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"Winterfell is our home. It's ours and Arya's and Bran's and Rickon's. Wherever they are, it belongs to our family. We have to fight for it."
―Sansa Stark to Jon Snow[src]
Winterfell Pin

The location of Winterfell on the continent of Westeros.

505 Bolton map 2

Winterfell marked by name on the Boltons' map in "Kill the Boy".

Winterfell is the seat of the ruler of the North and the ancestral home of House Stark. It is a very large castle located at the center of the North, from where the head of House Stark rules over his or her people. A small Godswood is enclosed within the walls. It is the regional capital of the North under Jon Snow The castle is located alongside the Kingsroad as it makes its way from the Wall to the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, King's Landing, more than a thousand miles to the south. It is situated atop hot springs which keep the castle warm even in the worst winters.[1] Winding tombs below the castle contain the remains of Stark kings and lords and record the history of the ancient family.[2] The castle has stood for millennia.[3]

The castle was put to the torch by Ramsay Snow after Theon Greyjoy was betrayed by his own crew. This burned out the wood portions of the castle, though the core stone structures remained fundamentally intact, as did the enclosed godswood.[4] After the surrender of Moat Cailin, the Bolton army relocated to the ruined castle in order to restore it as the seat of the rulers of the North.[5]

Winterfell remained in Bolton hands for a time until their defeat at the Battle of the Bastards, at which point the castle was returned to House Stark's ownership.[6]

History

Background

According to legend, House Stark has held Winterfell for 8,000 years, though it has been considerably expanded upon over the centuries.[7]

Eddard Stark rode south to fight in Robert's Rebellion after his father and older brother were killed by the Mad King. At the end of the war, he returned to Winterfell with his new wife Catelyn Tully, their infant son Robb Stark, and also Eddard's nephew Jon Snow, who he raised as his illegitimate son at the behest of Jon's mother, Lyanna Stark, Eddard's sister. After the Greyjoy Rebellion eight years later, Lord Balon Greyjoy's only surviving son Theon Greyjoy became a hostage of House Stark. Eddard took Theon with him to Winterfell and raised Theon as his ward alongside Robb, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon.

Season 1

Lord Eddard Stark is at Winterfell in a happy scene with his family. Eddard and Catelyn watch their son Bran practice archery while he is being helped by Eddard and Catelyn's eldest son Robb and Eddard's illegitimate son Jon Snow. The youngest, Rickon, watches his brothers until Eddard and Catelyn's youngest daughter Arya - who has left needlework with their oldest daughter Sansa - hits Bran's bullseye with an arrow before Bran can. Bran chases Arya while the rest smile at the scene until Eddard receives news that a Night's Watch deserter has been found.

Eddard decides to bring Bran with him for the first time to watch him execute a man. Catelyn protests Bran is too young at 10 years old but Eddard replies that he will not be a boy forever and winter is coming. Eddard also brings Robb and Jon with him, who are old enough to have witnessed previous executions, as well as Theon Greyjoy.

On their way home to Winterfell, they find a litter of six direwolf pups - one for each of the Stark children, including Jon. Over the next weeks at Winterfell, the pups grow quickly and the Stark children bond with them.

A raven arrives at Winterfell, bearing the news of Jon Arryn's death. Catelyn informs Eddard of Jon Arryn's death and Eddard is stricken because Arryn served as a father-figure to him when he was fostered at the Eyrie. She also tells him that King Robert Baratheon and much of the royal court rides for Winterfell. Eddard realizes that King Robert means to name him as the Hand to replace Jon Arryn. He ponders refusal, feeling his place is at Winterfell.

Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell along with much of the royal court, including his wife Queen Cersei Lannister, their three children Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, as well as Cersei's brother and Kingsguard member Ser Jaime Lannister, and their brother Tyrion Lannister. A great feast is held in Robert's honor. Robert visits the tomb of Lyanna Stark and asks Lord Eddard to return with him to King's Landing as his new Hand, and to solidify the union between their two Houses by betrothing Eddard's elder daughter Sansa Stark to Crown Prince Joffrey.

Before they leave, Bran Stark is climbing a tower and accidentally stumbles upon Queen Cersei having sex with her own twin brother Jaime. Cersei and Jaime realize they've been discovered and Jaime pushes Bran out of the tower window.[8]

Bran survives the fall from the tower, though his legs are left crippled. Lord Eddard reluctantly departs to go to King's Landing after his farewells to Catelyn and Bran. Eddard, Sansa, and Arya leave Winterfell to travel down the Kingsroad with the royal party. After his own goodbyes, Jon also leaves at this time to head to Castle Black so he can join the Night's Watch, like many Starks before him, and joins his father on the Kingsroad until they must bid their farewell and part. Jon is accompanied by his uncle Benjen Stark, First Ranger in the Night's Watch, and Tyrion Lannister. Robb, Theon, Catelyn, and a comatose Bran remain in Winterfell. A catspaw assassin sent by one of the Lannisters tries to kill Bran while he is still in a coma, but he is fought off by Catelyn and killed by Bran's direwolf Summer. Catelyn decides that Eddard must be warned so she leaves for King's Landing along with Ser Rodrik Cassel.[9]  After visiting the Wall, Tyrion stops at Winterfell on his return journey to the south, along with the Night's Watch recruiter Yoren. He gives Robb instructions for a special saddle which will allow Bran to ride without the use of his legs.[10]

After word reaches Robb that his father has been arrested in King's Landing, he calls the armies of all the Northern bannermen. Robb departs Winterfell to lead his army to war in the south, and leaves Bran in charge as acting lord of Winterfell. Their youngest brother Rickon Stark has a prophetic dream that Robb and his men will never return to Winterfell.[11]

