From the Maester’s Desk: The Lone Wolf Dies, but the Pack Survives

Pups

The article contains spoilers from ASOIAF.

Bran: Where are the rest of you?

Leaf: Gone down into the earth…Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us.

– A Dance with Dragons, Bran III

Direwolves are named after an actual prehistoric wolf species. The real-life dire wolves disappeared along with many other megafaunal species, though the reasons behind the extinction event are still being debated. Climate change is one of the many hypotheses, though it wasn’t winter what came for them, but a rise in temperature instead.

The Ice & Fire Direwolves seem to have been extinct south of the Wall for quite some time now, to the point they have achieved a near-mythical status, enough to be considered “freaks” by some. Beyond the Wall, where the land remains mostly untouched by human beings (apart from the wildlings), it is said they can still be found.

Despite the fact they’re considerably larger and stronger than common wolves, and also more intelligent, they have no magical attributes or skills that would set them too much apart from their smaller relatives. Otherwise, the Starks would’ve had an easier time against their enemies.

The way the direwolves were introduced in the story was a beautiful way to foreshadow the fate that would befall the Stark family. An adult direwolf wolf killed by a stag, survived by her six pups. After reading the story, the symbolism is clear: Ned Stark died as a consequence of Robert making him his Hand – that, or Joffrey (who was officially a Baratheon) ordering his execution. It works both ways.

One of the six pups was found distanced from the others, a subtle touch by George R.R. Martin to signal Jon wasn’t really the son of Ned. Later on, Ned’s thoughts and memories about the Tower of Joy would make this fact obvious, but the direwolf moment remains really poetic for me.

Sadly (and rather infamously) the limitations that come with the live-action adaptation of a fantasy story would mean less screen time for the direwolves, with Daenerys’ dragons taking the lion’s share of the CGI budget. It’s easy to understand why: the dragons are a big selling point for the show and also help to make more spectacular set pieces. But it’s a shame nonetheless to see the poor direwolves sitting on the bench, since they have hardly seen any action at all.

Last time in From the Maester’s Desk, we took a look at some of the dragons from the Ice and Fire saga. It’s only fair that this time I give the same treatment to the amazing creatures represented in House Stark’s sigil.


Lady

Lady

Status in the books: Deceased.

Status in the show: Deceased.

Lady was the direwolf adopted and raised by Sansa Stark. The smallest of the litter, she soon learned to be as elegant and graceful as her owner.

Sadly, she became collateral damage as a result of both Joffrey’s cruelty and Sansa’s defense of him instead of siding with her sister Arya. Sansa can’t be blamed too harshly, since she was young and in love. Being in love with someone can lead anyone to ignore the other person’s worst impulses. And speaking out against Joffrey would’ve surely ended the relationship.

The TV adaptation pretty much adapted the sad end of Lady verbatim. And even if the mercy killing by Ned happened off-screen, many people still got upset and complained about it on the internet, prompting a response from Martin himself, who assured the audience the real Lady (a Northern Inuit named Zunni) was alive and well, and not only that, but was also adopted by actress Sophie Turner.

Nymeria

Nymeria

Status in the books: Alive.

Status in the show: Alive.

Nymeria, Arya’s direwolf, also left us early, but fortunately not because she died. After biting Joffrey Baratheon, who was abusing Mycah (the son of a butcher who was a friend of Arya, and later killed by the Hound), Arya realized she had to chase her away. Otherwise, Nymeria would’ve faced certain death (which is what happened to Lady in the end).

She finally returned to the show this year, after six years of absence, if only to let us now that she was still alive. Nymeria recognized Arya, but refused to come home with her. She has a new home now in the Riverlands, and a wolf pack of her own.

In the books, however, we kept getting nuggets of information, suggesting Nymeria’s still around. Rumors of a monstrous female wolf leading a pack of wolves in the Riverlands, showing no fear for men nor hounds.

From A Storm of Swords onwards, Arya starts having “wolf dreams”, much like Bran’s, meaning she’s a warg too. This trait for Arya was cut from the show, though currently we can only speculate on the reasons why. Most likely it was a matter of streamlining, and a desire to leave each Stark kid with an unique set of skills. Bran gets to be a warg, and Arya a Faceless assassin.

