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- "In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds."
- ―Old Nan
The White Walkers are an ancient race of humanoid ice creatures, who come from the Far North of Westeros. Believed by many to be legends, they have returned and have been seen by several sworn brothers of the Night's Watch and countless wildlings.
The White Walkers are thousands of years old, from the time preceding the Age of Heroes. Born of powerful and untested magic, they were created to protect the Children of the Forest from the First Men, who had waged war on them ever since they had arrived from Essos. However, the White Walkers eventually broke free of the Children's control and became the most feared creatures in Westeros, posing a threat to anything living.
Eight thousand years before Robert's Rebellion, the longest winter in history fell on the entire world which lasted a whole generation. In the darkness and cold of the Long Night, the White Walkers descended upon Westeros from the Far North, killing all in their path and reanimating the dead as wights to fight in their armies. Eventually, the people of Westeros rallied against them and, in a conflict known as the War for the Dawn, defeated the White Walkers and drove them back into the frozen North. With help from giants and the Children of the Forest, the Wall was raised to bar their return, and the Night's Watch was founded to guard it and the realms of Men should the mysterious threat ever rise again.
Although the Walkers faded into legend over the centuries, disturbing reports began to reach the Night's Watch, just before the start of the War of the Five Kings. The return of the Walkers was confirmed during the Great Ranging undertaken by Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, and by an unprecedented attack by the wight army on the wildling settlement of Hardhome. Despite pleas for support from the Night's Watch, the rest of the Seven Kingdoms have turned a blind eye to the return of the Walkers, as they remain embroiled in their own civil war, and most do not believe that they exist or ever existed, much like Giants and Children of the Forest.
While having an overall humanoid appearance, White Walkers differ greatly from humans. They are taller than humans and have long wispy white hair and also commonly a white beard. They have pale grey-white skin which is wrinkly but stretched taut across their frames, giving them a somewhat gaunt, sinewy, and mummified appearance despite their overall bulky size. White Walkers are much stronger than humans and are capable of sending large men reeling back several feet with a single blow. Their most notable trait, however, is their glowing blue eyes.
A second type of White Walker (revealed at the end of the episode "Oathkeeper") also exists, which may form some sort of ruling or priestly caste. Their number is unknown, and they are immediately distinguishable from their cohorts by icy horns around their heads, resembling a crown of ice. All those seen so far all wear black armor of uncertain material. These new White Walkers are apparently led by the Night King, the overall leader and first of the White Walkers. The Night King possesses the power to make ordinary humans into White Walkers if he can get to them in their infancy, such as he did with Craster's last son by merely touching his cheek which turned his eyes ice blue. The Night King can also resurrect dead people as wights, as seen after the massacre at Hardhome during which he led the army of the dead surrounded by a group of White Walkers. It is unknown if the other members of this caste are capable of performing the same magic as their king.
White Walkers possess the magical powers related to ice and cold. Their arrival is usually accompanied by blizzards and the dropping of temperatures. They can also freeze anything they touch, as one froze Sam's sword to the point that it shattered. White Walkers also have superhuman strength, as one managed to toss Samwell Tarly several feet away with a single back-handed punch. The White Walkers wield swords and spears made from unique ice crystals.
However, one of their most deadly abilities is to reanimate the dead as their servants, known as Wights. They are actually capable of reviving any dead animals as wights, as a few White Walkers have been seen riding undead horses. They cannot, however, revive a corpse into servitude if the fallen creatures have died by fire. Once the Wights have been risen to serve the White Walkers, their eyes turn an icy blue, similar to the White Walkers' own eyes. Wights can only be killed by fire or by breaking them apart, and serve the Walkers without question.
As previously mentioned, one White Walker, the Night King, possesses the ability to change humans into White Walkers, demonstrated at the end of Oathkeeper when he takes Craster's son into his arms and places a single finger upon its cheek, causing the baby's eyes glow blue and his skin to grow pale, taking on the appearance of the White Walkers. Whether or not this ability extends to only this White Walker, all of the White Walkers amongst his caste, or all White Walkers in general remains to be seen.
During the massacre at Hardhome, White Walkers are shown to be resistant to fire due to the extreme cold they radiate, which snuffs out any flame they approach.  It is unknown if this also applies to wildfire or a dragon's fire.
