Heading beyond the wall stocked up with fire, Valyrian steel and dragonglass is a good way to protect yourself from White Walkers and wights. The way these creatures can be killed is fairly straightforward. However, the way a White Walker or wight is formed or reanimated from the dead can be a little unclear.
SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses HBO’s Game of Thrones as well as the books the television series is based on. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.
Episode 6 of Game of Thrones saw Jon Snow’s group venture beyond the wall in order to capture a wight to prove to Westeros they really do exist. But, what is the lore surrounding the undead in Game of Thrones? After all, back in Season 1, the body of Othor was returned from beyond the wall to Castle Black and he reanimated in the night, so why is Jon even going beyond the wall to retrieve a wight? What’s the actual truth about White Walkers and their wights?
White walkers and wights are creatures in Game of Thrones that can be likened to the zombies in shows like The Walking Dead and Z Nation. However, these reanimated corpses are created rather than caused by infection. The Game of Thrones undead are contained to beyond the Wall and, potentially, to a lesser degree directly in the shadow of the Wall at Castle Black.
As Screen Prism point out, those beyond the Wall and at Castle Black burn their dead so they do not reanimate. This indicates that it could have something to do with location, or the magic in the Wall that creates White Walkers and wights, since these locations seem to be the only areas in the Game of Thrones universe what require bodies to be burned after death to prevent reanimation. However, considering many — even some of those at Castle Black — do not believe White Walkers and wights exist, there is the possibility that not everyone reanimates after death.
So, What Are White Walkers?
According to George R. R. Martin’s books, the television show is based on, White Walkers (called the Others in the books) were originally created by the Children of the Forest as weapon against the First Men. Their creation was shown in Season 6 of the TV series. However, these White Walkers got out of control and threatened all of Westeros. This is how the Wall came into existence, and, for 8,000 years it has protected Westeros from the White Walkers and their wights. As a result, after many years, these creatures were thought to be either extinct or a myth passed down from generation to generation.
It was revealed in Episode 4 of Season 4 of Game of Thrones, that White Walkers are created by having one place a finger to the cheek of a human. This is shown when the last of Craster’s sons is sacrificed to the White Walkers and the procedure is revealed. This also indicates that a touch from a White Walker can turn someone who is still alive, and not just after their death.
What About Wights?
Wights are reanimated corpses. They have blue eyes like White Walkers but, according to George R. R. Martin’s books, are unable to reanimate others. They also seem to lack in the intelligence often displayed by White Walkers. As Vulture points out, White Walkers seem to be in control of their wights, however, it is unclear how they are controlled. One method suggested is telepathy.
While wights are created by White Walkers, there seems to be some confusion as to how this occurs. In the books, it has yet to be explained exactly how wights are reanimated. However, in Episode 8 of Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Night King is seen reanimating the dead just by lifting his arms, indicating he does not need to touch them to reanimate them, just be near them. However, considering Jon had to kill Othor after he was brought back to Castle Black, it seems that White Walkers do not need to be close to reanimate the dead. Although, it is noted by Screen Prism that wights can rise from the dead in the nighttime. So, this could account for reanimation when there is no White Walker close by. Also, by having those at the Wall and beyond the Wall insisting their dead are burned is another indicator that perhaps wights are not always created by having a White Walker in close proximity.
In the books, after Jon Snow kills Othor with fire, he instructs that two wildling corpses be shut up in Castle Black’s cells, in the hope they can study them if they reanimate as wights. This never happens, adding further weight to the theory that a White Walker needs to present to animate the dead. Also, by adding this scene in the TV series, HBO might have saved some viewers the confusion as to why Jon had to go beyond the Wall to retrieve a wight.
The finale episode of Season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is titled “The Dragon and the Wolf” and will air on Sunday, August 27.
You can view the trailer for Episode 7 of Game of Thrones Season 7 below.
[Featured Image by HBO]