The Night King was the master and the first of the White Walkers, having existed since the age of the First Men. He was also the supreme leader of the Army of the Dead.
The Night King was a First Man who was captured by a tribe of the Children of the Forest. Leaf, who was among the group, pressed a dragon glass dagger into his chest, causing his eyes to turn blue and turning him into the first of the White Walkers. Thousands of years later, Leaf tells Bran Stark that her people created the White Walkers to defend themselves when Westeros was invaded by the First Men, who were cutting their sacred trees down and slaughtering the Children of the Forest.
However, the White Walkers soon turned on their creators and began what was known as the Long Night. Though the Long Night ended upon the First Men and Children’s victory in the War for the Dawn, the Night King survived and retreated with the rest of his forces to the Lands of Always Winter, where they hid as they faded into legend and obscurity.
The Night King is a legendary figure, known by name among, at least, some noble houses in the North.
The Night King first appears in a vision that Bran Stark has when Bran communes with a Weirwood Heart tree. He experiences a flood of images from the past, present, and future, many of which he was not physically present for. He does not comprehend what all of these images are but, in retrospect, one of them is an image of the Night King picking up the last of Craster’s sons off an ice altar.
After Rast places Craster’s final son on the ground in the Haunted Forest, a White Walker takes the baby to a shattered mountain in the Lands of Always Winter, placing the baby on an icy altar ringed by large icy spikes. A group of thirteen black-garbed White Walkers are revealed to be viewing the proceedings from afar. One of them breaks from the middle of their number and approaches the altar, stopping to regard the human child for a moment before gently gathering him in its arms. The baby immediately calms, staring into the face of the Night King. He places his index finger upon the baby’s cheek, causing the child’s eyes to turn icy blue and its skin to grow pale: most likely the fate of Craster’s other sons.
The Night King appears again when Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane are coordinating the evacuation of Hard home. Along with an assemble of White Walkers, he observes the attack from one of the cliffs above the town as Jon slays one of his lieutenants with Long claw, a Valyrian steel sword. The Night King looks on this turn of events with mild interest, shocked at his meaningful resistance. As Jon, Tormund and the remaining defenders leave on a boat, the Night King appears on the dock and locks eyes with Jon. With a mere raise of his arms, the Night King raises the entirety of Hard home’s erstwhile defenders as wights, and keeps his gaze upon Jon as the boat slips away.
The Night King appears in one of Bran Stark’s visions, where he witnesses him as a human being transformed into a White Walker by the Children of the Forest, notably among them Leaf. She explains after his vision that they had to do it because they were at war with the First Men.
Later, Bran makes the risky decision to experience a vision on his own, and finds himself looking at an army of wights and the Night King and other White Walkers at the back. Bran walks closer and is shocked to see that the Night King notices his presence. Bran wakes up screaming after the Night King suddenly appears right next to him and grabs his arm.
The Three-Eyed Raven says that the Night King touched him, which Bran confirms when a blue hand-mark is seen on his forearm. The Three-Eyed Raven says because of that mark, the Night King now knows exactly where they are, and the cave cannot protect them any more.
The Night King and his army quickly travel to the cave, preceded by their aura of cold, a signal to the Children of the Forest and Meera Reed. The Children of the Forest prepare their scarce defences outside of the cave, but are quickly overrun and they are forced to retreat back to the tunnels. The Night King sends his army of wights to attack the tunnels, and they kill most of the Children and Summer, though Bran, Meera Reed, and Hodor manage to escape the cavern through a back tunnel. One of the other White Walkers is killed by a dragon glass tipped spear thrown by Meera.
The Night King enters the cavern, and glares at the green seeing Three-Eyed Raven, his natural arch-nemesis as the memory of the Known World, before he kills him with his falx. He then sends the rest of his wights to kill Leaf and eventually Hodor, who attempts to stop the wights from going further by sacrificing himself to hold the door. While Meera drags Bran through the snow, Bran sees visions of the Night King converting Craster’s last son into a White Walker, leading a massive attack on Hard home, and branding him with his mark.
