The Stark Sigil: Game of Thrones Keychain
Whether you’re a fan of the television series of Game of Thrones, or you prefer the books, you’ll surely agree that this Game of Thrones keychain is a great purchase. With it, you can keep a little bit of Westeros with you all the time and bring some fantasy into your reality.
The Game of Thrones keychain itself is an intricately decorated metallic disk. The outer edge of the disk features incredibly detailed geometric patterns. These patterns create an inner circle that contains the primary design of the keychain.
A snarling direwolf head, often used as the Sigil of House Stark, sits slightly off-centre on the keychain. This direwolf design is embossed onto the keychain, so it is raised up slightly from the disk. The design also encroaches on the patterned edge of the keychain, as though it’s breaking out.
Beneath the head of the direwolf sits some text. This text reads “Winter is Coming”, which is the motto of House Stark. Beneath that text, the “Stark” name is included, just to make sure that you know which Great House is the one running around with a bunch of massive wolves while shouting about the oncoming winter.
Great Wolves of the North: The Direwolves
As we know, House Stark famously has a fondness for direwolves. Their sigil features a direwolf design, which inspired our own Game of Thrones keychain. It’s fitting therefore, that the story provides each of the six Stark children with their own direwolves early on.
But before we get to the six Stark direwolves, let’s look at the species as a whole, both in reality and fantasy.
The Dire Wolf: Prehistoric Predators
Yes, you heard us right. Dire wolves did exist in reality, although they are long extinct. The scientific name for this wolf is Aenocyon dirus, and they lived up to about 9500 years ago. Dire wolves were found in North America, South America, and eastern Asia, and lived in a wide range of habitats, much like modern wolves and dogs.
Dire wolves were what’s known as a hypercarnivore, much like modern wolves. This means that over 70% of their diet consisted of meat. Specifically, dire wolves mostly preyed on the megaherbivores that roamed the planet at the time. Megaherbivores were, unsurprisingly, enormous herbivores, such as mastodons (similar to mammoths) and ancient bison (think a bison, but even bigger).
When these herbivores went extinct, the dire wolf soon followed. The loss of their primary prey wasn’t the dire wolf’s only issue, however, as they had a lot of competition from their smaller cousins, the early grey wolves.
The average dire wolf would have been comparable in size to the largest modern grey wolves, so about a metre tall and 180 cm long. They were also heavy, being around 65kg (143 lb) in weight. So, you wouldn’t want to meet a dire wolf in a dark alley. Or even a well-lit alley. These things were scary.
Their proportions were slightly different to modern grey wolves, as they had comparatively smaller feet and a much larger head. As you’d expect from a giant wolf that hunted even larger prey, the dire wolf had an incredibly powerful bite. This was in part thanks to the dire wolf’s large skull, which allowed for a strong jaw.
The Direwolf: Fantasy’s Answer to History
Now that we’ve gotten all of that reality out of the way, let’s look at the direwolves found in Game of Thrones. There are no prizes for anyone who’s noticed the most obvious difference between these two creatures. That difference being that the name of our prehistoric dire wolves is two words, but the fantastical direwolves are generally written as one word.
But that’s not all. Another obvious difference is that the direwolves of Westeros aren’t extinct, at least, not yet. By the time the story takes place, direwolves are in decline. While they once freely roamed the North, they are now borderline mythical in the south of Westeros, and rare in the northern lands.
In the past 200 years or so before the reign of King Robert Baratheon, a direwolf south of the Wall was unheard of. This does change near the beginning of the Game of Thrones Saga, but we’ll talk about that in more detail later.
So, what are the direwolves like? Well, like their real counterpart, direwolves have proportionately larger heads and teeth than grey wolves. However, direwolves are even larger, being the size of a small horse. They also have long legs, so as to better hunt down their prey.
A direwolf is lethal even as a juvenile, being capable of tearing out the throat of a human and quickly reaching the size of a large dog. As an adult, direwolves can easily tear a human’s arm from their socket. In the Game of Thrones, the Stark direwolves shine as war dogs.
Personality-wise, direwolves are intelligent and incredibly loyal and protective towards their masters. Nymeria, Arya Stark’s direwolf, remembered her master years after the two were separated.
Their personality fittingly mirrors that of the typical Stark, especially Ned Stark. This loyalty proves both an advantage and a disadvantage for both the direwolves and the Starks. Ned’s nature resulted in his death, and several Stark direwolves met their ends protecting their masters.
The Stark Direwolves
Okay, now is the time to talk about the specific direwolves found in the Game of Thrones. Although direwolves south of the Wall were pretty much unheard of, Ned Stark, along with Robb, Bran, Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy, discover a dead female direwolf that had just given birth to a litter.
Initially, they find five pups. Rather than letting them die, Ned Stark allowed each of his trueborn children to adopt one. Jon Snow then discovered a final pup, an albino runt. He kept this one for himself. Interestingly, there seem to be some parallels between the Stark direwolves and their masters.
- Robb Stark and Grey Wind. Robb Stark, the heir to the Stark House, adopted a smoky grey pup who he named ‘Grey Wind’. Like the other direwolves, Grey Wind was very protective over Robb, and he also seemed to have an uncanny ability to sense untrustworthy people.
When Robb went to war, he took Grey Wind along with him. Grey Wind proved lethal in battle, bringing down men and horses alike. His exploits became legendary among both friend and foe.
During the Red Wedding, Grey Wind was locked inside a kennel. This proved to be their downfall, as although Grey Wind sensed the approaching danger, he couldn’t help. In the show, Grey Wind was shot by crossbow bolts in his kennel before he could be released, but the books allowed him to fight before being shot to death.
