The winter town is a town located outside of Winterfell, the seat of House Stark in the north. During autumn and winter it is one of the largest northern settlements, along with White Harbor and Barrowton.
The winter town has rows of small and neat houses built of log and undressed stone. Its streets are muddy. Located at Winterfell's main gatehouse, the market square has wooden stalls for produce and goods and a well at its center. The local inn and alehouse is the Smoking Log.
The kingsroad lies past the sprawl of castle and town, with the wolfswood two miles away. Hunting parties from Winterfell can avoid the winter town by taking the Hunter's Gate instead of the main gate.
During spring and summer, four-fifths of the winter town's homes are empty. During autumn and winter, however, the town becomes "full to bursting" with northmen from throughout the region, including farmers, villagers, and clansmen from the northern mountains. When full, the winter town might have a population of around fifteen thousand.[N 1]
When Bran Stark was little, he went to the market square with his mother, Catelyn Stark, and Septa Mordane. Hodor accompanied them to carry their purchases, but the stableboy wandered off during the excursion. The simple Hodor was eventually found in an alley with boys poking him with sticks.
A Game of Thrones
The winter town becomes full when Robb calls the northern banners in response to the Iron Throne's imprisonment of his father, Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell. The townspeople cheer Robb when he leads the soldiers south along the kingsroad.
A Clash of Kings
After the capture of Winterfell by Theon's ironborn during the War of the Five Kings, Kyra, a tavern wench who has lived her entire life in the winter town, becomes Theon's bedmate in the castle.
Theon unsuccessfully parleys with Ser Rodrik Cassel in the market square after Rodrik gathers an army of Stark loyalists to retake Winterfell. The square is defended by Rodrik's men, including spearmen, archers atop the houses, and knights from White Harbor. Later that day, however, Rodrik's men are betrayed by the Dreadfort garrison brought by Ramsay Snow. The Stark men are unable to form up between the houses, which Boltons put to the torch. Following the scattering of Rodrik's men in this battle at Winterfell, Theon admits the Boltons into Winterfell, which they quickly sack. Summer and Shaggydog find no survivors when they pass through the ruins.
A Dance with Dragons
When the snow fell and the ice winds howled down out of the north, Old Nan said, farmers left their frozen fields and distant holdfasts, loaded up their wagons, and then the winter town came alive.—thoughts of Bran Stark
His brother ran with him, drawn to the smell of blood and death. They padded silent through the dens the men had built of wood and grass and mud. Many and more were burned and many and more were collapsed; others stood as they had before. Yet nowhere did they see or scent a living man.
Chapters that take place in the winter town
- Less than one in five homes are occupied in A Game of Thrones, Bran V, when Bran Stark rides to the wolfswood. Luwin later states in Bran VI that Robb Stark's initial army (which is around 12,000 men), when quartered in the settlement, are numerous enough that "the winter town is full to bursting". This occurs during late summer (with autumn arriving in A Clash of Kings, Bran I). Given that four fifths of the winter town's housing would be available for the army with the last fifth being occupied by the civilians who normally live there, the town might therefore house 15,000 people at maximum capacity.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran V.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 50, Theon IV.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: Winterfell.
- Fire & Blood, The Lysene Spring and the End of Regency.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 69, Bran VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.