Warning: The following article contains Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers.
Winter is Coming has confirmed that filming for Game of Thrones Season 7 is continuing, and alongside some very interesting co-stars, wolves to be exact. Yes, according to the site, the symbol of House Stark will rise again in Season 7.
According to Winter is Coming, the return of the direwolves will involve Arya Stark. They report, her portrayer, Maisie Williams, has been spotted in Canada, where filming with the real-life wolves that play the Stark siblings' direwolves, is taking place.
So what does this spoiler mean, exactly? It is time to jump into some Game of Thrones history, theories, and speculation.
According to spoilers, which direwolves will be returning in Season 7?
Winter is Coming reports that Quigly, the wolf, who portrays Ghost on Game of Thrones, will be back in Season 7. That is not entirely surprising given that Ghost has been by Jon's side throughout most of Game of Thrones' run. Ghost made sporadic appearances throughout Season 6. Whether his role will be bulked up in Game of Thrones Season 7 is unknown.
What makes these Game of Thrones filming spoilers, particularly interesting is that Winter is Coming reports a wolf, bearing a striking resemblance to Arya's long-lost direwolf, Nymeria, is involved in filming. That has led many; including Winter is Coming, to speculate that a reunion between Arya, and her direwolf, will occur in Season 7.
Why are the direwolves important?
When Game of Thrones begins, the direwolves, the Starks discover are the first to be seen south of the Wall, in a considerable period of time. It signals the sea of change to come. The direwolves are part of House Stark's sigil. As such, their existence is symbolic of the Starks'. Essentially, the direwolves are to the Starks, what the dragons are to the Targaryens.
How many direwolves were there to begin with?
In the first episode of Game of Thrones, the Starks discover a litter of direwolf puppies, next to their departed mother. There are six pups in the litter, a direwolf for each Stark child. Each of the direwolves' gender also corresponds with the Stark siblings'.
The oldest Stark son, Robb (Richard Madden) adopted Grey Wind. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) adopted the snowy-furred, Ghost. Stark sisters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya, adopted Lady, and Nymeria, respectively. While Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) adopted Summer, and Rickon (Art Parkinson), Shaggydog.
How many direwolves are alive when Season 7 begins?
As of Game of Thrones Season 6, there are only two, living, Stark direwolves, Ghost (Jon Snow's), and Nymeria (Arya's). As Game of Thrones has progressed, the number of surviving Stark direwolves has shrunk.
The first direwolf to die was Lady. When Nymeria protected Arya from then-Prince Joffrey Baratheon by biting him, Arya knew that Nymeria would face retribution from the Baratheons. So she sent Nymeria away to save her from their wrath. Unfortunately, Sansa's direwolf, Lady, paid the "iron price," executed by Ned, in Nymeria's place.
In Season 3, Grey Wind is killed along with Robb Stark in the midst of the Red Wedding. Three seasons go by, before another of the Starks' direwolves dies.
In Game of Thrones Season 6, both Summer and Shaggydog meet their end. Shaggydog is killed when Rickon, and Osha are captured by allies of House Bolton. Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) systematically mocks, Jon and Sansa with Shaggydog's demise throughout Season 6.
Summer presumably dies, sacrificing himself to save Bran from the White Walkers in Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 5 ("The Door"). The same episode Hodor (Kristian Nairn) dies in. Summer's death was not shown on-screen. He was last seen being encircled by an armed swarm of White Walkers, and heard yelping a short time afterwards.
What could the return of the direwolves signal?
Like the Starks, the direwolves have had a rough go of it on Game of Thrones. While Season 6 saw the Stark siblings' successfully take back Winterfell, and restore their House. Their direwolves were not as fortunate. Two of the direwolves did not survive the season.
If Nymeria returns in Season 7, it could signal serious hope for the direwolf species and the Starks. When the world thought direwolves were extinct, they came back. When the world thought House Stark was "dead," they also came roaring back.
Are the direwolves' fate intertwined with the Stark siblings'?
Since Lady was the first direwolf to die, and Sansa is still alive, the fate of the Stark siblings' direwolves does not seem to directly correlate with the fate of their human counterpart. Likewise, Bran survived Season 6, despite his direwolf, Summer, supposedly dying in the same season.
Grey Wind is the only Stark direwolf to die shortly within the timeframe of their respective Stark. Shaggydog died well before Rickon did.
What could the direwolves symbolize about the Starks?
They could symbolize any number of things. When Ned Stark orders the direwolves to be put down in Game of Thrones' first episode, citing they could not survive without their mother, Bran pleads with his father to let them live.
It is not until Jon Snow intervenes, arguing that the direwolves are a part of House Stark's sigil, and that the number of direwolves, equaling the number of Stark children is a sign they were meant to stay with the Starks, that Ned relents. It is Jon's first act of diplomacy on the series. He is then rewarded, when as he turns to leave, he spots a sixth direwolf, Ghost. Jon is the only Stark sibling to still have his direwolf as a companion.
Ghost's all-white coat is symbolic of Jon's "Snow" status, a connection that is not lost on Theon Greyjoy, when Jon finds Ghost. Snow is the last name given to the illegitimate children born in the North. While Ghost's red eyes could symbolize Jon's true heritage, the flames of House Targaryen.
Before Jon comes back to life, Ghost wakes up nearby, possibly signaling he sensed Jon was coming back to life, before he actually did. The connection between the Stark siblings and their direwolves runs deep. What, if any, knowledge can be gained about their future from that connection is vague.
What is the story with Nymeria?
While Nymeria has been presumed to be among the living, the latest Game of Thrones spoilers seem to confirm that belief. Like Arya, Nymeria has been away from her siblings since Season 1. If the speculation holds up, Nymeria will reunite with Arya in the same season; Arya will reunite with her siblings.
Like Arya, Nymeria will reunite with less of her direwolf family, than she left Winterfell with. Who knows what Nymeria has been up to in her absence? Has she acquired skills like Arya?
Per earlier reports by Watchers on the Wall, Arya will reunite with Sansa and Bran in Game of Thrones Season 7. At the time Watchers on the Wall also reported on friction between the Stark sisters in Season 7. Could Arya setting her direwolf free and it leading to Sansa's direwolf dying in her place be part of the animus between them?
What could Nymeria's return mean for the direwolves, as a whole?
Since Nymeria is a female and Ghost is a male, it is possible they could repopulate the direwolves dwindling numbers. Let's hope that Nymeria brings some long-lost direwolf pals with her, instead. In a similar parallel, Daenerys and Jon Snow, long-lost Targaryen relatives, one male, and one female, will meet in Game of Thrones Season 7.
While there has been no confirmation of a Season 7 reunion between Jon Snow, and his little sister Arya, the return of Nymeria could hint at one. The last time Jon and Arya saw each other was in Game of Thrones' second episode, when Jon gave Arya Needle before leaving Winterfell to join the Night's Watch.
Guess who was in the room with them? If you guessed Nymeria, you are correct. Could Nymeria's return hint that a Jon/Arya reunion will not be far behind? Tune in to Game of Thrones Season 7 when it premieres this summer, on HBO.
[Featured Image by HBO]