In Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 8 (Hardhome), we saw :

Jon Snow and others escape from white walkers using boat.

I wonder why :

the White Walkers couldn't enter into water or swim? Can't they just turn water into ice with their touch?

Was it intentional :

to let Jon Snow run away after they saw his sword (Valyrian steel) could kill White Walkers?

  • 3
    Not sure how to answer either of these questions. We all saw the same show you did and this encounter didn't happen in the books. Neither show nor books are likely to spell out the White Walkers intentions, so you have to use your own imagination Jul 8, 2015 at 12:53
  • 2
    I didn't know that it's not in the books.. anyway discussions are welcome...thanks.
    – abhi
    Jul 8, 2015 at 13:09
  • In the winter, water freezes, it is known. Even the sea.
    – TLP
    Jul 8, 2015 at 14:22
  • Much of the questions about white walkers go unanswered because the books (which to me are the source of canon info) hasn't even shown Hardhome yet, and may not show at all given what happened to Jon even before they go. Jul 8, 2015 at 20:51
  • 3
    @abhi No, discussions are not welcome in the main site. Only answers are welcome. If you want to discuss opinions about White Walkers, why not try our chat?
    – Andres F.
    Aug 22, 2015 at 7:55

5 Answers 5


We don't know as of yet.

This particular event hasn't taken place in the books, nor has anything similar happen. The TV show didn't offer much insight either, so we can only speculate.

Maybe the white walkers can't swim, maybe they didn't want to.

There is a good discussion on Reddit.

If they could swim what's the point of the wall?


It could've also been a trick. Now Jon suspects they can't swim so he's only going to prepare for land attacks.

The only thing that comes close to this from the books is in aGoT, Tyrion III:

Mormont was deaf to the edge in his voice. "The fisherfolk near Eastwatch have glimpsed white walkers on the shore."

Also, on aDwD, Jon XII; this is a message sent from Cotter Pyke to Jon:

Jon read:
At Hardhome, with six ships. Wild seas. Blackbird lost with all hands, two Lyseni ships driven aground on Skane, Talon taking water. Very bad here. Wildlings eating their own dead. Dead things in the woods. Braavosi captains will only take women, children on their ships. Witch women call us slavers. Attempt to take Storm Crow defeated, six crew dead, many wildlings. Eight ravens left. Dead things in the water. Send help by land, seas wracked by storms. From Talon, by hand of Maester Harmune.

And another discussion on the forum of Ice and Fire.

  • That doesn't say whether the dead things in the water were wights, white walkers, dead humans (not turned to wights yet), dead birds, or dead fish. It just says they were dead and in the water. Nor does it say what they were doing in the water. Playing dead. Playing water polo. Flaying about trying to grab a log to stay afloat. Sinking. Floating. I don't think this provides sufficient info to answer the question.
    – user89104
    Jan 22, 2018 at 4:24

As of Season 7, Episode 6, Beyond the Wall it appears that White Walkers or at least their wights can "swim".

The definition of swim here is being used loosely as "able to walk into water deeper than they are tall, walk back out at a undetermined amount of time later, and seem to have no ill effect".

We see the Army of the Dead take large chains into a frozen lake to pull out Viserion

Also in Season 7, Episode 7 The Wolf and the Dragon

Euron: Can they swim?

Jon: No.

So in-universe characters are describing them as unable to swim. How much that actually means is debatable...

  • "can they swim" is directed toward the wights, not the white walkers. Unless the books state differently, the white walkers may be able to swim.
    – Odin1806
    Aug 29, 2017 at 5:12
  • They (WW and wights) have no need to be able to swim. As they can only be killed by what has been forged by fire. Therefore water has no harm to them and they can just walk through it. (Example on what I mean can be seen here) Aug 29, 2017 at 8:23

There has not been a confirmed case of white walkers crossing water in the books or in the show. You bring up a good point though. If they could have crossed water, why did they

let Jon Snow escape?

Given the conclusion of that episode, and the fact the wall was built in the first place, it seems their army (including the wights) cannot easily cross large bodies of water.

  • There is a reason on why they could have left Jon escape; see my answer Jul 8, 2015 at 14:59

This is based mainly on speculation, but there are a few reasons I think the assault stopped at the shoreline:

  1. White walkers make everything freeze. Even metal. If they were to go into the water, the water would freeze around them, and they would be stuck. Not a very good attack plan.

  2. Most of the undead are just bones. Humans float because of a combination of the air in their bodies and the wading/swimming techniques they use. These skeletons have no air to help them, and swimming without much surface area on their bodies cannot be easy. They are very dense compared to humans, so they likely would sink.

  3. To make the last moments of the scene amazing. Who doesn't want to see that "come at me, bro" moment when an entirely new army rises from the ground?


The white walkers and armies of the dead don't have to swim they can walk across underwater. The dead don't breathe air or float when weighed down with armor. Far fetched theory but a good one

  • So, is this just a theory of yours? Speculation isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it'd be better to back it up with elements from the books, show, interviews, etc; this would make for an actual answer as they're defined here.
    – Jenayah
    Sep 29, 2018 at 16:40

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