The Stark Sigil
The Stark Sigil of the grey direwolf upon a white background captures the family’s readiness for the hardship of winter and the fight to stay alive.
"The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord." (A Game of Thrones: 22)
This struggle is not only against the severe details of the North but also against their foes in Westeros. The sigil represents the Stark family’s willingness to use physical force and their medieval-feeling code of honor. Persecuted and knocked down throughout the story, the northern Starks represent tough stoicism, the strength of will, and the determination to persevere at all costs.
"...You were born in the long summer, sweet one, you've never known anything else, but now the winter is truly coming. Remember the sigil of our House, Arya." (A Game of Thrones: 209)
The Stark Motto
Winter is Coming, is used an absurd amount of times. It is a real warning that the long-lasting summer is coming to an end, and winter will once again hit Westeros. With winter, the White Walkers may return, a frightening truth the Starks must always be ready for. The Starks' motto also has metaphorical meanings.
We must expect dark periods of our lives, even if things may seem good now. We should always be prepared for fortunes to turn against us.
—George R.R. Martin
For the Starks, "Winter is coming" implies all the hardships the Stark family will encounter. These words confirm the Stark family's closeness to the details. Their name Stark originates from their location: the definition of stark is severe and barren, like the climate. The Northerners have to stick together to confront the winter. At the same time, Southerners can play political games and stay at odds with each other due to the warm climate. Geographically and politically, the North is isolated from the southern games. They speak plainly and honestly, which can get them into trouble.
Ned Stark: "You're too fat for your armor, Robert."
Robert Baratheon: "Fat? Fat, is it? Is that how you speak to your king?" (A Game of Thrones: 284)
"I thought you a better man than this, Robert. I thought we had made a nobler king." Robert's face was purple. "Out," he croaked, choking on his rage. "Out, damn you, I'm done with you. What are you waiting for? Go, run back to Winterfell. And make certain I never look on your face again, or I swear, I'll have your head on a spike!" (A Game of Thrones: 327)
A paragraph from A Game of Thrones emphasizes that all other houses boast about their best qualities.
Every noble house had its words. Family mottoes, touchstones, prayers of sorts, they boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage. All but the Starks. Winter is coming, said the Stark words. Not for the first time, she reflected on what a strange people these northerners were. (A Game of Thrones: 26)
Significantly, they don't use their motto to boast about themselves, but to remind themselves and others to realize that apart from the smaller infighting, there is an even more dangerous and more threatening fight. The northerners' confidence to face the unmerciful reality of life shows that they are made of different essences with a different philosophy.
The Stark Colors
The Stark Colors: grey and white, symbolize their geographic and political locations.
Grey is a neutral color, a mixture of black and white. It is stable, peaceful, calm, tranquil, and reserved, never in the center of attention. It symbolizes compromise and control. The Starks embody this color through their common sense. And the gloominess of grey shows the saddening fate of the family.
White is the color of new beginnings, innocence, and purity. Most obviously, it is the color of snow, a product of the approaching winter. And of course, white gives us the image of Jon Snow. The Starks represent the duality of the color white - as it is pure, naive, and innocent, it is also freezing and isolated.
The Stark Animal: Direwolf
From the very beginning, we can draw parallels between the direwolf and the Starks. Animals are almost always associated with families. Almost every family has its symbolic animal, for example, the direwolf for the Starks, the stag for the Baratheons, etc.
Allegory: Ned had last seen the king nine years before during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion, when the stag and the direwolf had joined to end the pretensions of the self-proclaimed King of the Iron Islands. (A Game of Thrones: 40)
Allegory: “Perhaps the direwolf and the lion were not the only beasts in the woods…” (A Game of Thrones: 381) (maybe there are other houses who want to take the Iron Throne.)
When Robert suggests Eddard join him in the King's Landing and serve as the Hand, Catelyn becomes worried recalling a dead direwolf (a Stark) with a stag (a Baratheon) antler in its throat. As the story unfolds, we see that Catelyn's concern is relevant, as her husband is executed by the order of a Baratheon.
Catelyn wished she could share his joy. But she had heard the talk in the yards; a direwolf dead in the snow, a broken antler in its throat. Dread coiled within her like a snake, but she forced herself to smile at this man she loved, this man who put no faith in signs. (A Game of Thrones: 29)
The Direwolf scene also anticipates the change of the situation; it has been the ninth year of the lasting summer, and it's about to change.
“Direwolves lose in the realm, after so many years,” muttered Hullen, the master of horse. “I like it not.” (A Game of Thrones: 20)
Last time a direwolf was seen over two hundred years ago, they are thought to be extinct, and the new generation finds it a bit hard to believe in their existence.
“There’s not been a direwolf sighted south of the Wall in two hundred years.” (A Game of Thrones: 20)
People do not believe in the existence of the Others as well, and yet they exist. It can be said that the appearance of a direwolf foresees the rise of the Others.
His smile was gentle. “You listen to too many of Old Nan’s stories. The Others are as dead as the children of the forest (simile), gone eight thousand years. Maester Luwin will tell you they never lived at all. No living man has ever seen one.”
“Until this morning, no living man had ever seen a direwolf either,” Catelyn reminded him. (A Game of Thrones: 27)