This season of Game of Thrones has left us on the edge of our seats. The show has left us cheering. It has also left us shouting at our TVs. *Mini-Spoiler Alert*. I mean really GOT, really? We’ve been waiting since season 1, and the Direwolf “reunion” had us sobbing like
I don’t know about you all, but I refuse to believe that Direwolf was Nymeria. I can’t believe that a bond like that could just fizzle out. (Maybe now’s the time to disclose that I’m still riding the “Shaggy dog is still alive” conspiracy train too).
Since we’re all reeling from the disappointment, we thought we would cheer you up with some Game of Thrones Direwolf Triva!
The Real Direwolves
Direwolves aka Canis dirus inhabited this earth for many years prior to their extinction approximately 10,000 years ago. At one point in time they roamed the earth in abundance, just as in GOT. Their skeletal remains have been found in the United States, with the largest collection having come from the La Brea asphalt of California. Remains have also been found all over Canada, and even as far south as Bolivia.
Just like in GOT, the Direwolf had regional limitations, likely due to climate, predators, and food resources. There have been only a couple reports of skeletal remains found north of 42 degrees N latitude, and this is very unusual.
So unusual that it becomes part of the storyline in Game of Thrones. The litter of the six Direwolf pups were found south of the wall- the only sighting south of the wall ever reported. Ned couldn’t help but allow the Stark children to keep the pups, as they argued that they must be meant to have them.
Pictured above are the skeletal remains of a Direwolf in the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas.
The Direwolves were a bit larger than the Grey wolf we know today, though they weren’t quite the ginormous beasts portrayed by George R. R. Martin in the series. The largest of the Direwolves probably weighed in at around 150lb, compared with the 80-90lb Grey wolf we are familiar with.
The Direwolf was a pack animal, and probably more advanced than you’d think. Study of their skeletal structures shows many wolves with healed injuries, suggesting they formed strong bonds with each other and support structures within the tribe to help care for the injured. This is unlike many species who simply abandon their injured, as weak links leave them vulnerable to other predators.
How the species became extinct remains up for debate, especially since their seemingly weaker counterpart the Grey wolf, survived. Causes for extinction are thought to include competition with other species, changes in climate temperature, and over-reliance on megaherbivores as their source of food.
If the Direwolf is extinct, who plays them on Game of Thrones?
UK laws prohibit the use of wolves since there would be young children filming on set. So, the GOT production team decided that instead of wolves, they would use Northern Inuit Dogs.
Despite their uncanny resemblance, they are not “part” wolf. In fact, they share no more genes with a wolf than any other domesticated dogs we live alongside today.
The Northern Inuit Society was tasked with providing the Northern Inuit pups who would be used for the first couple seasons of filming.
Did you know- Summer and Grey Wind are actually real life brothers?
Summer was played by a Northern Inuit named Odin; Grey Wind by a Northern Inuit named Thor. We were unable to find Nymeria’s real name (maybe it’s actually Nymeria?), but after she finished her role in the show, she actually played Shaggy Dog. Her fur was dyed for the role, of course.
Because she’s a dye-r wolf, right? Ok, sorry really bad joke.
Ghost was also played by a young, Northern Inuit pup in the first season.
Once Lady, Summer, and Grey Wind finished their roles (aka were “killed off”- Let’s face it, being a GOT character is an automatic death sentence), they were allowed to enter retirement and do what they do best- dog. (More on that later, read on to see where they are now)!
The Northern Inuit pups who placed the young Ghost and Nymeria were also retired. Game of Thrones producers decided that in order to stick with their original vision of a Direwolf, they would require real wolves to portray the adult, along with some careful enhancing and editing.
Here are Ghost and Nymeria today- real wolves but digitally enhanced.
Speculation of a Nymeria reunion began running rampant when we were left with this teaser posted on the Instagram account of InstinctWolves…
Here is the real life wolf Quigley, who now plays Ghost.
Wait, I thought the real life Ghost was dead?
Nope. All of the internet upheaval started after George R. R. Martin posted this to his Twitter account:
“In loving memory of the real life Ghost from the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. He passed this week & he will be missed. R.I.P”
When fans caught wind of this, they thought that the actual wolf who plays Ghost in GOT had died. Not so. The wolf pictured above was actually a rescued wolf-dog who resided at New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. He was one of a group of ten wolves at the sanctuary known as the “Westeros pack”, who were named after the show’s Direwolves. Martin and his wife had helped name the pack and fundraised for the center on several occasions.
