There are times when it can be easy to forget that Game of Thrones is a fantasy series with magical elements. While magic weaves in and out of the series, more often than not the story revolves around political turmoil not unlike the plots that history has provided. After all, author George R. R. Martin has explained that many elements of his A Song of Ice and Fire series have been provided by true historical events such as The War of the Roses while other inspirations have been outlined by io9. But this is still a fantasy epic where many mythical creatures are central to the yet unfinished story of Westeros and the world at large. Here’s your guide to the six most important ones.
Thousands of years before the War of the Five Kings, dragons were not a scarce beast and had been mastered by the Valyrians as a tool of war — a tool that allowed them to take over almost the entire known world. But an event known as the Doom of Valyria changed all of that. About 400 years before the War of the Five Kings, a volcanic eruption laid waste to the Valyrian empire destroying all the noble families save for the the Targaryens and three of its dragons. Those three dragons again allowed an empire to dominate all others as Aegon I Targaryen unified the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros before their deaths seemingly signaled their extinction. That all changed when Daenerys Targaryen was given three fossilized dragon eggs as a gift which later miraculously hatched. And if the same pattern emerges, dragons will again be the key to unifying an increasingly volatile Westeros and bringing peace.
2. White Walkers
The White Walkers are a race of human-like ice creatures with various magical powers including the ability to reanimate corpses to serve as wights, super-human strength, and the power to freeze and shatter the weapons of foes. Once shrouded in mystery, the history of the White Walkers has become more clear in recent seasons of Game of Thrones. Thousands of years ago, the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers to defend themselves against the First Men but found themselves unable to control their creation, which turned against them before moving south leading to the War for the Dawn — the legendary conflict in which the warriors of Westeros were able to turn back the White Walkers to the north, beyond the newly created wall. In the present day of Game of Thrones, the White Walkers are still regarded as a legend even as they march toward the south with only few having lived to tell the story.
The wights have sometimes been confused with the White Walkers in previous seasons, but they are an entirely different beast. Unlike the White Walkers who display intelligence and magical powers, wights are the corpses of people and animals that they have reanimated to serve their bidding in the war to come. The wights can likely not exist independently of the White Walkers who command them and have shown little to no intelligence beyond instinctual drives to attack.
4. Creatures of the Forest
Creatures of the Forest were the first inhabitants of Westeros long before the First Men arrived, but like many of Game of Thrones‘ mystical creatures, they are believed to be nothing other than legends by the majority of those in the present world. The truth is that the Creatures of the Forest were very real and became embroiled in a war against man as they cut down their sacred forests, including the cherished weirwood trees. The two sides would fight for thousands of years before the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers bringing both sides to near destruction. And now with the last of the Children of the Forest — Leaf — perishing alongside the Three-Eyed Raven, the Creatures of the Forest are seemingly extinct forever.
The direwolves now exist almost solely north of the Wall despite the fact that they were once plentiful south of there. Large and intelligent, the direwolf is a species of wolf that is fiercely protective of its master and has achieved a legendary reputation in southern Westeros where it is rarely seen. The six newborn direwolf pups adopted by Ned Stark’s six (five?) children likely represented the only direwolves in existence south of the wall, but sadly only two remain: Jon Snow’s Ghost and Arya Stark’s Nymeria.
Another mythical creature believed to be nothing but legend by the majority of Westeros, the Giants indeed live beyond the Wall and have had contact with Wildlings, some of whom they have fought alongside. Giants are both incredibly strong and huge in stature. While there are said to be more Giants north of the wall, only one remains with the Wildling army at Jon Snow’s command: Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, also known as “Wun Wun,” who was last seen pummeling a member of the Night’s Watch at Castle Black and who helped fight off the White Walkers at Hardhome. However, Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg, also known as “Mag the Mighty” and the King of the Giants, and Dongo perished at the Battle of Castle Black. [Update, 6/23/16: Sadly, now Wun Wun has also perished during the battle to retake Winterfell from the Boltons.]
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