According to legend, the White Walkers speak a language known in myth as "Skroth", which sounds like the cracking of ice.
WeaknessesThe only known weakness that the White Walkers have shown thus far is that they are killed instantly when struck with weapons made of dragonglass or Valyrian steel, or when they're set on fire. Upon being stabbed by dragonglass, a White Walker's body will begin to freeze into ice from the point at which it was stabbed, causing the Walker great pain. Finally, it will begin to fall apart, as its now icy body shatters until there is nothing left but powder. Valyrian steel has much the same effect, but works much more rapidly, shattering White Walkers with a single blow. Valyrian steel is also capable of parrying White Walker weapons, unlike normal steel, which shatters on contact.
At the start of the series, there have been peculiar rumors from beyond the Wall mentioning the White Walkers. According to Will, a renegade from the Night's Watch taken captive near Winterfell, his patrol was ambushed by several White Walkers and his comrades Gared and Ser Waymar Royce were killed by them. Prior to this incident, the White Walkers had massacred a tribe of wildlings and left the corpses out as a warning. His story was not believed by Lord Eddard Stark, who executed him as a deserter. The White Walkers showed an ability to animate the corpse of a dead wildling child as a wight.
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and Maester Aemon of the Watch ask Tyrion Lannister to persuade his sister to send them reinforcements. They claim there is something other than the wildlings beyond the Wall and it's been growing in influence for some time. With winter coming they fear this unseen enemy will make its move.
A band of wildlings fleeing south of the Wall passes close to Winterfell. One of them suggests taking a Stark captive for Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, but the others refuse to return north due to the dangers posed by the White Walkers, instead asserting they should head as far south as possible.
Osha, one of the wildlings taken prisoner at Winterfell, reveals to the Stark household that she and her companions were fleeing South to escape the Walkers. She also reveals the Walkers are nocturnal and sleep in the day and hunt at night. When her words are dismissed by Maester Luwin due to the belief the Walkers are long dead, she reveals that they were only sleeping and "they're not sleeping now".
The bodies of several rangers are discovered a short distance north of the wall and are identified as Night's Watchmen who have been missing for weeks. Despite this Sam notes that the bodies show no signs of rot and appear in perfect condition. Later that evening one of the bodies reanimates as a wight and attempts to attack the masters. The creature is stopped when Jon discovers the creature's weakness is fire.
After disposing of the remaining bodies, Sam tells Jon that he read that only the touch of a White Walker could do what they have seen tonight. A worried Sam notes the weakness of the Night's Watch and if the White Walkers decide to come in force then they are in real trouble.
After recent events Lord Commander Mormont decides to mobilize the Night's Watch to head out beyond the wall to assess the situation and if necessary make a preemptive strike against their enemies. He explains to Jon that the war in the South is of little concern in relation to the threat of the returning White Walkers.
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.
After Craster discovers Jon, attacks him and orders the Night's Watch to leave his roof, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont confronts Jon, though he also admits he's aware that Craster worships the White Walkers and sacrifices his newborn sons to them in exchange for safety for him and his daughter-wives.
Samwell Tarly, Grenn, and Eddison Tollett gather dung around the Fist of the First Men when they hear a horn being blown and believe Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand have returned. Then they hear a second blow, the signal for incoming wildlings, and draw their swords for battle. Then they hear a third blow, the signal for White Walkers. The three run to the Night's Watch camp but Samwell is left behind, while a blizzard envelops the entire plateau. He seeks refuge behind a rock while a White Walker leads a vast horde of Wights. The White Walker finds Sam but for reasons unknown, ignores him, riding past him atop an undead horse and leading the horde for an invasion. 
A white walker attacks Samwell Tarly and Gilly when they are seeking refuge in a destroyed cabin. Samwell tries to stop the white walker with his sword, but the walker shatters it and throws him aside. The walker then approaches Gilly, as if going for the baby that she is holding. Samwell, on the ground, finds one of the dragonglass daggers that he found at the Fist of the First Men. He attacks the walker from behind with it. The walker then falls to the ground and seems to freeze after which he shatters in a cloud of icy dust.
Rast sets the last son of Craster on the ground in the Haunted Forest. A White Walker, riding an undead horse, takes the baby to a mysterious place in the far north, and places him on an altar made of ice. Another White Walker with pointed horns on its head approaches, picks up the baby, and touches him on the face below his eye. The baby's eyes turn bright blue, similar to that of the White Walkers.
