Grey Wind and Raynald Westerling: Alive!

Grey Wind and King Robb, by Amok

Warning! The following is a serious crackpot. But it’s crackpot with an interesting case to be made. What began as an exercise to see if I could follow a crazy idea (parts of this have been previously posted at to a realistic and evidence based conclusion grew into something that looks a lot like a real theory. Take it for what it’s worth, this was written in the spirit of having a little bit of fun.

Like many GRRM fans, I have a deep suspicion of any death that is presented to us sans corpse. So the idea that Grey Wind and Raynald Westerling could have somehow survived the Red Wedding continues to draw me back in. Reports of their deaths may be exaggerated, and the desecration of Robb’s corpse a smallfolk’s tale that grew in the telling. We have to remember that Robb already had the reputation of being a “wolf man” and of turning into a wolf in battle. It wouldn’t take much for a spurious tale put out by the Freys to cover their failure to kill the chained Grey Wind to become a popular story of horrifying desecration.

We know the mysteriously missing Raynald Westerling managed to release GW as the slaughter began, could the two of them have escaped together? Why would GW leave the scene of Robb’s death and how can we explain the many references to Robb and GW that occur in the text post RW? An examination of the key references shows exactly how it is possible and even likely that Grey Wind and Raynald live.

Vis a vis the Ghost “POV” ADwD, ch.3

Once they had been six, five whimpering blind in the snow beside their dead mother, sucking cool milk from her hard dead nipples whilst he crawled off alone. Four remained … and one the white wolf could no longer sense.

There are three possible interpretations of this:

  1. It could mean, as many assume, that of the six only four remain and one of those four is beyond his ability to sense (Summer, beyond the Wall)
  2. The white wolf plus 5. Ghost begins by “thinking” of himself as separate, so of the 5 “whimpering blind” one is dead and four remain- meaning four plus Ghost (who is apart) One of the four the white wolf could no longer sense- either because he is dead (in which case why include him on the group of “remaining” wolves?) or because he has gone beyond Ghost’s ability to sense him (ie beyond the Wall, as in Summer)
  3. Alternatively “four remained … and one he could no longer sense” could be as simple as a math problem: 4+1=5. Again, meaning Summer beyond the wall and four survivors south of the wall.

Just before this thought Ghost connects with Nymeria and Shaggy. Immediately following he has this thought: “the other side [of the great cliff]…was where his brother was, the grey brother who smelled of summer” He is aware of the presence and actions of the first two, but of Summer he only knows that he has gone beyond the Wall. 

In the second interpretation above, the one he can no longer sense being the dead GW would rest upon Ghost being able to sense Summer, but we have sufficient evidence to believe this could not be so. We are repeatedly given hints that the wolf connection ends at the Wall (that is, if the wall separates you) Jon and Ghost are not connected when the Wall is between them. It should be clear then that Ghost is thinking of Summer as the “one the white wolf could no longer sense” and the fact that he knows the one beyond the great cliff is Summer is the key. Therefore in the second and third interpretations above GW would be alive.

In support of this, we go back to ASoS, ch.9 and Summer’s “thoughts” on his pack:

He had a pack as well, once. Five they had been, and a sixth who stood aside. Somewhere down inside him were the sounds the men had given them to tell one from the other, but it was not by their sounds he knew them. He remembered their scents, his brothers and his sisters. They all had smelled alike, had smelled of pack, but each was different too. His angry brother with the hot green eyes was near, the prince felt, though he had not seen him for many hunts. Yet with every sun that set he grew more distant, and he had been the last. The others were far scattered, like leaves blown by the wild wind. Sometimes he could sense them, though, as if they were still with him, only hidden from his sight by a boulder or a stand of trees. He could not smell them, nor hear their howls by night, yet he felt their presence at his back… all but the sister they had lost. His tail drooped when he remembered her. Four now, not five. Four and one more, the white who has no voice

Here we have a precedent for the white wolf being thought of separately, which supports the second interpretation. Also, it should be noted that at this time Ghost is north of the Wall, which most likely prevents Summer from sensing him, providing equal support for the third. Again, in either scenario this supports, Grey Wind would be counted among the living in the Ghost POV.

