Game of Thrones Symbolism: Houses & the Starks
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Game of Thrones Symbolism: Houses & the Starks


If you lose, your father dies. Your
sisters die. We die As if the plot of Game of Thrones wasn’t already hard
enough to follow Author George R. R. Martin loaded the story with layers of symbolism And it’s often connected to the characters families or houses Each house has a sigil, a sign or symbol that indicates the family Colors, words by which to live by And certain qualities that define them Within the story, the importance of sigils underlines that in this world with its
highly structured society and medieval echoes A person’s birth largely decides his or
her fate Meanwhile on the metaphorical level the houses embody certain basic
characteristics within human nature which might exist in us all, but here
they’re separated out and exaggerated in the individual houses. We could say for
example that the Lannisters embody selfishness The Starks, strength and adversity. The Targaryen, inner vitality and The Baratheon, anger. One of the deeper intrigues we feel watching the houses battle for dominance is
identifying with the families that embody our own values and wondering
which aspects of human nature may finally prevail Beware: spoilers are coming after this point. The first family the audience meets is the Starks The Lords of Winterfell and arguably the family that tugs most of your
heartstrings The sigil of the gray wolf against a white background captures the
family’s readiness for the hardship of winter The struggle is against both the
harsh elements of the north and their enemies in Westeros HBO’s representation of the sigil
makes the dire wolf look like armor representing the Stark
family’s willingness to fight and their old-fashioned, medieval-feeling code of honor Persecuted and beaten down over the course of the story The northern Starks represent tough stoicism strength of will and the determination
to persevere against all adversities Their motto “Winter is Coming” is one of
the most memorable on the show mostly because it’s said an absurd amount of
time And yes it’s a literal
warning that a year’s long summer is ending and winter will once again fall
upon Westeros When winter comes the White Walkers may return A terrifying reality the Starks feel they must always be ready for And the Starks motto also
has metaphorical meanings Martin has explained that we must expect dark
periods of our lives even if things may seem good now We should always be
prepared for fortunes to turn against us On the family level, “Winter is Coming” foreshadows all the hardships the Starks will face And the words show the stark families closeness to the elements Their name “Stark” comes from the word that means hard and barren like the northern climate Given the danger and hostility of their environment Northerners have to stick
together to brave the winter While Southerners can play their political
games because of their temperate climate The North is not only geographically but
also politically and emotionally isolated from the games of the South They speak plainly and truthfully, which can get them into trouble A passage
from the book emphasizes that all of the houses family mottos “boasted of
honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage.
All but the Starks. It’s significant that the Starks don’t use their motto to
brag about their best qualities but to remind themselves and others to look up
from our smaller infighting and remember that there is an even bigger threat and
a bigger fight but now winter is truly coming in the winter we must protect
ourselves look after one another we’ve come to a dangerous place we cannot
fight a war amongst ourselves The Starks’ determination to face the brutal reality
of life shows that they’re made of different stuff, with a totally different
philosophy than the other houses They’ve been shaped by a more difficult
environment, and this hardship defines them. The stark colors are gray and white.
Gray is a neutral color, a transition between black and white It’s stable, calm, quiet, reserved, never the center of attention And it represents compromise
and control. The stark family embodies this color through
level-headedness While the gloominess of gray illustrates the family’s depressing
fate White is the color of new beginnings, of purity and innocence. Most obviously it’s the color of snow. The symbol of the impending winter – and of course white makes us think of Jon Snow The Starks embody the duality of the
color white. It seems pure and innocent and naive Yet it can also be cold and isolated. On the sigil, the colors are reflected as a gray direwolf on a white field The Starks themselves are symbolized by
the direwolf Like wolves they’re ferocious, persevering with loyalty and integrity and they do best in a pack Over the seasons they struggle to
survive when separated and like the direwolves become almost extinct In the first episode Ned Stark and his children find a litter of dire wolf pups
and the children each take one Each pups characteristics and name reflects its
owner And the pups’ fate symbolizes what will come of each human Stark Almost as if the direwolf is the soul of a Stark child externalized Meanwhile the stag antler in the dead body of the parent wolf foreshadows Ned Stark’s death which will be brought on by his accepting the Hand of the King position for Robert Baratheon A house represented by the stag Sansa named her direwolf Lady As Sansa wished to be a lady and marry Joffrey In the books Lady is described as the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting of the pups Arya names her direwolf Nymeria
after the warrior princess who led her people across the Narrow Sea
and settled in Dorne The name captures Arya’s strong, wild,
warrior spirit After Nymeria attacks Joffrey to
protect Arya The girl sends her direwolf into the wild
to escape being put down In the books Nymeria forms a wolf pack that runs free Just as Arya flees to live on the run
and grow stronger in exile The wolf being lost also symbolizes that
Arya is uncertain of her path Meanwhile Joffrey demands that Lady
be put down for Nymeria’s crime Lady’s death represents Sansa’s loss of
innocence After the brutality she experiences living
with the nobility in King’s Landing her gentle and trusting nature is gone Robb and Grey Wind are inseparable Grey Wind fights alongside
Rob on the battlefield At the red wedding, the Freys separate Robb and Grey Wind out of fear that they’ll fight back together They’re both decapitated and the wolf’s
head is sewn on Rob’s body Bran has yet to named his direwolf
when he goes into a coma after Jaime Lannister pushes him from a tower The lack of the name suggests his wolf is an even more connected extension of himself Since he is a warg he can also enter his wolf
and control it like his own body After waking from his coma Bran names his direwolf Summer Bran himself is referred to as “the sweet summer child” by Nan On a deeper prophetic level, summer child Bran
may turn out to be the force that will defeat winter and
bring the return of summer once again In Season Six, Summer sacrifices himself to save Bran, Meera and Hodor from the Whites who are the markers of winter Summer’s death signals that winter has now arrived Rickon’s direwolf shaggydog is aptly
named because unlike his siblings Rickon never receives a proper education
or lessons or grooming He was supposed to become a bannerman
for his brother But it was instead brought up by a
wildling, Osha The youngest Stark, Rickon comes of age knowing only this brutal time of fighting with the Baratheons and Lannisters And his alter-ego of the wild
fighting wolf reflects an unhinged, untamed spirit Osha and Rickon seek refuge with the Umbers
who betray them and kill shaggy-dog Likewise the Umbers are allied with Ramsay Bolton who later kills Rickon at the Battle of the Bastards At first the family sees only five direwolves one for each legitimate child of Ned Stark But soon after, Jon Snow adopts an albino direwolf Just as Snow starts life at a disadvantage apart from his legitimate siblings Jon decides to call him Ghost Of course, the name makes us think of that piece of a person that carries on after someone dies And in Season 6, after Jon dies and is resurrected Ghost is the first one to see him come back to life Some speculate that Ghost’s presence
is a key part of John’s resurrection Like he’s named Snow, the wolf is pure
white and Jon is called the White Wolf Now that Jon is the King in the North The Stark banner will be reversed, as is
customary when a bastard takes off his house banner The direwolf will become white, and the field gray Since Jon’s wolf was the only white one
and the rest were grey The switch signals that though Jon may become the leader, “King in the North” He’s still not fully a Stark Especially now with his proven Targaryen blood He remains apart from his Stark siblings The white wolf to the others’ grey. you

