33

What is the difference between a wight and an Other in A Song of Ice and Fire?

At first I didn't think there was a difference, but there must be because Others can be "melted" by dragon glass and wights cannot.

Thoughts?

ETA: So, I've started re-reading the series, and I came across a passing, though interesting, mention of Others and wights in A Game of Thrones. Old Nan is telling Bran the story of the last hero and she says:

Old Nan nodded. "In that darkness, the Others came for the first time," she said as her needles went click click click. "They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale, dead horses and leading hosts of the slain." A Game of Thrones pg. 203 Kindle edition

I recalled that we were discussing whether wights and Others were working in concert with each other or merely two separate populations that happened to coexist in forests north of the Wall. From what Old Nan says, it would appear that the wights are, indeed, "soldiers" drafted into the Others' army.

I realize this in no way answers my initial question, and I still think that the accepted answer is the most thorough response to the actual question. This merely stands to confirm that wights and Others are definitely not the same creatures.

  • 2
    Old Nan's stories seem to be a way for GRRM to foreshadow events and give background information in a casual, non-committal fashion. It is also curious to note that Old Nan may have a connection to Dunk (ADWD, Bran chapter, vision of Winterfell). I would say that wights probably are controlled by the Others, but it is interesting to note that this is what GRRM wants us to think, despite the fact that he has never shown it. – TLP Apr 20 '12 at 16:26
  • This is true. Even though Old Nan is extremely old, I think we can all agree that her knowledge is far from first-hand, and it is clear that she is repeating a story that has been handed down for generations probably in an oral fashion. Circumstantially, though, the evidence provided to us by GRRM indicate that wights are more like zombies and incapable of organizing and executing activities as strategically refined as an invasion. However, as you point out, perhaps that is just what GRRM wants us to think and he's intentionally leading us in that direction only to reveal the truth later. – Meg Coates Apr 22 '12 at 16:14
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    We will have to wait and see. I am leaning towards the wights being mindless and controlled by whosoever has the power to do so. The lore certainly seems to indicate that the Others can and do do so, and that is what GRRM wants us to think. – TLP Apr 22 '12 at 18:25
  • "page 203 Kindle edition" ??? Doesn't the text flow from page to page depending on margins and font size chosen? – GEdgar Jul 27 '16 at 12:28
  • As of Season 6's episode "The Door" it seems confirmed that wights are footsoldiers for the Others, given Bran's vision with the wights standing in formation in front of the Other. Whether they only serve the Others or if @TLP is right about them being open to "other" control remains to be seen – childcat15 Jul 27 '16 at 14:33
45

The Others are some sort of Ice demons, whereas wights are reanimated corpses. Not just human, but any corpse, as we have seen multiple times in the books, dead bears, horses, etc.

In the Prologue to A Game of Thrones you can read about both wights and Others. The Others are the one that surround Ser Waymar Royce, and watch him duel a single Other, and then ceremonially finish him off once he's fallen. You will notice they are described as sleek, intelligent and fast.

Conversely, when Will climbs down from the tree, he is killed by Ser Waymar Royce, who has now become a wight. Wights are in later books described as being rather like zombies: Gruesome, slow and clumsy, and not particularly intelligent.

(Note that in the TV-show, we see something completely different, but again we see both wights and Others)

I do not believe we know how wights are raised, or by whom exactly. I'm not entirely certain if we have ever seen them even work together (someone correct me with a specific example if I am wrong). It would be just like GRRM to show two different murderous types of beings and just by being vague allow us to believe they are allies.

For example:

  • The Others who kill Ser Waymar Royce do not have any wights with them.
  • The wight of Royce attacks Will on his own accord, no Others in sight.
  • The attack on the Night's Watch force in The battle of The Fist of the First Men seemed to be made by a force of wights.
  • When Sam kills the wight of Small Paul (with a glowing ember), he encounters a horde of wights outside. Again, only wights.
  • When Sam kills the Other (with the dragonglass dagger), there are no wights around.

However, in the book, people do claim that wights are the servants of the Others.