When Jon thinks “Ghost knows Grey Wind is dead” later in the chapter, he is accepting the misdirection of the white wolf’s thoughts about his pack mates in the wolf dream as it confirms what he thinks he knows in his waking moments. We have sufficient hints from other POVs to believe otherwise. Take this thought from Bran’s POV inside Summer from ADwD, ch.4:

“They were his now. They were a pack. No, the boy whispered. We have another pack. Lady’s dead and maybe Grey Wind too, but somewhere there’s still Shaggydog and Nymeria and Ghost. Remember Ghost?” 

Again Bran, like Jon, thinks that Robb is dead and that his wolf was killed with him because that’s what he has been told. But Summer’s POV does not confirm this.

When Dany goes to the HotU, she sees a feast of corpses “In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a scepter, and his eyes followed Dany in mute appeal.” The dead wolf headed king at the feast would seem to indicate Robb Stark. But the wolf head does not have to be interpreted literally, since the direwolf is the sigil of House Stark. Interestingly, the iron crown, while it may refer to the crown of the North which does have iron elements, could also be a historical reference. The Iron Crown of Lombardy is one of the oldest symbols of royalty in Europe. It is reputed to contain an iron nail from the True Cross and as such would be a potent symbol of death and resurrection. At the same time, Christ is called the Lamb of God and the King of the Jews (INRI is inscribed on the cross) so the lamb, kings scepter and Iron Crown all taken together in this vision point in one direction: resurrection.

Theon’s dream of the dead of WF in ACoK, ch.56 seems clear cut. Everyone he sees is dead. People Theon knows to be dead who never sat in Winterfell’s hall. Robb and Grey Wind enter and “man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds.” Given its placement in ACoK, the RW probably hasn’t happened yet and it seems like simple foreshadowing. But remember that the entire Theon chapter deals with his worsening nightmares (both sleeping and waking.) This is a dream arising out of Theon’s guilt. He sees these visions accusing him for his betrayal of the Starks and they actually confirm nothing but that fact.

Martin gives us a clue when he specifically avoids committing on GW in the Ghost POV and introduces doubt in the Summer POV. Why be obtuse if he’s truly dead? We know Lady is dead but have only been told GW is. We have no actual eyewitness to a dead GW. Cat hears him howling in her final POV, after which we have nothing but hearsay and rumor about the desecration of Robb’s corpse. We have Dany’s vision and Theon’s dream and we have a chain of wolf:corpse connections. But look closer at the alleged wolf head on Robb’s corpse, the wolf’s head brooch from the fake Bran and Rickon corpses in Theon’s Clash chapter, and the corpse of Catelyn Stark that was thought dead but then revived, in part due a wolf’s mouth. The second two show the connection between a wolf’s head and a false corpse or a corpse that is resurrected. So when we are told GW’s head was sewn to Robb’s corpse we should connect it with a false death or a revival. I don’t think Robb is alive, yet much of the symbolism points to a fake death. Could the “false corpse” in this instance be Grey Wind?

In AFfC, ch. 44 we have this exchange between Jaime, Edwyn Frey and Walder Rivers:

“Tell me, is Ser Raynald Westerling amongst these captives?”

“The knight of seashells?” Edwyn sneered. You’ll find that one feeding the fish at the bottom of the Green Fork.”

“He was in the yard when our men came to put the direwolf down,” said Walder Rivers. “Whalen demanded his sword and he have it over meek enough, but when the crossbowmen began feathering the wolf he seized Whalen’s axe and cut the monster loose of the net they’d thrown over him. Whalen says he took a quarrel in his shoulder and another in the gut, but still managed to reach the wallwalk and throw himself into the river.”

“He left a trail of blood on the steps,” said Edwyn.