Season 2

After Eddard is executed by Joffrey and Robb wins the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Robb's bannermen hail him as the new King in the North. The North and the Riverlands declare themselves an independent kingdom under Robb. Winterfell is the de jure capital, though Robb remains with his armies fighting in the south. Now-Prince Bran Stark continues to rule as acting lord of Winterfell, with the guidance of Maester Luwin.[12]

House Greyjoy - insulted at the prospect of allying with the Starks against the Lannisters - then counter-intuitively chooses to both declare the independence of the Iron Islands from the Lannister-controlled Iron Throne, and to attack the North while most of its armies are in the south. To impress his father Balon Greyjoy, the conflicted Theon leads a daring assault that captures Winterfell with under 30 men. Theon's ironborn were few, but the castle only had a skeleton defensive garrison left, and Theon used his intimate knowledge of the castle to lead his men over the walls using climbing spikes. Out of fear for Winterfell's population, Bran surrenders the castle to Theon. Maester Luwin barely manages to get a messenger-raven out warning of what has happened, after which Theon kills all the ravens in order to stop any further messages from getting out.[13]

Theon, however, has no way of easily holding Winterfell so far away from the sea, even with most of the North's armies away in the south. Bran and his brother Rickon escape Winterfell along with Hodor and Osha, making his position tenuous, so he passes off the burned bodies of two orphan boys so he won't look weak; this backfires, however, and the North rises in anger at the apparent murder of the Stark boys. When word reaches Robb's army camp in the south, his commander Roose Bolton says that he can send a reserve garrison led by his bastard son Ramsay Snow to besiege Theon. Robb decides to offer the ironborn at Winterfell safe passage back to the Iron Islands - if they will hand over Theon, so he can be executed as a traitor to the Starks. Theon's sister Yara Greyjoy briefly stops in Winterfell but only to warn him that they have no way of reinforcing or holding the castle, and he must withdraw while he can. Theon, however, fears that he has come too far to turn back now in failure.[14]

Maester Luwin pleads with Theon that this is not who he is, and he must surrender and join the Night's Watch while he still can. Theon admits the truth in this but says he has come too far. In a rousing speech to his men, Theon accepts that he will die, but they will all die bravely fighting sword in hand, so the other ironborn will remember their example. Instead, one of his men knocks him unconscious from behind, to hand him over as part of the deal for their lives. Ramsay reneges on his agreement, however, and after flaying the ironborn to death orders the Sack of Winterfell. The castle of Winterfell is put to the torch and most of her people to the sword, with few if any survivors. All of the wooden parts of the castle are burned out, though the core stone structures remain intact. Bran and his companions emerge from the crypts where they had been hiding and are horrified to find their beloved home in ruins. After paying the fallen keep its last rites, they flee north to the Wall.[15]

When word reaches Robb Stark at Harrenhal of the sack of Winterfell, the report sent by Roose's son Ramsay says that the ironborn put the castle to the torch before fleeing, put the inhabitants to the sword, and killed Bran and Rickon.[16] The loss of Winterfell makes Robb look weak, particularly after the Lannisters secured victory in the southern front of the war against the Baratheons at the Battle of the Blackwater. Rickard Karstark loses all faith in Robb and calls him "The King Who Lost the North"[17]

Not long afterwards, Boltons and Freys betray the Starks at the Red Wedding, destroying the Northern army, and resulting in the deaths of Robb and Catelyn. Roose Bolton personally kills Robb by driving a dagger into his heart. Subsequently, Walder Frey and Roose muse on their future plans, and Walder asks if as the new ruler of the North, Roose will relocate to Winterfell. He says that he will in time, after it is rebuilt. Walder also asks what really happened at Winterfell, because after Theon took the castle no further news came out. Roose explains that he indeed sent his bastard son Ramsay Snow to besiege Winterfell with the Dreadfort's remaining garrison, and Theon's men betrayed him, handing him over to Ramsay in return for promise of safe passage. Ramsay, however, "has his own way of doing things" - he flayed all of the ironborn alive, even though they surrendered in good faith, and spent the next year slowly flaying and horrifically torturing Theon. As for Winterfell, it was Ramsay and his Bolton army who burned the castle, and who massacred all of the inhabitants - the Boltons simply lied to Robb Stark about what really happened, as they were planning to betray him for months before the Red Wedding occurred.[18]

Season 4

Boltons in Winterfell

House Bolton bannerman riding to Winterfell

After Ramsay manages to retake the fortress Moat Cailin from the ironborn, the path is cleared for the main Bolton army to return to the North, and enforce Bolton/Lannister rule. Roose, Ramsay, and Reek (the tortured, broken wreck once known as Theon) lead the Bolton army back to Winterfell[19]

Season 5

The Boltons settle in at Winterfell, and bring in work crews and timber to start rebuilding the burned-out parts of the castle. The rest of the Bolton household has arrived as well, including Roose's new wife Fat Walda Frey.[20] Following the death of Tywin Lannister, however, their already difficult hold over the North is even more tenuous: the armies of the Northern lords may have been destroyed, but the Lannisters left it to Bolton's army to rein them in, and will send no reinforcements so far out of the way. With Tywin dead, the Lannisters themselves are in a weakened position, and cannot aid the Boltons. Worse, Stannis Baratheon took his small remaining forces to the Wall, where they won a rousing victory in the Battle of Castle Black. Afterwards, Stannis intends to raise the North against the Boltons as a new springboard against Lannister rule. Stannis eventually leaves Castle Black to march to Winterfell, and begins to be supported by Northern houses who do not support the Boltons.[21]

As part of a political plot, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish arrives at Winterfell from the Vale - bringing none other than Sansa Stark, to make a marriage-alliance between her and Ramsay Bolton. Littlefinger, however, informs Sansa that he truly plans for her to undermine the Boltons from within, hopefully to aid Stannis's probable victory, and if Stannis dies, to at least still be in a position to subvert the Boltons in the future.[22]

With Stannis's army drawing closer to the castle, Roose Bolton intends to muster his strength within the walls of Winterfell with his legitimized son Ramsay.[23] Meanwhile, with support from Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, Lord Petyr Baelish has raised an army of knights from the Vale supported by his own levies to march North and combat both House Bolton and Stannis, focusing on whoever wins the coming battle.[24] In response to this predicament, Ramsay convinces his father to lend him twenty "good men."[23]

Battle of Winterfell 1

Winterfell during the battle.

