One of my fascinations about Game of Thrones is the question of power and ruling. How does power aid ruling and vice versa. In an earlier season, Cersei once mentioned to Peter Baelish that “power is power.” The equation is a reflexive one that reflects the absolutism in Cersei’s mind about power and ruling. In that sense, how does it fit in with the Night King and the White Walkers?
From what we know so far as per interviews with various writers, producers and Bran’s own admissions, the White Walkers represent death incarnate. In season 8 episode 2, Gendry describes his encounter with the White Walkers being like “death” while Sam explains the idea of death as being forgotten. Bran’s interpretation of the White Walkers is that their whole purpose is to wipe out the memory of man, thus starting with himself as the Three Eyed Raven.
However, we need to ask how that ties into the Night King and his powers. From what we can see, the Night King is a type of raw power incarnate. He has the capability of converting the living into his army and can hold command over those within his ranks. In short, he symbolizes a type of absolute power.
Jon Snow describes the Night King as a being/ruler that cannot be reasoned with. It is true in that the Night King has no dialogue and we are excluded from his thought process. While he may show symbols in dealing with the living, we get little else from him beyond his utter destruction of anything living and how he brings winter with him.
When it comes to ruling, his “people” are essentially mindless beings, enslaved to his will. They have no ability to reason just as Jon Snow observes and thus serve his purpose in a singular manner. At the same time, because they lack the ability to reason, they cannot adapt unlike a living creature which has its natural instinct to survive.
One could argue that they serve as a rhetorical point to reify Cersei’s thesis on power. But as I mentioned, being unable to reason and not having the ability to adapt means they have no ability to survive on their own beyond what the Night King deigns.
But that’s the point of what mindless, absolute rule implies. It’s essentially George RR Martin’s way (at least if that’s what the executive producers have adapted from him) of showing what it means to dominant a people. It turns those into a soulless corpse, lacking feeling, meaning and purpose beyond that of the leader.
One thing I have to question in all of this is whether or not we can trust Bran’s interpretation of events along with the information we have received about them from media outlet services at this point in time. Bran is not entirely a reliable narrator as his visions, while potentially infinite, require him to be able to track down precisely a situation.
Tonight the new bit of information that has been added was that the Night King had sought out other Three Eyed Raven figures for the purpose of snuffing them out, which implies destroying memory. And again one must ask what the ultimate purpose is. Is it simply that they are death incarnate through a poorly calculated mistake by the Children of the Forest?
It’s hard to see them being so black and white at this juncture of the story. The prior Three Eyed Raven once advised Bran that he required to know “everything”. Whether Bran has been able to absorb “everything” and properly disseminate that information is unknown at this point.
I do believe that targeting the living of children in providing his “messages” is important. The children we have seen were all anonymous types but like Varys’ Little Birds, they represent something else within the story. In Varys’ case, he is for the common people, which is why he seems to gravitate towards street children for his spies.
One hypothesis I have with regards to the Night King and his army is that they represent the forgotten. Much of the story is told from the viewpoint of lords and ladies. Rarely do we get the privilege of seeing the underbelly of society directly through their eyes. Even those like Ser Davos or Gendry are associated with nobility or are promoted into such positions.
But the true casualty has always been those supporting the noble class. They are the victims of the wars between the egos of rulers. Take for instance when Joffrey hunted down King Robert Baratheon’s bastard children in Littlefinger’s brothel. Many innocent children were probably killed, those whose mothers were common whores.
I feel as though that the Night King’s existence is to remind the living of the existence of the common people who have been slaughtered and assimilated by the Night King. His purpose perhaps is to demonstrate what real power is and parody the existence of ruling by removing the memory of the petty lords.
I keep thinking of a quote from another movie, Prometheus. “Sometimes to create, we must first destroy.” It’s acknowledged by people like Jon Snow and Ser Davos that the current world of Westeros is a shit one and that the people deserve better. Maybe what occurs in this world is that when the lords forget why they exist and enter into acts of petty bickering, the Night King surfaces to remind them and start a new fresh cycle where people are given a new chance to change.
At any rate, I hope that we get to find the true purpose of the White Walkers. I hope that Bran, Sam and/or Tyrion even have the opportunity to delve deeply into the past to discover what happened. The information provided by Leaf to Bran in season 6 never truly unveiled more outside of the fear and distaste of man.