Everything You Need to Know About ‘Game of Thrones’ White Walkers

Everything You Need to Know About ‘Game of Thrones’ White Walkers

Movies


The Big Picture

  • The White Walkers were Game of Thrones’ most formidable villains, requiring former enemies to unite against them.
  • Created by the Children of the Forest to protect against the First Men, they are a magical race lead by The Night King and have the ability to turn infants into White Walkers, resurrect the dead, and manipulate the weather.
  • White Walkers can be killed with Valyrian steel, but fortunately, when a White Walker falls, the wights they resurrected lose their mobility.


Game of Thrones certainly left its mark on television (thank the Old Gods, the New Gods, the Lord of Light, the Many-Faced God, and The Drowned God), spawning the successful prequel, House of the Dragon, and many more upcoming spin-offs. Throughout the show, one of the things that stood out most was the many terrifying villains. From Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), there was never any shortage of threats. But one enemy was set up from the very beginning. Remember one of the most important elements of Game of Thrones, The White Walkers? Let’s take a look back at these bone-chilling villains. The ancient, terrifying, mummy-like antagonists with their ice zombie army became increasingly vital as Game of Thrones raced toward its inevitable conclusion. Only these creatures could unite the warring Westeros and the Free Folk as they threatened an entire continent. Though they begin as a mysterious enemy, so old that the world has forgotten them, the show reveals the White Walkers’ origins, goals, abilities, and weaknesses as the characters discover these facts. Here’s everything you need to know about The White Walkers.

Game Of Thrones

Nine noble families fight for control over the lands of Westeros, while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for a millennia.

Release Date
April 17, 2011

Creator
David Benioff, D.B. Weiss

Seasons
8

Studio
HBO


Who Are the White Walkers?

Four White Walkers sit on decaying horses in Game of Thrones

The White Walkers are a frozen-looking enemy seemingly intent on destroying the world of men, who control an ice zombie horde known as “wights.” They come from the far North, deep beyond The Wall, but under the leadership of the Night King, they are making their way south to Westeros, killing all in their path. Believed to be nothing more than an ancient legend in Westeros, the monsters have been silent for generations, but their movement caught the attention of the Wildlings, who responded by attempting to flee over The Wall. As the White Walkers invade, the Wildlings, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and the Night’s Watch have to work to get others to take the threat seriously.

Where Did the White Walkers Come From?

The Children of the Forest in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

The White Walkers were created by the Children of the Forest thousands of years ago as a form of protection against the First Men who were cutting down their sacred trees and slaughtering their tribe. (Rude). The White Walkers were originally First Men themselves, before the Children of the Forest captured them and transformed them into weapons. Pressing dragonglass daggers into the chests of these First Men, the Children of the Forest created the first White Walkers, but little did they know they had just made themselves a powerful enemy. Rather than perpetually defending the Children of the Forest, the White Walkers rebelled, Cylon-style, from their lives of forced war-making. But as they were created for battle, they decided to make war on their own terms, attacking the living indiscriminately and becoming the most feared creatures in all of Westeros. Or so the legends say. We’ve yet to hear the White Walkers’ side of the story, but, based on their role in Game of Thrones, it’s hard to see them as anything but the villains.

Who Is the Night King?

The Night King, sometimes called Night’s King, is the most recognizable of the White Walkers. You’ve probably seen this icy bad guy in a meme or gif, raising his arms in an “Are you not entertained?” gesture as he resurrects a whole horde of fallen Wildling corpses into wights. Because that’s something he can do. The Night King was the first of the White Walkers created by the Children of the Forest, and now leads the others. He has the power to turn human infants into White Walkers, as we saw with Craster’s (Robert Pugh) sons who were given as sacrifices to the Night King in return for Crasters’ and his brood’s safety. He also raised the dragon Viserion from the dead and rode him while destroying the Wall, making the Night King one of the few dragonriders in the show. Talk about flex.

What Do the White Walkers Want?

A gathering of the White Walker's wights in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

I mean, they’re probably pretty mad about that enforced slavery thing. Also, they were created with a singular purpose — war — using untested magic as the instrument. In other words: The Children of the Forest were just kind of desperately winging it. They were playing with fire (or, in this case, ice) and most definitely got burned. Now, they’re getting everyone else burned, too. Perhaps, given their origins, the White Walkers are incapable of wanting anything other than to conquer. Or maybe they’re just really angry. Frankly, this is the Children of the Forests’ fault, though it seems like a low blow to harp too much on this point, given that most of them are dead, many at the hands of The White Walkers themselves.