I think it’s unlikely Nymeria will return in Season 8, and that her brief appearance in Season 7 is enough closure for her story, but surely George is planning something different for her. Arya seems to be going through a darker path in the novels, to the point of enjoying munching on innocent shepherds and their dogs during her wolf dreams. Her show counterpart, on the other hand, has never harmed anyone who’s innocent.

Grey Wind

GreyWind

Status in the books: Deceased.

Status in the show: Deceased.

Grey Wind, Robb’s direwolf, got his name due to his fast speed and grey fur.

Unlike his brothers and sisters (with the exception of Ghost), he participated in many battles alongside the Young Wolf, and earned fearsome reputation for both himself and his owner. Terrified and defeated Lannister forces would tell stories of how Robb could turn into a wolf at will, or how he couldn’t be killed.

Despite their prowess in the battlefield, both Grey Wind and Robb were ultimately killed at the Red Wedding, at the orders of the treacherous Walder Frey. Much like the direwolf corpse at the beginning of the story was a sign of things to come, Walder was very much like the stereotypical troll who guards a bridge. Robb tried to renege on his payment by marrying Talisa (who replaced Jeyne Westerling in the books, a character with a similar role) instead of one of Frey’s daughters.

We only got precious few shots of Grey Wind, but I really lament we didn’t get a particular moment from the books among them. That is, when Robb and his host arrive at the Twins, and Grey Wind growls at some of the Frey brothers, as if suspecting something, and Catelyn urges his son to trust the direwolf. Grey Wind was locked in the stables instead, and we know what happened later.

Apart from budget concerns, I imagine that potential scene was nixed because it heavily telegraphs the Frey betrayal, but it would’ve been nice to see such a display of intelligence from Robb’s wolfish friend.

Summer

Summer

Status in the books: Alive.

Status in the show: Deceased.

Summer was Bran’s direwolf. In the books, his fur is a mix between silver and grey, whereas in the show he was mostly white, with a dash of light brown.

A loyal friend to the crippled Stark kid, he saved him from the catspaw assassin and later sacrificed himself to give Bran time to escape from the wights that were invading the cave where the Three-Eyed Raven used to live.

Before his demise, Summer’s role seemed to be serving as training wheels for Bran to test his warging abilities.

As of A Dance with Dragons, Summer’s still alive and kicking in the novels, remaining by Bran’s side. It is likely that even if the dramatic “Hold the Door” moment doesn’t play out like in the screen adaptation (and it likely won’t, considering Jojen is still alive), Summer will die before or shortly after Bran finishes his training with Bloodraven and becomes the new “three eyed crow”. If only because it is fitting that such transformation comes with a cost: not only the loss of Bran’s previous identity, but also the lives of the friends who helped him reach his goal.

Shaggydog

Shaggydog

Status in the books: Alive.

Status in the show: Deceased.

Lady had the least number of appearances in both the show and the novels, but Shaggydog is a close second. Rickon’s direwolf, with his unique black fur, was the most feral of the pack -something that was exemplified when he jumped at Bran and Osha, scaring them.

Very much like his master, Shaggy didn’t have too large of a presence in either the screen adaptation or the source material. After leaving Winterfell, and realizing he wouldn’t be able to make his little brother travel so far up North, Bran made the call to send Rickon away, along with Osha and Shaggy, thinking they’d be safe under the protection of House Umber.

Turns out the Umbers had different plans for them, and after two seasons of absence, Shaggy finally returned in Season 6 in the form of a severed head. It was a rather ignoble end for him, but at least we can assume he didn’t go down without a fight, trying to protect Rickon.

Shaggy’s still alive in the books, same as Summer. Apparently (if we are to take the vision from a dream at face value) hunting and eating unicorns in Skagos. An unicorn injured him with its horn, but I doubt it’s a grave wound. Most likely just a flesh wound.

I feel like the unceremonious death of the Rickon-Osha-Shaggy trio in the show had to do more with the importance of tying up a loose end and the restructuring/abbreviation of the story than with George’s plans. Should they reappear in The Winds of Winter or A Dream of Spring, it’ll be under different circumstances and Rickon would effectively be lord of Winterfell (if we consider Bran is unable to take that role and Jon isn’t a Stark). My prediction is that him and Shaggy will be around and ready by the time the Others come down from Beyond the Wall.

Ghost

Ghost3

Status in the books: Alive.

Status in the show: Alive.

