Spoilers below - you've been warned!
After what feels like years, Game of Thrones will finally be back on our screens soon as we head into the final two seasons of the show. It's going to be a busy time for our people in Westeros since there are at least two BIG wars to come: The one over the Iron Throne, which will probably be fought between the Lannisters and the Targaryens (and by Targaryens, we mean Dany, Tyrion and the dragons) and the one over, you know, the entire world. Winter is here and the White Walkers are coming.
But before we dive into the new season (and we can't wait to), it's a good time to brush up on your Game of Thrones knowledge. Let's start with everyone's favorite house: The Starks. Ned, Catelyn, Robb, Bran, Sansa, Arya, Rickon, Jon Snow and the remaining wolves have had a rough couple of years (hopefully that will change this year), but out of all those tragic moments have come some real pearls of wisdom. Call yourself an ally of House Stark? Let's see how well you can match the Stark to the quote. Two warnings before you start: Firstly (and obviously) there are spoilers below and secondly, we designed this one to be as tough as a winter in the North so you'll need to be smart enough to outsmart a sober Tyrion.
PS. We're also doing our best to educate you about all things Stark so we've put together a quiz that doesn't only ask you questions, it also provides you with all the facts and trivia about the Stark family that you didn't know you needed to know.
"I wasn't playing and I don't want to be a lady"
House Stark is one of the most popular among fans. They're known for being loyal, stubborn, honest and kind. They're also known for their horrible luck, which you'll know if you've watched Game of Thrones long enough to witness the multiple tragedies that have befallen House Stark. They're also the only house that seems to understand that there's something worse out there besides Joffrey: The white walkers. It's why they keep shouting, "Winter is coming" to anyone who will listen.
"I don't fight in tournaments because when I fight a man for real, I don't want him to know what I can do."
House Stark gave 'The Gift' to Westeros. It's not just any gift... it's THE Gift: The piece of land in the North where the Wall and the Night's Watch are situated. According to legend, this bit of land was given to the Night's Watch when it was first founded by Brandon Stark (the first Bran). He was also the first King in the North and is probably Bran the Builder who was responsible for building both the Wall and Winterfell.
"Six times you've invaded and six times you've failed. The seventh will be the same."
Everyone in Westeros knows how formidable House Stark is - especially because they're the only ones who know how difficult the winter can be and how to survive it. While the events of that occur in Game of Thrones involve fights and war between the Houses of Westeros, House Stark has also defended their land (and all of Westeros) from invasion by the King Beyond the Wall. They're taught about these invasions. And they're proud of how often they've won them.
"Stick 'em with the pointy end"
One of the biggest rivalries on the show (and one of the most painful to watch) is the one between House Bolton and House Stark. Ramsay Bolton may be the Antichrist, but his feud with the Starks is generations old. It started in the Age of Heroes when the Starks were trying to unite the North under one king. The Boltons were their most vocal opponents and they battled many times, killing Stark men and often flaying them alive then wearing their skins. Eventually, House Bolton swore fealty to House Stark but resented them for centuries.
"All men should keep their word, kings most of all."
The throne that the King (or Queen) or Westeros sits on - the Iron Throne - is forged from the swords of the first king's enemies and dragon fire. It gives a whole new meaning to the word 'prickly.' What you won't find in that throne is any Stark sword. This is because they were the only house to swear fealty to House Targaryen when Aegon the Conqueror invaded Westeros. Torrhen Stark would be known as The King Who Knelt, but he saved House Stark from slaughter.
"The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword."
The Starks are descended from one of the two original races in Westeros - the First Men. During a war between them and the Children of the Forest, the Children created the White Walkers as a weapon to be used against the First Men. The White Walkers later turned on their creators but the First Men and the Children made peace. This is why you see Catelyn and the Starks worshipping the gods of nature and the Weirwood trees - it's the religion of the First Men.
"Treat your oaths recklessly, and your people will do the same."
One of the most disturbing things to happen on a show full of disturbing things was the marriage between Ramsay Bolton and Sansa Stark. By the time they were married, we already knew he was a terrible psychopath, but the way he treated Sansa took things to a whole new level of evil. In the books, however, there is no such wedding and the things that happen to Sansa actually happen to her friend Jeyne Poole (who isn't in the TV show).
