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|“||Demons made of snow and ice and cold. The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters.||„|
|~ Stannis Baratheon, to Samwell Tarly|
|“||They wasn't gone, old man. They was sleeping. And they ain't sleeping no more.||„|
|~ Osha to Maester Luwin, talking about the White Walkers.|
The Others, known as the "White Walkers" among the wildlings, are major antagonists in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, as well as its TV adaptation, Game of Thrones. Before the events in the novel, the Others had supposedly not been seen for many thousand years. So far the Others have appeared in the flesh only twice in the whole saga and their purpose remains unknown at this time.
They reside in the Land of Always Winter, north of the Wall. According to the religion of R'hllor, their god is the Great Other. They speak an unknown language. Some soldiers are seen to laugh at the pain of their victims, whatever every white walker is like that is still unknown. Their weakness are dragonglass and magic.
In the TV show adaptation their leader is the Night King.
According to legend, the Others first appeared approximately 8,000 years before the War of Conquest, during a winter that lasted a generation and a period of darkness known as the Long Night. Eventually they were defeated, supposedly by the Night's Watch in the Battle for the Dawn, and the Wall may have been raised as a defense against them.
The Night's King appears to have married a white walker, but the Others have not been heard of again since his defeat. They are regarded south of the Wall as nothing more than fairy tales to frighten the little children. They are often mentioned in curses, such as "The Others take his eyes."
The Long Night
According to Westerosi legends, in the midst of this darkness a race of apparent demons, called the Others, emerged from the uttermost north of Westeros, the polar regions of the Lands of Always Winter. They wielded razor-thin swords of ice and raised wights to fight the living. The children of the forest and their allies, the First Men, fought valiantly against them, but were driven southwards by their advance. The Others were eventually checked when it was discovered that weapons made of dragonglass could kill them. Legends from the North claim that the last hero made contact with the children.The first members of the Night's Watch drove the Others back in the Battle for the Dawn. Steps were taken to ensure that the people would never be caught off guard by an invasion from the north again. Bran the Builder supposedly raised the Wall, an imposing structure of solid ice and magic, stretching one hundred leagues from the Gorge in the west to the Shivering Sea in the east, cutting off the Lands of Always Winter from the remainder of Westeros. The Night's Watch guarded the Wall and protected the people from threats beyond the Wall.
The Rhoynar tell of a darkness that made the Rhoyne of Essos dwindle and disappear, her waters frozen as far south as the joining of the Selhoru, until a hero convinced the many children of Mother Rhoyne, such as the Crab King and the Old Man of the River, to put aside their bickering and join in a secret song that brought back the day.
Other legends from the Further East, including Yi Ti, state the Blood Betrayal began the Long Night. The Lion of Night was unleashed upon the world after the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back on it. According to a legend from Yi Ti, during the Long Night the sun hid its face for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and disaster was only averted by the deeds of a woman with a monkey's tail. A great hero, known in different cultures as Azor Ahai, Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser, wielded the flaming sword Lightbringer and led humanity to victory. Some say the Five Forts were built by the Pearl Emperor to guard against the Lion of Night and his demons. The legend of Azor Ahai spread from Asshai and is especially prevalent among the followers of R'hllor. A later prophecy claims that the Others will return and Azor Ahai will be reborn to lead the fight. There is also a similar prophecy about the prince that was promised.
Battle for the Dawn
The Battle for the Dawn was a legendary battle that marked the end of the Long Night during the Age of Heroes. The legend says that the Others came from the far north, raising the dead to fight the living. The Children of the Forest and the First Men fought against them but were defeated and driven southwards. Only when it was discovered that dragonglass could kill them, the Others started to lose battles. A song claims that many of those who fought the white walkers in this battle became the very first members of the Night's Watch. Legends connected to this battle and the Long Night are the stories of Azor Ahai (legend from Essos), the prince that was promised (mysterious legend related to the Andals), and the last hero (legend of the North).
