From A Wiki of Ice and Fire
Castle, Regional Capital
Artwork by Lino Drieghe. © FFG
|Government||House Stark , Feudal Lord.|
|Founded||Age of Heroes|
|Notable places||The Great Keep, Glass Garden, Winter Town|
Winterfell is the ancestral castle and seat of power of House Stark and is considered to be the capital of the North. It is located in the center of the northern province of the Seven Kingdoms, on the kingsroad that runs from Storm's End to the Wall. It is situated at the eastern edge of the wolfswood, north of the western branch of the White Knife and Castle Cerwyn. Winterfell is south of the northern mountains and southeast of Long Lake.
Winterfell was supposedly built by Brandon the Builder over eight thousand years ago, with the help of giants. For most of recorded history Winterfell was the seat of House Stark, the Kings in the North and later as Wardens of the North, after King Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons. As the regional capital of the North, harvest feasts have been hosted in Winterfell for centuries.
Winterfell is a huge castle complex spanning several acres, consisting of two massive walls and a village located just outside called the "winter town". Winterfell itself has been built around an ancient godswood and over natural hot springs. The water is piped through walls and chambers to heat them, making Winterfell more comfortable than other castles during the harsh northern winters.
Inside the walls, the complex is composed of dozens of courtyards and small open spaces. Weapons training and practice take place in those yards. The inner ward is a second, much older open space in the castle where archery practice takes place. It is located next to the broken tower. Inside Winterfell stands the Inner Castle, which contains the Great Keep and the Great Hall.
- The Great Keep is the innermost castle and stronghold of the castle complex. It was built over natural hot springs to keep it warm. Its walls are made of granite. It is connected to the armory by a covered bridge. From a window on the covered bridge, one can see the entire yard.
- The Great Hall is used for receiving guests and the place where the household would dine together, including the lord of the house. The Great Hall is very large. On the outside it is enclosed with grey stone and covered with banners, with wide doors made of oak and iron, which opens to the castle yard, whilst a rear exit leads to a dimly-lit gallery. Inside it can hold eight long rows of trestle tables, four to each side of the central aisle, and can seat 500 people. There is a raised platform for noble guests.
Courtyard and Misc.
- The First Keep, a squat round fortress, is the oldest part of the castle. It is no longer in use. Around it lies a lichyard where the Kings of Winter would lay their loyal servants. The keep has gargoyles atop it.
- The Broken Tower, also known as the Burned Tower, was once the tallest watchtower in Winterfell. Over 140 years ago a lightning strike set it afire and the top third collapsed inward, but no one bothered to rebuild it. It stands behind the old inner ward.
- The Godswood is an ancient godswood that has stood untouched for 10,000 years, with three acres of old packed earth and close together trees creating a dense canopy, which the castle was raised around. At the center of the grove stands an ancient weirwood with a face carved into it, standing over a pool of black water. Across the godswood from the heart tree, beneath the windows of the Guest House, an underground hot spring feeds three small pools, with a moss covered wall looming above them. The godswood is enclosed by walls, and is accessed by a main iron gate, or smaller wooden ones. Snow shrikes can be seen when the godswood is covered in snow.
- The Glass Garden is a greenhouse heated by the hot springs, which turn it into a place of moist warmth. It is used to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers.
- The Crypts are where the bones of all of the Kings in the North and ruling lords of Winterfell are buried. The underground crypts are long and narrow, with pillars moving two by two along its length. Between pillars stand the sepulchers of the Starks of Winterfell, the likenesses of the dead seated on thrones, with iron swords set before them to keep the restless spirits from wandering, and snarling direwolves at their feet. The crypts are located deep under the earth, cavernous and bigger than the complex above ground. They are accessed by a twisting stone stair and a huge ironwood door that lies at a slant to the floor. The stair continues below to older levels where the most ancient Kings in the North are entombed.
