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Risto

She-wolves of Winterfell: Analyzing Northern women

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In the past several months, I have been analyzing extensively women of Stark family, trying to comprehend certain symbols, parallels and patterns. The close object of my interest has always been Sansa, but the Stark women debates I have participated in became my some of my favorites. From mystery surrounding Lyanna Stark, the differences between Ned’s daughters, parallels with Catelyn, story about Bael the bard, she-wolf symbolism to some striking characteristics of Northern ladies, I have become more and more interested, and finally, after long deliberation, I have chosen to open this thread and dedicate it to not just to closer analysis of Stark women, but also to analysis of some of the most notable Northern ladies.



At the beginning, this was a series of different threads, smaller projects overlapping, and essays that couldn’t find their home. My work has been even more demanding after getting inspiration from this thread and that essay, and it grew to the point where I needed to create an outline and start posting, or otherwise it would all go to waste. I have finished most of the readings and writings, and I thought the time has come to open a thread and see how it breathes on its own, so to speak.



I will begin this project with the essay some of you may have already read. I have written the piece that follows for Arya reread thread last August, and I believe it could serve as a good starting point for this new project. The other works will soon follow, most likely in ratio one per week, but there will always be new ideas, new essays and new debates. So, for the humble beginning of this thread, here are the other pieces that will soon be part of this project:


  1. Sansa and Arya, yin and yang of Lyanna’s story
  2. Winter flowers – Lyanna Stark and Eowyn of Rohan
  3. Catelyn Stark: The Capitoline she-wolf of ASOIAF
  4. Sansa Stark: Daughter of the North
  5. The Steppenwolf motif in Arya’s storyline
  6. Mormont ladies: the bear and maiden fair
  7. Northern independence in the hearts of Northern women

I hope you will enjoy in this work of mine. As always, your criticism, opinions and ideas are more than welcome.

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Feminism in she-wolf symbolism of ASOIAF




It is often difficult for authors to write characters of opposite sex. It is not rare that it leads to discussion whether male authors are capable of writing female characters and vice versa. Due to history, tradition and the patriarchy of our world, male authors and their female characters are often criticized for lacking depth, falling into standardized roles of mothers, daughters and wives, and usually being just plot tool for main, usually male, hero. So, it is no wonder when the critics spoke about GRRM’s female characters that the words like “misogyny” appeared. But, strangely enough, GRRM definitely divided female readership into two opposite groups. The one criticized Martin’s world for being misogynist, and the other praised the depth of female characters, noticing some subtle feminist slogans. But, as it is often the case in Martin’s books, the truth lies somewhere between.

Besides proving outstanding knowledge of human psychology, GRRM proved he is more than capable of using symbolic imagery in his works. The colorful and vivid world of ASOIAF has become a canvas for a vast variety of symbols of all forms and shapes. The clothes characters wear, the food they have eaten in certain situation, coat of arms and banners of the Houses they belong to, all of that is carefully structured as symbols of the past, present or even the future of certain heroes. The underlined messages are sometimes so strong that they overpower the given situation, thus surpassing the meaning of what is said, and giving it another dimension. And some of the most powerfully used symbols are certainly animals.

Sublimating feminism with animal symbolism is no easy job. Especially when the given animal, in this case, the wolf has centuries-long tradition of being masculine symbol of savagery, viciousness and predatory nature. Traditional female characteristics were never used in comparison with wolves. Given the infamous status the wolf had as a symbol throughout the entire history of civilization, normally the imagery of the she-wolf would have been no better. Certainly the most popular and known she-wolf motif is the Capitoline Wolf, which depicts a she-wolf suckling infants Romulus and Remus, founders of the city of Rome. The origin and date of the statue is certainly debatable, with new data providing evidence that the Capitoline Wolf was made in 13th century AD, and not 5th century BC. But nevertheless the date or the importance of the origin, the Capitoline she-wolf is one of the most known depictions of feminine animals.

The statue is very simple. It depicts a she-wolf suckling 2 infants. The she-wolf is vigilant and intense. There is a certain forcefulness and awareness, with muscles clearly visible that contribute to the entire image of a powerful, predatory and protective creature. A distinct contrast is made between the predatory and nurturing nature of the wolf. The udders are full, thus indicating seen nurturing, or possible pregnancy. This dualism of she-wolf nature is extremely important due to the fact that the Capitoline she-wolf can also be interpreted as symbol of feminine strength and mother’s care. The Capitoline she-wolf has been, since its inception, seen as powerful symbol of belonging to all Romans.

