If you're a Game of Thrones die-hard fan who's been following the TV show from the beginning, you've probably enjoyed the appearance of the magnificent dire wolves as much as we have. Emblems of the famous series, they accompanied our heroes till the end for our greatest pleasure. But do you really know these wolves? Beware of spoilers, if you haven't seen the show yet, it's not too late! Sit back and discover all the secrets of the Game of Thrones wolves.
ARE REAL WOLVES USED IN GAME OF THRONES?
Originally, HBO wanted to use real wolves to play as the Stark children's companions, so they wanted the audience to get attached to the animals, which would have been more difficult with special effects. But a British law prohibits the use of these animals in filming. So the production set its sights on a breed very close to the wolf, the Inuit of the North.
In fiction, the Stark wolves belong to the fictional species of giant wolves. They differ from the canis lupus (gray wolf) species in their superior strength and size (they grow to the size of a small horse as adults), power, intelligence and physical appearance. They have longer legs, a larger head and a more pronounced snout. In short, an imposing and powerful wolf.
Their coat and eyes can have different colors (grey wolf with yellow eyes, black wolf with green eyes ...). There are also albino wolves with white fur and red eyes.
These animals are found in the cold, wooded areas of northern Westeros. But they are considered almost extinct, living only beyond the Wall. At the beginning of the series (during the reign of Robert Baratheon), there were no reports of them south of the Wall for more than two centuries.
In reality, these dogs belong to the Inuit northern breed (Northern Husky) and its origin is unknown. They appeared between the 1970s and 1980s in Canada, but the breed was developed in the United Kingdom. Some sources speak of crossbreeding between dogs and wolves, others between different dogs including huskies and malamutes. Two of the dogs that played in the series (Grey Wind and Summer) can be "met" in Castle Ward, Northern Ireland, where Winterfell was recreated.
They are benevolent dogs, faithful and very attached to their masters. They are very large and are remarkable for their resemblance to the wild wolf.
WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF THE DIREWOLVES IN GAME OF THRONES?
In the first episode, Lord Stark's children discover a dead wolf female who's just given birth to five cubs. Lord Eddard orders to kill them, but Jon Snow dissuades him by noticing that there are 3 males and 2 females and that these wolves could have been sent for them: one wolf for each of his legitimate children.
Soon after, Jon discovers a sixth cub, an albino male, in the thickets, which attracts the mockery of Theon Greyjoy. Nevertheless, Jon decides to keep this last cub for himself.
Each of the Stark children adopts one of the cubs. These are the names of the wolves:
1.Grey Wind, adopted by Robb
Gray Wind was Rob Stark's direwolf. The loyal wolf followed his master in his war against Joffrey Lannister but was carefully caged by Walder Frey's soldiers, preparing for the atrocious Purple Wedding. Reduced to impotence, Grey Wind was cowardly killed in his cage when he felt his master was in danger. Grey Wind dies decapitated like his master Robb by the Frey family, who sew Grey Wind's head onto Robb's body.
2.Lady, adopted by Sansa
The she-wolf will be one of Cersei's first victims as early as season 1, when the Arya wolf, Nymeria, bite the sinister Prince Joffrey who was arguing with the Stark's youngest daughter. Nymeria remaining untraceable, it is Lady, whom Cersei considers as dangerous, who will pay the "insult".
Royal Executioner Ilyn Payne is in charge of the sinister task, but it is finally Ned Stark, with his heart at half-mast, out of respect for the animal and his daughter, who will put an end to Lady's short life, taking the place of the executioner who was originally supposed to do it.
3.Nymeria, adopted by Arya
Nymeria is one of the few survivors of the litter entrusted to the Stark children. She's Arya Stark's dire wolf. In fiction, Nymeria is an extremely loyal wolf who bites Prince Joffrey Baratheon to defend Arya. Fearing the death of her wolf, Arya decides to force Nymeria to leave.
Nymeria is finally found by chance by Arya much later (season 7). The beast, which has become colossal, is visibly the leader of a pack that was threatening Arya. Despite this reunion, Nymeria will not follow her former mistress on her long journey back to Winterfell, the fortress of the Stark.
