White Walkers in Game of Thrones explained — the undead army’s origin

Winter's White Walkers came, saw, and failed to conquer Westeros! But that's the short of it, here's the Game of Thrones villains explained.

There’s a chill in the air. Is it from Winter’s first snowflakes falling, or should we be keeping watch for pale, gaunt White Walkers approaching the Wall?

Game of Thrones has more villains than the Targaryen family tree has bad apples — and that’s a lot. There’s much to keep track of, so here we tread an icy path to explain the history of White Walkers and their role in one of the best fantasy series. Thanks to Arya Stark, they didn’t get a happy ending.

White Walkers in Game of Thrones

White Walkers in Game of Thrones explained

The White Walkers were an ancient race of undead ice creatures who were once human. They’re one of the main villains in Game of Thrones. 

They originated far north of Westeros, in the Lands of Always Winter, and were created by the Children of the Forest — an ancient non-human race who were among Westeros’ first natives. They remained hidden for thousands of years, forgotten by most. However, sometime before the events of Game of Thrones season 1, they returned.

Throughout the series, they’re teased as an existential threat before posing a very physical one later in the show’s run.

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White Walkers’ backstory explained

Most people living south of the Wall thought they were a myth. In reality, White Walkers were created thousands of years ago, born out of potent but untested magic with the purpose of defending the Children of the Forest from the First Men.

The White Walkers eventually broke free from the Children’s control and evolved into Westeros’ most feared creatures, threatening all living there.

Storytime! During the world’s longest winter in history, the White Walkers invaded Westeros from the North and killed everyone they encountered. Converting the dead into mindless soldiers for their undead army, they were not a sight you’d be happy to see while out on a stroll.

The Night King in Game of Thrones

Westeros’ people recognized the need to unite, or else the White Walkers would win. This led to the Battle for the Dawn, which ended with the humans winning and driving the White Walkers back to the Lands of Always Winter.

The Wall — yes, that wall — was then built to keep them out should they ever return. The Night’s Watch was also created to guard the Wall and look for any signs of White Walkers.

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White Walkers’ powers and abilities explained

White Walkers’ powers come from ice magic, and they’re much stronger than humans. Their most iconic power, however, is their ability to reanimate the dead.

Because they’re not technically living, they do not need sustenance and can survive extreme temperatures. Although they tend to bring blizzards with them wherever they go, so there’s not much need for adaptation to other environments. They use swords and spears made from ice crystals as melee weapons.

While White Walkers, in general, can create wights out of corpses, as far as we know, only the Night King can create true Walkers. We saw this in season 4, episode 4, when he placed a finger on Craster’s baby son, turning his eyes blue and skin pale.

A White Walker in Game of Thrones

What did the White Walkers want?

The White Walkers wanted to end all life by killing the Three-Eyed Raven in order to start an endless winter.

Vitamin D levels in Westeros would have been in serious danger! Despite reports from the Night’s Watch, the rest of the Seven Kingdoms largely ignored the threat, too busy playing, you know, the game of thrones.

This culminated in an all-out attack known as the Battle of Winterfell in season 8.

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How were the White Walkers defeated?

Arya Stark killed the Night King at the Battle of Winterfell, putting an end to the White Walkers overall.

This was a shocking and controversial moment, with lots of fans thinking it was an unearned and unsatisfying end. Although to be honest, it was very cool. A teenager taking out a creature thousands of years old? Not bad.

When she plunged her Valyrian steel dagger into the Night King‘s chest, he exploded into shards of ice. His army then followed suit, their curse finally broken and the threat of the Long Night put to bed for the Game of Thrones characters.

Arya Stark and the Night King in Game of Thrones season 8

What is the difference between wights and White Walkers?

The main difference is that wights are essentially just soldiers, brought back from the dead, while White Walkers are ancient, magical beings who practice necromancy.

White Walkers are undead magical beings who can turn dead bodies into zombies who mindlessly do their bidding. Those reanimated corpses are the wights. The differences are a bit subtle but think of the wights as a tool used by White Walkers rather than decision-making beings in charge of their own destinites.

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Although they were beaten in the end, it’s fair to say they loomed large over the series and were a cool element that added some mystery.

We have our noses in Westeros’ history books here, so we’ve got other explainers on the Game of Thrones cast and Daenerys Targaryen. You can also switch lanes to see everything we know about House of the Dragon season 2, In other news, check out the new movies coming soon or the best TV series of all time.