The Night King is a recurring character in the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons. He is played by guest star Richard Brake in the fourth and fifth seasons, and by Vladimir Furdik onwards. He first appears in "Oathkeeper". He is the leader of the White Walkers and the first of his kind, having existed since the age of the First Men.
Before he became a White Walker, the Night King was a First Man that was captured by the Children of the Forest, Leaf among them. Leaf pressed a dragonglass dagger into his chest, causing his eyes to turn blue and turning him into the first of the White Walkers. Thousands of years later, Leaf tells Bran Stark that her people created the White Walkers to defend themselves when Westeros was invaded by the First Men, who were cutting their sacred trees and slaughtering the Children of the Forest.
The Night King first appears in a vision that Bran Stark has, when Bran communes with a Weirwood Heart tree. He experiences a flood of images from the past, present, and future, many of which he was not physically present for. He does not comprehend what all of these images are. In retrospect, one of them is an image of the Night King picking up the last of Craster's sons off an ice altar.
After Rast places Craster's final son on the ground in the Haunted Forest, a White Walker riding an undead horse approaches and takes the baby, carrying it towards a shattered mountain in the Lands of Always Winter.
Once inside, the White Walker approaches an icy altar ringed by large icy spikes and places the baby upon the altar. In the distance, a group of thirteen black-garbed White Walkers are revealed to be viewing the proceedings from afar. One of them breaks from the middle of their number and approaches the altar, stopping to regard the human child for a moment before gently gathering him in its arms. The baby immediately calms, staring into the face of the Night King, who has a crown of horns jutting from his head. He places his index finger upon the baby's cheek, causing the child's eyes to turn icy blue and its skin to grow pale: most likely the fate of Craster's other sons.
The Night King appears again when Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane are coordinating the evacuation of Hardhome. He appears to be leading the attack, or is at least observing it with some other White Walkers, and watches from one of the cliffs above the town as Jon slays one of his lieutenants with Longclaw. As Jon, Tormund and the remaining defenders leave on the boat, the Night's King appears on the dock and locks eyes with Jon. With a mere raise of his arms, the Night's King raises the entirety of Hardhome's erstwhile defenders as wights, and keeps his gaze upon Jon as the boat slips away.
The Night King appears in one of Bran Stark's visions, where he witnesses him as a human being transformed into a White Walker by the Children of the Forest, notably among them Leaf. She explains after his vision that they had to do it because they were at war with the First Men.
Later, Bran decides to experience a vision on his own, and finds himself looking at an army of wights and the Night King and the other White Walkers at the back. Bran walks closer and is shocked to see that the Night King notices his presence. Bran wakes up screaming after the Night King suddenly appeared right next to him.
The Three-Eyed Raven says that the Night King touched him, which Bran confirms when a blue hand-mark is imprinted on his forearm. The Three-Eyed Raven says because of that mark, the Night King now knows exactly where they are, and the cave cannot protect them any more.
The Night King and his army quickly travel to the cave, preceded by their aura of cold which notifies the Children of the Forest and Meera Reed. The Children of the Forest prepare their scarce defenses outside of the cave, but are quickly overrun and they are forced to retreat back to the tunnels. The Night King sends his army of wights to attack the tunnels, and they kill most of the Children and Summer, though Bran, Meera and Hodor manage to leave the cavern. One of the other White Walkers is killed by a dragonglass-tipped spear. The Night King enters the cavern, and glares at the warging Three-Eyed Raven before he kills him.
The Night King then sends the rest of his wights to kill Leaf, and eventually, Hodor, who attempts to stop the wights from going further by sacrificing himself to hold the door.
Powers and Abilities
The Night King possesses a number of supernatural powers or abilities – it is not, at present, clear how many of these are unique to him, or if other White Walkers possess some of these.
- White Walker conversion: The Night's King can turn a human baby into a White Walker by pressing the tip of his finger to the baby's cheek. The child's skin will begin to pale and its eyes will turn the same blue as the other White Walkers.
- Raising Wights: The Night King can raise corpses as wights. He doesn't require physical contact to do so, and can raise hundreds of wights at a single time just by lifting his arms.
- Superior strength: Although he has not been observed engaging in single combat, the Night King presumably has the same enhanced strength that other White Walkers exhibit.
- Weapon shattering: The Night King's touch can presumably shatter regular metal weapons, as with most White Walkers.
- Branding: The Night King can mark someone so that he knows exactly where that person is, and no boundary can stop him from entering.
- Minor Ground Control: Can cause fissures in the ground.
|Season Four appearances|
|Two Swords||The Lion and the Rose *||Breaker of Chains||Oathkeeper||First of His Name|
|The Laws of Gods and Men||Mockingbird||The Mountain and the Viper||The Watchers on the Wall||The Children|
|Season Five appearances|
|The Wars to Come||The House of Black and White||High Sparrow||Sons of the Harpy||Kill the Boy|
|Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken||The Gift||Hardhome||The Dance of Dragons||Mother’s Mercy|
|Season Six appearances|
|The Red Woman||Home||Oathbreaker||Book of the Stranger||The Door|
|Blood of My Blood||The Broken Man||Season 6, Episode 8||Season 6, Episode 9||Season 6, Episode 10|
Behind the Scenes
- The synopsis for "Oathkeeper" on the HBO Viewer's Guide originally listed this character as the Night's King, though this was later removed. During the Inside the Episode for "Hardhome" Weiss and Benioff referred to the character explicitly as "the Night King".
