In the ASOIAF books there haven't been many battles from the point of view of someone who has fought an army of wights, so it's unclear how they supposed to act or if there has been any evolution of their behavior within the scope of the story.

However we do see plenty of them in Game of Thrones, and in the first few seasons we see the wights act more like actual humans. They walk upright (when they have legs) and when they attack they tend to use their weapons.

One clear occurrence in which we see this is in S04E10 The Children when Bran, Hodor and the Reeds are attacked by undead before they enter the cave. The skeletons fight with weapons, and stand and duel like actual soldiers would.

In S05E08 Hardhome, the Wights act slightly more savagely, attacking with claws and teeth like classic zombies, and occasionally barrelling into people and tackling them with their bodies with little regard for their well-being. They still run around upright and do mostly use weapons to fight, but they already have diverged from being human-like.

Season 6 spoilers:

Then in the episode S06E05 The Door, the wights tend to run around on all fours, climbing on ceilings, and overall being more savage, feral and even less human-like than before. They do still have weapons and are seen in formation when in the presence of the White Walkers, but as soon as they attempt to enter the cave they are seen acting entirely inhumanly.

I suppose the greatest divergence that can be seen is in the way that they execute these two different victims:

In The Children, the skeletons stab Jojen whilst he is lay on the floor defenseless, yet in The Door they not only stab but also maul Leaf (the Forest Child) with claws and teeth when she is in almost the same situation, and they do the same with Hodor (though they don't really have the opportunity to stab him).

Comparing the earlier battle scenes with the most recent ones, they barely seem like the same creatures. Is there a reason, in or out-of universe why they have changed so much?

  • 1
    Are you sure that (spoiler) was "mauled with claws and teeth"? I haven't gone back and watched the scene frame-by-frame, but my impression was that they stabbed that character with knives.
    – recognizer
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 17:22
  • @recognizer There was a lot of stabbity-stab happening, that's for sure.
    – Möoz
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


This is mostly speculative, but earlier in the series, the pool of dead bodies is largely rangers and wildling fighters and hunters who range out to the edges of the wilderness and die, whether it be at the hands of Walkers, Wights or otherwise. Raising up one of these dead means raising up someone who is equipped.

In the later episodes, that undead army is now coming down from the fringes and is looking to invade the world of men. At Hardhome there is a massive slaughter of fighters, but also "civilian" wildlings - children, farmers, elderly etc, as well as those trying to fight. And then they get raised up, en masse, on the spot. A huge number of those did not go down with weapons, so they would be unarmed. I don't think the wights especially care, if they have weapons they use them, if they don't, they don't. It may be that you just have more who come to them unarmed, based on who they were and the circumstances at death. Hardhome was probably not the first killing of non-combatant wildlings on their way to that location.


In the green dream we DO see them standing in formation with weapons...

When the attack on the cave happens they STILL have weapons (see at about 1:05 mark)...

Even at Hardhome they had weapons (see at about 7:12 the wildling woman fighting one).

In-universe: not every Wight would need a weapon. They are thousands strong, are already dead, and will be able recoup their forces with the freshly killed.

Out-of-universe: The action sequences are fast, that makes it hard to focus on a single object. Add that with the dark color tones of the Wights and the setting itself, it does make the weapons hard to see.

My thought on their behavior change is out-of-universe is that it would be a style choice by the writer and/or director of a given episode. They may also being "borrowing" the zombie style from The Walking Dead due to that show popularity.

  • Thanks for this answer, I've adapted the question a little based on things from your answer, as I didn't see the weapons in the season 6 episode. The question mostly focuses on their behavior now, but I would say this answer is still relevant. Commented May 26, 2016 at 13:01
  • one of the video's doesn't work anymore Commented May 17, 2019 at 9:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.