Ramsay and his twenty riders launch a sneak attack on the Baratheon camp and succeed in burning much of their food supplies, siege weapons, and horses.[25] While Stannis does indeed reach Winterfell, his resources have been severely depleted and hundreds of his men have deserted due to snowstorms and Stannis's rash decision to sacrifice his own daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light. The army of House Bolton greets Stannis in open battle and after a short clash, smashes his army, and Stannis himself perishes soon after. However, with Winterfell in chaos, Sansa manages to escape the castle with help from Theon Greyjoy, putting House Bolton's future claim to the North in jeopardy.[26]

Season 6

Winterfell remains the Bolton seat of power. Following Sansa and Theon's escape, Ramsay attends to the corpse of his former bedfellow Myranda. Despite his affection for her, he orders Maester Wolkan to feed her body to the dogs. Later, Roose and Ramsay meet to discuss Sansa's escape, which has imperiled House Bolton's position among the northern houses. Roose stresses that they need Sansa in order to rally the northern houses against the Lannisters. Fearful of losing his inheritance to Walda's offspring, Ramsay sends his best hunters to recapture Sansa and Theon.[27]

Later, Roose and Ramsay meet with Harald Karstark to discuss their predicament with Sansa. They deduce Sansa has fled north to find shelter with her half-brother Jon Snow at Castle Black, where Sansa is now located having reunited with Jon. Ramsay's men had been found dead. Karstark and Ramsay opt for murdering Jon Snow, saying he is Ned Stark's last surviving son despite his illegitimacy, and Karstark points out that their hold will never be secure as long as anyone from the Stark family is alive. Ramsay wants to storm Castle Black. Roose chastises his son's rash proposal, saying murdering the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch will unite every house in the North against them. Ramsay counters that they don't need every house in the North if they win the support of the Umbers, Karstarks, and Manderlys. Karstark says the Starks lost his house's support when Robb Stark cut off his father's head. However, Roose warns Ramsay that if he behaves like a 'mad dog', he'll be treated as such. It is announced Walda has given birth to a baby boy. When Ramsay offers his father congratulations, he murders his father because his own position is now shaky. Ramsay unleashes his dogs on Walda and his baby brother shortly after, killing them both. Ramsay covers up his father's death by claiming that Roose had been poisoned by their enemies.[28]

Smalljon Umber travels to Winterfell to forge an alliance with Ramsay, the new Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. In return for forging a military alliance between House Umber and House Bolton, Smalljon presents Rickon Stark, Osha, and the head of Rickon's direwolf Shaggydog. Ramsay accepts Smalljon's offer and takes Rickon captive.[29] Later, Ramsay kills Osha after baiting her into killing him by leaving his fruit knife unattended. Ramsay then issues a letter to Jon Snow telling him that he has Rickon in his dungeons and demanding the return of his wife Sansa. In response, Jon and Sansa declare war on Ramsay and vow to retake Winterfell and rescue Rickon with the help of Tormund's Free Folk and several northern houses.[30]

Jon-snow-winterfell-ramsay-bolton-fight

Winterfell is retaken by the Starks.

As the Battle of the Bastards turns in favor of the Starks, Ramsay returns to the castle and has the gate closed and barred. The gates are smashed right off their hinges by the giant, Wun Wun and Jon Snow enters the courtyard to face off with Ramsay. Jon prevails and refrains from killing Ramsay, who is taken to the kennels. After the battle, the Winterfell household care for the wounded Stark soldiers, while Sansa later visits Ramsay there and, after speaking, watches as his starving hounds begin to devour their master. The Bolton banners are dropped from the ramparts and the Stark banners are once again hung in Winterfell. Sadly, the crypts must host the burial of yet another Stark, Rickon having been murdered by Ramsay prior to the battle.[6]

In the newly retaken Winterfell, Melisandre and Jon are in the Great Hall. Ser Davos Seaworth comes in with Princess Shireen Baratheon's burned wooden stag and confronts Melisandre over what happened to Shireen, explaining he loved Shireen as his own child. Melisandre admits that she convinced King Stannis Baratheon to sacrifice his own daughter to the Lord of Light to save Stannis's stranded forces, admitting she made a mistake. Furious, Davos demands Jon's leave to execute Melisandre for her actions. Jon, upon learning of this, asks Melisandre if she has anything to say for herself. She replies that she only followed the Lord of Light and implies that he is also responsible for bringing Jon back to life and insists she can still be of use in the battles to come against the Night King. Jon is not assuaged and tells Melisandre to ride south or he will hang her as a murderer. Davos adds that he will execute her if she ever shows up in the North again.

As Jon and Sansa look on from the battlements, Jon tells Sansa that he has had the lord's chambers prepared for her, though she insists that he should have it. Jon remarks that Sansa is the Lady of Winterfell and because she brought the Knights of the Vale, they are alive and have Winterfell back. Sansa apologizes for not telling him about Littlefinger's Knights of the Vale. He asks Sansa if she trusts Littlefinger, which she firmly denies. With that, Jon implores Sansa that they must trust each other, they have so many enemies now, and gently kisses her on the forehead. Sansa informs Jon that a white raven arrived earlier; winter has finally arrived, just as their father has always promised.

