Winter is here. And it brought a mysterious and bloodthirsty race of Ice Warriors with it.
WARNING: SPOILERS AND SPECULATION AHEAD! PROCEED WITH CAUTION!
But who is the King of the White Walkers? Where did he come from? What does he want? Theories abound, but one stands out from the crowd. Using both the books of “A Song of Ice and Fire” and the companion handbook “The World of Ice and Fire,” a picture emerges of an ancient battle between the Avatars of Ice and Fire.
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That guy up there? That”s the Night”s King. Let”s just dispense with the idea that he could be anyone else. HBO accidentally confirmed as much last year. Knowing that, things become…interesting.
Based on legend, the Night”s King was the 13th Commander of the Night”s Watch in an era of Westeros history known as the Age of Heroes. Much like our own mythology around King Arthur, the heroes of this long ago time are assigned the hallmarks of modern knights – chivalry and a hierarchy – despite the people in question living thousands of years before the Targaryen rulers or even the Andals landed in Westeros. Basically, the Night”s King lived during a time when the Children of the Forest were plentiful, weirwood trees peppered the earth, and all manner of magic and myth were reality.
The Night”s King fell in love with a woman who was beautiful, with “skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars.” Going off this description, she was a White Walker. The Night”s King wedded and bedded her and brought her back to the Nightfort where they declared themselves king and queen. Their bloody and terrible reign lasted for 13 years. During that time, the Night's King used “sorcery” to bend his former Brothers to his will and sacrifices were made to the Others – much as Crastor was doing with his own children. The Night”s King may have been the one who had steps hewed straight into the Wall and set up a secret passage from the Nightfort to the lands of the Wildlings, assumedly to bolster the White Walker numbers. It was only when the Stark King and the King-Beyond-The-Wall joined forces that they were able to defeat the Night”s King and strike all records of his identity from annals of history. No one knows what happened to his Queen.
But Old Nan”s tales say the Night”s King was no Bolton or lesser bannerman to the King in the North, but the brother to the King himself. Making the Night”s King a Stark of Winterfell. Turns out the Starks of the Night's Watch have a long sordid history of defection and leadership of unlikely allies.
Whether the current Night”s King is the same as the legends of yore or merely his descendant, another Stark of Winterfell is coming home to claim his birthright.
But why now?
Because the world is vulnerable. Martin has alluded to the fact that magic has been bleeding out of the world for quite some time. Dragons were being born smaller and smaller until eventually they went extinct. Almost as soon as that happened, the Winter began encroaching. With the weirwoods mostly gone and the Children of the Forest in hiding, who is there to protect the realms of man? The show hasn”t yet gone to the Citadel but the implication from the books is the Maesters are dead set on keeping Westeros magic-free. “The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons.”
While Dany”s dragons, Dondarrion”s multiple resurrections, and the direwolves indicate the magical ecosystem is beginning to heal, summer is long gone and men have become soft and complacent in the millennia since the Long Night. No one remembers the true purpose of Valyrian steel or the “monkey-tailed” (most likely dragon-tailed) woman who helped (or was) Azor Ahai, defeating the White Walkers thousands of years before written history.
If a Night”s King was waiting for the opportune moment to conquer the world, now is the time.