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This article is about the castle. For other uses, see: Winterfell (disambiguation)

"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]

The location of Winterfell on the continent of Westeros.

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

Winterfell is the capital of the Kingdom of the North and the seat and the ancestral home of the royal 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. The castle is located alongside the Kingsroad as it makes its way from the Wall to the capital of the Six 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] According to Maester Luwin, there are hidden passageways built in the castle so its Lords could escape.[3] The castle has stood for millennia.[4]

During the War of the Five Kings, Winterfell is taken by Theon Greyjoy from Bran Stark, but the castle is put to the torch by Ramsay Snow after Theon is 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.[5] 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.[6]

Winterfell remained in the hands of Roose Bolton, who betrayed Robb Stark at the Red Wedding, for a time. It was first contested by Stannis Baratheon at the Battle of Winterfell, but his army was defeated. After murdering his father, Ramsay Bolton held onto Winterfell until his defeat at the Battle of the Bastards, at which point the castle was returned to House Stark's ownership, with Sansa Stark being named the Lady of Winterfell.[7][8] In the subsequent Great War, Winterfell is the site of a great battle between the Army of the Dead, led by the Night King and the White Walkers, and the alliance between House Stark and House Targaryen.[9][10] The ensuing battle results in heavy damage to Winterfell and its defenders, but ultimately is a victory for the living.



According to legend, House Stark has held Winterfell for 8,000 years, though it has been considerably expanded upon over the centuries.[11] It was said to have been built by House Stark's founder, Bran the Builder, during the Age of Heroes, who was also said to have constructed the Wall and even Storm's End.

Eddard Stark rode south to fight in Robert's Rebellion after the Mad King executed his father and his older brother. At the end of the war, Eddard returned to Winterfell with his new wife Catelyn Tully, their infant son Robb, and with Eddard's infant nephew Jon Snow, the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, who Eddard claimed as his illegitimate son to protect him from King Robert Baratheon. After the Greyjoy Rebellion eight years later, Lord Balon Greyjoy's only surviving son Theon 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

Eddard Stark is at Winterfell happy with his family. He and Catelyn watch Bran practice archery while he is being helped by Robb and Jon. Rickon watches his brothers until Arya - who has left needlework with 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 and his sons 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. Eddard is filled with sorrow because Arryn served as a father-figure to him when he was fostered at the Eyrie. Catelyn tells him that King Robert Baratheon and much of the royal court rides for Winterfell. Eddard realizes that Robert means to name him as the Hand to replace Arryn. He ponders refusal, feeling his place is at Winterfell.

Robert arrives at Winterfell along with much of the royal court, including his wife Cersei Lannister, their three children Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, as well as Jaime and Tyrion. 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 to Joffrey.

Before they leave, Bran is climbing a tower and accidentally stumbles upon 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.[2]

Bran survives the fall from the tower, though his legs are left crippled. 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. 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.[12] 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.[13]

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 has a prophetic dream that Robb and his men will never return to Winterfell.[14]

Season 2

After Eddard is executed 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.[15]

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, the treacherous Theon captures Winterfell, using 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.[16]

However, Theon 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 Rickon escape Winterfell along with Hodor and Osha, making Theon's position tenuous, so he passes off the burned bodies of two orphan boys as the bodies of Bran and Rickon 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 to besiege Theon. Theon's sister Yara Greyjoy briefly stops in Winterfell, but only to warn Theon that he has 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.[17]

Theon's men turn against him and hand him over to the Boltons as part of the deal for their lives. Ramsay reneges on his agreement, however, and after flaying the ironborn to death orders to destroy Winterfell. The castle 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.[3]

Season 3

When word reaches Robb at Harrenhal of the sack of Winterfell, the report sent by Ramsay says that the ironborn put the castle to the torch before fleeing, put the inhabitants to the sword, and that the fate of Bran and Rickon is unknown.[18] 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".[19]

Not long afterward, Boltons and Freys betray the Starks at the Red Wedding, destroying the Northern army, and resulting in the deaths of Robb and Catelyn.