- The Bell Tower is connected to the rookery by a bridge. The bridge is covered and runs from the fourth floor of the tower to the second floor of the rookery.
- The Maester's Turret is located below the rookery.
- The Library Tower houses the library at Winterfell. A stonework staircase winds about its exterior.
- The Guards Hall is in line with the Bell Tower, and further back, the First Keep.
Winterfell is a huge castle complex spanning several acres, defended by two massive granite walls with a wide moat between them. The outer wall is eighty feet high, while the inner is one hundred feet high, with a wide moat between them. There are guard turrets on the outer wall and more than thirty watch turrets on the crenelated inner walls.
The main gatehouse is made of two huge crenelated bulwarks which flank the arched gate and drawbridge that opens into the market square. There are three additional gates - the Hunter's Gate directly on the opposite side of the castle, the south gate, and the northern gate. There is a narrow tunnel inside of the inner wall stretching halfway around the castle, allowing travel from the south gate all the way to the northern gate without interruption.
- The Hunter's Gate is a gate located close to the kennels and the kitchens. It opens directly onto the open fields and the wolfswood, so people can come and go without having to cross through the winter town. It is favored by hunting parties.
- The East Gate is part of the main gatehouse, located on the eastern inner walls. It opens onto the King's Gate located in the outer walls and leads to the kingsroad.
The winter town, so-called because it lies mostly deserted during summer years, is where smallfolk gather in winters. It is located outside the walls of Winterfell. Its market square is filled with wooden stalls for merchants, while its streets are muddy and lined with rows of houses made from log and undressed stone. Less than one in five are occupied during the summer, but they fill up once winter arrives. The kingsroad sits beyond the winter town, which would put it to the east of Winterfell. There is an inn in the winter town.
A Game of Thrones
Lord Eddard Stark hosts King Robert Baratheon and the royal family at Winterfell after the death of Lord Jon Arryn. Robb Stark remains in the castle when Eddard travels south to King's Landing to serve as the new Hand of the King. A fire is started in the Library Tower in order to distract the guards during an attempt on Bran Stark's life.
When Robb hears that Eddard has been taken prisoner in King's Landing, he raises the northern bannerman and marches south to rescue his father. Bran remains as the Stark in Winterfell. The direwolf Lady is buried in the lichyard of the First Keep. Catelyn Tully appoints Ser Rodrik Cassel the castellan of Winterfell.
A Clash of Kings
Bran, the Stark in Winterfell in Robb's absence, hosts numerous northern lords for the harvest feast. Songs performed during the festival include "Iron Lances", "The Burning of the Ships", and "The Bear and the Maiden Fair".
During the War of the Five Kings, Winterfell is captured in a surprise attack by the ironmen led by Theon Greyjoy. He rules the castle for several weeks, but he lacks the manpower to hold it indefinitely against the Stark bannermen. Tyrion Lannister, hearing of Theon's taking of Winterfell, thinks to himself:
|“||He had only the vaguest memory of Theon Greyjoy from his time with the Starks. A callow youth, always smiling, skilled with a bow; it was hard to imagine him as Lord of Winterfell. The Lord of Winterfell would always be a Stark. He remembered their godswood; the tall sentinels armored in their grey-green needles, the great oaks, the hawthorn and ash and soldier pines, and at the center the heart tree standing like some pale giant frozen in time. He could almost smell the place, earthy and brooding, the smell of centuries, and he remembered how dark the wood had been even by day. That wood was Winterfell. It was the north. I never felt so out of place as I did when I walked there, so much an unwelcome intruder. He wondered if the Greyjoys would feel it too. The castle might well be theirs, but never that godswood. Not in a year, or ten, or fifty.||”|
The castle is sacked and burned by Ramsay Snow, after his force of Dreadfort men turn on his fellow northmen and double-cross Theon, taking him prisoner. The ceiling of the Great Hall and one whole side of the First Keep collapse during the Sack of Winterfell. A steaming lake forms at the bottom of the Library Tower, while the Maester's Turret and the bridge connecting the Bell Tower to the rookery are destroyed. Bran and Rickon Stark, undetected in the crypts, make their escape from Winterfell in the aftermath.