4.Summer, adopted by Bran
Summer is the name of the Bran wolf and one of the bravest of the Stark wolves who fearlessly attacks a white walker. It is also he who warned his young master of the presence of the assassin sent to kill him (season 1), we will learn about it later, by Littlefinger.
Throughout the series, he faithfully accompanies Bran, and they remain very united. Summer will also allow Bran to make the first tests of his power of skin changer which allows the handicapped teenager to remotely control the animal.
Summer will be a faithful friend for Bran until the end. In season 6, Summer sacrifices himself to protect Bran from the White Walkers who invaded the den of the Three-Eyed Crow where he was a refugee.
5.Shaggydog, adopted by Rickon
Shaggydog was the giant young wolf given to the unfortunate Rickon Stark. He will meet the same fate as his young master. If Rickon is murdered by Ramsay Bolton as a prelude to the Battle of the Bastards (season 6), Shaggydog perished the day before.
It was one of Ramsay's thugs who decapitated him and shows his head in front of Sansa and Jon during the negotiations leading up to the same battle to prove that the Boltons are holding Rickon captive.
6.Ghost, adopted by Jon
Ghost is the wolf that is adopted by John Snow. Ghost is the only surviving sibling of Nymeria. All white fur, he's a red-eyed albino wolf, the smallest of the litter. Ghost was entrusted to Jon Snow by Ned. He followed his master during his exile to the Wall.
After disappearing for a while in the icy expanses north of the Wall, Ghost will reappear to save Samwell, Jon's comrade, from the claws of a White Walker. Ghost, back to his master, will assist him in the massive attack on the Wall by the Wildlings (season 4). He will also look after Jon after his master is murdered by mutineers of the Night's Watch.
5 FACTS ABOUT THE DIREWOLVES IN GAME OF THRONES
Wolf special effects
During the first season, when they were still cubs, the animals were embodied by real Inuit puppies. But for the following seasons, once they were supposed to have reached their adult size, the production used special effects to modify their appearance, among other things to make them more imposing. The direwolves in the saga were in fact described as much larger and stronger than ordinary wolves.
A similarity with Harry Potter
What do the wolves in Game of Thrones and the dogs in Harry Potter have in common? They were trained by the same person: the Englishwoman Caroline Lois Benoist. The young woman, unfortunately deceased due to an illness in December 2010, has never seen the result of her work on GOT on screen.
A strong link even off the screen
Close to their master on the screen, the dogs were also off-camera. The production required the actors to play and interact with their puppy to build relationships.
It worked so well that Sophie Turner, who is camping Sansa Stark, adopted Dana, who played the role of Lady, and renamed her Zunni. As for Isaac Hampstaed Wright, who plays Bran Stark, he would have liked to adopt Summer as well, but his parents refused !
The perverse effect
Since the success of Game of Thrones, the demand for Northern Inuit has increased significantly. So has the price. It now costs almost 1.000$ for a puppy. And whoever says high demand, also says, alas, high abandonment rate. Several actors of the series have also launched appeals on this subject to ask not to adopt Inuit or Husky, a close race, on a whim and to become aware of the role to be assumed when an animal is taken in charge.
The Canis Dirus
The wolves in the series are inspired by an extinct Pleistocene species, the Canis dirus, which shared its habitat with the mammoth and saber-toothed tiger. A cousin of the wolf and the dog. Note that the prehistoric Dire wolf was much smaller than the one described by George R. R. Martin.
Now you know all the secrets of the incredible creatures that made us love the Games of Thrones series. While this series has brought the wolves into the spotlight and helped raise awareness about the importance of protecting the many species of wolves, we've also seen a growing craze for wolfhounds that has led to massive abandonment.
It is more important than ever to be aware of the responsibility that comes with adopting an animal. In the meantime, if you are as much a fan of Game of Thrones wolves as we are, don't hesitate to discover our many items inspired by the series such as the Game of Thrones wolf necklace or an amazing wolf lamp in the effigy of your favorite TV show!