9

This is really a fairly simple question... In the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, we see the army of the dead (I'm assuming) marching south. We have seen from plenty of past episodes that they are capable of running. As far as I know they have no need to eat or rest to keep up their energy, so why don't they run everywhere? It would be much quicker.

  • I'd reconsider the merits of amflares's answer. It really is a war of attrition. (Think of John Snow's appeal to the Watch that every person who dies at Hardhold is another soldier in the ranks of the dead.) The Others seem to be quite patient, and clearly take a long view. – DukeZhou Jul 19 '17 at 21:21
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    @DukeZhou Hardhome, I think you meant. – Paul Jul 20 '17 at 1:25
5

While there is a great deal of mystery surrounding the origins of the White Walkers, they do not seem to be in any hurry...

  • The Long Night was thousands of years ago.

    Now, six thousand years later (or eight thousand as True History puts forward), the Wall made to defend the realms of men is still manned by the sworn brothers of the Night's Watch, and neither the Others nor the children have been seen in many centuries.

    The World of Ice and Fire - Ancient History: The Long Night

  • It took Mance Rayder 10 plus years to join the clans together.

  • It has been roughly 2 years since the beginning of the series (i.e. when we see the White Walkers in Season 1, Episode 1)

  • The Night's King seems to still be gathering strength. Creating new White Walker from Craster's babies, adding to the army of wights (Hardhome), etc.

  • The Wall has magic imbued into it:

    But one thing I will say, for what it's worth -- more than ice went into the raising of the Wall. Remember, these are =fantasy= novels.

    Quote by George RR Martin

  • Magic that is most likely related to White Walkers, specifically keeping them out (remember when Bran reaches the Three-eyed Raven's cave and there is a magic barrier):

    Melisandre smiled. "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." "Demons made of snow and ice and cold," said Stannis Baratheon. "The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters." He considered Sam again. "I am told that you and this wildling girl passed beneath the Wall, through some magic gate."

    A Storm of Swords - Samwell V

So it is my guess that the Night's King is waiting for something, most likely something magic to happen to allows the army of the dead to mount their full scale assault on Westeros.

But reaching The Wall early will not do them any good. The wights can be destroyed by regular weapons. The White Walkers can be destroyed by dragonglass and Valaryian Steel, and the Night's King knows the humans have both these weapons. Again, there is also magic involved, so pure speculation is if magic raised them there might a magic timer as well...

  • I had also thought of this as a possible answer. Is there a reason they would not want to be at the wall immediately, to be able to take advantage of this magic something the moment it happens? – bendl Jul 19 '17 at 21:01
  • @bendl I would think being vulnerable to attack from the Night's watch would be enough. I can add some more things to my answer. – Skooba Jul 19 '17 at 21:02
  • In truth, the Others don't really walk either, they glide. – Möoz Jul 20 '17 at 2:43
  • Given that the white walkers bring the cold; can it also not be relevant that while they can run, they cannot make the cold travel at the same pace? Thus rendering them incapable (or unwilling) to travel faster than they can spread the cold. – Flater Jul 20 '17 at 9:39
1

They are utilizing a method called "persistence hunting". It operates on the premise that your prey can't escape and so you'll get to your destination in the most efficient manner.

I'm reminded of a description I read about how it might look from the point of view of the hunted

can we talk about how pursuit predation is terrifying

it’s one thing to face down a cheetah, which will slam into you at 60 mph and break your neck

it’s another thing to run very quickly to get away from a thing, only to have it just kind of

show up

to have it be intelligent enough to figure out where you are by the fur and feather you’ve left behind, your footprints and piss and shit, and then you think you’ve lost it and you bed down for the night but THERE IT IS

WAITING

WHEN YOU WAKE UP

and you split! again! but it keeps following you. always in the corner of your eye. until you just

die

And that's the premise here. The show is using the sheer inevitably of the army of the dead to build dread (for the audience mostly). It doesn't matter when they get there... because they will get there.


In response to some of the points brought in in comments:

The army of the dead is just that, dead. Their bodies are no longer capable of healing themselves. Running is a reasonably traumatic experience on the body, and since they can’t heal the damage it induces, and their quarry can’t get away, it makes no sense to run. Efficiency is not limited to energy expenditure. Efficiency means the most equal balance between loss and gain. In this case, loss is wear and tear on the reanimated corpses, and gain is killing humans. Increasing speed does not improve the gain at the same rate it increases the loss. Ergo, it is less efficient for the army to run while not in a battle situation.

  • I wouldn't put it past George RR Martin to have the dead win, but it seems to me that it does matter how long it takes to get there. The whole time Jon is building an army and the south is getting organized. Strike while they're unprepared. – bendl Jul 19 '17 at 19:26
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    Which is amusing, because humanity are really good pursuit predators. The army of the dead are basically trying to out human us. – Forrest Venable Jul 19 '17 at 19:26
  • The whole point of persistence hunting is to conserve energy, since you can't just always run; I'm not sure the dead army would need to do this. – PlutoThePlanet Jul 19 '17 at 19:27
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    Persistence hunting isn't about getting to your destination "in the most efficient manner". Walking is more efficient than running, and persistence hunters don't walk. The dread aspect also doesn't really hold - so far, the army of the dead has been plodding along through frozen wasteland... not really building much dread since there's no one around. Your edit addition makes more sense than anything about persistence hunting. – Nuclear Wang Jul 19 '17 at 19:37
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    @bendl - Efficiency is not limited to energy expenditure. Efficiency means the most equal balance between loss and gain. In this case, loss is wear and tear on the reanimated corpses, and gain is killing humans. Increasing speed does not improve the gain at the same rate it increases the loss. Ergo, it is less efficient for the army to run while not in a battle situation. – amflare Jul 19 '17 at 20:03

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