The end of the 7th season left everything ready for the final end of Game of Thrones, in which Westeros is divided, and an invasion of White Walkers is approaching. However, it is not the first time that this threat tries to destroy humanity.
This is what we know about the first human war against White Walkers and what it tells us about the next season of the series.
Westeros before the Long Night
It has been more than 8,000 years since the White Walkers invaded Westeros, millennia before Aegon Targaryen arrived on its shores and conquered the region for his family. The Westeros we see in Game of Thrones is very different from the one that faced the so-called “Long Night” millennia ago, a land in which magic and strange creatures existed in abundance.
The White Walkers came to Westeros after two millennia in complete peace. After the Children of the Forest and the First Men, those who arrived before anyone else to the continent, signed a peace agreement known as “the Covenant”, which allowed the two societies to live in harmony after the men arrived and cut the forests of the children to get wood, as detailed in the following video:
But the arrival of a very long winter, one that lasted several generations of Men and Boys, brought with it a threat that almost ends the two races completely.
The origin of “the Others” (name used to refer to both walkers and their army, which can include human zombies, giant zombies and frozen spiders, among others) is still unknown in the books, the only thing that is known is that they come from the northernmost region of the world. They could simply be a species that is in the coldest area of the world and that has almost never been seen in history because of the icy conditions in which they live, or perhaps they are a tribe of First Men that was killed and revived thanks to a dark magic for some unknown reason.
Either way, the long winter (known as the “Long Night”) allowed the dead to march south to the lands occupied by the Children of the Forest and the First Men, plundering their villages and turning their dead into zombies .
The last hero
When the Others invaded the south for the first time, the Children and First Men were overcome by an implacable army that could not die, and that also made each victim one of them. Therefore, these societies were forced to flee increasingly to the south of Westeros.
The legends of the northern regions tell that in the darkest days of the Long Night, the First Men discovered that they could kill the zombies using Dragonglass, the preferred weapon of the Children of the Forest. A being known as “the Last Hero” supposedly went through the regions occupied by the White Walkers to beg the Children to lend them their glassy weapons, which would allow them to defeat the Others. All of the companions of the Last Hero, including his dog, died on the way to his encounter, but fortunately, he managed to gain the trust of the Children.
Now, with the ability to face the White Walkers, the alliance between the First Men and the Children of the Forest pushed the Others back little by little. A group of men used the Dragonglass arms to face the Others with the Last Hero, and they became the first version of the Night’s Watch.
Eventually, the White Walkers’ horde was forced to retreat, to the northern regions from which they came, after a great battle known as the “Battle for the Dawn,” which put an end to the Long Night and weakened the others. It was then that Bran the Builder, the legendary founder of Stark House, allegedly lifted the Wall, an ice and magic structure of the Children that crosses Westeros from side to side, and appointed the Night’s Watch to watch over it. That the Others could not threaten Westeros again.
The arrival of the Night King
Unfortunately, the Night’s Watch was close to failing in its mission shortly after its creation (little, only if we take into account that eight millennia have passed since then). The thirteenth Commander of the Guard fell in love with a mysterious woman with pale blue eyes and an icy skin, believed to be a White Walker. After making love, the Commander’s soul linked to hers and returned to the Guard to force his men to swear loyalty to them both, the new Kings of the night.
When it was discovered that the King of the Night was making sacrifices for the Others beyond the Wall, the Free Peoples and Stark allied to defeat this King and his forces. When the Night’s Watch resumed its activities after the victory, the name and history of this Commander was removed from their records and was forbidden to be spoken of again. It was not until the recent events of Game of Thrones that the Others again threatened the peace of Westeros, after having spent thousands of years.
The television series has revealed that his version of the Night King was a human, who was made the first White Walker by the Children of the Forest by sticking a magical glass dagger into his chest. Its sole purpose was to be used as a weapon against the First Men, something that was revealed in the episode of the sixth season called “The Door”. This version clearly contradicts the Night King mentioned in the books, since the Night’s Watch would not be created until many years later.
The Long Night beyond Westeros
In the modern Westeros (at least before Jon and his team brought back a zombie to show Cersei Lannister) the story of the Long Night has become a fairy tale, and not only in the Seven Kingdoms are myths heard about the invasion of the Others. In Essos believe that the Long Night was the event that made the Rhoyne, one of the most important rivers west of that continent, freeze completely, indicating that this winter even affected the regions beyond the Narrow Sea. The flock of Rhoynar does not speak of the arrival of the White Walkers during the winter, but it is believed that an unnamed hero united all the towns to sing a song that ended the Long Night.
Even further east in Essos, the tales of the Long Night are interspersed with the legend of Azor Ahai, the legendary warrior who carried a flaming sword called “Owner of Light”. In Yi Ti they believe that the Long Night was created when a goddess called the “Maiden Made of Light” turned her back on the world, freeing the Lion of Night, a demon that plagued the world with cold and darkness until Azor Ahai (seemingly confused with the Last Hero of Westeros’ folklore) united humanity to defeat the forces of this demon. Thanks to Melisandre we know that the legend of Azor Ahai came to Westeros and expanded throughout the territory, along with the prophecy that his return will save humanity again when the Others return.
Although thousands of years have passed since the last invasion of the Others, it is difficult to say if Westeros is more prepared now than they were during the Long Night thousands of years ago. In fact, this time there seemed to be less hope. The end of the seventh season made it clear to us how divided the powers are in Westeros, unlike when the First Men were united and therefore managed to repel the Others. Not only that, this time the Children of the Forest are not there to help them.
We will have to wait until the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones to know how humanity defeats the White Walkers for the second time if they ever do so. The odds are not in your favor.