In the season 7 finale Euron Greyjoy asks "can they swim?" with regards to the wights, to which the reply was "no". When Viserion was hit by the Night King's javelin he fell, broke the ice and went into the water below.

How did the army of the dead recover Viserion (attach the chains to him) after he has been hit by the Night King's javelin?

As we have established that the wights can't swim, the only other explanation I can see is if one of the White Walkers swims down to attach the chains, however that also seems unlikely.

  • 4
    They may not be able to swim...but I doubt they can drown....so they walked along the bottom of the lake...
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 28, 2017 at 21:30
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    Answer include in this Q & A - scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/167760/…
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 28, 2017 at 21:34
  • 1
    True, I didn't consider that they would just sink to the bottom and walk...
    – DavidG
    Aug 28, 2017 at 21:36
  • 1
    I love how it is officially a javelin, and not a spear! lol
    – Möoz
    Aug 28, 2017 at 22:00
  • 2
    Sinking and walking is done earlier in the episode. Maybe someone should have told Euron that they're perfectly capable of doing so.
    – user40790
    Aug 29, 2017 at 0:21

3 Answers 3


The actual answer to your main question.

Given that the wights are able to survive in water, it's perfectly possible for them to sink down to the bottom, attach the chains to Viserion, and then walk to the edge of the lake where other wights could have broken the ice so that they can exit. Or they can climb back up the chain.
Or if the lake is not easily walked out of, they are simply are stuck there and no one cares. The Night King isn't known for his caring attitude.

Define "swimming".

Most of your question is based on Euron's question about their ability to swim, but your assumption here is wrong. When a human asks the question "can you swim?", he can mean the following things:

  1. If I put you in water, can you survive (by swimming)?
  2. Can you stay afloat?
  3. Can you move around in the water?

For humans, all three are the same thing. We need to move around (upwards), in order to stay at the top, so that we can breathe (and therefore not die). But this is not necessarily the case for wights. So Euron's question (and the answer it receives) hinges on the interpretation of "swimming".

Define "swimming" for wights.

1. Can the wights survive in water?

Yes they can. This is evidenced by (S07E06) the wights who rose up out of the water to try and drag Thormund down. Being submerged in water does not kill a wight.

2. Can wights stay afloat?

As far as we've seen, and can logically deduce, most of them cannot.

From what we have seen, wights sink into the water immediately (as evidenced by S07E06).

There is the question of how the wights managed to come back up top (when dragging Thormund down). Though not explicitly shown, it's possible that a sufficient amount of wights has fallen into the water, that they basically made a human pyramid (erhm, zombie pyramid) to get back up.
Note that while we did not see it happen underwater, the wights who attacked Jon in S07E06 (who was standing on the raised edge of the island) did actually pile on top of eachother in order to get to Jon, so there's at least some precedent for the wights being able to use "ant tactics" and use eachother for climbing.

Frow what we can logically deduce, wight have either no flesh, or less flesh than humans. Flesh is more buoyant than bones, and therefore a human is more buoyant than a wight. When comparing fleshy wights to skeletal wights, you'd expect the former to be slightly more buoyant than the latter (though still less than a human).

3. Can wights move around in the water?

Similar to the buoyancy argument, wights will be considerably less able of doing so than humans, and skeletal wights will be considerably less able than fleshy wights.

The wights are denser than the average human, and therefore sink faster. This means that a swimming wight would have to already swim better than a human, due to needing to counteract gravity more.

Moving around in the water is done through "paddles". Flat pieces of surface that are used for pushing off against the water (essentially the same as a wing). A duck's webbed feed, the oars of a boat, a boat's propeller blades, a swimmer's hands, ... all of these examples try to maximize the surface area in order to increase their efficiency.

But wights are barebones (pun intended) as far as paddles go. They are thin and dense, which is the exact oppose of what you want (large and not too dense).
Fleshy wights who still have full arms and legs may be able to still use them as paddles, but they would still have to be better than humans (due to sinking faster), and it's even possible for the necromancy (however it works) to not understand how swimming works in the first place.

Conclusion about the swimming.