All the direwolves have their fans, but the favorite has to be Jon’s. Ghost was the runt of the litter, an albino with fur as white as snow and red eyes. In the novels he’s the inseparable companion of Jon Snow, but budget limitations has kept him mostly absent from the screen: he didn’t show up at all in Season 7. Sure, we all loved “The Spoils of War,” but Ghost’s disappearance was a shame all the same (there’s allegedly a brief scene in which Jon says farewell to Ghost before departing to Dragonstone that was cut from the final product, so we’ll have to wait and see if it’s included as an extra in the Blu-ray/DVD release).

Just like Arya, Jon is revealed to be a warg and have “wolf dreams” in the novels. That’s the main reason so many fans believe he warged into Ghost after he was betrayed and stabbed during the mutiny at Castle Black. This character trait didn’t make it to the show, so apart from the “Ghost” theory, it’s somewhat hard to see how it’ll factor in the two remaining novels, if it does in any significant way, that is.

As the war against the Night King (and Cersei) looms, and having in mind that Season 8 will be something akin to a Hollywood blockbuster thanks to the shortened number of episodes, surely Ghost will take part in a major battle this time. He had to sit out The Battle of the Bastards because of Wun Wun (it wasn’t possible to have both of them) so with a bit of luck, the dragons, undead giants and (possibly) elephants won’t prevent Ghost from kicking some wight (or Golden Company) butt.

If Ghost remains MIA, it wouldn’t be surprising, though. And perhaps it’d be for the best -as I said before in a past article, an absent Ghost is a live one. I sincerely hope he doesn’t go out the way of Summer (despite it was a noble sacrifice). Liam Cunningham said it best: “I would prefer to have Ghost with Davos [rather] than with Jon. […] A big battle like that is no place for a direwolf. They’re not gonna last very long”.

Even if the “warging” theory doesn’t come to fruition, it’s a safe bet to assume Ghost will see more action in the final two novels, which are free from the limitations of a CGI budget. Same as with the show, I’d hope George doesn’t kill him, even if it’s just a fool’s hope. If the dragons are bound to die, at least let us keep one of the direwolves (well, two if you count Nymeria).


And that’s it for our furry friends, for the time being at least. What do you think? Will the direwolves be around for longer than we think? Or will they become extinct (south of the Wall at least) after the two great wars that are about to happen? Will Nymeria have pups of her own one day? And are we getting more Ghost in Season 8 or do you think he’ll remain inside with Davos where no arrows or ice spears can reach him? Which is your favorite direwolf?

30 responses

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    1. In retrospect, I’d almost say that the show would have been better off excising the direwolves entirely. You would need feature film-level budget (or just do the story with animation) to do the direwolves properly, and as a result they’ve ended up such a minor presence that it would have been cleaner to have them not there at all in the end.

      I disagree about Summer dying in the books, incidentally. Summer is a way for GRRM to get Bran into the physical action in a way that he otherwise can’t.

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    2. Ghost is an important part of Jon’s character and presence and the connection between them is somewhat supernatural.

      Without Ghost, Jon’s character is diminished somewhat.

      When Dany says, ‘without the dragons…we were just like everyone else’, that’s exactly what happens to Jon whenever Ghost is not with him.

      I wonder, as well, if there is something different about Ghost which reflects the fact that his master is different too.

      He seems much more cunning than the other direwolves – almost as if he knows what’s happening all the time. Like a greenseer animal.

      Hey, since the old religion is basically a type of animism, why can;t there be animal equivalents of greenseers?

      My God, that idea’s so fucking cool! I doubt it’d turn out to be more than just an idea, but can you imagine the possibilities?

      Ghost can see the past and future. Ghost has other powers too perhaps that have no yet been revealed.

      A supernatural direwolf with powers. Wow, just wow.

      It would make him much more of a threat than just a big wolf.

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    3. The Lone Wolf Dies, but the Pack Survives….

      The Sansa Aria scene at the end of season 7 episode 7 could be a foreshadowing and or repeated in season 8 referring to “THE” Lone Wolf … brother/cousin J

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    4. Fantastic round up of the direwolves! I remember having a dreaded feeling after reading that conversation between Leaf and Bran, as if there was no room for magic or fantastical creatures by the end of the ASOIAF series. I’m hoping more direwolves survive in the books.