- The original actor who plays the Night King is Richard Brake: he isn't very recognizable under all of the prosthetics he is wearing, but he is best known for his appearance in Christopher Nolan's 2005 Batman Begins film, in which he played Joe Chill (the street mugger that killed Bruce Wayne's parents), as well as Corporal Dean Portman, one of the Marines in the film version of DOOM.
- The role was recast for Season 6, with Vladimir Furdik taking over the role. Furdik is a professional stuntman and has appeared in a variety of big-budget films as well stunt work on previous episodes of Game of Thrones. Furdik, sans prosthetics, also plays the Night King prior to his transformation in "The Door".
- Executive producers Benioff and Weiss discussed the distinctive appearance of the Night King in a Season 4 featurette:
- Weiss: "We wanted to kind of evolve the White Walker look. He is of a group of almost ageless creatures."
- Benioff: "It's an interesting mix between something frightening, obviously, but also regal, something aristocratic about him. We wanted a distinction from the other White Walkers that we've seen."
- Weiss: "And we went back and forth for a long time, until we hit upon something that was, if anything, moving in a more human direction, while maintaining a generally horrific look."
- According to the Season 4 Blu-ray commentary, a lot more material was actually filmed with the Night King in "Oathkeeper", but the production team then decided to cut it in order to keep his appearance brief and mysterious.
- After "Hardhome" aired, Game of Thrones Wiki managed to contact George R.R. Martin asking whether to treat the White Walker referred to as the "Night's King" relative to the ancient Lord Commander known as the "Night's King" - if they are the same character, or if "Night's King" is a title that can be held by different characters, like "King in the North". He was also asked if it was significant that Benioff and Weiss refer to him as the "Night King", without a possessive "S". Martin cryptically avoided the first question, but said he prefers the spelling "Night's King":
- "As for the Night's King (the form I prefer), in the books he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have."
In the books
- "We Free Folk have our stories too. About how one of your King Crows found something cold in the woods, with bright blue eyes. How he brought her home through your Wall and declared himself Night’s King. Thirteen years he and his Queen ruled over his Brothers, making sacrifices as black as their cloaks. Lucky for you southerners, Free Folk rallied to a King-Beyond-the-Wall, as we will when need be. And marched on the ancient castle he taken for his own; the Nightfort. With the help of the Starks, we killed the demon and cleansed your precious Watch. And then they thanked us, and kicked us back across the Wall, as you always have."
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, there has not yet been any mention of the Others, who appear in person only very occasionally, currently having a leader or any kind of hierarchy. However, rather than there being a character named the "Night King", there is one called the Night's King, who is believed to be long dead, and the legends about him don't suggest he was an Other.
The Night’s King lived during the Age of Heroes, not long after the Wall was complete. He was a fearless warrior, who was named the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Later he fell in love with a woman “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars”, he chased her and loved her though “her skin was cold as ice,” and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to the Nightfort and after the unholy union, he declared himself king and her his queen, and ruled the Nightfort as his own castle for thirteen years. During the dark years of his reign, horrific atrocities were committed, of which tales are still told in the North. It was not until Brandon the Breaker, the King in the North, and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, joined forces that the Night’s King was brought down and the Night’s Watch freed. After his fall, when it was discovered that he had been sacrificing to the White Walkers (possibly in similar fashion to Craster), all records of him were destroyed and his very name was forbidden. It is likely this led the lords of the North to forbid the Night's Watch to construct walls at their keeps, ensuring the keeps would always be accessible from the south.
One of the stories Old Nan told Bran is about the Night's King. She said some people believe the Night's King was a Bolton, a Magnar of Skagos, an Umber, a Flint, a Norrey, or a Woodfoot. However, she identified the Night's King as a Stark of Winterfell and brother to the King of the North, and hints his name was Brandon.
In the TV series, the Night King reanimates dead men into wights with only his will, and turns Craster's sons into White Walkers with his touch, abilities that have not been specified in the books. In fact, the fate of Craster's sons is still unknown: Old Nan's tales allude to the Others' feeding human children to the wights, or that wildling women lay with White Walkers to make horrible half-Walker babies, etc. Craster's wives do say that they believe that the infant sons that Craster gave the Others as sacrifices were turned into new White Walkers - but it wasn't clear if this is what actually happens, or if it was just the wild suspicion of Craster's frightened, isolated wives. When Samwell Tarly is told to flee with Gilly and her newborn son, Gilly urges that if he doesn't "they" will come for him. When he asks who "they" are, another wife says: "The boy's brothers...Craster's sons. The white cold's rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don't lie. They'll be here soon, the sons." Confirmation of what exactly happens to Craster's sons has not occurred in the books yet. Given the inaccuracy of Nan's other stories, however, it is apparent that the show's writers felt Craster's wife may have inside information regarding their fates.
Garth Greenhand · First King · Florian & Jonquil · The Grey King · The Griffin King · Joramun · Lann the Clever
The Night's King & the Night's Queen · The Rat Cook · God-on-Earth · The Prince That Was Promised