Presumably, the theory is that the Great Other, some old, ancient evil has woken again after sleeping for thousands of years, sending out its captains -- the Others -- and resurrecting corpses as footsoldiers to create an army.

An interesting note is that it is hinted at that Craster is creating Others by sacrificing his newborn sons. I believe one of the old women at his compound tells Sam something like “They are coming. The sons.”, by which she ought not to mean wights, since infant-sized wights would hardly be a large threat.

Further hints to such an alliance of Craster's is that he is an outsider among the wildlings, he keeps himself separate from them, and Mance seems to know him for an enemy -- or at the very least, not a friend. Also noted when the Night's Watch take refuge at Craster's compound after the Battle of the Fist, Craster himself claims that he is "a godly man", that need not fear wights and Others. And indeed, they are not attacked by wights while staying there, even though they were hounded by wights the whole way there.

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    Wow! An incredibly detailed and well reasoned answer. I like it way better than mine :) – Andres F. Feb 28 '12 at 15:54
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    @AndresF. That comes of rereading ASOIAF too many times, and having too much spare time to ponder its great many hidden mysteries. :) – TLP Feb 28 '12 at 17:01
  • I have read a "theory" that said that wights are servants of the Others, so I'm glad that I wasn't imagining that. I hadn't considered that the two groups might not be working together, but are merely two groups who happen to be in the same general geographic location. – Meg Coates Feb 28 '12 at 17:51
  • @MegCoates They do not seem to have the overt alliance that is seen in for example The Wheel of Time series, where trollocs and myrdraal are very clearly described as cooperating. Or in Lord of the Rings, where there is no question that the Ring Wraiths are leading hordes of orcs. It may mean something, or it may just be coincidence. – TLP Feb 28 '12 at 18:06
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    It seems more likely to me that the wights must be controlled by the Others, only because, as you mention, they don't really seem capable of thinking for themselves except to kill those who are living. If this is the case, then they seem to be more like automatons, and, thus no allegiance is necessary. Perhaps the reason why you don't see Others and wights together is because the Others don't need to be around if they have a whole army of resurrected dead to do their bidding. Why put themselves in danger--you know? Pure speculation. – Meg Coates Feb 29 '12 at 15:49
4

The Others are currently not entirely explained, but they seem to be an evil "race" of some sort, possibly undead. We have not seen many of them so far; what we've seen have mostly been Wights (Coldhands' nature is uncertain at this point!).

Wights are regular dead men raised by the Others.

3

To support my statement this quote is from the book A Storm of Swords Complete Edition-Page 885:

"Necromancy animates these wights, yet they are still only dead flesh. The ones they call the Others are something more."

So yeah, from what I take out of that "the Others" are a form of creature that has the ability to reanimate the dead (wights) in which they use them as an army. This army contains soldiers that not only lack thought, pain and fear, but also will continue to survive until all parts of their being is burned.

3

Others

Others are a distinct human-like species who are known to dwell the cold North beyond the wall. Unlike Humans who are warm blooded, Others despise everything with warm blood in their veins. They are also called the White Walkers.

Others first appeared 8,000 years ago during the Long Night but they were defeated by Night's Watch and the Last Hero during the battle for Dawn. Afterwards, a Lord Commander of Night's Watch (Night's King) was found to have married one of the Others which means that Others were never truly destroyed and they still existed. After defeat of that Lord Commander, Others disappeared from annals of History and reappeared approximately 8300 years later during King Robert Baratheon's reign.

Others are living creatures as confirmed by the author:

The Others are not dead. They are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.

Others wield swords made of some special sort if Ice as described by the author:

Ice. But not like regular old ice. The Others can do things with ice that we can't imagine and make substances of it.

Others leave no footprints on snow. Others can't be killed by common steel weapons or fire but fire still frustrates them. As Melisandre said:

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.

Others are known to be vulnerable to Dragon-glass weapons. Others can reanimate dead animals and humans. They can ride dead animals and use dead humans as their soldiers.

Others have shining blue eyes like stars and they are skilled swordsmen and very quick. Others are known to communicate with each other speaking a harsh sounding language which sounds like cracking of ice.

