One of the first scenes in the novel as well as the show, Game of Thrones, consists of Eddard (Ned) Stark, warden of the North and patriarch of the Stark family, being called into the forest by his sons. Upon arriving, there is a dead dire wolf. This is an oversize wolf that is not native to the land. There is much irony in this scene. The dire wolf dead before Ned as well as his other sons has a stag antler through it's throat, clearly the cause of death. The symbolism here is overpowering. The direwolf is the house sigil of the Stark family and the Stag is the sigil of the Baratheon family, which contains the King and monarchy. The stag murdering the direwolf is a foreshadowing of the harm of which the royal monarchy will cause Ned and his family, upon his decision of accepting the position of Hand of the King'.
Beside the dead direwolf in the forest are six pups. Ned Stark has six children. His sons realize this and eventually convince their father to give each Stark child a pup to raise, since the dire wolf is the sigil of the house. As the puppies grow, their fate prophecies that of their owner.
Below is a list of each Stark direwolf and the symbolism it holds to it's owner:
The terror the Baratheon house brings onto the Stark family ultimately results in a war. Robb, the heir to the North, is called the 'young wolf' by his enemies. He uses Grey Wind to scout enemy camps upon attacking them, as well as in battle. When they are together, they are a force to be reckoned with. However, upon being parted, they are both killed.
John Snow & Ghost
John Snow is the bastard of the family, meaning he has a different mother then his brothers and sisters. His wolf pup, Ghost, is also different from his siblings. He was the runt of the litter and also different in appearance, as he was albino. Ghost and John are also similar in the fact that they are quiet and observant in the beginning of the novel and as it progresses, become outspoken and strong.
Upon Ned Stark taking the position of the Hand of The King, Sansa is promised to the prince of Westeros. She becomes obsessed with the idea of being royal and betrays her family. During this process, her wolf Lady is killed by the prince because Arya's wolf, Nymeria, bit the prince's hand but could not be found. The death of Lady represents the death of the 'Stark' inside Sansa. She is no longer a part of her family for the wrong that she did to them.
Arya Stark & Nymeria
Arya Stark named her wolf pup after an ancient warrior queen. This represents Arya's disposition. She is firey, passionate and most of all, very dangerous. Arya accompanies her sister to the capital of Westeros. There, Arya forces her wolf to run away in order to save it from being executed by the prince. During the havoc the Baratheon family causes Stark family, Arya flees the capital. Both wolf and girl are on the run. Nymeria runs to the woods, gathering a pack. Arya runs across Westeros, becoming stronger like the wolf in order to face her enemies.
Bran's connection with his wolf contains the most symbolism. Upon recieving his wolf, it is nameless. Bran's attempted murder by a member of the monarchy lands him crippled and in a coma. When the monarchy attempts to kill him again, the direwolf tears the assasin's throat open. Shortly after, Bran wakes up from the coma with the word 'Summer' on his lips, christening his wolf. Later in the novel, it is revealed that Bran is a warg. A warg is a person who can enter the mind of an animal and control it's body. Bran learns to enter the mind of Summer, where he is able to walk again once more. Eventually, Bran and Summer are so connected, they virtually are the other.
Rickon Stark & Shaggy Dog
Rickon is the youngest of the Stark children, which is why he names his wolf so innocently. However, Rickon grows up knowing only the terror and misfortune the Baratheons have brought upon his family. Knowing only death and fear, Shaggy Dog's disposition is almost like an alter ego. The wolf is brutal, constantly fighting with the other wolves and attacking and killing any human that induces him to do so.