Author Topic: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire  (Read 13085 times)

Othko97

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Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« on: June 03, 2013, 12:08:22 PM »
Note: Spoilers as far as A Clash of Kings

Direwolf Symbolism in A Song of Ice and Fire

   The direwolf is effectively a very large, very intelligent species of wolf, which are supposedly gone from the Seven Kingdoms (the main place for story) and live only beyond the wall – a huge wall of ice built to prevent the savages (wildlings) and whatever else may be out there out of the seven kingdoms – at least after the Targaryen Dynasty conquered the seven kingdoms (inferred from “There hasn’t been a direwolf south of the wall in two hundred years” – Theon Greyjoy, and the House Targaryen ancestry in Appendix). Lord Eddard Stark, three of his children (two born of his wife, one a bastard), his ward Theon Greyjoy and some of his retainers stumble upon a direwolf killed by a stag (also the sigil for House Baratheon). Specifically it is his eldest son, Robb, who first finds the dead wolf and her pups.

   Now, the symbolism surrounding these pups is very strong. Firstly the finding is very symbolic. The direwolf has been the sigil of House Stark since the days when they were known as “King of the North”, before the Targaryen conquest. Robb being the first to find the pups foreshadows him being the first since the Targaryen conquest to go back to his roots by claiming the title again toward the end of the book. This makes even more sense when the fact that this is the first direwolf to have been found south of the wall assumedly since the Targaryen Conquest, suggesting that Robb will be the one who rises up against the south for the north. The pups and wolf are found next to a river, which is linked to Robb’s mother, Catelyn Stark nee Tully, who was once a Tully of Riverrun. In a similar vein, they are found in waist deep snow, not only symbolising the white field of the Stark sigil, but also that the pups are of the North, supporting the foreshadowing of Robb claiming the title King of the North.

   Interestingly, in the TV adaptation it is Lord Eddard who finds the dead Direwolf and pups, after finding a dead stag on the road. This is a much richer symbol as with the stag being the sigil of House Baratheon, as Lord Eddard’s actions in King’s Landing contribute to the series of events leading up to his death – the wolf killing the stag. In both the TV show and book the direwolf is found killed by an antler from a stag, presumably the stag seen in the TV adaptation. This again makes sense as King Robert is a major reason that Lord Eddard is killed – in asking Ned to become Hand of the King, he set in motion a series of events which would lead to Ned’s death – hence the stag killing the wolf. In the television show Theon Greyjoy suggests that a mountain lion killed the stag, a lion being the sigil of House Lannister, which is the house actually responsible for the death of the king. Lord Eddard dismisses this by saying there are no lions in these woods, mirroring how Lannisters are not at home or welcome in Winterfell and the North in general.

   Theon Greyjoy suggests killing the pups, but is unsuccessful, which foreshadows his failed attack on Winterfell in A Clash of Kings. This is because, as I will explain fully in just a moment, each of the pups is symbolic for one of the Stark children, their master. It is particularly resonant that Theon attempts to kill Bran’s pup, as Bran is the child Theon is the most harm to in A Clash of Kings – when Winterfell is taken by Theon, Bran is supposedly killed by him (although not really) Theon, taking perverse pleasure in the thought that the pups will die, then attempts to torment Jon Snow – “This one will die faster than the others”, which Jon quickly dismisses, pointing out that this is his pup, and won’t be dying any time soon. This mirrors the relationship between Theon and Jon quite well – Theon attempts to degrade Jon as often as possible for being a bastard and different (likely to vent some of Theon’s frustrations at being a ward), Jon being the only person Theon can really have a position over. This is because Theon is at least Balon Greyjoy’s trueborn son, so uses this as a position of power over Jon.

   Jon Snow points out, in an effort to let Bran keep the pups, that there are five pups – three male and two female – to match the five Stark children – three male and two female.  In excluding himself from the count Jon manages to save the pups in order to not only make Bran happy but to please his other siblings (although there is a hint that it is also to get one over Theon – the rivalry between these two is well established in this scene, especially in the exchange with Theon’s confusion of what the direwolf actually is and also with the finding of Ghost (Jon’s pup) at the end of the scene/chapter. The former is also an interesting point – Theon calls the direwolf a “freak”, hinting to his feelings of bitterness and resentment towards the Starks. Theon and Jon’s rivalry is probably related to them vying for Ned’s attention – neither are his trueborn son, but both see him as their father (albeit this being the truth for Jon).

Note also:
  • I have not actually read beyond A Clash of Kings, but sadly am aware of plot spoilers, so if I missed anything this is why
  • I intend on extending this with the individual direwolf/owner symbolism and perhaps also just other symbols
  • I'm not actually sure whether this is the correct place for this to be posted, as literary analysis hasn't actually had a place anywhere so far - it was a guess between here (I mean it's kind of like an AAR on a book...) or the factual writing section of the Great Library (but the Great Library is more for History, Science, Geography etc). So if an admin has a problem with where I placed it feel free to move it to somewhere more relevant
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 09:27:16 PM by Othko97 »
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Phoenixguard09

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2013, 11:53:01 PM »
Well thought out Othko.

The points about the mountain lion are actually something which didn't occurr to me. As it's somewhat unusual for me to miss things like that, well done for catching it. :)

Looking forward to reading more,
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Jubal

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2013, 11:57:26 PM »
Moved up a level - analysis type stuff is best put in the main section of the hall, leaving the subforums for creative writing.  :)

This is really good stuff - though I massively recommend that you plough through the rest of the series to date as it's really hard to discuss books without spoilers otherwise. And also they're really really good.  :P
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Othko97

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2013, 07:12:33 AM »
@Jubal I fully intend to, but I'm going to wait until my exams are done before buying the other 5 I need as I won't be able to do any revision otherwise :P Luckily I think I am aware of most major plot spoilers, as I have a horrible tendency to open spoiler tags...