Have the White Walkers Attacked Westeros Before?

Three figures stand in front of an ancient, firey symbol in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

Roughly 8,000 years ago, during the longest winter in recorded history, which lasted an entire generation, the White Walkers struck Westeros. It was a dark time, but, eventually, the people of Westeros joined forces and, with the help of the Children of the Forest and the giants, drove the White Walkers back into the North. The Wall was built to keep the zombie horde at bay, and the Night’s Watch took their first pledge. Since then, the White Walkers have faded into myth and most people in the world of men think they are simply a scary story made up to keep children in check. This conflict would have been explored in the cancelled prequel series Bloodmoon.

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What Do We Know of the White Walker Culture?

A baby turning into a White Walker, flashing the bleu eyes in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

Little is known about the White Walkers other than their warlike ways. But, we know they speak a language called Skroth, which author George R.R. Martin describes as sounding like the cracking of ice. Some of the White Walkers we have seen on the show have crown-like horns of ice, suggesting they are part of some kind of ruling class. This form of White Walker has always been seen wearing black armor. The Night King leads them. It’s also revealed that their numbers grow through the taking of Craster’s sons. What do the White Walkers believe in? Melisandre (Carice van Houten) claims the White Walkers worship a god called the Great Other who is the Lord of Light’s enemy. It is unclear if the Great Other is related to any of the many other religious deities we have heard about on this show so far. In Season 8, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) reveals that the Night King wants to destroy him because he holds all of the history of man in his position and the Three-Eyed Raven. Evidently, the Night King has tried to come for other Three-Eyed Ravens for the same reason, but now that he has marked Bran, it seems clear that the White Walkers want to destroy any remaining semblance of the living and their world and the history of it.

What Powers Do White Walkers Have?

The Night King riding a dragon in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

As one of the most memorable magical beings in Game of Thrones, the White Walkers have several abilities that make them formidable. White Walkers are super strong and also seem to have some sort of ability to manipulate the weather. They usually appear accompanied by a blizzard and dropping temperatures. That’s just how White Walkers roll. The Night King called down a mighty, zero-visibility blizzard that threw the Battle of Winterfell into chaos and confused both Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon and their dragons. White Walkers can also freeze anything they touch, as we saw in Season 2 when a White Walker froze Sam’s (John Bradley) sword to the shattering point. Perhaps most terrifyingly, the White Walkers are able to reanimate the corpses of fallen men, turning them into wights and making an undead army. Wildlings have taken to burning their corpses to prevent them from being added to the White Walkers’ ever-growing ranks.The Night King in particular has demonstrated further power. In addition to his aforementioned ability to turn human infants into White Walkers, he can turn hundreds of corpses into wights with the raising of his arms (the wights then act in a singular hive-mind, and come to save others who are in peril), cause fissures in the ground, and mark a person for pursuit as he does with Bran in Season 6. Oh, and he can also reanimate dead dragons into wight/undead dragons. Yeah. (Bears, too, but c’mon. Dragons!) In the Season 7 finale, we saw the reanimated Viserion as a mount for the Night King, able to destroy the Wall with his blue fire.

Can White Walkers Be killed?

Arya killing the Night King in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

Yeah, it’s not easy, as Sam discovered the terrifying way. White Walkers are vulnerable to blades made from dragonglass or Valyrian steel. Jon Snow uses his Valyrian steel sword Longclaw to take out a White Walker at the battle of Hardhome in Season 5. Unfortunately, the art of forging Valyrian steel has been lost, which means there are a limited number of Valyrian swords left in the world. Unlike wights, who are vulnerable to fire, it is much harder to burn a White Walker because they are so cold, though there is speculation that dragonfire might do the trick.When a White Walker falls, however, the wights they resurrected lose their mobility mojo. This was previously only seen during Season 7, Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall” but played a big part in the survival of the people of the North. Arya’s (Maisie Williams) deathblow to the Night King with her Valyrian steel dagger not only turned the icy leader to powder, it causes his entire army to crumble into uselessness. Handy, that!

— Dave Trumbore and Abby Cavenaugh contributed to this report.

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