I've been wondering about the origins of the White Walkers for some time now, and it looks like both the books and the show have progressed enough to begin to answer some of these questions.

I've done a little of my own research which lead me to this site, which briefly talks about the Night's King and him possibly being the first White Walker. It also talks about the identity of the Night's King being the 13th commander of the Night's Watch. Given that information, is it possible to deduce the identity of the Night's King?

Also according to that site, it talks about his bride, the Night's Queen. It doesn't seem to give much detail on her other then she's:

with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars


her skin was cold as ice

Do we know who or what she was? Do we know how this story fits into the overall origin of the White Walkers?

  • 3
    It is White Walkers. Since the Night's King was commander of the Night's Watch, and the Night's Watch were founded to guard against the return of the White Walkers, it stands to reason that he could not have been the first White Walker. His queen might have been one though. As I recall, according to Old Nan, the Night's King was a Stark of Winterfell.
    – TLP
    Jun 5, 2015 at 15:13
  • @TLP Fixed Wight to White. Are we sure that the Night's Watch was originally founded to defend specifically against the White Walkers? It's only specified that they were founded to "Defend The Realms of Men", the North was a wild and dangerous place even without White Walkers. Also, do we know which Stark was commander of the Nights Watch at that point?
    – onewho
    Jun 5, 2015 at 15:19
  • 2
    And, no, we don't know the name of the commander at that point, not even if he was really a Stark. Nan thinks he was one of the innumerable Brandon Starks, and she's right about a lot of things, but she's still fallible.
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 5, 2015 at 15:32
  • @onewho The legend is that the Wall was built by Brandon "the Builder" Stark, after the Long Night -- the first battle against the undead/White Walkers. He also founded the Night's Watch to guard against the return of the White Walkers.
    – TLP
    Jun 5, 2015 at 15:42
  • 1
    @Michael: Maybe Nan is the embodiment of God. Like Bruce McGill in Quantum Leap. And maybe in the finale of the TV series, Old Nan will appear once more and tell Bran that he could walk all along, he just had to want it.
    – user46271
    Jun 5, 2015 at 22:38

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: We don't know the origins of the species, but The Night's King is a former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch who married a female Other/Walker and went bad.

At the moment - as of A Dance with Dragons (books) and Season 5 of the show - we know very little about the Others/White Walkers, their society, or even their origins. Most of what we do know is in-universe speculation & rumor from various characters. In A Storm of Swords (Chapter 56), Old Nan tells Bran the tale of The Night's King.

Origins (Reproduction vs. Transformation)

Neither the books nor the show has given a definitive origin for the creatures, called "The Others" in the books and "White Walkers" in the show. However, episode S04E04 (Oathkeeper) of the show has definitively shown that

Craster's sons are transformed into Walkers via the Night King's touch.

However, we do not know if this the sole method of reproduction or simply another way of adding to their ranks. From the books, it could be interpreted that The Others have existed on Westeros since before the arrival of Men, and may even pre-date the Children of the Forest - thus making them the oldest species in existence. However, the text is not clear on this.

We also know from the books that The Others possess genders just like Men. Although we never see a female of the species, the story of The Night's King describes one:

A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, the Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of the Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden. (A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56)

However, this story ALSO states that the king was "sacrificing to The Others", which could indicate that he was delivering babies like Craster. But given that females exist, we also have to assume that they can reproduce sexually. The most likely scenario is that females of the species are extremely rare - that would then explain why the transformation method is used to augment the species.

Also, since we only saw the first few seconds of the process, we don't know if the transformation method

transforms the infant into a baby Walker which must then grow up, or if it somehow turns him into a fully functioning, adult Walker.

At most - during that scene in Oathkeeper - we've seen fourteen Walkers together. However, since the bulk of the species is said to live in the deepest parts of the North where no Man has been, it's impossible to speculate how many Others/Walkers there are in total. For all we know, there could be entire cities of them in the coldest areas.

The Night's King

In the books, the passage above (Old Nan's story) is all we hear about The Night's King. It's assumed that, as a man, he would have died centuries ago after his banishment. However, since he is obviously still alive in the show, it appears most likely that he was transformed into a Walker himself.

How he became King of the Walkers, however, is another story altogether - one that has yet to be told. GRRM has promised we'll learn more about the Others in his next book (The Winds of Winter), so hopefully these questions will be answered then.

Note: Most of this is in my answer for Just how many White Walkers are there? as well.

Update: As of S06E05, we now know the origin of both the Walkers AND the Night King in the show's mythology. While viewing the past, Bran watches as

the Children of the Forest - led by Leaf - embed a dragonglass shard into the chest of a captured human. This human then transforms into the first Walker... the Night King. This was apparently done because the Children needed a weapon against the First Men.

