Could the Night King and the White Walkers Be Game of Thrones’s Most Misunderstood Heroes?

HBO
HBO

Before we get into any of this, if you’re not fully caught up on HBO's Game of Thrones, we’re about to unleash a whole lot of spoilers. So if you haven’t finished watching all of the first seven seasons (what are you waiting for?), bookmark this page and come back once you’re done.

If there’s one thing HBO viewers have come to expect from the creators of Game of Thrones, it’s that they’re not afraid to kill off characters—even the most beloved ones. (Though it doesn’t always mean they’ll stay dead.) And if there’s one thing we’ve learned about fans of the epic series, based on George R.R. Martin’s equally epic books, it’s that they have a real talent for coming up with elaborate theories about where the show’s narrative might be heading, some of them plausible, some of them … not so plausible. The most recent of these theories to catch our attention comes from Redditor MrSilenceT, which Esquire wrote about, and is particularly intriguing because it deals with some of the show's most fascinating characters, the Night King and his creepy band of White Walkers.

Part of what makes these blue-eyed creatures so captivating is that we actually don’t know a lot about them. We know that the White Walkers are slow-moving ice monsters and are devoted followers of the Night King (who some fan theorists believe is, in fact, Bran Stark). But in his extremely detailed (and three-part) analysis of what we might expect to see in Game of Thrones’s final season, tackling everything from “The Fate of Arya Stark” to “The Fate of Daenerys Targaryen,” MrSilenceT devotes a good chunk of time to trying to better understand the Night King and the White Walkers, but makes his main point up front: “[I]f you think this story leads up to someone defeating the Night King and the Wights, you haven’t been paying attention …”

To begin his argument, he quotes George R.R. Martin, who has repeatedly made it known that he’s not interested in clear black-and-white distinctions between heroes and villains, noting that, “If everybody thinks your character is a hero or if everybody thinks your character is a villain, then you are writing cardboards.” Which is certainly not a charge anyone could ever honestly lodge against Martin or the TV series' showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

According to MrSilenceT:

“You’ve been told by the Children of the Forest, ancient tales and various manuscripts that the White Walkers are a weapon of mass destruction and are here to kill all of the living and you have seen with your own eyes the mass murder they afflicted upon the Wildlings at Hardhome. But has anyone in Westeros taken the time to thoroughly think through how they operate and clarify what their goal is?

Is the Night King’s goal really to wipe out all form of life in the world? Does he have any conscience at all?”

To answer those questions in the most expedient way, he puts forth this scene by way of an example, noting how, "A White Walker looks into the unharmful and fearful eyes of Sam and does not kill him but rather keeps on marching south. This shows that there is some degree of free will in the White Walkers (or in the Night King, since he is most likely controlling them) or at least, that they can refrain from killing anyone alive (probably as long as they do not express any harmful intent towards them)." He contrasts this with the behavior of the wights, who "attack anyone without hesitation. These are mere tools, animated and controlled by the power of the White Walkers and solely programmed to attack on sight. Wights have no conscience."

In his summation of MrSilenceT's theory, Esquire's Matt Miller writes:

"Here's what we know about the White Walkers: They were created to protect the Children of the Forest from the First Men, who were at war thousands of years ago. The Children of the Forest lost control of their creation and after the War for the Dawn built the Wall to keep the White Walkers from destroying all humanity.

But we've never learned anything from the White Walkers' perspective. They were once men created with the purpose to kill evil men by the Children of the Forest. Bran has seen the Children create the Night King in a violent ritual where dragonglass is plunged into his chest."

And if those theories about Bran Stark and the Night King being one are, in fact, founded, wouldn't it follow that what he's actually attempting to do is reverse the events that started all this killing in the first place? Or, as MrSilenceT puts it:

"How do you protect life when you know the only thing you can do is bring death and when you know that no one has the power to stop you from inflicting it? The answer is by killing. Killing and destroying is the only tool and form of free will at the disposal of the Night King in his current state of existence. Destroying the source of magic that keeps him bound to the curse: the main Heart tree at the Isles of Faces that is at the center of all Weirwood trees in Westeros ... and killing himself by killing Bran.

This is why the army of the dead completely turns around and goes back North when the Night King marks Bran. Because killing Bran is the priority. This is why the White Walkers have been specifically trying to march south past the Wall and this is why they had been trying to communicate their intentions to whoever could see by forming symbols on the ground using the only pen they could, dead bodies ... Had they known, all Westerosi people had to do was let the Night King and the White Walkers pass through. As a result, who would be the villain in this scenario? Is it the Night King and the White Walkers that killed tens of thousands so they could stop themselves from endlessly killing life? Or is it Jon/Bran & co. [who] sent tens of thousands to their death instead of stepping aside like Sam did in his first encounter with a White Walker?