Later, in the Godswood, Littlefinger approaches a wary Sansa and admits that he wants the Iron Throne, with her at his side. He moves in to kiss her but she stops him and walks away. Petyr states he has openly declared for House Stark. Sansa reminds him that he has declared for other houses in the past, which didn't stop him from serving himself. He contests that was the past, but he is looking towards the future, adding that she is the future of House Stark. He asks her who the North should rally behind: a trueborn daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, or a motherless bastard born in the south. Sansa considers his words but keeps walking without turning to look at him.

Afterward, in the Great Hall, Lord Yohn Royce speaks against allying the Knights of the Vale with wildling invaders. Tormund counters that they were invited into the realm and thus are not invaders. Jon reminds the assembly that the Free Folk fought side by side with the Northmen and the Knights of the Vale and won, then adds that his father used to say true friends are found on the battlefield. Lord Cley Cerwyn argues that with the Boltons defeated, the war is over and that winter has arrived, the coldest one in a thousand years according to the Maesters. He proposes everyone to ride home and wait out the coming storms. Jon counters that the war is not over and the true enemy doesn't wait out the storm, he "brings the storm." The assembled begin to argue amongst themselves.

At this, Lyanna Mormont stands up and shames the Northern lords who did not help House Stark in their hour of need, reminding them of the crimes perpetrated against members of their own houses by the Boltons and at the Red Wedding. She adds that both House Mormont and the North remember they have no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark. She doesn't care that Jon Snow is a bastard, for he has the blood of Ned Stark; thus he is her king until his death. Her proclamation is followed by Manderly, who is says he was wrong for ignoring Jon's summons, and declares Jon as the "White Wolf" and the King in the North. Lord Robett states his regret for not fighting beside Jon on the battlefield and asks for forgiveness. Jon responds that there is nothing to forgive. Lord Glover turns to the rest of the lords, announcing there will be more fights to come, and that House Glover will stand behind House Stark as it had for a thousand years. He also bares his sword and kneels, hailing Jon as the King in the North, and the rest of the assembly joins in.

Season 7

Jon holds court at Winterfell, in which he prepares for the defense against the White Walkers. When the question of what to do with the castles belonging to the Umbers and Karstarks arises, Sansa wants to give them to new families who were loyal to House Stark and urges her brother to do so because the Umbers and Karstarks betrayed them. Jon disagrees with this course of action, stating that those responsible for betraying House Stark (Harald Karstark and Smalljon Umber) died in battle and he will not punish Alys Karstark and Ned Umber for the crimes of their relatives. Sansa disagrees with Jon's decision but Jon remains firm. Jon asks Alys and Ned to pledge their fealty to House Stark. Later, when they receive a summons from Cersei Lannister demanding Jon bend the knee, Sansa believes Jon is too focused on the Night King and wants him to focus on their enemy to the south. Jon responds with the immediacy of the Night King and the undead army but Sansa urges Jon of the threat Cersei poses.[31]

Several days later, Jon, Sansa, and Davos discuss the letter they received from Tyrion. Jon asks for Sansa's opinion and while Sansa remembers that Tyrion was kind to her and was unlike the rest of his family, she wonders if the message is truly from Tyrion. Jon is able to confirm its authenticity. Even so, Sansa worries it is too big a risk and Jon concedes that now is not the right time to go to Dragonstone. Davos opines that Daenerys Targaryen will make a good ally in the war to come against the White Walkers.

Sometime later, Maester Wolkan brings Jon a message from Samwell Tarly in the Citadel. Jon gathers the Northern lords in the main hall and announces that Sam's letter reveals there is a vein of dragon glass beneath Dragonstone. He adds that Lord Tyrion has invited him to Dragonstone to meet with Queen Daenerys Targaryen and announces his decision to travel to Dragonstone to convince Daenerys to join their fight against the White Walkers. Lords Yohn Royce and Robett Glover voice their opinions that a Targaryen cannot be trusted, citing the atrocities committed by Daenerys's father. Lyanna Mormont urges the King in the North to stay at home and Sansa objects, reminding Jon that Daenerys's father killed their uncle and grandfather. Jon accepts that he is taking a risk but stresses that the fight against the White Walkers is more important, and they need Daenerys's aid if the North is to be saved. Jon emphasizes that the North is his home, it is part of him, and he will never stop fighting for it. Sansa reiterates her objection to Jon's going to Dragonstone, and Jon tells Sansa he is leaving the North in good hands - Sansa's - and says he is giving her control of the North in his absence as she is his sister, regent, and a Stark. Sansa accepts.

In the catacombs beneath Winterfell, Littlefinger finds Jon, who is visiting his father's tomb, and vouches that Tyrion can be trusted. Petyr tells Jon that while he and Eddard had their differences, they both loved Catelyn Stark. He notes Catelyn wasn't fond of Jon, and muses that perhaps Catelyn underestimated Jon's potential as Jon now stands as the North's best chance against the coming storm. Jon, who clearly distrusts Baelish, says that Petyr shouldn't be there and that they have nothing to say to each other. Baelish replies that Jon should be grateful to him for saving him from death at the hands of Ramsay Bolton and insists he is not Jon's enemy. He tells Jon that he loves Sansa, as he loved Sansa's mother, and this prompts Jon to grab him by the throat. Jon warns Baelish that he will kill him if he touches his sister. Outside, Jon, Davos, and several horsemen then prepare to ride south to White Harbor while Sansa watches from the castle battlements. Before he leaves, Jon looks at Sansa and they share a farewell moment. Petyr, emerging from the catacombs, gazes at Sansa. [32]

Sansa helps prepare Winterfell for the Great War. In the midst of the preparations of food stores and armor checks, Bran Stark returns to Winterfell, accompanied by Meera Reed. In the Godswood, Sansa tells Bran she wishes Jon were with them and Bran notes that he needs to speak with Jon. When Sansa tells Bran he is Lord of Winterfell as Eddard's Stark last trueborn son, Bran responds he's not a lord because he is the three-eyed raven. Sansa asks what this means. Bran tells her he can see everything and has knowledge of all, but he must learn to see better in preparation for the when the night returns. He proves his all-seeing knowledge by describing the night Sansa was married to Ramsay to Winterfell and tells her he is sorry for what she went through. Sansa leaves, shaken.[33]