The Night's King
Another legend tells about a man known as the "Night's King", who lived during the Age of Heroes, not long after the Wall was complete. He was a fearless warrior and the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who later fell in love with a woman "with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars". He chased her and loved her though "her skin was cold as ice", and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. Night's King brought her back to the Nightfort and after the unholy union, he declared himself king and her his queen, and ruled the Nightfort as his own castle for thirteen years.
During the dark years of his reign, horrific atrocities were committed, of which tales are still told in the north. It was not until Brandon the Breaker, the King of Winter, and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, joined forces that Night's King was brought down and the Night's Watch freed. After his fall, when it was discovered that Night's King had been making sacrifices to the Others, all records of him were destroyed and his very name was forbidden and forgotten. It is likely this led the lords of the north to forbid the Night's Watch to construct walls at their keeps, ensuring the keeps would always be accessible from the south.
Maesters are skeptical of the legend, thinking Night's King's corpse queen was possibly a daughter of a Barrow King from the barrowlands. Some fan theories link her with the Others because of her description.
A Game of Thrones
The Others have supposedly not been seen for eight thousand years. The lands beyond the Wall cannot be controlled by any king. They are mysterious and full of ancient creatures. Known people living beyond the Wall are the Free Folk, commonly known as "wildlings", Giants, and the last Children of the Forest. The Others start to attack the wildlings. Mance Rayder is managing, after many years, to unite the wildling clans and the Giants.
Ser Waymar Royce, youngest son of Yohn Royce, rides north of the Wall with his companions Gared and Will, tracking down a group of wildling raiders in the Haunted Forest. After a few days, one evening the ranger Will finds the raiders' camp only to discover their dead bodies, horribly mutilated. Not even the children were spared. 17 years old Waymar Royce don't want to return to the Wall without knowing the cause of the raiders' death, since it's his very first ranging, and orders his two companions to ride with him. Gared feels that something's wrong: the strong wind in the forest doesn't sound natural. Ser Waymar dismisses Gared's fears and orders him to stay with the horses. Gared wants to make a fire, probably thinking about the wights. That same night Royce and Will arrive at the wildling camp, but the bodies are gone. Will climbs a tree to look for them. Will and Waymar realize it's getting colder, and suddently the Others appear and attack Ser Waymar. Although an arrogant boy, Royce refuses to be a coward and fights bravely against the white walkers, screaming the name of Robert Baratheon. The Others remain amused and mock the boy with words of their language. Waymar is wounded by their ice swords, then slain right after. Will finally goes down to look for Ser Waymar Royce, who has been turned into a wight and strangles Will. Gared witness the presence of both white walkers and wights, and manages to flee back to the Wall. Half-mad by this experience, he deserts the Night's Watch and flee south. He's captured and beheaded by Eddard Stark the same time Jon Arryn dies.
The Night's Watch still searches for Waymar Royce and Will beyond the Wall. Benjen Stark returns to the Wall with his nephew, Jon Snow, and shortly after leaves Castle Black with Othor, Jafer Flowers, and other rangers, to keep on searching for Ser Waymar Royce. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont orders Benjen and his party to stay close to the Wall and return quickly. Instead Benjen and his party vanishes beyond the Wall. Mance Rayder and his wildlings are blamed for this. Meanwhile Jeor Mormont tells Tyrion Lannister that white walkers were glimpsed by fisherfolk on the shore near Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Tyrion and Jeor remain unimpressed and are more concerned with the wildlings.
Benjen Stark is not seen again, while summer is coming to its end. Cotter Pyke’s men have reported mammoths and huge misshapen tracks near Eastwatch. Denys Mallister has reported that the wildlings are abandoning their villages near the Shadow Tower and Qhorin Halfhand has taken a captive who revealed that Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, is massing his people in some secret stronghold for an unknown purpose. Jeor sends Ser Alliser Thorne to Eastwatch, to sail to King's Landing in order to show the hand of a wight to King Joffrey Baratheon. At the same time Jeor prepares his men for a Great Ranging beyond the Wall, to find the wildling army and fight it.
