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This question presumes that White Walkers were in hibernation. Were they really? What's the citation?

Why exactly The Night King made humans believe that White Walkers were extinct?

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  • 2
    Bullding up his forces, letting the Seven Kingdoms grow fat and complacent....
    – Valorum
    Jun 1 '19 at 15:43
  • 8
    There are hints in the episodes featuring the House of the Undying that the power and availability of magic in the GOT universe waxes and wanes. Something cyclical (maybe the comet?) has supercharged magic at around the time of the start of the show. The Walkers rise again; Dany becomes the uber-Targaryen; dragons return to the world; the warlocks get their powers back; etc. There just may not have been enough magic for the Night King to drawn upon in the interim.
    – tbrookside
    Jun 1 '19 at 16:04
  • 13
    "Just chilling".
    – user41830
    Jun 1 '19 at 17:20
  • 3
    @Valorum - Ahem
    – JAD
    Jun 3 '19 at 7:20
  • 1
    Also had to wait for a dragon to bring the wall down
    – wrymug
    Jun 5 '19 at 13:33
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We know a couple things about the state of White Walkers and their army of wights:

  1. The wights are able to stay in some form of stasis for unknown amounts of time. We see this with the recently dead rangers that are brought back into Castle Black and then attack Lord Commander Mormont, and then with long dead wights that attack Bran, Jojen, and Meera when they are trying to enter the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven.
  2. The army of the dead is massive. By all accounts there are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of wights.
  3. The killings have only begun relatively recently again. This is the reason the Freefolk have been united and are moving en masse toward the wall. No other threat was great enough to compel them to do so.

So while there is no direct citation the conclusion we make as readers or watchers is that at least the wights have been dormant and probably in their form stasis awaiting something.

The White Walkers on the other hand been active for at least a few years or decades. We know this because they have been taking Craster's sons and while don't know exactly how old he is, he is described as nearing the end of his life. Craster has always given his sons to "the gods" and has been sexually active for quite a while. We know from the show these babies are turned by the Night King into White Walkers.

So we know the White Walkers are up to something. That something has to do with taking over the human world. However, the why is never explained in the show and the books have not gotten that far yet.

As to wanting the humans to believe they are extinct, well that is obvious... the element of surprise. If your enemy isn't preparing for your attack you have a have huge advantage.

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