Later, Littlefinger meets with Bran. Apparently hoping to exploit disunity among the Stark children, he tries to ingratiate himself with Bran. Littlefinger gives Bran a gift. It is the same Valyrian steel dagger that was used to try and kill Bran while he was in a coma after he was pushed from one of Winterfell's towers. Detached due to his position as the three-eyed raven, Bran unemotionally asks who the dagger belonged to. Littlefinger responds that in a way that question started the entire War of the Five Kings - Bran's mother Catelyn took the dagger south with her to King's Landing to try to find who it belonged to, convinced the Lannisters sent the cutthroat to kill Bran (and left it there in Ned's possession, from whom Littlefinger recovered it). Littlefinger tries to manipulate Bran by remarking on how much chaos he must have lived through to get back to Winterfell - but then Bran looks at Littlefinger and says, "Chaos is a ladder" - quoting back Littlefinger's own words to him. Unnerved, Littlefinger takes his leave of Bran, calling him 'Lord Stark' but Bran responds, "I'm not Lord Stark."

Meera comes into Bran's chamber. Noticing his new wheelchair, he explains Maester Wolkan built it for him. She explains she came to tell him she's leaving and is saying goodbye because now, Bran is as safe as anyone will be before the coming war. She explains that when the White Walkers arrive, she wants to be with her family, so she is heading back to the Neck. When she says he doesn't need her with him now, Bran agrees he doesn't and detached, tells Meera, "Thank you." Meera grows angry that this is all Bran has to say, after everything they went through: HodorSummer, and even her own brother Jojen died for Bran. He tells Meera he isn't really "Bran" anymore and is now the three-eyed raven. He "remembers" the events of Bran Stark's life but now "remembers" vast amounts of other accumulated memories from centuries upon centuries. Crushed, Meera tells Bran he "died in that cave" before she leaves.

Meanwhile, Arya Stark returns to Winterfell after leaving years before with her father, Sansa, and King Robert Baratheon's entourage, and right after Bran's fall from the tower. Arya rides up to the gates and dismounts but the guards don't believe her when she says identifies herself as Arya Stark. They are that Arya has been dead for years. Arya asks that they send word to Maester Luwin and Rodrik Cassel, who can prove her identity (not knowing they are both dead). The guards brush her off that no one by those names is at Winterfell. Arya asks for Jon, but they say he actually just left Winterfell. Arya asks who is in charge of Winterfell then when they say "Lady Stark", she learns they are referring to her sister Sansa. The guards try to brush her aside again, but she expertly dodges them and insists that one way or another she's getting in. She explains to them that if she is Arya, they'll be in a lot of trouble for stopping her, and if she isn't, she won't last long in Winterfell anyway. Mildly concerned, they agree to let her wait in the courtyard but insist that she stay put while they go get Sansa. As soon as they take their eyes off her, Arya slips away. The two guards go to inform Sansa. They think it is nothing important and believe Arya is "some winter town girl" but when they reveal the girl asked for Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrick Cassel, Sansa realizes the girl is Arya, and knows where she has gone.

Sansa finds Arya where she expected, in the crypts looking at their father's statue. They are happy to see each other but are unsure of what to say. Arya asks if she has to call Sansa "Lady Stark" now, to which Sansa firmly insists yes, and laughs. They smile and hug, though still a bit unsure. Arya notes that Jon left her in charge and smiles when Sansa says that she hopes Jon will be back soon. He will be both surprised and happy to see Arya, Sansa remembering how happy Jon was to see her when they were reunited. The sisters then look sadly on their father's grave statue. Arya says it doesn't really look like him. Sansa acknowledges that everyone who knew his face well is dead. Arya points out they're not.

Arya asks about everyone saying Sansa killed Joffrey. Sansa explains she actually didn't, though she wished she had. Arya remarks that he was always at the top of her "list". This confuses Sansa, and Arya explains that she'd been keeping a list of everyone she was going to kill. Sansa asks how Arya got back, but she only says her road wasn't a pleasant one. Sansa says hers wasn't either. They hug again and Sansa tells Arya that Bran is home too.

Sansa brings Arya to Bran in the Godswood, where Bran is contemplative but somewhat detached even at the sight of Arya. He says he isn't surprised she's alive because he saw her at the Crossroads. Arya is confused, and Sansa explains that Bran is having "visions" now. Bran says he thought Arya was going to King's Landing, and when Sansa asks why she would head there of all places, Bran again startles them both by knowing of Arya's list and Cersei's name being on it. Sansa asks who else is on her list, but Arya says most of them dead now.

They talk about the Valyrian steel dagger in Bran's lap, and he explains that Littlefinger gave it to him, thinking he'd want it but he is still disinterested in it. Arya is confused as to why a common cutthroat would have a rare, priceless blade of Valyrian steel. Bran matter-of-factly says that someone very wealthy wanted him dead, and gave it to the assassin. Sansa acknowledges she doesn't actually trust Littlefinger and he'd never give anyone anything unless expecting something in return.

Bran says that doesn't matter, because he doesn't want it. Bran hands it to Arya and says she can have it, saying the dagger would be "wasted on a cripple". Arya slowly takes the dagger and looks at it.

Sansa, Bran, and Arya - the three remaining trueborn Stark children - proceed back to Winterfell's castle courtyard together, with Arya pushing Bran in his wheelchair. Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne see them from afar, all three of Catelyn Stark's surviving children reunited. Pod says Catelyn would be proud of Brienne, but she chides that she did next to nothing. Pod says he disagrees with "my lady", and Brienne starts to correct him that she doesn't consider herself a "lady", but then stops halfway and just thanks him for the compliment.