100 Comments

  • Oscar Gonzalez

    Jon carries Ned's words and wisdom. Yet, he also carries his father and mother's ability to fight. Hopefully, he will realize that his father was not only a murderous rapist, and actually was also a great singer and leader for his army.

  • Imperial

    also the wolf being white. is symbolism for his targ hertiage. the blond/white hair of the dragons. its shows he is the only wolf to also be a dragon. when danny says her ancestor wasnt the last dragon she thought of only herself but she didnt know she had a relative.

  • Missy

    Wouldn't the banner already been reversed in season 7 then? I don't believe they did or at least never showed one. They're gunna find out real soon he's a dragon, tho. So, Sansa will maybe take the Hound as her husband and continue the Stark name.

  • TheLeah2344

    The only family I hate is the Targaryens. I’m sorry I can’t stand Dany and I hate her family. I like the Lannister’s. I love the Starks. I have a love hate relationship with Cersei.

  • kev kirk

    One quick thing all the Stark children are warges/skin changers, just of different strength in the ability. Bran is the only one who both knows he is one and accepts that fact. John has been told but is reluctant to accept the fact, A book charter that is a skin changer can tell not only does John have the ability but is actually vary powerful just with no training. Arya has unknowingly and frequently warged into Nymeria while on Essos but mostly thinks she is just dreaming.

  • Sara Samora

    I'm so late in watching this, but I always felt that Ghost's coat color also symbolized Jon's Targaryen side. He doesn't have the platinum/ silver hair like the rest of the Targaryens, but Ghost was the lightest of them all.

  • Fawad B

    5:30 Isn't Tywin Lannister cutting open a stag when we are first introduced to his character? I think that's another impressive example of symbolism as well.

