The biggest threat to everyone on Game of Thrones isn’t Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons or Cersei’s penchant for Wildfire. It’s the Army of The Dead who will wipe out humanity if nobody stops them.
While Jon Snow has the right idea to track down Dragonglass in Season 7 — one of the only materials known to slay them — all the characters are ignoring another potential aid: the Shadow Lands.
The Shadow Lands are a mysterious and remote place in Essos beyond Asshai, where Melisandre hails from. The face-plate wearing Quaithe, who Jorah met in Qarth in Season 2, is from the Shadow Lands. In the books, she tells Daenerys a riddle implying that she will find “truth” in that region.
The Shadow Lands are among the most under-explored places in the Known World — aside from the Land of Always Winter, where the White Walkers originate.
Although the Shadow Lands have never appeared onscreen in Game of Thrones, they’ve been an integral background part of the narrative since the beginning. Back in Season 1, when Illyrio Mopatis gave the nervous young Daenerys Targaryen three dragon eggs as a wedding gift, guess where they came from? The Shadow Lands.
Although it hasn’t been said in the show, the Shadow Lands also contain the mysterious ruins of Stygai, which is also known as “the city of night.” It supposedly holds creatures like demons and dragons.
And in the second episode of Season 1, Jorah makes an intriguing comment: “In the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai, they say there are fields of Ghost Grass, with stalks as pale as milk that glow in the night, murders all other grass. The Dothraki believe that one day, it’ll cover everything, that’s the way the world will end.”
There are many theories about what this comment refers to and whether the Ghost Grass is actually the same thing as the White Walkers and the Long Night or whether it’s a different kind of apocalypse.
All of these threads of information are intriguing apart — the origin of Dany’s dragons; a city of night; an apocalypse of Ghost Grass. But when considered together, they weave a picture that could provide the answer to defeating the White Walkers.
Game of Thrones is filled with grave utterances about The Long Night, prophecies about dragons, and legends about the impending apocalyptic Winter. One of Jon Snow’s favorite grave utterances is, “The Long Night is coming and the dead come with it.”
Because Season 6 reveals that the White Walkers were made from magic — from the Children of the Forest — it stands to reason that magic is also the key to their defeat.
Thanks to Melisandre’s shadow-baby and the Season 6 revelation that her youthful appearance is just a facade, we know she possesses magic. Asshai and the Shadow Lands are places of strange dark magic. It seems too simple for Jon Snow to simply go to Dragonstone, where there’s a handy pile of Dragonglass. Surely defeating the White Walkers is more difficult.
Although the Shadow Lands haven’t been mentioned in a while, Game of Thrones has a track record with bringing back plot points from several seasons earlier. Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr came back into the narrative after a three season absence; Benjen Stark returned in Season 6 after a six season absence. There would be a precedent for the Shadow Lands to be plot- relevant again.
Game of Thrones Season 7 is currently airing Sunday nights on HBO.