With the uprising Christianity, came the negative symbolism of wolves with origins in Bible. Seen as a predatory animal, the wolf quickly became the symbol of the devil and the evil. Some of the superstitious beliefs of werewolves, and the connection between witches and wolves led to the wolf, and thus the she-wolf have become the negative metaphor for everything that is evil. Unlike traditional negative connotation of the wolf’s strength, the she-wolf was given another meaning – the hunger, lust and longing. The she-wolf is particularly important symbol of sin in Dante’s Divine Comedy:

And a she-wolf, that with all hungerings

Seemed to be laden in her meagreness,

And many folk has caused to live forlorn!


She brought upon me so much heaviness,

With the affright that from her aspect came,

That I the hope relinquished of the height.


Because this beast, at which thou criest out,

Suffers not any one to pass her way,

But so doth harass him, that she destroys him;


And has a nature so malign and ruthless,

That never doth she glut her greedy will,

And after food is hungrier than before.


Many the animals with whom she weds,

And more they shall be still, until the Greyhound

Comes, who shall make her perish in her pain.

The story is relatively known. Dante is lost in a dark forest, when three beasts blocked his way out – leopard, lion and she-wolf. Dante returns to the forest where he meets with the shade of Virgil who explains him that the road is impassable, and that the road to salvation leads through hell. In Dante’s Inferno, the she-wolf represents avarice, insatiable hunger and greed. Many believe that the she-wolf actually represents the Roman Empire and its decay to decadence. The she-wolf represents all that was bad in Roman Empire, and her seductive powers are what led the Romans into destruction. Opposite to the pagan symbol of she-wolf, stands Christian symbol of greyhound. And although it is unclear whom greyhound represents (candidates vary from Jesus, to Henry VII (of House Luxembourg) who held the title Holy Roman Emperor and Dante’s benefactor Cangrande della Scala), he is the one that will save Rome and Italy from its ruin.

Even though Romans identified their origin from the she-wolf, they also used the same word for both she-wolves and prostitutes. And once Christianity took roots with the negative symbolism of the wolves, the she-wolf became a symbol of hunger of any sort, ambition, cruelty, savage greed and lust. Calling someone a she-wolf never had positive connotation and one of the most offensive slurs to women (bitch) came from the same “tree” from which identification of prostitutes and she-wolves originated. The most famous she-wolf in history is certainly Isabella of France, wife of Edward II. Her “femme fatale” status derived from her adultery and high-treason, made of her quite unpopular historical figure.

When it comes to she-wolf in modern literature and its symbolism, it’s almost like looking at Jackson Pollock’s “She-wolf” and thinking of his famous “explanation” of the master-piece – She-wolf came into existence because I had to paint it. Any attempt on my part to say something about it, to attempt explanation of the inexplicable, could only destroy it. For the entire past century, women fought for their rights, doing an almost Sisyphean task that demanded the reconstruction of entire the view on women, and the reevaluation of everything we have been taught until then. And although we know that matriarchal societies actually existed in the past and are present even now in some parts of the world, by and large most societies have repressed women to one degree or another. Matriarchy, as a symbol of egalitarian society, doesn’t condone the dominance patriarchal system imposes. In egalitarian systems, the roles of men and women aren’t divided, and the world functions on the principle of equal partnerships. And just like the principles of French revolution, women in the past century relentlessly fought for freedom of choice, equality with men and strong understanding and partnership between two genders. Therefore, the need of abandoning traditional learning of what women’s duties and obligations are became necessary. And the she-wolf characteristically took important place in feminist literature by providing exceptional multi-layered aspect of womanhood, and embodying women of the world as something more than just wives and mothers.

One may wonder why the she-wolf, and not some other animal? Certainly the doe can be used for women’s gentleness, the lioness’ for their vigilance and protection of the children, but none of them, or at least, not like she-wolf embodies everything what woman is. Historically, the symbols have been divided into positive and negative, depending on the culture and status. But, she-wolf is the one animal that goes into the core of the women’s being. And, of course, the Capitoline she-wolf is often regarded in it. The Capitoline she-wolf served as the inspiration for expanding the meaning of the word “woman”, providing necessary aspects above just a domesticated being, and giving it important biological, social, psychological, and even political imperative. Wolf writing by women has produced several literary events, all regarding the wild/domestic schism. Two most important are the feminist psychology in woman-warrior mode, especially popularized by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and her novel “Women who run with the wolves”, and the rise of the woman wolf biologist who remythologized the wolf without sacrificing scientific rigor, with four prominent figures: Lois Crisler, Renée Askins, Diane Boyd and Jody Emel. Psychological appliance of the wolf myth in Pinkola Estés’ work has twisted conveniently wolf mythology into what it needs to be to empower women through some sort of psychotherapy, but nonetheless it provides significant insight into feminist view on wolf mythology and symbolism.


