The Walls of Winterfell are made of granite, a particularly austere type of stone, which is not mentioned anywhere else in the story.
Other castles in the Seven Kingdoms are made of other type of material: Deepwood Motte, Barrow Hall are made of wood. Riverrun is made of Sandstone (perhaps an import). The Red Keep is made of a red stone, which is also used, apparently, for the red temples across the Narrow Sea.The oldest part of the castle is the godswood. In fact, it predates the castle and covers three acres (twelve thousand square meters). It is comprised of ironwoods, sentinel trees, pines, ashes, hawthorns, chestnuts, elms... and the heart tree: a large weirwood. There is a pool near the heart tree and hot springs. The Glass Gardens are now in ruin.
It taught him Winterfell's secrets too. The builders had not even leveled the earth; there were hills and valleys behind the walls of Winterfell. There was a covered bridge that went from the fourth floor of the bell tower across to the second floor of the rookery. Bran knew about that. And he knew you could get inside the inner wall by the south gate, climb three floors and run all the way around Winterfell through a narrow tunnel in the stone, and then come out on ground level at the north gate, with a hundred feet of wall looming over you. Even Maester Luwin didn't know that, Bran was convinced.
“Stannis and his knights have left Deepwood Motte, flying the banner of his new red god. The clans of the northern hills come with him on their shaggy runtish horses. If the weather holds, they could be on us in a fortnight. And Crowfood Umber marches down the kingsroad, whilst the Karstarks approach from the east. They mean to join with Lord Stannis here and take this castle from us.”
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)
The raven must have flown to Karhold, or perhaps to The Last Hearth, before another has been sent to Winterfell. How much time has the ravens taken? Not more than a few days, I think. Roose estimates that a fortnight is sufficient for Stannis to reach Winterfell. When Stannis left Deepwood Motte, the estimated time for the travel was:
One hundred leagues from Deepwood Motte to Winterfell. Three hundred miles as the raven flies. Fifteen days.
(The King's Prize, ADwD)
A fortnight is the time it was expected for Stannis' host to reach Winterfell from Deepwood Motte with optimal conditions. So we can assume that the raven hasn't lost much time.
We have a detailed account of the journey of
Stannis to Winterfell. On the thirty-fourth day the host stopped at
the crofter's village.
The day of the sacrifice, Asha reflects.
They had been three days from Winterfell for nineteen days.
(The King's Prize, ADwD)
That seems to mean that Stannis has been staying in the village for nineteen days. But his army has been stuck for some more time. One might want to consider that some of the nineteen days were spent progressing very slowly. That's the shorter crofter village sejourn hypothesis, which does not seem likely. In any case, it's certain that Asha has spent at least eight days in the village, since she says.
Eight days ago Asha had walked out with Aly Mormont to have a closer look at its slitted red eyes and bloody mouth.
(The King's Prize, ADwD)That's fifty-three days in all, or at least forty-two days. But I think the fifty three days figure is more accurate. The crofter's village is three days away from Winterfell. If we assume that exactly that time was necessary for Tycho Nestoris to arrive with Theon and "Arya" on the day of the sacrifice, it means fifty days (or at least thirty-nine days) have elapsed between Stannis' departure from Deepwood Motte and the escape. To estimate the time between the wedding and the escape, we need to susbstract the time needed for the news to travel from Deepwood Motte to Winterfell. So at least one month has elapsed in the castle, perhaps up to fifty days.
It is possible to synchronize with the events at
the Wall. Jon Snow received a letter from Stannis after the victory
at Deepwood Motte. He learns at this moment that the wedding would
take place in Winterfell, and that Stannis would march on
The clansmen and the Queen's men have debated whether to go to Winterfell. So Stannis wouldn't announce his decision to march after the end of that debate. The march, I presume, started shortly after the debate (Why wait?). So Jon Snow should have received the letter from Stannis at the same time than Karstark and Mors received the same news from Stannis. Hence, the reading of Stannis' letter by Jon Snow should precede, but not by long if at all, Roose's reading of the letter announcing that Stannis has left Deepwood Motte. The day that preceded the arrival of the letter, Jon Snow had led new recruits to swear their vows to the old gods. On the return, the sky was clear and moonless. In Winterfell, the wedding happened under a moon crescent.
The first flakes came drifting down as the sun was setting in the west. By nightfall snow was coming down so heavily that the moon rose behind a white curtain, unseen.
(The Turncloak, ADwD)
It is then announced that Stannis' march has turned
to a crawl.
Stannis' march turned to a crawl after about thirteen days. So the scene in the crypts of Winterfell took place a couple of weeks, or more after the wedding.
When Val left the Wall, the moon was half-full. Waning of waxing, we don't know. She promised to return by the full moon, which could mean one week later of three weeks later. I think it is three weeks, since the Bravoosi Banker needed to travel to Deepwood Motte and then to Winterfell through a snowstorm. We can accept a variant: Val means the next full moon, which is not what she seems to say. This the "Val's return at the next full moon" hypothesis.
