I'm trying to get an understanding how much the Night King's army could grow on his way south by raising the bodies of people killed during the previous seasons, even without killing anyone else.

I know that the one sure-fire way (no pun intended) to prevent reanimation is to burn the body. Burying them deeply enough might also work but I'm unsure about that. I also have no idea how the state of decomposition might factor into this.

Now there were a couple of notable battles (potentially) providing fodder for the undead army. In which of these did the bodies get burned (or otherwise secured against reanimation) afterwards? And conversely, from which sources can we expect dead fighters to join (or already have joined) the undead army?

  • Fist of the First Men - presumably all dead Crows got reanimated
  • Wildlings raiding Mole's Town and the Gift - ?
  • Wildlings vs. Castle Black - ?
  • Craster's Keep (both times) - ?
  • Hardhome - everyone was raised
  • Stannis vs. Wildlings - I think all the dead were burned, no reanimation possible (?)
  • Stannis vs. Ramsay - ?
  • Battle of the Bastards - ?

For simplicity's sake, I'm restricting myself to the Northern part of the North, up to about the height of Winterfell. If I forgot any other incidents leading to a relevant amount of casualties, feel free to add them.

I'm primarily interested in the show, but I'm also tagging the books in case they provide some information about the requirements for corpses to be reanimated.

  • A safe bet would be Jon burned all the dead off screen. With the first couple it's possible they were burnt. Wildlings v wall were definitely all burnt. Etc. Any battle with time for burning bodies and someone who knew they should be burnt winning, you can put your money on a burning having happened.
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 9, 2017 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


It is like you said, unless a body has been burned, We don't know! TM

The best we can determine is that the state of a reanimated wight is based on the state of decay they were in when they were raised. If there is a time limit on this we can not be certain. While we have seen some very skeletal wights on the show, I believe there must be some sort of flesh left for a wight to work properly.

  • 1
    The thing is, north of the Wall, its cold enough to preserve corpses for weeks, if not years. Even south of the Wall it has become cold enough for that. This means that there is a lot of potential lying around. I am certain, that there are some plot limitations to the Night Kings powers and their use. After all, he didn't reanimate Thoros right away, while I'm pretty sure he could. Would have been awesome though ... Sep 9, 2017 at 22:30
  • Do we actually know that wights do not continue to decay after reanimation, perhaps just very slowly? Perhaps the synergy with the cold is really about slowing down that process. Sep 10, 2017 at 5:02
  • I believe the answer of this question has changed after we saw season 8 episode 3 May 28, 2019 at 6:44

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