May 24th, 2016
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched through Season 6 Episode 5 yet, this post will reveal some of what happens during and before it. If you have seen it, read on…unless you don’t want to know what might happen next. What follows are not spoilers, since I have no inside knowledge of what’s going to happen next. These are merely predictions based on plot analysis. The may be right, or they may be wrong. Either way, I think they’re plausible, and I’d say even likely, given the various hints that have been made.
Notice from our various visits to “Craster’s Keep” that Craster’s wives are of all different ages, and some of them are too young to be his daughters. That means that some of the older ones must be his sisters/aunts. None of them seem old enough to be his mother, but that may be just because we don’t see all of them, or it might be because she died already. Either way, it’s clear that they’re not all his daughter-wives.
What does that mean? It means that “gift to the gods” has been going on for a long time, probably across multiple generations of the Craster family, and possibly for thousands of years. I therefor predict that we’re eventually going to see a flashback scene (probably in the form of one of Bran’s visions) something like this:
“The young man holding the baby stands in front of the wood hut, next to a young woman. They stare out into the woods in fear, then the camera angle switches to what they’re staring at: the Night King (he looks a little younger than when we see him before, but you can tell it’s the same “person”). He walks towards them (the camera angle switches to the view from behind him, so you can see both him and the three humans). He walks up to the young couple and then stops, right in front of them. They all three stand there silently, looking at each other. The young couple is obviously afraid, but they also seem to recognize him somehow. They all stand their silent and unmoving, and then the young man stretches out his arms…and gives the baby to the Night King. The Night King takes the baby, turns around, and walks back into the forest.”
So if this has in fact been going on for a while (as I think it must have been), the really interesting question is: does the Night King know the Crasters before they make this “arrangement”? There are 4 possible answers to that question:
- He’s a stranger (or maybe acquaintance) to them before the arrangement, and after they gave him the baby that first time, they just kept on doing it after that;
- He’s their brother;
- He’s their son (though if that’s the case, it would make sense for the couple to be older…or for the White Walker touch to make you grow fast, as discussed further below), or finally, what I think is the most interesting (and therefore most likely)…
- He’s their father.
So, my theory is that the guy whom Leaf turned into the Night King was none other than the original Craster (let’s call him ur-Craster). He was already practicing his incestuous ways back then, so that means we don’t feel quite as sorry about his getting ritually stabbed through the heart like that. Since White Walkers don’t reproduce biologically, they need a way to make more of themselves. It makes sense that present-Craster’s relationship with the White Walkers isn’t just a new thing. It makes sense that it’s an arrangement that has been in force for generations, and probably for the thousands of years that the Night King has existed. The deal is simple: You give us your sons, and we leave the Craster family alone. In addition to keeping the agreement, the White Walkers also want to maintain their supply source for new White Walkers, and maybe they have some residual memory left and don’t want to kill their sisters/mothers/aunts/nieces/great great grand-daughters, or their King’s male human descendants. (As evidence of that, remember when the White Walker riding along carrying that baby, and he looked down at him? I went back and rewatched it on Youtube, and he seemed to be looking at the baby almost lovingly…or as lovingly as a White Walker can look. Also, notice in that video that the place where the White Walker takes the baby is a replica of where the Night King was originally turned, except with ice instead of stone.)
But what happens when the original male Craster gets old and dies? For the agreement to work over the long term, the White Walkers would have to sense that, and allow the Craster women to keep one of the male babies. They’d then raise that baby, and he would become the new “Craster,” tasked with carrying on the legacy…and the agreement.
If this symbiotic (albeit perverse) relationship has been going on for thousands of years, that’s a lot of turned babies: at least a few male babies per year, on average, so there’d be thousands of White Walkers. What happened to all of them?
So far, we’ve only clearly seen a total of six (grown up) White Walkers on screen. Sam killed one with his dragonglass dagger, Jon Snow killed one with his Valyrian steel sword, and Meera killed one with that dragonglass spear. The three remaining White Walkers from the end of “Hold the Door” may be all that’s left (except for the baby and a few other blue-eyed kids, of course). Many of them would have been killed in the last big walker war, and since then, more have probably been killed by the Children of the Forrest (and maybe even some lucky wildings).
