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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The direwolf is the symbol, or “sigil,” of House Stark, and so each of the direwolf pups the Stark children adopt becomes a symbol of the child that cares for it. Robb’s wolf, Grey Wind, helps him defend Bran from wildlings and fights fiercely in the battle where Robb’s men capture Jaime. The wolf’s behavior and its plain grey fur make it the most like the animal appearing on the house sigil, a grey wolf on a white field. As Robb becomes the new Lord of Winterfell, his wolf accordingly grows into a fitting symbol for the house as a whole. By contrast, Jon finds his albino wolf separated from the rest of the litter, the wolf’s situation paralleling Jon’s own feeling of being an outsider in his family. It is the runt of the litter, much as Jon is the Stark bastard and considered inferior. He names the wolf Ghost, which fits the animal’s soundless movement and eerie appearance. But the moniker also corresponds to Jon’s feeling of invisibility in the eyes of Catelyn and many others.
While it lives, Sansa’s small wolf is polite and well behaved, just like its owner and its name, Lady. Arya’s wolf, Nymeria, is fierce and willful like her owner and the warrior princess for which it is named. When Arya strikes Joff, Nymeria notably follows suit and bites the boy. After that incident, the fates of Lady and Nymeria foreshadow the fates of their masters, as both wolves become separated from the family. Bran’s wolf is one of the smartest of the litter, and Luwin also notes that Bran is surpassingly clever when he tries at it. Bran’s choice of name, Summer, seems to be a kind of antidote to the coldness of the north. Rickon’s wolf, Shaggydog, is wild and unruly like its immature owner.
The Iron Throne represents the difficulty of ruling and the brutality necessary to gain power. According to the story told in the novel, Aegon the Conqueror built the Throne out of the swords of his conquered enemies because he did not think that a king should sit easily. The throne represents the king’s power over his adversaries, specifically his military power. The swords are a reminder to all, the king’s friends as well as his enemies, that the king rules through force. Military strength is the foundation of his rule; those who do not obey will be punished, and those who betray the king will be killed. But the literal discomfort of sitting in the throne serves as a constant reminder to the king that wielding such power is not easy. The position is not one of luxury and ease. Instead, it is one of tremendous responsibility and often uncomfortable decisions. That the throne was forged by the fiery breath of the dragon Balerion is also symbolic, but it speaks more to the rise of the Targaryens. Though outnumbered, Aegon the Conqueror had a power far greater than any number of swords, and that was his dragons. Though it isn’t yet clear how the reappearance of dragons in the world will play out in the series, it seems certain that Daenerys’s dragons will make her a formidable force.
The Trident River divides into three major forks, and so it is a place of change and divisive decisions. Robert, we learn, split Rhaegar Targaryen’s chest open on the Trident, and in doing so changed the course of the war. Arya fights Joff in the same place that Robert fought Rhaegar, and Arya throws Joff’s sword into the river along with Rhaegar’s rubies, which studded the sword. Through this fighting, the children divide the Stark and Lannister houses by bringing the tensions between them into the open. Later, Robb makes a major decision on the Green Fork of the Trident as well. He crosses the river at the Twins, divides his army, and in so doing earns a great strategic advantage that changes the course of the Stark war against the Lannisters. It is in many ways the geographical nexus of Westeros, and the multiple forks of the Trident symbolize the divided loyalties of the kingdom as well as the vast number of history-changing decisions and battles that have occurred, and will continue to occur, at this place of change.