Wights can survive in water, but they are mostly incapable of moving around in water. It stands to reason that they can walk on the bottom though.

We can't know which definition of swimming Euron was focusing on. We can somewhat deduce that whoever answered the question (I'm not sure who it was) was thinking about moving around in water, not surviving.

Also note that if the wights were keen on travelling through water, they could easily have circumvented the Wall. Most of the argument as to why they did not circumvent it relies on the impracticality of doing so (no fleet, it creates a bottleneck, ...) but those arguments go out the window when they can just walk on the ocean bed like it's nobody's business.

  • Another part to this answer: An assumption is that the answer to Euron Greyjoy's question is accurate. The only experiences Jon Snow has to base his answer on are Hardhome and Battle in the Ice in the previous episode. He's hardly an authority on wight capabilities around water. The only thing he has to base anything on, is what happened to wights when the ice broke, often with missing limbs?
    – DariM
    Aug 29, 2017 at 21:37
  • @DariM I somewhat disagree there. Jon has the most hands-on experience with wights of anyone in Westeros, and furthermore is not known for exaggerating (compared to e.g. Thormund, who is literally called "Tall-talker" and "Horn-blower" due to his exagerated storytelling). The Maesters could have a tome with more information, but the Maesters cannot personally vouch for the author's correctness. Jon is one of the few actual witnesses, and an honorable man on top of that. That makes him the best available (though not perfect) authority on wights, in my opinion.
    – Flater
    Aug 30, 2017 at 10:32
  • I don't disagree that he has the most hands-on experience with wights (all of 3 encounters), and isn't prone to exaggeration. He is the best available authority, but that doesn't make him much of one, especially when it comes to their capabilities. For the people of Westeros, his word means more than anyone else's, but he has no absolute knowledge on "they cannot swim". His evidence is they didn't at Hardhome (Night King wanted to show off, maybe a choice), and they didn't seem to at the Ice Lake, after crashing through during fights and stuff.
    – DariM
    Aug 30, 2017 at 21:18
  • The main point I'm making is taking it as an absolute truth that "Wights cannot swim" because "Jon said so" is unreliable. For us as viewers at least. In-universe, no one can contradict him.
    – DariM
    Aug 30, 2017 at 21:20
  • @DariM: Which is why I based my OOU question on things we've seen ourselves, and not "Jon said so". If you want to argue that Jon's statements are not correct, you need to know how Jon interpreted the question (as to the different aspects of swimming - see my answer) and you simply cannot know that just from him saying no. There are cases where his statements are objectively correct (they seem to be unable to stay afloat).
    – Flater
    Aug 31, 2017 at 7:17

The chains looked heavy enough to sink. A couple of wights could grab each chain as they’re lowered into the water, and attach the chain to the dragon once they’re down there. Then come back up with it.

  • 1
    The size of the chains shouldn't matter, only the density. Higher density than water = sinks in water. Assuming pure iron, the density is 7850 kg/m³ (compared to 1000 kg/m³ for water). With the exception of lithium and sodium (not really relevant here), all metals will sink in water.
    – Flater
    Aug 29, 2017 at 15:36
  • @Flater: quite right. Aug 29, 2017 at 17:36
  • @Flater I know what you are getting at, but all those steel ships would disagree that all metal sinks in water... surface area plays a factor as well.
    – Skooba
    Sep 9, 2017 at 15:24
  • @skooba: steel ships still float because their average density (steel + contained air) is lower than that of water. It has nothing to do with surface area in particular.
    – Flater
    Sep 9, 2017 at 16:25
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    @flater “your steel ship floats. Now fill it with water” — done. “suddenly the ship will sink” — Oh, now you tell me. Do you have any chains and/or wights I could borrow. Sep 11, 2017 at 7:57

For all we know, they probably can swim. I do not remember exactly who answered "no" to Euron's question, but they do not have definite proof of the wights not being able to swim.

  • 1
    it was Jon Snow who said it. even if the can't swim i am certainly sure they can still walk under water meaning they have no need to swim as long as they can touch the ground Aug 29, 2017 at 8:07

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