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 westeros.org) 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:
- 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)
- 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)
- 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!