The White Walkers launch an attack on Hardhome as the Free Folk board ships bound for Castle Black. During the attack, Jon Snow fights one of the White Walkers, discovering their vulnerability to Valyrian steel, and kills it with his sword Longclaw, bringing him to the attention of the Night King. The Wight army overwhelms the defenders and sends a panic through the settlement, and wildlings try to swim to the ships instead of boarding rowboats. Those that die are resurrected as Wights by the Night King.
The Three-eyed Raven shows Bran a vision of a heart tree amid spirals of standing stones in lush green valley. He spies Leaf and other Children of the Forest talking amongst themselves, then looking eagerly at a captive bound to the tree. Leaf approaches and forces a Dragonglass dagger into the captive's chest. The captive screams, but does not die, instead becoming the first White Walker.
Bran immediately confronts Leaf about creating the White Walkers in the first place. Leaf tries to explain that they were at war with the First Men and were desperate. Later, Bran is the only one in the cave awake and is anxious to warg back into the Weirwood tree. Unfortunately, the Night King is able to see him and grabs his arm, branding him with an icy mark. He breaks out of the vision with a scream. The Three-eyed Raven tells Bran, Meera and Hodor that the Night King is now able to locate Bran and bypass the barrier keeping the White Walkers and wights out of the cave. The Children of the Forest try using magic projectiles and incendiaries to fend the Walkers off, but are overwhelmed. They light a fire around the entrance which prevents the wights from entering, but the Walkers extinguish a pathway and walk through. The wights end up climbing on top of the Weirwood and dropping through the top of the cave. Meera desperately tries to get Bran out of the vision and attempts to get the frightened Hodor to carry Bran away to no avail. Meera kills the first White Walker that enters, as she fights alongside the remaining Children of the Forest to try to fend off the wights until Bran wakes up. Wights begin to swarm the cave, killing all of the Children of the Forest except for Leaf, as Meera starts yelling at Bran to warg into Hodor. Hodor in the cave puts Bran's body on a sled and starts hauling him towards the exit at the back of the cave with Leaf and Meera, as Bran's direwolf Summer is killed attacking the wights. As the wights are closing in on them, Leaf sacrifices herself, using magic to cause a huge explosion, buying the other three a significant amount of time. While the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran are still sharing a vision, the Night King kills the Three-Eyed Raven, and his figure within Bran's vision blows away as ashes and rags.
|Season One appearances|
|Winter is Coming||The Kingsroad||Lord Snow||Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things||The Wolf and the Lion|
|A Golden Crown||You Win or You Die||The Pointy End||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Season Two appearances|
|The North Remembers||The Night Lands||What is Dead May Never Die||Garden of Bones||The Ghost of Harrenhal|
|The Old Gods and the New||A Man Without Honor||The Prince of Winterfell||Blackwater||Valar Morghulis|
|Season Three appearances|
|Valar Dohaeris||Dark Wings, Dark Words||Walk of Punishment||And Now His Watch is Ended||Kissed by Fire|
|The Climb||The Bear and the Maiden Fair||Second Sons||The Rains of Castamere||Mhysa|
|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||No One||Battle of the Bastards||The Winds of Winter|
Behind the scenesThe appearance of the White Walkers in the TV series isn't quite the same as in the books. They weren't fully revealed until the Season 2 finale, only quick shots mostly in the shadows in the premiere episode of Season 1. Freeze-frame shots of this display an early working-model design for the White Walkers, but given that it only flashed on-screen for a fraction of a second, this may never have been intended as their final appearance. This early design was almost skeletal, without noses. This original version really appeared too briefly to be seen without taking screenshots, but as this was the only glimpse of the White Walkers in the first season, fansites (and wikis) heavily circulated these screenshots, somewhat obscuring the fact that the White Walkers' "official" design hadn't been firmly established yet.
According to Pixomondo, the TV series's special effects studio, there was indeed a complete redesign of the White Walkers between the barely glimpsed early concepts in Season 1, and the fully revealed version introduced in the Season 2 finale: "The producers and creatives were not happy with the White Walker costumes from season one; they wanted to redesign the look and it took a bit longer than expected." Only one full version of the redesigned White Walker costume was made by the Season 2 finale, thus the large shot of multiple White Walkers in the shot is just one stunt man doubled up many times. CGI enhancements were used to give the effect that wisps of cold air are emanating from the White Walkers' bodies, as well as to make their abdomens much more gaunt than human physiology.