      It’s a little sad that the intelligence of the direwolves can’t really be adapted into the show but I loved reading how they think (Ex: Summer’s thoughts when Theon attacked Winterfell). When Jon and Bran have their wolf dreams, you can really get a glimpse of how smart and knowing the direwolves are, in terms of being able to tell where their other “brothers and sister” are; whereas, when Bran and Jon warg, they take the forefront of control.

      And personally, I also believe that there’s more of a chance Jon warging into Ghost after being stabbed in the books, especially after the Ghost-Melissandre interaction.

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    5. “I think it’s unlikely Nymeria will return in Season 8, and that her brief appearance in Season 7 is enough closure for her story….”
      _________________________

      Say it aint so! That’d really suck if they went through all that trouble of flying Maisie to Calgary to film that one scene with the wolves.

      Plus, in my view, some of the emotional impact of the Arya-Nymeria reunion was blunted by the director’s annoying habit of filming characters (here, Nymeria) out of focus, emerging from a blurry background. (See also ax-wielding Sandor vs disgusting rogue BwoB campers, snd Waif running on top of wall chasing Arya).

      PS Friendly Reminder: Photobomb filming sites with Ghost cardboard cutouts.

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    6. Thank goodness the books give us the direwolves in full: their personalities, their powers, and their ties to their ‘owners’. We viewers/readers thrill to the dragons but relate to the direwolves as they are so dog-like. Thank you for the update on their fates thus far. Now that four are gone, I’m most interested in Ghost and Nymeria, both of whom could/should play a role in the Great War. Many readers of course hope Nymeria + superpack saves Arya/fights White Walkers, which would be thrilling and, considering the expanded budget and reduced cast, is possible. And it would be super to finally see Ghost by his warrior-companion’s side like Grey Wind was to Robb. I do hope that the living direwolves also foreshadow their living Starks. No more dead Starks. And RIP Zunni/Lady.

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    7. Favorite Dire Wolfe: Nymeria. My hope is that she and her pack become the mythic defenders of the Riverlands, home to the Tullys including Catelyn, mother of Arya, Bran and Sansa. And then there’s Ghost, who should definitely go to Ser Davos.

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    8. Perhaps there’s yet room for an animated Of Ice and Fire. It could be truer to the books while not having to worry about budgeting, because drawing a wolf is no harder than drawing a human. (They’re both dang hard, but at least equally dang hard.)

      Good scope for a fan project there – just pick your favourite scene and animate it straight from the novel. With enough other people doing the same, bingo.

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    9. I’ve always wondered how big of a change it would’ve been if they’d simply made direwolves smaller for the TV version. They made bigger changes to the source material, so why not adapt to the constraints?

      None of the bigger direwolves ever looked very realistic, at least not like the dragons (which is ironic, really). Why not simply make them the same size as normal wolves? That way they’d avoid the high cost of CGI or VFX altogether.

      My favorite was Grey Wind, by the way. I hated the way he died.

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    10. It’s easy to understand why: the dragons are a big selling point for the show and also help to make more spectacular set pieces.

      That’s not the reason. The reason is that CGI direwolves look like crap because we know very intimately what a wolf should look like. Dragons don’t exist so a CGI dragon looks awesome because there’s no way a dragon “should” look.

      In order to include more wolves they could have done more with real wolves or dogs, but 2 problems with that are 1) Animals are a giant pain to work with and make everything take so much longer and 2) book fans would have been angry they weren’t big enough.

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    11. They should have worked with real dogs on the show if they knew it was so difficult to CGI wolves. F the dragons.

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    12. Flayed Potatoes,

      Sure, and then we’d have fans whining about them too small and you’d still only get them briefly, not in battles, etc because animals are awful to work with.

      Also I think the showrunners didn’t realize how annoying it would be to CGI them until they tried.

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    13. QueenofThrones,

      Fans will always whine about something. If they had more direwolves than dragons, the same people would then whine how D&D hate dragons and fuck direwolves LOL

      For some people complaining is the way of life.

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    14. QueenofThrones,

      Also the proportions are wrong. Large animals have increasingly small eyes and big heads. Scaled up dogs just look like scaled up dogs, without the massive heads that accompany size.

      Conversely, the giants were excellent. Right proportions, and a wonderful sense of weight to them.