A Clash of Kings
Melisandre of Asshai proclaims that Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai reborn. The champion of R'hllor who, after a long summer, will unite the living races to fight against the Others in the Long Night That Never Ends. Stannis takes his new sword, Lightbringer, a red shiny sword who frightens the horses and intimidates his enemies.
Jon Snow finds out that the wildling Craster is giving up for years his infant sons to the cold gods, as Gilly calls them. What they do with the babies is unknown. However, the TV series shows that the sons are not killed as a sacrifice, instead the white walker known as the "Night's King" turns them into white walkers with his touch. Mance Rayder undertakes the monumental task of uniting the notoriously individualistic wildlings under his guidance to invade the Seven Kingdoms. They assemble in the Frostfangs.
A Storm of Swords
In the camp at the Fist of the First Men, Jeor Mormont and his men are waiting for 2 scouting groups to return. Qhorin Halfhand, Jon Snow, Ebben, Dalbridge, and Stonesnake have yet to return from their mission to kill Mance Rayder or report the purpose and numbers of the wildling army. But most of the group has been killed by Rattleshirt's party, and Jon taken as Mance's prisoner. Jarman Buckwell and his scouting squad are still outside, in the wilderness, searching for wildlings. Only Thoren Smallwood and his men return and report the numbers of the Free Folk: aroung 20,000 or 30,000, more than half being women and children. Jeor is tired of waiting: the wildlings, the giants, and their mammoths are moving and Orell's eagle is looking at the Night's Watchmen. Convinced by his officers, Jeor decides to attack the wildlings the next day with his 300 men from Castle Black and the Shadow Tower. Chett, Lark, Small Paul, Donnel Hill, Clubfoot Karl and other men plan to flee and kill Jeor and many of his men, including Samwell, to prevent him from sending ravens to the Wall. But the plan is botched by fresh falling snow and before the battle against the marching wildlings can happen, that night the camp is attacked by hundreds of wights, both human and animals, including a huge snow bear. The Fight at the Fist occurs, and the fire arrows are shot against the wights. Mormont orders Sam to send one bird to Castle Black and another to the Shadow Tower, which he does, but forgets to explain which enemy attacks them. The Night's Watch is easily defeated and they are forced to retreat, with many others dying during the escape from the Fist. Mormont manages to form up about 50 survivors. Most of the officers, such as Thoren Smallwood, Ser Ottyn Wythers, and Ser Mallador Locke, are killed, leaving only Jeor to command the survivors and keep discipline. The fight is described as an horrifying experience for the Night's Watch, that leads many to consider mutiny in order to survive, while others who were part of the former conspiration to desert the Watch have a change of heart and remain loyal. Samwell sent other ravens in the south, to warn everyone about the situation beyond the Wall, but forgot to add any other messages before he sent the ravens to warn the whole south that the end is near, thus the Seven Kingdoms only received lots of flying birds carrying no message with them.
The few survivors are led by Mormont on a grim march back to Craster's Keep. During the march they are followed by wights and the Others, but never attacked. Jarman Buckwell and his squad return when the main party already evacuated, so they stay in the wilderness, tracking Mance's host in the mountains and spotting Jon Snow moving freely amongst the wildlings.
At some point during the march, Samwell is exhausted and collapse in the snow, unable to get on his feet. Grenn and Small Paul have to carry him, but remain behind. The survivors are gone and with them their torches. The cold sets in, and an Other on a dead horse arrives to attack them. The white walker kills Small Paul, but before he can kill Grenn, Sam stabs him with a dragonglass dagger found at the Fist of the First Men. Sam and Grenn run and manage to catch up with the group of survivors.
