I’ve talked about this on Twitter a couple of times, but with Season 8 Episode 3 impending, I wanted to write it up in full here, so I have proof if I turn out to be correct.
But first, my standard Game of Thrones warning: This post includes spoilers for every episode of the HBO series, and every book in the Song of Ice and Fire books, and all supplemental books. Basically, if there’s anything you don’t want spoiled, turn away now. The post is dark and full of spoilers.
With that out of the way…
Following Sunday’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” as Winterfell prepares for battle, many fans were distressed by the oft-repeated plan to put the most vulnerable people in the crypts–and with good reason! You don’t have to be a strategic genius to think hey, with an army that reanimates the dead approaching, maybe that chamber filled with eight thousand years of dead Starks might not be the safest place!
I find it frustrating, personally, that this thought didn’t occur to a single character–not Jon or Tormund, who were at Hardhome; not Sam, who is going into the crypts himself; not Tyrion or Davos or Jorah, all of whom are basically strategic geniuses. Not even Bran considered this possibility–or maybe he knows better? Maybe Bran knows something I have suspected since Season Six, that most fans have not considered:
Maybe the Starks are immune to being “wighted.”
Consider a few facts we know to be true, at least according to accepted Westeros history:
- The Starks have been in the North since the Long Night, 8,000 years before the current timeline.
- Both the Wall and Winterfell were built by Bran the Builder, patriarch of the Stark family.
- For all that time, the Starks have buried their dead in the Winterfell Crypts.
- The books describe the crypts as by far the largest portion of Winterfell, spreading wider underground than the castle above, and going down many levels; the lowest levels are collapsed and inaccessible.
- The Kings (and Wardens of the North) get statues with iron longswords across their laps, said in the books to “keep the vengeful spirits in the crypts.”
- In the books, Old Nan also mentions how the Others (the White Walkers) hate iron.
- The Stark family holds a firm belief that “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.”
- The Stark family words, famously, are “Winter is Coming.”
In the show, Benjen Stark is brought back to life by the White Walkers, but retains his own memory and will. In the show he claims it’s because the Children of the Forest saved him by stabbing him with dragonglass, making him the only character we’ve seen to survive being wighted.
Or is he? Two other characters have notably come back to life in Westeros: Berric Dondarrion, brought back repeatedly by the red priest Thoros of Myr, and Jon Snow, brought back by the red priestess Melissandre at Castle Black.
But what if Jon wasn’t brought back by Melissandre? What if it was proximity to the White Walkers that restored him to life, as it did the two dead rangers who “wighted” at Castle Black in Season One?
If that’s the case, then it might indicate the Starks have an ancestral immunity to the White Walkers power–and that they have spent 8,000 years building an army of Undead Starks to stand against the Army of the Dead. At some point in that time, the living Starks would have forgotten the reasons for their traditions–all except Bran, who can now see and remember everything the Children of the Forest and their weirwood trees ever saw.
It would certainly bring new meaning to “Winter is Coming.”
I might be way off-base here, of course, and Benjen’s explanation of his rescue does sew some doubt in my mind, but if my theory is right, then repeatedly having characters talk about putting the most vulnerable people in the crypts would be a good way to build up fan expectations, only to surprise them with a big twist–right?
We’ll know for sure on Sunday night.