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    15. When the scene cut to Winterfell, the show could have shown a long-shot of Ghost running through the snowy landscape or even standing in front of the Winterfell gate waiting for Jon. In both cases a real-life trained wolf could have been used as there would have been no interaction. If the show-runners had stopped fussing about the wight bear, maybe they could have thought of a little work-around for Ghost. (I had to throw that in there, ha! Not a a fan of the bear.)

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    16. I would’ve been interested in seeing the alleged cut scene where Jon says farewell to Ghost before departing for Dragonstone. I wonder why it was cut in the first place.

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    17. Sean C.: In retrospect, I’d almost say that the show would have been better off excising the direwolves entirely.

      But can you imagine the colossal amount of moaning that would have happened from the very first episode onwards if they had?!

      The problem is that key scenes such as Arya / Nymeria, Sansa / Lady in “The Kingsroad” would have lost a great amount of impact without the direwolves.

      I suppose they could have had them die early on of canine distemper…

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    18. I’ve always been content with the amount of the direwolves that we’ve gotten in the show. I disagree that they should have been cut, but I also don’t resent their reduced presence, in light of the substantial logistical issues that they present. They’ve always been more interesting to me as symbolic entities, and in that respect, they’ve served their role well.

      I fully believe Summer’s dying in the novels as well, if they’re ever published. He was named that for a reason, and while Spring signifies new hope amidst the darkness, Summer signifies an innocence that can nourish, but never stay forever. With Bran on course to become the Three-Eyed Raven just as Winter descends upon the realm in earnest, the poetic and emotional significance of losing his dear friend as those two major thresholds are crossed is too potent to pass up. There has to be a cost for the power Bran is inheriting. Not that I want to condemn Summer to death, but I’ll actually be disappointed if he lives. The show made the right call.

      Shaggydog is exactly that – a Shaggydog story, as is his owner. If Jon’s going to become King in the North, Rickon can’t be around. That means he dies, or he stays lost on Unicorn Island forever. Which means Davos’s sidequest and the whole Manderly conspiracy to retrieve him comes to nothing. His wolf will share his fate, unless George goes with the more mystical fate of Rickon’s consciousness passing into Shaggydog and running wild for the rest of his days. That would also be fitting, but I agree with the cleaner if colder fate that the show gave them both.

      I’d love to see Nymeria in the final season, but I don’t need to. I thought that her appearance in Season 7 was a beautiful send-off for her character, and for her relationship with Arya as well. I love that scene.

      As for Ghost, I would’ve liked for the scene where Jon says farewell to him and urges him to look after Sansa to make the final cut, but I’m not the one putting in countless hours of thought and work into the logistical challenges and narrative implications of rendering each scene of this show. I’ll always defer to the producers on these issues, and if the scene didn’t work or fit, then I trust their judgment, howls of the Internet be damned. I do think we’ll see Ghost in Season 8, and I’m looking forward to it – seeing him interact with Dany would be cool. I don’t need to see him in battle, however. His prospects against an army of wights would be slim.

      QueenofThrones,

      Exactly. For those who are curious what fully-CGI wolves might look like, even with an enormous Hollywood budget, I’d encourage people to check out the 2017 live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. That movie had a reported budget of $160 million – slightly more than an entire season of GOT. I actually thought it was quite good, but in the scene where the wolves attack, it’s clear that the wolves are CGI (among other things, their fur doesn’t move naturally, or nearly enough).

      It works fine for the movie, because the entire film, and that scene in particular, have a magical reality/fairy-tale gloss to them that helps to blur the edges (how else are you going to buy a talking candlestick as a major supporting character?) But transpose those exact same CGI wolves into a show like Game of Thrones that prides itself on realism, and they would stick out like a sore red thumb. The Internet being the Internet, they would instantly become the butt of jokes and memes that would get real frickin’ old real quick. The size-enhanced real wolves that the production uses look a hundred times better, even if it comes with natural limitations.

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    19. Flayed Potatoes:
      They should have worked with real dogs on the show if they knew it was so difficult to CGI wolves. F the dragons.

      That’s right.
      And as for size, optical techniques involving camera angles, scenery, and perspectives – like Lord of the Rings used to make Gandalf tower over Frodo as he enters the hobbit’s home –
      could make the dogs look ~ 50% larger.

      Cinematographers have been using those tricks long before CGI was invented.

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    20. Ten Bears: That’s right.
      And as for size, optical techniques involving camera angles, scenery, and perspectives – like Lord of the Rings used to make Gandalf tower over Frodo as he enters the hobbit’s home –
      could make the dogs look ~ 50% larger.