The final version introduced at the end of Season 2 is closer to how they appear in the books. Some differences remain, in that White Walkers are said to wear much more armor in the books, made out of a strange reflective metal that almost acts like camouflage. Further, the White Walkers in the books are described as "gaunt" but they don't seem to have quite so much of a mummified appearance. They are actually said to have an otherworldly, icy beauty to them. The White Walkers in Season 4 wear more armor than those glimpsed in Season 2, but generally maintain the established appearance. Their armor is black and dark grey, of some unknown material, as opposed to the reflective metal described in the books. Weiss and Benioff suggested in the "Inside the Episode" for "The Door" that the White Walkers began wearing the armor after Sam killed, this incident reminding them that there were things that could still harm them (in that episode, the armor is shown to be strong enough to repel dragonglass projectiles, although in "Hardhome", it is useless against Valyrian steel). Michele Clapton also operated under this assumption, and told Weiss and Benioff that her thinking was that the armor was actually scavenged bits of art and architecture from some long-forgotten culture of the far north.
Author George R.R. Martin, when discussing with comic-book artist Tommy Patterson what the White Walkers were supposed to look like in the comic-book adaptation of the story he was drawing, said that: "They are strange, beautiful...think, oh...the Sidhe made of ice, something like that...a different sort of life...inhuman, elegant, dangerous." Martin also confirmed that the White Walkers are not "dead", just an inhuman kind of life. The Sidhe are a kind of otherworldly fairy creature from Irish mythology, said to inhabit burial mounds, etc., not unlike the Barrow-wights of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.
- "The White Walkers have been gone for thousands of years."
- ―Eddard Stark
- "Always the artists."
- ―Mance Rayder on White Walkers' habit of arranging the bodies of the dead into special patterns
In the books
In the Game of Thrones television show, the term "White Walkers" is used as an alternate name for a species called the Others in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. They are held to be fairy stories by most of the people of Westeros. According to legend, the Others were creatures of ice and cold who, more than eight thousand years ago, came from the uttermost north during a winter that lasted a generation and a night that covered the world, the Long Night. The Others were defeated in the War for the Dawn by a great hero wielding a sword of flame. After the Others' defeat, Bran the Builder constructed the Wall with magic and artifice to ensure they could never return to threaten the people of Westeros and the world beyond. The War for the Dawn apparently unified the peoples of the North under the rule of the Starks and saw Winterfell built shortly thereafter.
The Night's Watch was founded to guard against the return of the Others, but this task is generally forgotten today. The Watch is instead believed to be guarding against the human wildlings who hold the lands beyond and occasionally try to raid across the Wall into the richer lands to the south.
The White Walkers are always accompanied by cold temperatures, and coming from the Lands of Always Winter, it would seem that they prefer cold climates. They might even have difficulty surviving in warmer climates. Characters within the narrative debate whether this is because White Walkers actually generate 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 (in which case they didn't cause the Long Night, but seized on the opportunity it provided). White Walkers do not leave footprints in snow.
Some of Old Nan's fairy tales say that wildling women have been known to mate with the Others to produce half-human children, but this is an unsubstantiated rumor.
It is stated in the books that they fear the day and only come out at night. In "Valar Morghulis", however, they are seen in the twilight hours when the sun (hidden by heavy clouds) hasn't completely set yet. The reason for this was most likely practical: the White Walkers in the novels have only appeared in near pitch-darkness, and in the visual medium of television it would be difficult to strictly match this (i.e. even night scenes set in a forest seem curiously well-lit by the moon, so we the audience can see what is happening). The White Walkers again seem to appear during the day, albeit a completely overcast day, in "Hardhome".
When stabbed with a dragonglass blade, an Other will melt into a pool of cold liquid. In the TV series, when they are stabbed by dragonglass they painfully freeze into ice, and quickly shatter and crumble into pieces. Jon and Sam find literary references to "dragonsteel", which is also lethal to Others, and suspect (but have not yet confirmed) that it refers to Valyrian steel. In the series, Jon discovers quite by accident that Valyrian steel is indeed deadly to White Walkers.
