Warning: major spoilers for Season 8, Episode 1 of ‘Game of Thrones’ — “Winterfell” — will follow.
Of all the major talking points to come out of the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones — the reuniting of various main characters, the arrival of the Golden Company in Westeros, Jon learning that his name is actually Aegon — perhaps the most intriguing plot point came towards the end of the episode when Tormund, Beric Dondarrion, and Dolorous Edd investigate Last Hearth, the ancestral home of House Umber.
Essentially walking through a snow-covered graveyard, Tormund, Beric, and members of the Night’s Watch come across the body of young Ned Umber crucified to the wall, surrounded by human body parts forming an ominous spiral shape.
Eagle-eyed fans will have immediately recognized this mysterious spiral shape, as it’s popped up many times before throughout the course of Game of Thrones.
The first time the peculiar shape popped up was all the way back in Season 1, Episode 1, “Winter Is Coming”, within minutes of the episode beginning.
However, the spiral is not a White Walker exclusive, as the next time it’s seen is in the Season 1 finale — “Fire and Blood” — when Daenerys lights herself on fire along with her three dragon eggs and the corpse of Khal Drogo.
The spiral then made perhaps it’s most prominent appearance yet (prior to the most recent example) in the Season 3 episode “Walk of Punishment”, this time as another clear White Walker creation.
The spiral then made two appearances in the iconic Season 6 episode “The Door”: one instance depicting thousands of years ago when the Children of the Forrest created the first White Walker and a second time during present day.
They popped up again in the caves underneath Dragonstone in the Season 7 episode “The Spoils of War”:
Then, in the Season 8 premiere, the spiral made it’s most in-your-face appearance yet during the aforementioned scene at Last Hearth.
What Does The Night King’s Spiral Mean?
But what does it all mean, Basil?
Well, first things first: the spiral is not a part of the A Song of Ice & Fire book series, so there’s no evidence that can be found in the writings of George R.R. Martin.
Second, when Beric, Tormund and the gang discover the chilling symbol at Last Hearth in “Winterfell”, Dondarrion says that “it’s a message from the Night King.”
Given the connection the White Walkers have to the Children of the Forrest, fans have speculated that Lord Ned Umber being stabbed in the heart mirrors the first time the Children of the Forrest created a White Walker by stabbing Dragon Glass into the heart of a man.
In fact, series creator David Benioff once confirmed the meaning of the symbols during an Inside The Episode segment back in season 6.
“There are certain symbols and patterns that recur throughout the show. The first time we saw that was in one of the very first scenes in the pilot, when Will the ranger sees the wildling body parts in an odd pattern displayed by the White Walkers. We see it again north of the Wall with the dead horses displayed in a spiral pattern, and then you see it again here and learn where these patterns come from, that they’re ancient symbols of the Children of the Forest used in their rituals, and the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers,” Benioff told HBO.
Similarly, due to the theories about the relationship between the Night King and the Three-Eyed Raven, the spiral could possibly represent the never-ending cycle of fate the world has been on, which is something the Night Kind is trying to break.
However, all theories about The Night King’s spiral is merely speculation at this point, as most fans haven’t even been able to figure out The Night King’s entire goal, let alone what the meaning behind his freaky death art is.
That said, given that the Night King spiral has yet made another appearance with just six episodes to go, it’s clear that whatever it means will hold the key to what exactly the White Walkers want, and maybe even how to stop them.