When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, an inspiratrice, an intuitive, a maker, a creator, an inventor, and a listener who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer worlds. When women are close to this nature, the fact of that relationship glows through them. The wild teacher, wild mother, wild mentor supports their inner and outer lives, no matter what. – Women who run with the wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The connection between the Capitoline she-wolf and the feminist work on the field of wolf symbolism is apparent. The feminist totemization of the nurturing, but strong she-wolf is in archetypical incarnation of heroes descended from lupine bloodline, most notably embodied in the Capitoline she-wolf. But, unlike the patriarchal stories that go around the heroes, feminists became interested in the she-wolf mother. And the wild/domestic schism inspired poignant work such as the one of Carol J. Adams, who compared the oppressive mechanisms patriarchy enforced on both women and environment, or Marina Warner’s analyses of mythology, and feminist perspective on it. And when the conclusion of the fairytale analyses is that “fairy tales are about money, marriage, and men, and that they are the maps and manuals that are passed down from mothers and grandmothers to help them survive” you realize how important feminist work is in every sphere of our lives.

The first and most important task feminism had in front of it was to convince women they do have a choice in their lives, that they have a say in their lives, and that they are the sole masters of themselves. That needed to be done by widening the views, showing women that there is something more than just being housewife. The first task was to make women understand that they can choose, and that whether they would get married, have a children, and raise them while their husbands work, is strictly on them. Some feminists considered housewives as entrapped, bound by social norms, and in some sad cases, narrow-minded. And then in 1974, ecofeminism was born out of concern for both environment and women’s right, and oppression of the patriarchal culture. Although not a feminist per se, Renee Askins’ biology work in Yellowstone National Park, and her contribution to the work of David L. Mech, undoubtedly left strong impact on the perception of the wolves. As she once stated: “Caged animals are not wild, any more than a Hopi vase decorating a restaurant is sacred”, the issue of animal domestication in biology and women’s entrapment in the roles provided by patriarchal culture is something we should deeply think of. For as much as the wolf in the zoo isn’t natural, woman without a choice entrapped in given roles isn’t something we should ignore. And this unnatural order of things in which our beloved ones are entrapped due to their gender, can and must be changed with effort of all of us, regardless of age, nationality, whereabouts and most importantly gender. The fight for equality isn’t just on activists, politicians and celebrities, but on all of us who knowingly or even unknowingly participate in the system that desperately needs to change.

When it comes to domestication issues of she-wolves in ASOIAF, GRRM knows to step on a line, but interestingly never to cross it. His work on depicting she-wolves should be analyzed on two dimensions. First dimension are the real she-wolves – Lady and Nymeria, and the second one are the Stark ladies – Lyanna, Sansa and Arya. With Martin’s world being set in medieval time, the domesticity and female entrapment in the roles of wives and mothers is natural to expect. But, Martin surprises us with the rejection of the domestication in his she-wolves by refusing to transform wolves into something more than they are. The other side of the coin is that his anthropocentric view on the world and wolf metaphors are always in line with what we know of wolf’s behavior.

