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Game of Thrones: 3 Theories Why the Crypts Will Be Key in the Battle for Winterfell

Did they just make a massive tactical error?

Sadie Gennis

With the Night King and his army at Winterfell, the battle for humanity's survival is upon us. However, the living might have made a huge tactical error. Throughout the second episode of Game of Thrones' final season, it was repeatedly noted that everyone who wasn't fighting the dead should be safely tucked away in Winterfell's crypts, allegedly the safest place around. However, many fans were baffled by this decision, knowing that the Night King has the power to not only raise the freshly dead, but also reanimate dusty old skeletons, as we saw at the Three-Eyed Raven's cave.

Game of Thrones book readers in particular were on high alert as soon as it was announced that so many people -- including some favorites like Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) -- would be in the crypts when the army of the dead arrives because of a possibly prescient dream Jon Snow (Kit Harington) had in A Game of Thrones that, if taken literally, means Tyrion might have been better off on the battlefield where he'd at least be properly armed.


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Although the series has deviated greatly from George R.R. Martin's source material, there are many fans who are pointing to this passage as evidence that the dead Starks laid to rest in the crypt will rise again and slaughter those seeking refuge from the battle underneath Winterfell. It should be noted, though, that the books also include the detail that by ancient custom an iron longsword is laid across the lap of the deceased lords and ladies of Winterfell "to keep the vengeful spirits in their crypts." While ghosts are very different than necromancy, it's possible the iron would be enough to stop the dead from rising -- too bad the books also note that some of the swords have rusted away to nothing, not to mention the fact that some swords have been removed, possibly allowing a handful of those buried there to be susceptible to the Night King's resurrection powers and giving more credence to this theory.

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The idea of a bunch of dead Starks -- especially the ones we're familiar with, like Ned (Sean Bean) and Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) -- rising from the dead to attack their own people is a divisive theory, in part just because it'd be corny as hell. But there is the chance that everyone in the crypts will be in grave danger from wights without the series having the bones of our fallen heroes attack their descendants. The crypts have played a huge role throughout Game of Thrones' run, but we've only ever seen a small portion of it on-screen. The crypts are actually larger than Winterfell itself, so it's possible that the wights could enter tunnels -- ones the Starks have forgotten even existed -- far outside the walls of the castle and gain access to the crypts without Jon and Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) army being any the wiser. If this is the case, the people in the crypts will probably be in far greater danger than if the buried Starks reanimated because the Night King's army is likely a whole lot bigger than the number of those buried underneath Wintefell (many of whom are probably nothing but dust by now).


The idea of wights infiltrating the crypts seems like the far more likely option than Ned Stark's bones rising up and busting through the stone entombment (especially because we've seen wights not even be able to break out of a wooden crate), but there is also a third option to be considered -- and this one would keep all our favorites trapped in the crypts a hell of a lot safer.

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The crypts of Winterfell were constructed by Bran the Builder, the founder of House Stark and the person who built the Wall. When the Wall was constructed, it was imbued with magic that helped keep the White Walkers out, and it's possible that Bran the Builder may have used some of these techniques with the crypts as well. If the crypts of Winterfell are magically protected, that could also explain why Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was against going down there during the battle and why we haven't seen him step foot in the crypts since he returned; this could also explain why he was absent in that ominous teaser that featured the rest of the Stark children in the crypts. Much like how the Three-Eyed Raven's cave was protected against the Night King until Bran was marked by him, the crypts could be similarly safe as well, and it would only be by Bran going into the crypts that would break this spell and allow the dead access. So as long as Bran sticks to the plan of being bait in the Godswood, everyone in the crypts could theoretically be safe from the army of the dead.

Then again, there's always the chance that the Wintefell crypts are just regular ol' crypts, but it does seem as though they will play a pivotal role in the battle to come. Now we just have to wait and see if the role the crypts play will help the cause of the living or perhaps cause irreparable harm...

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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