Their end, however, was the same in both the book and the show. Both Robb and Grey Wind were killed and decapitated, and Grey Wind’s head was sewn to Robb’s corpse. Grey Wind was the second of the Stark pack to be killed.
Robb and Grey Wind were both disciplined warriors and were inseparable, to the point that Robb was often known as ‘the Young Wolf’. Both of them were brought down in a surprise attack, and their end arguably only came when Robb didn’t trust Grey Wind’s instincts.
- Sansa Stark and Lady. Sansa was the second trueborn Stark child, and she adopted a female direwolf called Lady. Lady was primarily white and light grey in colour and proved to be relatively gentle.
Unfortunately, Lady never reached adulthood. After Joffrey Baratheon threatened Arya Stark, Arya’s direwolf came to her defence. Knowing that her direwolf would surely be killed, Arya drove her away and saved her life.
Sadly, Queen Cersei, Joffrey’s mother, demanded Lady’s life instead. Rather than sending Lady to the butcher, Ned Stark mercifully executed Lady himself, and sent her to the North to be buried.
While Sansa Stark wasn’t killed, she was arguably sacrificed to the Lannister’s, much like Lady. Lady was the most lady-like of the direwolves, reflecting Sansa’s early passivity when compared to her siblings. The death of the innocent Lady would have been Sansa’s earliest experience of the cruelty of Cersei and Joffrey.
- Arya Stark and Nymeria. The next Stark child in the line-up is Arya, and her direwolf Nymeria. Nymeria was the name of a warrior queen and proved appropriate to the pup. When Nymeria bit Joffrey Baratheon in defence of Arya, Arya was forced to drive her away.
In driving Nymeria away, Arya saved her life.
But this isn’t the last we saw of Nymeria. In the books, Arya dreamt of Nymeria often. This was a sign of her warging ability (the ability to enter the mind of an animal). She dreamt of Nymeria leading a huge pack of wolves and terrorising both man and beast.
In the series, Arya didn’t dream of Nymeria (she isn’t a Warg), but she did encounter a pack of wolves led by a direwolf. She recognised the direwolf as Nymeria, who recognised her in turn. Arya asked Nymeria to join her, but the direwolf instead left with her pack.
Both Arya and Nymeria took a different path to the rest of their family, ending up wandering on their own. Both were initially playful and grew to become fiercely independent. The books give us a darker link to the two, as both become unrepentant man-killers.
- Bran Stark and Summer. Like the other Stark direwolves, Summer stuck by his master’s side. He was the only witness to Bran being pushed out of the window by Jaime Lannister, and guarded Bran while the boy lay comatose.
When an assassin broke in to kill Bran, Summer killed him and continued his vigil. As Bran and Summer grew older, Bran began to warg with Summer, experiencing the direwolf’s movements. Bran often warged into Summer, as he preferred the vitality of Summer when compared to his own disability.
Summer saved Bran from threats both mundane and supernatural, defending him from wights. Summer also led Bran to the weirwood tree, which started his journey into the Three Eyed Raven.
Eventually, Summer was overwhelmed and killed by wights while protecting Bran. His sacrifice allowed Bran to escape. In the novels, these events haven’t happened yet, so Summer is still alive.
As a pup, Summer was playful and intelligent, much like his master. However, when Bran was crippled, Summer became very defensive. He primarily served to introduce Bran to the life of a Warg, as Bran enjoyed living as a healthy direwolf. This, in turn, led to Bran becoming something much more powerful.
- Rickon Stark and Shaggydog. Unlike the other Stark direwolves, Shaggydog was black. His name was somewhat less dignified, because Rickon was a young child when he named him. He was less disciplined than the other direwolves, with people often wanting to keep him chained up. In the books, Shaggydog savaged several people.
When Rickon and Bran escaped Winterfell, their direwolves joined them. Shaggydog and Summer both protected the boys on their journey. However, they were separated when Bran sent Rickon and Shaggydog to House Umber for their own protection.
Unfortunately, Rickon was betrayed by the Umbers. Shaggydog was killed and Rickon handed over to Ramsey Bolton as a captive. In the books, Rickon and Shaggydog instead travelled to the Isle of Skagos and their fates are currently unknown.
Shaggydog, like Rickon, didn’t play an enormous part in the series. He was slightly wilder, reflecting Rickon’s more unruly personality. His fate was also tied to Rickon’s, as they were both betrayed and ultimately killed after being used as pawns.
- Jon Snow and Ghost. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about our favourite illegitimate Stark. Ghost was the runt of the litter, and was an albino, with white fur and red eyes. He was named in part for his appearance, but also for his relative quietness.
In the books, Ghost was completely silent, but this aspect of his personality didn’t transfer well to the screen. Ghost accompanied Jon to his post as one of the Night’s Watch and followed him into the wildling territory.
Ghost ended up being separated from Jon for about a year, but he had his own adventures. He was captured at one point, but then was freed by Bran. After this, he reunited with his master. Ghost grew to an impressive size and defended not only Jon, but also Jon’s friends.
When Jon was assassinated, Ghost knew immediately. Ghost then protected Jon’s body and showed an awareness of his murderers, fighting alongside the Night’s Watch loyalists against those who betrayed Jon.
Ghost was also the first to witness Jon returning to life. He continued following Jon, even partaking in the great battle against the Night King. Ghost survived the battle and the series, eventually joining Jon’s exile.
Like Jon Snow, Ghost was set apart from his siblings. He was quiet and stealthy, and shared Jon’s thoughtful nature. Jon Snow seemed to show some level of warging ability, but the series didn’t elaborate much on this.
The technical specifications of the Game of Thrones keychain are as follows:
- Basic Description: Circular keychain with embossed direwolf design. Text reading “winter is coming stark”.