"He killed a guest beneath his roof... that's something the gods can't forgive."
You'd think that the Starks might have seen the red wedding coming, but there's a reason they didn't. Guest right is an ancient and sacred Westeros tradition. When a guest eats the food and drinks from a host while beneath their roof, guest right is invoked. Once invoked, neither party can harm the other. If a host violates the guest right, it's believed that the gods will punish him or her. In this case, Walder Frey (eventually) got what was coming to him - an angry Arya.
"Nothing’s worth anything to dead men."
If there's any creature in Game of Thrones that we like more than Drogon, it's Ghost - Jon Snow's direwolf. The Stark dire wolves sometimes seem otherworldly, as if they grant their owners some kind of power. They also foreshadowed the fates of the Stark children: Grey Wind was Robb's wolf and he died the same way Robb did. Bran's wolf was killed by a white walker and Rickon's wolf was killed by Ramsay. Sansa's wolf was killed (indirectly) by Joffrey and Arya's wolf has disappeared the way Arya did.
"I would gladly butcher every horse in Winterfell with my own hands if it would open Bran's eyes."
We eventually found out where the White Walkers come from: They were created by the Children of the Forest to fight the First Men when they put dragon glass into one of the First Men. Since the First Men are the antecedents of the Starks, there's a chance that the Night King is actually also a Stark. Bran repeated some of Old Nan's stories, he said that he was told the Night King was once a Stark and a brother to the King of Winter.
"Sometimes there is no happy choice, only one less grievous than the others."
One of our favorite characters from the later seasons of the show is the tiny Lyanna Mormont. She's young but she's fierce and her bravery and loyalty put many of the older men to shame. She is loyal to the Starks because they're the ones who gave Bear Island to the Mormonts in the first place. Supposedly, Rodrik Stark won it in a wrestling match and chose to give it to the Mormonts. She sets a great example and inspires the other northern houses to fight beside the Starks.
“Do you think my life is some precious thing to me, that I would trade my honor for a few more years…of what?”
One of the best things about watching Game of Thrones is seeing everyone and everything grow up. This is especially true of Dany's dragons who have gone from cute shoulder-squatting lizards to huge cow-eating monsters. There's a fan theory that there may be a dragon underneath Winterfell and that it may be the key to defeating the Winter Walkers (one of their only weaknesses is dragon fire). It seems like a long shot, but it would be awesome to watch a dragon rise up from under the castle.
"You think I'm fighting this war so they'll sing songs about me?"
There are other branches of the Stark family that are separate from the main branch of Starks we know and love. The Greystarks were a Stark line that was created when one of the younger sons of the Stark family was given lands and titles so that he could start his own clan. They supported the Boltons in a rebellion and were killed by the Starks. The Karstarks are another branch of the family who sided with Ramsay after the Red Wedding but they might still be loyal to the Starks.
"This isn't a strange place, this is my home. It's the people who are strange."
Readers have speculated over where George R.R. Martin drew inspiration from when it comes to the Houses of Westeros. Supposedly, the Lannisters are modeled on the Lancaster who had an evil, young king and a cutthroat mother who would do anything to keep him on the throne. The Yorks battled the Lancasters during the War of the Roses. Sansa is like Anne Neville, a prized bride from the York family who married the young king Edward of Lancaster - Joffery’s inspiration.
"If I'm going to lead this army, I can't have other men doing my bargaining for me."
The crypts of Winterfell contain tombs for generations of deceased Starks. In the past, only Kings were given statues but Ned Stark had ones built for his brother Brandon and sister Lyanna. One of the rumors about her crypt suggests that the dead Starks will rise up to fight the Night King. They also say that there may be dragon eggs buried in the crypts. Others say there's a sleeping dragon somewhere below the castle - maybe in the crypt.
"I followed you into war, twice. Without doubts, without second thoughts. But I will not follow you now."
Winterfell Castle is a complex of buildings spanning multiple acres. It is over 8,000 years old and was built over a natural hot spring and the hot water is piped through the walls to heat the castle. It's a good thing too because winters in the North are intense. In Westeros there are two seasonal cycles - one is weak and predictable (like our seasons) and the other is strong and unpredictable, which is why no one knows how long winter will last.