Sometime later, Brienne is going through a vigorous sword practice session with Podrick, knocking him down when he overextends himself. Impressed, Arya interrupts and says she'd like to spar with Brienne - the woman who beat the Hound in combat. Sansa and Littlefinger watch on silently from the walkway above as Brienne and Arya spar until they reach a stalemate, with each of them holding a blade at the others' throat. Arya takes her leave of Brienne, both mutually impressed, as Sansa looks down baffled at how her sister received such a deadly skill level.[34]

In the Godswood, Bran wargs into a flock of ravens to fly over the Wall into the Lands of Always Winter. Through the ravens, he sees the Army of the Dead led by the White Walkers and the Night King, traveling south towards Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. His reconnaissance continues until the Night King sees the ravens, at which Bran severs the connection. He tells Maester Wolkan that they need to send ravens at once.

Later, in Winterfell's council chamber, Arya observes Sansa presiding over a meeting of the Northern lords. Saying that the King in the North should stay in the north, Lord Robett Glover and Lord Yohn Royce of The Vale of Arryn imply they made a mistake in their choice of ruler and that she take over power in the absence of her half-brother. However, Sansa insists Jon is their true ruler who is doing what he believes is right for their people and that she is his regent. Following the meeting, Sansa confides her frustration in the Northern lords with Arya. Sansa realizes Arya is angry with her when Arya notes that Sansa is using their parents' chambers and always liked nice things. Arya is angry because she believes Sansa should have done something more when the lords were insulting Jon. When Arya opts for beheading dissenters, Sansa explains Jon will lose his army that way and this won't get people to work together. Arya accuses Sansa of trying to gain their support in case she wishes to seize the North for herself. Sansa is crestfallen by Arya's suggestion and hurt by her accusations. She tells Arya that she has "work to do."

Much later, Arya stalks Littlefinger as he is walking through the grounds of Winterfell. She follows Petyr into his personal quarters and catches him chatting with Maester Wolkan. She eavesdrops on them and after they leave, Arya enters Petyr's chamber and finds a scroll written by Sansa in the mattress. This is the scroll that Sansa wrote to their late brother Robb Stark urging him to bend the knee to King Joffrey Baratheon. Arya, unaware that Sansa had written the letter under duress from Cersei in an attempt to save their father, is horrified. Arya scrunches up the letter and sneaks out of the room, oblivious to a grinning Littlefinger watching from behind a wall.[35]

Later on, after Arya recalls a memory of their father to Sansa, she confronts Sansa about her alleged role in their father's death, showing the scroll she found. Sansa replies Cersei Lannister forced her to do it under duress. Arya counters that she was not tortured and that she saw Sansa at Ned's execution; Sansa retorts that Arya did nothing to stop their father's execution either. Arya chastises Sansa for betraying their family but Sansa responds that they have only returned to Winterfell because of her, while Arya travelled the world in pursuit of her own agenda. Sansa adds that their half-brother Jon was saved from defeat when Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale came to their rescue and insists Arya would not have survived the torments she endured at the hands of Joffrey and Ramsay.

Sansa demands to know where Arya found the letter and chides her younger sister that Cersei would be pleased to see them fighting but Arya is still bitter towards Sansa. She realizes that while Jon would understand the difficult circumstances Sansa was under when she wrote the letter, Sansa is afraid the Northern lords will discover it and turn on her, including Lyanna Mormont. Arya wonders what Lyanna would think, saying Lyanna is younger than Sansa was when she wrote this letter. Sansa realizes Arya is angry and says anger sometimes makes people do unfortunate things. Arya responds sometimes fear makes people do unfortunate things and chooses anger. Later, Sansa asks Littlefinger about where Arya got the letter from, unaware that Baelish orchestrated the entire incident. Sansa tells Petyr that she is commanding 20,000 men who answer to Jon but not to her. Petyr tells Sansa that the men will trust her because she can rule. Sansa does not trust the loyalty of the Northern lords, citing their history of switching sides. She counters that the discovery of the letter will turn her liege lords and men against her. Sansa confides in Petyr about her strained relations with Arya. Petyr suggests that Sansa talk to Brienne because she has sworn to protect both of Catelyn Stark's daughters. Trusting Baelish, Sansa accepts his advice.

The following morning, Maester Wolkan informs Sansa that they have received a letter from Queen Cersei. Sansa meets with Brienne, who advises her not to leave Winterfell. Instead, Sansa decides to send Brienne as her representative since she could reason with Jaime Lannister. Brienne warns that it is too dangerous for her to leave Sansa alone at Winterfell with Petyr. Sansa insists that her guards and men are loyal to her but Brienne warns that Petyr might be bribing them behind her back. Brienne offers to leave her squire Podrik, whose swordsmanship has improved, but Sansa insists that she can take care of herself.

Later, Sansa enters Arya's quarters and opens a leather case containing several "faces", including the late Walder Frey's face. When Arya comes in and catches her, Sansa tells Arya that her men are loyal to her. Arya responds Sansa's men are not here. She tells Sansa that she obtained the faces from the Faceless Men of Braavos and admits she spent time training to be a Faceless Man. She forces Sansa to play the lying game and begins by asking how she feels about Jon being king. Sansa demands that Arya tell her what the "faces" are.

Arya replies that they always wanted to pretend to be other people. Sansa wanted to be a queen while Arya herself wanted to be a knight. In the end, neither of them got what they wanted. Arya says that the faces allow her to become someone else and, as she approaches Sansa with her dagger, wonders what it'd be like to become Sansa. However, Arya relents and leaves a disturbed Sansa alone with the dagger.[36]

Sansa discusses the potential threat that Arya poses her with Littlefinger. Littlefinger tries to manipulate her, encouraging her to think as he does. He tells Sansa to ask herself what Arya's worst possible motivation is. Seemingly overcome with horror at the thought that Arya would want to take her place and reign as Lady of Winterfell, it seems that Sansa decides to do something about it.