@PG09 Thanks, there will be more on the way eventually, although exams sadly must come first. I'll work as I can in between revision though I guess. :)
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I am Othko, the master of the 23 techniques of death, murder of the 8 popes, victor of the never ending war, he who fell from the highest of places, second of his cloning, most noble swords-bearer, Ninety-Seventh of His Name, Lord of That Bit Between High Places and Low Places Through Which One Falls In Transit Between them! Apparently, at any rate.

Lady Grey

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2013, 09:17:05 PM »
I love the symbolism in this series. It really opens it up for more fan theories, which makes the series so much more interesting (ASoIaF fan theories thread maybe? :P ) I really need to get back into the books again when I'm less busy.  :D

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2013, 12:16:47 AM »
Ooh, new person! Welcome!

And yes, a fan theories thread sounds great - feel free to start it (or I will at some point, but I seem to start too many of the threads hereabouts...)
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Othko97

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2013, 11:27:42 PM »
ROBB/GREY WIND

        Grey Wind and Robb have a lot less of a link than the other wolves and owners, but Grey Wind is a physical manifestation of Robb’s internal strength. Robb has inherited more of his mother into his physical looks, however he is much more like his father at heart. Grey Wind shows the physical embodiment of his father’s Stark side. This is shown by Grey Wind’s heavy involvement in Robb’s battles – Grey Wind being a very successful fighter in these conflicts and being a great factor in causing fear in the enemies’ hearts.

   {MAJOR SPOILERS SEASON 3/A STORM OF SWORDS…. DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE UNWILLING TO BE SPOILED}
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 09:28:36 PM by Othko97 »
Alcohol and Calculus don't mix. Never Drink and Derive.

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2013, 12:03:53 AM »
We do have spoiler tags for spoilers.  :P
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Phoenixguard09

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2013, 04:53:02 AM »
After Ned, Robb was my favourite character. Well, him and Tyrion, but it seems Tyrion is everyone's favourite, so I figured I'd dispense with the inevitable. :P

At any rate, the Red Wedding was.... distressing to read. And subsequently watch.

And then the aftermath was just mean. :(
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Othko97

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2013, 08:14:31 PM »
@Jubal I know, but I a)wrote this in word and b) posted this while the server was down, so I didn't want to spoil it for anyone :P

@PG I know, it was the same here, apart from
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Alcohol and Calculus don't mix. Never Drink and Derive.

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2013, 11:52:36 PM »
Spoiler tagged it for you now anyway  :)

And yes, the Red Wedding was horrible. :(
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Othko97

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2013, 09:26:11 PM »
Added to the Robb/Grey Wind section (it's in the spoilered bit). It's only one minor point, but if anyone's interested it's there.
Alcohol and Calculus don't mix. Never Drink and Derive.

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Othko97

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2013, 10:11:17 PM »
Ghost/Jon Snow

   Ghost and Jon Snow are very symbolically resonant, not least by the
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
. To begin with, Jon and Ghost both have a similar family life in the beginning – Jon is shunted to one side as Lord Eddard’s bastard and actually excludes himself from the count of Eddard’s children just so the pups can be kept; Ghost, quite similarly is found further away from the group and even looks physically different from the other pups (Ghost being albino). This idea of Ghost being the same thing but looking outwardly different is a strong parallel between Jon having the Stark blood and look, but still being called Snow and not included with the House of Stark. This also fits with the fan theory
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
.  It’s also interesting how even in the Watch Ghost seems like an outsider – he’s from beyond the wall and most of all, in a place where all the people are black, Ghost is pure snowy white. This in Jon’s early career as a watchman seems to represent that he is resented by either the authority or his peers; or his moment of weakness where he deserts briefly (Ghost does seem to be Jon’s Stark background, which would understandably want to go help Robb). This moment of weakness actually turns out to be the turning point of what Ghost represents, now representing Jon’s internal wishes and much more than just being a Stark.

   Ghost later begins to represent other parts of Jon, firstly his dedication to the Night’s Watch. This dedication is shown poignantly when Jon steals away in the night to try and help Robb in his war. Jon takes Ghost and runs away from Castle Black, but first alerts Samwell Tarly of his departure. Samwell gets Jon’s other brothers in the Watch to come and bring him home, so they chase him into the moonlight and eventually catch up. Jon hides from his brothers lest they stop him, but is found when Ghost goes and alerts Samwell to Jon’s location. Preceding this Jon doubts his original decision of desertion, and Ghost here represents Jon’s real urge to go back to Castle Black and, for lack of a better phrase, man up.

Spoilers in this bit are too embedded in the text and kind of obvious if you read any surrounding text. I think they're ADWD.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 07:06:41 PM by Othko97 »
Alcohol and Calculus don't mix. Never Drink and Derive.

I am Othko, the master of the 23 techniques of death, murder of the 8 popes, victor of the never ending war, he who fell from the highest of places, second of his cloning, most noble swords-bearer, Ninety-Seventh of His Name, Lord of That Bit Between High Places and Low Places Through Which One Falls In Transit Between them! Apparently, at any rate.

Jubal

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2014, 04:19:44 PM »
Moved.
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Cuddly Khan

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Re: Direwolf Symbolism in A Song Of Ice And Fire
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2014, 12:41:55 PM »
Somehow I only just found this thread. :P A very interesting read.
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