Others

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The Others ‎- © 2012 John Picacio

The Others, also known as white walkers,[1] cold gods and white shadows,[2] are a species of humanoid beings that exist in the north beyond the Wall. As they have not been seen for eight thousand years, they are considered to be extinct.

Appearance and Characteristics

See also: Images of the Others

The Others are tall and gaunt, with flesh pale as milk.[3] They have cold blue eyes that have been described as burning like ice,[3] or being as bright as blue stars.[2] Others have pale blue blood and shiny bones like milkglass.[4]

According to George R. R. Martin, the Others "are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous."[5] Further, although Old Nan describes the Others as "dead things",[6] Martin has stated that the Others are not dead.[5] However, the Night's King's queen, presumably an Other due to her blue eyes and pale skin, is described as a "corpse queen" on account of her white, cold skin.[7][8]

Blue-eyed Other gripping the pommel of a crystal sword - by Marc Simonetti ©

The Others wear delicate, reflective, camouflaging armor that shifts in color with every step.[3] According to comic book artist Tommy Patterson, Martin told him that "the reflective, camouflaging armor" is able to pick up "the images of the things around it like a clear, still pond."

The Others appear to be superior swordsmen, wielding thin crystal swords.[3] The pale swords are extremely sharp, capable of moving through ringmail as if it is silk.[3] The swords are alive with moonlight and have a faint blue glow to them.[3][4] When the sword touches a steel blade, only a high, thin sound, similar to an animal screaming in pain, can be heard instead of the sound of metal on metal.[3] When the blades brush the flames of a torch, a screech as sharp as a needle can be heard.[4] When asked what substance the swords of the Others are made from, Martin answered "Ice. But not like regular old ice. The Others can do things with ice that we can't imagine and make substances of it."[9] The blades the Others use seem to be rather cold; They are able to cover a metal blade in frost, and shatter a steel blade.[3][10]

The Others are capable of resurrecting dead men or creatures as wights.[11] Only burning the bodies of the deceased can prevent the Others from resurrecting them.[10] Martin has refused to answer whether or not the Others control these resurrected people and animals in the same way a warg or skinchanger can control an animal.[12] There are tales of Others riding the corpses of dead animals such as bears, direwolves, mammoths, and horses.[10] Some tales also speak of Others riding "giant ice spiders".[10]

The Others go lightly on the snow and leave no prints to mark their passage.[4][13] Their movements can be lightning quick and graceful.[4] Extreme cold accompanies them,[3][4] but it is unknown whether the Others only come when it is so cold, or whether they bring the cold with them.[14][10] White mist also rises when they are near.[15] They might appear during snowstorms or mist, and melt away when the skies clear.[10] They hide from the light of the sun and emerge at night;[10][16][15] although once again some stories claim that their coming brings the night.[10] They are said also hate iron and fire.[6] The language the Others speak is unknown, but has been described as sounding like "the cracking of ice on a winter lake", and their laughter as being as sharp as icicles.[3]

According to Old Nan, the Others hate "every creature with hot blood in its veins".[6] Stannis Baratheon calls them "demons made of ice and snow and cold".[17] Melisandre, a priestess of R'hllor, believes that the Others are the "cold children" of the Great Other,[17] allegedly an evil god of darkness, cold, and death who wages eternal war against R'hllor.[18] According to Tommy Patterson, "[Martin] spoke a lot about what [the Others] were not, but what they were was harder to put into words."[5] The wildlings believe the Others and their wights can smell life, or rather its warmth.[19] According to the stories of Old Nan, the wildlings give the women they steal from the Seven Kingdoms to the Others, and used to lay with the Others during the Long Night to birth half-human children.[20] According to his wives, the wildling Craster leaves his sons for the Others, who he calls "the gods", come the "white cold", and, when he does not have any sons to give, gives them sheep.[2] Craster's wives believe that Craster's sons become Others as well.[14] Craster calls himself a godly man, and as such believes he does not have to fear any attacks from the Others or their wights.[14]

The Others have a few known weaknesses that are recorded in ancient texts. One is obsidian,[10] otherwise called dragonglass[21] or "frozen fire".[17] Ancient texts also record a weakness to "dragonsteel",[10] which some think may be Valyrian steel.[10] When asked about the ability of Valyrian steel to kill an Other, Martin simply replied that "the Night's Watch would like to know as well".[22] Fire is known to dismay the Others.[10] Mance Rayder and his wife Dalla believe that the Wall prevents the Others from crossing into the Seven Kingdoms.[23]

History

See also: Long Night, and Night's Watch
Other or white walker. Art by Rene Aigner©

