White Walkers and wights in Game of Thrones explained

Game of Thrones introduced the White Walkers and wights right at the beginning. What was the difference between the types of undead creatures?

Night King. Game of Thrones episode 66 (season 7, episode 6): Vladimir Furdik. Photo: courtesy of HBO
Night King. Game of Thrones episode 66 (season 7, episode 6): Vladimir Furdik. Photo: courtesy of HBO /
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When it came to villains on Game of Thrones, it was clear that the undead north of The Wall would be the most formidable. They would be the hardest to deal with as they seemed invincible.

We’ll ignore how it all ended and how it should have ended for now. Game of Thrones is one of those shows that had a lot more untapped potential, in part because of these undead villains. Understanding the hierarchy made them even more intriguing.

The hierarchy of the undead on Game of Thrones

At the very top of the hierarchy was the Night King. We learned how and why he was created by the Children of the Forest, although things spun out of control. That’s the usual case for these types of creatures, right?

Below the Night King were the White Walkers. They were like the officers in an army.

Then you have the solders, who were known as the wights. Any dead person could be turned into a wight. It was why the wildlings burned corpses to make sure they couldn’t be brought back from the dead.

One of the biggest differences between White Walkers and wights is that the White Walkers have more autonomy. They understand more and they are able to make some of their own choices. We saw that when a White Walker saw Sam cowering in the season 2 finale, but walked past and did not attack. A wight would have. White Walkers also have a bit of a crown through their horns, suggesting that they are a higher level than wights just at a glance.

Wights do as they are commanded by the White Walkers and the Night King. They look the way they did when they died. If they lost limbs, they would remain lost. If they were skeletons by the time they were raised from the dead, that's the way they would appear. If they lost limbs during their time as wights, they would be left without them. That wouldn't stop them from being dangerous!

How are White Walkers and wights created?

White Walkers and wights are created in different ways. The Night King would raise his hands and bring back dead people, turning them into wights. Humans, giants, animals; it didn’t matter what they were, they could be brought back from the dead. They would have blue eyes, making it clear they were the undead.

We saw that White Walkers would take Craster’s son and take them to the Night King. The Night King would then place his fingertip on the baby and the eyes would turn blue. It looks like White Walkers can be created through the Night King’s touch without people being dead.

The Night King was originally created by the Children of the Forest. The Children of the Forest don’t go into too many details about how the White Walkers were created vs. how the Night King was created. However, we do learn that the White Walkers were created to fight against the First Men who attacked the Children of the Forest many generations ago.

When the White Walkers got out of control, the people of Westeros worked with giants and the Children of the Forest to create the Wall, pushing the White Walkers into the Lands of Always Winter. The Night’s Watch was created to protect Westeros from the White Walkers, although that faded as the truth about the White Walkers was forgotten and labeled a myth.

How to kill White Walkers and wights

It’s hard to kill these creatures, but not impossible. Everything has some sort of weakness. We know for wights, fire is a weakness. And there are a few others.

Sam Tarley learns that dragonglass can kill a White Walker. He and Jon also learn that Valyrian Steel can kill them. So they go about collecting as much dragonglass as they can as they build their army of the living.

They also learn that wights and White Walkers can’t swim. They are stuck on the other side of a body of water and have to wait for it to freeze over. Of course, there are still questions about how the wights placed chains on Daenerys' dragon after it fell into a frozen lake, but we’ll overlook that! The Night King could have forced some wights to sacrifice themselves.

Killing the Night King kills all White Walkers and wights. That is a standard weakness for any creature in mythology that has this sort of hierarchy.

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