Whether you have read the entire Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin and are waiting eagerly for the last book to be released or are a binge watcher of the Game of Thrones series on HBO or both, you have probably heard of those large and powerful direwolves. What a great concept for this epic fantasy series. Along with the Targaryen dragons, the Stark family direwolves play an essential role in the books and tv show series. Wouldn't it be awesome to ride a direwolf into battle, keeping Westeros safe from white walkers? How many of us have dreamed of having a direwolf to keep us warm and safe, just like the Stark's in the Game of Thrones?
Ghost - a CGI version of a direwolf in the HBO Game of Thrones series
Grateful Dead fans will be pleasantly surprised to know that George R.R. Martin's inspiration for the direwolves in his Song of Ice and Fire series comes from the Grateful Dead song "Dire Wolf." According to a video interview with Billboard, the Game of Thrones author and his wife are major Dead Heads. George R.R. Martin revealed that there are many references to the Grateful Dead in the series. In Grateful Dead song featuring Dire Wolves, it states, "When I awoke, the Dire Wolf, six hundred pounds of sin, Was grinning at my window, all I said was "Come on in." Sure enough, George R.R. Martin's book series features fantasy direwolves that look to be large enough to attain weights of six hundred pounds or more.
Fantasy direwolves, such as those in the Game of Thrones, definitely have a larger than life feel to them. Looking at the CGI version of a Dire Wolf above, one would think that direwolves were mythical creatures standing at least four feet tall at the shoulders and weighing in at 300 pounds or more. But, despite fantasy's depiction of this version of the Dire Wolf, the largest wolf to ever roam our planet wasn't that much taller than today's Gray Wolf. In fact, the real Dire Wolf stood just under many of its Gray Wolf cousins. The main difference between the real Dire Wolf and the Gray Wolf was its massively thick bone structure and larger skull. The Dire Wolf outweighed the Gray Wolf considerably, but wasn't that much taller.
a real Dire Wolf skeleton
Weiner, Natalie. "George R.R. Martin confirms Grateful Dead Influence on 'Game of thrones'." 5/4/2015. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/6553854/game-of-thrones-grateful-dead-george-r-r-martin. Retrieved: 5/16/2018