The sigil of House Stark from Game of Thrones.
DISCLAIMER: THE SYMBOLS IN THIS SET ARE FROM THE HBO TV SERIES, NOT THE ORIGINAL NOVELS.
Based on George R.R. Martin’s famous series of novels (collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire”), the television series “Game of Thrones” first premiered in 2011 on the channel HBO. It is set in a fantasy world heavily based on the society and culture of the European Middle Ages. Two primary continents, known as Westeros and Essos, make up the bulk of the visible landmass in this world, with the former being featured in storylines much more frequently. While typical elements from fantasy stories, such as dragons and various forms of magic, are seen throughout the series, in the long run these generally take a backseat to the military conflicts, political machinations and family dynamics that are the principle focus of the story.
The continent of Westeros is made up of many different regions, each of which has its own culture and history. Most of these regions form constituent parts of a single political realm, which is presided over by a ruling monarch. While the monarch holds ultimate power over the realm, local governance of each region is handled by a “Great House”, a noble family whose members answer directly to the sovereign. House Stark is one of these Great Houses (or rather was, until the end of the series’ third season). Their ancestral land is known as The North, a massive yet sparsely populated region governed from the ancient fortress of Winterfell. The North possesses the coldest weather of any of the Seven Kingdoms, which makes farming difficult and accounts for the region’s low population despite its size. The sigil of House Stark is a grey direwolf on a field of white (sometimes including a strip of green, as seen here), and their motto is “Winter is Coming”.
The direwolf is a fierce predator (essentially an oversized wolf in form) and strongly associated with the culture of The North, thus a worthy emblem for its ruling House. The Starks trace their origin to Bran the Builder, a mythic hero who, thousands of years ago, built their ancestral keep of Winterfell and raised the Wall, an immense fortification made of solid ice to protect The North and the rest of Westeros from invasion. The House’s motto is directly connected to the Wall itself. Eight thousand years prior to the start of the series, one winter season lasted for a generation and became know as the Long Night. At this time, the White Walkers, a powerful race of zombie-like creatures, invaded Westeros from the far north of the continent. They were eventually beaten back and the Wall was raised as a defense, but the motto of House Stark is a warning that however cold it gets by normal standards, the “true” force of winter could always return.