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Ice and Fire animal project: Wolves


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First and foremost, allow me to welcome everyone. This thread is organized with desire to explore animal behavior, mythology and its significance to ASOAIF. As we have all surely noticed, animals are very important part of the books. Whether we discuss about dire wolves, dragons, lions and stags or even talking about family members whose House is represented by an animal, there is no doubt that just like history, mythology and human psychology, animal behavior and their social skills have also impacted GRRM`s writing.

Before we start, I would like to emphasize that I am not an expert in animal psychology or literature. My credentials are in different areas of science, but I was intrigued by this topic, and I have done my best to present you with essays that are written with all the knowledge I have about certain topic and all the love and devotion I feel for ASOIAF. If you notice any flaw or unintentional mistake made by me or any other contributor, please be kind and correct us. The more of us participate in it, the greater chance we have in creating something better.

This thread will deal with all aspects of animal kingdom. Our first topic will be wolves, but after that we plan to embark on analyzing variety of animals that are represented by people or appear in ASOIAF. Also, each of the threads will focus on one animal, and characters that are connected to it. This is decided in order to devote properly to each and every animal in particular. Those of you that want to participate more actively in the project, are most welcome to PM me and present your ideas, thoughts and suggestions.

Our first topic is wolves. After spending significant time in researching wolves` anatomy, psychology, social behavior, and its relevance to literature, I have written this essay. This essay is just beginning, for idea is to have variety of essays written from each character`s perspective, and other relevant topics.

I hope you will have enjoyable time reading this, as I had writing it. Also, I hope many of you will find time and join me in my quest.

As for the end, I have to express my deepest gratitude towards my friends from this community that have encouraged me in my writing and all of you who were so kind to me all this time. This is for you, and for all of us. Now, let`s focus on why we are here.

Since I know this essay is too long to be read at once, I would post now a link to each part of essay, so we could discuss one by one.


1. Wolves in Literature

2. Anatomy of the Wolves

3. Wolf`s Psychology and Behavior

4. Direwolves, Wolves and Men

Also, I would like to present you our latest project with links to essays


The project will go in three directions. In first, we are going to write about wolf theme in individual Stark kids, as also Ned and his siblings. The second part will deal with variety of wolf mythology, and the third part will be about parallels in literature, art and modern culture

Starks of Winterfell – Wolves of Westeros

a. Ned Stark – quiet wolf
- Lady Nastja



d. Sansa Stark – tame she-wolf
- Mladen



g. Rickon Stark – feral child
- Lady Nastja

h. Rickard Stark`s wolf pack

While dealing with each individual of Stark family, it`s also important to talk about parallels and unions between them.

i. Brandon and Ned – contrast between 2 wolves

j. Lyanna and Ned`s daughters – the motif of she-wolves, and two sides of Lyanna embodied in Sansa and Arya
- Mladen

k. Jon and Robb – parallels and differences between brothers, lords and Kings

l. Sansa/Jon – siblings, cousin or something more? –

m. Stark children – how strong are the wolf traits in each one of them, their loyalty and love towards each other. -
evita mgfs

Wolf mythology

a. Wolf in Ancient Greece and Rome, with accent on Romulus and Remus myth -

b. Wolf in Norse mythology, Fenrir myth at the first place. -

c. Wolf in American Indian mythology –

d. Wolf in Hindu mythology -

e. Christian view on wolves, with references from Bible -
Lady Acorns

f. Wolf in Muslim world

g. Werewolf myth -
evita mgfs

Wolf in literature, art and modern culture

a. The wolf in fairytales, the motif of Big bad wolf in Aesop`s fables and Brother Grimm`s fairytale -

b. Wolf on paintings and sculptures throughout the centuries –

c. Modern day wolf and wolf myth in music, TV and movies
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These noble animals have dominated the Northern America and Europe for thousands of years. But, in the past their number has declined due to growing human population and centuries-long prosecution and killing. In Europe and North America, they are almost extinct. The proud predators of ancient times had lost battle to more intelligent and powerful enemy – men.

The wolf`s story is one of quest and conquest, ruthless struggle for land and legacy. And although they are vicious predators, wolves are capable of feeling emotions quite similar to ours. They can experience genuine affection, love and devotion. But above all else, they have utter respect for family.

In literature, wolf is not portrayed kindly. From big bad wolf to bloodthirsty werewolves, wolves have become symbol of viciousness, deception, animal instincts and general evil. The mothers have frightened children with wolf that is going to come and eat them from their earliest day. And the fear of wolves has been growing with each generation.

S. K. Robisch from Nevada University in his book `Wolves and the wolf myth in American literature` had pointed out that for portraying wolves you need to use what we know about wolves as animals as a tool to create symbolism in literary work. He used old hypothesis that whenever you write about something from real life, you should become acquainted with it. Only, he was referring to wolves. So, to write about wolves, you must have model composed of these components:

1. The real wolf - animal, such as it is. This model is about biology and physiology of the wolves. It describes them as neither good nor bad, just without embellishment and romanticism. There is no idealism, wolf is just an animal

2. The World-wolf - not the real or earthly wolf, but the “wolf” of a world of our invention, a symbolic figure shaped according to our own desire. The World-Wolf part of the model is itself made of the following components:

a. The Corporeal Wolf - attempt of a writer to represent the biological and other facts of wolves as these may be known.

b. The Ghost Wolf - the human imagination making of the wolf what the mind wants or needs for its own comfort, reassurance, or even recreational challenge. The ghost wolf has its own divided nature, which manifests itself with great moral complexity in literature. The Malevolent Ghost is the half of the ghost wolf that casts the animal as a demon, a scourge. The Benevolent Ghost is aspect of the ghost wolf where the mythic wolf god depicted either primarily or exclusively as nurturing, calm, sociable, intelligent, and even wise.

c. The Lines - the points of collision, cooperation, and question, when a wolf of the mind meets a wolf of the world.

