Defending Dead Direwolves (Part 1 of 5)

Posted: August 28, 2018 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , ,

This post (and the four to come after, sorry) will be discussing not only HBO’s Game of Thrones, but the book series that it’s based on. If you’re not up on the show, or are holding off reading A Song of Ice and Fire (until all the books are completed in the 22nd century) then maybe this series of essays isn’t for you.

I mean, I can’t promise that this series of essays is really for you even if you are up-to-date. I’ll probably say some dumb stuff.

Jon says dumb stuff too, according to Everyone.

The Puppies That Were Promised

In the pilot episode of Game of Thrones, immediately following an exercise in Northern justice, direwolf pups are found – one for each of the children of Ned and Catelyn Stark (and one for Jon Snow.)

“Lord Stark,” Jon said. It was strange to hear him call Father that, so formal. Bran looked at him with desperate hope. “There are five pups,” he told Father. “Three male, two female.”
“What of it, Jon?”
“You have five trueborn children,” Jon said. “Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord.”
A Game of Thrones, Bran I

The appearance of the direwolves was steeped in symbolism and import. Direwolves were no longer indigenous south of the Wall and had not been for centuries – so somehow a pregnant mother wolf had gotten past the giant barrier, traveled near the Stark fortress of Winterfell, (fought a stag which is symbolically important as well) and lived long enough to birth a litter that corresponded to the children of that great northern house. (And one for Jon.)

If this was destiny or the prophetic hand of the Old Gods at work, then the direwolves were the second supernaturally connected creatures introduced in the show (with the first being the Others and their wights.)

Readers of the books and watchers of the show recognized that these wolves of the Starks were important. And, let’s be honest, ADORABLE.

Tons of furred cuteness in that photo.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that the direwolves were significant. Ned Stark recognized an almost religious aspect to the animals as he considered his role in the death of Sansa’s wolf Lady.

So he listened, and she told it all, from the fire in the library tower to Varys and the guardsmen and Littlefinger. And when she was done, Eddard Stark sat dazed beside the table, the dagger in his hand. Bran’s wolf had saved the boy’s life, he thought dully. What was it that Jon had said when they found the pups in the snow? Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord. And he had killed Sansa’s, and for what? Was it guilt he was feeling? Or fear? If the gods had sent these wolves, what folly had he done?
A Game of Thrones, Eddard IV

If the Old Gods had sent these direwolves as mystical companions to the Stark children (and Jon) – if they are so important to A Song of Ice and Fire, shouldn’t they be more present in HBO’s adaptation? Or at least – not being killed off willy-nilly?

If you, gentle reader, had not noticed from the title, I’ll be talking about dead direwolves in these posts. If that’s not your thing – no shame – then you might not want to continue. Because there’ll be some of the following:

In the following series of essays, I’ll consider the adaptation Game of Thrones through the lens of the direwolves and their narrative.

I am not fully on board with how the showrunners have decided to handle things, but in general I think I understand where they’re coming from. Honestly, my approval or disapproval isn’t really all that big a deal, or even the main purpose of these posts.

I think how the showrunners have handled things in the past will give insights not only into how things will play out in the final season, but also give some clues into how things might be unfolding in the unpublished books.

My goal is to have a post for three pairs of direwolves, all of whom fall into three broad categories:

Then I’ll wrap up this series with a post discussing some of the rationale behind why I am writing all of this about direwolves. And maybe I’ll indulge in a little hopeful optimism (something that rarely works out in regards to Game of Thrones – but that just means I can be made fun of later when I’m wrong.)

Pat the Show Apologist

Before I end this initial post, I might as well disclose my assumptions and biases, and cover some general notes about the direwolves on Game of Thrones.

I’ve heard it said that the lack of direwolves (particularly Ghost) is a symptom of showrunners Benioff and Weiss not fully grasping the complexity and deeper meaning of the story they’re adapting. That’s kind of a bold claim.

There’s probably a very small group of people who have insight into the end game planned for A Song of Ice and Fire, and that group of people includes Benioff and Weiss. I’ve seen George RR Martin in Q and A sessions at conventions; he’s pretty cagey. But I assume he’s not that way with the people creating Game of Thrones.

Dave and Dan: George, we’ve just written the scene where Jon gets stabbed, “for the Watch” – but we have some questions on how Jon is going to come back to life.
GRRM: Ohhhhh, you think he’s going to come back to life, eh? How interesting.
Dave and Dan: Uh. Yeah?
GRRM: Don’t you want to find out in the Winds of Winter? I’m almost done.
Dave and Dan: Are you?
Dave and Dan: Just tell us.
GRRM: Well, you see, I’m a gardener. Not an architect.
Dave and Dan: So, you don’t know.

Anyway, I assume that they have the best information available, as well as insights that are not shared by the general public.

But I could be wrong. They might be operating in the same fog that we non-showrunner theorists labor in all the time. And I’ve seen some pretty out-there theories from people who profess to be experts in the books. (Perhaps a bit too-expert.)

Also, I’ve seen angry fans complain (right after Shaggydog’s death) that the showrunners must not realize that the direwolves are the souls of the Stark children. The souls! Okay, y’all. Ease up.

Did the Stark children (and Jon) not have souls before the beheading scene in episode one? Or did the direwolves somehow steal the children’s souls at some point? If that’s true, that’s weirdly screwed up.

I’m here for your soul, Gilly. GIVE ME YOUR SOUL, GILLY!

I think we can all agree that there’s some connection between the wolves and their children, but lets not get hysterical. There’s some metaphysics involved, but one that doesn’t necessarily include the direwolves being the container of the children’s souls. (I might change my mind on that in one specific case. We’ll talk more on that in a few posts. Hold me to that.)

Okay, the next post I write (hopefully soon) will be an examination of the doomed direwolves of the two eldest of Catelyn Stark’s children. Poor Lady and tragic Grey Wind.

(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) 

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2018 Some Rights Reserved

  1. erinb9 says:

    The deaths of these dire wolves are among the saddest deaths in the series… and thats saying a lot!

    (I really want my own dire wolf)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. chattykerry says:

    In my mind the dire wolves were as integral to the Starks as the dragons were to Khaleesi. They summoned up the wildness of the north, loyalty, belonging and love. Each dire wolf was so perfect for the characters. I want a dire wolf…but my dragons will have to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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