In the aftermath of his victory at Winterfell and the confirmation from the Citadel that winter has come through white ravens, Jon Snow tells the gathered lords of the North and the Vale who wish to return home following Ramsay Bolton’s defeat to prepare for winter. He warns that the war is not over after Cley Cerwyn suggests it is with the defeat of House Bolton, alluding to the Night King as their true enemy, warning that the Night King won’t wait out the winter storms, because he is the one who brings the storm.
The Night King is shown leading his army of wights and White Walkers south, departing the Lands of Always Winter and heading towards the Wall at last.
Sansa Stark and Jon Snow later discuss who the more dangerous enemy is, Cersei Lannister or the Night King, as well as the fact that the Wall still separates humanity from the White Walkers.
Meanwhile, Despite her obsession with defeating Cersei Lannister, who sits the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targaryen, a royal exile who has begun her war for Westeros, is told by Jon Snow, who has traveled to Dragon stone, that she will only be ruling a graveyard if the Night King attacks, as he is the true enemy.
Jon takes Daenerys down into the caves on Dragon stone after she agrees to allow he and his people to mine the dragon glass beneath Dragon stone. However, Jon has something much more important in mind: showing her the ancient carvings by the Children of the Forest on the rocks, which depict the Children of the Forest and the First Men fighting the White Walkers together. One of these carvings strongly resembles the Night King leading the White Walkers.
When Bran Stark wargs into a flock of ravens, he flies them beyond the Wall to spy on the army of the dead. He finds the Night King himself leading them, flanked by some of his lieutenants. When the Night King looks up, the ravens disperse, and Bran is pulled out of the warging. He urges Maester Wolkan to send ravens across Westeros informing the high lords that the Night King is on the move to East watch by the Sea.
The Night King is present when the wights battle Jon Snow at the Wight Hunt, who traveled beyond the Wall with a band of warriors to attempt to capture a wight to use as proof for the gathered high lords of Westeros. Remembering their encounter from Hard home, the Night King keeps his gaze on Jon for some time. Beric Dondarrion suggests trying to kill the Night King; as they know, killing a White Walker kills any and all wights it raised, so killing the Night King might destroy every such monster under his command, putting an end to the Great War before it truly begins. Jon dismisses the plan, however, arguing that trying to fight their way through the wights to reach the Night King would be suicide.
When Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons come and attempt to rescue Jon and his group, the Night King hurls an ice spear towards Viserion, piercing the young dragon straight through the neck. Viserion crashes down to the frozen lake, sinking beneath the icy waters. The King keeps his gaze on the enraged Jon, who appears on the verge of calling him down to fight directly, but his lieutenant hands him another spear. The Night King throws it at Drogon, but the dragon takes flight and dodges in time. The Night King later has his wights haul Viserion’s corpse out of the water.
Once that is accomplished, the Night King kneels in front of the dragon’s snout, placing a hand upon him. Moments later, Viserion is reanimated as his eyes open, now a depthless, icy blue. The mounted White Walkers lead the gathered army of the dead out of the Haunted Forest to the Wall, gathering in force at East watch by the Sea. Riding the reanimated Viserion, the Night King breaches the Wall, burning it until part of the icy fortification collapses, destroying the castle and allowing the White Walkers and their wight army to invade Westeros once more while the Night King flies overhead towards the North.
Led by the Night King, the White Walkers quickly advance south and attack Last Hearth, massacring the population and adding them to the army of the dead. Ned Umber is found pinned to a wall in the middle of severed arms arranged in a spiral, which Beric Dondarrion deduces is a message from the Night King himself.