Although professor Robisch had made quite commendable model for using wolves as symbol in literature, his observations that authors by far had been writing about wolves as they pleased is a bit exaggerating. Curiously, he does not mention GRRM in his books, or his work. He is concentrated on werewolves’ dimension and wolf mythology. His scientific ideas about wolves are based on researches conducted by biologists principally in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. So, I have used this model of professor Robisch to explore the wolf dimension in `A Song of Ice and Fire`.

As I have already said, this model consists of two components: the real wolf and world-wolf. In ASOIAF, we have both of them. We see direwolves as animals, and we have characterization of Stark family as `pack of wolves`. The real wolf component, embodied in six direwolf`s pups that are found at the beginning thrives throughout the series. While describing pups, Martin had used biology knowledge and portrayed them magnificently. With each chapter, the biology and behavior of the wolves are more and more similar to the actual animals. Stark direwolves are not pets; they are more than that, and by making that clear distinction, GRRM had began their journey as animals, as part of wilderness.

From the very first scene, it was clear that the direwolves won`t be ordinary pets. In quick words, direwolves are described as ferocious and dangerous beasts unfitting for life in castle. The fear in Jory`s eyes, Theon`s disgust, and Bran`s description show us that there are no romanticism or idealism here. Pregnant female direwolf gets pierced her with an antler. We see quite realistic picture of dead direwolf and abandoned pups, something so common in nature. Abandoned direwolf pups were adopted by six Stark siblings and nurtured by them. The newborn trust between pups and children is also very natural. The kids took care of them, gave them names and played with them. Jon`s direwolf fought over chicken, Nymeria and Summer were being trained by Arya and Bran. Although not ordinary pets, Martin had used real life experience to portray each of them.

Animals as they are, with potential of being warged by their owner, the wolves grew up. Unfortunately, Lady was killed by Ned, and Arya and Jory chased Nymeria away. Even in those few scenes we see Nymeria and Lady, we see realistic picture of two wolves. Both she-wolves are as trustful to their owners, as mistrustful to others. Lady had to be bound, because she growled at people, and Nymeria, in order to protect Arya, has bitten Joffrey. The same thing happened in Winterfell, when Summer cut the throat of man who wanted to kill Bran. Intelligently, GRRM has used normal wolf behavior to show how exceptional these wolves are. He hadn`t given them some magical abilities, and unlike so many others before him, to mention Tolkien with Shadofax or J.K. Rowling with Hedwig, managed to keep those wolves from having any specialty, other than those wolfs are known for. And after all, key for warging is in children, not the wolves.

Throughout the series, we can tell how exceptional GRRM`s knowledge about wolf is. Shaggydog becomes quite uncontrollable beast, Summer and Ghost are shown to hunt, Nymeria creates her own pack, and before RW, Grey wind sensing something`s wrong, attacked Freys. Devotion to their owners is something wolves are known for. Able to feel strong emotions, wolves get attached to those that take care of them. In wolf pack, there are no insignificant roles and positions, and they are all very involved with each other. We saw that when Summer, Grey wind and Shaggydog mourned Lady`s death. We have felt emotions these wolves have for their owners, even without a word. In writing about these direwolves, GRRM had blindly followed biology rules, and he created something wonderful. He created animals that are loved, not because of anything special in them, then because of their animal instincts, senses and nature. And that`s why GRRM excelled in part professor Robisch called `the real wolf`.

And now we move to world-wolf, symbolic figure that represents wolf in series. As we know, each of the Great Houses in Westeros takes sigil. On the sigil most commonly is an animal. Targaryens took three-headed dragon, Lannisters lion, Baratheons stag. But, Starks have taken the direwolf. Coincidence or author`s freedom, you may say, but when you look at Starks, their history and legacy, you`ll find out that GRRM couldn`t pick a better animal for Stark sigil.

Starks are family that ruled North for thousands of years. They are one of the oldest families in Westeros, descendents of First Men, ancient Kings in the North. So, why choose direwolf as sigil? First, wolves are creatures of winter. They are built that way. While other animals, like birds migrate to the south, or like bears that hibernate until spring, wolves are pretty much active during winter. They hunt, and their fur makes them most resilient to coldness. With careful observation, biologists had come to conclusion that wolves are happiest during winter, they like to play while it`s snowing. Naturally, when you are choosing sigil for ruling family of vast, cold area, wolf is at the top of your list. And when you add the Stark words to it, there is no other animal that would fit better for their sigil. So, the Starks are wolves, capable of surviving harshest winters, to endure all problems and above else, to be always loyal to other family member.

Starks are usually referenced as wolves by others. Jon reminds Ned about sigil of House Stark and that kids should have direwolf` pups, but the true symbolism comes with Catelyn`s interpretation of direwolf`s death. From that moment, each member of Stark family has been referred as wolf. Symbolism here is not against Starks. GRRM doesn`t use the wolf symbolism as derogative, he uses it to show Stark strength and unity, their devotion to family and behavior. GRRM describes Starks as `benevolent wolves`, and he uses many parallels between wolf as animal species and as a symbol of one family.