Wights

Wights are corpses that are reanimated by Others using some undisclosed super-power.

They usually retain the appearence their corpses have at time of their reanimation but their eyes turn blue like their masters and their hands and feet turn black due to pooled blood at extremities of the body.

Wights are very strong but they are also very slow and clumsy. Wights can pretend to be dead successfully. However it is unclear whether they do it themselves or are controlled remotely by their masters when doing that. Wights can be stopped by total dismemberment or by setting them on fire. After destruction, their eyes return to their original state instead of the bright blue color.

While Wights do not retain their personality and memories of their lives but they seem to remember some of it. It is not confirmed if Wights can communicate with each other or talk. Wights also appear to use their weapons as evident from Death of Ser Jeremy Rykker but it appears that wights usually prefer brute strength instead of weapons in battle.

It is also unclear if Wights can speak because Jon wanted to know if they can. Since there is no reference to Wights communicating, we will assume they can't speak. Also because Wights can be destroyed by dismembering their parts, Dragon-glass can also serve in this regard.


So to sum it up:

╔═════════════════════════════════╦═══════╦═══════╗
║             𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐲              ║ 𝐎𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 ║ 𝐖𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭  ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║             Is Dead             ║   X   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║  Can create substances from ice ║   ✓   ║   X   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║        Wields Ice Swords        ║   ✓   ║   X   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║    Leaves footprints on Snow    ║   X   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║ Can be killed by steel and fire ║   X   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║   Can be killed by Dragonglass  ║   ✓   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║      Can reanimate the dead     ║   ✓   ║   X   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║             Is Quick            ║   ✓   ║   X   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║          Has blue Eyes          ║   ✓   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║            Can speak            ║   ✓   ║   X   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║     Has black feet and hands    ║   X   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║           Is a Thrall           ║   X   ║   ✓   ║
╠═════════════════════════════════╬═══════╬═══════╣
║       Wears magical armour      ║   ✓   ║   X   ║
╚═════════════════════════════════╩═══════╩═══════╝

Also See What are the origins of White Walkers?

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    It would be easier to read if you remove the cross when you mean 'it CANNOT do that'. Just check the box where you mean 'it CAN do that' and you're good to go. I won't make the edit in case you find it more pleasant this way. – Kalissar Jul 27 '16 at 7:53
  • @Kalissar I don't believe that's necessary or helpful as the question is about differences between the two and Ticks and Crosses help in this regard. Having both is more helpful rather than leaving one empty in my opinion. – Aegon Jul 27 '16 at 7:55
1

From what I can tell, the Others are an ancient race of supernatural beings that reign in the North. They lie dormant for thousands and thousands of years, until people living in the South forget that they are anything but an old bedtime story, and then awake during a particularly bad winter to attack anything living.

The Others seem to have multiple powers, and can only be killed by dragonglass (which may be one of the reasons the Children of the Forest used it as a main weapon).

Wights are zombie-like beings, reanimated corpses that seem to have no thoughts of their own but are more intelligent and agile than the archetypal zombie. They are raised by the Others, whose powers include Necromancy, to use as foot soldiers and slaves in their armies. In the prologue of A Game of Thrones, a member of a group of rangers find the Wildling tribe they are after--all slaughtered in lurid ways and all with bright blue eyes. When he finally convinces his brothers to come and see, they are gone. Shortly after, the group is attacked by Others, resulting in one of them becoming a Wight. This points to the theory that Wights are mortals killed by the Others, raised into zombies.

0

In the GoT Prologue, it is clear that the Others are present to turn the dead Brothers into wights.

However, in ADWD:

!Tormund tells Jon about one of his sons dying in the night, becoming a wight in their tent, and trying to kill him. Could an Other have crept into their tent? Do they just need to be nearby?

!On the other hand, the corpses that Jon takes back from the godswood beyond the wall, never turn into wight in their ice cells. Does that mean that the Others do need to touch them? Or does the Wall shield the Others from turning dead men?

  • I can't remember if this happens in the books, but at least in the TV series we see corpses turning into Wights on the southern side of the Wall. So surely that's not it! – Andres F. Jan 29 '13 at 18:32

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