Winterfell prepares its defences against the Night King. At a war council, Jon Snow suggests going after the Night King, referring to Beric Dondarrion’s earlier plan during the Wight Hunt. Bran Stark, as the new Three-Eyed Raven, offers to use himself as bait to draw out the Night King and lure him into a trap. Bran explains that the Night King will come after him because he wants to “erase [the] world, and the [Three-Eyed Raven] is its memory.” When the Battle of Winterfell begins, the Night King directs his forces from Viserion in the skies above Winterfell, his lieutenants placed along the outlying forest. During the battle, Bran wargs into several ravens to find him and lure him out of hiding.
After directing his wights to move through Winterfell’s trenches, which were lit on fire in an attempt to prevent the army of the dead from advancing, the Night King engages in a fierce aerial duel with Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen on their own dragons, Rhaegal and Drogon, respectively, pursuing Daenerys on Drogon with Viserion’s blue flame. The Night King flies down and blasts a hole in Winterfell using Viserion by burning down some of its walls, but is suddenly attacked by Jon on Rhaegal, who fights with the dead Viserion.
Before the Night King can kill them both, Daenerys flies in on Drogon and knocks into Viserion. The Night King falls from his mount, landing hundreds of feet below. Circling back, Daenerys sees the Night King standing below. On her command Drogon blasts him with dragon fire, but when the flames clear, to her horror the Night King stands unscathed. Smirking, he hurls an ice spear at Drogon, but Daenerys flies off to avoid it. Meanwhile Rhaegal, injured from his fight with Viserion, collapses into the ground, and Jon Snow tumbles off of him.
Jon charges at the Night King as he is walking towards the breached walls at Winterfell, but the Night King becomes aware of him, turns, and calmly raises his arms to resurrect the corpses littered around them as wights. The dead all around the castle rise as well, and a new wave of fresh wights surges toward the defenders within. Even those buried in Winterfell’s crypts awake, smash through the walls and attack the non-combatants huddled there.
Jon, surrounded by fresh wights, is held off while the Night King continues to pursue his target: the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran Stark. The Night King enters the gods wood of Winterfell alongside other White Walkers as the wights finish off the remaining iron born defending Bran. Theon Greyjoy charges at the Night King, but the Night King stops Theon’s charge, breaks his spear, and impales him, killing him. The Night King then walks up to the Three-Eyed Raven and glares at Bran as he begins to draw his ice blade to kill him.
Suddenly, Arya Stark flies at the Night King from behind with her Valyrian steel dagger. The Night King reacts in time, turning and grabbing her knife arm while seizing her by the throat with his other hand. But Arya has one more assassin’s trick up her sleeve: she drops the dagger, catching it with her other hand and plunging it into the Night King, causing him to explode into shards of ice. His death starts a chain reaction as the other White Walkers shatter in the same manner and all of the wights in the army of the dead collapse to the ground.
The Night King’s death marks the ending of the Battle of Winterfell and the entire Great War with the living victorious. With the destruction of the Night King, the White Walkers become extinct and the Long Night is forever prevented from returning.
- Sam: “What does he want?”
- Bran: “An endless night. He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory.”
- — Samwell Tarly and Bran Stark on the Night King’s motivations
Little is known about his characteristics and traits before becoming the Night King, although he reacted with fear when Leaf plunged a shard of dragon glass into his chest. After becoming the Night King, he became nothing more than an emotionless killer with his only goal appearing to be to kill all in his path and add to his army, staying true to his nature as the first White Walker and being the ultimate embodiment of death.
Despite this, he did display some emotion at times. He appeared quite pleased when he picked up Craster’s last son and transformed him into a new White Walker. He looked at Jon Snow with mild interest when one of his lieutenants fell at Jon’s hand. He was incredibly sadistic and bloodthirsty, directing Jon Snow’s attention to the freshly slaughtered wildling’s before raising them to add to his army, holding his gaze in order to intimidate Jon Snow. When overwhelming Leaf and the other Children of the Forest at the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven, the Night King smirked, possibly amused at the prospect of slaughtering his former captors and creators. Later, at the Battle of Winterfell, the Night King again smirked at Daenerys and Jon’s attempts to destroy him with dragon fire and Valyrian steel.
