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Game of Thrones Night King explained

Game of Thrones had many villains who wanted the Iron Throne but the Night King was a different. Here's what you need to know about the White Walker's leader.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King sits on the Iron Throne

Who is the Night King in Game of Thrones? HBO’s Game of Thrones saw the various lords and ladies of Westeros fighting for the least comfy chair in the Seven Kingdoms, but the plots of ambitious nobles weren’t the real threat to the common folk.

No, the true big bad of Game of Thrones was the Night King, a supernatural ice monster from the far north who terrified our favorite Game of Thrones characters. But who was the Night King? What were his powers? Where did he come from, and what did he want? Well, don’t worry; we’ve got the answers you seek! Warning: spoilers for one of the best TV series ever ahead.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night king watches his armies

Who is the Night King?

The Night King was the first of the White Walkers, a race of ice creatures from The Lands of Always Winter, far beyond The Wall. The Night King served as the leader of his people, and as such, he appeared to have complete control over both his fellow White Walkers and the wights that made up the Army of the Dead.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King is born

How was the Night King created?

The elf-like Children of the Forest created the Night King to help them in their war against the First Men. In Game of Thrones season 6, Bran sees the Children forcing a piece of dragon glass into an unnamed man’s heart, transforming him from a normal human into a creature of ice and hatred.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King ressurects the people of Hardhome

What are the Night King’s powers?

As a White Walker, the Night King was immortal, possessed superhuman strength and endurance, could control ice, and resurrect the dead. The Night King also seemed to have some abilities that separated him from common White Walkers as well, including the ability to create more White Walkers, and he could ride a dragon despite not possessing Valyrian blood.

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What are the Night King’s weaknesses?

Like all White Walkers, the Night King is vulnerable to Dragonglass and Valyrian steel. The Night King also possesses a rather unique vulnerability. As the first of his kind and the progenitor of all White Walkers, his death will wipe out the entire army of the undead.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The White Walkers

The Night King’s early life and the Long Night explained

Soon after their creation, the Night King and his fellow White Walkers turned on the Children and began to move south, killing everything in their path. As the White Walkers marched, they killed everything in their way, and the ranks of the undead became swollen with the freshly dead. Even worse, the Night King and his followers brought with them a terrible and seemingly eternal winter that threatened to wipe out all life in Westeros.

The White Walkers presented such an existential threat that the Children of the Forest and the First Men formed an alliance to stop them. In a war that became known as the Battle for the Dawn, the alliance of elf and man triumphed and turned back the tide of the undead. Unfortunately, while the Night King’s legions were defeated, the White Walkers’ leader managed to escape back to the Lands of Always Winter, where he could recuperate.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King and the White Walkers

The Night King in Game of Thrones explained

Thousands of years later, when the lords and ladies of Westeros had forgotten the Battle for the Dawn and the Night King had fallen into legend, the White Walkers returned, and they found a realm unprepared for their attack. The Night’s Watch, which had formed to protect the realm from the White Walker’s return, was a shadow of its former self, and the Seven Kingdoms had become distracted by their own petty squabbles.

The Night King began to recruit new White Walkers, transforming the Wildling Craster’s sons into icy demons with a touch of his clawed hand. As the ranks of the White Walkers grew, they began to attack Wildling settlements and raid the tombs of giants, slowly assembling a new army of the dead.

Eventually, the White Walkers presented such a terrible threat to the Wildlings that the free folk elected Mance Rayder, the new King Beyond the Wall, to save them from the Night King’s army. The intervention of Stannis Baratheon broke Mance’s army before they could storm The Wall and presented the Night King with a new recruitment opportunity.

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When the remnants of Mance’s army made their way to the Wildling village of Hardhome, the Night King struck and wiped out the free folk, resurrecting them as wights to serve in his army. With his army fully formed and 13 White Walkers at his back, the Night King finally revealed himself to Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch, knowing it was too late for them to stop him.