“Did you find his corpse afterward?” asked Jaime.

“We found a thousand corpses afterward. Once they spend a few days in the river, they all look much the same”

Curiously, this exchange fails to convince the reader of two things: that Grey Wind is dead or that Raynald Westerling is dead. In particular, it should be noted that the Freys are well aware of Westerling’s sigil, calling him “the knight of seashells.” This indicates that he was wearing his surcoat when he went into the river. Had they fished him out, even days later after bloat and rot set in, surely he would have been recognizable by that sign? As for Grey Wind, it is precisely the fact that Raynald freed him of the net he had been entrapped with that gives one hope that he may have survived.

Going back to Merrett Frey’s epilogue in ASoS, we get this about Grey Wind:

“Stark’s direwolf killed four of our wolfhounds and tore the kennelmaster’s arm off his shoulder, even after we’d filled him full of quarrels…”

“So you sewed his head on Robb Stark’s neck after both o’ them were dead,” said yellow cloak.

“My father did that. All I did was drink. You wouldn’t kill a man for drinking.”

A few of things are troubling about this. First, Merrett has just recently recalled that his part in the Red Wedding was to get Greatjon Umber drunk enough that he would be easily subdued. Although the Greatjon drank enough wine “to kill any three normal men”, Merrett failed since Umber managed to wound three and kill one of his captors. Merrett himself by his own admission was drunk and was probably significantly so, since that appears to be how he deals with stress. It’s entirely possible he did not witness any of the events concerning Grey Wind firsthand. It’s also highly unlikely that ninety year old Lord Walder himself sewed a direwolf head to a man’s body, and yet that is what Merrett relates. Here again, we have an account of Grey Wind being shot with quarrels but not him dying. In fact he was still killing whatever came near him after being “full of quarrels.” Finally, let’s take a look at the actual logistics of sewing a direwolf head onto the body of a sixteen year old. Direwolves can be as big as ponies and Bran recalls Maester Luwin teaching him the difference between a wolf and a direwolf in AGoT ch.37:

…a direwolf had a bigger head and longer legs in proportion to its body, and its snout and jaw were markedly leaner and more pronounced.

When you think about it in those terms, sewing a direwolf head to a human body sounds like a story cooked up by someone who has never seen a direwolf. It’s even possible that one of Nymeria’s famed riverlands wolf pack (we know they were in the area) was captured and killed and its head used to desecrate Robb’s body.

In ADwD Jon I, Jon thinks about his dead brothers and their wolves, specifically with regard to his encounter with Summer at Queenscrown “he wondered if some part of his dead brothers lived on inside their wolves.” I think this is another clue– in order for this to be the case his brothers’ wolves would have to be alive. At any rate Jon only has one dead brother. Robb’s final words to his mother are “Grey Wind…” If Robb was able to warg GW as the last blow was struck at the RW, he could be living his second life in GW. While the Varamyr Prologue in ADwD makes it clear that he expects the human consciousness to eventually fade without a body to return to, there could still be a reveal of this through Arya’s wolf dreams if GW were to encounter Nymeria. (Since Nymeria has tossed off all attempts by lesser wolves to mate, I have often wondered if she’s actually “saving herself” for one of her own kind.) Varamyr’s thought about Jon Snow’s direwolf: “there would be a second life worthy of a king”, which many point to as a hint of Jon Snow’s true identity or even Jon’s fate, could very easily also be a hint that Robb has seized his chance at the “second life” (or resurrection) every skin changer has the opportunity for. This would be the final piece of the puzzle– the explanation for how Raynald would have been able to flee with the wolf, rather than the crazed wolf trying to fight to Robb’s side.

In summary, we have a number of references to GW which seem to point to resurrection or false death. We have some POVs which seem to indicate a sense of GW’s death, but taken one at a time we see they are dreams reflecting the reality perceived by the dreamer or, in the case of Dany’s vision, a symbolic representation. While we have insufficient evidence to prove either way, there may be just enough textual clues and references to point us to a living Grey Wind, warged by the dying Robb Stark, still alive in the Riverlands with Raynald Westerling.