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.[5]

Season 4

House Bolton bannerman riding to Winterfell

After Ramsay manages to retake 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.[6]

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, 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. Worse, Stannis Baratheon took his small remaining forces to the Wall, where they won a rousing victory in the Battle of Castle Black. Afterward, 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, Littlefinger arrives at Winterfell from the Vale - bringing none other than Sansa, to make a marriage-alliance between her and Ramsay Bolton.[20]

With Stannis's army drawing closer to the castle, Roose Bolton intends to muster his strength within the walls of Winterfell with Ramsay.[22] Meanwhile, with support from Cersei, Littlefinger 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.[23] In response to this predicament, Ramsay convinces his father to lend him twenty "good men."[22]

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.[24] 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 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, putting House Bolton's future claim to the North in jeopardy.[25]

Season 6

Winterfell remains the Bolton seat of power. Roose and Ramsay 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.[26]

Later, Roose and Ramsay meet with Harald Karstark to discuss their predicament with Sansa.[27]

Following Roose's murder by Ramsay, Smalljon Umber travels to Winterfell to forge an alliance with him, the new Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.[28] Ramsay sends a letter to Jon, 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.[29]

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 overcomes 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. Rickon is buried at the crypts of Winterfell.[7]

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 kisses her on the forehead. Sansa informs Jon that a white raven arrived from the Citadel earlier and smiles when she says 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 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 announces 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 and Sansa prepare for the defense against the White Walkers.[30]

Several days later, Jon and Sansa receive a letter 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 dragonglass beneath Dragonstone. He adds that Lord Tyrion has invited him to Dragonstone to meet with Daenerys 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. Jon, who clearly distrusts Baelish, 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 and she and Jon bid farewell to one another. Petyr, emerging from the catacombs, gazes at Sansa.[31]

Sansa helps prepare Winterfell for the Great War. In the midst of the preparations of food stores and armor checks, Bran 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 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.[32]

Meanwhile, Arya returns to Winterfell. Arya rides up to the gates and dismounts but the guards don't believe her when she says identifies herself. 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 Luwin and Ser Rodrick, 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 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.

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.

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'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.[33]

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, Robett Glover and Yohn Royce imply they made a mistake in their choice of a 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.

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 Joffrey. 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.[34]

Later on, Arya chastises Sansa for betraying their family, but Sansa responds that they have only returned to Winterfell because of her, while Arya traveled 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.

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 talks 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 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. 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 Podrick, 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.[35]

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.[36]

Season 8

Jon returns to Winterfell alongside Daenerys and the House Targaryen army of Unsullied and Dothraki. Among them are their other advisors and followers as well, including the Hand of the Queen, Tyrion Lannister, Varys, Ser Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm, Missandei, the Hound, and Gendry. They are greeted in the Winterfell courtyard by Sansa, Bran, and other lords and knights of the North and the Vale. Sansa tells Daenerys that "Winterfell is hers."[37]

The combined armies of the living prepare the defenses of Winterfell against the oncoming army of the dead. The White Walkers soon arrive in the night with their army of the dead,[9] leading to a great battle. As a result of this battle, Winterfell is nearly razed completely to the ground. Many battlements, walls, and towers are destroyed, leaving the great castle in a state of ruin. The crypts beneath Winterfell also received damage.[10]

Notable residents of the castle

Current residents

  • Queen Sansa Stark, 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 current Queen in the North and Lady of Winterfell.
  • 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.
  • Aberdolf Strongbeard, man-at-arms in the Winterfell garrison.

Former residents

Stark rule

Bolton rule

  • Lord {Roose Bolton}, Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, Lord Paramount of the North, and Warden 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.
  • {Myranda}, one of Ramsay's bedwarmers and lover. Pushed to her death from a catwalk by a redeemed Theon after she threatened Sansa.


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 onward 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 heat 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.[38]

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 castle has been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rush through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoke day and night in a dozen small courtyards. In summer, it is insignificant; in winter, it is the difference between life and death.

There is no mentioning in the novels that there are any hidden passageways in the castle.

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