Warning: This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Game of Thrones‘ season eight premiere.
Season eight’s amazing opening credits sequence deserves to have monuments built to it, but its most important stop was a locale that likely made its one and only appearance on Game of Thrones pre-show map, the Last Hearth. We were worried about the ancestral home of House Umber after the White Walkers obliterated The Wall last season. But we weren’t prepared for that. It’s destruction and the use of young Ned Umber as an undead decoration is a warning to every major castle in the North, many of which the living might need to flee to if Winterfell falls. Unless the Night King takes them first.
The late Ned Umber will haunt our nightmares for years
If the Last Hearth wasn’t a match for the White Walkers, no place other than Winterfell stands a chance against the dead. It had been home to the Umbers, one of the most fiercely loyal Houses to the Starks prior to the events of Game of Thrones, since they were petty kings during the Age of Heroes thousands of years ago. Outside of the castles along the Wall, the Last Hearth is the furthest north of any in Westeros. It’s located in a forest near the land bequeathed to the Night’s Watch, an area known as The Gift. It’s why Beric, Tormund, and the other survivors of the Night King’s dragon attack on Eastwatch went there first, and why the Brothers in Black also headed there when they learned about the White Walkers breaking through.
Greatjon Umber named Robb King in the North and fought beside him
The castle’s proximity to The Wall has often resulted in House Umber dealing with wildlings raiding south. But the Umber sigil, a roaring giant free of broken chains, is an apt one for a fearsome group of tough Northern warriors responsible for the rugged land from the Bay of Seals to the east to the Kingsroad to the west. Unfortunately not even the noble Umbers, weakened after the Battle of the Bastards, were able to withstand the White Walkers, and they became the first victims in the Night King’s invasion.
Smalljon Umber betrayed Rickon and died fighting for Ramsay Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards
We know Dolorous Edd and the rest of those who saw the destruction of the Last Heart think they can beat the White Walkers to Winterfell via horseback. But there’s no guarantee the White Walkers will head there immediately. Besides wanting to kill all of the living, every major castle in the North is a potential fallback point for survivors if Winterfell falls, so it would make sense for the Night King to destroy those places first. These are the main targets the White Walkers could hit next.
If the White Walkers go west rather than south, this is likely their next target. Deepwood Motte is where House Glover lives, in a forest near the western shores of the North. We found out that the unreliable Lord Robett Glover is not returning to Winterfell, and will instead stay with his people at his castle in Deepwood Motte, a place Jon and Sansa went to in season six looking for allies. If Robett Glover does stay, he’s likely to suffer the same fate as Ned Umber.
Seven bloody hells Robett Glover is the worst
Further west of Last Hearth is the castle Karhold, home of the Karstarks. They are descendants of the Starks who abandoned them after Robb beheaded their Lord, Rickard Karstark. Their Lord died fighting with Ramsay. Fortunately for them, their young redheaded Lady Alys was pardoned by Jon and is “safely” at Winterfell after swearing allegiance to him.
South of both Last Hearth and Karhold is the Dreadfort, the home of the now extinct House Bolton. A strong castle with high walls, this is where Ramsey tortured Theon.
New Castle in White Harbor
Wyman Manderly only made one appearance on the show as one of the first lords to name Jon Snow King in the North. White Harbor is the North’s largest city, and the Night King could greatly add to his army if he kills everyone there and takes New Castle, the Manderly’s seat of power.
Sickly Iron Born handed Moat Cailin over to Ramsay Bolton for the promise of safe passage home (after which they were promptly flayed). The broken down stronghold still holds major strategic importance, though. It’s located at the northern point of a swampy region of the North known as the Neck, and it’s a choke point between the north and south of Westeros–whoever controls has the only safe passage through the Neck. When the Iron Born held it, Roose Bolton had to sneak his way through.
At the southernmost point of the North in the Neck is Greywater, home of House Reed and where Meera returned in season seven. Leader Howland Reed is the only person alive who can confirm the truth about Jon Snow’s birth. The swamps here are treacherous and un-passable ( Greywater literally moves along them) for all but the crannogmen who live there.
That’s why Greywater and House Mormont’s Bear Island might be the safest places for the living. The dead can’t swim.
Explore the rich, complicated, and controversial lore of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire — and how it connects to HBO’s Game of Thrones — in our deep dive series, History of Thrones.