When you think of winter and direwolves, it’s hard not to think of this famous Westeros house. The Starks have a long and proud history, going back to the dawn of the First Men. It’s unfortunate that the generation we’ve gotten to know in books and on television has had such horrible luck and has fallen so far. Fear not, for winter really has come and the Starks are finally turning the tables. Grab your favorite Direwolf, some ale and enjoy these facts about House Stark, but as always, GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS AHEAD.
House Stark Facts
24. Longstanding Feud
The Bolton/Stark feud is nothing new—it’s been going on for generations, but it gets really bad during the War of the Five Kings. At one point they had been forced to swear their allegiance to the Starks, but they must not have taken it very well, because the Boltons not only orchestrated the Red Wedding with the Freys, but also took over Winterfell.
They say a person’s pet can be a reflection of themselves, but a pet predicting your fate is just downright creepy. When the direwolves are introduced in season 1, they’re adorable pups, and each Stark child pairs up with one, including Jon Snow. There’s Lady, Nymeria, Grey Wind, Summer, Shaggydog, and Ghost. Only two—Ghost and Nymeria—remain alive today, as the others met horrible fates. Sansa’s direwolf was killed by Joffrey, Robb’s was killed at the Red Wedding, Bran’s by White Walkers and Rickon’s direwolf was killed at the orders of Ramsey Bolton, just like his owner.
22. Starks and the Iron Throne
Obviously different members of the Stark clan have attempted to take the Iron Throne at different points, but if you only watch the TV show, you might not know the origin of the throne itself. The swords that it is made of came from the enemies of Westeros’ very first King, Aegon the Conqueror. There is actually no Stark sword among the ones used to forge the throne because they simply bowed down and refused to fight. Torrhen Stark, who was the head of House Stark at the time, bent the knee rather than forfeit his men’s lives in a fight they could not win. As a reward for this, he was named Warden of the North.
The First Men are said to be first humans who inhabited Westeros. They fought against the Children of the Forest, those little creatures who look like wood nymphs. As we now know, the Children created the first White Walker as a means to defend themselves from the First Men, but it turned against them. Most of the Northern families, including the Starks, are direct descendants of the First Men. They also kept the same faith and gods as the first men.
20. Building the wall
Winterfell is an impressive fortress, but nothing compares to the Wall. Bran Stark—no, not the Three-Eyed Raven Bran, but the man that he is named for—also known as Bran the Builder, the founder of House Stark, created many of the important landmarks throughout Westeros. He didn’t build the wall alone—magic and the Giants are rumored to have helped. Without the Starks, there would be no Wall or protection from the wildlings, let alone the terrifying White Walkers.
19. Owning Winter
In present-day Westeros, both Jon Snow and Robb Stark have been called “King in the North” by loyal Northern families. This title actually goes way back to when the original Bran Stark was called “King of Winter.” Yes, he was an actual King. They held that title for thousands of years before Aegon the Conqueror came, then they simply became the Wardens of the North.
18. Keeping The Legacy Alive
There’s not a lot of love lost between the Northerners and the Wildlings these days, but without them, House Stark may have ceased to exist. A King Beyond The Wall is the leader of the Wildlings, and one named Bael the Bard ended up tricking Brandon Stark into giving him his daughter. He later returned her with a newborn, and because there were no other Stark heirs, this bastard child ended up becoming Lord Stark, and the rest is history.
17. Extended Family
The Starks may be the main Northern family featured, but they have a few distant relations, most of whom turned against the central Stark house. We meet the Karstarks on screen, but the other house, Greystark, did not survive a battle and the last heirs were killed.
16. Rewarding Loyalty
Who could forget pint-sized scene-stealer Lyanna Mormont? We meet her in season six, where this lady from Bear Island showed us just what loyalty is all about. Her family has backed the Starks for generations. The Mormont home of Bear Island was actually bestowed upon them by Rodrick Stark, who was King in the North at that time. According to legend, this territory was fought over by the Starks and the Ironborn. King Rodrick decided to end the conflict over it once and for all—with a wrestling match, of all things. He won and gave Bear Island to the Mormonts as a way to honor their loyalty. Not too shabby!
15. King of the North
There have been many Kings in the North, but they have always been Starks. Bran the Builder was the first one to hold that title, with Torrhen Stark being the last when he bent the knee to Aegon. The title was restored and given to Robb during the War of the Five Kings. Now Jon Snow holds the title, and it’s only a matter of time if we find out if he’ll actually be a true King.
14. Guarding Kings Landing
While they may be more known for being Wardens, Lords and Kings of the Northern part of Westeros have held power in Kings Landing from time to time. Robb Stark, though he failed, was the first Stark to ever go to war to sit on the Iron Throne. King Aegon III made Cragen Stark his hand, since the King was only 11 at the time. Cregan ruled Kings Landing for only six days but accomplished a lot in that short time. He had 22 men arrested—some were sentenced to death, and some chose to live in exile at the wall. After basically cleaning house, he stepped down as Hand and went back to the North. His time ruling went down in history as the Hour of the Wolf.
13. Claiming the Throne
A huge reveal was made at the end of season six on screen: Jon Snow is indeed the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. This makes him not only a true Stark but a heir—and perhaps the rightful heir—to the Iron Throne. So it seems a Stark may actually rightfully end up ruling Westeros, even though Jon doesn’t know the truth just quite yet.