The story of Lady and Nymeria shows us that for Martin, direwolves simply aren’t puppies. Simply, they are not pets. The domestication of wild animal is comparable to Shakespearean rose (What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.). The core of an animal hasn’t changed, and direwolves would have never become domesticated, obedient dogs. For even the wildest dog is stricken by the wolf’s stare or howl. The magical component exists in their owners, not them. Unlike many fantasy genre authors and their animals, most notably C.S. Lewis’ Aslan, Martin knows when to stop in depicting animals. Unlike Aslan, who is anything but a lion, due to the anthropocentric nature of his depiction, Lady and Nymeria remained wolves. To be completely truthful Martin did play with the domestication with Lady, giving her a gentler nature than you would expect, and giving her characteristics more appropriate to a dog than to a wolf (“I’ve never seen an aurochs,” Sansa said, feeding a piece of bacon to Lady under the table. The direwolf took it from her hand, as delicate as a queen.). Lady’s nature and domestication reflects Sansa’s tame nature and naiveté. The wild/domesticated dualism in perception of both Sansa and Lady is complementary. The perception and the core of Sansa/Lady pairing are in opposition. While Sansa’s appearance is Lady’s gentle nature, Lady’s wild heart and strength are Sansa’s greatest qualities. For Sansa is Lady, a gentle, kind and caring she-wolf. This dualism served not only to describe Sansa better, but also to give us some important insights into the Westerosi world. Lady’s killing showed us what kind of justice is King’s word, her gentle nature and trust showed Sansa’s vulnerability, and theoretically, one could argue that Lady was domesticated to point out that once she is gone, there will be someone else to protect Sansa, someone who isn’t wolf, but certainly is wilder than a puppy. So, although both Nymeria and Lady were domesticated for some time, it didn’t last long. Nymeria, on the other hand, is simply an alpha female. Martin doesn’t even try to portray her other than what she is. For, there is no doubt, Nymeria is all wolf. And everything written about her, since the day Arya chased her, tells us that there can be no domestication for this wolf.

“Around the Gods Eye, the packs have grown bolder’n anyone can remember. Sheep, cows, dogs, makes no matter, they kill as they like, and they got no fear of men. It’s worth your life to go into those woods by night.”

“I heard the same thing from my cousin, and she’s not the sort to lie,” an old woman said. “She says there’s this great pack, hundreds of them, mankillers. The one that leads them is a she-wolf, a bitch from the seventh hell.”

She dreamed of wolves most every night. A great pack of wolves, with her at the head. She was bigger than any of them, stronger, swifter, faster. She could outrun horses and outfight lions. When she bared her teeth even men would run from her, her belly was never empty long, and her fur kept her warm even when the wind was blowing cold. And her brothers and sisters were with her, many and more of them, fierce and terrible and hers. They would never leave her.

They say the pack is led by a monstrous she-wolf, a stalking shadow grim and grey and huge. They will tell you that she has been known to bring aurochs down all by herself, that no trap nor snare can hold her, that she fears neither steel nor fire, slays any wolf that tries to mount her, and devours no other flesh but man.

As we heard from various sources throughout three books, Nymeria is described as she is. With a bit of lie in hunting stories, the truth about her actions seems undoubted. The true nature of the wolf shown in Nymeria has its literary purposes, especially in mirroring Arya’s psychological state, but it is also a depiction of a dangerous pack. Nymeria isn’t a person in wolf clothes, she is a wolf. So, the idea of domestication in the wolves in ASOIAF doesn’t hold, simply because Martin’s she-wolves are not just metaphors, they are characters with personalities, and behavior you would expect from wolves. Mirroring the Stark siblings, direwolves show us that different paths we take, different characteristics we have, they are the same. They care for each other, will fight for each other, even sacrifice. Differences in opinions, POVs, or even nature, all fades to the one fact – they belong to same pack.

The other dimension of wolf domestication and its use in ASOIAF certainly represents the Stark ladies – Lyanna, Sansa and Arya. The three ladies are different, representing different aspects of she-wolf symbolism. But, they all live in the world where the women are domesticated, where the roles have been given the day they were born, and where they have so little to say about their lives. So, in this medieval narrow-minded society, a women’s right to choose has been taken before she even knew she had it. So the use of she-wolf symbolism has to be extremely careful, not to make a stereotypical female role, and not to diminish vast metaphorical meaning of the used symbol. With all of that in mind, we should also remember that Martin’s characters are humans and that he is indeed writing about people with the issues and dilemmas any man or woman would have. And that’s where Martin excelled. His psychologically anthropocentric world is enriched with animal symbolism that isn’t contrived by what we know about wolves and history of the symbolism the she-wolf has. For Martin’s she-wolves are strong and vigilant yet caring and emotional; they are the epitome of every woman’s nobility and virtue.

Domesticity is something common for all three Stark ladies, or at least there is certain attempt of their surroundings to make them accept the roles they were born to play. And here, Martin’s progressive opinions united with his knowledge of she-wolves create a powerful dualism between their roles and their desires. Martin deconstructs the medieval roles women had, and gives us three amazing individuals ready to reject what they are supposed to be and fight for what they love and care.
The first Stark lady and the one where she-wolf metaphors are strongest, breaks the domesticity of being a nobleman’s wife. Lyanna’s fate is still unknown, so we’ll keep to what we do know

“Robert will never keep to one bed,” Lyanna had told him at Winterfell, on the night long ago when their father had promised her hand to the young Lord of Storm’s End. “I hear he has gotten a child on some girl in the Vale.” Ned had held the babe in his arms; he could scarcely deny her, nor would he lie to his sister, but he had assured her that what Robert did before their betrothal was of no matter, that he was a good man and true who would love her with all his heart. Lyanna had only smiled. “Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man’s nature.”