Edit March 2017–

We recently discussed this theory, and much more, on Episode 30 of Radio Westeros. Stream it here or visit our website for other options!



  1. I would think that it is more probable that Robb first warged Grey Wind, then warged Raynald himself when he discovered that Grey Wind was bound and helpless. Robb then wargs Raynald, who had previously surrendered, then has a change of heart, and sets Grey Wind free, but there is no time. Robb is stuck in Raynald.

  2. Instead of sewing the head of a direwolf onto Robb’s body, they could have sewn on the head of a wolfhound. There were several dead by the end of the scene. And, really, most of the Freys and the other riverland people don’t know the difference between a direwolf, a wolf or a wolfhound.

    Just fyi, wolfhounds are huge.

    All in all, I love this theory!

  3. I so want this to be true! The logistics of sewing Grey Wind’s huge head onto the shoulders of a 15/16 year old always made me scratch my head. I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking it. Also, this gives me hope that the howling Sansa hears at the end of her chapter in aFfC is Grey Wind. How sweet it would be for her to be reunited with her favorite brother’s direwolf, and how tragic if a warged Rob is still aware.

    • Thanks for reading! As I said, this was a fun exercise and involved both wishful thinking and a desire to see if I could use evidence from the text to construct what seems like a realistic theory. That said, I myself only recently recognized the possible significance of the howling Sansa hears, though I have often thought about the implications to the story of a Stark without a wolf and a wolf without a Stark if this theory turns out to be true. So, while I had suggested Nymeria as a possible “PoV” into Grey Wind’s consciousness, I now also wonder about Sansa. To me Jon’s thought about a part of his dead brother living on inside his wolf is very prescient and probably the biggest hint that we might see some twist in this direction. In spite of my hopefulness for GW, I think the most likely truth to be found here is that Raynald Westerling survived the massacre at the Twins. In any case, we shall see! Thanks again 🙂 –LG

  4. I like to ask you one simple question:if Raynald(likely)and Grey Wind(quite unlikely), survive, how does it progress the story? Even Martin can’t incorporate something like this if it does nothing to move his endgame

    • First of all, let me say that I agree with your qualifications of likelihood here. That said, the answer is twofold– a living Grey Wind provides a potential connection to Robb, and a possible direwolf companion to the living Stark sibling who has lost her wolf, the only narrative purpose I can see in his survival. Westerling’s survival is easier to apply a purpose to– he can bear witness to his family’s machinations, continue to act as Robb’s loyal bannerman or fill a number of other roles in the continuing Riverlands and Westerlands arc. Given all the possible clues that Ser Raynald survived, I doubt GRRM would have a hard time finding a place to weave him into the plot.

      • Apologies for the super-delayed comment, but I only just discovered Radio Westeros (which is great) and through it, this theory (which is also great).

        Another way in which Robb’s survival in Grey Wind serves Martin’s narrative is by providing an avenue for the bittersweet ending we’re all hoping for and yet also dreading; it allows a kind of reunion of the Stark children at the end. Since they all share thoughts with their direwolves, then they could share in their direwolves’ meeting of Robb Wind (Grey Robb?).

        Or, on a smaller scale, it allows Jon to purge his regret that he couldn’t fight by Robb’s side. Particularly if it occurs while Jon is also having a second life in Ghost.

        Alternatively, it could allow Theon’s possible redemptive death to be made alongside Robb Wind, providing a way for him to die beside Robb as he wishes he had.

  5. Hi, LG. I just came across this little nugget in my re-read. I thought it may perhaps support this little jewel of a theory of yours. In ASoS, Catelyn IV, just after Lord Hoster’s funereal boat launch, Cat thinks to herself of Robb and those that “are standing in the boots of those he’s lost “, “Rollam has taken Bran’s place, and Raynald is part Theon and part Jon Snow.” I was thinking it may be interpreted as a hint that Raynald will have a second life or resurrection metaphorically speaking as Theon has as Reek and back again, and as we anticipate Jon’s resurrection. Anyhow, I just thought I’d share it with you. Thank you for all you do in giving us fans such fun concepts to ponder.

