Even as the final season of Game of Thrones moves closer and closer to its finale, we still know only a little about the evil figure of the Night King. Who is this mysterious being, you may ask? Well, if you haven’t been watching the show, the Night King has long been established as the most dangerous character in the series, since he threatened all of existence by his determination to bring about a Long Night.
What was his origin story? How similar is the show’s portrayal to the books? If you’ve asked these questions, and you don’t care about spoilers (seriously, we’re going to spoil up to Season Eight, Episode Three, so be warned!), then this list is for you.
1. Did You Notice?
Two actors have portrayed the Night King in the series. In the fourth and fifth seasons, the Night King was played by Richard Brake (Batman Begins and Perfect Skin). For the rest of the series, the Night King has instead been played by Vladimir Furdik.
2. The Man Behind the Action
Speaking of the latter actor, Vladimir Furdik is actually much more well-known as a stuntman rather than an actor. He’s worked on such diverse projects as Kingdom of Heaven, Dragonheart, John Carter, Skyfall, and Noah. He also worked as a stuntman on Game of Thrones before he was ever cast as the Night King.
3. Hey There, Grandpa
According to the show, the Night King was created more than 10,000 years before the events of the series, making him one of the oldest characters in all of Westeros (and beyond).
4. Desperate Times…
The Night King was created during a time of great crisis. When the First Men came to Westeros, they fought a long and bitter battle with the Children of the Forest and the giants, driving them back with their superior numbers and weaponry. Although the Children of the Forest utilized impressive feats of magic (such as turning the middle of Westeros into a giant swamp), they proved unable to stop the First Men.
5. … Call for Desperate Measures
The Children of the Forest’s final act during their war with the First Men was to create a new race of creatures, known either as the White Walkers or the Others, that could use the First Men’s numbers against them. The Night King was the first of such figures to be created, transformed from a captive human that the Children sacrificed during their ritual.
6. If Only Marvel Hadn’t Copyrighted “Iceman”!
The Night King has many powers, as seen in the show. One of the most obvious of these powers is his ability to turn the world around him cold. When the Starks talk about winter coming, an argument could be made that they’re talking about this guy!
7. Night Who?
As you can imagine, a lot was changed when George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was adapted into the television series Game of Thrones. Surprisingly, the Night King does not exist in the books! Either Martin was planning on introducing him late in the game, or the showrunners took even more liberties than we thought!
8. My Counterpart
The Night King of the show is most likely based on the Night’s King from the books. In case you’re confused who that is, the Night’s King was a legendary Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who lived not long after the Long Night finally ended. According to the books, this Lord Commander fell deeply in love with an Other. The Lord Commander took her to the Nightfort, one of the castles along the Wall, and ruled it as the Night’s King.
Frankly, this sounds even creepier than what we got in the show!
9. The Author has Spoken
We decided to leave you in suspense earlier when we discussed the likelihood of George R.R. Martin ever introducing the Night King into his books. In 2015, he settled the matter by making it clear that he wouldn’t bring the Night King or the Night’s King back into the series, preferring to keep said character shrouded in legend, just like Lann the Clever or Brandon the Builder.
Which means that his books are going to have quite a different story to give us! We can’t wait to read them when they finally come out!
10. The Blue-Eyed King Who Casts No Shadow
Since the books are not yet finished, some fans of A Song of Ice and Fire have concocted a theory that Stannis Baratheon (still alive and well in the books) will turn into a second version of the Night’s King. There are a few ideas from the books used to support this theory, but a prominent one is that Stannis intends to make the Nightfort his base of operations at the Wall.
Granted, we have yet to see any female White Walkers, and Stannis isn’t the sort of guy to fall head over heels for anyone anyway. However, this theory was so prominent that some Game of Thrones fans half expected Stannis to somehow become the Night King in the show!
11. How Many Hours in the Chair?
While the show is hardly one to avoid using CGI, a lot of the Night King’s appearance was actually thanks to prosthetics and makeup!
12. False Alarm
Although the Night King and the rest of the White Walkers were created to destroy the First Men, they were never ultimately used because the Children of the Forest and the First Men made a pact to divide Westeros between them. This would lead to a harmonious existence in Westeros…for a while at least.
13. What Did I Do?
One of the most under-explained powers of the Night King is his ability to recognize when an animal is being warged (i.e. when a human can project their mind powers on said animal). He was able to follow Bran’s mental movements when he possessed a raven. However, it remains unexplained whether the Night King could do so with any warg or whether it was because he marked Bran.
14. We Want the Eyes Extra Blue
While we did say that prosthetics are the primary tool used to create the look of the Night King, we should clarify that VFX is definitely used for the finishing touches. The look of the Night King’s eyes, as well as an extra icy layer over the entire face and head, are added onto the prosthetics in post-production. So it’s both.
