ByGenevieve Van Voorhis, writer at
Game of Thrones, ASOUE, and all things '00s. Twitter: @gen_vanvee Email: [email protected]
Genevieve Van Voorhis

Since the beginning of Game of Thrones, the White Walkers have been an omnipresent evil, lurking north of the Wall and growing stronger all the time. As the series moves toward its conclusion, the confrontation Jon Snow has been trying to warn everyone about is inevitable.

But even after six seasons, what do we really know about this frozen foe? The anthology A World of Ice and Fire says very little about the Others, only the following:

Yet there are other tales — harder to credit and yet more central to the old histories — about creatures known as the Others. According to these tales, they came from the frozen Land of Always Winter, bringing the cold and the darkness with them as they sought to extinguish all light and warmth. The tales go on to sa they rode monstrous ice spiders and the horses of the dead, resurrected to serve them, just as they resurrected dead men to fight on their behalf.

Let's take a closer look at everything we've know so far about the White Walkers (also called the Others).

1. Creation

Back in Season 5, we learned that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers as a weapon to defend themselves against the First Men. They turned the First Men into Walkers by capturing one of the Men, bringing him into a sacred weirwood grove, and pressing what appears to be obsidian or dragonglass into his chest. Sprinkle with a touch of ancient magic and presto, you've got yourself a White Walker.

2. Description

White Walker 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: Alex]
White Walker 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: Alex]

George R.R. Martin described the Others himself in A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume I:

The Others are not dead. They are strange, beautiful... a different sort of life... inhuman, elegant, dangerous.

They have their own language, and can clearly register emotions like surprise and even laughter (although the laughter hasn't been seen on the show).

When Sam kills a White Walker in A Storm of Swords, it's described as having:

Sam kills a White Walker 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]
Sam kills a White Walker 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]

"pale blue blood...flesh...bones like milkglass."

So while the Walkers are unlike humans in many ways, they're still living creatures made of flesh and blood. On the show, we see that the Walker cries out in surprise and anguish before he dies.

3. Magical Abilities

Sam fights a White Walker 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]
Sam fights a White Walker 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]

See also:

The Others are blessed with a superhuman strength, able to fight off attacks from men effortlessly. They're agile and powerfully strong, able to send Samwell Tarly across the room with a single blow. Their armor enables them to move almost invisibly through the forest, and their swords are so sharp they can cut through the metal armor of men.

In "Interview with the Dragon," George R.R. Martin reveals:

"The Others can do things with ice that we can't imagine and make substances of it."

4. The War For The Dawn

Dany's fleet / 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]
Dany's fleet / 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]

As Leaf tells Bran, the Children of the Forest quickly lost control of the White Walkers, who then began killing everything in their path — Men and Children alike. The Others went to war with the First Men, bringing with them the Long Night, a winter so long that it lasted a generation. The Long Night only ended when a hero — the Prince Who Was Promised — came and drove the Others to the Far North, to the Land of Always Winter. Then, as Westerosi legend has it, Bran the Builder enlisted the help of giants and Children of the Forest to build the Wall.

It's prophesied that the War for the Dawn is destined to repeat. And as the White Walkers have been gaining strength throughout all the existing Game of Thrones, that seems pretty likely to happen. Melisandre tells Davos:

"These little wars are no more than a scuffle of children before what is to come. The one whose name may not be spoken is marshalling his power... a power fell and evil and strong beyond measure. Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends... Unless true men find the courage to fight it. Men whose hearts are fire."

5. The Night King

The Night King 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]
The Night King 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]

When it comes to the Night King, it's important to remember that this character doesn't exist in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Or if he does, we haven't met him yet. Instead, it seems that he's a sort of White Walker leader created for the purposes of the show.

The Night King appears to be the only one with the ability to reanimate wights. He also has an added special skill called branding, which he demonstrated by touching Bran's arm and marking him with a sort of icy tracking device that enables him to find him wherever he is.

6. Wights

Wights 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]
Wights 'Game of Thrones' [Credit: HBO]

The wights are the reanimated bodies of dead humans or animals. In a word, they're zombies, created and controlled by the White Walkers. They are NOT White Walkers. They don't seem to think or feel, but rather move as one army controlled by the Night King. Wights are a lot tougher to kill than Walkers, being unaffected by dragonglass. The only thing that can kill them is fire. They seem to be stronger than regular men, able to lift a man off the ground and tear a door apart with their bare hands (RIP Hodor).

7. It's Possible To Reason With The White Walkers

It seems like the White Walkers are on a killing spree 99% of the time, but these confusing creatures are clearly driven by something more complicated than bloodlust. After all, they take Craster's sons and turn them into Walkers, rather than simply ripping them limb from limb. And in exchange, they spare Craster and his daughter-wives. So clearly, they are willing to compromise with humans.

Craster isn't the only instance of the White Walkers reaching some sort of agreement with humans. At the end of the War for the Dawn, Azor Ahai comes and defeats the Others — or does he? Clearly, the Walkers have not been wiped from the face of the Earth. What's more likely is that the Prince Who Was Promised is able to hold his own just long enough to strike a bargain with the Others, giving them free reign in the Land of Always Winter and allowing men to go on living south of the Wall.

It's clear now that that agreement is fading fast. Who will be able to save the world from the Walkers this time around? For some ideas, check out our vid below about the Legend of Azor Ahai.

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