  6. Wow. This is actually not speculating about absurd and rather pointless that came to someone’s mind while having their morning cereal, but a very accurately and convincingly researched piece of work. My eyeballs grew big when you mentioned Robb’s last words. He utters ‘ grey wind’ with his last breath, and Jon’s last word is ‘ghost’….this gives me the chills. I am sure you discovered something very significant. There is something going on with the warging, and as we know it, all stark children are wargs. We never had a POV of Robb, so we do not know if he was able to warg on purpose like Bran does with summer! But now, I believe he probably could. It seems quite obvious that GW is alive, and either a) teams up with Sansa or b) teams up with Nymeria. I wonder, if all this might be true, if Robb might skinchange back into a human, and who will it be?
    Keep on with the work, you are really good at it 🙂

    • I realized while reading your comment and this essay that if Robb’s last words were “Grey Wind” and Jon’s last words were “Ghost” and they both are confirmed to have warged their wolves after dying then that 100% confirms Ned Stark is also alive somewhere, in whatever he warged when he whispered before getting beheaded by Ilyn Payne..

  7. Hi Lady Gwyn. I came across a couple of other passages that seem to me fit well with your theory. They’re both from Catelyn VI, ASoS. When Grey Wind balks in the middle of the drawbridge and howled at the porticullis, Lame Lothar says “a dry kennel and a ‘leg of mutton’ will see him right again.” Interesting that Grey Wind will feast on the same symbolic fare as Robb, I think.

    Then after meeting with Lord Walder Frey and before they part to go to their chambers, we have the scene where Cat asks for food. She had almost forgotten. “They drank his wine and ate his bread…” This feels very reminiscent of the Last Supper to me since I’ve read your excellent theory. I think it underscores your premise strongly.

    Thanks so much for enhancing our enjoyment of the books.

  8. Pingback: Of Mermaids, Seashells, and Seahorses – A GNC-inspired Patchface re-read – asoiafmusings

  9. Pingback: Of Mermaids, Seashells, and Seahorses – asoiafmusings

  10. I enjoyed coming across this essay and reading this theory. Thank you for writing it! I think what I like most about it is the potential for a redemptive experience for Lady Stoneheart through a meeting with GW. That would a very satisfying way to conclude her story arc for me. Thanks again!

  11. There’s direct evidence that Robb warged into Grey Wind clear to see in the text – but you have to take the word of a Frey for it…

    Jared Frey, describing the Red Wedding to Davos in Lord Manderley’s court:

    “The Red Wedding was the Young Wolf’s work. He changed into a beast before our eyes and tore out the throat of my cousin Jinglebell…when Stark changed into a wolf, his northmen did the same…”

    Jared is lying, of course, but is the text written this way to hint at an unsuspected truth?

  12. Man, first of all, sorry for my rusty english. =/
    It is a lot different from my mother language (portuguese) and it’s a long time since my last training.

    I Loved you Work here, but I think it is even more hints for this Theory:

    First, Jon ressurected in the TV show and it is likely to revive in the Books too and, when he dies, his lasts words are “Ghost”, just like Roob says “Grey Wind”.

    Second, look at this cut of a Chapter from Sansa in the Eyire:

    “There was ice underfoot, and broken stones just waiting to turn an ankle, and the wind was howling fiercely. It sounds like a wolf, thought Sansa. A ghost wolf, big as mountains.” (AFFC Alayne II)

    Also from Sansa:
    “He bewitched them, Alayne thought as she lay abed that night listening to the wind howl outside her windows.” (AFFC Alayne I)

    Third, and Last, it is always good to Remember Robb gives GW this name because it runs so fast, what can make possible to GW escapes from the Freys.

    Thanks to Give me some Hope, by the way!

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