      Cinematographers have been using those tricks long before CGI was invented.

      I enjoyed that scene in FOTR, but from what I recall, the size difference between Gandalf and Bilbo looked pretty fake to me.

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    21. Jared:

      Exactly. For those who are curious what fully-CGI wolves might look like, even with an enormous Hollywood budget, I’d encourage people to check out the 2017 live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. That movie had a reported budget of $160 million – slightly more than an entire season of GOT. I actually thought it was quite good, but in the scene where the wolves attack, it’s clear that the wolves are CGI (among other things, their fur doesn’t move naturally, or nearly enough).

      It works fine for the movie, because the entire film, and that scene in particular, have a magical reality/fairy-tale gloss to them that helps to blur the edges (how else are you going to buy a talking candlestick as a major supporting character?) But transpose those exact same CGI wolves into a show like Game of Thrones that prides itself on realism, and they would stick out like a sore red thumb. The Internet being the Internet, they would instantly become the butt of jokes and memes that would get real frickin’ old real quick. The size-enhanced real wolves that the production uses look a hundred times better, even if it comes with natural limitations.

      Well said, hadn’t thought about it that way.

      I was ok with the talking candlestick but the bigass talking dresser just seemed wacky to me.

      RE the Direwolves, I’m hoping either Nymeria and/or Ghost have a few good bloody scenes in S8. I just HOPE they don’t kill one off to have it re-animated by the NK.

      That’d be ubershittylame.

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    22. Rizzo Targaryian: Well said, hadn’t thought about it that way.

      I was ok with the talking candlestick but the bigass talking dresser just seemed wacky to me.

      RE the Direwolves, I’m hoping either Nymeria and/or Ghost have a few good bloody scenes in S8.I just HOPE they don’t kill one off to have it re-animated by the NK.

      That’d be ubershittylame.

      If there’s going to be a wight Direwolf, that’d be Summer, no? Unless the wights really tore him to pieces and there’s nothing left to reanimate.

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    23. Ah, you are right but it did kind of look like Summer got jumped on by like 50 wights. Poor thing probably did get obliterated…

      Now a reanimated Hodor… :'(

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    24. If I may play amateur psychologist, based on nothing more than rank speculation (and with all puns intended), I think that so many fans are howling about the absence of the direwolves and don’t buy the “CGI cost/difficulty” excuse, for the following reasons:

      • Pet direwolves are more relatable than dragons.
      Most viewers have experienced either bringing home a puppy for a child, or receiving one as a child. The scene in S1e1 with Ned, Robb, Jon and Robb finding the adorable cuddly direwolf pups, probably reminded people of the time when they were children and got their first puppy. Ned relenting to Bran’s pleas (+ Jon’s Stark sigil/5 kids =5 pups logic) and allowing the kids to keep them but would be responsible for feeding and training them, mirrored conversations most parents have had with their daughters or sons who begged for puppy, or to take in a stray. [“Can we keep him? Can we keep him? Oh please!!” x 1000].
      Likewise, many people have had the shared, common experiences of bonding with a pet dog and teaching it tricks – like in the S1 scenes of Nymeria “helping” Arya pack, Arya’s desire to impress Jon (“Watch….Nymeria: Gloves!”); or Summer trailing Bran and waiting for him below when he climbs. Dog owners know how loyal they are. Many have witnessed their pet dogs instinctively protect them from strangers, or even defend them from attacks, e.g., Summer taking out Bran’s would-be assassin and Nymeria disarming Joffrey.
      And whoever had a dog as a child surely teared up when Arya hugged Nymeria and had to send her away.

      • In contrast, only a small segment of the audience can identify with dragons. (Pet iguanas don’t do anything other than sit in an aquarium and stare.)
      I’m not sure many people are aware that a hand-fed baby bird will crave human contact, and will be just as affectionate and protective as a puppy. (I’m guessing that GoT production designers studied avian behavior and “body language” when creating the CGI dragons.)
      Unlike human-canine relationships, bonding with a bird – or a dragon- isn’t a familiar experience. Dogs become part of the family.
      (Which may, in part, explain why many viewers are more upset when a direwolf is killed than when some of the human characters are killed.)
      This isn’t something Jon can relate to either:
      In S7e5, when Jon meets Drogon up close and personal, Dany is offended when he calls the dragons “beasts”:

      Daenerys: They’re beautiful, aren’t they?