Whether Lyanna escaped with Rhaegar or not, one thing is certain. She did not love Robert. She was bound by the rules of society, honor of her House, and word of her father. Entrapped in future loveless marriage, Lyanna saw things more clearly than Ned. She knew what she could have expected from Robert. Now, given the “she-wolf” nickname, behavioral patterns suggesting that she-wolves don’t engage in mating with the wolves they dislike, and importance of that pattern in symbolism, we can say that on some level Lyanna truly rejected Robert. This is important in drawing a parallel with her niece, whose refusal to kneel on her wedding day showed what she thought of that marriage, and there on her wedding, she is regarded by an outsider as she-wolf for the first time. But, her inner strength, endurance and perseverance, strong sense of belonging and loyalty shown in time of great sufferings proved us that Sansa was always a she-wolf, and that her exteriority was just a fur of different color.

Her relief was short-lived. No sooner had the music died than she heard Joffrey say, “It’s time to bed them! Let’s get the clothes off her, and have a look at what the she-wolf’s got to give my uncle!” Other men took up the cry, loudly.

Also, Sansa’s refusal in Tyrion’s mind is constantly connected with her roots:

He made certain not to look at Sansa, lest his bitterness show in his eyes. You might have knelt, damn you. Would it have been so bloody hard to bend those stiff Stark knees of yours and let me keep a little dignity?

So, connection with Starks and she-wolf metaphors are used to describe women’s reluctance to do what they are asked. Martin’s use of she-wolf metaphors with Lyanna and Sansa to depict detest of being “mounted” by those they dislike. And all of that has another dimension when we remember that Martin stated that no wolf can mount Nymeria.

When it comes to Arya, deconstruction of domesticity is done on almost every level. Her wild behavior clearly states that “she is no lady”. An entire deconstruction of the domesticity every noble-born girl should aspire to is done on every page of Arya’s POV. She is interested in “men’s businesses” like swordsmanship, riding, fighting, and all the interest, she as individual who happens to be female finds interesting, thus breaking the greatest stereotype that our gender defines our interests. Arya also provides us with a strong contrast to some other women, especially Cersei. Arya’s entire interest in man’s business doesn’t change the fact she is a woman, while on the other hand, Cersei’s greatest desire is to be a man, and she experiences power while satisfying other woman, “raping her like Robert”. Arya’s gender is never questioned. She is a female. It’s that simple. But, the problem Martin poses in front of us when Arya is in question is that by giving her manly interests, does he transform her gender. Is Arya’s gender changed by what she is interested in? And this is something where we can actually see Martin’s sheer brilliance and those subtle feminist slogans I mentioned at the beginning. GRRM’s Arya is an extraordinary girl, and although biologically and psychologically she hasn’t fully grown into a woman yet, that doesn’t mean she is not a female. And by not turning Arya in some hermaphrodite, Martin does an amazing job depicting Arya as a she-wolf, using all the aspects he can for 8 year-old child – fierce temper, predatory nature and wilderness.

Sansa is, for many, on the opposite side of Lyanna and Arya’s she-wolf metaphors. Simply, she is not wild; she doesn’t like riding or swordsmanship, she is no tomboy, but what difference does it make? She is kind, gentle, compassionate and caring. People usually forget that Sansa’s characteristics are also notable in she-wolves with pups. But, while Lyanna breaks domesticity of being a wife, Arya struggles with domesticity of being a lady, Sansa’s unfortunate life brought her to a moment when she almost rejected a notion of being a woman:

When she woke, the pale light of morning was slanting through her window, yet she felt as sick and achy as if she had not slept at all. There was something sticky on her thighs. When she threw back the blanket and saw the blood, all she could think was that her dream had somehow come true. She remembered the knives inside her, twisting and ripping. She squirmed away in horror, kicking at the sheets and falling to the floor, breathing raggedly, naked, bloodied, and afraid.