But, where GRRM truly excels is in what professor Robisch called `the lines`. He confronts his biology knowledge and the realism of the wolves with the symbolism and mythology of his own creation. In these points of collision, Martin uses all necessary metaphors so the whole picture and integrity of two sides would be preserved. GRRM had created mythology that doesn`t go against biology and science regarding wolf psychology and social skills. But also, he uses science to build immensely beautiful world. GRRM doesn`t take from wolf its nature and instincts, he enriches it with mythology that is completely in harmony with all we know about wolves.

The best example of this great union is tale about Knight of Laughing tree. In this story, four Starks are given appropriate nicknames. Brandon is called `the wild wolf`, Ned `quiet wolf`, Lyanna `she-wolf` and Benjen `the pup`. Cleverly, GRRM had used this nickname to show the true nature of each Stark individually, but also from everything we know about them, he couldn`t pick better names. Brandon, true alpha male, strong, ferocious, the one that takes what he pleased. He was wild with no regard of human laws. He was impulsive and hot blooded. Everything a good alpha wolf should be. Ned would be quiet beta. Beta wolves are usually teachers of young pups; they are strong, fierce, but also kind. Betas are much emotional than alphas, somewhat shy, but of almost or even equal strength as alpha. Lyanna`s nickname was given to describe her surname, just as Cersei is called lioness. But Lyanna was indeed `she-wolf`, as young Lady of the House, Lyanna was everything what true alpha female should be. Lethal but emotional, in Lyanna we find wonderful sublimation of great strength which she demonstrated as KoTL, and deep emotions when she cried during Rhaegar`s singing. As female without pups, she did her duties in the pack diligently, but once she gave birth, her `pup` became her obsession. We know how she pleaded and begged Ned. As for Benjen, he behaved like ordinary wolf pup, he gave advice to Howland, not realizing that in the world there are those that are stronger than him.

But GRRM hadn`t stopped there. The entire next generation is also described as wolf pack. Robb was known as `young wolf`, Sansa as `tame`, Arya `wolf child`, Bran `winged wolf` and Rickon `wild one`. But, great wolf qualities could be found in each of them. Robb was the ultimate alpha, and it was wonderfully depicted in scene where he demonstrates his strength and power by letting Grey wind bit GreatJon`s fingers. Sansa, the girl who most readers can`t imagine as being a wolf, showed the quality of she-wolf. On her wedding, Sansa refused to bend her knee to Tyrion. She clearly showed what she thinks and how she feels about this marriage. Sansa`s refusal to bend her will to her husband is often see in she-wolves that don`t want to mate with certain male. Arya is described as `wolf child, blood child` that greatly describes her origin, nature and strength. Arya, as lost wolf, spend half of series returning home. For just like every wolf, Arya wants to be with her family, her entire family, even with Sansa. Rickon`s wild nature is common for unattended pups, and Bran`s `winged wolf` unites two sides of young Stark – origin and power.

What I find interesting are the deaths of each Stark, and what caused it. And here GRRM made beautiful parallel between their deaths. Each Stark lost his life in the South, by the hand of a man, with exception of Lyanna who died in childbirth. Brandon`s death was caused by its impulsiveness, by his wild nature and hot temper. He acted without thinking, and was killed for that. Lord Rickard wanted to negotiate with the King; he wanted to reason the situation. If Starks are the wolves of ASOIAF, Southerners would be men. And if we know anything about wolves, it is that their greatest enemy is man. Ned`s and Robb`s death was also caused by men, capable of great atrocities, so unlike wolf`s true nature. Wolf can hunt and kill, and that is that. Wolves kill to eat and survive, but men are above that. Men can do such cruelty that every animal would look tame. After all, man is capable of as much atrocity as he has imagination.

Metaphorically, in this fight between North and South, Starks and the Crown, you can see centuries-long war between men and wolves. GRRM wonderfully described war that almost led to extinction of the wolves. For in Europe and North America, number of wolves is at the lowest point ever. But, if we have learnt anything from our wild friends, it is that they can endure. And just like wolves, Starks endured wars with men.

Whether we talk about animals or characters, about biology or mythology, one thing is certain. GRRM had managed to create such astonishing world through harsh realism of the real one. His wolves are neither good nor bad, whether we like it or not, they are just that – wolves. Capable of profound emotions and incapable of monstrosities like other people.

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Wolves are powerfully built animal. They are strong, solid, muscular predators. Their anatomy is in service of their life style. They have strong legs to hunt, fur to protect them from cold, and jaw that can rip meat apart in second. They are built to survive harsh conditions, and everlasting power struggles.

Since most common species of wolves is gray wolf (Canis lupus), I`ll be focusing on it. Gray wolf is strong animal that measure around 30 inches at shoulder, and around 50 from head to the tail. They are 60-100 pounds weight, which indicates low body fat percentage and therefore very active life. They are covered with moderate fur which color varies from pure black to pure white, and all the shades of grey. During winter, their pelt is growing thicker in order to acclimatize harsher weather. There is also no living example of albinism in wolves.

Strangely enough, with all his excessive knowledge of the wolves, GRRM has given us one albino wolf. Albino wolf was adopted by none other than Jon Snow. If there is no such thing as albino wolf, we can then presume that Ghost is no ordinary wolf. And when you add Jon`s line `I am not Stark, Father`, you`ll get relatively subtle proof for Jon not being Ned`s son at all.

Wolves are born with blue eyes, but during life it changes to brown, grey or yellow. Adult wolves don`t retain blue color of the eyes, and in nature only hybrids have blue eyes. At the beginning of ASOIAF, four out of five Ned and Cat`s children are described of having blue eyes. And they all represent hybrid between North and South. It is also noticeable that Arya is the only one who has the wolf`s grey eyes, given that her wolf nature is somewhat stronger than in the rest of her siblings.

