A long, long time ago (circa the very first episode of Game of Thrones) the Starks stumbled across an orphaned pack of puppy direwolves and took it upon themselves to look after the small survivors. One for each of the six Stark children.
Before long, the bond between the ‘pets’ and their respective owners had grown as quickly as the direwolves themselves. The ‘wolves' had become faithful companions, if not comrades.
Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Deadly political machinations are a bastion of the Seven Kingdoms and the direwolves have suffered as much as anyone.
After all, this is Westeros, not 101 Dalmations.
Although we found out that Nymeria was alive through a chance encounter last season, Arya actually sent her direwolf away six seasons earlier, after Nymeria defended her against Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) on the Kingsroad.
Knowing Nymeria would be killed for attacking the prince, Arya forced Nymeria to run away by freeing and throwing stones at her.
Unfortunately, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) chose to make an example out of a direwolf for attacking her son and forced Ned to kill Lady, the well-behaved direwolf belonging to Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner).
Five direwolves remained until Season 3, when Grey Wind and Robb Stark (Richard Madden) met their devastating deaths. Grey Wind was locked up for the entirety of the Red Wedding and sadly witnessed Robb being betrayed by the Freys and Boltons before being shot through his kennel bars.
By the time we all (just about) got over the massacre, Summer – the direwolf belonging to Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) – was slaughtered in season six. Summer attempted to protect Bran from the undead as White Walkers attacked the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave.
Before long, Shaggydog was next. The youngest Stark’s direwolf actually only died a day or so prior to Rickon (Art Parkinson) – and many others. He and Osha (Natalia Tena) were captured by the Umbers and presented to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) with Shaggydog’s severed head as proof of identity.
In a cataclysm of chaos, Ramsay later brings young Rickon to the battefield in the Battle of the Bastards, manipulates him into a false sense of freedom, and shoots him to death as he runs towards Sansa and Jon.
Thankfully, the diredeaths end there. Ghost is hanging out in Winterfell after Jon made sure he wasn’t part of the Battle of the Bastards and Nymeria met Arya on the road north in season seven - albeit as the leader of a particularly terrifying wolfpack.
Though Arya asked Nymeria to come back to her, the direwolf moved on.
Do the direwolves die in sync with their owners?
Arguably, yes. And many now theorise that this means Jon and Arya will be the only Starks left standing.
Subjectively, each of the dead wolves may be killed by someone closely connected to their owners death – be it a literal or figurative death. Robb and his wolf were killed by Freys. Rickon and his wolf were killed for the ‘pleasure’ of Ramsay.
The theory would assume Bran will be killed by White Walker and Sansa will be killed by a Stark.
Personally, I believe the direwolves represent less literal parallels.
Jon, though he could technically be a ghost and not living at all, has been partnered with the outcast of the pack - actual Ghost – since the beginning.
Bran, who is arguably also ‘dead’ and living as the Three Eyed Raven, went white-eyed as soon as Summer was killed.
And, well, not to be too literal but winter came relatively quickly after Summer died.
Sansa’s wolf was also killed by the Hand of the King for the crimes of its sister-wolf. It wouldn’t bend a mind to see Tyrion killing Sansa as retribution for something Arya does.
Will Ghost be in season eight?
Game of Thrones visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer confirmed Ghost, at the very least, will return for season eight.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, he said: “Oh, you’ll see him again. He has a fair amount of screen time in Season 8.
He does show up... he’s very present and does some pretty cool things.”
Cool things like... teaming up with his feral runaway sister to beat the Night King?
Many fans suspect Nymeria’s short season seven cameo set the stage for something special.
In the books, author George R.R. Martin often calls back to the missing pup and her wolfpack through Arya’s dreams, including scenes of the pack attacking Stark enemies in Frey territory.