A Storm of Swords
Due to the alleged deaths of Bran and Rickon Stark, Sansa Stark is now considered to be the heir to Winterfell. For this title Lady Olenna Tyrell plots to have Sansa married to the heir of Highgarden, Willas Tyrell. When Tywin Lannister is informed of this he has his son, Tyrion marry her instead, to both Sansa and Tyrion's reluctance.
After King Robb Stark marries Jeyne Westerling, he tells his mother, Catelyn Tully, that he plans to legitimize his brother, Jon Snow, and name him heir of Winterfell and King in the North should he and Jeyne not have a child. Due to Sansa's marriage to Tyrion Lannister, Robb fears that Sansa will give Tyrion a son and thus control of Winterfell which Robb wants to prevent. Catelyn pleads that Robb consider naming his other sister, Arya Stark, as heir, but Robb insists that no one has seen Arya since his father Eddard Stark's death and that his younger sister is likely also dead. Robb signs the decree naming Jon his heir, but the whereabouts of the will are unknown after Robb's death in the Red Wedding.
At the Wall, in exchange for Jon Snow recognizing Stannis Baratheon as king, Stannis offers to legitimize him, which would make him Lord Jon Stark of Winterfell. However, Jon refuses Stannis and instead becomes the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
King Stannis Baratheon reminds Jon Snow that he had hoped to bestow Winterfell on him, and that his offer was thrown in his face. Jon replies that by right Winterfell should go to his sister, Sansa Stark. Stannis asks Jon if he is eager to see the Imp, Tyrion Lannister, perched on Eddard Stark's seat. He promises Jon that as long as he, Stannis, is alive that will not happen.
Lord Roose Bolton, the new Warden of the North, moves the wedding of his legitimized son, Ramsay Bolton, to "Arya Stark", who is actually Jeyne Poole, from Barrowton to Winterfell. When the Boltons arrive at Winterfell, Roose finds the ruined castle a refuge of more then two dozen squatters. When he tells them he will be merciful if they serve well, they are used for a labour force in rebuilding Winterfell. They rebuild burned gates and raise a new roof over the Great Hall. After the work is completed Roose has them all hanged; true to his word he is merciful and does not flay a one.
Ramsay marries "Arya" in the godswood and becomes Lord of Winterfell, with Theon Greyjoy giving Jeyne away. Lord Wyman Manderly furnishes the wedding feast and asks the singer Abel to sing of the Rat Cook.
During a winter storm that hits Winterfell, squires build snowmen on the battlements. A dozen snowy lords are built to command them, including depictions of Lord Wyman Manderly, Lord Harwood Stout, Lady Barbrey Dustin, and Whoresbane Umber on the battlements. Theon and Barbrey discover that swords are missing from the crypts. Tensions heighten during the blizzard as several Freys and northerners are found dead. Theon and "Arya" flee the castle after Freys fight with Manderly men.
The Winds of Winter
After learning that Stannis Baratheon's army is three days march from Winterfell, Roose sends out the Freys and Manderlys, as well as Ramsay and his men, but keeps much of his own strength behind in Winterfell. According to Theon, Roose is keeping his own men back as a reserve, as he once did in the Riverlands, to weaken potential rivals.