Wolf`s vision is as good as in men. And although some experts think they are nearsighted, this is still to be proven. Also, wolves eyeball is very fast and is optimized to detect motion. Wolves have superior night vision, far better than men have. How far and how good can wolves see? This seems to be one of the questions that GRRM has been answering throughout the series. Ned`s, Sansa`s and even Robb`s naiveté and inability to see people`s true motives can be related as wolf`s short sightedness. Arya is also type of person who is careful about what`s happening around her, but also sometimes she is unable to see wider picture. But Bran is the flawed one here. Unlike all others, Bran`s vision is something he is known for. With embarking on search for 3EC, his eyes are becoming more and more open. But also, in the caves of CoTF, Bran becomes less wolf and more tree. With these metaphors and contrasts in portraying Starks as wolves, GRRM gives the new metaphorical meaning of seeing.

Another interesting thing about wolf eyes is their color-blindness. Unlike humans who have red, blue and green photo receptors, wolves have only red and blue photo receptors. Wolves can see red and yellow, but as we know, they are blind for green and orange. More interestingly is what you get when you talk about wolf blindness in regard ASOAF. In Wo5K, Robb was thinking about Renly and Joffrey. The Baratheon banner is yellow and Lannister`s is red. Oblivious for other colors, Robb just like wolves, haven`t seen green and orange. Green representing Tyrells and orange representing Martells, symbolizes Robb`s blindness when forging alliances is in question.

Wolves’ senses are well developed. Wolves have extremely good sense of smell, and it is believed that it is wolf`s strongest asset. Wolves also have great hearing, and are able to recognize variety of tones in howling. Scientists proved that wolves can differentiate various wolves howling, and that communication is based on knowing whose howling it is. This is similar to men`s recognizing various voices. Smell and hearing are important in hunting, sensing the enemy pack and variety of wolf behavioral skills.

Wolves or people, Starks proved they have a good intuition. Ned and Jon knew something was wrong about Joffrey and Lannisters from the first moment. Robb nicely predicted how to trap Tywin, although his plans never came to fruition due to LF and Edmure. Arya showed marvelous capability for a child to see through people`s face, and sense the danger. Their wolves had shown quite talent in discovering whom not to be trusted.

Wolves are agile creatures. They are fast, can endure long run, their legs are muscular and able to run for dozens of miles during short period of time. It is not uncommon for wolves to travel 20-30 miles running during hunt or even 120 miles walking for food. They are persistent and quite capable of finding a way back home.

Throughout thousands of years of evolution, wolves have developed solid structure in order to survive. As the cruel evolutionary laws have dictated, those weak and inadaptable perished into oblivion. And the same principle works here. Each Stark is positioned accordingly to his/hers abilities. Sansa stayed at court, while Arya ran away. Both girls would die if it was vice versa. Jon was fighting the Others and protecting the Realm, while Robb was fighting the futile civil war. Bran was at the cave of CotF, while Rickon is on Skagos. Each of them was positioned on places of great danger and they had to adapt in order to survive. Sansa learnt how to lie, Arya how to fight, Bran to warg, Jon to lead. Each of them had to change so they would survive. Because when you don`t change when you have to, when you don`t adapt, you die. And no one knows it better than Stark children. They learnt that lesson from the deaths of their family member.

Like the Druid pack from Yellowstone, Starks of Winterfell had lost their home to more dangerous and powerful enemy. Three years have Druids wandered through Yellowstone, surviving and slowly recovering. They needed three years to reclaim what was theirs for the past eight years – Lamar Valley. And they had return. Not in the number or state they were before exile, but they have survived the worst. Wolves are unique when it comes to facing the worst. Against all odds, wolves succeed. And just like Bran said at the end of CoK: Broken, not dead. That`s all wolves need – not to be dead. As long as they are alive, there is a chance.

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We needed centuries and countless researches to understand that animals are capable of feeling emotions much similar to ours. Today, we finally understand what has eluded us for so long. We understand that we can live in harmony with other species as long as we respect their ways.

With industrial revolutions and growing population, humankind has claimed the Earth. We transformed it into our planet, reshaping it to our will. Throughout the millennia of our existence, we have drastically changed what was given to us, claiming it over less intelligent and advanced predators. Our comprehension of animals has been stuck in one point for centuries. They were either food or enemy. We divided them on those we kill out of use and those we kill out of protection. In such division, wolves have been on other side. Mortal enemy of man`s attempt to progress, vicious predator without mercy. The ignorance has become dogma for centuries. But, for all our flaws, we have to admit one thing. We are versatile species, and some among us have overcome fear, and explored our so-called enemies. Among them, some were even dealing with the worst kind – wolves.

If there is one thing wolf biologists agree, it is that they are highly intelligent, emotional creatures. They are capable of performing high mental functions, such as learning, communication, and memory. Their research gave astonishing results that changed entire picture we had about wolves. And those bold, who even dared to live among them, had come to conclusion that there are more to wolves than meets the eye or than we know of.