  • 2
    "What we do know from the books is that The Others have existed on Westeros since before the arrival of Men, and they may even pre-date the Children of the Forest..." I don't think we know this to be true. The first time the Others were seen was ~4000 years after the First Men arrived, and the Children obviously existed long before that. What's not clear is if the Others also existed back then and just never came South, or if something happened during the Long Night to create them.
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:24
  • @MichaelEdenfield true, but the Children seemed to have prior experience with the Others - at least, they knew them to be a grave threat. At least, that's the impression I got.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:39
  • That's true, but at the same time, they didn't seem to have any idea how to fight them; presumably, if they had seen them before, they must have fought them off, since Westeros was not filled with Others.
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:46
  • 1
    (In any case, while it's very likely that the Others have been around "forever", I think it might be somewhat misleading to claim that we "know" that from the books.)
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 5, 2015 at 17:04
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    It was the honorable thing to do. :-P
    – user46271
    Jun 5, 2015 at 20:13

tl;dr: So far, we do not have any solid information about where The Others (which are called White Walkers on TV, to avoid confusion with the general term "others") came from. We also don't know a whole lot about the Night's King, but he definitely was not the first White Walker, since they pre-date the Night's Watch.

Unfortunately, there's no truly reliable records of anything that happened during that time, as written history did not begin until 6,000 BC with the arrival of the Andals. Instead, history was passed down by word of mouth, though stories, which became myths and legends. This means that our most "reliable" source of information comes from people like Old Nan. While Nan does tend to be right about a lot of things, her information is still anecdotal and heresay, and she's more interested in having good stories than good facts, so we should be properly skeptical of what she has to say.

The Others and The Long Night

The Others first appeared sometime around 8,000 BC (Before Conquest -- before the start of Aegon I Targaryen's reign), which puts it right in the middle of the Age of Heroes. (For reference, the First Men arrived on Westeros sometime around 12,000 BC, and made peace with the Children of the Forest around 10,000 BC). At that time, the First Men and the Children were at peace, and many of the Great Houses were just getting started. All of the legendary ancestors of the current houses lived during this period - Bran the Builder, Lann the Clever, the Grey King of Iron Islands, etc.

About 2,000 years after The Pact was signed between the First Men and the Children, Westeros underwent an unprecedented long winter, putting Westeros in pretty bad condition. In the middle of this winter, there was an even worse catastrophe: the Long Night, in which the sun did not rise for an entire generation (which likely means at least 20 years). It was during this Long Night that the Others appeared, from the extreme furthest reaches of the North of Westeros.

The climate in the far, far North is akin to that of Antarctica, and was thought to be completely unpopulated. Thus, the Others appearance was a complete surprise. Again, we don't know for sure, but it seems as if they were something brand new to Westeros, as the Children of the Forest did not know how to defeat them. The Others pushed down into the south of Westeros before their weakness -- obsidian -- was discovered, and they were pushed back.

The Night's Watch and The Wall

The Nights Watch was formed during this time, specifically to fight the Others. (This part of the history is commemorated in a song, "The Night That Ended", which is sung in the North and referenced a few times, though since this isn't Tolkien we don't get any lyrics :( ). The Watch fought the Others back and ultimately defeated them in the Battle for the Dawn.

After that, Bran the Builder and his allies built The Wall, again specifically to fight back against The Others. It was meant to ensure that they could never sneak up on Westeros again. The Night's Watch, being the ones that knew how to fight them off, were set to man The Wall.

Again, there are no written histories of anything during that time, so we don't know the names of the commanders. Only the ones who did something worthy of song or story are remembered.

The Night's King and his Bride

The Night's King was the thirteenth person elected as the Lord Commander of the Watch. According to his legend, he forsook his Oath, took a bride, and raised the Night's Watch in rebellion against Westeros. His Bride is described as:

with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars

Given this description, it's obvious why many fans assume she is an Other, though the maesters in-universe apparently think her description matches that of the men and women of the Barrowlands. In either case, we know almost nothing more about them personally. We know that he was eventually defeated by the King in the North and the King Beyond the Wall. We know that he was ultimately discovered to have been making sacrifices to The Others (much like Craster), and that every possible record of his or her name was destroyed, and subsequent stories and songs only use his sobriquet.

More to Come

Martin has been very intentionally coy about revealing information on things that are magical in origin. (e.g. See The Bridge on the River Rhoyne for a case where he cut something out because it was potentially "too magical.") However, he has also said that he will eventually reveal much of this eventually, towards the end of the series. He's also said we'll learn more about the Others (though he hasn't promised we'll learn where they came from) in the next novel.

Martin has implied that the screwy weather in Westeros is magical in nature, and the Others are also clearly supernatural. They also seem to be extremely closely related -- both times they appeared was during what was supposedly an extremely harsh Winter. So, it's very likely their origins are tied closely together, and we will find out about them both at the same time.

  • Aegon, nor Argon.
    – user46271
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:40
  • ewps, fixed, thanks. Please feel free to edit any of my silly mistakes you might find in the future :)
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 5, 2015 at 22:28
  • I wish that I could, but until I gain 2000 points I can only suggest edits, and those are required to have more than 6 characters. (You'll notice I only commented on the other answer, which also had a one letter typo.)
    – user46271
    Jun 5, 2015 at 22:36

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