After a period of contemplation on the battlements, Sansa orders Arya be brought to the Great Hall. In the Hall, Sansa and Bran are seated at the great table, the hall lined with Stark and Arryn men and a few key lords such as Yohn Royce and Littlefinger. Arya is brought in and asks Sansa if she "really wants to do this." Sansa replies it's not about what she wants, it's about justice. She lists a series of crimes perpetrated against House Stark and asks Littlefinger how he intends to answer the charges. Thrown, Littlefinger tries to figure out what is going on. Sansa reveals his murder of Lysa Arryn and his use of Lysa to murder Jon Arryn. She uses his own words against him and accuses him of orchestrating the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters that has ultimately engulfed the Seven Kingdoms for the better part of the last decade, including the betrayal and death of Eddard Stark.

Littlefinger tries to deny this, but Bran uses his Greensight to recall the exact words Baelish said as he held the knife to Ned's throat. Littlefinger realizes he has no recourse and demands that Lord Royce take him, the Lord Protector of the Vale, to safety. Bronze Yohn refuses him. In desperation, Littlefinger falls to his knees and pleads for his life, insisting yet again how much he loved Catelyn and how much he now loves Sansa, but Sansa, unswayed by his pleadings, sentences him to death and promises she will never forget all the lessons he taught her. As Littlefinger tries to speak, Arya slits his throat with the catspaw Valyrian steel dagger. Littlefinger slumps dead to the floor.

On the battlements, Sansa and Arya discuss Littlefinger's plots and how much they, as people, have changed. Arya tells Sansa that she wouldn't have been able to survive what Sansa did. Sansa disagrees, saying Arya is the strongest person she knows. The sisters muse on another of their father's sayings about how lone wolves die in the winter, but wolf packs survive. They realize the truth of his words as their remaining family needs to stick together.[37]

Notable residents of the castle

  • Lord Jon Snow - Warden of the North and son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, publicly known as Eddard Stark's illegitimate son, who served as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at Castle Black. Killed by his own men and later resurrected by Melisandre. Formerly King in the North until he bent the knee to Daenerys Targaryen. Currently en-route back to Winterfell with Daenerys.
  • Lady Sansa Stark, Jon's maternal cousin and presumed half-sister, daughter of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn Stark. Briefly lived in Winterfell under the Bolton's reign as Ramsay Bolton's wife, but escaped and helped Jon retake Winterfell with the help of the knights of the Vale. She is the Lady of Winterfell and Regent while Jon is away.
  • Lady Arya Stark, Jon's maternal cousin and presumed half-sister. Trained with the Faceless Men at the House of Black and White in Braavos before returning to Winterfell after finding out about the Battle of the Bastards.
  • Bran Stark, Jon's maternal cousin and presumed half-brother, as well as the last living son of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn Stark. Went beyond the Wall and became the new Three-Eyed Raven. Officially abdicated his title as Lord of Winterfell.
  • Ser Davos Seaworth, former Hand of the King under Stannis Baratheon and now serves House Stark as one of King Jon's most trusted advisers. Currently away with Jon.
  • Brienne of Tarth, the sworn sword to Sansa and Arya.
  • Podrick Payne, Brienne's squire.
  • Wolkan, the castle's new Maester, after the death of Maester Luwin. Formally served the Boltons until their subsequent extinction at the hands of the Starks.
  • Yohn Royce, Lord of Runestone and bannerman to House Arryn. Declared for House Stark with the rest of the Knights of the Vale and now serves the King in the North, Jon Snow.

Former residents

Stark rule

  • {Luwin}, the castle's Maester. Stabbed fatally by Dagmer and later mercy-killed at his own request by Osha.
  • {Mikken}, the blacksmith, put to sword during the Sack of Winterfell.
  • {Hallis Mollen}, the new captain of the castle guard following Jory Cassel's departure, killed during the Fall of Winterfell.
  • {Mordane}, a septa and governess for Sansa and Arya Stark. Executed in King's Landing during the purge of the Stark household.
  • {Old Nan}, a former retainer and servant who retired. She told the Stark children stories about life in times gone by. Died of old age.
    • {Hodor}, Old Nan's grandson or great-grandson, a simpleton stableboy. Died protecting Meera and Bran from wights.
  • {Tommy}, the barber, put to sword during the Sack of Winterfell.
  • Tormund Giantsbane, a former wildling raider and the leader of the army of Free Folk (wildlings) that helped King Jon defeat the Boltons. He and his army left to man the wall at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
    • An unknown number of wildlings that fought and survived during the Battle of the Bastards, as well as northmen serving as soldiers of Winterfell.

Bolton Rule

  • Lord {Roose Bolton}, Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North and Lord Paramount of the North. Killed by Ramsay.
    • Lady {Walda Bolton}, Roose's latest wife. Granddaughter of Lord Walder Frey. Killed by Ramsay.
    • Lord {Ramsay Bolton}, his legitimized natural son, Previous Lord of Winterfell and the Dreadfort, Warden of the North and Lord Paramount of the North. Executed by Sansa Stark after the Battle of the Bastards by being fed to his own hounds.
  • Reek, formerly Theon Greyjoy, raised at Winterfell as Eddard Stark's ward and hostage for his father's good behavior. Abandoned the Stark cause and joined his father, Balon, in the War of the Five Kings. He took over Winterfell and installed himself as Prince of Winterfell until he was betrayed by his own crew shortly after. Later became the manservant and hostage of Ramsay. Helped Sansa escape Winterfell, Fled from the Iron Islands with his sister Yara Greyjoy and pledged himself to Daenerys Targaryen. Currently on his way to rescue his sister Yara from his uncle, Euron Greyjoy.
  • {Myranda}, one of Ramsay's bedwarmers and lover. Pushed to her death from a catwalk by Reek after she threatened Sansa.

