The House Sigils In The 'Game Of Thrones' Books All Have Fascinating Hidden Meanings

Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

If you've ever read the Song of Ice and Fire books, or seen the Game of Thrones TV show, then you probably have at least a vague idea of the Houses of Westeros. The plot of A Song of Ice and Fire follows a number of noble families duking it out over a very fancy chair (and also sometimes fighting zombies). There are the Starks, with their dogs and their poor impulse control, the Lannisters with their incest and their control issues, and the disgraced Targaryens, former rulers of the continent, now reduced to kicking it over in Fantasy Eurasia with a bunch of ungrateful baby dragons.

Each house has their own way of doing things, their own motto, and, perhaps most importantly of all, their own fun animal mascot. Or rather, each house has a "sigil" to represent them on flags and shields and whatnot. But these sigils seem to be more than just cutesy accessories. The Targaryens are more than just a little attached to their dragons. The Starks can literally become their direwolves. The Lannisters aren't lacking in leonine pride (and I guess Tommen also keeps cats?). These symbols are more than just fashion statements, so here's the meaning behind the sigils of the major players in Westeros:

1House Stark: The Direwolf

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The Starks are represented by a grey direwolf against a white backdrop, perfect for a fanatically loyal family of the white, frozen North. Like wolves, the Starks do best in a pack. They are fiercely protective of their territory. And in traditional European heraldry, wolves represented valor in battle, and the wolf sigil was especially popular in Scotland (you know, the *North* of the real world British Isles). Giant wolves are also significant in Norse Mythology, and the Stark kids seem to have a penchant for shape-shifting and living in magical, psychic trees.

2House Lannister: The Lion

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Lions are stereotyped as fierce, prideful, and definitively regal. As the "king of the beasts," the lion is a popular symbol for royal houses, and the Lannisters most definitely want to be a royal house. But in actual nature, male lions tend to be handsome yet lazy, whereas lionesses are ferocious hunters. True to form, Jaime and Tyrion spend a lot of their time waffling about feeling sorry for themselves, while Cersei is out there murdering people, protecting her pride, and following her (nefarious) dreams.

3House Targaryen: The Three-Headed Dragon

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Dragons hardly need an introduction. They're fiery and ferocious, but also greedy and prone to hoarding their treasure. In Christian Europe, dragons often represented the devil, but the heraldic dragon is also the traditional symbol of Uther Pendragon, the father of legendary King Arthur. So... the devil but also kind of the magical rightful ruler of Fantasy England? That sounds like the Targaryens all over.

4House Baratheon: The Stag

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The Baratheon stag has prominent antlers, which traditionally represent strength and fortitude. This is true of all three Baratheon brothers... although their "strength" often becomes stubbornness, which results in them butting heads. Deer sigils are also typically associated with peace and harmony, which is a bit ironic considering that the Baratheons are a decidedly inharmonious family, to say the least.

5House Tully: The Trout

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The trout may not be the most fearsome of creatures, but the Tullys are most certainly adept at slipping downstream and swimming away like the slippery fish they are. I mean, Catelyn straight up died and she's still riding around the countryside, murdering bandits. Traditionally, fish symbolize military prowess, fortitude, and faith, which are all solid Tully values (along with swimming the hell away from danger).

6House Tyrell: The Rose

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The classic rose symbolizes hope and joy, as well as purity, beauty, and grace. The Tyrells are excellent at appearing to embody all of these virtues... but their family also seems to live by this quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't."

7House Arryn: The Falcon

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House Arryn is above it all both figuratively and literally. They live way up high in the mountains, and they prefer to stay out of politics (while orchestrating murders from afar). Fittingly, their sigil is the high-flying falcon: a classic heraldic symbol representing someone in eager pursuit of lofty goals (like, you know, murdering your husband so you can help your evil boyfriend take over the realm).

8House Greyjoy: The Kraken

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Unlike the rest of Martin's sigils, the Greyjoy kraken is actually not a very traditional choice. The kraken itself is a legendary Norwegian sea monster capable of taking down whole ships, likely inspired by the real world giant squid. Martin has also picked up some H.P. Lovecraft vibes here, since the Greyjoy's family religion is very reminiscent of the cult of Cthulhu, another big nasty sea monster from classic American literature. Clearly, the Greyjoys are powerful forces of the ocean with long, grasping arms, forever reaching for more power... but they're pretty darn useless when it comes to doing anything on land.

9House Martell: The Sun and Spear

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House Martell of Dorne is repped by a red sun shot through with a spear, which fits their family perfectly: the sun traditionally represents glory and brilliance, and the Martells are most certainly glorious (and more than a little hyped up about themselves). On an obvious note, Dorne is an especially sunny part of the continent, too, and the Martells are expert spear-fighters. The sun can also represent happiness, which is just as well, because Martells probably know how to party best out of any of the houses of Westeros.