Everything You Wanted to Know About the Long Night on Game of Thrones

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Because the Long Night belongs to this guy. Photo: HBO

In the seventh season of Game of Thrones, people in Westeros absolutely cannot stop talking about the Long Night. Bran is worried about it. Jon Snow is very worried about it. Daenerys will definitely be worried about it, once she comes around to Jon’s warnings about the Night King. Cersei is … well, Cersei isn’t worried about it, but she should be. Things move very fast on Game of Thrones, so you may have missed all of the specifics of what this lengthy darkness is all about. That’s where we come in. Here’s every question you might have about the Long Night, answered.

The Long Night, huh? How long is it? Like “winter in Boston” long, or 30 Days of Night long?
Even longer. We’re not quite sure exactly how long it lasts, because according to Westerosi myths, there’s only been one other Long Night in history. But it allegedly lasted for years and years.

When was the other one?
Basically at the dawn of recorded history, during a period known as the Age of Heroes. You know how every so often in GOT, someone will mention “the Andals and the First Men”? The Age of Heroes is the era in Westerosi history before the Andals sailed over from Essos, and it was basically just the First Men chilling with the Children of the Forest and the giants.

Got it. So, what happened? The White Walkers killed everyone?
To be honest, I don’t know if I can explain this part better than Old Nan. Take it away, Old Nan:

In George R.R. Martin’s books, she goes even further. Did you know the White Walkers rode ice-spiders? According to Old Nan, they did. She also tells of a man called the Last Hero, who tried to get help from the Children of the Forest, but before he could, his dog and all his friends died and the White Walkers were closing in and — oh, sorry, that’s where her story ends.

Sounds intriguing!
It is. Later in the books, Sam tells Jon that the Last Hero eventually defeated the White Walkers with a substance called “dragonsteel,” which is probably Valyrian steel or dragonglass. It’s generally assumed that the Last Hero is Westeros’s version of Azor Ahai and the Prince That Was Promised — that is, mythical heroes who ended some great catastrophe.

Was the Long Night just in Westeros?
It would be easier for everyone if it was, right? Our heroes could just pop over the Narrow Sea and avoid having to deal with the White Walkers, the wights, and everything else. (Essos does have a bunch of war bands who might not take too kindly to a bunch of people from Westeros just showing up, but at least they’re human.)

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Just as our own world has many different myths about a great flood, The World of Ice and Fire gave us a number of stories about heroes ending a terrible age of darkness from all over the map. The legend of Azor Ahai comes from Asshai, all the way in the southeast corner of the known world; further north, the Patrimony of Hyrkoon tells of Hyrkoon the Hero; on the Jade Sea, Yi Ti has a fable about a disaster averted by a woman with a monkey’s tail. Though the details change, all of these myths tell the same basic story, which would seem to indicate every corner of the GOT globe had its own Long Night. Just as Westeros built the Wall after its White Walker invasion, Yi Ti even has its own version of “hulking, ancient citadels” called the Five Forts, which are made out of a mysterious black stone with walls that stand 1,000 feet high. (That’s 300 feet higher than the Wall in Westeros — clearly, Yi Ti knows what it’s doing.)

Wait, what’s all that prophecy mumbo-jumbo?
When it comes to mythical heroes, just remember these three names: the Last Hero, Azor Ahai, and the Prince That Was Promised. For our purposes, it’s easiest to assume they’re all the same, but if you’re curious about the differences, here’s a quick rundown. The Last Hero is the Westerosi guy who killed the White Walkers with the help of the Children of the Forest; there are no prophecies about him coming back. Azor Ahai lived in Essos during their Long Night, and he sacrificed his beloved wife to create a magical sword called Lightbringer that saved the day; followers of the Lord of Light think he’ll come back one day, reborn amid smoke and salt and carrying Lightbringer. The Prince That Was Promised is a hero who many Targaryens believed would come one day, though it’s not clear if he or she has ever come before; most of the prophecy’s conditions are similar to Azor Ahai returning. (In the books, Melisandre uses both names to mean the same thing, while the show prefers to say “The Prince That Was Promised” instead of “Azor Ahai.”)

Wasn’t Stannis supposed to be that guy?
He was, but now he’s dead, so he’s probably not.

Right. So who is the front-runner for Azor Ahai now?
Depending on who you ask, this legendary hero may be one person, or it may be a group of people. (Dany’s brother Rhaegar believed it was the latter, memorably intoning, “The dragon has three heads.”) And as Missandei pointed out in last week’s episode, the Valyrian word for “prince” has no gender, so you can cast a wide net of candidates. Easy money is on some combination of Daenerys, Jon, and Tyrion filling this role, though some people believe Bran will take Tyrion’s spot. Based on the season-seven premiere, some people think the Hound might be a candidate, too.

Last question: If there’s gonna be a big battle against the White Walkers, wouldn’t they need to get past the Wall first? How is that going to happen?
That’s the big question of this season. (Well, besides if Jon and Dany are going to kiss.) There are a few ways that could happen. Last season, the Night King give Bran a mark that allowed the White Walkers to break through the spell protecting the Three Eyed Raven’s cave; one possibility is that the White Walkers can now get through the magic that protects the Wall, too. But in the season-seven premiere, the Hound had a vision of the White Walkers simply walking around the Wall, which would make everyone feel a bit stupid. (A fan on Reddit noticed the sea around the Wall’s eastern end is now frozen over in the opening credits, bolstering this theory.) Book-readers have long theorized that the Wall will fall when someone blows on the Horn of Joramun, a magical horn that Mance Rayder looked for and was probably found by the Night’s Watch at the Fist of the First Men. In the books, the Horn of Joramun is with Sam in Oldtown, where Euron Greyjoy seems to be heading. The show has largely avoided the horn topic, but they did take care to include it back in season two, so it’s worth talking about. No matter what, one thing is for sure: You don’t put a gigantic wall to keep out bad guys in your story if it does exactly what it’s supposed to do all the time. One way or another, the Long Night is coming.

Everything You Want to Know About the Long Night in ‘GOT’