Later only 44 survivors make it to Craster's Keep, with Bannen dying of his wounds shortly after. Later Craster is killed by Dirk and Karl, while Jeor Mormont is killed by Ollo Lophand (killed by Rast in the show), and the Mutiny at Craster's Keep occurs. Craster's wives help Sam and Gilly to flee, but warn Sam that Craster's sons will soon arrive for Gilly's baby, their brother. The loyalists are defeated by the mutineers and forced to retreat back to the Wall.
At Dragonstone Alester Florent and Maester Pylos receive one of the letters from Maester Aemon, who keeps to implore the south for help against Mance Rayder's army advancing to the Wall. Alester doesn't show the letter to Stannis, fearing the idea of going at the Wall.
The Wall is invaded by many wildling parties led by Styr, Tormund Giantsbane, Rattleshirt, Harma Dosghead, and the Weeper. Jarman Buckwell and his team manage to return safely at Castle Black and later the survivor loyalists from Craster's Keep and Jon Snow as well. Sam and Gilly are saved by Coldhands and manage to return through the Black Gate, at the Nightfort.
After the deaths of the kings Balon Greyjoy, Robb Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon, Hand of the King Lord Davos Seaworth shows a letter from the Night's Watch to King Stannis Baratheon. Stannis realizes that he was only thinking about his own rights and his personal revenge. He leaves his quest to take the Iron Throne, and sails to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with his remaining force, leaving 2 small garrisons at Dragonstone and Storm's End.
Mance Rayder and his army start to attack Castle Black and the Shadow Tower. With first steward Bowen Marsh, Jarman Buckwell, and any other official and skilled fighter away to defend the Shadow Tower, reinforcements from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea arrive at Castle Black, led by Ser Alliser Thorne, Lord Janos Slynt, and Ser Glendon Hewett. With them also the wildling prisoner Rattleshirt. They try to have Jon Snow executed for treason, but eventually they try to have him killed by making him face their enemies.
The Battle of Castle Black and the Fight at the Bridge of Skulls see many men and women of the Night's Watch, Mole's Town, and the Free Folk killed. Also many Giants and mammoths lose their lives. Mance explains that he has taken possession of a magic horn known as the Horn of Winter that can topple the Wall, and will use it as a last resort if he cannot bypass it militarily. However, Mance reveals that the wildlings, including his own people, have been hunted by the Others and their wights, and are unable to stop them. His true aim therefore is not to destroy the Wall, but to use it as a shield against the Others. The fighting at the Wall is stopped by the sudden arrival of Stannis Baratheon, who takes control of the Wall and captures Mance Rayder and 1,000 wildlings. Varamyr Sixskins is wounded during the battle, since Melisandre burns Orell's eagle that was being used by Varamyr at the same time.
Stannis sends a message to his garrison at Dragonstone, commanding his men to start mining dragonglass in the island to bring it at the Wall. Samwell Tarly shows him the Nightfort.
A Dance With Dragons
The arrival of King Stannis Baratheon forces many wildlings to disperse beyond the Wall. Varamyr Sixskins has lost all his possessions in his madness from experiencing the eagle's death; he has also lost control of his snow bear and shadowcat, but his wolves remain. Varamyr flees together with a small group, hiding his real identity from them and calling himself Haggon. One by one they leave, until only the wildling spearwife Thistle stays with him. Varamyr is stabbed by a boy when he attempts to take a squirrel-skin cloak off of the dead body of the boy's mother, and while Thistle treats his wound, he knows he is dying. He considers skinchanging into another human, taking over their body, but worries he does not have the strength. When Thistle comes to warn him that an army of Others and wights is near and they have to leave, Varamyr tries to take over her body. However, she reacts madly, screaming, tearing out her eyes and biting her own tongue off, expelling him from her mind. Varamyr's body dies, but his mind lives on in his wolf One Eye. From a distance away, he sees that Thistle has become a wight. The wight of Thistle kills Varamyr.