Of course, other White Walkers (if there are others that we haven’t seen) could be out in the wilderness leading other walker warbands. Or, they could be hibernating somewhere. A few of them may all be “living” in a cave somewhere, to keep the young White Walkers safe: unless they grow up real quick once touched (which is possible), we know that there’s at least one White Walker baby out there somewhere (the one the Night King turned in S4E4). We did see twelve blurry figures standing in the background of the baby-turning scene, and I’m guessing that they’re all White Walkers. If those are Night Princes, since two of them were killed after that (Sam killed his is Season 3), that means that there should be 10 Night Princes left (assumedly, the rest stayed home with the kids during the Hardhome and weirwood tree attacks). Also, it’s significant that that episode is titled Oathkeeper: it’s not just the sword’s name; the baby is the oathkeeper, because he’s handed over in order to keep the oath that the Craster family made to the White Walkers so many years ago.
It’s also possible that the Night King’s power to turn babies into White Walkers only extends to Craster’s children, aka (if my theory is correct) his own descendants: the magic requires a blood link, and ideally a pure blood link (hence the incest). He is the King. The rest of the White Walkers are (literally) his Princes.
If my theory is true, why didn’t the White Walkers let the Craster women keep Craster’s last son? The White Walkers must sense when a new male Craster baby is born, and probably know if it’s going to be a boy when the baby is still in utero: otherwise, one of them couldn’t get there so quickly after the baby’s born. That means that either my theory is at least in part wrong, or that one of Craster’s wives is pregnant with another son. That’s actually likely, given how many wives Craster had, and the White Walkers would have sensed that. But even if none of Craster’s ex-wives are pregnant with a male heir, while the little baby that the Night King turned in S4E4 was Craster’s latest son, but he’s not Craster’s last son. Craster’s last (human) son is…Little Sam. That means that Little Sam is going to play an important role in upcoming episodes. The White Walkers are going to want to come get him. (Even if it turns out that the Night King isn’t ur-Craster, they’re still going to want Little Sam, since he was promised to them as part of the arrangement.)
However, if my ur-Craster theory is true, then the Night King will probably not want to turn Little Sam into a White Walker, since Craster (and the Night King) would otherwise have no further living male descendants to keep their bloodline alive (unless one or more of Craster’s other wives were pregnant with boys when they burned his “keep” down). If that’s true, then the White Walker will try to kidnap both Little Sam and Gilly, leave Little Sam human, keep Gilly alive, and imprison the two of them somewhere until they can be forced to reproduce.
Also, did you notice how the Night King and the Three Eyed Raven looked at each other, almost as if in recognition? I think they’ve met before, and it’s possible that the Three Eyed Raven was an ur-Craster son too, maybe a brother that left home because he didn’t want to carry on the family practice, or escaped with his mom as a baby (like Little Sam).
And now for my final scene prediction for today:
“Gilly opens the door: the White Walker is standing there, over Little Sam’s crib, holding the baby in his arms. Gilly screams. The Walker draws his sword and strides purposefully towards her, grabbing her by the throat. As he holds his sword up to kill her, they look into each other’s eyes. Somehow, there’s a spark of recognition…of kinship. He looks at her impassively, then releases her, turns around, and walks out, carrying the baby with him.”
NB: If part 2 of my prediction is true, the White Walker will still kill neither of them, but will take Gilly as a prisoner too. If that’s the case, there will probably be two White Walkers there, or maybe all three of the Night Princes (I don’t think the Night King himself will show up yet, but maybe he will): as soon as you see that there are two White Walkers there, then you know that I’m right and that both Gilly and the baby are going to be taken. If there are 3-4 White Walkers there, then you know that two of them are going to get away with Gilly and the baby, but that Sam or Jon Snow or someone is going to kill one of the White Walkers while trying (probably unsuccessfully) to stop the walkers from taking Gilly and Little Sam. Most viewers will then assume that they’re both goners, because they’ll assume that the Night King will turn the baby and kill Gilly. But you, dear reader, will know better: you’ll know that they’re both alive and well (well, as well as can be expected), and both still human, so they can (and will) be rescued later.