One thing is for certain, knowledge would have been their true savior. Even with the most unlikely kind of people or thing, there may be common ground. In this case, both the Night King & Jon Snow were fighting for the same cause without realizing it: to protect the living."

There's a lot more to MrSilenceT's theories, which you can read in full here. And if it turns out that we're all cheering for the Night King in the end, you know who saw it coming.

[h/t: Esquire]

Disney's Most Magical Destinations Have Been Reimagined as Vintage Travel Posters

UpgradedPoints.com
UpgradedPoints.com

Many of the iconic settings of animated Disney movies were modeled after real places around the world. Ussé Castle in France’s Loire Valley, for example, is widely rumored to have been the inspiration behind the original Sleeping Beauty story. (Although the castle in the movie more closely resembles Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle.) Likewise, the fictional island in Moana was made to look like Samoa, and the Sultan’s palace in Aladdin shares some similarities with India's Taj Mahal.

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Agrabah or Neverland, then you’ll probably enjoy getting lost in these Disney-inspired travel posters from the designers at UpgradedPoints.com, an online resource that helps individuals maximize their credit card travel rewards. Only one of the posters features a real destination ("Beautiful France"), but these illustrations let you get one step closer to scaling Pride Rock or plumbing the depths of Atlantica.

All of the images are rendered in a vintage style with enticing slogans attached—much like the exotic travel posters that were prevalent in the 1930s.

“A few of our designers wanted to capture that longing to experience the true locations of these fantastic films, and the inner child in all of us couldn’t resist seeing how they interpreted the locations of their favorite films,” UpgradedPoints.com writes. “The results are breathtaking and make us wish we could fall into our favorite Disney movies.”

Keep scrolling to see the posters, and for more travel inspiration, read up on eight real-life locations that inspired Disney places (plus one that didn't).

A Disney-inspired poster of France
UpgradedPoints.com

An Atlantica travel poster
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A Disney-inspired poster
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A Disney-inspired poster
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A Lion King travel poster
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A Neverland travel poster
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11 Memorable Facts About Cats the Musical

Mike Clarke/Getty Images
Mike Clarke/Getty Images

“It was better than Cats!” Decades after Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical opened on Broadway on October 7, 1982, this tongue-in-cheek idiom remains a part of our lexicon (thanks to Saturday Night Live). Although the feline extravaganza divided the critics, it won over audiences of all ages and became an industry juggernaut—one that single-handedly generated more than $3 billion for New York City's economy—and that was before it made a return to the Great White Way in 2016. In honor of Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday on March 22, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

1. The work that Cats the musical is based on was originally going to include dogs.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is a collection of feline-themed poems written by the great T. S. Eliot. A whimsical, lighthearted effort, the volume has been delighting cat fanciers for generations—and it could have become just as big of a hit with dog lovers, too. At first, Eliot envisioned the book as an assemblage of canine- and tabby-related poems. However, he came to believe that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.” (Spoken like a true ailurophile.) According to his publisher, Eliot decided that “it would be improper to wrap [felines] up with dogs” and barely even mentioned them in the finished product.

For his part, Andrew Lloyd Webber has described his attitude towards cats as “quite neutral.” Still, the composer felt that Eliot’s rhymes could form the basis of a daring, West End-worthy soundtrack. It seemed like an irresistible challenge. “I wanted to set that exciting verse to music,” he explained. “When I [had] written with lyricists in the past … the lyrics have been written to the music. So I was intrigued to see whether I could write a complete piece the other way ‘round.”

2. "Memory" was inspired by a poem that T.S. Eliot never finished.

In 1980, Webber approached T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie, to ask for her blessing on the project. She not only said “yes,” but provided the songwriter with some helpful notes and letters that her husband had written about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—including a half-finished, eight-line poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” Feeling that it was too melancholy for children, Eliot decided to omit the piece from Practical Cats. But the dramatic power of the poem made it irresistible for Webber and Trevor Nunn, the show’s original director. By combining lines from “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat” with those of another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” they laid the foundation for what became the powerful ballad “Memory.” A smash hit within a smash hit, this showstopper has been covered by such icons as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.