Combined, you’re given the evil face that we fans have come to know so well.
15. My Way
As you can imagine, fans of the books and show alike have pestered George R.R. Martin with questions about every aspect of his fantasy world. One of the recurring ones is whether there is a significance to the show’s Night King being so similarly named to the books’ Night’s King. Martin has naturally been mum on the complete answer, but he has indicated that he prefers his own spelling.
16. Even Dragons?
As the seventh season of Game of Thrones made clear, the Night King was able to not only kill a dragon with one of his ice spears, but also convert said dragon to an ice dragon that he rides around and uses to destroy part of the Wall!
17. Nice Try, Snow!
One of the defining characteristics of the White Walkers in the show is a very limited range of emotions. The Night King is no exception to this, but he isn’t exactly robotic. In one of the most famous moments of the series, the Night King watches the attack of his forces against the wildling settlement of Hardhome before mocking a retreating Jon by raising all the fallen wildlings into his wight army.
18. Well, he Definitely Wasn’t a Targaryen!
Just like how the Night King is portrayed on the show, the books have never revealed the true identity of the Night’s King. Various characters offer suggestions on who he was, suggesting that he was either a member of House Bolton, House Umber, House Flint, or even House Stark. It’s a secret that only George R.R. Martin could tell.
19. One Tough Customer
While the Night King never actually takes part in armed combat during his run on the show (aside from his dragon-killing spear throw), it can be assumed that he shares the same superhuman strength that the White Walkers possess.
20. First Impression
The first time that we saw the Night King onscreen took place during the fourth season of Game of Thrones. He is briefly shown examining a male baby left out in the cold by the wildling named Craster. The Night King then converts the baby into a White Walker just by touching him, which we can safely say was all that TV audiences needed to see in order to be scared of this guy.
21. Unlucky Number
Going back to the Night King’s namesake, the Night’s King of the books is said to have been the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. It looks like George R.R. Martin hates the number 13 as much as the rest of the world does!
22. Sounds Like a Red Herring
Speaking of the Night’s King, it hasn’t exactly been confirmed that the Night’s King’s blue-eyed, pale queen was actually a White Walker/Other. One theory put forward in The World of Ice & Fire suggested that the woman was a daughter of the Barrow Kings. In case you’re confused, the Barrows are a region of the North which are currently ruled by House Dustin (who have yet to make a real appearance in the show).
23. Who Could it Be?!
As you can imagine, several fan theories emerged over the years about who the Night King was. One of the most prominent of these theories was that he would be a former Lord Commander, just like the Night’s King in the books. Of course, this was quashed in Season 6 when we saw the Night King created far earlier than the Night’s Watch ever existed.
24. From Supporting to Cameo
Speaking of that brief first appearance in the fourth season episode “Oathkeeper,” the Night King originally had a much more expansive appearance in the episode. This material was filmed and prepared, but the showrunners decided that less would be more with the Night King, so we only got to see him for a few seconds instead. You can decide for yourself if his later appearances were worth the wait.
25. Donated to the Dead
Just like the wildling chief Craster, the Night’s King from the books was discovered to make sacrifices to the Others while he ruled from the Nightfort.
26. Snow vs. Snow?
One aspect of the Night King which puzzled fans was his apparent obsession with Jon Snow, who has arguably emerged as the show’s main character (unless you’re a Dany fan). While one could simply attribute it to the antagonist knowing who the protagonist is for plot reasons, a few theories tried to explain why that was the case. The most bizarre one (arguably) was that the Night King was a former Stark whose name was…Jon Snow.
As poetic as that would be, we can safely say that it’s also completely absurd.
27. Wait, What??!
In one of the most bizarre moments of the third episode of season eight, the Night King is apparently immune to dragon fire. Frankly, we really hope that we get an explanation for this, since his White Walkers could clearly be killed by Valyrian steel (which is created with the help of dragon fire).
28. I Don’t Get It…
One power of the Night King which was revealed in the sixth season was his ability to mark people miles away. When Bran Stark has an out-of-body experience, looking at the army of the dead, he is seized by the Night King and marked. His body carries that mark as well, and it means that the Night King and his forces can safely penetrate the magic of the Children of the Forest.
Naturally, we haven’t gotten a full explanation from the showrunners on how exactly that works.
29. I’ll Find You, Raven!
Whatever the mark on Bran Stark means, it serves as a tracking device. Since Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven, he is the number one enemy of the Night King. Bran explains that this is because he represents the memory of all living creatures, which Night King wishes to kill once and for all.
