First Keep

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Bran Stark atop a gargoyle © 2012 John Picacio

The First Keep is an abandoned fortress and the oldest part of Winterfell.[1]


Located near the broken tower, the First Keep is a squad and round drum tower[2] taller than it appears. It is decorated with weather-worn gargoyles.[1][3] The First Keep's blind side is near the guards hall.[1] In the fortress's shadow is an ancient lichyard containing the graves of servants for the Kings of Winter.[4] The entrance to the crypt of Winterfell is also near the First Keep.[5]


The First Keep has been rebuilt numerous times, so its origin is uncertain.[6] Some believe it was built by the First Men, but Maester Kennet determined the round tower in its current form was built after the coming of the Andals, since the First Men and early Andals constructed square fortifications.[7]

The fortress is empty[1] and has not been used for several centuries.[8][5] Bran Stark enjoys climbing the First Keep and swinging from its gargoyles. Sometimes he climbs from the First Keep to the nearby broken tower so he can feed crows.[1]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Bran Stark leaping near the First Keep and the broken tower © Marc Simonetti

While climbing the gargoyles, Bran Stark discovers Queen Cersei Lannister and her brother, Ser Jaime Lannister, cavorting in the First Keep. Jaime tosses Bran from a window,[1] crippling the boy.[9]

Rickon Stark looks at the gargoyles using the far-eye in Maester Luwin's turret.[10]

A Clash of Kings

Bran has trouble remembering his fall, but he is disconcerted when he sees the First Keep's gargoyles.[11]

Following the sack of Winterfell, Bran discovers that one side of the First Keep has fallen away, shattering gargoyles and crushing at least one body. Its floors and beams have burned away, allowing Bran to see the privy.[8]

A Storm of Swords

Sansa Stark includes the First Keep when she builds a snow castle of Winterfell at the Eyrie.[2]

A Dance with Dragons

When they visit the crypt of Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy and Barbrey Dustin pass the ruins of the First Keep, finding it filling with snow.[5] Ser Aenys Frey's squire is found naked and frozen in the castle's lichyard,[12] and later the bloodied body of Little Walder Frey is found near the ruined keep.[13]


Bran was moving from gargoyle to gargoyle with the ease of long practice when he heard the voices. He was so startled he almost lost his grip. The First Keep had been empty all his life.[1]

—thoughts of Bran Stark

They stood in the shadow of the First Keep, or what remained of it. One whole side of the building had torn loose and fallen away. Stone and shattered gargoyles lay strewn across the yard. They fell just where I did, Bran thought when he saw them. Some of the gargoyles had broken into so many pieces it made him wonder how he was alive at all.[8]

—thoughts of Bran Stark