I thought of this while reading another question. Can the White Walkers swim?

In this scene where Bran Stark and his friends reach the Weir Tree of the Three-Eyed Raven, the wights are hiding under the ice. When I first saw that scene, I assumed the wights could swim. (Or at least that cold water doesn't hinder them.)

At the end of the battle at Hardhome, the Night's King transforms thousands of dead people into wights. If the wights can swim, why not send them out to sea to kill or capture the remaining wildling survivors? The wights could easily swarm over the rowboats and ships in the harbor. Since the king didn't send the army of the dead into the water, that would imply the wights can't swim.

We see them wade into the water to kill wildlings trying to reach the boats, but the wights never go more than knee deep.

Can wights swim? One episode implies they can, another implies they can't.

I prefer answers from the books over the TV shows. (Especially since the TV show is ambiguous on this topic.)

Edit to add: I thought of a possible solution. Is the pond in front of the weir tree so shallow that it wouldn't matter if wights could not swim? Does anybody have quotes from the books about that?

  • This does seem to be an inconsistency
    – Colin
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 5:54
  • Let's hope not, eh? Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 9:34
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Can White Walkers swim?
    – Skooba
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 18:06
  • @Skooba I mentioned at the top of this post that this question was inspired by that one. That one only asks about White Walkers, and this only asks about wights. Two very different creatures. :-)
    – RichS
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


We do not know if wights can swim, but they can be in the water.

The relevant quote is

At Hardhome, with six ships. Wild seas. Blackbird lost with all hands, two Lyseni ships driven aground on Skane, Talon taking water. Very bad here. Wildlings eating their own dead. Dead things in the woods. Braavosi captains will only take women, children on their ships. Witch women call us slavers. Attempt to take Storm Crow defeated, six crew dead, many wildlings. Eight ravens left. Dead things in the water. Send help by land, seas wracked by storms. FromTalon, by hand of Maester Harmune.

This is a note sent to Jon when Jon ordered men of the Night's Watch to relieve the wildlings in Hardhome. It is from the last Jon POV in A Dance with Dragons.

  • Where exactly is that quote from? It might be better to include a reference. Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 17:58
  • @Gallifreyan did that, thank you.
    – user65648
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 18:01
  • The "Dead things in the water" could just mean floating bodies.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 1:46

Hiding under ice doesn't mean they swim, it just means they can enter the water and then be frozen within it.

Remember the wights have to be reanimated by the Night's King (or at least a White Walker). Those corpses could have been found in the lake when it was not frozen and left there to freeze. However, since that weirwood is in the "Land of Always Winter" I wonder if the lake was ever "unfrozen". It could have been created by melting and refreezing snow.

Those wights were no doubt "stationed" there to prevent people from reaching the Three-eyed Raven.

  • Do you have citations from the book to support your speculation?
    – RichS
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 22:38

The Season 7 episode, Beyond the Wall shows wights can move underwater, but it is still unclear if they can swim.

The Hound breaks the ice in front of several advancing wights. The wights fell through the ice hole. Two of them later emerge from that hole to try and pull Tormund into the water.

They went underwater to place 4 heavy chains around the dead dragon Viserion. Viserion fell through the ice of a frozen lake after being javelined by the Night King. Then thousands of wights pulled the chains to extract Viserion's body from the frozen lake.

The underwater wights either came back ashore to help pull Viserion or remained underwater.

Showing that the wights can complete tasks underwater (e.g. place chains around dragon) opens a plot hole in the entire story. If they are capable of moving underwater, then why not just walk underwater around the Wall?

  • Maybe the White Walkers can't swim? Also the wights had to get back to the surface of what looked like a deep lake, the only way back up is to swim.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 8:13

I prefer answers from the books over the TV shows. (Especially since the TV show is ambiguous on this topic.)

As of the conclusion of Season 7, the TV show is less ambiguous than the books.

In Episode 6, our suicide squad beyond the wall is surrounded by wights on a small island in an icy lake. The ice is thin, and when several wights march into the water without resurfacing, the White Walkers order them to stop and wait for the ice to grow thicker.

From this, it seems evident that wights can't swim; they don't swim to the island to take out our heroes, and the wights that fall into the water don't resurface. Of course, they might be faking their inability to swim...

in order to wait until a dragon arrives to save the day.

It seems Jon believed it after all that took place, though, as in the next episode he outright says they can't swim while in parlay with the Lannisters and their allies.

Even if they can't swim, which seems plausible based on those scenes and the battle at Hardhome that you mentioned, they also don't seem to drown or take any other ill effects from being submerged in water,

as they walk up from the water, pulling the chains that drag the dragon up.

So yes, you are correct that water doesn't seem to hinder them. Possibly they sink to the bottom of a body of water and are able to walk around down there. The small lake they walk over in your clip might be very shallow.

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