Despite his powers, he is not overconfident in his abilities and is capable of self-preservation, knowing his death ends his campaign. He does not take part in the massacre at Hard home. When Jon Snow attempted to confront the Night King, the latter, having seen Jon’s means and skills to kill White Walkers first hand, refuses to fight him and raises wights to deal with Jon.
The Night King appears to have some sense of honour when it comes to single combat. He accepted Theon’s challenge to fight him and killed Theon himself, despite being able to allow his White Walkers and wights to kill Theon if he so chose, though it may be because he knew he could easily defeat Theon.
One aspect of the Night King’s personality is his strong hatred for Three-Eyed Ravens, their powers being a representation of what he wants to destroy, having tried to kill them multiple times. His hate is so strong that he personally led the attack on the cave and refused to allow his White Walkers and wights to kill the previous Three-Eyed Raven, committing the deed himself. The living used this hatred against the Night King to bait him, for Bran warging into ravens to the Night King led to the latter personally attacking Winterfell.
Powers and abilities
The Night King possessed a number of supernatural powers or abilities – it is not, at present, clear how many of these were unique to him, or if other White Walkers possessed some of these.
- Along with his race, the Night King was a being of pure ice and cold, and thus could freeze anywhere he went and anything he touched.
- White Walker conversion
- The Night King could turn male human babies into White Walkers by pressing the tip of his finger to the baby’s cheek. The child’s skin would begin to pale and its eyes would turn the same blue as the other White Walkers.
- The Night King could raise and reanimate unburnt corpses as wights. He did not require physical contact to do so, and could raise thousands of wights at a single time just by lifting his arms.
- Enhanced strength
- Although he had not been observed engaging in single combat, the Night King possessed the same inhuman strength that other White Walkers exhibited, as he was strong enough to throw an ice spear a distance of at least a mile, with enough force to kill Viserion.
- Enhanced Durability
- After he was knocked off his mount, Viserion, by Drogon, the Night King fell hundreds of feet below towards the ground but did not suffer any injuries as a result.
- Weapon shattering
- The Night King’s touch could presumably shatter regular metal weapons, as with most White Walkers.
- The Night King could mark someone so that he would know exactly where that person was, and no magical boundary could stop him from pursuing a person so marked. He proved this when he marked Bran immediately prior to the battle at the Cave of the Three-Eyed Raven.
- Minor seismic control
- The Night King could cause fissures in the ground.
- Detecting wargs
- The Night King seemed to be able to sense when animals are controlled by a warg, just like he was able to spot Bran in his vision. When Bran was scouting beyond the wall using a flock of ravens, the Night King stared at the ravens and Bran was pulled out of his warging immediately. It was not immediately clear whether this was because the Night King could sense Bran due to his mark, or if he could do this to any warg.
- Fire Immunity
- Just as with the White Walkers under his control, the Night King was immune to fire due to the extreme cold he radiated. During the Wight Hunt, he was seen walking through a wall of dragon fire unharmed, his mere presence causing it to flicker and go out. He was also completely unharmed by direct dragon fire, as he showed no signs of damage or weakness after being completely engulfed in Drogon’s flames during the Battle of Winterfell.
- Dragon riding
- Despite having no connection to the Valyrian bloodline and little to no practice, the Night King appeared to be fully capable of riding a dragon with little risk of falling off, though this could have been attributed to him having mental control over his steed, the undead dragon Viserion, who he personally killed and then resurrected as a wight.
- Prolonged Life
- The Night King was created by the Children of the Forest during the Wars of the First Men and the Children of the Forest and remained alive for about 10,000 years. It can be assumed the magic that transformed him also gave him his longevity.
- Weather manipulation
- The Night King could create massive blizzards, as shown in the Battle of Winterfell. He used this blizzard to instantly extinguish Drogon and Rhaegal’s dragon fire.