      Jon: That wasn’t the word I was thinking of, but, yes, they are. Gorgeous beasts.

      Daenerys: They’re not beasts to me. No matter how big they get, how terrifying to everyone else, they’re my children.

      • The show has done a spectacular job rendering “realistic”-looking dragons. Dany emerging unburnt from the ashes of the funeral pyre with the three hatchlings imprinted on their “mother” in the very last scene of S1 was epic.
      I have enjoyed watching the dragons puff smoke as toddlers; ignite the warlock in Qarth as pre-teens; and later, torch the Unsullied slaver, flame-broil the Masters’ ship in Mereen, burn the Harpies in the fighting pit, and incinerate the Lannister army and Randyll Tarly.

      • However, I’m reaching my DSP (Dragon Saturation Point). I get it. They’re awesome. Meanwhile, by comparison, the virtual absence of the direwolves since Season 1 has been all the more conspicuous – and perplexing.

      Like many others have commented, Ghost’s absence from Jon’s coronation scene in S6e10 was glaring: When Lord Manderly proclaimed, “He is the White Wolf! The King in the North!”, a 2-3 second shot of Ghost sitting next to the dais wouldn’t have required any CGI. Like the scene in S6e2, when Ghost perks up a moment before Jon’s body comes to life (or when Ghost serves as Sam’s wingman and facilitates his hookup with Gilly), a quick shot of a white dog or wolf “actor” (Quigley) would’ve been fine – and inexpensive.

      • I still do not understand why the apparent difficulty in creating CGI direwolves is an impediment. As noted in the comments above (including Flayed Potatoes at 6:00 am, Lucy at 9:08 am, and mine at 11:07 am), the showrunners could simply use long shots of real wolves or dogs, or employ common cinematography techniques, to portray realistic-looking outsized direwolves. They don’t necessarily have to interract with actors in close-up shots.

      • As a non-book reader, I understand that the Stark kids’ psychic connection with their direwolves was emphasized in the books but largely omitted from the adaptation, with the exception of Bran. That’s fine. Limiting “warging” to Bran makes that power unique to him. Arya’s got her ninja skills. Jon’s singular attributes (aside from his lineage, that thing he does with his mouth, and his six-pack abs) are his selflessness, empathy, ability to see the big picture, and skills as Great Conciliator and Uniter (as touted by his PR man Davos and fangirl Melisandre). Warging into Ghost would presumably be superfluous.

      • Still, I assumed the direwolves were featured prominently in the very first episode, and throughout S1, for a reason. To set up their participation in the story’s resolutions? Perhaps to illustrate “Stark” qualities like steadfast loyalty and protectiveness? It’s my understanding that book! Sandor tells Sansa how a dog won’t lie to you, and will die for you – or something like that. (It reminded me of a speech I once read; I’ll try to find it…). Whatever their purpose, I expected them to appear regularly thereafter.
      Otherwise, as Sean C. observed [10/17 at 5:24 PM]: “I’d almost say that the show would have been better off excising the direwolves entirely.”

      • According to Anton Chekhov, Wimsey’s avatar William of Ocham, Stephen King (in “On Writing”), and maybe Prof. Wimsey himself, [though I won’t presume to speak for him], one of the tenets of effective storytelling in play- and screenwriting, and adaptations of books to screen or stage in particular, is to jettison details that don’t matter. A corollary of this principle is that whatever’s introduced early on has to have significance later on (e.g., a “Chekhov’s Gun” introduced in Scene I has to be fired in Scene III).
      What I’m getting at is that introducing the direwolves in S1e1 and including them throughout S1, signaled (to me) that they were an integral part of the story; they weren’t just props or window-dressing; they were “players”, instrumental in the events, e.g., protecting and saving Bran and Arya.