When Stannis stopped in the crofter's village, the moon rose in the evening, which implies it was full, or close to. Val might have returned to the Wall for the following full moon, a moon's turn weeks later (it is never confirmed that she indeed arrived for the full moon). I assume a moon's turn is twenty-nine days and a half, like it is on Earth. So Val reached the Wall nine days after Theon arrived at the crofter's village.Tormund crossed the Wall with his people three days after Val's arrival. He needed a couple more days to go to his castle, Oakenshield, and return to Castle Black. So the letter reached the Wall five days after the arrival of Val, give or take one day.
We are going to suggest two timelines.This is the timeline in the hypothesis where Val returns to the Wall at the full moon that followed her departure.
I don't feel much confident in this timeline. At several points, I have considered that a moon rising in the evening equals a full moon (When Stannis stopped in the crofter's village and when the snow fell in Winterfell). I am not sure of the time taken by Tormund between his departure from Castle Black and his return. I am not certain of the time needed by the news of Stannis leaving Deepwood Motte to reach Winterfell. I am not certain that a moon's turn is the same than on earth. The Seven days of battle could have begun after Theon has reached Stannis.
The trip of Tycho Nestoris from Castle Black to Winterfell seems hardly possible, since it included a detour through Deepwood Motte. His itinirary was: The Wall to Deepwood Motte to Winterfell to Stannis in less than nine days, and under a blizzard.
It took a bit too long, I think between the end of the battle (D+57) and the arrival of the letter (D+68).
The shorter crofter village sejourn hypothesis does nothing to solve these problems. The "Val's return at the next full moon" hypothesis could make more believable the ride of Tycho Nestoris. Since Val could have left at D+12 or D+26, and Selyse could have arrived with Tycho shortly thereafter. The chapter order could put Val's leaving of the Wall before the snowfall on Winterfell, which is compatible with Val leaving at D+12, on the half moon that followed the crescent moon of the wedding day in Winterfell. Here is the resulting timeline.
Perhaps it is important that Val intended to return on the full moon and didn't. The latter timeline indicates that the chapters in the north follow the narrative order (except the King's Prize, Bran III, and the Theon chapter from TWoW). We had to suppose the Turncloak chapter is spread over several days (from the beginning of the snowfall to the visit in the crypts), despite the fact that there is no sign that days have passed. Here are the chapters in the north in narrative order.
It is possible to reconstitute the events prior to the wedding.
Between the return of Wylis Manderly (and therefore Davos' departure for Skagos) and Lord Wyman's arrival in Barrowton, the time elapsed amount to sixteen days and the time necessary for people in Barrowton to get worried about their delay, which is about the time thought necessary to travel from White Harbor to Barrowton. A total of a month seems a reasonable assumption.
The distance from Barrowton to Winterfell is comparable to the distance separating Barrowton to White Harbor. But Roose had to move a large army. Another month seems a reasonable order of magnitude, perhaps more, since Winterfell had to be restored.
So at least two months elapsed between Davos' departure and the wedding, another two months elapsed before the battle.
I see no way of relating the arrival of the white raven in King's Landing to the events in the north.
We have a single indication of the moment of Winter in the north.
“All your questions shall be answered. Look to the skies, Lord Snow. And when you have your answers, send to me. Winter is almost upon us now. I am your only hope.”
The red priestess had warned him of their coming almost a day before the raven arrived from Eastwatch with the same message.
“Is that why you killed all the Starks?”
“Not all,” said Jaime. “Lord Eddard’s daughters live. One has just been wed. The other ...”
As a half-moon crept up the sky, they staked their horses out in the village commons and supped on salted mutton, dried apples, and hard cheese.
Here is Sansa at the Eyrie, during a snowing day.
When Sansa opened her eyes again, she was on her knees. She did not remember falling. it seemed to her that the sky was a lighter shade of grey. Dawn, she thought. Another day. Another new day. It was the old days she hungered for. Prayed for. But who could she pray to? The garden had been meant for a godswood once, she knew, but the soil was too thin and stony for a weirwood to take root. A godswood without gods, as empty as me.
She scooped up a handful of snow and squeezed it between her fingers. Heavy and wet, the snow packed easily. Sansa began to make snowballs, shaping and smoothing them until they were round and white and perfect. She remembered a summer's snow in Winterfell when Arya and Bran had ambushed her as she emerged from the keep one morning. They'd each had a dozen snowballs to hand, and she'd had none. Bran had been perched on the roof of the covered bridge, out of reach, but Sansa had chased Arya through the stables and around the kitchen until both of them were breathless. She might even have caught her, but she'd slipped on some ice. Her sister came back to see if she was hurt. When she said she wasn't, Arya hit her in the face with another snowball, but Sansa grabbed her leg and pulled her down and was rubbing snow in her hair when Jory came along and pulled them apart, laughing.
What do I want with snowballs? She looked at her sad little arsenal. There's no one to throw them at. She let the one she was making drop from her hand. I could build a snow knight instead, she thought. Or even...
She pushed two of her snowballs together, added a third, packed more snow in around them, and patted the whole thing into the shape of a cylinder. When it was done, she stood it on end and used the tip of her little finger to poke holes in it for windows. The crenellations around the top took a little more care, but when they were done she had a tower. I need some walls now, Sansa thought, and then a keep. She set to work.