With his army ready, the Night King crushed anyone else who might resist him. He began by attacking and killing the Three-Eyed Raven, a green seer who was training a young Bran Stark in the magic of green sight. The Raven posed a threat because he could see through time and potentially expose the White Walkers’ weaknesses. Indeed the Night King seemed to take great delight in killing the Raven and had special enmity for green seers as he’d make tracking down Bran, the last green seer, one of his top priorities.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The armies of the undead

With the significant threats to his war removed, the Night King moved his armies towards The Wall, forcing the newly crowned King in the North, Jon Snow, to go south for allies. While the new King finds ready allies in Daenerys Targaryen and her court, Cersei and the Lannisters are less prepared to accept the White Walkers have returned.

To convince them, Jon and a loyal group go on a mission to capture a wight to prove the dead walk. While the mission is a success, this seems to have been part of the Night King’s plans as he manages to kill Viserion, one of Daenerys’ dragons, and resurrects it as his own mount. With the power of Viserion, the Night King is able to bring down The Wall and begin his invasion of the Seven Kingdoms proper.

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As the Night King’s legions march south, the White Walkers kill everything in their path, and the living prepare one last desperate defense at Winterfell. Eventually, the Night King arrived at Winterfell, and while the defenders fought valiantly, they were overcome by the sheer number of the undead. With the Night King’s victory seemingly assured, he made his way to the Stark’s Godswood, where he planned to murder Bran.

Quickly dispatching Bran’s bodyguard Theon, the Night King prepares his blade when he’s attacked by Arya Stark, who manages to plunge a Valyrian dagger into his icy heart. As the Night King shatters into icy shards, his magics are broken, and all the wights and White Walkers die with him, ending the threat of the Long Night once and for all.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King dies

What did the Night King want?

When the Night King was created, he was made with one mission, to protect the Children of the Forest from the First Men. Unfortunately, the Night King seemingly interpreted this mission as ‘wipe out all life in Westeros’ and, as such, is wholly dedicated to murdering every living thing he comes across.

Despite being the literal personification of death, the Night King did have some personality. Several times he displayed a degree of sadistic humor, most notably when he resurrected the wights of Hardhome in front of the Night’s Watch, and he appeared to have some respect for Jon Snow. The Night King also showed some understanding of honor as
he fought Theon one-on-one despite having wights who could have done the job for him.

The Night King’s primary driver, though, was hate, specific hatred of the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran, which drove him to attack the greenseers personally. Unfortunately, this hatred undid him, as his focus on Bran is what left him vulnerable to Arya’s final deadly attack.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King rides Viserion

Is the Night King in the Game of Thrones books?

No, the Night King isn’t in the Game of Thrones books. The character was created to give the threat of the White Walkers a leader and ‘face.’

That said, there is a character in the book called The Night’s King who appears to have inspired the TV character’s name, although he has little in common with the Night King.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained: The Night King and Bran

Who played the Night King?

The Night King was played by two actors. Richard Brake, through seasons 4-5, and Vladimír Furdík in seasons 6-8.

Game of Thrones the Night King explained:The Night Kings armies

What does the Night King represent?

The Night King and the White Walkers are generally interpreted to be a metaphor for climate change and the fact that so many of the leaders in our own world are distracted from dealing with it by their own petty squabbles.

That’s why the White Walkers have ice powers and bring bad weather with them. We’re not quite sure if the dead will walk the Earth if the planet keeps heating up, but we wouldn’t rule it out at this point.

As you can probably tell from reading this, we’re basically maesters when it comes to the history of the Seven Kingdoms, and we’ve prepared a library’s worth of material for any curious Game of Thrones fan to read.

We’ve got a breakdown of the Game of Thrones cast, the House of the Dragon cast as well as the Targaryen family tree. We’ve sent our little birds out to gather all the information they can on the House of the Dragon season 2 release date and consumed with the Shadow Dancers of Asshai to try and learn about a potential Game of Thrones season 9.

But that’s not all. We’ve got an article exploring the history of Daenerys Targaryen and looked into what makes the Game of Thrones dragons tick. Speaking of dragons, we have guides to all the major monsters, including Balerion the Black DreadMeleys, Arrax, Meraxes, Syrax, and Vermithor.

Finally, we have written detailed histories of all of the major House of the Dragon characters, including Alicent Hightower, King Viserys Targaryen, Otto HightowerDaemon Targaryen, Larys Strong, and Ser Criston Cole. That’ll keep even the most eager of bibliophiles busy for a few days.