Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Game of Thrones History: White Walkers & Wights

Who or What are the "White Walkers"
The "White Walkers", known as Others in the books, are a mythological race mentioned in legends and stories from the time of the First Men and the Children of the Forest

White Walkers are humanoid creatures. They are taller than humans, have wispy white hair and pale white skin that is stretched and gaunt. Their skin appears dry and wrinkled which makes them look mummified. They are known for their icy blue eyes.

White Walkers possess the magical power to bring the dead back to life as their servants, known as Wights. Wights gain the icy blue eyes when reanimated by a White Walker. White Walkers have weapons that have thin blades made of extremely sharp crystal.

Eight thousand years before Robert Baratheon's rebellion a winter, known as the Long Night, lasted a generation. In the darkness and cold of the Long Night, the White Walkers came down upon Westeros from the farthest north, the polar regions known as the Lands of Always Winter. Why they came is unclear. They killed everything in their path and reanimated the dead as Wights to kill the living at their command.

After a time the people of Westeros joined with the Children of the Forest and began a war against the White Walkers, known as the War for the Dawn. The White Walkers were defeated and driven back to the uttermost North. The wall was then raised to prevent their return.

In the present day, most believe the White Walkers never existed, and those who do believe they did say they went extinct thousands of years ago. While the people south of the Wall see them as the stuff of myth and legend, there is a growing belief amongst the wildlings who live beyond the wall the the White Walkers have returned.

Present Day

The White Walkers are some of the first characters we meet in the very first episode in the series. In season one at the start of the season we see three men from the Nights Watch on a patrol. Will comes across a camp of wildlings that have been murdered. He then returns to his brothers and tells them what he saw. When the three return to the sight of the camp there are no bodies to be found. They are attacked by the corpses and White Walkers who killed them. This is the first time we see the White Walkers and their icy blue eyes.

Later in Season 1 when Jon and Sam and some of the other men are taking their vows in the Godswood, Ghost appears with a human arm. The bodies of two nights watchmen that have been missing for a number of weeks are found. Sam notes that though they have been dead for a number of weeks there is no sign of rot and appear in perfect condition. Later that night the bodies rise as Wights, one try's to kill the Lord Commander and another attacks some of the other men. Jon Snow discovers the creature's weakness is fire and kills it before it can kill the Lord Commander. The bodies of the two Wights are then burned.

In Season 2 while at Craster's keep Jon snow follows Craster into the woods and sees him placing a newborn baby, one of his sons, into the ground and leaves. Moments later a figure with glowing blue eyes appears and takes the baby away. Craster finds Jon spying on him and attacks him. He then orders the Nights Watch to leave. Later the Lord Commander confronts Jon but admits that he was aware that Craster worshipped the White Walkers and sacrificed his sons for the safety of him and his daughter-wives.

A White Walker from the first Episode of the Series
At the end of Season 2 we see Samwell Tarly, Eddison Tollett and Grenn gathering dung around the Fist of the First Men when they hear a horn being blown. At first they believe it is Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand returning, they then hear a second blow meaning Wildlings and draw their sword for battle. They then hear a third blow, signalling White Walkers. They run for the Nights Watch camp but Samwell gets left behind. Within seconds a blizzard envelopes the entire plateau. Sam hides behind a rock while a White Walker, riding a dead horse, leads a vast horde of Wights. The White Walker ignores Sam and rides past him leading the horde for an invasion.

White Walkers are always accompanied by cold temperatures, and coming from the Lands of Always Winter, it appears that the prefer cold climates. It is debated whether this is because White Walkers actually generate the cold and might even cause winters (such as the Long Night) or because they simply wait for the next winter cycle and move south when the temperature drops.

The difference between White Walkers and Wights

There is a difference, though sometimes hard to tell, between White Walkers and Wights. 

White Walkers are not dead humans, just an inhuman kind of form of life.

Wights are dead humans, reanimated by White Walkers. A Wight will roughly resemble the way the body was when it died. For example a body that was relatively unharmed when it died will still look somewhat like a live person. However a body that has been dead a while or died violently will look like a maimed rotting corpse. Reanimation stops the rotting process but it does not bring the body back to it's pre-death appearance. 

Wights are difficult to kill. Chopping off libs and heads is effective but the limbs and body will still move around afterwards. However they are extremely flammable and fire is one sure way of getting rid of them for good. 

A wildling child that was reanimated into a Wight
Wights are not particularly smart creatures and can't talk. They only grunt and hiss. It is unclear if they remember much or anything from their previous lives, although one the wights in Season 1 did remember it's way to the Lord Commanders quarters on the Wall.

A Wight cannot create another Wight in anyway whether by biting or killing it. Only the White Walkers can reanimate corpses into Wights.

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