According to legend, the Others came from the Lands of Always Winter six or eight thousand years ago, and brought with them cold and darkness that lasted a generation: the Long Night. They resurrected dead men and animals to serve them.[6] In the Battle for the Dawn, they were finally defeated, by the first men of the Night's Watch and the children of the forest, an alliance made possible by the last hero.[24][8] When asked whether there was a closer relationship between the Others and the children of the forest than there thus far has seemed to be, Martin replied that it was possible, and that the topic would be explored later on in the story.[25]

The Night's King, the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, is said to have married a woman with pale skin and blue eyes, matching the description of the Others. Reportedly, she was a sorceress. He brought her to the Nightfort, where he proclaimed himself king and her his queen, and bound his Sworn Brothers in the Night's Watch to his will. After a thirteen-year reign, he was defeated by Brandon the Breaker, King of Winter, and Joramun, King-Beyond-the-Wall, after which it was discovered that he had been sacrificing to the Others.[7][8]

In his Lies of the Ancients Archmaester Fomas speculates that the Others were a tribe of the First Men who had been living in the far north. Fomas suggests that the Long Night pressured these men, the ancestors of the current wildlings, to migrate south. Over the years, they became more and more monstrous in the telling of the tales about them, because the Night's Watch and the Starks wanted to seem heroic. However, Lies of the Ancients is little regarded nowadays, as it contains erroneous claims about Valyria, the Reach, and the westerlands.[24]

The Wall was built to protect the people of the realms in Westeros from the threats of the north,[8] specifically the Others.[26] However, the Others have not been seen since the Long Night ended, and are now regarded as nothing more than fairy tales to frighten the little children.[4] Some people believe they never existed at all.[27] They are often mentioned in curses, such as "The Others take his eyes."[20]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Ser Waymar Royce discovers the Others - by Amok ©

During a ranging beyond the Wall, Ser Waymar Royce is confronted by a group of at least five Others who speak an icy language. Waymar duels one of the Others, but the ranger is blinded when his sword shatters. The laughing group butchers Waymar, who then rises as a wight to slay Will.[3]

Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, in conversation with Tyrion Lannister at Castle Black, refers to white walkers being glimpsed by fisherfolk on the shore near Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Tyrion discounts them, however, by mentioning mythical merlings.[28]

Old Nan tells Bran Stark about the Long Night, when white walkers moved through woods.[6]

Traveling in the wolfswood, Bran encounters six wildlings and deserters from the Night's Watch, who discuss whether to take the boy hostage and return north to sell him to Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Out of fear for encountering the white walkers, one of the men decides not to do so.[29]

A Clash of Kings

At Craster's Keep, Gilly tells Jon Snow that Craster gives up his infant sons to the cold gods; Jon determines she is speaking of the Others.[2]

A Storm of Swords

Samwell Tarly with an obsidian dagger - by Amok ©

Encamped at the Fist of the First Men, the Night's Watch hear three horn blasts signifying Others. The brothers are then attacked by wights in the fight at the Fist.[30][4]

While the survivors retreat through the haunted forest back to Craster's Keep, an Other knocks away Grenn's torch and kills Small Paul. Samwell Tarly stabs it in the throat with a dragonglass dagger, however, and Sam hears a sound similar to the cracking of ice beneath one's foot. The Other's armor, flesh, and bones melt away as a result, dissolving away until nothing remains.[4] [4] Sam is dubbed Sam the Slayer, which he finds mocking.[14][31]

During the mutiny at Craster's Keep, one of Craster's wives warns Sam that Craster's sons will soon arrive for Gilly's newborn boy.[14]

At the parley during the Battle of Castle Black, Mance Rayder reveals to Jon that he is trying to lead the free folk south of the Wall to protect them from the Others and their wights.[23]

A Feast for Crows

Sam finds limited information about the Others while researching in the library of Castle Black.[10]

A Dance with Dragons

Jon Snow, now the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and Tormund discuss their common foe, the Others, when Tormund's four thousand wildlings cross the Wall. Jon asks if the Others troubled the wildlings on their march to the Wall, and Tormund informs him that the Others had been with them all the way, though they never attacked the free folk in force.[15]

Game of Thrones

White Walker as depicted in Game of Thrones

There are notable differences between the Others in the novels and HBO's television adaptation, Game of Thrones. In the television adaptation, the Others are known only as White Walkers. In the audio commentary for "Winter Is Coming", producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss explained that the change was made to avoid confusion that may arise between references to the race known as the Others and "others" meaning other groups or people within the show. Additionally, George R. R. Martin has stated that the change was decided upon early in the development process to avoid confusion with the Others from ABC's show Lost, the mysterious inhabitants of the island on which that show mostly takes place.[32]