|“||Bran could perch for hours among the shapeless, rain-worn gargoyles that brooded over the First Keep, watching it all: the men drilling with wood and steel in the yard, the cooks tending their vegetables in the glass garden, restless dogs running back and forth in the kennels, the silence of the godswood, the girls gossiping beside the washing well. It made him feel like he was lord of the castle, in a way even Robb would never know. It taught him Winterfell's secrets too. The builders had not even leveled the earth; there were hills and valleys behind the walls of Winterfell. There was a covered bridge that went from the fourth floor of the bell tower across to the second floor of the rookery. Bran knew about that. And he knew you could get inside the inner wall by the south gate, climb three floors and run all the way around Winterfell through a narrow tunnel in the stone, and then come out on ground level at the north gate, with a hundred feet of wall looming over you. Even Maester Luwin didn't know that, Bran was convinced.||”|
|“||The Lord of Winterfell would always be a Stark.||”|
|“||He remembered Winterfell as he had last seen it. Not as grotesquely huge as Harrenhal, nor as solid and impregnable to look at as Storm's End, yet there had been a great strength in those stones, a sense that within those walls a man might feel safe. The news of the castle’s fall had come as a wrenching shock. ||”|
|“||“The Prince of Winterfell.” Of Winterfell burned and tumbled, its people scattered and slain. The glass gardens were smashed, and hot water gushed from the cracked walls to steam beneath the sun. How can you be the prince of someplace you might never see again? ||”|
– Bran's thoughts on Winterfell
|“||Drifting snowflakes brushed her face as light as lover’s kisses, and melted on her cheeks. At the center of the garden, beside the statue of the weeping woman that lay broken and half-buried on the ground, she turned her face up to the sky and closed her eyes. She could feel the snow on her lashes, taste it on her lips. It was the taste of Winterfell. The taste of innocence. The taste of dreams.||”|
|“||Petyr: May I come into your castle, my lady?
Sansa: Don’t break it. Be . . .
Petyr: . . . gentle? Winterfell has withstood fiercer enemies than me. It is Winterfell, is it not?
Sansa: No. It was always warm, even when it snowed. Water from the hot springs is piped through the walls to warm them, and inside the glass gardens it was always like the hottest day of summer. 
|“||Winterfell was full of ghosts for Theon Greyjoy.||”|
|“||It was my home, though. Not a true home, but the best I ever knew.||”|
Chapters that take place in Winterfell
- A Game of Thrones: 2. Catelyn I
- A Game of Thrones: 4. Eddard I
- A Game of Thrones: 5. Jon I
- A Game of Thrones: 6. Catelyn II
- A Game of Thrones: 7. Arya I
- A Game of Thrones: 8. Bran II
- A Game of Thrones: 9. Tyrion I
- A Game of Thrones: 10. Jon II
- A Game of Thrones: 14. Catelyn III
- A Game of Thrones: 17. Bran III
- A Game of Thrones: 24. Bran IV
- A Game of Thrones: 53. Bran VI
- A Game of Thrones: 66. Bran VII
- A Clash of Kings: 4. Bran I
- A Clash of Kings: 16. Bran II
- A Clash of Kings: 21. Bran III
- A Clash of Kings: 28. Bran IV
- A Clash of Kings: 35. Bran V
- A Clash of Kings: 46. Bran VI
- A Clash of Kings: 50. Theon IV
- A Clash of Kings: 56. Theon V
- A Clash of Kings: 66. Theon VI
- A Clash of Kings: 69. Bran VII
- A Dance with Dragons: 37. The Prince of Winterfell
- A Dance with Dragons: 41. The Turncloak
- A Dance with Dragons: 46. A Ghost in Winterfell
- A Dance with Dragons: 51. Theon I
References and Notes
- ↑ The Lands of Ice and Fire
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 80, Sansa.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 7, Arya.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 8, Bran.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 35, Bran.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 63, Catelyn.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 69, Bran.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 4, Bran.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 14, Catelyn.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon.
- ↑ "Robb Stark" entry in A World of Ice and Fire
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 11, The Kraken's Daughter.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek.
- ↑ 30.0 30.1 30.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell (Reek IV).
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak (Reek V).
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell (Reek VI).
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 51, Theon I.
- ↑ The Winds of Winter, Theon's sample chapter, made available on GRRM's website as of Dec 28th, 2011
- ↑ 35.0 35.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 54, Tyrion.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 9, Bran.