst ourselves
The Starks’ determination to face the brutal reality of life shows that they’re made of
different stuff, with a totally different philosophy than the other houses
They’ve been shaped by a more difficult environment, and this hardship defines them.
The stark colors are gray and white. Gray is a neutral color, a transition
between black and white
It’s stable, calm, quiet, reserved, never the center of attention
And it represents compromise and control.
The stark family embodies this color through level-headedness
While the gloominess of gray illustrates the family’s depressing fate
White is the color of new beginnings, of purity and innocence.
Most obviously it’s the color of snow.
The symbol of the impending winter – and of course white makes us think of Jon Snow
The Starks embody the duality of the color white.
It seems pure and innocent and naive
Yet it can also be cold and isolated.
On the sigil, the colors are reflected as a gray direwolf on a white field
The Starks themselves are symbolized by the direwolf
Like wolves they’re ferocious, persevering with loyalty and integrity
and they do best in a pack
Over the seasons they struggle to survive when separated
and like the direwolves become almost extinct
In the first episode Ned Stark and his children
find a litter of dire wolf pups and the children each take one
Each pups characteristics and name reflects its owner
And the pups’ fate symbolizes what will come of each human Stark
Almost as if the direwolf is the soul of a Stark child externalized
Meanwhile the stag antler in the dead body of the parent wolf foreshadows Ned Stark’s death
which will be brought on by his accepting the Hand of the King position for Robert Baratheon
A house represented by the stag
Sansa named her direwolf Lady
As Sansa wished to be a lady and marry Joffrey
In the books Lady is described as the prettiest,
the most gentle and trusting of the pups
Arya names her direwolf Nymeria after the warrior princess
who led her people across the Narrow Sea and settled in Dorne
The name captures Arya’s strong, wild, warrior spirit
After Nymeria attacks Joffrey to protect Arya
The girl sends her direwolf into the wild to escape being put down
In the books Nymeria forms a wolf pack that runs free
Just as Arya flees to live on the run and grow stronger in exile
The wolf being lost also symbolizes that Arya is uncertain of her path
Meanwhile Joffrey demands that Lady be put down for Nymeria’s crime
Lady’s death represents Sansa’s loss of innocence
After the brutality she experiences living with the nobility in King’s Landing
her gentle and trusting nature is gone
Robb and Grey Wind are inseparable
Grey Wind fights alongside Rob on the battlefield
At the red wedding, the Freys separate Robb and Grey Wind
out of fear that they’ll fight back together
They’re both decapitated and the wolf’s head is sewn on Rob’s body
Bran has yet to named his direwolf when he goes into a coma
after Jaime Lannister pushes him from a tower
The lack of the name suggests his wolf is an even more connected extension of himself
Since he is a warg he can also enter his wolf and control it like his own body
After waking from his coma Bran names his direwolf Summer
Bran himself is referred to as “the sweet summer child” by Nan
On a deeper prophetic level, summer child Bran may turn out to be the force
that will defeat winter and bring the return of summer once again
In Season Six, Summer sacrifices himself to save Bran, Meera and Hodor from the Whites
who are the markers of winter
Summer’s death signals that winter has now arrived
Rickon’s direwolf shaggydog is aptly named because unlike his siblings
Rickon never receives a proper education or lessons or grooming
He was supposed to become a bannerman for his brother
But it was instead brought up by a wildling, Osha
The youngest Stark, Rickon comes of age knowing only this brutal time of fighting
with the Baratheons and Lannisters
And his alter-ego of the wild fighting wolf reflects an unhinged, untamed spirit
Osha and Rickon seek refuge with the Umbers who betray them and kill shaggy-dog
Likewise the Umbers are allied with Ramsay Bolton
who later kills Rickon at the Battle of the Bastards
At first the family sees only five direwolves
one for each legitimate child of Ned Stark
But soon after, Jon Snow adopts an albino direwolf
Just as Snow starts life at a disadvantage
apart from his legitimate siblings
Jon decides to call him Ghost
Of course, the name makes us think of that piece of a person that carries on after someone dies
And in Season 6, after Jon dies and is resurrected
Ghost is the first one to see him come back to life
Some speculate that Ghost’s presence is a key part of John’s resurrection
Like he’s named Snow, the wolf is pure white and Jon is called the White Wolf
Now that Jon is the King in the North
The Stark banner will be reversed, as is customary when a bastard takes off his house banner
The direwolf will become white, and the field gray
Since Jon’s wolf was the only white one and the rest were grey
The switch signals that though Jon may become the leader, “King in the North”
He’s still not fully a Stark
Especially now with his proven Targaryen blood
He remains apart from his Stark siblings
The white wolf to the others’ grey.
This post was previously published on Youtube.
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video