The Game of Thrones Direwolves
She is named after Nymeria of Dorne, the warrior queen of Rhoynar who lived a thousand years ago. In season one, Arya and Joffrey Baratheon began fighting. When Joffrey pushed Arya and threatened to kill her, Nymeria protected Arya by biting Joffrey’s arm. When Queen Cersei Lannister hears of this, she orders Nymeria’s execution. Before this can occur, Arya chases Nymeria away, hoping to spare her of certain death. We haven’t heard from Nymeria until this latest episode when Arya sets off to Winterfell. On the way there, she is surrounded by a pack of wolves. One of the Direwolves appears to be Nymeria. Arya asks the wolf to come home with her, but the wolf turns her away and leaves with her wolf pack.
Summer joins Bran in his Journey north of the wall. Before her tragic death, Summer saved Bran on multiple occasions. In season one, Bran sees something he isn’t supposed to- the forbidden tryst between Queen Cersei and her brother Jamie. When Jamie sees Bran, he pushes him out a window. Against all odds, Bran survives. While recovering from the accident, an assassin comes to Bran’s room to finish the job. This time, Summer saves him by jumping on the assassin and biting his neck, resulting in the intruder’s demise. Summer tragically dies in season six after wight walkers storm the cave. Ultimately, Summer stays behind to attack the wights, giving Bran time to escape.
Shaggy dog was well recognized as he was the wolf with the black fur. We got to know Shaggy dog as he accompanied Summer, Osha, Bran, Rickon, and Hodor as they traveled North seeking shelter with Jon Snow at the wall. Realizing the danger they were in, Bran sends Shaggy dog away to house Umber in order to protect little brother Rickon. Sadly, Shaggy dog is killed by the Umbers…
So most think. There are some GOT fans still holding out thinking Shaggy dog’s death was staged. They argue that Shaggy dog was not killed off in the books, and that the show never actually showed the wolf being killed- They showed his decapitated head which fans argue is too small to be his. Probably wishful thinking, but it keeps hope alive for some of us!
Grey Wind helped the Starks win the Battle of Oxcross. After sneaking into the camp, he scares the Lannister’s horses and kills multiple sentries. Without the use of their horses, the Lannister army is easily taken down.
And then the tragic red wedding…. Grey Wind was the first to sense trouble. He comes very anxious, and knew that something was wrong. However, he is kenneled and is unable to do anything about the impending attack. When the Frey and Bolton men turn on the Starks, Grey Wind is shot several times by a cross bow, causing him to die.
Lady was Sansa’s best friend and confident (actually she still is- more on that later). In fact she was her only friend when she was forced to move to Kings Landing. Unfortunately, Queen Cersei demanded a wolf pay for Joffrey’s wounds. Remember when Nymeria protected Arya after Joffrey threatended her? Because Arya helped Nymeria make her great escape, Cersei decided a wolf should have to die in her place, and ordered Lady’s execution.
Dont worry, Lady’s real life story ends much happier!
The “Direwolves” of Game of Thrones- Where are they now?
We weren’t able to track down all of the original Game of Thrones pups. Sources confirm they were all adopted out into their furever homes after their roles ended. Here are updates on the dogs we do know about:
Odin (Summer) & Thor (Grey Wind)
Odin and Thor, names after old viking gods, are actually real life brother and sister. Their owner William Mulhall had actually already adopted the young pups 3 weeks prior when he received a phone call from producers. He was told “some TV show wanted to use them.” And two stars were born.
Since “retiring”, they are learning how to dog. Which judging by their instagram account, they do pretty well!
Yes, I am a certified stalker of two dogs on Instagram. I mean, look at them!
If you’re really a fan, you can even book a tour and meet the dogs! Pictured below is actor Ian Beattie with the two.
Owner William says that over 100,000 people have showed up just to meet these two! According to him, their favorite past times include chicken, rawhide, long walks on the beach, and belly rubs. Can’t blame them.
Remember we promised that Lady WOULD get her happily ever after story? Well, here it is. Sophie Turner aka Sansa fell in love with Zunni aka Lady during filming and decided to adopt her. Sophie says she always wanted a dog growing up, but her parents wouldn’t let her. Well, Sophie’s mom had a major change of heart and even petitioned on Sophie’s behalf to allow the family to adopt the dog. The two have been a dynamic duo since, and they haven’t looked back. Zunni is now living out her golden years with the Turner family in Leamington.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the real Direwolves, and the dogs and wolves that have been one of the most magnificent parts of the show. And for you GoT producers- get with it, bring Ghost back, and give us the Nymeria/Arya reunion that we have been waiting 6 seasons for!
“I am a wolf and will not be afraid” – Arya Stark