House Stark of Winterfell is the principal noble house of The North; many lesser houses are sworn to them. Their seat is Winterfell. Their sigil is a grey direwolf racing across a field of white, and their words are “Winter Is Coming.” Several of the main point of view characters of the series are members of this house.
The Starks is an ancient house, descended from Brandon the Builder, a legendary figure from the Age of Heroes, thousands of years in the past, who built their ancestral home Winterfell. They are descendants of the First Men and still follow some of their ancient traditions and the Old Gods of the forest. The Starks were Kings of Winter in the North for many thousands of years from the Age of Heroes, beginning with Bran the Builder. For several millennia, the Starks were not the uncontested Kings of the North, and their primary antagonists the Boltons of the Dreadfort did not bend the knee until some 1,000 years ago.
The last Stark King of the North was Torrhen, who submitted to Aegon the Conqueror at the end of the War of Conquest. Since that time the Starks have held the North for the kings of the Seven Kingdoms as Wardens of The North.
Around 213AL, House Stark was in a difficult situation, with the lord of the house, Beron Stark, slowly succumbing to wounds he received fighting Dagon Greyjoy and his ironborn. Lady Stark and four Stark widows struggled over who would succeed him. There were a number of potential heirs, with some ten Stark children about.
House Stark played a key role in Robert’s Rebellion against the Targaryens, after which the Starks have become a relatively inactive Great House. They share a common ancestor with the Karstarks, and may have distant relatives elsewhere in the North, possibly in White Harbor and Barrowton.
The Starks joined forces with House Tully to drive the Lannisters away from the Riverlands during the War of the Five Kings; however in the process they lost dominance over the North to the Boltons, while the family members were either killed or driven into hiding.