The first episode of Season Eight of HBO’s Game of Thrones television series is now just 12 days away. For those who are gearing up for the final season by reading up on theories about how it might end, I have a few. This is a continuation of last week’s list of guesses as to how the series will end based on clues from the books (and series). (In this post I assume that you have seen the TV series and therefore forgo a lot of explanation.)
Warning: Possible SPOILERS ahead.
Guess #3: The crypts of Winterfell may play a large role in Season Eight.
The hard part is figuring out how. HBO’s Season Eight trailers have certainly foreshadowed this possibility. And here are some of the clues we’ve been given in the books that have prompted this discussion:
(Book 1, Old Nan to Bran): “In that darkness, the Others came for the first time,” she said as her needles went click click click. “They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins.” [Emphasis in all quotes is mine.]
(Book 1, Jon to Sam, describing his recurring dream): And then I find myself in front of the door to the crypts. It’s black inside, and I can see the steps spiraling down. Somehow I know I have to go down there, but I don’t want to. I’m afraid of what might be waiting for me. The old Kings of Winter are down there, sitting on their thrones with stone wolves at their feet and iron swords across their laps, but it’s not them I’m afraid of.”
(Book 1, Jon): Last night he had dreamt the Winterfell dream again. He was wandering the empty castle, searching for his father, descending into the crypts. Only this time the dream had gone further than before. In the dark he’d heard the scrape of stone on stone. When he turned he saw that the vaults were opening, one after the other. As the dead kings came stumbling from their cold black graves, Jon had woken in pitch-dark, his heart hammering.
(Book 1, Eddard, in a dream): He was walking through the crypts beneath Winterfell, as he had walked a thousand times before. The Kings of Winter watched him pass with eyes of ice, and the direwolves at their feet turned their great stone heads and snarled.
(Book 2, Theon, in a dream): But there were others with faces he had never known in life, faces he had seen only in stone … Lyanna. Her brother Brandon stood beside her, and their father Lord Rickard just behind. Along the walls figures half-seen moved through the shadows, pale shades with long grim faces.
(Book 5, in the crypts of Winterfell): “That king is missing his sword,” Lady Dustin observed. It was true. Theon did not recall which king it was, but the longsword he should have held was gone. Streaks of rust remained to show where it had been. The sight disquieted him. He had always heard that the iron in the sword kept the spirits of the dead locked within their tombs. If a sword was missing …
Discussion: There is some wild speculation out there about the crypts. A couple of theories state that the dead kings will rise and become wights (with blue “eyes of ice”) or that the dead kings are entombed White Walkers. It does makes some sense that some of the kings might be “released” once reanimated by the Night King as he arrives at Winterfell.
But I think it’s far more likely that there are simply secrets hidden in the tombs that the ancient Starks of Winterfell preferred never be revealed and that are now long forgotten. One possibility is that the Night King (so far only mentioned on the show) was a Stark. The other is that the Night‘s King (not the same person, and only mentioned in the books) was a Stark. Which leads me to …
Guess #4: The Night King may have been an ancestor of the Starks (as one of the First Men), and there may be something in the crypts of Winterfell that he wants.
The recently released HBO trailers make it pretty clear that the first battle of the coming war occurs at Winterfell. Is it just because it’s the first holdfast along the King’s Road (other than Castle Black)? Why is it that “there must always be a Stark in Winterfell”? Why did the White Walkers let Will go in the prelude to the first episode? Why didn’t the Night King attempt to kill Jon Snow at Hardhome? Is there something at Winterfell that the Night King needs or wants? Why is it called Winterfell? We’re all hoping these questions will be answered in the final season … or we may have to wait for the upcoming prequel series.
Between the series and the books, the term Night King and Night’s King can be confusing. There are no mentions of the show’s Night King in the books. The books, however, mention a Night’s King, who is someone different:
(Book 3, Bran): The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.
(Book 3, Bran, continued): “Some say he was a Bolton,” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear Island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down.” She always pinched Bran on the nose then, he would never forget it. “He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.” No, Bran thought, but he walked in this castle, where we’ll sleep tonight. He did not like that notion very much at all. Night’s King was only a man by light of day, Old Nan would always say, but the night was his to rule. And it’s getting dark.
Discussion: Old Nan’s story is echoed in the history of Westeros as told in The World of Ice and Fire, which may or may not give it additional credence. The Night King from the show, if he was the first one (there are some who theorize there was one before him), was created by the Children of the Forest, and probably was one of the First Men. That means he came before the Wall was built, which means he’s not the same person as the Night’s King, who was the 13th commander of the Night’s Watch, which guarded the Wall after it was built.
Yet … is there a connection between these two mysterious characters? Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the names are so similar.
BUT … once again I’m out of room and out of time. I will continue this series on clues and foreshadowing in the next blog post!