If you’ve been keeping up with this whole Game of Thrones craze that all the kids are into, then you already know about the White Walkers. In the books, they’re known as the Others, a mysterious, beautiful race of ice folk who seem to be interested in moving south for the winter. In the show, they’re those Mr. Freeze lookin’ dudes with the snow zombie army. And they seem to be controlled by one particular bumpy-headed fella known as the Night King.
There are plenty of theories flying around about the Night King: he’s secretly time-traveling Bran Stark from the future, or he’s just trying to protect his ice people people from the humans, or he’s sick of being an ice monster and he just wants to be a real boy again. But for book nerds like me, there’s only one real question about this apparent ruler of the White Walkers:
Does he even exist in the books?
The show has zipped past the Song of Ice and Fire books in terms of timeline. HBO has already revealed to us that the Night King was the first of the White Walkers, transformed from his original human form by the Children of the Forest.
The show has also revealed that the Night King can turn human babies into lil’ tiny White Walkers, solving the mystery of what happens to Craster’s sons after they’re taken by "the cold gods." It seems clear that the Night King is ruling over the White Walkers and their zombies, and that he’s the one who’s leading the charge on the Wall with his new pet ice dragon.
In the books, though, we’re still pretty much in the dark about how the White Walkers operate. The Others are talked about frequently, and we see plenty of walking dead who have been animated by their magic. But we barely ever see the Others themselves: there was the one White Walker who Sam killed, and the five White Walkers who appeared briefly in the prologue to the very first book, and that’s about it.
So could there be a Night King in the books? Sure. The show is so far ahead in the story at this point that we can’t say what they’ve totally changed and what they’ve nabbed from George R.R. Martin’s future plans. Plus, so much of the story revolves around kings and queens that it wouldn’t be all that surprising to give the ice dudes a monarch, too.
But there’s also a good chance that we won’t get a singular Night King in the books. For one, we already have a "Night’s" King.
According to Westerosi legend, there was once a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who declared himself a king. This was not long after the Wall was first completed. He broke his vows by falling in love with a woman "with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars," whose flesh was "cold as ice." From all the mythic descriptions, she sure sounds like a lady White Walker. He married her, and together they reigned as Night’s King and Night’s Queen at the Nightfort, until the King in the North and the King Beyond the Wall joined forces to take him down.
Old Nan, the Stark kids’ nurse, claims that this ancient Night’s King was, in fact, one of the early Brandon Starks.
Now I know that George R.R. Martin loves doubling up on his character names, but it seems just a little much (even for him) to drop a whole slew of hints about a guy called the "Night’s King" and then also add a separate character named the "Night King." I doubt he’ll introduce a king for the White Walkers called the Night King… but I do think there’s a chance he’ll find a way to bring the Night’s King back into the story.
It’s possible, after all, that the Night’s King was a human who was transformed into a White Walker somehow, becoming their ruler. Maybe he’s still ruling them now. It’s possible that he was transformed into something else, like the demi-zombie Coldhands (who is not Benjen Stark in the books, as he is in the show, just to add a layer of confusion).
It’s also possible that the historical Night’s King and his lady got it on and had some half-ice babies. Maybe their kids are now in charge of the White Walkers. It’s potentially possible that the Starks are descended from these half-Walkers, hence their creepy wolf and tree-based powers.
And it’s even possible that, while the human Night’s King perished hundreds of years ago, his icy Night’s Queen is still kicking and looking for vengeance. Maybe she’s the one ruling the White Walkers now. I’m not saying that’s the best possible outcome, but if the entire Song of Ice and Fire series boiled down to a fight and/or marriage between Jon Snow and a badass ice queen who’s basically mega-powered Elsa from Frozen, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
So will there be a Night King in the Song of Ice and Fire books? Maybe. But I think there’s a far better chance that it’s the Night’s King (or perhaps his queen) who’ll have a bigger role to play.
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