Image gallery

Behind the scenes

For the television series, a variety of locations were used to create Winterfell as it appears on screen. For the pilot episode, Doune Castle in Scotland was used for some exterior shots and the great feast held when King Robert Baratheon and his party arrive. Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland was used for the scenes of sparring in Winterfell's castle yard and the arrival of Robert's party at Winterfell's gates. The rest of the castle, including the other interiors and the scenes involving Bran climbing the walls, were filmed as interiors at the Paint Hall studio facility in Belfast. For the first season itself, Castle Ward was the principal filming location for the Winterfell scenes. Doune Castle was not revisited. One of the only full scenes from Doune Castle to survive from the pilot episode is the scene in the crypts of Winterfell when Eddard and Robert visit Lyanna's grave. All subsequent appearances of the Winterfell crypts from Season 2 onwards were filmed in the cellars of Shane's Castle in Northern Ireland.

While it isn't visible on-camera at all, the cellars of Shane's Castle are infested with numerous spiders. Any scenes in the cellars involving candles with open flames (all of them, because it is dark) will make swarms of spiders crawl out of their hiding places to scramble away from the head source. The actors report that while the camera can't see them, they can, and there are so many they can hear them - and even feel them falling onto them. The actors don't like filming scenes in the cellar as a result.[38]

As of the end of Season 5, Winterfell is one of three locations (the others being King's Landing and Castle Black/The Wall) to be featured in every opening credits sequence, regardless as to whether the location is actually visited in the episode (this includes Season 3 and virtually all of Season 4 during which Winterfell is never visited nor seen at all).

As explained in the Blu-ray commentary, the main Winterfell set was greatly expanded in Season 5. The original sets from Seasons 1 and 2 primarily consisted of the outer courtyard, the feast hall, and one interior bedroom which could be redressed (for Eddard and Catelyn's room, Bran's room, etc.), but otherwise there wasn't an extensive interconnected interior set. For Season 5, the production team constructed a complex of staircases, corridors and bedrooms, all added on top of the existing courtyard and feast hall.[39]

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Winterfell is a huge castle complex spanning several acres, consisting of two massive walls with a ditch between them and a village located just outside. The complex consists of many buildings and keeps, some ancient and decrepit, some in good repair. According to legend, Winterfell was built by Bran the Builder eight thousand years ago.

The full castle as it appears at the start of the narrative has not been standing for eight thousand years: it was gradually expanded over many centuries like a tree growing new branches, giving it a less organized appearance than large castles which were planned out all at once such as the Red Keep in King's Landing. Parts have also had to be rebuilt over time, either due to natural degeneration or damage in sieges (Winterfell was burned out several times in ancient wars with the Boltons and other enemies, but the Starks always rallied and rebuilt it). The eldest surviving part of the castle is the First Keep, an old tower no longer actively used, which some maesters think dates back to some point after the Andal Invasion began six thousand years ago.

The crypts underneath Winterfell are massive - larger than the entire castle complex above ground. This is a testament to just how long the Starks have held Winterfell: according to tradition, there should be eight thousand years' worth of tombs in the crypts. According to tradition, while all Stark family members are buried in the crypts, statues are only made for those who were head of House Stark (either as kings or later as lords). There have been some exceptions over the generations, and Eddard himself had statues made at the tombs of his older brother Brandon and his sister Lyanna. The most ancient tombs are in the lower levels, and the more current ones closer to the surface. Many of the lower levels are half-collapsed and unexplored. With their vast size and lack of active use, it is quite easy for someone to hide in the crypts for weeks or even months at a time, as Bran, Rickon, and their followers did during the Sack of Winterfell, provided that they bring sufficient supplies with them. According to legend, when the infamous wildling rogue Bael the Bard seduced the daughter of a Stark lord, they hid out in the crypts for nearly a year undetected, long enough that when the daughter one day reappeared in her chambers she had with her the infant son that she had with Bael.

See also

References

v  d  e
Lord: Jon Snow Heir: Sansa Stark
House-Stark-Main-Shield
Seat: Winterfell Lands: The North
Title(s): Lord Paramount of the North · Warden of the North · Lord of Winterfell

As independent kingdom: King in the North

Ancestors:Brandon the Builder · Brandon the Breaker · Dorren Stark · Rickard Stark · Rodrik Stark · Karlon Stark · Theon Stark · Osric Stark · Torrhen Stark · Cregan Stark
Current members:Arya Stark · Bran Stark
Deceased members:Rickard Stark · Brandon Stark · Lyanna Stark · Eddard Stark · Robb Stark · Talisa Stark · Catelyn Stark · Rickon Stark · Benjen Stark
Household:{Maester Luwin} · {Ser Rodrik Cassel} · {Jory Cassel} · {Vayon Poole} · Jeyne Poole · {Septa Mordane} · {Old Nan} · {Hodor} · {Farlen} · {Mikken} · {Osha} · Meera Reed · {Jojen Reed} · Brienne of Tarth · Podrick Payne · Davos Seaworth · Maester Wolkan
v  d  e
Lord: None, extinct Heir: None, extinct
House-Bolton-Main-Shield
Seat: Winterfell
The Dreadfort
Lands: The North
Title(s): Red King (former) · Lord of the Dreadfort
Ancestors:Royce IV Bolton · Rogar Bolton
Current members:None, extinct
Deceased members:Domeric Bolton · Ramsay Bolton · Roose Bolton · Walda Bolton
Household:{Locke} · {Steelshanks} · {Myranda} · {Tansy} · {Violet} · {Master Torturer} · Maester Wolkan
Overlord:House Baratheon of King's Landing