The snow fell and the castle rose. Two walls ankle-high, the inner taller than the outer. Towers and turrets, keeps and stairs, a round kitchen, a square armory, the stables along the inside of the west wall. It was only a castle when she began, but before very long Sansa knew it was Winterfell. She found twigs and fallen branches beneath the snow and broke off the ends to make the trees for the godswood. For the gravestones in the lichyard she used bits of bark. Soon her gloves and her boots were crusty white, her hands were tingling, and her feet were soaked and cold, but she did not care. The castle was all that mattered. Some things were hard to remember, but most came back to her easily, as if she had been there only yesterday. The Library Tower, with the steep stonework stair twisting about its exterior. The gatehouse, two huge bulwarks, the arched gate between them, crenellations all along the top...
And all the while the snow kept falling, piling up in drifts around her buildings as fast as she raised them. She was patting down the pitched roof of the Great Hall when she heard a voice, and looked up to see her maid calling from her window. Was my lady well? Did she wish to break her fast? Sansa shook her head, and went back to shaping snow, adding a chimney to one end of the Great Hall, where the hearth would stand inside.
Dawn stole into her garden like a thief. The grey of the sky grew lighter still, and the trees and shrubs turned a dark green beneath their stoles of snow. A few servants came out and watched her for a time, but she paid them no mind and they soon went back inside where it was warmer. Sansa saw Lady Lysa gazing down from her balcony, wrapped up in a blue velvet robe trimmed with fox fur, but when she looked again her aunt was gone. Maester Colemon popped out of the rookery and peered down for a while, skinny and shivering but curious.
Her bridges kept falling down. There was a covered bridge between the armory and the main keep, and another that went from the fourth floor of the bell tower to the second floor of the rookery, but no matter how carefully she shaped them, they would not hold together. The third time one collapsed on her, she cursed aloud and sat back in helpless frustration.
“Pack the snow around a stick, Sansa.”
She did not know how long he had been watching her, or when he had returned from the Vale. “A stick?” she asked.
“That will give it strength enough to stand, I'd think,” Petyr said. “May I come into your castle, my lady?”
Sansa was wary. “Don't break it. Be...”
“... gentle?” He smiled. “Winterfell has withstood fiercer enemies than me. It is Winterfell, is it not?”
“Yes,” Sansa admitted.
He walked along outside the walls. “I used to dream of it, in those years after Cat went north with Eddard Stark. In my dreams it was ever a dark place, and cold.”
“No. It was always warm, even when it snowed. Water from the hot springs is piped through the walls to warm them, and inside the glass gardens it was always like the hottest day of summer.” She stood, towering over the great white castle. “I can't think how to do the glass roof over the gardens.”
Littlefinger stroked his chin, where his beard had been before Lysa had asked him to shave it off. “The glass was locked in frames, no? Twigs are your answer. Peel them and cross them and use bark to tie them together into frames. I'll show you.” He moved through the garden, gathering up twigs and sticks and shaking the snow from them. When he had enough, he stepped over both walls with a single long stride and squatted on his heels in the middle of the yard. Sansa came closer to watch what he was doing. His hands were deft and sure, and before long he had a crisscrossing latticework of twigs, very like the one that roofed the glass gardens of Winterfell. “We will need to imagine the glass, to be sure,” he said when he gave it to her.
“This is just right,” she said.
He touched her face. “And so is that.”
Sansa did not understand. “And so is what?”
“Your smile, my lady. Shall I make another for you?”
“If you would.”
“Nothing could please me more.”
She raised the walls of the glass gardens while Littlefinger roofed them over, and when they
were done with that he helped her extend the walls and build the guardshall. When she used sticks for the covered bridges, they stood, just as he had said they would. The First Keep was simple enough, an old round drum tower, but Sansa was stymied again when it came to putting the gargoyles around the top. Again he had the answer. “It's been snowing on your castle, my lady,” he pointed out. “What do the gargoyles look like when they're covered with snow?”
Sansa closed her eyes to see them in memory. “They're just white lumps.”
“Well, then. Gargoyles are hard, but white lumps should be easy.” And they were.
The Broken Tower was easier still. They made a tall tower together, kneeling side by side to roll it smooth, and when they'd raised it Sansa stuck her fingers through the top, grabbed a handful of snow, and flung it full in his face. Petyr yelped, as the snow slid down under his collar. “That was unchivalrously done, my lady.”
“As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.”
She wondered where this courage had come from, to speak to him so frankly. From Winterfell, she thought. I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.
(Sansa VII, ASoS)
Sansa's castle was made entirely of snow, except the godswood and the graves, which are made of wood. It's significant that a living material is used exactly for these two parts.
Sansa's inspiration to build the castle seems to be a wolf dream. Indeed, Lady has been buried in the Winterfell graveyard. The "dream" seems to mean that Lady knows that the godswood and the graves (and by extension the crypts) are connected. Indeed, if we believe that the dead in Winterfell join the old gods in the heart tree, Lady is with them.