"Does it give you joy to scare people?"
Most of the houses of Westeros have mottos that are either threats or boasts: House Baratheon's is "Ours is the fury." House Martell's is 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.' House Targaryen's is (obviously), 'fire and blood.' The Lannister motto is officially, 'Hear me Roar!' but their unofficial motto, 'A Lannister always pays his debts' is said more often. The Stark motto is factual, serious and unemotional: 'Winter is coming.' They've been reminding everyone that winter would come to ruin everything for over six seasons now.
"How can I call myself King If I can't hold my own castle?"
The combined forces of the north number 45 000 men. But one of the biggest problems the Starks face when it comes to battle - especially if they're trying to take back the North - is how big their lands are and that gathering the full military strength of the Starks and the houses that are sworn to them is a time-consuming and challenging process. It requires months of travel and enough provisions to supply and feed the army before even sets out.
"It's all because I couldn't love a motherless child."
The Starks aren't just popular with the audience, they're also one of the most popular houses in Westeros - by numbers anyway. That's because they have over 10 houses sworn to them, which is more even than House Lannister. As they have ruled the North for thousands of years, the Starks have myriad of houses that are sworn to them. The major houses include Manderly, Tully, Glover, Reed and Mormont. The Arryns and the Boltons are also supposed to be sworn to the Starks.
"Swift as a deer. Quiet as a Shadow. Fear cuts deeper than swords."
Ice was The Stark’s ancestral greatsword made from Valyrian Steel. Crafted in Valyria about 400 years before Robert’s Rebellion, it belonged to Ned Stark until he was killed by the Lannisters. It was then melted down at the command of Tywin Lannister and, considering how much Valyrian steel it was made of (and that is was such a big sword) it was able to make two new swords - one given to Joffrey Baratheon and the other to Jaime Lannister..
“Hush Hodor! No more Hodoring!”
One of the gifts particular to the Starks is warging. Someone who can warg can shift their consciousness into an animal's so that they can see what the animal sees. In some cases, they can take control of them too. In the show, Bran is the only Stark who can warg but in the books, they all have the ability. Bran's ability to warg extends beyond animals to humans, which may end up being a very important skill in the war to come.
"We look up at the same stars and see such different things."
There are many theories about the role Winterfell will play in the coming war against the White Walkers: There is a dragon down there warming the castle or dragon eggs waiting to be hatched. Dragons are one of the few things that can kill a White Walker. This hasn't been mentioned in the TV show, but The Horn of Winter might lie in the crypt - it has the ability to bring down the Wall. There's a volcano below Winterfell that will rain down dragon glass when the White Walkers attack. The Last Hero—a legendary soldier who saved the world from an endless night long ago—is buried in the crypts, and will reawaken to help fight.
"Most girls are idiots."
It was a Stark - Bran the Builder - that was responsible for creating the one thing that will (temporarily) keep the White Walkers at bay: The Wall. Apparently, he constructed it using ice, stone, and magic provided by the Children of the Forest. The magic that was weaved into the wall repels White Walkers. The Wall is 700 feet high and 300 miles long. If only the rest of Westeros was taking winter seriously then the Night's Watch wouldn't be so undersubscribed and poorly equipped.
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
While all the other Stark children are wandering around (and dying) further south, Bran is up north getting into trouble... but also learning skills that might help the Westerosi defeat the White Walkers when they inevitably invade. He's learning how to use Greensight, the ability to see future, past, and present but distant events in dreams. People who have this gift are called Greenseers. Jojen Reed and Rickon are also Greenseers and it's highly likely that Hodor had the gift too.
"The wildlings are no different from us. A little rougher, maybe. But they're made of meat and bone."
Some interesting facts about Jon Snow: In the books he's 14 years old even though he's 17 at the beginning of the show. Snow is the surname given to children who are born out of wedlock. Depending on where they're from, the name changes and because Jon is from the north, he gets gives the surname, 'Snow.' He's also (almost definitely) not Ned Stark's bastard son but rather the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, which means he's a contender for the Iron Throne.