But as she crouched there, on her hands and knees, understanding came. “No, please,” Sansa whimpered, “please, no.” She didn’t want this happening to her, not now, not here, not now, not now, not now, not now.
It was as if her own body had betrayed her to Joffrey, unfurling a banner of Lannister crimson for all the world to see.

Normally, no one can say that Sansa doesn’t want to be a woman, but this moment of maturation for her was the fulfillment of the worst dreams. Martin here uses flowering as the worst thing that could happen to Sansa. It is not misogynistic at all; it serves the point to show how everyone in Westeros is entrapped in one way or another. Sansa’s rejection of herself as sexual being due to the situation she is in is something that continues with Tyrion when she doesn’t want to sleep with him. Sansa isn’t asexual, but for her, sexual intercourse meant something more than just that. Sansa’s view on this natural thing has been tainted by the malice and madness she endured. And what was for Lyanna her future marriage to Robert, what for Arya was represented by Lady Smallwood’s dress, was for Sansa sexual intercourse with those she found repugnant, for all three women were bound by the norms at some points, but their spirit didn’t break under the pressure and all three deconstructed the idea of the domesticated, entrapped life most women of that time had.

Another important aspect of she-wolf symbolism is nurture. The Capitoline she-wolf gave us part of that nature, and it is scientifically proven that she-wolves are great caregivers. To symbolize power, viciousness and strength, some political leaders claimed, what we would call today “raised by wolves”. The best example is certainly Benito Mussolini who claimed he is founder of “New Rome”. The idea of heroes having she-wolf blood in them isn’t new and it originates from Odysseus whose grandmother was a werewolf, and more notably Romulus and Remus. But, dualism between women’s strength and tender nature always returns us to the Capitoline wolf who sensed that Romulus and Remus have blood of the Gods in them and took care of them. That blood comes from Mars, god of war who was their father, and Vesta, goddess of family, since their mother was Vestal Virgin. The union of strength and motherhood in the Capitoline wolf made her a regarded symbol. But, modern society doesn’t accept woman as the Capitoline wolf, and therefore neither does literature. In the fantasy genre, it is quite common that female characters are stipulated on one of the roles – mother or warrior. There is an inability to see women in entirety and to portray them without all their nuances; this is a sad consequence of centuries-long patriarchal society.

That the she-wolf can be both a symbol of strength and tenderness, Martin proves in all three Stark ladies. The story about Knight of the Laughing tree gave us insight in Lyanna’s personality, Sansa’s composure when she saved Dontos’ life showed her compassionate, but also rebellious nature. And Arya’s newly companionship with HotPie and Gendry shows that she is, not just resourceful wolf girl but also in great need of belonging to a pack. The juxtaposition of Lyanna defending Howland and her crying over Rhaegar’s singing shows us that one scene doesn’t exclude the other. But, unlike many other female characters whom authors tried to deepen, Lyanna doesn’t have 2 faces. She is not a two-dimensional character where there are episodes of kindness and then episodes of strength. Lyanna’s strength originates from her emotions, her loyalty and care, and her emotions are stronger due to her strength. Exclusion of one side would inevitably affect the other, and that is where Martin shows us how deeply he can go in portrayal of female characters.

This union of strength and emotions continues on Stark girls. Arya’s love and devotion for her family transforms into overwhelming hatred towards those that harmed her and her family. Her death list is her prayer; her howl at the moon so she would one day be heard. Arya’s wildness is not just the predatory nature of a future killer, but it is also the deeply emotional freedom she aspires to. Sansa also finds the strength in her family. She repeatedly says to herself to be brave like Robb. Her moments of rage are rarer than Arya’s, but they are rooted in the emotions she feels. She was, after all, so close to kill Joffrey, madness over first bleeding overtook her and she almost burnt her room. Sansa’s internalized wildness should never be forgotten, as Arya’s deep emotions shouldn’t be disregarded. For no analysis, no prediction can be accurate without accepting that these girls are far more complex than their first impressions suggest.

The feminist notion of she-wolf symbolism in ASOIAF is of the most civilized, purest form. It empowers, equalizes, tenderly nurtures what’s good and rejects what is bad. The she-wolf in ASOIAF isn’t used as sign of domination, but as a beautiful motif of free-spirited women who can both fight and feel, who make choices and suffer the consequences. Martin’s she-wolf isn’t romanticized or transferred through million of interpretation. It is as noble as it can be, vicious as nature tells us it is. Infusion of she-wolf motif in ASOIAF’s anthropocentric world didn’t derogate the animal, but supplemented the people and given new perspective at how we should see both people and animals.

