This Game of Thrones Theory Asks If White Walkers Are Good — & They're So Wrong

Photo: HBO.
Everyone wants to know how Game of Thrones will end, and fans are scrambling to make sense of Westeros before the show's last season premieres in 2019. Some Game of Thrones theories, of course, are more improbable than others (like Bran being the Night King: spoiler, he's not). My general rule is that if it sounds like nonsense, it probably is.
For instance, Esquire considers a Game of Thrones Reddit theory that says those pesky White Walkers are actually a force for good and that, in fact, it's the humans of Westeros who are the bad guys. After all, it’s the humans that slaughtered the Children of the Forest. In order to defend themselves, the Children created the first White Walker as a weapon against the First Men. Essentially, the White Walkers are now seeking to exact revenge against the genocidal humans.
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First off I'd like to say that no, the White Walkers are not good. They're just not. They are evil zombies bent on destroying all of Westeros during the Long Night, and that is their purpose. It’s a theory that only requires a bit of analysis to see why it’s bogus. There's two reasons for its absurdity: one is logistical, the other is symbolic.
The end of Game of Thrones was already constructed by George R.R. Martin, who wrote the source material in his novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. When show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss began writing the show, Martin told them how the story ends. Game of Thrones' final season was set in motion years ago; with an ending that is already known, and several characters with dramatic story arcs left to resolve, there's simply no thematic room for a twist this crazy.
Martin, for his part, has discussed how his work contrasts with J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the Lord of the Rings series. While they're both medieval fantasy authors, Tolkien's Middle Earth couldn't more dissimilar than Martin's Westeros: Tolkien focused firmly on grand ideas of good versus evil, with clearly delineated lines on either side. Frodo, good. Sauron, very bad.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, characters are every shade of grey, as they betray and murder each other while still encouraging us to root for them. "I think ultimately the battle between good and evil is weighed within the individual human heart and not necessarily between an army of people dressed in white and an army of people dressed in black," Martin said of Tolkien. It's enough to make you believe that Martin wanted to completely do away with Tolkien's ideas.
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But Martin has only heaped praise upon Tolkien, while decrying Tolkien's imitators. Martin may have written ASOIAF with more moral ambiguity than Lord of the Rings, but he is undoubtedly influenced by Tolkien's work; indeed, there are plenty of Tolkien references in ASOIAF. It's difficult to see how Martin would disregard Tolkien's biggest theme and upset the "good versus bad" storyline.
Ultimately, Martin needs that trope as an anchor, because Game of Thrones and ASOIAF are about power struggles, and how his characters react to danger. That danger, the “bad guys,” gives something for the Starks and Lannisters to deal with. Martin always wanted us to focus on the people in his story; ASOIAF simply isn’t about the White Walkers. Everything else: the dragons, the Iron Throne, even the zombie Night King, are just set decoration for the true battles that take place inside the characters' minds.
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