The Night King has become such an integral part of the story of Game of Thrones that it’s easy to forget that the White Walker leader isn’t in George R.R. Martin’s novels. In fact, you could argue that stern Army of the Dead commander is the most significant character in the HBO series going into season 8 that is wholly original to the TV version (the books do reference a character with a similar name, the Night’s King, who is different).

But why was the Night King created in the first place? And what does he want, exactly?

First introduced in season 4, the Night King (played initially by Richard Brake and, later, by Vladimir Furdik) has been leading his army south toward Westeros while resurrecting the dead for his ranks, stalking seer Bran Stark and last season capturing one of Daenerys’ dragons to bring down The Wall. A season 6 origin story flashback set thousands of years before the events in the show showed the Children of the Forest tied a man to a tree and pierced his heart with dragonglass, creating a demon to unleash upon their enemies, the First Men.

EW asked GoT showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss what inspired them to add the character to their HBO hit series.

“It was almost logical as you went back in time, as you create the prehistory for all this,” Weiss said. “We’ve seen what the White Walkers do, we’ve seen how they perpetuate themselves and created the wights. If you’re going backwards, well, they made these things … so what made them? We always liked the implication that they weren’t some kind of cosmic evil that had been around since the beginning to time but that the White Walkers had a history — that something that seems legendary and mythological and permanent wasn’t. They had a historical cause that was comprehensible like the way the wars on screen we’re seeing unfold are comprehensible. They’re the result of people, or beings, with motivations we can understand.”

“And once you go back into that flashback scene, that required a person there — and that was Vlad, who for a long time was our best stuntman,” Benioff added.

In season 8, the Night King leads newly captured dragon and the Army of the Dead to an attack on Winterfell. But what does the Night King actually want? What’s his endgame?

The Night King in 'Game of Thrones'
| Credit: HBO

“I don’t think of him as evil, I think of him as Death,” Benioff said. “And that’s what he wants — for all of us. It’s why he was created and that’s what he’s after.”

Benioff notes that another common question they get about the character is why doesn’t the Night King ever speak.

“What’s he going to say?” Benioff asks. “Anything the Night King says diminishes him.”

For more on The Night King, read our interview with actor Vladimir Furdik, who has his own unique insight on the character.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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