      • I had thought the show was setting up parallels:
      Ghost, like Jon, was the “runt of the litter” who would turn out to be the strongest of the pack. As a result of the Lannisters’ attempts to defang House Stark, Arya, like Nymeria, found herself cast out in the world and forced to fend for herself. Robb, like Grey Wind, seemed unstoppable until Robb’s fatal dereliction of his obligations caused them both to be penned up and slaughtered. Bran’s impetuousness, or the urgency that he take over as 3ER, came at a price – including the life of Summer. (Still not sure what to make of Shaggydog’s unceremonious decapitation and Rickon’s dialogue-free return to the show just to get killed off.)
      I figured Ghost’s role would increase, mirroring Jon’s rise in importance. I assumed we’d get at least a glimpse of Nymeria’s wanderings during Arya’s years as a virtual refugee and something more than the abbreviated “reunion” in S7e2 when Arya finally returned home. I had assumed both direwolves – like their human counterparts – would be part of the “endgame.”

      • Relegating the direwolves to cameos has been confounding, especially when the dragons have gotten so much screen time (and arguably, redundant scenes).

      • PLEASE don’t misunderstand me. As I was typing, I was concerned that this would be misconstrued as a whingefest. [“Your fingers are moving and you’re complaining about something. That’s whingeing.” – Sandor]. The show is phenomenal. I do not question adaptation decisions. Even without reading the books, I can appreciate how challenging it must have been to condense them into 67 hours of TV.
      I’m just curious. I trust that the showrunners had good reason to abridge the direwolves’ screen time after introducing them early on.

      • Final comment: I shouldn’t be surprised if the showrunners shut me up with an extended scene in S8 of Nymeria and a huge wolfpack encircling hundreds of wights… and then:

      Jon: It’s good we’ve got some help.
      Arya: Watch… “Nymeria, wights!”

      (Wights torn apart limb from limb like bacon-infused play toys)

      Jon : Impressive.

      Ghost. Sorry I’m late. What’d I miss?

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    25. Ten Bears,

      I’d love if a scene like that happened, re: Nymeria and her pack obliterating a group of wights. If she does return, I hope it isn’t just to die. In which case I’d prefer her to remain absent.

        Quote  Reply

    26. Ten Bears,

      Yep, I agree. They’ve been using Alsatians (German Shepherds) in films (The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, etc) for years and are a well suited to training. Appearance wise they are probably the closest dog breed to wolves.

      Would have thought they could have used those as the direwolves and simply made them appear larger using photographic effects rather than use CGI to create them from the ground up?

        Quote  Reply

    27. Black Raven,

      I would have preferred dogs that look like wolves too. For Ghost it would have been easy to find body doubles because he’s completely white. For battle scenes they could use a different one than for close-up scenes with the actors.

      But I do love GRRM’s quote about killing Lady: ... Some people were reportedly so shocked and upset that they wrote angry blogs about it, and even declared that they would not continue watching the show.... Lady, is alive and well, and has been adopted by Sophie Turner.
      Rhodri Hosking, the young actor who played the butcher's boy Mycah, was not actually killed either, though oddly, no one seems quite so upset about him.

        Quote  Reply

    28. Morgoth:
      Ten Bears,

      I’d love if a scene like that happened, re: Nymeria and her pack obliterating a group of wights. If she does return, I hope it isn’t just to die. In which case I’d prefer her to remain absent.

      I will second that!

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    29. I feel like the show has left out way too much of the direwolves. Being that GRRM originally wanted to name the last book A Time for Wolves, tells us that the direwolves were supposed to be major characters in the finale along with their owners.

      On re-reads, I found the Ghost & Nymeria dynamic very interesting. Ghost, though perceived to be the runt of the litter, grew to quickly become the biggest. Plus he and Jon were allowed to forge a closer bond than the others with their wolves because his siblings weren’t allowed to have their wolves in their bed chambers. Jon & Ghost had no such problem.

      Also, it seemed like GRRM was clearly making Ghost & Nym the alphas of the Pack. In the scene where Jon gives Arya needle, Nym wants to follow in behind Ghost but Arya had to stop her. There’s also another poignant scene between the 2 wolves that I can’t fully recall during that scene. Felt like a subtle hint at subordination for her Pack leader. Also GRRM later writes, Nymeria would fight to keep any other male wolf from mating with her. She has already chosen her mate & Alpha (Ghost). Just waiting on the reunion…

      I think GRRM could set things up where Jon & Arya both die at the end but their “spirits” live on through their wolves. He set that up in the prologue of Dance with the wildling skin changer. Ghost & Nym will eventually mate & have pups. So it’s a way of following his initial outline of Jon & Arya getting together but without the human incest. And it would be a bittersweet ending for both Jon & Arya to die but live happily ever after in love through their direwolves.

        Quote  Reply

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