Something is rotten in the state of Westeros. After years of whispers and half-seen ice zombies, Game of Thrones unveiled the Night’s King in all his power and glory. But the question remained: Who was this man (ice lich?) and why is he amassing an army of the undead? We still don’t know the answers to those questions, but in Episode 5 of this season — “The Door” — we got step closer to the truth. Or are we? Something in this timeline just doesn’t add up.


During his last controlled trip to the past, Bran Stark came across a group of Children of the Forest doing something awful. They had tied a man to a weirwood tree and proceeded to shove dragon glass (obsidian) into his heart. The effect was instantaneous; the human’s eyes turned icy blue. He had become a White Walker! The Children of the Forest were the architects of the most devastating supernatural plague in Known World. All because they needed a weapon to protect themselves from the encroachment of men. But this doesn’t fit the historical record*.

*As always, my information comes from both the Song of Ice and Fire novels and The World of Ice and Fire companion book.

It is generally established by the maesters that before 12k years ago, Westeros was inhabited by the Elder Races, the Children of the Forest and the Giants. Archaeological and mythological evidence suggests a third Elder Race, but knowledge of them is sketchy at best (though I personally believe they’re related to the Mazemakers). Then came the Great Migration. Then the First Men poured across the land bridge between Essos and Dorne for decades, perhaps centuries. No one knows what cause such a great flight, but it may have been related to whatever was going on in Asshai at the time. Creepy ghost grass and cities where nothing will grow tends to spook the masses.

There are conflicting accounts about how the Elder Races handled this influx of meddling humans. Some say the Children of the Forest believed everyone could live in harmony as there was plenty of land. Some say it was contentious from the start. Regardless, humans gonna human and it didn’t take long for them to start cutting down the weirwoods and farming the land. This was considered rude, and the Elder Races went to war against the First Men. Said war waged for thousands of years, ending with the First Men populating everywhere from the Lands of Always Winter to the Sunset Sea in Dorne. Peace was brokered where the First Men would stop rampaging over everything and leave the Heart Trees alone and in return, the Children of the Forest would just deal with them being part of the socioeconomic landscape now.

As greenseeing and warging were traits specific to the Children of the Forest, one can assume the Starks, the Reeds, and other Houses of the North intermarried with the Not Elves™, giving their descendants the occasional fantastical power.

So now we have peace that is stable enough to broker interspecies relations. But it is at this point (relatively speaking) that both the Children of the Forest used magic to shatter the land bridge between Essos and Dorne and the Long Night began. The Long Night was a planet-wide event where the sun didn’t come out for a generation, and the land was plunged into an extended, icy winter. It is also the first time the White Walkers appear on the record. They came from the Lands of Always Winter and declared war on humans and Elder Races alike. They rode giant ice spiders and were terrifying. It was only after Azor Ahai defeated whatever was causing the Long Night and brought back summer that they White Walkers retreated. After that, the Elder Races and the First Men* worked together to build the Wall and keep all the ice zombies away.

*I’m not entirely sure Bran the Builder of legend was one of the First Men. His construction of the Wall and Storm’s End implies a knowledge of architecture beyond that of mere humans. Perhaps he was one of the third Elder Race, the Mazemakers?

So where in that timeline to the Children of the Forest create the White Walkers? There was literally a millennia or two (or more) of peace between the First Men and the Children before the White Walkers appeared.

There are several possibilities. One, the maesters have the dates wrong. This is entirely possible as most of Westeros’ ancient history was passed down orally. Two, the show has diverged from the lore of the novels. Also entirely possible. But what if the White Walkers simply weren’t always what they are now?

If you go back and rewatch the transformation scene, the man isn’t exactly struggling. He doesn’t look happy about the dagger, but he’s not flailing to get away and is pretty stoic and still once the obsidian pierces his flesh. Nor does the Not Elf™ stabbing him look full of anger or hate. Is it possible he volunteered for the job? Even if he didn’t, the only thing that changes is the man’s eyes. His skin doesn’t turn blue or icy, the weirwood around him doesn’t begin to frost over. It’s possible that whatever happened to make the White Walkers into frozen liches was a secondary event centuries after the first.

What exactly were the Children of the Forest trying to do? They say they needed to “defend themselves” from men, but how did shoving obsidian into their enemies’ chest cavity accomplish that? Did they even mean the First Men (who weren’t actually the first humans to touch Westerosi soil)? As all the Children of the Forest seen so far are female and all the White Walkers are male, perhaps is was an attempt to literally marry the two races. Or it may have just been an attempt to imbue sympathetic humans with powers. In A Feast For Crows, readers learn the Children of the Forest used to give 100 obsidian daggers a year to the men of the Night’s Watch during the Age of Heroes. Was it to defeat the White Walkers with, or to power the Night’s Watch? If the latter, perhaps the Night’s Watch oath to “father no children” used to have more dire consequences should if the vow was broken.

Regardless of the how or why of it, if Game of Thrones is following the timeline of Martin’s books, something happened between the creation of the Others and their descent into White Walker-dom. After all, what sense would it make for the thing that gave White Walkers their power (dragonglass) also be the thing that can also destroy them? It should be like hitting the Hulk with gamma rays, just making them more powerful. Whatever caused it, I’ll bet you a shiny groat the Night’s King and the Night’s Queen were involved. When the Night’s King — a former Commander of the Night’s Watch — was finally defeated, the Others disappeared from the annals of history.

What do you guys think? Is there more to the White Walker creation story than first meets the eye?

Mom. Wife. Geek. Gamer. Feminist. Writer. Sarcastic. Succinct. Donna has been writing snark for the Internet in one form or another for almost a decade. She has a lot of opinions, mostly on science-fiction, fantasy, feminism, and Sailor Moon. Follow her on Twitter (@MildlyAmused) for more of all these things.