While Stannis is working on an alliance with Jon Snow and the wildlings, the lands beyond the Wall are attacked by many wights. A wildling leader and woods witch known as Mother Mole leads thousands of Free Folk to the abandoned ruined village of Hardhome, once the greatest wildling village who was close to become a town. Mother Mole claims to have a vision of a fleet of ships coming to carry the wildlings away to safety across the narrow sea. Thousands of those who fled the battle are desperate enough to believe her, and follow her. She becomes a spiritual leader of these wildlings and they start to pray for salvation from across the narrow sea from the Others.
Stannis lets Mance's army go on the other side of the Wall, in the lands of the Gift, after they bend the knee to him, but other humans and giants are still beyond the Wall, and the army of the Walkers is slowly marching to south: the mutineers at Craster's Keep are killed by the undead former member of the Night's Watch Coldhands and Craster's wives' fate is unknown, though the latters are safe as they have a deal with the Others, and are actually mothers of White Walkers, thanks to Craster.
Stannis Baratheon wants to protect his realm against the imminent arrival of the army of the dead, but the Boltons and Cersei Lannister are threatening the Night's Watch for supporting him. Stannis decides to lead his army south against Roose Bolton and the ironborn, hoping to unite at least part of the realm, before winter comes. Stannis promises Jon he will return and leaves him to deal with the matter with the wildlings and the Night's Watch. He also leaves Melisandre, Selyse, Shireen, and Ser Axell at the Wall.
Beyond the Wall, a wildling raider known as the Weeper gathered warriors at the river Milkwater, planning to cross the Bridge of Skulls, and take the Shadow Tower commanded by Ser Denys Mallister. Tormund leads four thousands wildlings and they're constantly attacked by the Others.
Jon Snow starts to garrison all the other abandoned castles at the Wall, and sends three groups to ranging beyond the Wall and find the wildlings, led by Alliser Thorne, Black Jack Bulwer, and Kedge Whiteye.
Melisandre sees visions of things beyond the Wall: she sees Hardhome and a future attack of wights and White Walkers (possible forshadowing of the Massacre at Hardhome that already happened in the TV series), the death of many of the rangers beyond the Wall, and the face of Brynden Rivers, the three-eyed-crow (or three-eyed-raven). Black Jack and his other two companions are caught and killed by the Weeper. Their heads are cut off with their eyes plucked out, and are impaled on spears north of Castle Black in the middle of the night. Melisandre warns Jon, that other of the six rangers beyond the Wall will die and return as wights. Alliser Thorne, before leaving, promised to Jon that he will return to Castle Black, alive or as a wight. Thorne and the other rangers disappeared beyond the Wall.
Meanwhile during a ranging, Jon and his men found a wildling group in the Haunted Forest with the giant Wun Wun ( in the show he comes at Castle Black from Hardhome). Jon sends a message to Cotter Pyke, the ironborn in command of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, in which orders him to go to Hardhome with 11 ships and rescue the thousand wildlings and bring them south. 5 ships are wrecked by storms in the sea.
The Lord Commander sends the wildling princess Val, sister of Dalla the late wife of Mance Rayder, beyond the Wall to find Tormund. Later they return and they negotiate peace. Finally Tormund's four thousand wildlings passes the Wall, while the giants and their mammoths passes from Eastwatch-by-Sea. They live in the Gift and help the Watch, also commanding the other ruined castles at the Wall. The Night's Watch is not very happy about it, but they accept it (Jon Snow's death in the books has nothing to do with the wildlings, as is about with the Boltons and Stannis). The Night's Watch and the Free Folk are now allies and work together to prepare themselves for the imminent war against the Others. Lord Commander of the Night's Watch Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane discuss their foe, the Others. Jon asks if the Others troubled the wildlings on their march to the Wall. Tormund informs him that they never came in force, but they were with them all the way.
