Lady and Grey Wind: Defending Dead Direwolves Part 2

Posted: September 1, 2018 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , ,

This post is the second in a five-part series talking about the direwolves on Game of Thrones (with some comparisons expected to their analogous storylines in the source epic A Song of Ice and Fire.) For full details on what I’m all up about, feel free to skim Part 1 and then return here. No sweat – whatever you want to do, it’s cool.

As I asserted in my lead-in post, I’ll be talking about pairs of direwolves, and the first pairing to be featured will be Lady and Greywind, the direwolves of the two eldest trueborn Stark children, Sansa and Robb respectively.

Armored in Courtesy, Armored in Grey Fur

At least the deaths of Sansa and Robb Stark’s direwolves can’t be blamed on Benioff and Weiss. No defense for the showrunners’ benefit is necessary. The fairly-faithful adaptation of the early seasons presented the respective fates of Lady and Greywind with fidelity to the books, so that’s on George RR Martin.

Not that there weren’t complaints at the time when Lady died.

It has come to my attention that a number of television viewers (mostly those who had not read my books and did not know what was coming) were shocked and upset by what befell Sansa’s direwolf Lady at the end of the second episode of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES.

Good. I mean, that was kind of the point.
— GRRM, Not a Blog May 13th 2011

George’s statement sets up some baseline expectations on how the direwolves might fare in the story.

  • Don’t expect them to be immune to lethal consequences.
  • Do expect that their deaths have some meaning.

Lady’s death was the culmination of so many character-informing beats: Joffrey’s cruelty, King Robert’s disinterest in justice, Cersei’s vindictiveness. But most of all as a point to highlight the irony of Sansa being punished by Cersei’s demand for a dead direwolf, since Sansa’s silence sided with Joffrey over her sister.

NED! DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!

(People who now want to bash on Sansa about this, please don’t.)

Greywind’s death in Season Three was similarly tragic (I promised my friend Holly that I wouldn’t include any pictures of a dead or dismembered Greywind) but it was an inescapable consequence of the Red Wedding. For the Freys to kill Robb Stark, his wolf had to die as well, since so many larger-than-life stories had grown up around Robb and his direwolf.

Tywin Lannister: And what do they say of Robb Stark, in the north?
Arya: They call him the Young Wolf.
Tywin Lannister: And?
Arya: They say he rides into battle on the back of a giant direwolf. They say he can turn into a wolf himself when he wants. They say he can’t be killed.
Tywin Lannister: And do you believe them?
Arya: No, my lord. Anyone can be killed.

These stories didn’t end with Robb’s death. After the Red Wedding, the Freys took a turn at propaganda to try and cast themselves into the role of monster-slayers.

Ser Jared Frey: When Stark changed into a wolf, his northmen did the same. The mark of the beast was on them all. Wargs birth other wargs with a bite, it is well-known. It was all my brothers and I could do to put them down before they slew us all.

Yeah, Jared. Yeah.

Anyway, Lady and Greywind’s lives also establishes some baseline information on how we should regard the other direwolves. Since these two wolves had the most faithful transition from page to show, their attributes are kind of canonical.

What’s in a Name?

This is a road well traveled in A Song of Ice and Fire analysis, so I won’t belabor here too much about this, but the names of the direwolves are important, and are a reflection of their respective owner, or are otherwise instructive in their owner’s narrative.

Lady is the most well behaved and gentle of the pack of wolves. A perfect little lady, one might say. She also represents Sansa’s innocence and loss thereof. That name is pretty much on the nose as a pet for Sansa, and I don’t think I need to talk much about that. Greywind on the other hand…

Finger-eating time!

Greywind is a fantastic name, on many levels. Shaggydog is often referenced as the perfect name given by a little boy – overly literal and vaguely silly. But Greywind also has a certain literal charm as well. Greywind is less of a name, and more of a superhero descriptor. Like Red Tornado, or Caped Crusader, or Scarlet Speedster. If Robb had had artistic talents (and paper wasn’t expensive to produce) I could imagine Robb sketching The Adventures of Greywind!

Jon: Is that supposed to be your wolf?
Robb: Well yeah. But it’s stylized. On purpose.
Jon: Aren’t I supposed to be the broody, moody, artistic type?
Robb: There’s only evidence of two of those things.

Greywind is also an iconic name as King Robb’s martial companion. He’s described as “smoke-dark” which is very close to how Ned Stark’s sword Ice is described as “dark as smoke.” Greywind is the same kind of constructed name as many Valyrian steel swords: Blackfyre, Dark Sister, Brightroar. It’s such a visceral-sounding name when the sword imagery is considered. For example, your last sensation when being beheaded by the greatsword Ice would be a flash of gray, the wind-like sound of the sword’s motion, and the cold bite of the steel.

Greywind communicates a cold feeling, since it’s the wind on an overcast, wintry day. The martial sense of weather is pretty common – a rain of arrows, a storm of swords, the lightning war of the blitzkreig, the divine wind of kamikaze. Greywind implies a force of nature and plain, non-nonsense metal.

So King Robb’s direwolf’s name is pretty badass. As the weapon of a king should be.

