One of the first things that happens in the Game of Thrones epic is the naming of the Stark direwolves. Steve has some thoughts on their meaning.
By Steve Titcomb // A Song of Ice and Fire is filled with symbolism. Nothing stands out more than in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones, when Ned Stark and his men make their way back from beheading a Night’s Watch deserter. On their way back to Winterfell, they come across a dead stag and a direwolf not too far away. The symbolism here is that each of these animals represents two of the leading families in Westeros. Two best friends that grew up in the Vale and fought two wars together and not even twenty minutes into the show, we are shown that they will be the cause of each other’s death. Another piece of symbolism is while the stag died alone, the direwolf left a litter of six pups, one for each of the Stark children, including Jon Snow. These Stark direwolves have become powerful symbols, but the meaning of each are still obscured. Here are the thoughts so far.
Robb and Rickon
Robb and Rickon are the only two I have struggled with when it comes to defining their Stark direwolves’ names in relation to the character. Rickon is the youngest of the Stark children, along with being the least written. And besides having some similar characteristics to Shaggy Dog, there wasn’t much I could find that would help predict his character’s path.
Robb is the eldest, and the correlation I could find with him naming his pup Grey Wind is how he treats his vows. There is an old expression that goes, “oaths are but words, and words but wind.” Robb goes on to break the oath that was made to the Freys and to his bannermen in the North by travelling south to marry another and in doing so seals his fate.
It is the other four characters and their Stark direwolves that I find most interesting. A young and naïve Sansa Stark goes on to name her wolf Lady. A very fitting name for a girl brought up on stories of valor and honor, but it is the fate of her direwolf, early on in season one, that sheds her light on what her character would go through. Sansa had always wanted to be the perfect little lady, and had a very warped view on how the world was. The killing of Lady, however, was her first signal that the world she created in her mind wasn’t to be. Whether it is in the books or on the show, Sansa has been through a horrendous ordeal, never quite becoming the lady she wished to be, and perhaps realizing that aside from her mother that being a Lady doesn’t always assure you that someone is pure and true.
Arya and Nymeria have a lot in common, from being on the run and escaping their fates at the hands of the Lannisters to the origin of Nymeria’s name. For those unaware, Nymeria was a Rhoynish Queen who led her people away from Essos and the dragon lords of Valyria in search of a new home. It took Nymeria and her people years before settling on Dorne, and when she did they sunk their ships and became one with the Dornish. Arya is on a similar journey, though hers leads from Westeros to Essos. She is wild and strong-willed, and like Nymeria before her still holding on to her past while moving in to the future.
Bran and Summer are my favorite pair after Jon and Ghost. Up to a few episodes ago, I thought Summer being named so was to give us a clue that with Bran’s help Westeros might see summer again after the Long Night. However, Summer’s sacrifice has made me have second thoughts on what his name could mean. Though the viewer is unsure of how Bran’s magical abilities will help save those south of the Wall from the Others, his importance cannot be denied. Perhaps the fate of Summer ushers in the true end of summer in Westeros?
Jon Snow, the bastard of Ned Stark and everyone’s favorite character, named his direwolf Ghost. The significance of the name could mean anything from him remaining unseen, being a bastard, to what happened in last year’s season finale. Jon was betrayed by his Brothers of the Night’s Watch and left there to die. The season opener confirmed that he did breathe his last breath and many a fan was left distraught. However, thanks to Melisandre Jon was giving a second chance at life. Jon Snow was dead and then he wasn’t, not quite a ghost; but, for those who saw him after his resurrection, it was like they had seen a ghost. Going one step further and if R + L = J then for those who truly knew Rhaegar and Lyanna, seeing Jon Snow could be like looking at a ghost.
These correlations aren’t flawless, and some may even be a stretch but it is hard to overlook some of them. George R R Martin may have just made the names of the Stark direwolves on a whim, but as evident throughout both books and the show he does have a habit of foreshadowing what is to come.