- Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Game of Thrones.”
- HBO’s hit series features a massive Army of the Dead comprised of White Walkers and wights.
- White Walkers are sentient inhuman beings capable of magic and turning dead people into zombies that do their bidding. Those zombies are then called wights.
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“Game of Thrones” has delivered several horrifying scenes of the Night King and his White Walker captains waging battles against men (usually with Jon Snow in their midst). In the latest showdown, the Night King surrounded Jon and his companions in “Beyond the Wall,” and we watched as a flurry of wights were killed by the small group of men.
But one thing that might not be clear to all show-only fans is the difference between the White Walkers and their undead army.
White Walkers are inhuman beings with mystic powers
White Walkers, also known as Others in the books, are not dead but instead are a sort of magical humanoid life form. On the show, we know they were created from men thanks to a flashback Bran had showing the Children of the Forest making the Night King by plunging a dragonglass dagger into his heart.
The White Walkers definitely have a language, though the showrunners have said we’ll never hear the Night King speak.
Here’s how George R.R. Martin described them in the prologue of the series’ first book, “A Game of Thrones,” from a character named Will’s point of view:
Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk … The Other slid forward on silent feet … Will saw its eyes; blue, deeper and bluer than any human’s eyes, a blue that burned like ice … The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.
So we know several key things. White Walkers look similar to humans, but with flesh made of something like brittle ice and with bright blue eyes. They don’t speak a language recognised by a Westerosi man, but they’re clearly sentient beings capable of mockery.
White Walkers also carry swords crafted using their brand of magic – swords that can shatter regular steel and easily slice through men’s flesh.
“In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen,” Martin wrote. “It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on.”
In the show, the White Walkers are led by a character named the Night King. He is also a White Walker, just a special kind, given he was the first one ever made.
White Walkers can be killed with either dragonglass or Valyrian steel, and maybe even dragonfire. But regular fire or steel does not harm them.
‘Wight’ is a catch-all term for the reanimated corpses of humans
White Walkers have the ability to turn dead and decomposed bodies into wights. Think of the term as a synonym for zombies. Once brought back as a wight, the former humans are intent upon killing under direction from the White Walkers. They can be reanimated immediately after death, as we witnessed in the “Hardhome” episode.
They can also be reanimated when their corpse has rotted down to the bone, as we also saw in “Hardhome.” As we now know from “Beyond the Wall,” if someone kills a White Walker, then the wights that particular White Walker rose from the dead will also fall.
Wights can be killed with regular fire or dragonglass as well.
We haven’t seen any “Game of Thrones” characters use Valyrian steel on a wight, but it’s possible the special metal can also kill wights.
So, to recap, White Walkers are sentient other-worldly beings capable of magic and turning dead people into zombies, which are known as wights. And there’s a combined 100,000 of them marching on Westeros, so our heroes need all the help they can get.
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