The Game of Thrones Stark Direwolf, Fact or Fiction?
Grey dire wolf, the sigil of House Stark
A grey dire wolf on a white background is the sigil of House Stark, one of the major clans in the brilliant Song of Ice and Fire books, now an HBO Game of Thrones series. The Starks, the Wardens of the North, are associated with wolves in the Seven Kingdom of Westeros, Robb Stark is frequently referred to as “the Young Wolf”, and Arya is called the “Wolf Girl”. Dire wolves make their first appearance very early in the books, right at the beginning, Ned Stark and his sons find a dead dire wolf female with a litter of puppies. Ned wants thinks the puppies should be killed quickly but his bastard son Jon Snow points out that there are five puppies for his five children, and that since the dire wolf is a sigil of house Stark obviously fate wanted him to find the pups for his children. Of course the wolves become a very important of the story, but did the dire wolves really exist? I must admit that initially I assumed that along with dragons, white walkers, they only inhabited fantasy books.
Mythical huge wolves from beyond the Wall
Even in Westeros dire wolves are considered to be semi-mythical creatures. None had been seen in the Seven Kingdoms for years, although there are rumours that they live beyond the wall, together with the windings and giants. When Ned Stark comes across the dead dire wolf female, killed by a stag that she was attacking, he takes as a sign that dark times are coming. Considering how series one ended for him, he wasn't very wrong!
Artist reconstruction of dire wolves
Dire wolves, extinct species of wolf, the Canis dirus
However some research revealed that the dire wolf is real, or at least it was real. It was a species of carnivorous mammal, Canis dirus, closely related to the common wolf, Canis lupus, that was common in North America until about 10,000 years ago. The first fossil was found by Francis A. Linck along the Ohio River in Indiana in 1854. Reconstruction from skeletons suggests that the dire wolf was very similar in appearance to the grey wolf, but larger averaging 5ft in length, with proportionally shorter and sturdier legs. A large number of fossilised skeletons have been recovered fro La Brea Tar Pits in California, suggesting that dire wolves lived in social packs. In the Game of Thrones books, Nymeria, Arya Stark's dire wolf, sets up her own pack in the forests of Westeros, people talk of an unusually big and bold female wolf who is leading the pack.
The dire wolf is best known for its unusually high representation in La Brea Tar Pits in California. Fossils from more than 3,600 dire wolves have been recovered from the tar pits, more than any other mammal species. This large number suggests that the Dire Wolf, like modern wolves and dogs, probably hunted in packs. It also gives some insight into the pressures placed on the species near the end of its existence.
The Stark direwolves and their connection with the Stark children
In the Game of Thrones book and series, the direwolves develop a very close relationship with the Stark chlidren. Greywind Robb Stark's direwolf fights alongside him in battle, and leaps to protect Robb on many occasions, notably when the Greatjohn pulls out a knife during an argument about who should lead the Vanguard. There is a particularly close relationship between Bran Stark's direwolf, summer, and Bran. He has very vivid dreams in which he is a wolf and I suspect this will develop further. The fact that Bran is paralysed might force him to develop mind powers he never knew he had. The girls' direwolves, unfortunately are not around any more, Lady, Sansa's wolf has been killed on the orders of evil Queen Cersei, while Arya was forced to chase away Nymeria lest the same fate befall her. We do hope Arya will be reunited with her wolf.
Unfortunately there is no suggestion from archeological digs that humans were able to mind meld with dire wolves. And as far as I know, dragons never existed and are mythical!
What Will Happen to the Stark Direwolves?
-------Spoilers! Don't Read on if you haven't read the books!!!---------
If you've been watching the Game of Thrones series so far (or have read the books) you will understand that the connection between the wolves and the Starks goes way beyond that of human and pets.
This is most obvious with Bran who is a warg and is able to 'possess' his dire wolf Summer. But there does seem to be a connection between a similar connection between Jon and Ghost as well, which will be recognised by the Red Priestess in the last book.
Arya was forced to chase her wolf Nymeria away in the first episode, after Nymeria bit the horrid Joffrey. There are rumours about a particular huge wolf which is terrorising people in Westeros, one imagines that this is Arya's wolf. Like Jon, Arya is increasingly dreaming about being a wolf at night, hunting with her pack.
Perhaps all the Stark children have the abilities to become wargs, but Bran has developed his to a greater extent because he is paralysed and has more time, Jon and Arya are rather distracted by surviving all the terrible things that happen to them.
If you have read the books, you will know that at the end of the last one so far, Jon gets stabbed by his Black Brothers. Although the end makes it sound like he will die, most fans do not think this will happen. Rather it is possible that his "soul" will reside for a time in Ghost, while the Red Priestess heals his body. This could be the time when Jon realises how strong his bond with his wolf really is.
I also can't believe that Arya will not be reunited with Nymeria eventually.
As far as we know Shaggy Dog is still with Rickon. However they haven't really played much of a part in the story so far. Presumably that will change since the Onion Knight is now looking for them. Shaggy Dog will be essential to prove to the North of Westeros that Rickon is indeed one of the Stark Children, and heir of Winterfell.
Sadly the other two direwolves are dead. Lady, Sansa's pup was killed on the order of Queen Cersei. Grey Wind was killed by Frey's men after they murdered Rob at the Red Wedding. In the book his head was cut off and sewn on Rob's body, to further humiliate his memory.