George R.R. Martin has been writing — about football, the importance of voting, and The Winds of Winter.
The author is still holed up in his cabin, presumably still working on the sixth installment of his A Song of Ice and Fire series. However, Martin’s Winds of Winter updates — which saw a sharp increase earlier this year due to the pandemic — have been steadily dwindling in the last couple of months.
Still, we can assume that he revisits Westeros quite often. Currently, the book is tentatively scheduled to be completed at some point next year. But, the release date can always be delayed (as it has been many times in the past) and it all depends on how far along Martin is in his writing.
In the meantime, we’ve been speculating about what The Winds of Winter could expand upon or change from Game of Thrones. On the show, the Night King and the White Walkers marched south beyond the wall in a bid to take over, kill or turn the Westerosi into wights. Or so we thought. It’s not like the Night King and his army ever spoke for themselves.
The Night’s Watch, which was set up to protect the realm from the White Walkers (aka the Others), have been made out to be the good guys all along. However, The Winds of Winter could make a key change regarding the Night King’s true intentions, altering the outcome of the Battle of Winterfell and the reputation of the Night’s Watch forever.
Their watch has ended
The Night’s Watch has withstood the test of time. The brotherhood has been upheld as a beacon of hope, strength, and courage. To serve at the wall was considered an honorable civic duty — swearing an oath to fight and protect the realm was similar to that of the Kingsguard’s promise to safeguard the ruling family and King’s Landing. But, most of the Night’s Watch history has been based on legend and hearsay.
Bran the Builder is credited with building the wall, with the aid of giants and the children of the forest. One account suggests that he was the one who gifted the Night’s Watch with the miles of land south of the wall. However, there isn’t much evidence that Bran the Builder ever existed beyond the exaggerated tales. Even Catelyn Stark is skeptical that he built the wall considering that it’s made of ice and not bricks.
Regardless, the organization and the myth of the builder may be more connected to the White Walkers than we’ve been led to believe. The intent of the Night’s Watch (and Bran the Builder’s alleged support of them) may have started off as a noble call to arms. But, in the centuries since its inception, the organization has become less idealistic and virtuous. It’s more or less a place of exile and punishment now — criminals and disinherited sons like Samwell Tarly are sent there as a way for society to ignore their existence.
The Night King’s true goal
When the Night King appears in Game of Thrones, he and the rest of the White Walkers seem evil. They’re ice zombies who can turn anyone into the undead and, yeah, that's pretty scary and it's easy to jump to conclusions. The Night King has not yet appeared in Martin's books, but it's possible that the icy leader and the Night's King are one and the same. In the novels, the Night's King was Brandon Stark, the 13th commander of the Night's Watch who led in the years after the wall was built.
After falling in love with an icy woman with blue eyes (fans believe her to be an Other), he crowned himself king and her the corpse queen. For 13 years thereafter, Brandon ruled the Night's Watch with an iron fist and sacrificed them to the Others. It took the power of three kings to stop him and free the Night's Watch, after which all evidence of his existence were destroyed. The only stories that remain began with the 14th lord commander and have been passed down through generations since.
However, we know that the Night’s Watch has a history of betrayal. They turned on Jon Snow, unhappy with his alliance with the freefolk, and killed him. The men of the watch also mutinied against Lord Commander Jeor Mormont at Craster’s Keep, murdering him and taking the keep as a base.
The mutiny also depleted most of the order’s forces. With such a terrible track record, it can be argued that the 14th lord commander of the Night's Watch betrayed Brandon Stark and sent him beyond the wall. Back then, the brotherhood was closed off from the south and anything could have happened without anyone knowing.
It’s possible that Brandon Stark was turned by the Others in the aftermath, joining their ranks and their cause. What’s more, the wall and the land surrounding it may have belonged to the White Walkers. The wall is made of ice and we know that the Others are able to control it — wherever they go, winter comes with them. Their return from the north may have less to do with taking over Westeros and everything to do with revenge for stolen property.
A fan theory suggests that the Night King and the White Walkers flanking him on Game of Thrones are none other than members of the old Night’s Watch (or a few of the 12 lord commanders before him) back for revenge. It can’t be a coincidence that the Night King’s icy points surrounding his head eerily resemble that of a crown. He’s also wearing armor and is capable of controlling his army with ease and tactical intelligence.
Winter is still coming
The Winds of Winter may reveal that history and legend had it all wrong. If the White Walkers did build the wall, then it stands to reason that they were driven out by the Night’s Watch. Perhaps the 13th lord commander discovered the truth and that’s why his existence became a myth painting him as the antagonist.
If Martin decides to go this route, it would change everything we’ve come to know about the Night King, the White Walkers, and the noble reputation of the Night’s Watch. It could prove to be more interesting than what Game of Thrones did with the Others. Plus, the author has hinted that the Others will have a bigger role to play in the sixth book and answers are forthcoming.
Currently, Bran is still learning about his abilities and the history of Westeros from the three-eyed crow. If he finds out the truth about the Night’s King and relays that information, it could change the outcome of the Battle of Winterfell and beyond. The Others have yet to make a huge impact in the books, but potentially revealing that they’ve been misunderstood for centuries might just be the biggest twist of all.