“You can’t tame a wild thing. You can’t trust a wild thing… Wild creatures have their own rules, their own reasons, and you’ll never know them,” Kit Harington’s Jon Snow learns in season two of Game of Thrones. The HBO series is filled with wild things — mythical beasts and shadowy creatures that live in the ancient woodland of Westeros. We’ve been introduced to some of those species, many which bear a close resemblance to real-world animals and folkloric beings. Others have yet to be revealed, their presence teased in the season three trailer fans have been replaying for weeks. In anticipation of this Sunday’s premiere, we’ve compiled a Game of Thrones bestiary that collects the fascinating details about many of the animals and creatures from the George R. R. Martin books and the show. We’ve tried to avoid sharing too many plot details, but there could be spoilers. Bookmark this creature compendium for future reference, and add your own entries in the comments section.
These wild, oversized cows existed in our world until the 17th century, but they still roam Westeros near Kingsroad. The word “auroch” was adopted as an insult. The oh so lovable moniker was given to Mark Stanley’s Grenn — a member of the Night’s Watch. The legendary strongman Clarence Crabb of House Crabb (A Song of Ice and Fire) rides an auroch since it’s the only beast sturdy enough to carry him and the human heads he collects.
The trailer for season three of the series revealed the bear that would appear for a key scene we don’t want to spoil for you, but readers of George R. R. Martin’s series know exactly what we’re talking about. Many bears make their home off the coast of Westeros on the remote Bear Island — home to a poor, working class community and House Mormont.
Everyone knows that three direwolves are better than one. Lucky for us, Game of Thrones has many — even though the loyal and majestic creatures were previously thought to be extinct. (They’re also a real-world extinct species that lived 10,000 years ago.) These fierce protectors appear in season one when several orphaned direwolves are adopted as companions by the Stark children — like Jon Snow’s albino direwolf, Ghost. More powerful and intelligent than a wolf or dog, these pony-sized creatures adopt the personality traits of their masters and are deeply bonded to them.
The Valyrian nobles of House Targaryen, most notably the current Queen Daenerys Targaryen (aka Khaleesi, played by Emilia Clarke), have a strong connection to these magical, fire-breathing creatures. They were thought to be extinct after the family used them as war mounts during the Targaryen civil wars and the battle to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Three reappeared as hatched fledglings under Daenerys’ care in the HBO series, but previews for season three indicate that we’ll be seeing them all grown up. Note: dragons can grow as large as their living quarters, which means they have unlimited size potential.
Image credit: Joel Hustak
Think of them as dragons without wings and legs. They breathe fire, and they can bore through stone and earth.
Horses are the kind of beasts that appear so frequently in the series that it’s easy to forget they are there. The animals play an important role on the show, however, especially amongst the Dothraki horselords and knights of Westeros (for combat). The Dothraki see them as a symbol of strength and power, and essential for their nomadic lifestyle. If you can’t ride a horse, even when pregnant (like Daenerys does), then you’re no Dothraki. Khal Drogo (Jason Moma) gifted his bride Daenerys with a special horse known as the Silver.
In case you haven’t realized something by now, Daenerys gets all the cool stuff: dragons, Dothraki beefcake, and this beautiful (albeit totally not vegan) cloak made from the pelt of a white lion known as the Hrakkar. These breathtaking creatures can be found around the Dothraki Sea, and one of them dares to battle the warlord Khal Drogo. The lion lost the fight, and Daenerys keeps the pelt since it reminds her of Drogo’s skill and power.
You say Kraken, we say Cthulhu — but whether you’re a fan of Alfred Tennyson or H. P. Lovecraft is utterly insignificant when it comes to Game of Thrones. The mythical, gigantic cephalopod has only been hinted at in the books and series. On the show, the Greyjoys — marked by a house flag bearing the Kraken symbol — are loyal to the Starks since they lost a fight for independence against King Robert. This led to Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) becoming a Stark Ward. House Greyjoy’s legendary Grey King once ruled the seas and married a mermaid, so the Greyjoys are bonded to the ocean and its hidden creatures.
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These massive reptiles dwell in the swamp regions of Westeros known as The Neck — controlled by four Houses (Stark, Reed, Tully, Frey). Their dagger-like teeth, strength, and size make them formidable opponents and help keep the North’s waters free from assailants.
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The pachyderms bear a striking resemblance to real-world mammoths and live in the far north of Westeros beyond the Wall. Giants mount them like steeds for battle.
A chimera with a human head, lion’s body, and scorpion’s tail. It can fold up like a scarab making the reveal of its unsettling human features quite shocking. Alchemists and sorcerers seek its powerful venom, and the creatures have been used by assassins (as Daenerys Targaryen found out in A Clash of Kings). The deadly animals are used as the House Lorch mascot.
Ravens are the carrier pigeons of the Seven Kingdoms, but far more intelligent. They can replicate human speech, and fly between various castles with ease and great speed. A three-eyed raven (called a crow in the books) appears to Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) in his dreams. For more spoilery info and theories about the three-eyed crow, go here. White ravens are bred to carry the most important messages.
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These predatory beasts have distinctive black pelts with white stripes and can smell blood from miles away. Shadowcats aren’t as large as direwolves, but grow as large — if not larger — than tigers and mountain lions. They are non-discriminatory when it comes to feeding and will eat their prey completely, including the bones. Skinchangers have been known to inhabit their bodies.
The one-horned creatures are said to live on the island of Skagos in the Shivering Sea. Others say the unicorn is really a species of goat that roams the rocky terrain. Note: Skagos used to be a rumored hotbed of cannibals. We always imagined that magical unicorns made tasty snacks.
White Hart is the name of a rare, magical animal. Spotting the older, male deer is viewed as an omen.
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Children of the Forest
Think of the Children of the Forest like elves and sprites in Icelandic mythology. They are a magical race that roamed Westeros in its earliest days and haven’t been spotted by humans for thousands of years. The child-sized humanoids are dark-skinned and graceful, with large ears and eyes that aid their nocturnal adventures. Bonded with the land, their supernatural gifts and refined abilities (music and the gift of prophecy or greensight) are unparalleled. They are responsible for carving the faces in the weirwood trees since the Children honor the trees like Gods.
Image credit: Mike S. Miller
The oversized humanoids are comparable to Neanderthals, but much larger. Covered in fur and wielding trees as clubs, the massive creatures are able to withstand long winters where they live beyond the Wall. They speak the language of the First Men of Westeros called the Old Tongue.
The magical beings serve the Lord of Light — a fire god worshipped in the neighboring continent of Essos — and drain life from human beings to fuel their mission.
The appearance of the White Walkers in season two was a startling moment in the series. After hearing about the “sleeping” creatures throughout season one, they finally appeared in full as monstrous figures with glowing, blue eyes. They are somewhat different in the book, however, and are known as The Others. As George R. R. Martin put it: “They are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.” Robert Pugh’s wildling Craster offers a disturbing sacrifice to the White Walkers in season two, which you can read about here.
Every culture has their version of the zombie, and the wights are the reanimated corpses of Westeros. They are raised from the dead by the White Walkers to serve as undead henchmen — as seen in season two. They can only be destroyed by fire. White Walkers often use wight horses as their steeds.
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