12. Direwolves Really Exist
When we first saw those cute little Direwolf pups way back in season one, who didn’t secretly want one as pet? Well, there’s good and bad news. They do exist in real life—at least, they did. The dire wolf was a related to species to the modern grey wolf that went extinct around 10,000 years ago, and people today are actually trying to bring them back. In the 80s, the Dire Wolf Project was started in order to create a new breed of dog roughly the same size as the gigantic ones we later read about and saw on screen. The result of this project is a mixed breed known as the American Alsatian. So, while you may not exactly be able to run out and search for your own Direwolf pup, these are the closest things to their real-life counterparts.
11. Founder of House Stark
Onto another fun fan theory! We know that Bran the Builder founded House Stark, but could he also be the young Bran Stark we follow in the books and on the show? The theory is that, because of his proven warging abilities and ability to alter the past—remember Hodor—he apparently warged the Mad King into saying the famous line “Burn them all”—meaning burn the White Walkers. He is also believed to have warged Bran the Builder into building the wall, which is crazy, because that was 8,000 years before he was born. Basically, the Bran we see is every Bran Stark who has ever lived. It may sound crazy, but it also rings strangely true.
10. Cool Crib
Winterfell is probably one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the series, besides the wall. As stated earlier, it was built over hot springs and is a literal fortress that is very hard to overtake by enemies. It also has its own Godswood and has been standing strong for over 8,000 years.
9. More Than Just Words
“Winter is coming” isn’t just a weather report, it’s a word to the wise. We hear it throughout the entire series, and lo and behold, winter has finally come as of seasons 6 and 7 and seven. It’s meant as a warning to always prepare for the dark times and to not be so naive.
8. What Lies Beneath
The crypts below Winterfell can be creepy, but it’s also a sacred place for the family, as many Starks are buried there. Ned had two statues built and placed in the crypts to honor his sister Lyanna and his brother Brandon. A rumor is that many of the dead Starks will rise from the dead to fight the Night King and oh yeah, dragon eggs are said to be buried there as well.
7. It’s Not a Contest, But…
What would a powerful family be without its many bannermen? You’d be pretty powerless, actually. Everybody needs allies, and the Starks have plenty of them, including the houses of Manderly, Tully, Glover, Mormont, as well as others. The total count actually makes them the most popular house in Westeros.
6. Badass Sword
Ned Stark’s legendary sword “Ice” seems appropriately named, given where he’s from and which house he belongs to. It’s an ancestral greatsword passed down from generation to generation and was crafted from pure Valyrian steel, which is actually good for killing White Walkers. Unfortunately, Tywin Lannister had it melted down into two swords, one for Joffrey and one for Jamie.
5. No Real Marriage
It was awful to watch Sansa be forced to marry Ramsay and endure what she had to on her wedding night. However, this marriage did not actually happen in the books—it was added into the TV series. In the books, Ramsay marries Jeyne Poole, Sansa’s best friend. Littlefinger passes her off as Arya Stark, and it’s her who is instead raped and tortured by Ramsay. He also forces her to perform sexual acts with Theon and although not explicitly stated in the books, with his dogs. Jeyne and Theon’s escape from Ramsey’s Winterfell is the same as Sansa and Theon’s escape, except that Jeyne breaks a few ribs as a result of the fall, and her nose is severely frostbitten. So, despite the brutality of what was done to Sansa on the show, it was actually toned down from what happened in the books. At least Sansa finally got her revenge.
4. Hidden Dragon
Now that we know Direwolves actually (sort-of) exist, wouldn’t it be nice if Dragons did as well? While they’re still only fantasy creatures, there may be one more than we know of in the series, and it may be under Winterfell. Now, be aware that this is only a fan theory, based on the fact that Winterfell was actually built on top of hot springs. This explains how it’s able to withstand the long winters. Some fans believe that the secret dragon hiding underneath Winterfell and fuelling the hot spring will be the way that the war against the White Walkers is won. Other think that references to a “hidden dragon ” refer to Jon Snow’s true background.
3. Warging Powers
We know one Stark child can Warg, but another far-fetched theory that we wish was true is that Ned Stark is still alive. He is believed by many die-hard fans to have warged into Ilyn Payne right before the axe fell. Could this be true? If so, that would add a whole other layer to the already interesting things we’ve seen throughout the series. Sadly, as this one is maybe the most “out there” of the fan theories, it’s also the most unlikely to be true.
2. Inspired By Real Nobility
Like many authors do, Martin has got some inspiration for his characters from real people. The Stark and Lannister feud is similar to the historical War of the Roses, which was a famous battle between two very real noble families, the Yorks and the Lancasters. Certain characters like Joffrey, Sansa, Cersei, and Robb have similar characteristics to children from both of these families and share similar stories. The War of the Roses is remembered as one of the most horrific conflicts in British history: The 1461 Battle of Townton, for instance, is said to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil.
1. Night King A Stark?
Yes, Westeros is full of terrifying and cruel characters, but obviously, no one holds a candle to the Night King. As previously mentioned, the Children of the Forest accidentally unleashed the White Walkers, but the original one, the Night King, was made from a man, and that man may have been a Stark. In the book A Storm of Swords, Old Nan says that the Night King was, according to legend, the brother of the original Bran Stark. To add a touch more irony, he was also the 13th Commander of the Night’s Watch.