The Warging Starks

On the show, only Bran Stark is explicitly labeled a warg, a person who can skinchange into a wolf, see through its eyes, experience the world as a beast. The books unambiguously have Jon Snow and Arya also experiencing wolf dreams and other signs of warging. But a case can be made that all of the Starks have a connection to their wolves that transcends mere pet ownership. Since the show is faithful to the books in regards to Sansa/Lady and Robb/Greywind, I consider the show also supporting (at least in regards to Sansa and Robb) this theory of all the Stark children being wargs to greater or lesser degree.

Otherwise, it’s a miracle that Lady is so calm and gentle. Sansa isn’t someone whose trained animals as a vocation, yet this young girl took a wild wolf pup and without any difficulties, raised her to be a perfectly behaved animal. In my opinion, Lady is ladylike because Sansa wants her to be.

Greywind on the other hand, is violent but only when he needs to be.

In combat.

For Robb.

If there are any situations where Greywind mistakenly attacked friendly troops in some feral frenzy – it’s never mentioned, but instead there are reports of Greywind effectively contributing to the implementation of Robb’s battle plans.

Robb: No one has more resilience/ or matches my practical, tactical brilliance!
George Washington: HAMILTON!

There’s definitely a connection going on between the eldest Starks and their respective wolves, and we should remember that as we go through the next pairs of direwolves in these posts.

Practical Considerations of Impractical Puppies

I’ll be wrapping up this post in a moment, having said what I wanted to about Lady and Greywind being the baseline for canonical adaptation: that direwolves can die, they should be reflective of their owner and serve a purpose in the narrative. But I also want to discuss some of the meta-considerations of having direwolves on television.

In the novels, it’s easy to have huge direwolves in every “scene” – doing all kinds of improbable things. In A Game of Thrones, Jon Snow has a joke wager with Ser Alliser Thorne that if Thorne loses, he’ll have to live up to his claim that he could teach Ghost to juggle. This never happens in the books of course, but it could have.

Jon Snow: Holy [EXPLETIVE] – Ghost! You’re juggling!
Ser Alliser Thorne: My liberal arts degree finally came in handy.
Ghost: *silently juggles torches, a sword, and a horn*

Try to imagine that happening on HBO’s Game of Thrones. There’s certainly a matter of what’s filmable and what is not. No doubt a CGI artist could put together animation of Jon’s albino wolf re-enacting some motion-captured juggling performance, but it would probably look crazy and cost an obscene amount of money – money needed to avoid it looking even crazier.

It would have to be CGI, because canines can’t juggle. (Please correct me if I am wrong. I want to see video evidence of a doggy jongleur.)

We see some of these practical tradeoffs in the first few seasons of Game of Thrones. In the first season, a wolfish breed of dog was used for the Stark pups and the young direwolves. Sansa’s direwolf Lady required very little instruction on how to be adorable and calm.

Sansa’s last happy moment.

But Greywind was more of a difficult actor to work with. The scene where Greywind responded to Greatjon Umber’s ill-advised temper towards Robb (which cost him a finger) was a difficult shoot, with many human actors desperately hoping that the damn dog would finally do the right thing.

In the second season, Greywind was considerably larger – achieving a more mythical size – and instead of a trained animal, a virtually-enlarged wolf was added to scenes with Robb Stark digitally.

I’ve heard that the showrunners were not overly happy with how Greywind looked as a digital element next to Richard Madden’s Robb Stark. I’ve also heard criticisms from the fanbase about Greywind’s overall-look where he threatens the caged Jaime Lannister.

It’s a bummer that Benioff and Weiss then opted to minimize screentime of the wolves, just because the early attempts didn’t look quite right in execution. Greywind about to eat Jaime’s face looked fine to me.

But my discrimination and taste should be suspect. I thought Lockjaw on the Inhumans looked just fine.


I might be overly charitable to the depictions of the Inhumans‘ CGI dog, by comparing it to the Inhumans‘ script, which was not good at all. Lockjaw was perfectly acceptable in comparison.

Going forward, I’ll refer to the lack of direwolves unless absolutely essential as the Lockjaw Effect (because I doubt anyone else is using that term.) If the quality of the show wasn’t so good otherwise, Benioff and Weiss might be okay with direwolves in the uncanny valley. But it’s a given that they are not okay.

Let’s bear this in mind when in the future we discuss when direwolves are shown, and why that might be important.

Next on the docket will be the two other direwolves who are confirmed dead on the show (but still live in the books – which makes the depiction on the show such a controversial topic): Shaggydog and Summer.

I just need to find the time to write that article. I have my own dogs that require attention and make it hard to get a lot of writing time in.

They’re dire-doggos. 12/10. Would feed.

(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.) Lockjaw is from Marvel’s Inhumans. Hopefully they won’t mind me making fun of that show. At least I watched it. Image of the Battlepug is from the Battlepug comics. Image of Willow the dire-lab-mix and Chi Chi the dire-pug was taken by my daughter. I make zero claims to the images, and some claims to the text in this article.

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. chattykerry says:

    Love your dire puppies! Hoping to sit down and read your dire posts properly this pm.

    Liked by 1 person

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