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For what it's worth, I very much look forward to reading these. Trying to figure out who Stark maternal ancestors are has been both an obsession & a frustration of mine. So who knows, you may provide overlooked clues by analyzing the current generation.

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Wonderful, Mladen! I greatly enjoyed your she-wolf essay in the Arya re-read. The other topics look mighty intriguing as well. Looking forward to reading!



(Edited to correct spelling since my cat jumped on the keyboard and now the "d" key doesn't work so well.)

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I'm confused on whether you are specifically talking about Stark women or Northern women in general.

Both actually... Will start with Stark women and then expand it on the other Northern women.

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Yay, another essay from Mladen. It looks to become really interesting.



By the way, do you intend to write something about the "damned she-wolf" Catelyn Stark [Tyrion]? Who has become a Northerner and very much linked to the Starks and the she-wolf imagery after all these years and raising some wolf-pups.


In my opinion, the she-wolf imagery is strongest with her, especially the image of the nurturing and protecting she-wolf mother.


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Yay, another essay from Mladen. It looks to become really interesting.

By the way, do you intend to write something about the "damned she-wolf" Catelyn Stark [Tyrion]? Who has become a Northerner and very much linked to the Starks and the she-wolf imagery after all these years and raising some wolf-pups.

In my opinion, the she-wolf imagery is strongest with her, especially the image of the nurturing and protecting she-wolf mother.

Thanks... I thought it was time to get back on track with essay writing... :)

Yes, I will be writing about Catelyn, and a lot., to be precise... There are so many angles in her story where one can notice how much she has adopted of Northern style and philosophy...

Thank you all for the support...

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Brilliant, I have all kind of thought running now. Another she-wolf I instantly thought of was from the Jungle Book.

Eta: not cartoon. Read: Law of the Jungle by Rudyard Kipling

Eta: So, connections can be made anywhere! If memory serves me Mowgli saves Akela with a blazing branch.

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This is thoughtful and well-written essay. However, I may be off-base here but the imagery & symbolism of wolves in the American Southwest is a bit different than those presented here. I honestly didn't realize the she-wolf had such negative connotations. I'm not well-read on this and It's been many years since I've studied Native American histories of animal symbolism so I will have to brush up a little before I can state clearly what the wolf represents in these cultures. I think you may find it worth exploring since GRRM lives in Santa Fe, NM & one cannot travel through any part of the entire region without encountering the wolf image. It's strong, positive and very pervasive.

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lol, oh mladen, you and your wolf projects. out of interest, how many of these do you own, and are you the guy who wrote that first review?

you mean this review?

This item has wolves on it which makes it intrinsically sweet and worth 5 stars by itself, but once I tried it on, that's when the magic happened. After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women. The women knew from the wolves on my shirt that I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to 'howl at the moon' from time to time (if you catch my drift!). The women that approached me wanted to know if I would be their boyfriend and/or give them money for something they called mehth. I told them no, because they didn't have enough teeth, and frankly a man with a wolf-shirt shouldn't settle for the first thing that comes to him.

I arrived at Wal-mart, mounted my courtesy-scooter (walking is such a drag!) sitting side saddle so that my wolves would show. While I was browsing tube socks, I could hear aroused asthmatic breathing behind me. I turned around to see a slightly sweaty dream in sweatpants and flip-flops standing there. She told me she liked the wolves on my shirt, I told her I wanted to howl at her moon. She offered me a swig from her mountain dew, and I drove my scooter, with her shuffling along side out the door and into the rest of our lives. Thank you wolf shirt.

Pros: Fits my girthy frame, has wolves on it, attracts women

Cons: Only 3 wolves (could probably use a few more on the 'guns'), cannot see wolves when sitting with arms crossed, wolves would have been better if they glowed in the dark.

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This union of strength and emotions continues on Stark girls. Aryas love and devotion for her family transforms into overwhelming hatred towards those that harmed her and her family. Her death list is her prayer; her howl at the moon so she would one day be heard. Aryas wildness is not just the predatory nature of a future killer, but it is also the deeply emotional freedom she aspires to. Sansa also finds the strength in her family. She repeatedly says to herself to be brave like Robb. Her moments of rage are rarer than Aryas, but they are rooted in the emotions she feels. She was, after all, so close to kill Joffrey, madness over first bleeding overtook her and she almost burnt her room. Sansas internalized wildness should never be forgotten, as Aryas deep emotions shouldnt be disregarded. For no analysis, no prediction can be accurate without accepting that these girls are far more complex than their first impressions suggest.

s.