  • Mozorella stick

    Lady had to bear the brunt of what nymeria did, just like how sansa had to pay for what her family did in kings landing

  • frudlemax

    The one problem with this show is that they killed the dogs. NEVER kill the dogs. Humans? sure. Dogs? Pet wolves? Nope.

  • Ugh Not You

    I'm literally choking through my tears the starks went through so much and after 8×3 I'm just so happy for them

  • zaria Ironstand

    i don’t remember where I heard it but someone said that the motto can go two ways depending on the state of the starks, “winter is coming” can be out of fear but can also be proud, because even though everyone’s terrified of whitewalkers and winter, the starks home is the north and they embody the strong winter spirit, so when it’s said like that it’s a warning to others of their strength and will

  • HellaCatman

    Actually both summer and winter last 15 years hence why kids who complain over small things are called sweet summer children by adults because they do not know the hardships that winter brings

  • JKG

    Booo! How do you not mention that "Winter is Coming" is both warning and a threat? The Starks are winter made manifest and fight them is as useless as fighting winter. You should update this video. Give the Starks a proper treatment

  • C. D. Dailey

    Your videos on the Westeros Houses are incredible. They are fascinating. I would like to make my own additional comparisons. There are seven houses to fit seven kingdoms: Baratheon, Greyjoy, Martell, Tyrell, Lannister, Arryn and Tully. There are two more important houses: Stark and Targarian. So there are actually nine main houses. The videos of the major houses are recently complete with the addition of Tully and Arryn. It took forever, but it was well worth the wait. I like to organize things evenly in terms of four. My four main aspects are physical, intellectual, ethical and spiritual. To fit the houses the best I distinguish each aspect as order or freedom. That makes eight variations. There are nine houses, which is the same number as types in the Enneagram. I can compare them. Seven is used a lot in mysticism. There are seven chakras, alchemy steps, planets and metals. Since there are seven kingdoms, I wonder if there are parallels. It is difficult to compare personalities, because none of the houses think very abstractly. Still I try to make things fit the best I can. I can compare a house to an element. I can also consider how the behavior of the animal matches the house. Maybe I am overanalyzing but it is so much fun.

    The Starks are so cool. They are one of my favorite houses,because they are so moral and relateable. I like to be honest and do the right thing, just like them. The Starks fit my type of ethical order. The Starks are ethical in that they have a strong code of morality and they band together as a social group. They are also order in that they are tough and enduring. They are firm in their honesty and nobility. The ethical order Enneagram type is 6. It fits the Starks very well. The 6 type is loyal. It shows devotion to community and social groups. 6 is good when it leads others, and it bad when falling prey to conspiracy. The Starks show the strength and weakness. The weakness is when people conspire against them and stab them in the back. This is due to Starks being a bit too naie and trusting. This is like Ned's death and the Red Wedding. The strength is the ability to work with allies. Later on, the Starks got allied with northern houses, free folk, Arryns and Daeneris. They become a formidable force indeed. This is due to the Starks being moral and honest. They become trustworthy, so people have incentive to follow them. Stark is not in a group of seven. However it does fit the alchemy substance of Mercury. Mercury is cool, calm and watery. This is like the Stark way. The Stark element is ice. The house is in the north where there is a lot of snow and ice. Ice is essentially solid water. The water part reflect the ethical nature, while the solid refelcts the order. The Stark animal is the direwolf. Wolves have a hunting method that is very much like the Stark way. Wolves use endurance and teamwork when hunting. Wolves have great endurance. They can run down prey to exhaustion before going in for the kill. This is like how the Starks are able to wear out and survive a long brutal war. They can survive long brutal winters. Wolves also use teamwork. The wolve work together as a pack, and they take down large prey. This is like how Starks work together to face adversity. They even work with allies. The Stark children get pups. The two Stark leaders are Ned and Catlin. I think of them as the alpha male and alpha female respectively. They are the leaders of the house, and they are the parents of the other members. That is just how alphas work in a real wolf pack.

  • ACharmingBind

    You failed to mention that Shaggydog's name is actually a literature tool to tell an irrelevant story, just a background character or story in the main one, to give them an anticlimactic ending.

  • Kuya Rick Kelley

    I just got back from the future in season 8, and holy fuck is there a lot you need to learn about this John Snow fella

  • Brianna Johnson

    Jon sending Ghost beyond the Wall in Season 8 signals that Jon is no longer a wolf himself. With the revelation that he is Rhaegar Targaryen's son, I may come to identify as a Dragon.