First and foremost, the most important thing anyone should know about wolves is that they are social animals. They are organized in packs, a social unit quite similar to family, where each member has its position. The hierarchy in the pack is strictly followed and once challenged, leads to immediate solution. At the top of wolf hierarchy is alpha pair: male and female wolf who dominates the pack. Alpha male controls all the male members and alpha female all the female members of the pack. They enforce order by ritual fights that serve as constant reminder who is at the top, and through variety of games seen as demonstration of power. Alpha wolves are the leaders of the hunt, first who grab the prey, and the one who gets the first meal: heart, liver and kidney. The role of alpha female is somewhat different. She is the mother of the pack. She takes care of the pups, and enforces order among female members. Alpha female is chosen among female wolves by alpha male during mating period. And once chosen, she remains it until her death. The second in hierarchy is beta pair. Betas are strong wolves, quite capable, and sometimes even strong as alpha. Beta`s position in the pack is important, for he constantly challenge alpha for dominance, and tries to claim the pack through either ritual fights or seducing an alpha female, which would bring him stronger progeny. The female beta does the same with alpha male. She seduces him so he would mate her and she would eventually become an alpha female. Betas are usually the teachers of the pack. Once the mother allows the rest of the pack to come and see the new pups, betas are the ones who play with youngsters and teach them how to howl and hunt. At the bottom of hierarchy is the omega wolf. Omega is the weakest link of the pack. Omega is submissive to other members of the pack, rarely challenges its position and is constantly reminded of its place. Omega comes last at everything, even in sharing the prey. After everyone is fed, if the alpha allows it, omega approaches the carcass and starts eating. Although it was believed that omega has no role in the pack, it was proven otherwise. The lost of omega in packs causes general depression, which indicates that omega was very much loved by the pack members. Also, by some scientists, the role of omega is more psychological. By them, omega serves so alpha would demonstrate its dominance, and boost its ego. This very organized structure of the pack indicates the very social nature of the wolves.

But, the need for pack was not just evolutionary necessity. Biologists have discovered that it`s the wolf`s impulses that makes it become part of something bigger. The whole identity of the wolf is intertwined with its pack. According to scientists, this doesn`t differ from man`s attachment to family. Just like our surname fully determines our identity, belonging to a pack determines wolf`s identity.

The pack structure, behavior of variety of members and the psychological need for belonging to a pack indicate that wolves are very loyal animals. Their loyalty is shown in many examples. For instance, alpha male isn`t just the leader, he is also caregiver to entire pack. Wolves are shown to take care of each other. Wounded members are not let behind. The entire pack licks the wounds of the wounded. This licking, interestingly, is proven to be therapeutic. Wolf`s saliva contains many antimicrobial compounds that are good in cleaning the wounds and preventing the infections. Also, while the mother is taking care of the pups, other pack members bring her the food. All of this proves strong unity of the pack.

In literature, wolves are not either loyal or kind. The Big bad wolf symbolism created somewhere at the dawn of humankind has dominated literature for centuries. Even in mythology, there are only few examples of wolf being the noble animal. The term werewolf, which in history symbolized cursed man that transforms during full moon into vicious animal, and nowadays hunky teenager that loses a battle for the girl against vampire, represents all that is wrong in our perspective towards wolves. If we exclude, modern teen werewolves, GRRM has been one of rare that portrayed the wolves as kind animals capable of doing good deeds. GRRM has passed over deeply incorporated myths about wolves, and created something uniquely beautiful and powerful.

Combining biology with literary freedom, GRRM had given us such great mythology. His characters, which embody both idealism and raw strength of wolves, have all the qualities and flaws wolves ordinarily have. His portrayal of wolves through characters isn`t idealistic or even romantic, it`s real, and in most cases you can feel the real wolf behind each character.

Starks of Winterfell got the honor of being called the wolves of Westeros. But, the wolf doesn`t symbolize just their origin, their surname. It was carefully given to emphasize the wonderful parallel between animal and man. If we all can agree upon one thing, that is strong unity of Stark family. Their loyalty to each other, devotion and love is above words. So unlikely for Westeros, we have seen such great example of unbreakable family ties. Tully`s words may signify family before everything, but it`s the Starks whose story is all about family.

It`s no matter who are we talking about, they all want their family back together and safe. The best example is Ned, this paragon of honor and duty, moral giant among the serpents of treachery, who sacrificed every ideal he had to protect his daughter. Or the girls who spent half of series looking for home, and suffered in silence that they are not home. Rickon embodies abandoned pup, and what happens when the pack is broken.

Arya`s story is enriched when you look at it from wolf`s behavior point. Arya represents beta female, second born daughter, always reminded of how ugly she is compared to her older sister. She was never Sansa, no matter how she would try it. On the first scene, when Arya describes how Sansa got the Prince, and Arya had to be with Tommen, it is shown how strong beta Arya is. This behavior is so common for she-wolves, especially when they are not satisfied with partner. Arya`s fearsome nature, her curiosity and instincts made quite clear case how similar Arya`s psychological profile is to the she-wolf. Arya also had to face with something that young pups sometimes face – the death of a parent. In both cases, Arya was half-broken, half-determined to avenge their death. Arya is the true wolf in her every action.

But as much as Arya is the real wolf, the rest of her siblings differ a bit. Sansa, Robb and Bran might not have all the wolf traits Arya has, but they are also very comparable to wolves. Robb is the alpha male, after his father`s death, and he shows it with every opportunity, but he also has difficult choice in front of him – family or war. Wolves in general don`t have to make these choices, in battles for territory, they fight until death or conquest. So, it`s natural to understand the difficulty of situation Robb was in. Also, Robb showed great characteristics of alpha male. Once alpha male chooses his mate, it`s for life. And Robb did exactly that. He lost his virginity to one girl, and he stayed with her. In this, he is so like his father, who slept with only one woman in his entire life (if we believe in R+L=J theory, and I do). But, Robb was also great leader. Even after his death, after his armies were won, his pack continued fighting for his cause. Unlike other bannermen, Stark`s actually care for the well being of the family they served for centuries. And they don`t forget that.