Before dying during the journey to Oldtown, Maester Aemon thought that Stannis Baratheon is not the real Azor Ahai reborn, and told Sam that Melisandre must be warned of this, as he fears that following Stannis will only lead them all to darkness. Aemon and the Red High Priest of Volantis, Benerro, think that Azor Ahai is actually Daenerys Targaryen. Benerro sends the red priest Moqorro to meet Daenerys at Meereen and convert her to the Faith of R'hllor. Moqorro and Victarion Greyjoy started to make human sacrifices for both the Lord of Light and the Drowned God on their way to Meereen.
When Cotter Pyke arrives at Hardhome with six ships left, the situation has grown desperate. Wildings are eating their own dead and there are wights are massing in the forest and coming from the sea. Slavers have already taken some of the wildlings, women and children. The desperate wildlings didn't know they were slavers and begged them to take their wives and daughters away from Hardhome. The slavers took them with their 2 ships, meaning to sell them as slaves in Essos. One ship is most likely on it's way to Qarth or Slaver's Bay, while the other ship made it to Braavos where the Sealord of Braavos, Ferrego Antaryon has taken the ship and the wildlings, as slavery is illegal in Braavos. The rest of the wildlings are with Cotter Pyke and are currently surrounded by wights. The wildlings try to take the ship Storm Crow by force which costs Cotter six of his crew. Cotter sends a raven to plead for help via land from Jon, since traveling by the sea is far too dangerous. Jon was preparing to go with Tormund at Hardhome to save the Free Folk, but this changed after her receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton, declaring that Stannis Baratheon died in battle outside Winterfell and that he has Mance Rayder has a hostage. Tormund agrees that he will lead the ranging on Hardhome.
The Others appear in the prologue to AGoT as tall and gaunt with flesh pale as milk and blue eyes, deeper and bluer than human eyes, burning like ice, while the White Walker who married the Night's King is similarly described as having skin as pale as the moon and eyes like blue stars.
They wear reflective armor that shifts in color with every step rather like the stealth armor once said to have been worn by the Children of the Forest. The go lightly on the snow and leave no prints to mark their passage. They appear to be superior swordsmen, wielding thin crystal swords said to be so cold as to shatter any object they touch, including the steel blades favored by the Night's Watch.
Their language is unknown, although it may be the Old Tongue. When one spoke in the prologue his voice was said to sound like the cracking of ice, but this was probably a figure of speech. The wildlings believe the Others and their Wights can smell life, or rather its warmth.
The old stories reveal uncertainty whether the Others come when it is cold or that it becomes cold when they appear, during snowstorms or mist and melt away when the skies clear. They hide from the light of the sun and emerge at night; although once again some stories claim that their coming brings the night.
There are tales of their riding the corpses of dead animals such as bears, direwolves, mammoths, and horses, The Other that Samwell Tarly slays is riding Mawney’s dead horse. Hoarfrost covers it like a sheen of frozen sweat, and a nest of stiff black entrails drag from its open belly. On its back is a rider as pale as ice. The Others can be accompanied by "ice spiders" as big as hounds.
Melisandre thinks that Others are servants of the Great Other, allegedly an evil god of darkness, cold, and death who wages eternal war against R'hilor.
The Others have a few known weaknesses that are recorded in ancient texts. One is obsidian, otherwise called dragonglass or "frozen fire". When Samwell Tarly accidentally stabbed an Other with an obsidian dagger, its flesh and bones melted away leaving only an icy puddle. Ancient texts also record a weakness to "dragonsteel", which several have taken to be Valyrian steel. Mance Rayder expressed belief that magic wards in the Wall prevent the Others from crossing into the Seven Kingdoms.
- The White Walkers are similar to the Cy-Bugs from Wreck-it-Ralph: While they serve as the most dangerous threats in the entire scope of things, they mostly stay in their realms unless or until they're either released or decide to leave it (in which case, they could very well endanger the entire world).