  • Illidan Stormrage

    If I had a Gun and stuck with a Lannister and a Stark in one room, I'd let the Stark hold my gun while I'm sleeping.

  • Gloria Iji

    So the saying for Jon Snow’s two houses if put together would be, “Winter is coming for fire and blood.”

  • Carl Andre Bongalos

    Thank you so much for these presentations. Reviewing these houses again really pumps my memories about Game of Thrones. I love these! 💕

  • Muhd Azree

    starks always looking to much bigger threat than wanting for iron throne. They actually the most pure hearted, brave and honorable character in this series.

  • Oru Tamizhan

    I think house of Starks also represents the coming off age story as well. Each child of Ned stark (including Jon as well) have a characteristics that defines teenagers. For ex Arya could represent rebelling against common norms, Sansa -> nativity, Jon -> need for recognition etc.

    Also the sigil of the house (wolf), shows that the Starks are strong as pack. But when they act alone they are distroyed.

    Compared to Lannisters (🦁), they are able to intimadate others into submissive while the lone wolf dies. The most irony is that wolf always surround a prey and kill them. Like wise, Ned and Robb are caught off guard and defeated.

    I could be wrong as well…..

  • Crash Andersen

    0:39 "A person's birth largely determines their fate."

    I peed on the nurse when I was born, my dad cheered, my mom shook her head, then I was circumcised and cried as loud as I could while my mom cried over my screams.

  • Kanoshem

    So are Ghost and Nymera the only left by the end of S8? I know Shaggy Dog is still around with Rickon in the Books but not the Show of course

  • Exquisite Elephant

    Is the north remembers a secondary motto for house stark and all the north. It’s like a Lannister always payed his debts.

  • Nitya Arora

    When winter comes for war,
    You shall hear no lions roar.
    When winter forces you to yield,
    No stags shall graze upon the field.
    When winter creeps upon you from the
    Shadows,
    No roses shall bloom from the meadows.
    When winter wreaks havoc on the land,
    You can bet there'll be no snakes in the
    Sand.
    When winter brings to life all it finds grim,
    The krakens shall freeze right where they
    Swim.
    When winter sets and the land begins zu
    Shiver,
    The flayes man will start to rot and wither.
    When fights to the last silver,
    No more trouts shall swim in the river.
    When winter ravages and all despair,
    No falcons shall fly high in the air.
    When winter shows you what happens
    When snow falls,
    Not even dragons breath shall warm you in
    Your halls.
    When winter comes with all its might,
    Only the wolves shall howl in the night!

  • Corinna Haunschmid

    Which aspect of human nature will finally prevail?
    So this means that, by crowning Bran, nihilism won? 😂

  • Natalie Wong

    When you said "a piece of their sould externalized" I thought of the dæmons/daemons from His Dark Materials (like The Golden Compass). Except when the dæmon or human is killed, both die

  • Amber O'Brien

    Another part about Ghost and Jon: As they said in the video Ghost is the only purely white-colored Direwolf out of the litter. A very common and pretty much signature trait of the Targaryens is their silver/white hair. Ghost's appearance could potentially be foreshadowing to Jon's true background and heritage as a true Targaryen.

  • Bilyana Dimitrova

    Poor Rickon… He never got education, never got proper lessons. He was supposed to become only a bannerman… Thanks now I'm sad

  • Francesca Rossetti

    My favorite House of GOT. In the end I appreciated every single Stark for very different reasons (even if Rickon had very little space in the story) and Jon Snow of course. I also liked them very much as a family (included the direwolves).

  • 李玉琼

    Jon :I am a Targaeryen
    Bran :I am a bird
    Arya:I am no one
    Rob :I am a dire wolf
    Catelyn:I am a tully
    Sansa:I am a Bolton/Lannister
    Lyanna:I am a Targaeryen too
    Ned and Bran:WHAT THE FU—

  • HexagonBright

    It took a year for Bran to name his Wolf cause they were puppies when found but full grown when Bran came out of 2 week coma to name him WTF 😂

  • Cindy Li

    I would also like to mention that in the books, Robb’s downfall started when he stopped bring Grey Wind with him everywhere. There was one specific scene where he told his mother that he married another woman and not Walder Frey’s daughter, which was also the first time Catelyn did not see Grey Wind with him. It was mentioned several times in her POV about how Grey Wind was howling in the kennels, which in my opinion, is a foreshadowing of how things will stop working in their favor. Just a bit of my own theorizing.

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