Sansa, on the other hand, is not the proper wolf. She is very much lady-like. But if you look deeper, under the beautiful exteriority, you will find something strong and unique. From time to time, she reminds us who she is. Her love for family hasn`t diminished for a second, her sadness is without tears in public. Just like wolves who usually don`t cry in public, but are able for tears, Sansa wears her grief silently in herself. Her nice and shiny wolf moment was definitely the moment when she refused to bend the knee to Tyrion on their wedding. With that act, she did what she-wolves do when they don`t want to mate, she hadn`t bowed. Sansa knew how hurtful it was to Tyrion, but she had no regards. She was cold and determined to show that this isn`t her will. But Sansa`s wolf behavior continues in Eyrie where she basically adopts Sweetrobin. She-wolves are known to be kind and gentle to young pups, and are known for strong maternal instincts.

The most wonderful parallel between Starks and the nature you can find is in Druid pack of Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. This pack has ruled for 9 years the Lamar Valley from 1996-2005, an entire era if you count in our years. To rule such Valley for that long time is almost unheard of. But then, wolf #21, the alpha male died, and soon Druids lost control of Lamar. They went into exile, where they spend relatively 3 years merely surviving. During that period, most likely parvovirus caused infection of many inhabitants in Lamar Valley, and provoked deaths of many wolves of the ruling packs. After it was finally safe, Druids returned to their homeland. Once great pack (in 2001 there were 37 of them), reduced to much smaller number. But they have survived. And this story has been described as tale of quest and conquest, struggle for land and legacy. This wonderful story is so relatable to heroes of ASOIAF, giving hope to all Stark-lovers that from the top of Winterfell, one day Stark banner will dance on wind, marking the return of the wolves.

Another very important characteristic in wolves is their tenacity. Wolves are build to survive anything, and they don`t give up easily. They are extremely great hunters, and can hunt for days. They also fight to win, they don`t surrender or quit easily. Once beaten, wolf will retreat, but there`s a big chance it will come back. Also, very important thing about wolves is that they are secretive. They don`t trust outsiders, and are quite cautious around strangers. But once a wolf becomes a member of the pack, they share everything, food, secrets, fate.

Interestingly, not one member of Stark family thrived while the others suffered. Each one of them had their own perils, and they shared the same fate on different ways and positions. While Sansa was tortured in King`s Landing, Arya was wandering through Westeros, Robb was in the war, and Bran and Rickon were captured by Theon and Jon was facing wildings and the Others. None of them had an easy time while others were facing grave danger. Also, this poetically symbolizes they were eating from the same platter. And just like wolves who feast on one carcass, they shared fate and peril all the way. GRRM had given us such beautiful story of the family who unlike many others shared everything – both joy and grief.

In perilous times, lone wolf dies, while pack survives. The story of Starks isn`t just the story of one family in ruthless world. It is more than that. It unites deepest human emotions with most amazing wolf`s traits. For Starks represent unity between two worlds, wolf and man, science and mythology. And that`s why ASOIAF is their story.

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Homo homini lupus est. Or as we would say, a man is a wolf to man. Can we say the same for men and wolves? And in that equation, where does direwolf stand? What is direwolf to a wolf, and wolf to a man?

Direwolf, one of the most ferocious predators that ever walked the Earth, persisted during Ice Age for nearly 1, 8 million years. It was the largest known wolf. Approximately 2 feet tall and 5 feet long and around 180 pounds weight, direwolf was the force to be reckoned with in Ice Age. For thousands of years, it lived in harsh world among mammoths, bisons, and sabertooth cats. In the ruthless condition, 10 000 years ago, in North America, direwolves dominated the landscape like so few others.

In comparison to his younger, weaker brother, grey wolf, direwolf was truly a savage animal. Although, they share anatomy and physiology, there are few significant differences between two species. Direwolf`s bones were aproxiately of the same size as wolf`s, but they were much thicker, indicating that the muscles connected to bones were much longer and stronger. The difference was also in their head size, especially in jaw and teeth area, where direwolf dominated over wolf. The importance of head size is seen during hunt. Larger head, with stronger jaw and teeth provide stronger and more lethal bite. Unlike wolf, direwolf was capable of tackling down animal 10 times bigger. In that time, wolves were underdogs because of their smaller size and strength comparing to direwolf`s.

But, then 10 000 years ago, at the near end of Pleistocene epoch, things abruptly changed. Suddenly, in just several hundred years, direwolves extinct and somehow wolves survived. Although, there are no definite scientific proofs, there are few very likely scenarios that scientists believe it happened. According to the most scientists, the extinction of direwolves happened because of climate changes that occurred at the end of Pleistocene epoch, making climate much warmer. But, some scientists believe that climate isn`t the only cause of their extinction, due to the fact that direwoves had survived several climate changes during Ice age. For them, there are two more possible causes. The first one is the comet that passed near Earth, somewhere 10 000 years ago and exploded over North America. The explosion influenced climate changes and made the change more abrupt and difficult to adapt. With this sudden change, many prehistoric predators alongside direwolves fell into oblivion. The other and also very possible cause is appearance of men. Prehistoric men, who behaved just like wolves, lived in tribes and hunted that way. They competed with direwolves for food, and were more intelligent hunters. But also, with appearance of men, appeared variety of microorganisms that could have infected animals. With combination of climate changes, competition for food, and new diseases, direwolves had no chance. But, how then the grey wolf, the weaker kind survived?

