Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones‘ season eight premiere “Winterfell.”
The Night King used Ned Umber and a spiral of body parts to send a message to the rest of the living, but his undead note has also spawned a new theory from Game of Thrones viewers. Some fans think the spiral pattern of limbs adorning the Last Hearth look exactly like House Targaryen’s sigil.
The #NightKing‘s warning echoes the Targaryen sigil #GameofThrones pic.twitter.com/VUIsFZQuJ3
— Game of Thrones Facts (@thronesfacts) April 15, 2019
They look similar, but is there a real connection between them? Does this theory hold up like Ned Umber on a dining room wall? Let’s take a look.
What is the spiral?
The White Walkers have been arranging their victims in a circular pattern from the show’s very first scene. This was how a Night’s Watch ranger found wildling corpses lain out in the snow, shortly before the bodies disappeared and the White Walkers attacked.
In season three, Mance Rayder, who described the Night King as “always the artist,” found the remnants of the White Walker attack on the Night’s Watch at the Fist of the First Men. Instead of leaving behind human body parts this time, the Night King left a tableau of dead horses in a spiral pattern, something Mance had clearly seen before.
This design pattern isn’t just a creepy decoration though, it has meaning for the Night King. In season six, Bran saw a vision of how the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers. They tied a man to a weirwood and stuck dragonglass in his heart. Surrounding that tree was the same spiral pattern the Night King is so fond of.
Every time he uses this pattern, the Night King lets the living know he has not forgotten where he comes from and why he was made. It’s one of the reasons his latest message at the Last Hearth was so terrifying.
These exact patterns made an unexpected return elsewhere on the show too.
In season seven, when Jon was mining dragonglass on Dragonstone, he found ancient cave paintings/carvings that clearly resemble the ones the White Walkers use.
In the lower left here you can see the same pattern from the first episode.
The spirals were everywhere, and some of them were huge.
If there was any question what these refer to, Jon also showed Daenerys images of the First Men and the Children standing together against their common enemy, the White Walkers.
On the (cave) surface, this might seem like a direct connection between the Night King and House Targaryen, whose ancestral seat in Westeros was Dragonstone. However, history separates them by thousands of years.
The Timeline of the Dead and Dragons in Westeros
The first Long Night took place millennia before the Targaryens ever came to Westeros, and dragons didn’t even exist in the world when the First Men and the Children defeated the White Walkers. Valyrian sheepherders only found dragons after the Night King had retreated (the two events might have been near simultaneous, as though the world could not handle both ice and fire at the same time).
Even then, House Targaryen didn’t come to Dragonstone for thousands of years themselves. They arrived only a few hundred years before the events on Game of Thrones. The people (or Children) who drew those cave paintings had no connection with the Targaryens. Maybe these unknown scribes fled to the island because White Walkers can’t swim, or maybe they carved them centuries later after hearing the story of the Long Night (writing didn’t come to Westeros for thousands of years after the Long Night either), but they were long gone when the Targaryens showed up.
But it’s almost certain the person who created the House Targaryen sigil saw those spiral cave paintings.
The Three-Headed Dragon
When Aegon Targaryen arrived on what is now King’s Landing to begin his conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, he revealed his sigil for House Targaryen, because he wanted his family to match the customs of continent he planned to rule. The three-headed dragon was a reflection of himself and his two sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, who were also dragonriders. The three of them together conquered Westeros, and their Targaryen sigil has always commemorated the trio.
It’s hard to imagine a young Aegon never explored his home island while growing up on Dragonstone. He was brave and fearless, so even as a child it’s doubtful he was afraid of journeying into caves. It’s almost certain he saw those paintings Jon showed Daenerys.
Is it possible the reason the Night King’s spiral resembled the Targaryen sigil is because the Targaryen sigil was based on those cave drawings?
Coincidence or Connection
We know where the Night King’s affection for the spiral pattern comes from, and it has nothing to do with dragons, House Targaryen, or a sigil that didn’t exist until recently in Westeros. The only way these might be connected is if Aegon based his sigil on those cave paintings.
George R.R. Martin did raise the possibility Aegon wanted to conqueror Westeros in the first place because of the White Walkers.
“There is a lot of speculation that in some sense he saw what was coming 300 years later, and wanted to unify the Seven Kingdoms to be better prepared for the threat that he eventually saw coming from the North, the threat that we’re dealing with in A Song of Ice and Fire.”
Did Aegon, having seen the ancient evidence of the Long Night in Dragonstone’s caves, anticipate the White Walkers return centuries earlier and base his own sigil on the Night King’s “logo”? Is the circular pattern of the three-headed dragon (fire) a response to the circular spiral pattern of the White Walkers (ice), two sides of the same coin?
In a magical world of ice-demons and dragons anything is possible, but this still feels more like a coincidence than a true connection. If Beric hadn’t set fire to little Ned and those limbs, would they really look that much alike? And even if Aegon did base his sigil on the Night King’s spiral it doesn’t have to mean anything beyond being a symbol of Aegon’s ultimate goal.
Either way, this spiral/sigil theory, which let us explore the great lore and history of Game of Thrones, was fun to take out for a swirl.
Don’t miss our full breakdown of Game of Thrones S8E1: “Winterfell” on All Kings Considered! Join Jessica Chobot, Dan Casey, and special guests Terri Schwartz (IGN) and Yolanda Machado (The LA Times, The Wrap) as they unpack everything from the premiere.
All Kings Considered airs Mondays at 12 pm PT on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch and Nerdist’s YouTube channels. Send your questions, complaints, thoughts, and theories to us @Nerdist on Twitter and you might be featured on our next episode!