There’s been a lot of talk about the Night King recently on Game of Thrones: the terror he inspires, his goal of an “endless night” and how he’s key to taking down the White Walker army. But for all that, we’re left with few reminders of who this figure actually is. In case you’ve found yourself with questions, here’s a handy list of everything we know about the Night King’s backstory.
The Children Of The Forest Created Him
Thanks to Bran’s CCTV visions, we know exactly how the Night King was created. The Children of the Forest, an ancient and mysterious race of child-like spirits, press “a Dragonglass dagger into the heart of one of the First Men.” In a sign we now know all too well, the man’s eyes change color to an icy blue — and the first, and greatest, White Walker is born.
He Was Meant To Be A Protector
Ironically, the Children of the Forest created this creature in the hopes that he would help protect them from the First Men. The Children of the Forest had been around long before the Men arrived in Westeros, and they feared the Men’s “destructive ways.” Of course, once the Night King’s newfound nature was revealed, the Children wound up joining forces with the First Men to keep him at bay.
He May Have Had Jon Snow’s Old Title
The Night King character on the HBO series has diverged from the books, but it’s still worth taking a look at the original text. In the third book of the series, A Storm of Swords, Bran mentions a figure named “The Night’s King” — and he’s none other than the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. According to Bran, the Night’s King lost everything when he fell for a woman “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars.” After abandoning his post to be with her, he became a White Walker himself, and held a reign of terror in the North for 13 years. (As a contrast, the TV version says the Night’s Watch wasn’t created until after the Night King’s transformation, as a way to guard the North from further White Walker invasions.)
He’s Stronger Than Other White Walkers
In addition to being scarier-looking than other White Walkers (the horns!), the Night King has more powers, too. Per Vulture‘s assessment, he can bend the wight population to his will using “some sort of telepathy — or possibly something akin to Bran’s warging ability.” He’s also able to raise “scores of the dead” at once, rather than a typical White Walker’s pace of creating one undead warrior at a time. We see this in season 5, episode 8, when the Night King advances on Hardhome, filled with nothing but corpses after a battle. He “slowly raises his arms” and the undead rise with him: the episode ends with “the freaky little snikt of the fresh wights opening their ice-blue eyes.”
(We Think) He Has Three Weaknesses
Of course, the HBO show hasn’t yet confirmed that the Night King is vulnerable to the same materials as the other White Walkers. But given that they’re all roughly the same species — and that it would be totally unfair for the Night King to be invincible — we’re guessing they play by similar rules. If true, that means the Night King is susceptible to dragonglass, Valyrian steel, and dragon’s fire. As you’ll recall, the army at Winterfell has been stocking up on all three: Gendry’s busy forging dragonglass weapons, Sam’s handing off his Valyrian steel sword and Dany’s dragons are feeding to build their strength. And while this isn’t technically a weakness of the Night King himself, Jon Snow has theorized that killing the Night King might kill off the rest of his army with him. It’s Beric Dondarrion who makes this realization, after killing a White Walker and seeing all the wights that Walker created die instantly. Since the theory goes that the Night King created the rest of the White Walker army, we’re hoping the same logic applies en masse.
Now that you know the Night King’s full backstory, you can be appropriately frightened when he does (or doesn’t!) appear at the Battle at Winterfell. Either way, the icy king is not playing around.
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