Unlike direwolves, wolves had to satisfy with what was left. They were also forming packs, and were attacking in them, but they weren`t as nearly as dangerous as direwolves. This influenced their diet. While direwolves were feeding of large animals like horses or bisons, wolves had to satisfy with smaller animals, and fish. This dietary distinction will save wolves from extinction. Because of the fewer number of large animals, wolves would eat smaller animals and fish, while direwolves would starve to death. Wolves` ability to adapt on new conditions saved them from the fate their stronger relatives had to suffer. But they were far from safe.

If any animal throughout the history was considered men`s worst enemy, it certainly would be the wolf. Thousands of years passed, and there is still a constant fight between men and wolf all around the world. With growing population and development of agriculture, men fought endless battles with wolves to protect the livestock. In history, wolf has been presented as evil, something that should be afraid of and even raw malice of wilderness. That had led to even legislated prosecutions of wolves (like in England and Yugoslavia) in Europe and North America through various periods of time. Lastly, the number of wolves is at its lowest point ever. In USA there are only 9 000 wolves, in Canada 60 000, in Russia 20 000 and in entire Europe, no more than 15 000. When you compare that to population of each continent, one thing is obvious. Man has won the war against the wolves.

The wolves have outlived diewolves, man has beaten wolves. This is what happened in our world. But, how things stand in ASOIAF? As was already been discussed, Stark family embodies the wolves in Westeros. Direwolves would be their distant relatives, First Men and ancient Kings in the North, and the role of men goes to Southerners, descendents of those that prosecuted the First Men and their religion, and those that enforced their lifestyle, culture and beliefs.

The wonderful parallel between North back then and North at the beginning of ASOIAF, gives Ned Stark. In the crypts of Winterfell, Ned senses the strength, cruelty and harshness of ancient Kings. They were not knights of summer, or men known for mercy and kindness. They were strong men with their own code. They created their own laws and followed them. From all we know of them, they weren`t alike Kings of today, they were like winter, cold, powerful and wild. They were direwolves just like the animal on their sigil. More dangerous than calm, they ruled fiercely for thousands of years, remaining unchallenged and unbeaten for all that time. But, just like uncompromising direwolves, their reign ended. When Aegon the Conqueror landed on Dragonstone, and began invasion of Westeros, last King in the North bended his knee and surrendered him the North. With that, time of the unbeaten direwolf has passed. Their sons shall be called the Lords and Wardens, and they shall be called the wolves.

For wolves they were. Each of Stark Lord was bound to Iron Throne. He could have been wild and unchallenged in his own area, but he was obliged to obedience to another animal – dragon. From alpha position Starks as direwolves had, they had become strong betas, for dragon took them the power they had. So, for three hundred years, they lived and ruled the North, without too much interference in Southern affairs. But, wolf is hungry beast, and it seeks for new prey and power. With misguided idea that mixing with Southerners will bring him something good, Lord Rickard engaged his firstborn son to daughter of Riverrun, and his only daughter to Lord of Storm`s end.

Dragons were gone, and the Kings of Westeros were nothing more than men with pathological obsession of grandeur and purity of blood, lesser sons of greater fathers. And when conflict began, Aerys showed how little of that grandeur is in him. He did what neither dragon nor wolf would ever do. The atrocity committed during so-called trial of Rickard and Brandon Stark was the doing of a man. Beasts know how to kill, but not to torture. Beasts kill for food and power, not for sick amusement. And just like in our world, men, with their intelligence and cruelty, were victorious over wolves. But wolves fought, and at the end Aerys was killed, the crown passed to another man, and half of the royal family had gone to exile.

But this was just the beginning of war the wolves will have with men. Only 14 years after, the men will once more challenge the wolves. When Joffrey ordered Ned`s death, it wasn`t lion who did it. Joffrey wasn`t the beast we often compare him to. Once more, this was done by someone who wanted grandeur and respect, by someone who didn`t kill of need, than out of fun. Joffrey was in this act, more human than beastly. And everything he has been doing since then was confirmation of that. Starks had to face another peril. With the death of alpha male, the young pup had to claim position. But, alas others had made of him direwolf. His bannermen made of him King in the North. Robb Stark, a child, a pup, had suddenly had the title of such different people. Robb wasn`t the like the old Kings in the North. He had not their strength, their harshness and preservation. Unfortunately, he died in treacherous act orchestrated by lion, and played by so lesser creature, that calling him a being would be an insult. His siblings, scattered around the world, survived the worst. They were attacked, tortured and captured. But, they have endured all that, and are in path that leads home. For wolf`s path always leads home.

Direwolves died out of their inability to compromise, wolves are almost extinct because they don`t have sense for cruelty as men, and men prevailed due to his intelligent nature. The war between the South and the North is not finished. Of four remaining Stark children, only one will have to make the first move and attack, and then others will follow. They will tackle the beasts and the men that wounded them and rip them apart. Just like all the wolves in nature do.

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Mladen, that's amazing and a lot of work. Can't comment on all of it now.

Just a quick bit about Wolves in Literature. I was particularly interested in the Benevolent Wolf theme. We have stories of Romulus and Remus where the wolf cares for the orphans, which ties in to the idea.

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Wow, excellent work!

I think the symbolism of wolves is just what Ned said in aGoT: The pack survives, but the lone wolf dies.

I believe that all house sigils (at least all great houses) pretty much symbolize their house. For example, the Tyrells are fine to look upon (especially Margaery :D ) but whoever touches them has to face their thorns.

Or house Martell. I think that the sun means that at some point, they are going to rise, and that would be quite the sight to see.

It's probably just bullcrap though.