"Promise me, Ned."
Season 6 was the first season of the show that - for the most part - was entirely new. The events of Game of Thrones had caught up to those in the books. But there are some major differences between the two. One of those differences is to do with the Red Wedding: In the books, he is married to Jeyne Westerling and she is not pregnant and she doesn't accompany him to the wedding. In the show, he's married to Talisa fron Volantis who was pregnant and was slaughtered with the others.
"Some men want whores on the eve of battle, and some want gods."
One of the biggest differences between the books and the show is what happens to Catelyn after she dies. In the show, she's just dead. But in the books, she is brought back to life by Beric Dondarrion, a disciple of the Lord of Light. She comes back different though - she can't talk and is a zombie-like creature obsessed with revenge called Lady Stoneheart. We're still not sure what will happen to her and will only find out when George R.R. finally releases the next book.
"I learned how to die a long time ago."
Another difference between book and TV show: In the book, when Tyrion flees King’s Landing after killing his father, he doesn’t leave with Varys, he leaves with two boys - one of whom turns out to be Aegon Targaryen (Dany's nephew). In the show, there has been no mention of Aegon and it's unlikely that we ever will because it would seriously complicate the plot and HBO has gone to great lengths to try simplify an already complicated story line.
"I prayed to the Gods, 'Take him away. Make him die.' "
On the subject of changes made to the TV show, there are a few that we're glad they chose to make. For example: Evil Joffrey's death scene in the books is much more gruesome than it is on the show (and that's plenty gruesome enough - remember his purple face?) because, in an attempt to breathe, he claws open his own throat, "...his nails tearing bloody gouges in the flesh. Beneath the skin, the muscles stood out hard as stone.”
"There is no honor in tricks."
By the end of Season 6, we know that winter has arrived. This is clear in Winterfell where Littlefinger meets Sansa in the Godswood. In Season 1, we saw the Godswood when Catelyn and Ned meet there to have a conversation before he leaves for King's Landing. In that first season, the trees are green (except for the heart tree - the weirwood with a face engraved into it - which is red) but in Season 6, the trees are covered in snow.
"It was always my color."
Colors play a significant role in Game of Thrones. The most obvious of those is the black of the Night's Watch which is opposite to the bleak snow white of the White Walkers. Red is also a color that features quite often in the show - the Red Wedding being the clearest example of this. Gold is always in scene whenever there is a Lannister around. As for House Stark, the colors are simple: Their sigil is a grey dire wolf on a white field.
"Nothing isn't better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing."
Hopefully, you're learning everything you can about the Starks while you're doing this quiz. Here's a bit more information about dire wolves: An adult dire wolf is about the size of a small horse. Their heads are bigger than those of normal wolves with leaner, larger muzzles, their legs are longer, and they have proportionately larger teeth that are often used to crush bones, which is also how they're able to kill smaller animals - and men - so easily.
"If I'm going to die, let it happen while there is still some of me left."
One of the most important Season 6 reveals (and one of the fan theories that turned out to be true) is the connection between House Stark and House Targaryen. More specifically, that Jon Snow isn't Ned Stark's illegitimate son but that he is Ned's sister Lyanna Stark's son. Which does make him an actual Stark, but more importantly, it makes him a Targaryen since Rhaegar Targaryen - who may or may not have kidnapped Lyanna - is his real father.
"Our way is the old way."
Six seasons later, we're still not over losing Ned. Especially because he seemed like one of the most moral characters in a show filled with manipulative, amoral, and evil people (see: Ramsay Bolton). Honest, loyal, wise, and strong - all the characteristics of a good ruler. It's unfortunate that Robert Baratheon was crowned king instead. But these are also the things that made him such a good father, even if they were also the things that ultimately got him killed.
"Winter is coming."
Throughout most of the show, it's been one awful thing after another. It was only in Season 6 that things started getting (slightly) better. Sure, winter is here, the White Walkers are on their way to kill everyone, Cersei is on the Iron Throne, and Nymeria is still missing, but at least Sansa and Jon have been reunited, Dany is on her way to kick the Lannisters out of Westeros, and Arya finally made sure Walder Frey got what was coming to him.