Origins and reproduction
Nothing is currently known about the origins of the White Walkers, simply that they came from the polar regions of the Lands of Always Winter. Nothing is mentioned of them ever attempting to directly communicate with humans.
There actually are female White Walkers, if the legends about the Night's Queen are true, but whether they actually reproduce with each other biologically, or if there are ever White Walker children is never mentioned whatsoever.
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 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, but the Season 4 episode of the TV series "Oathkeeper" revealed that the White Walkers do turn in fact Craster's infant sons into new White Walkers.
When George R.R. Martin was in the very early stages of starting work on the novel series, he sent a three page pitch memo to his agent giving a very rough idea of what the overall story would be like - back when he envisioned it as merely a trilogy of novels (Tywin Lannister's death at the end of book three/Season 4 is essentially the end of what would have been the original first novel out of three). Many ideas from this pitch memo were later heavily revised and bear little resemblance to the final version. When Martin briefly described the Others/White Walkers in this memo, he also referred to them using an alternate name never used in the main novels: The Neverborn:
- "...half-forgotten demons out of legend, the inhuman Others, raise cold legions of the undead and the neverborn and prepare to ride down on the winds of winter to extinguish everything we would consider life."
While these ideas in the pitch memo were tentative, they do seem to fit with what was revealed in Season 4 of the TV series - implying that the White Walkers are actually never "born", do not reproduce biologically as their own independent race, but "reproduce" by turning select humans into new White Walkers.
This brings up another vague comment made by Martin about the White Walkers. Early in production on Season 1, the TV series had to make its own costumes and weapons for the White Walkers, and Martin was asked if it fit well with his mental vision of what the White Walkers' material culture is like. Martin responded that the White Walkers don't really have what we would call a "culture". What he meant by this is unclear: the novels also say that the White Walkers have their own language, weapons, armor, etc. so they have some vestiges of such things.
Taken together, the fact that the White Walkers don't reproduce naturally, and don't really have their own "culture"/society, seems to indicate that they were never an independently existing race the way that humans, giants, and Children of the Forest were. It vaguely seems that they are more like demonic or magical spirits somehow housed within human bodies which they possess and turn into "White Walkers". How the first White Walkers were created to begin with, however - perhaps by some demonic god (if gods even exist in their world) or some other origin - may never be known.
The White Walkers are often known as "the Others" in the novels, and were still known by this name in the first draft of the pilot script. In the books, "white walkers" is the name given to the creatures by wildlings, and with only a few wildling characters, the term is heard only seldom. The name is also used in Westeros, though mostly by older characters such as Old Nan, Maester Aemon, and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont.
Fan speculation was originally that the name was changed to avoid confusion with the faction of the same name in the television series Lost (at a convention panel after Season 5 aired, George R.R. Martin did say that this concern was at least a factor in why the name "Others" was not used). However, the producers stated in the Season 1 Blu-ray commentary that the main reason they made the change was more to avoid viewer confusion between the specific name "Others" and the generic use of the term: book-readers can tell that "Others" is treated as a capitalized proper noun, but TV-viewers cannot. It sounded like actors saying, "He says he saw the others" - but viewers had no way of telling if they simply meant "other soldiers", "other horses", etc. - so the term was just too confusing in the audio-visual medium of television.
- ↑ "Valar Morghulis"
- ↑ "Second Sons"
- ↑ Oathkeeper
- ↑ Hardhome
- ↑ Hardhome
- ↑ "Winter is Coming"
- ↑ "Lord Snow"
- ↑ "A Golden Crown"
- ↑ "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 "The Pointy End"
- ↑ "Fire and Blood"
- ↑ "The Night Lands"
- ↑ "What is Dead May Never Die"
- ↑ "Valar Morghulis"
- ↑ "Second Sons"
- ↑ "Oathkeeper"
- ↑ "Hardhome"
- ↑ "The Door"
- ↑ Fastcocreate.com "Collaboration Isn’t Always Pretty—Behind The Emmy-Winning VFX For “Game Of Thrones”
- ↑ 
- ↑ AWOIAF article on The Others
- ↑ 
- ↑ Race for the Iron Throne
- ↑ 
Cultures and Peoples of the Known World
|Sothoryos & isles of the Summer Sea|