Fans of Game of Thrones have heard it said more times than they can count: “Winter is coming.” It is the House Stark motto that has its very own meme. But does it really mean what we think it does?
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information about Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones as well as speculation involving the book series the show is based on. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.
For House Stark, their motto “Winter is coming” is an ominous one. It is also different in context to a lot of the other houses in Game of Thrones. Most of the other houses have a motto that boasts of their integrity. The Tullys see “Family, duty, honor” as important. The Freys will always “Stand together.” The Lannisters will always pay a debt, even if this isn’t their official house motto (“Hear me roar!” is their official one). However, for House Stark, theirs is a warning of the arrival of winter.
It seems like a warning or a reminder of just how bleak (or “stark”) winter can be in Westeros. Many Game of Thrones fans have believed it to mean that one must prepare for winter, a similar sentiment to the expression, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
It could also be considered a threat to others. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) used it this way when he threatened the Lannisters in Episode 8 of the first season of Game of Thrones.
“Tell Lord Tywin, winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners marching south to find out if he really does s**t gold.”
But when ScreenCrush did a quiz aimed at testing just how confusing Game of Thrones was to a novice viewer, an interesting idea popped up. When asked about the motto “Winter is coming,” ScreenCrush‘s Editor-in-Chief Matt Singer asked if it actually referred to a person. And, perhaps it is. Well, kind of.
When you head to Reddit, which — let’s face it — is the best place to go for Game of Thrones theories, the subject of House Stark’s motto has been greatly discussed. While none really suggest “Winter” could actually mean a person, there are a few who think “Winter is coming” might mean something along the lines of the Starks meaning themselves when they use their motto. i.e. “The Starks are coming.” Or, alternatively, “When winter arrives, the Starks will too.” If this is the case, then everyone better be careful now that winter has officially arrived because it may now be the time for the Starks to shine.
Originally, the Starks were referred to as the “Kings of Winter.” This is because, in the book series Game of Thrones is based on, the Starks originally defeated the Others (the book series name for White Walkers) and subsequently winter fell, hence the name of the Stark’s castle being Winterfell. Brandon the Builder, a Stark, built not only Winterfell but the Wall. Often, there are references in the books to the Kings of Winter in the crypt at Winterfell, so there is certainly an assumption that the Starks were originally known as the Kings of Winter. If this is the case, it is an easy stretch to imagine Winter as a man; a Stark man. As one Redditor pointed out, “traditionally, up to and in some cases including the Renaissance, Kings were seen as the actual personification of what they ruled. For example, the King of England could be called simply ‘England.'” If this is the case, the “Kings of Winter” may have been shortened in the Stark motto to simply, “Winter is coming” rather than “The King of Winter is coming.”
Considering the true identity of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was revealed in the Season 6 finale of Game of Thrones, the Stark motto could now also literally mean “Jon Snow is coming.”
Another interesting “Winter is coming” theory on Reddit involves Jon Snow awakening an ice dragon from the Wall. Once again, perhaps this can be used in relation to the House Stark motto if the term “Winter” is a figurative term for “ice dragon.”
What do you think the motto “Winter is coming” really means? Let us know your thoughts and theories by commenting below!
According to a recent interview with Deadline, Game of Thrones will return to HBO with a shortened Season 7 in 2017.
[Image via HBO]