This week’s episode Battle of Winterfell is going to showcase why this space might be worst (or the best?) place for characters to be. We break down the theories for you.
Whenever someone describes an area as ‘the safest place to be’ during a battle – especially on Game of Thrones – you know that they’re tempting fate.
And yet that’s exactly what so many characters did in last week’s episode. Everyone from Davos to Gilly and Daenerys to Jon banged on about how the Winterfell crypts will be steadfast, secure and, above all else, safe from the onward marching army of the dead. You know, that group of friendly folk from north of the wall who can bend dead bodies to their will and muster an army of zombies? Makes sense for everyone to hide from such an army in a literal crypt, doesn’t it?
But what are the Winterfell crypt theories, and how might they impact the action of the battle in next week’s episode? We break down the theories for you.
Are the Winterfell crypts safe?
Good question. The answer is a little bit of column A, and a little bit of column B.
Strictly speaking, when an army of the dead is marching upon you then no, a crypt full of dead bodies is not safe. There are several theories that suggest that what the White Walkers will do is turn all the dead Starks against their descendants in a shocking, heartbreaking twist of fate.
In the early trailers for season eight, we saw Arya running through the crypts of Winterfell, fear etched onto her face. What was she running from? It’s as good a guess as any that it might be a zombie version of someone she loves, like a Stark ancestor raised from the dead. (Or Zombie Gendry? Read our theory on that here.)
But there’s another reason she might be running so fast, and it has to do with the question of whether or not the Winterfell crypts are safe. Some are suggesting that the Winterfell crypts might be protected by ancient magic, baked into the bones of the castle by its maker Bran the Builder, the same man who built The Wall and, with it, The Wall’s own particular brand of magic. It might be, then, that Arya is leading White Walkers down to the crypts in order for them to reach their downfall at the hands of this ancient, inscrutable blood magic.
Having Arya down in the crypts defending the women and children (and Varys and Tyrion, who might be a secret Targaryen) does make us feel a little bit better about the whole situation. But a girl is just a girl on her own, and against an army of White Walkers both within and without the crypt space, she might have her work cut out for her, even armed with that dragonglass-tipped spear her loverboy Gendry made for her.
Who is buried in the crypts of Winterfell? Is Ned Stark buried in the Winterfell crypts?
The crypts of Winterfell are a sacred space reserved for burying Stark ancestors. We know this because of all the time that the Stark children have spent down there, gazing upon the faces of their father Ned’s burial statue, and the burial statue of their aunt (and Jon’s mum) Lyanna.
But Ned Stark’s body may not actually be buried there. We know that his bones were delivered directly to Catelyn Stark on Tyrion’s orders by way of a peace offering, but Catelyn didn’t make it back to Winterfell. Could Ned’s bones have made it there, somehow, off screen? Potentially.
Also not buried at Winterfell are the most recent generation of Starks, who all lost their lives far from the Winterfell grounds. We’re talking about Benjen, Catelyn and Robb, though Rickon – who died in season six’s Battle of the Bastards – is buried in the crypts.
But older generations of Starks are buried there, including Jon’s mother Lyanna and Brandon Stark, Ned’s older brother who was murdered by the Mad King in an execution that kickstarted Robert’s Rebellion.
Were the bodies embalmed, though? I know this is a very specific question, but it makes a huge difference to whether or not the Stark ancestors will be resurrected this week. If they’re just a pile of bones then what kind of emotional impact will their zombie forms have on viewers? But if their bodies have somehow endured overtime, then seeing Jon come face-to-face with his zombie-fied mother would be truly devastating.
Will the dead Starks in the Winterfell crypts protect their ancestors?
However, if the dead were somehow raised but, through ancient magic, came to the defence of their Stark ancestors… Well that might be a truly impactful conclusion to the episode that brings to mind the dead Kings who save the day in The Return of the King.
Some Redditors have come out in support of this theory. “They’ll fight against his army and help whoever has retreated into the castle bead back the dead and possibly be crucial in helping slay the Night King,” redditor KackKellyJd said on the forum.
They also pointed to a passage from A Song of Ice and Fire, where Jon Snow had a dream about dead kings. “He was wandering the empty castle, searching for his father, descending into the crypts. Only this time, the dream had gone further than before. In the dark he’d heard the scrape of stone on stone. When he turned he saw the vaults were opening, one after the other. As the dead kings came stumbling from their cold black graves, Jon had woken in pitch dark, his heart hammering.”
Of course, all this scrutiny of the books could be for naught. The night is dark and full of red herrings.
But it’s safe to say that if there’s one space in the Battle of Winterfell that you need to pay attention to in this week’s episodes, it’s the crypts.
Game of Thrones airs on Sunday nights on HBO in the US and Monday mornings (and again in the evening) in the UK on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.