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

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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]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Hägar the Horrible
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For 45 years, the anachronistic adventures of a Scandinavian Viking named Hägar have populated the funny papers. Created by cartoonist Dik Browne, Hagar the Horrible is less about raiding and pillaging and more about Hägar’s domestic squabbles with wife Helga. If you’re a fan of this red-bearded savage with a surprisingly gentle demeanor, check out some facts about the strip’s history, Hägar’s status as a soda pitchman, and his stint as a college football mascot.

1. HÄGAR IS NAMED AFTER HIS CREATOR.

Richard Arthur “Dik” Browne got his start drawing courtroom sketches for New York newspapers; he debuted a military strip, Ginny Jeep, for servicemen after entering the Army in 1942. Following an advertising stint where he created the Chiquita Banana logo, he was asked to tackle art duties on the 1954 Beetle Bailey spinoff strip Hi and Lois. When he felt an urge to create his own strip in 1973, Browne thought back to how his children called him “Hägar the Horrible” when he would playfully chase them around the house. “Immediately, I thought Viking,” he told People in 1978. Hägar was soon the fastest-growing strip in history, appearing over 1000 papers.

2. HE COULD HAVE BEEN BULBAR THE BARBARIAN.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Working on Hi and Lois with cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) gave Browne an opportunity to solicit advice on Hägar from his more experienced colleague. As Walker recalled, he thought “Hägar” would be too hard for people to pronounce or spell and suggested Browne go with “Bulbar the Barbarian” instead. Browne brushed off the suggestion, preferring his own alliterative title.

3. A HEART ATTACK COULD HAVE CHANGED HÄGAR’S FATE.

When Browne came up with Hägar, he sent it along to a syndicate editor he knew from his work on Hi and Lois. According to Chris Browne, Dik’s son and the eventual artist for Hägar after his father passed away in 1989, the man originally promised to look at it after he got back from his vacation. He changed his mind at the last minute, reviewing and accepting the strip before leaving. Just days later, while on his ski vacation, the editor had a heart attack and died. If he hadn’t approved the strip prior to his passing, Browne said, Hägar may never have seen print.

4. THE STRIP HELPED BROWNE AVOID VANDALS.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Chris Browne recalled that Halloween in his Connecticut neighborhood was a time for kids to show their appreciation for his father’s work. While trick-or-treaters were busy covering nearby houses in toilet paper or spray paint, they spared the Browne residence. The only evidence of their vandalism was a spray-painted sign that read, “Mr. Browne, We Love Hägar.”

5. BROWNE’S DAUGHTER TALKED HIM OUT OF KIDNAPPING PLOTS.

Vikings were not known for being advocates for human rights. Hägar, despite his relatively genteel persona, still exhibited some barbaric traits, such as running off with “maidens” after a plundering session. Speaking with the Associated Press in 1983, Browne admitted he toned down the more lecherous side of Hägar after getting complaints from his daughter. “Running off with a maiden isn’t funny,” she told him. “It’s a crime.”

6. HÄGAR ENDORSED SODA.

A soda can featuring Hägar the Horrible
Amazon

Despite his preference for alcohol, Hägar apparently had a bit of a sweet tooth as well. In the 1970s, King Features licensed out a line of soda cans featuring some of their most popular comic strip characters, including Popeye, Blondie, and Hägar. The Viking also shilled for Mug Root Beer in the 1990s.

7. HE WAS A COLLEGE MASCOT.

In 1965, Cleveland State University students voted in the name “Vikings” for their collegiate basketball team. After using a mascot dubbed Viktorious Vike, the school adopted Hägar in the 1980s. Both Hägar and wife Helga appeared at several of the school’s sporting events before being replaced by an original character named Vike.

8. HE EVENTUALLY SOBERED UP.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

When Dik Browne was working on Hägar, the Viking was prone to bouts of excessive drinking. When Chris Browne took over the strip, he made a deliberate decision to minimize Hägar’s imbibing. "When my father was doing the strip, he did an awful lot of gags about Hägar falling down drunk and coming home in a wheelbarrow, and as times go on that doesn't strike me as that funny anymore,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. “Just about everybody I know has had somebody hurt by alcoholism or substance abuse.”

9. HE HAD HIS OWN HANNA-BARBERA CARTOON.

It took some time, but Hägar was finally honored with the animated special treatment in 1989. Cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera created the 30-minute special, Hägar the Horrible: Hägar Knows Best, and cast the Viking as being out of his element after returning home for the first time in years. The voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, performed the title character. It was later released on DVD as part of a comic strip cartoon collection.

10. HE SAILED INTO THE WIZARD OF ID.

A Wizard of Id comic strip
King Features Syndicate

In 2014, Hägar made an appearance in the late Johnny Hart’s Wizard of Id comic strip, with the two characters looking confused at the idea they’ve run into one another at sea. Hägar also made a cameo in Blondie to celebrate that character’s 75th birthday in 2005.

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13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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