Sansa's courage in standing up to Joffrey publicly was in defense of her family. She definitely embodies that wolf pack mentality. She really has a polite fierceness.

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I don't think Arya is as wild as she was in Westeros by ADWD, though. That suggests she has little if any control over herself. She has the wolf dreams, but she knows they are just dreams. It doesn't rule her life. She still served and did her duties in the HoBaW. If anything, her time there has taught her discipline, or rather it's building upon the her water dancing training and her time as a cupbearer. She's even working what appears to be a full time job as a seafood vendor while performing as a spy as for the temple. Her mission to learn Braavosi is also difficult for her, but she perseveres. Of course, I'm the case of the cat and Dareon, she takes her own course rather than what the temple would have her do. In general, I have a hard time seeing the child who chose blindness over being cast out of her apprenticeship as a wholly wild child. There's determination, cunning, and skill there that those with no self-control would be lacking.

Like Sansa, I don't think you can box Arya into a role. Arya's about entirely wild as Sansa is entirely obedient.

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lol, oh mladen, you and your wolf projects. out of interest, how many of these do you own, and are you the guy who wrote that first review?

I think the number surpassed 243 last week, and how in Gods' name you have found out about that? :lmao:

I don't think Arya is as wild as she was in Westeros by ADWD, though. That suggests she has little if any control over herself. She has the wolf dreams, but she knows they are just dreams. It doesn't rule her life. She still served and did her duties in the HoBaW. If anything, her time there has taught her discipline, or rather it's building upon the her water dancing training and her time as a cupbearer. She's even working what appears to be a full time job as a seafood vendor while performing as a spy as for the temple. Her mission to learn Braavosi is also difficult for her, but she perseveres. Of course, I'm the case of the cat and Dareon, she takes her own course rather than what the temple would have her do. In general, I have a hard time seeing the child who chose blindness over being cast out of her apprenticeship as a wholly wild child. There's determination, cunning, and skill there that those with no self-control would be lacking.

Like Sansa, I don't think you can box Arya into a role. Arya's about entirely wild as Sansa is entirely obedient.

I also don't consider that Arya is solely "wild wolf girl", and just as Sansa isn't as entirely obedient, Arya is not entirely wild. After all, we are not speaking about animals here, but persons, and the motifs had to be infused by some human characterization. There is a lot of animal symbolism in both girls' storylines. The one that is mostly discussed is Sansa's bird symbolism, but the one truly interesting is Arya's cat symbolism and what it brings to her story. Interestingly, when we discuss the inter-family connections, for Arya, it is always about the wolves, but when she is out there, the wolf motif gets whole another dimension with the cat, mouse, weasel motifs that speak a lot about Arya's personality.

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Brilliant, I have all kind of thought running now. Another she-wolf I instantly thought of was from the Jungle Book.

Eta: not cartoon. Read: Law of the Jungle by Rudyard Kipling

Eta: So, connections can be made anywhere! If memory serves me Mowgli saves Akela with a blazing branch.

Thank you so much. I am glad that my work is tantalizing for you guys. This board has one of the toughest audiences ever :)

The connection I usually make with Kipling's work is actually about Rickon, and the feral child aspect in his story...

Sansa's courage in standing up to Joffrey publicly was in defense of her family. She definitely embodies that wolf pack mentality. She really has a polite fierceness.

And more than that... Many times, Sansa's actions have been wrongly interpreted as abandoning her family, but there were lot about wolf theme in it. From the falling in love, to not bending the knee to Tyrion, to her pulling in herself in time of sorrow and danger and lastly adopting the lonely child. So, even though, she was presented at the beginning of the story, as this typical girl, there is a lot of going on under the surface.

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Mladen, I´m looking forward to the 3. the Steppenwolf connection. It´s probably the Hesse book I know least. I´m intrigued.

Brilliant, I have all kind of thought running now. Another she-wolf I instantly thought of was from the Jungle Book.

Eta: not cartoon. Read: Law of the Jungle by Rudyard Kipling

Eta: So, connections can be made anywhere! If memory serves me Mowgli saves Akela with a blazing branch.

Kipling is certainly a huge influence for Martin, he named an early story after the 11th law for the wolves.

"Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need and ye can; But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill man."

And if you have a little over an hour to spare you can click on the link in my sig, which is inspired by one of Kipling´s "Just So stories" :)

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