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I've read the first two and love what you're doing--I too, plan to come back to read more. But there is one angle of wolves that might be of interest (or not) that I don't see hit on: The indiscriminate nurturer--Remus and Romulus, abandoned by their mother, are suckled by Lupa, a she-wolf. They are HUMAN (her enemy) but infant (innocent). This is actually consistent with animal nature--all babies have big heads, large eyes... there are commonalities that make mothers willing to cross species to nurture. But I guess what I find interesting in relation to this series, is instead of the abandoned humans raised by wolves, it is the direwolves raised by humans. I think we ALL have loyalties to our mothers, and our mothers are the ones who raised us.

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In Norse mythology, the wolf is a symbol for victory when ridden by Odin and the Valkyries on the battlefield. Meaning the Starks are going to be victorious in the end.

In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf. A wolf raising an infant king in hiding, Ned and Jon anyone?

As a Celtic animal sign, a wolf "is fearless, brave and they rarely compromise. These are the hero's you want by your side in the heat of battle. They will not back down, and they will take no quarter. Others marvel at their inner fortitude. Where do they find the energy and wherewithal to keep going? They thrive on challenge, that's what gives them their stamina. They have impeccable character, and 'honor' is their middle name. They are strong willed, and sometimes live up to the 'lone wolf' label. Nevertheless, you always know where you stand with them, and they will unite with you as long as you share their cause."

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Back when I was in school, in some class or other (psychology? anthropology?) we learned about a survey taken among students in New Zealand, British and Maori. They were asked what they were afraid of. The British kids said "wolves" and the Maoris said "ghosts". I'd be willing to bet that neither group had ever seen the object of their fears.

The point? That wolves are a legendary fear figure in European culture, perpetuated through literature.

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All of you, thank you very much. Your praises mean a lot to me. I have add official SUMMARY to the OP, so you could read one by one essay and reply to them partially. I know it`s a bit overwhelming to read it everything at once. So, for now let us focus on Wolves in literature essay, and what your thoughts about it. So, do you agree with POV I have presented in the text? Is there anything I have missed to mention? What are your thoughts about dualism between man and animal in ASOIAF?

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I have read the Wolves in Literature essay, first you deserve a :thumbsup: for your efforts, i found it interesting and I liked it when you compared the traits of wolves to the starks, like family & their loyalty to each other, a pack mentality, not capable of committing monstrous acts, which fits the starks perfectly as they are not capable of some of the things that Tywin and Cersei Lannister have done. I had always thought that the dire wolves took after their masters, in the chapters of stark siblings and we see subtle differences in the dire wolves, like the contrast between Summer and Shaggy Dog, Ned thinking (when he is about to kill Lady) how lady was gentle, the smallest and the most trusting among the dire wolves, In all a good essay, I will read the other essays later and get back to you.

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I have read the Wolves in Literature essay, first you deserve a :thumbsup: for your efforts, i found it interesting and I liked it when you compared the traits of wolves to the starks, like family & their loyalty to each other, a pack mentality, not capable of committing monstrous acts, which fits the starks perfectly as they are not capable of some of the things that Tywin and Cersei Lannister have done. I had always thought that the dire wolves took after their masters, in the chapters of stark siblings and we see subtle differences in the dire wolves, like the contrast between Summer and Shaggy Dog, Ned thinking (when he is about to kill Lady) how lady was gentle, the smallest and the most trusting among the dire wolves, In all a good essay, I will read the other essays later and get back to you.

Thanks Manderlay, I hope you`ll like the rest of it. My idea wasn`t just to have some idealistic view than to show how GRRM was truly brilliant in joining two worlds in such great manner. Also, you`ll find that there are more to the wolves than just pack mentality. And I will also wait your opinion about other essays.

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Excellent idea for a thread Mladen and excellent work. With lions, dragons, stags and krakens and all the symbolism Martin makes and the parallels he draws this is a great field to explored, indeed.

I think the two most common symbolic functions of the wolf that come to mind are these: a manifestation of man's animalistic, primitive and savage side as well as that of the bid bad wolf, what befalls those that step outside conventional morality and thus forfeit the protection of society. In both cases a resident of wild places beyond the control of man. It is no accident that the Starks stand on the edge of civilization, where old powers rule, remnants of times when the world was a far less acomondating place for man to live in, when man was subject to the whims of nature. The Starks are not only adapted to survive that region, they are part of it.

This is compounded by the choice of the mythological version of the wolf as a the sigil rather than the actual animal itself. Martin's direwolves are leaner with longer legs, bigger heads and longer, more pronounced snouts, which serves the image of them snarling, far bigger than the existing wolves or their now exitnct cousins.This accentuates the idea of the wolf as a wanderer in wild places and reinforces the threat the mytohlogical wolf is meant to represent which the actual animal just can't live up to. The direwolf is everything the wolf represents in myth.

This is contrasted with behaviour of wolves. They depend on cooperation and strong family ties in order to survive. There is life and warmth and purpose in the pack. Ned is seen by his enemies as a cold, unyielding and dangerous man, while to his family he is a mild mannered, loving father. Littlefinger sees the wolf lair as a cold and dark place and Sansa immediately contradicts him. Theon and Lady Dustin have glimsed inside and wanted to be part of it.

There is another contrast between the wolf and the mythological direwolf that arises. Man has conquered his environment and wolves are not feared any more. They are treated as a nuissance and are hunted. So do the Starks. The kings of winter have bent the knee and direwolves had not been seen south of the wall in living memory. But winter is comiing and the direwolves are returning with it. Man's reign over nature is going to be contested.

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Nice topic and great work, Mladen. Will have to take some time because of your essays length. Incidentally, I found this a few days back:


Also, it would be valid for someone who has a copy to explore the parallels with

London's novels. I think he's an author Martin is fond of.

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