30. Made and Unmade
When we first see the Night King created by the Children of the Forest, the ritual is performed with the help of dragonglass (also known as obsidian, or volcanic rock). The Children of the Forest had used this substance for their weapons, but it apparently can also create White Walkers. Bizarrely, dragonglass is also the greatest weakness of the White Walkers!
It’s used by such characters as Samwell Tarly to kill them throughout the show.
31. Nice Sword!
The sword wielded by the Night King during the sixth season is portrayed as being a blade which is entirely unique to him. Unlike the swords used by the regular White Walkers, the Night King’s sword is forward-curving rather than straight. One historical comparison that has been brought up is the falx. The falx was a weapon used mainly by the Dacian tribe against the Roman Empire.
32. How About a Redesign?
By the time the eighth season of Game of Thrones came around, the Night King got a new sword to wield. Unlike his previous one, it was a short, straight-bladed weapon, much more in line with his subordinates. Maybe he just felt like fitting in?
33. How Fitting!
The Night King’s realm lies in the far north of Westeros, far beyond the Wall and the territory of the wildlings (also called the Land of Always Winter). To portray this region of Westeros, the production team found ample location spots on the island of Iceland.
Despite the filming locations in Iceland, the Night King’s immense army of the dead was only added there thanks to CGI. A Spanish-based VFX company called El Ranchito was responsible for the White Walkers’ animation.
35. Price on Your Head
In 2016, Dark Horse Comics created a bust of the Night King as purchasable merchandise related to the show, then later in the year made an eight-inch figure. They’re not toys, they’re figurines!
36. Watching Myself Die
Aside from portraying the Night King in the later seasons of the show, Vladimir Furdik also portrayed the White Walker who was killed by Jon Snow at Hardhome!
37. Molded to Success
Going a bit further into the prosthetics which made up the design of the Night King, the effects department of Game of Thrones had to create a mold of actor Richard Brake’s head so that the prosthetics could be added properly. This makes us wonder what happened when they got a new guy to play the Night King in later seasons…did they have to make a mold of his head, but also put the mold of Richard Brake over that mold so nobody would notice?
38. That’s Enough!
In case you’re wondering what actually happened with this Night’s King in the books, he would rule the Nightfort for thirteen terrifying years. After countless atrocities were committed there, he was considered so evil that King Brandon Stark of Winterfell made an alliance with Joramun, the wildling King-Beyond-the-Wall.
Together, their forces finally brought down the Night’s King, and his name was stricken from the historical records.
39. No More Walls!
In the books, the terrifying reign of the Night’s King led the Night’s Watch to be forbidden to construct walls around their castles to protect them from the south. Moreover, since the Night’s Watch took part in no conflicts beyond maintaining the Wall, it was considered unnecessary for any protection to defend their castles from a southern attack.
40. Things Got Cold
Although peace was finally achieved in Westeros with the signing of the Pact between the First Men and the Children of the Forest, the Night King decided he didn’t like how things were being run. Around 8,000 years before Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest, the Night King and his White Walkers brought about the Long Night.
It was a winter which lasted an entire generation, along with a night which lasted years. Only the combined efforts of the Children and the First Men managed to drive the Night King back into the far north. This led to a heroic figure named Brandon Stark, also known as Bran the Builder, founding Winterfell and the Wall, with both serving as bastions against any return of the Night King.
The Bran Stark we know and are occasionally creeped out by was named after Bran the Builder.
41. That’s Not True! That’s Impossible!
In case you’re wondering what other bizarre theories emerged about who the Night King was and what his obsession was with Jon Snow, there was a crackpot idea that he would be revealed as Jon Snow’s father. To be honest, this would definitely have turned Game of Thrones into an R-rated fantasy soap opera.
42. An Iconic Moment
As anyone caught up with the series will know, the Night King is killed by Arya Stark with a Valyrian steel dagger introduced in the first season. For that famous scene, both Vladimir Furdik and Maisie Williams were under immense pressure to perform it perfectly. Furdik, in particular, considered the entire episode to be one of the most difficult work experiences of his life.
43. Jeepers Creepers, Where’d You Get Them Peepers
The scene between the Night King and Arya during the Battle of Winterfell may have felt like a curveball—but it’s been clear that the Night King is the key to Arya’s ultimate fate in the show since season 1. Eagle-eyed fans noticed that the dagger that Arya uses was introduced in the show’s first season, long before the Night King made his initial appearance in season 4.
At one point, Melisandre tells Arya she will close “brown eyes, blues eyes, green eyes.” Many have pointed out that Walder Frey’s eyes were brown, and the Night King’s were blue—leaving only a pair of green eyes for her to shut permanently. We won’t spoil anything, but after her victory over the Night King, there are not many green-eyed characters left—we’ll let you do the thinking about that one.
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