3. Dame Judi Dench left the cast of Cats when her Achilles tendon snapped.

One of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Dench was brought in to play Grizabella for Cats’s original run on the West End. Then, about three weeks into rehearsals, she was going through a scene with co-star Wayne Sleep (Mr. Mistoffelees) when disaster struck. “She went, ‘You kicked me!’” Sleep recalls in the above video. “And I said, ‘I didn’t, actually, are you alright?’” She wasn’t. Somehow, Dench had managed to tear her Achilles tendon. As a last-minute replacement, Elaine Paige of Evita fame was brought aboard. In an eerie coincidence, Paige had heard a recorded version of “Memory” on a local radio station less than 24 hours before she was asked to play Grizabella. Also, an actual black cat had crossed her path that day. Spooky.

4. To finance the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up mortgaging his house.

Although Andrew Lloyd Webber had previously won great acclaim as one of the creative minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar and other hit shows, Cats had a hard time finding investors. According to choreographer Gillian Lynne, “[it] was very, very difficult to finance because everyone said ‘A show about cats? You must be raving mad.’” In fact, the musical fell so far short of its fundraising goals that Webber ended up taking out a second mortgage on his home to help get Cats the musical off the ground.

5. When Cats the musical came to Broadway, its venue got a huge makeover.

Cats made its West End debut on May 11, 1981. Seventeen months later, a Broadway production of the musical launched what was to become an 18-year run at the Winter Garden Theatre. But before the show could open, some major adjustments had to be made to the venue. Cats came with an enormous, sprawling set which was far too large for the theatre’s available performing space. To make some more room, the stage had to be expanded. Consequently, several rows of orchestra seats were removed, along with the Winter Garden’s proscenium arch. And that was just the beginning. For Grizabella’s climactic ascent into the Heaviside Layer on a giant, levitating tire, the crew installed a hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit and carved a massive hole through the auditorium ceiling. Finally, the theater’s walls were painted black to set the proper mood. After Cats closed in 2000, the original look of the Winter Garden was painstakingly restored—at a cost of $8 million.

6. Cats the musical set longevity records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The original London production took its final bow on May 11, 2002, exactly 21 years after the show had opened—which, at the time, made Cats the longest-running musical in the West End’s history. (It would lose that title to Les Miserables in 2006.) Across the pond, the show was performed at the Winter Garden for the 6138th time on June 19, 1997, putting Cats ahead of A Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway. To celebrate, a massive outdoor celebration was held between 50th and 51st streets, complete with a laser light show and an exclusive after-party for Cats alums.

7. One theatergoer sued the show for $6 million.

Like Hair, Cats involves a lot of performer-audience interaction. See it live, and you might just spot a leotard-clad actor licking himself near your seat before the curtain goes up. In some productions, the character Rum Tum Tugger even rushes out into the crowd and finds an unsuspecting patron to dance with. At a Broadway performance on January 30, 1996, Tugger was played by stage veteran David Hibbard. That night, he singled out one Evelyn Amato as his would-be dance partner. Mildly put, she did not appreciate his antics. Alleging that Hibbard had gyrated his pelvis in her face, Amato sued the musical and its creative team for $6 million.

8. Thanks to Cats the musical, T.S. Eliot received a posthumous Tony.

Because most of the songs in Cats are almost verbatim recitations of Eliot’s poems, he’s regarded as its primary lyricist—even though he died in 1965, long before the show was conceived. Still, Eliot’s contributions earned him a 1983 Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A visibly moved Valerie Eliot took the stage to accept this prize on her late spouse’s behalf. “Tonight’s honor would have given my husband particular pleasure because he loved the theatre,” she told the crowd. Eliot also shared the Best Original Score Tony with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

9. The original Broadway production used more than 3000 pounds of yak hair.

Major productions of Cats use meticulously crafted yak hair wigs, which currently cost around $2300 apiece and can take 40 hours or more to produce. Adding to the expense is the fact that costumers can’t just recycle an old wig after some performer gets recast. “Each wig is made specifically for the actor,” explains wigmaker Hannah McGregor in the above video. Since people tend to have differently shaped heads, precise measurements are taken of every cast member’s skull before he or she is fitted with a new head of hair. “[Their wigs] have to fit them perfectly,” McGregor adds, “because of the amount of jumping and skipping they do as cats.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, over its 18-year run, the first Broadway production used 3247 pounds of yak hair. (In comparison, the heaviest actual yaks only weigh around 2200 pounds.)

10. A recent revival included hip hop.

In December 2014, Cats returned to the West End with an all-new cast and music. “The Rum Tum Tugger,” a popular Act I song, was reimagined as a hip hop number. “I’ve come to the conclusion, having read [Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats] again, that maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” Webber told the press.

11. Another revival featured an internet-famous feline for one night only.

On September 30, Grumpy Cat made her Broadway debut in Cats, briefly taking the stage with the cast. Despite being named Honorary Jellicle Cat, she hated every minute of it.

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