Game of Thrones Season 8: Who Is the Night King?

Tonight's Game of Thrones will feature the Battle of Winterfell. This will be the epic clash between the Night King's army of White Walkers and wights against the forces of Westeros. Since this may be the climactic finale for the Night King, now seems like a good time to look back at what we know about the mysterious villain.

First, we should clarify that the Night King of Game of Thrones is not the same character as the Night's King from the A Song of Ice and Fire books. In the books, the Night's King is a lord commander of the Night's Watch who was seduced and corrupted by a female White Walker (called Others in the books). He ruled the Night's Watch as his own dark, corrupt kingdom for 13 years. Then the King of the North and the King-Beyond-the-Wall joined forces to overthrow him. Author George RR Martin has confirmed that this version of the Night's King is a figure of legend who is not related to the Night King of Game of Thrones.

The Night King's origin was revealed through one of Bran Stark's three-eye-raven visions. In the vision, Bran sees the Children of the Forest perform a ritual on one of the First Men that turns the man into the first White Walker, the Night King. Leaf was one of the Children of the Forest who performed the ritual. She later tells Bran that the White Walkers were created to fight the First Men, invaders who were killing the Children and their sacred trees.

The White Walkers, under the Night King's leadership, turned on their creators. The Night King instituted the Long Night, a generation-long, dark winter that consumed the world. This led to the War of the Dawn. The Children of the Forest allied with the First Men to defeat the Night King and drive him and the other White Walkers back to the Land of Always Winter. The Wall was built with magical enchantments to keep the White Walkers out of Westeros. The Night King has remained in the Land of Always Winter for thousands of years as he and the White Walkers faded from memory and became the stuff of folklore and legends.

The Night King has survived and bolstered his numbers by taking the children of those who live beyond-the-wall. How many children is unknown, but one example is Craster, who lived beyond-the-wall and sacrificed his own newborn sons to the White Walkers. One of the White Walkers would come and retrieve each newborn child. The Walker would bring the child back to the Land of Always Winter where the Night King's touch would transform the child into a White Walker.

The Night King has some kind of connection to the Three-Eyed Raven. When Bran attempted to use his powers to spy on the Night King, the Night King saw Bran and marked him. Now the Night King is able to track Bran's location at all times. According to Bran, The Night King seeks to wipe out all life and the world's very existence. The Night King will seek out the Three-Eyed Raven, the living memory of the world itself, to complete his mission.

The Night King also seems to view Jon Snow as a rival, having locked eyes with Jon on several occasions. This may have to do with the prophecy of Azor Ahai, involving the rebirth of the heroic Prince That Was Promised who once vanquished the Great Other.

Like other White Walkers, an aura of cold surrounds the Night King making him resistant to fire. This may even extend to protection from dragon's fire. No one has gotten close enough to him to test how Valyrian steel or dragonglass does against him. And, like other White Walkers, he can reanimate the dead and turn them into mindless servants called wights. He did this to Viserion, one of Danys' dragons, after killing the creature with an ice spear. The Night King rode the dragon and used its fire to burn down the Wall, breaking the enchantments that once kept the White Walkers out of Westeros. Some wonder if the Night's King's ability to ride a dragon, as well as some other clues, means he is a Targaryen, or even Jon Snow's father, though that would conflict with accounts of him being one of the First Men.

Are you excited about the Battle of Winterfell? Let us know in the comments. Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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