Godswood of Winterfell

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Eddard Stark cleaning Ice beneath the heart tree, by Mike S. Miller

The godswood of Winterfell consists of three acres of forest within the walls of Winterfell, the seat of House Stark in the north. The heart tree of the godswood is a weirwood.[1]

Layout

The godswood's multitude of trees create a dense canopy over old, packed earth and humus and moss. Common trees includes ash,[2] chestnut,[3] elm,[3] hawthorn,[4] ironwood,[1] oak,[1] sentinel,[1] and soldier pine,[5] and the wood also has blackberry bushes.[4] The godswood contains a meandering footpath of cracked stones.[3]

At the center of the grove stands an ancient weirwood with a melancholy face carved into it, a heart tree standing over a pool of cold black water.[1][3] Snow shrikes can be seen when the godswood is covered in snow,[6] and squirrels live in the oak trees.[7][3]

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.[8]

The godswood is enclosed by walls, and is accessed by a main iron gate,[4] wooden doors,[4] and an arched stone door.[3] There is a tall sentinel near the armory wall.[9]

History

The godswood of Winterfell may date back ten thousand years.[1] According to legend, the face on its weirwood was carved by children of the forest.[1] Brandon the Builder is said to have built the castle around the grove[1] and prayed in the ancient godswood.[10]

According to Mushroom, Prince Jacaerys Velaryon married Sara Snow before the godswood's heart tree during the Dance of the Dragons.[11] Cregan Stark, Lord of Winterfell, wed Alysanne Blackwood in the icy godswood in 132 AC.[12]

Lord Eddard Stark always visits the godswood after taking a man's life.[1] Eddard once ordered one of his sons, Bran Stark, to spend a night cleansing himself in the godswood after climbing Winterfell's walls without permission.[9] Theon Greyjoy, a ward of Eddard, skipped stones across the black pool and hunted squirrels with a self-made bow in his youth, and the older Theon often recuperates in the hot springs after sparring with Robb Stark and Jory Cassel.[3] Theon also had some of his first romantic experiences in the grove.[3] Sansa Stark once prayed in the sept and in the godswood for more singers to visit Winterfell after enjoying the songs of a traveling bard, but no more came.[13] Hodor enjoys soaking in the warmest pool.[8]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Lord Eddard Stark in the godswood with two direwolves, by Cristi Balanescu © Fantasy Flight Games

Following the execution of the deserter Gared, Lady Catelyn Stark finds her husband, Lord Eddard Stark, cleaning Ice by the weirwood. Catelyn, a southron, is unnerved by Winterfell's forest.[1] Bran Stark tries to teach his direwolf pup how to fetch a stick in the godswood.[9]

While Bran contemplates in the godswood, Hodor relaxes in the heated pools. Osha tells the crippled boy about life beyond the Wall.[8]

A Clash of Kings

Ser Rodrik Cassel confines the direwolves Summer and Shaggydog to the godswood after the latter bites Little Walder Frey. The children later play lord of the crossing at one of the pools. When Little Walder Frey knocks Rickon Stark into the water, Shaggydog leaps at Walder.[7] The direwolves try to escape the godswood by digging under the iron gate, but large flat stones underneath prevent them from doing so.[4]

Bran has several visions of Summer in the godswood.[7][14][4] The boy's favorite spot is by the weirwood, and on one occasion he finds Osha swimming in the cold pool beneath the heart tree.[15]

Meera and Jojen Reed come to Winterfell for the harvest feast, and they visit the direwolves in the godswood after Bran goes to bed.[14] Meera later practices her skills with the net against Summer in the godswood.[2]

During the capture of Winterfell by Theon Greyjoy and his ironborn, Summer unsuccessfully tries to climb a falling tree to escape.[4] Theon keeps the direwolves in the godswood after declaring himself Prince of Winterfell.[4][16] Osha and Hodor bring the direwolves with them when they help Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell.[17]

Ramsay Snow orders the sack of Winterfell by House Bolton, but the damp soil and green wood of the trees leads to only a few pines being scorched in the godswood. After emerging from the crypts of Winterfell, Bran find Maester Luwin dying beneath the heart tree. Osha gives him the gift of mercy.[18]

A Storm of Swords

Sansa Stark, hiding at the Eyrie, uses twigs and fallen branches to represent the godswood while making a snow castle of Winterfell.[19]

After the battle beneath the Wall, Stannis Baratheon offers to name Jon Snow as Lord of Winterfell.[20] Jon declines, however, as Melisandre would require him to burn the godswood's heart tree.[21]

A Dance with Dragons

Theon Greyjoy begging the old gods for help, by Cecilia Latella ©

The three-eyed crow trains Bran in a cave found beyond the Wall. Looking through the eyes of the heart tree, Bran has visions of events which occurred in the godswood in the past.[22]

In the aftermath of the Red Wedding and Roose Bolton being named Warden of the North, his son Ramsay weds "Arya Stark" (actually Jeyne Poole) in Winterfell's misty, candle-lit godswood. The hot springs prevent the ground from freezing.[3]

Theon Greyjoy, Ramsay's prisoner, is allowed to wander the castle. He frequently visits the godswood and observes it is often full of praying northmen during daylight.[23] During one visit, Theon thinks he hears the weirwood's leaves whisper his name as well as that of Bran.[23]

Quotes

It was a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. It smelled of moist earth and decay.[1]

—thoughts of Catelyn 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.[5]

—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister

The red leaves of the weirwood were a blaze of flame among the green. Ned Stark's tree, he thought, and Stark's wood, Stark's castle, Stark's gods. This is their place, not mine.[24]

—thoughts of Theon Greyjoy

Candles flickered beside the wandering path and back amongst the trees, pale fireflies floating in a warm grey soup. It felt like some strange underworld, some timeless place between the worlds, where the damned wandered mournfully for a time before finding their way down to whatever hell their sins had earned them.[3]

—thoughts of Theon Greyjoy

And for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran's face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood, staring down at him with eyes red and wise and sad. Bran's ghost, he thought, but that was madness.[23]

—thoughts of Theon Greyjoy

References