Game of Thrones: Who is the Night King and Why You Should Care

By AT&T Digital Media Productions editorial team

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After years of buildup, Game of Thrones has finally revealed its ultimate Big Bad: the terrifying, colder-than-ice Night King. The leader of the White Walkers is obviously scary—and equally mysterious. Who is this bone-chilling monster, what exactly are his powers, and what is he planning to do in Season 7? Here’s everything the show has revealed so far.

He was once a man

Season 6’s “The Door” revealed that the Children of the Forest, desperate to protect their lands, created the White Walkers to fight back against the First Men. The Children sacrificed a human, stabbing him through the heart with dragonglass. But the dark ritual backfired, and the victim transformed into the first White Walker, who would become the Night King.

The Walkers invaded from the North and ravaged Westeros during the Long Night, a period of ancient history that concluded when a legendary figure, the not-so-coincidentally named Brandon Stark, built the Wall. The White Walkers were trapped beyond the Wall, eventually becoming almost completely lost to history.

But the Night King survived, and the White Walkers continued to build his army by turning human babies into ice monsters just like themselves. One procurement strategy involved an agreement with Craster, a wildling lord beyond the Wall. Craster sacrificed all his newborn sons to the Walkers, and in return, the Night King didn’t visit him with icy death.

 

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He’s a great motivator

At the Battle of Hardhome, Jon Snow saw firsthand what the Night King can do. When the fighting was over and bodies covered the frozen ground, the Night King raised his hands—and every one of those bodies stood up. The reanimated corpses became wights, ready to fight steadfastly (if a bit stiffly) for their King.

If every dead body is a potential new soldier for the White Walkers, the Night King has a theoretically infinite supply of manpower. Which is bad, because...

He wants Westeros

Thousands of years ago, during the Long Night, the first White Walkers attempted to gain control of Westeros. They nearly succeeded. Nowadays, few people down South even believe in the Walkers’ existence, despite constant reports from the Night’s Watch.

Unfortunately, the White Walkers are very real, and currently poised to cut through the underfunded, understaffed Night’s Watch any minute. If the Night King makes it past the Wall, he’ll find Westeros weakened by years of civil war.

 

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Only one person can stop him...

 The red priestess Melisandre frequently alludes to a prophecy: the Prince Who Was Promised, Azor Ahai reborn, who will use his flaming sword Lightbringer to liberate humanity from the forces of evil. (Azor Ahai was a mythical hero who brought light to the land after an age of darkness, an age many suspect to have been the Long Night.) At first, Melisandre mistakenly believed the late Stannis Baratheon would fulfill the prophecy. But many fans believe, as the red priestess now does, Azor Ahai reborn is Jon Snow.

Of course, there’s nothing in the Red God’s rulebook that says Azor Ahai must be reborn as a man. So the Prince Who Was Promised could actually be a Princess...or a Queen.

...but he does have weaknesses, probably

 If the prophecy of Azor Ahai doesn’t come to pass, there are a few more things that could end the Night King’s reign. As Meera Reed and Samwell Tarly can attest, the volcanic rock dragonglass (the maesters call it obsidian) definitely kills White Walkers. Jon Snow took out another White Walker with Longclaw, his Valyrian steel sword—and the Night King definitely noticed.

Unfortunately, plain old fire can’t hurt the Night King (though it does take care of his wights). Perhaps a dragon’s fire would be hot enough. But when would the White Walkers ever encounter a dragon?

 

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Can the Night King get any scarier? Tune in to the final Season 8 of Game of Thrones, exclusively on HBO, and find out.