Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, a potentially Westeros-shattering Game of Thrones fan theory has been building momentum the last couple of months, and it could explain everything that has happened in the Seven Kingdoms for thousands and thousands of year. More importantly though, it could point to how the whole story will end. It’s the theory that says Bran Stark is the Night King.
It’s an older theory that found new life with the return of the show, as though Melisandre herself brought it back from the dead. But what evidence is there to support it? How could young Bran simultaneously be the new Three-Eyed Raven and the White Walker leader? And what does it mean for the end of Game of Thrones?Renewed interest in the theory seems to have started with Reddit user turm0il26 (though with so many fans sharing so many theories it’s hard to know exactly where some come from), whose argument boils down to the idea that Bran has been continuously going back in time to try and save mankind from the White Walkers, with each attempt failing, and his efforts eventually ending with him getting stuck inside the Night King. How could all of that possible? Think of a series of timeloops.
To understand this theory you need to understand the incredible combination of powers that make Bran special. In addition to being able to warg into humans (not something most, if any, wargs can do), Bran also has greensight, prophetic dreams, and visions. These skills allow him to effect the past. The tragic life of Hodor/Wylis proved that, and we also saw Ned react at the Tower of Joy when Bran yelled, “Father!”
Any future Bran, seeing the terrible end result of the Great War, might decide to try and go back and stop it before it starts. And that’s where the trouble would begin.
Part of this theory folds another popular one into it, the idea that the voices who told the Mad King to “burn them all” was really Bran Stark telling him to burn all the White Walkers. Bran saw them rising during the time of Aerys II when Westeros was still united, and he tried to get the king to stop them before their army grew. But instead it drove Aerys crazy, and he decided to burn his own people instead.
Failure number one.
So that’s when Bran went back much further, to try and learn how mankind stopped the White Walkers the first time. But Bran arrived too late, so instead he inhabited the body of the legendary hero Bran the Builder and helped erect the Wall to keep the White Walkers out. But as we know this will (seemingly) not be a permanent answer either.
(This part isn’t as well developed as the other sections, but the the Age of Heroes and the Long Night came before recorded history, so we don’t know when or how close certain events were to one another. It might be impossible for Bran to pinpoint the exact time of any of these things happened, which is why he would undershoot the actual Long Night.)
Failure number two.
Which is why his next attempt would be to go back to the time before White Walkers existed, to take over the body of the first man the Children of the Forest turned into one via dragonglass to the heart. Either by trying to stop the Children or stopping their war with men—the whole reason they made White Walkers—Bran would hope to end the White Walker threat forever.
But as both Jojen and the Three-Eyed Raven warned Bran repeatedly, you can’t remain in the past or in someone else’s body for too long because you can get stuck there. “It is beautiful beneath the sea; stay too long and you drown.” That’s how Bran would get trapped in the first White Walker, who becomes the Night King with all of Bran’s incredible powers. The powers that let him raise the dead.
Bran lives for thousands of years as him, which is why he can see himself in the vision and mark him. He then goes and kills the Three-eyed Raven who hid the truth from him. Even now the Three-eyed Raven’s comment about how Bran “will fly” could be because the Night King is about to ride his new dragon, another example of prophecy not quite being what we expect.
Failure number three, and no chance for a fourth attempt.
That would be three timeloops that have shaped everything that has happened. This theory might even account for why the Night King let Jon go at Hardhome. For the first time in millennia, Bran saw someone from his family and didn’t want to kill him. He maybe even knew, deep down, somewhere inside where the real Bran still lives, that Jon would eventually kill him and end this nightmare once and for all. George R.R. Martin has said the ending will be bittersweet, and Jon killing Bran to end the war would certainly be that.
One piece of evidence for this theory says that when the first White Walker was created by the Children he gripped the tree the exact same way Bran gripped the roots beneath the ground while watching. Because Bran was experiencing it in the moment, because he was that man.
And as more and more people have come on board with it (I get asked by friends about the show every day, and without a doubt, this is the theory they ask about the most), they have looked for other evidence supporting it. For example, have you noticed how the Night King’s appearance has changed since Hardhome? Some people think the newer version actually looks like Bran, proof that at some point he inhabited him.
It’s a lot, but it’s not crazy. However, that doesn’t make it convincing.
Bran’s ability to influence the past certainly feels like a major issue that will come into play again, but would this story really end with everything being a timeloop? The Three-eyed Raven did say the “ink is dry” on the past despite the past not being as concrete as we think, so that comment would fit this theory. But it would also feel like a letdown since it means no one had any free will in the story.
Plus, if this is all about Bran in many ways, why did the show marginalize him so much? He was completely cut out of season five, and he’s been nothing more than a strange presence this season with only a handful of scenes.
Time travel is really tricky to pull off without feeling like a cop-out. It requires a type of logic that can often unravel with even one loose strand. Like why would the Three-eyed Raven not intervene if he knew what was happening in the past, present, and future? Why wouldn’t he have told Bran to warg into one of the Children of the Forest instead? Why did anything happen if someone knew it was going to fail before it happened?
Like we said, it’s a lot.
But right now not even the Three-Eyed Raven, whoever—or whenever—he is, might not know if it’s true or not.
What do you think of this theory? Is there any other evidence to support or disprove it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Explore the rich, complicated, and controversial lore of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire — and how it connects to HBO’s Game of Thrones — in our deep dive series, History of Thrones.