Unlike the strange beauty Martin describes them as having in the book series, the White Walkers of Game of Thrones are depicted with frightening, emaciated appearances. In Valar Morghulis, the tenth and final episode of the second season, Others appear looking like undead men without skin, their bones and muscles white from ice and snow. Their eyes are bright blue. They wear little armor and no camouflage.[33] In "Oathkeeper", several White Walkers appear dressed all in black.[34]

The language spoken by the Others, unnamed in the book series, is called Skroth in the TV series.[35][36] Although it was created for the first episode of Season 1 by David J. Peterson, it was eventually not used. The language has been described to sound "ice-cracking" and "pretty scratchy".[35][36]

The leader of the White Walkers is known as the Night King in Game of Thrones. He is first seen in "Oathkeeper", transforming Craster's last son,[34] and next in the Season 5 episode "Hardhome". He differs in appearance by having a ring of small icy horns atop his skull that form a natural crown.[37] The synopsis for "Oathkeeper" on the HBO Viewer's Guide originally listed this specific character as the Night's King, a legendary figure that has been mentioned a few times in the novels, though this was later removed. It is unknown whether this was due to an error in identification or the fact that this would be a major spoiler.

While in the novels, the backstory of the Others has barely been revealed, the Season 6 episode "The Door" has Bran Stark seeing a vision of the children of the forest creating an Other from a captured First Man, in an attempt to create a defense against the invasion of the First Men.[38]

Quotes

The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.[39]
- thoughts of Will


The Others are as dead as the children of the forest, gone eight thousand years. Maester Luwin will tell you they never lived at all. No living man has ever seen one.[40]
Eddard Stark to Catelyn Stark


If the Others ever come for us, I pray they have archers, because you lot are fit for nothing more than arrow fodder.[41]
Alliser Thorne, to the Night's Watch recruits


The Others are only a story, a tale to make children shiver. If they ever lived at all, they are gone eight thousand years.[11]
Jon Snow's thoughts


The cold gods. The ones in the night. The white shadows.[2]
Gilly to Jon Snow


The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows, the monsters of the tales that made him squeak and tremble as a boy, riding their giant ice-spiders, hungry for blood ...[4]
- Samwell Tarly's thoughts


A godly man got no cause to fear such. I said as much to that Mance Rayder once, when he come sniffing round. He never listened, no more'n you crows with your swords and your bloody fires. That won't help you none when the white cold comes. Only the gods will help you then. You best get right with the gods.[14]
- Craster to the Night's Watch


Melisandre: Necromancy animates these wights, yet they are still only dead flesh. Steel and fire will serve for them. The ones you call the Others are something more.

Stannis: Demons made of snow and ice and cold. The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters.[17]

Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon to Samwell Tarly


They're never far, you know. They won't come out by day, not when that old sun's shining, but don't think that means they went away. Shadows never go away. Might be you don't see them, but they're always clinging to your heels.[15]
- Tormund to Jon Snow

References

  1. The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: The Coming of the First Men.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 A Game of Thrones, Prologue.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 18, Samwell I.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch.
  9. "Interview with the Dragon" Copyright © 2003 Robert Shaw.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  11. 11.0 11.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 52, Jon VII.
  12. So Spake Martin: Conjose (August 29, 2002)
  13. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 58, Jon XII.
  16. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 78, Samwell V.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 25, Davos III.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 46, Samwell III.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
  21. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 43, Arya VIII.
  22. So Spake Martin: Magic, the Darrys, and POVs (February 28, 2002)
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
  24. 24.0 24.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
  25. So Spake Martin: Asshai.com Interview in Barcelona (July 28, 2012)
  26. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
  27. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard I.
  28. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 21, Tyrion III.
  29. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran V.
  30. A Storm of Swords, Prologue.
  31. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 75, Samwell IV.
  32. So Spake Martin: Stockholm and Archipelacon Report (June 28, 2015)
  33. Game of Thrones, Season 2, "Valar Morghulis".
  34. 34.0 34.1 Game of Thrones, Season 4, "Oathkeeper".
  35. 35.0 35.1 Entertainment Weekly: 'Game of Thrones': How producers pulled off 'Blackwater' (May 27, 2012)
  36. 36.0 36.1 ‘Game of Thrones’ language creator explains why White Walkers don’t speak
  37. Game of Thrones, Season 5, "Hardhome".
  38. Game of Thrones, Season 6, "The Door".
  39. A Game of Thrones, Prologue.
  40. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  41. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.

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