The white walkers are coming. The next season of Game of Thrones will see the Night King battle the army of the living in Westeros. Using geography and a little science know-how we can figure out how long Jon, Dany, Tyrion, and the rest have before they must face the army of the dead.
We’ve known the threat posed by the white walkers since the battle of Hardhome. And when Jon and his team traveled north of the Wall to collect a wight to bring back to Cersei, we saw what the Night King could do to a dragon. Now that the Night King and his newly revived Viserion have destroyed the Wall at Eastwatch, it’s just a matter of time before the army of the dead marches south to Winterfell. With the show’s action seeming to move at the speed of light these days, to figure out just how quickly the two armies will clash depends on what I call the Speed of Wight (thank you, I’ll be here all week).
To determine the Speed of Wight, we need to go back to Hardhome — the last time Jon Snow (née Aegon Targaryen) and the Night King were in the same place at the same time. Since the battle of Hardhome, Jon Snow has traveled from north of the Wall back to Castle Black, been killed by his own men, been resurrected by the red woman, sailed to Bear Island, trekked to House Glover, camped outside Winterfell, battled the bastard, retook his home, sailed to Dragonstone, mined for dragonglass, sailed to Eastwatch, and trekked north to capture a wight. In the same time, the Night King has marched on the three-eyed raven’s cave and… walked back to Eastwatch.
Jon’s journey was just over 5,500 miles while the Night King’s was approximately 870 miles. So at first glance, it sure seems like the army of the dead isn’t moving that quickly. But to understand velocity, we need to know how much time it took for both Jon and the Night King to meet up again.
After rewatching every episode from Hardhome to Beyond the Wall, it’s clear that each of the stories on Game of Thrones are working on different time scales. That is to say, a single scene in King’s Landing might see the sun rise and set while multiple scenes at Winterfell might all take place during the same hour-long meeting. Therefore, for an accurate time scale, we’ll need to focus on Jon and his journey. Get ready for some numbers.
At a sailing speed of 7 knots (fast for a medieval ship) and a walking speed of 3.1 mph (average for flat terrain), it would have taken Jon and the surviving wildlings 70.6 hours to get from Hardhome to Castle Black. Add in another 12 hours so they can sleep some. Jon then spent 4 days, both alive and dead, at Castle Black; so add 96 hours. Somewhere around this time, the Night King attacks the three-eyed raven’s cave. We’ll get back to that in a second. Jon then leaves Castle Black to recruit the amazing Lady Mormont at Bear Island. Assuming he rides his horse at just short of a gallop pace (15 mph) and maintains a quick sailing speed, this would take 58.9 hours. He then travels to House Glover (21.9 hrs), rides to camp just outside Winterfell (15.8 hrs), spends the night and rides to Winterfell where he defeats Ramsay Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards (52.9 hrs), has three different meetings with the collected northern houses (72 hrs), rides and sails to Dragonstone to meet with Dany (216.4 hrs), mines the dragonglass (24 hrs), sails to Eastwatch (277.9 hrs), and hikes north of the wall where he finally encounters the Night King (24 hrs). Jon’s journey of 5,581 miles took him nearly 950 hours, or a little over 39 days.
But what about the army of the dead?
If we assume that the attack on the three-eyed raven’s cave actually occurred as Jon was being killed by the Night’s Watch and later revived by the Red Woman, then the army of the dead had to cover the 452 miles between Hardhome and the cave in 178.6 hours. This gives us an average speed of 2.5 mph. The Night King then turned his army around and marched back to Eastwatch, 417 miles away. Given Jon’s established time frame, this would have taken 745.8 hours which gives us an average speed of 0.55 mph. With this range, we can calculate how long it will take the Night King and his army to march on Winterfell (706 miles from Eastwatch) and King’s Landing (1,622 miles from Winterfell).
Jon, Sansa, Arya, and the rest of the living at Winterfell have somewhere between 11-53 days to prepare for the battle. Assuming that the land near Winterfell is slightly easier to traverse than the rugged land north of the Wall, I’d wager it’s closer to 11 days. From there, Cersei — secure in her hubris atop the Iron Throne — would only have to wait another month before the wights reached King’s Landing.
Indeed, the white walkers are coming. And I can’t wait to see what the show runners pack into those measly 11 days before the battle for the fate of Westeros begins.