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At one point Benjen Stark states that

The Wall is not just ice and stone. Ancient spells were carved into its foundations. Strong magic to protect men from what lies beyond. And while it stands, the dead cannot pass.

However, at the beginning of the series...

...a deadman/wight attacks Jon Snow in Castle Black, which is situated on the other side of the wall.

Also in the latest episode...

...a wight was taken south of the wall on the back of a dragon.

These two instances seem to be at odds with Benjen's claim that the dead cannot pass the wall.

Is there any explanation for this?

EDIT:

By "the dead" I only mean the deadmen/wights/animated corpses - not the Night King or the White Walkers.

By "cross the wall" I mean anyway of going from one side of the wall to the other, including flying over, tunnelling under or passing through.

marked as duplicate by A J, Gustavo Gabriel, Skooba, mattiav27, Möoz Aug 22 '17 at 5:53

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    @SilverBebs I am guessing the Night King has a way of defeating the wall, whereas I am just asking about the standard deadmen/wights and if they can cross the wall - should I make this clearer? – Jimmery Aug 21 '17 at 13:42
  • Sorry, what do you mean by "cross"? Go through? Climb? – Silver Bebs Aug 21 '17 at 13:46
  • @SilverBebs literally any way of getting from one side of the wall to the other, go through, climb, tunnel under, fly over – Jimmery Aug 21 '17 at 14:20
  • Um, regarding your recent edit. You can't really ask "is Benjen's claim contradicted" and when the answers explain to you how it isn't you simply say "yeah, but diregarding what Benjen meant, I mean this and that". Either you're asking about a contradiction in Benjen's words or you're bringing your very own interpretation of his words into the mix. If all you wanted to ask is whether dead can cross the wall by any means, then you already answered that yourself with the very examples you provided. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 21 '17 at 14:30
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    And that is what the answers are explaning. It seemed like the edit was supposed to extend the question after receiving the answers. I'm sorry if I misunderstood that. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 21 '17 at 16:17
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I think you should read Benjen's quote more literally.

And while it stands, the dead cannot pass.

  1. The wight that attacked Jon Snow did not pass the wall. A dead body passed the wall. It was only when that body was in Castle Black, that it became a wight. The wight did not pass the wall.

  2. The wight carried by Drogon flew over the wall. Even if the wall is a magical barrier, there needs to be an upper limit to the barrier itself (likely as high as the wall is). Drogon could also have flown around it, though that would require knowledge about the wights not being able to pass the wall, and Dany/Jon don't seem to be aware of this knowledge (only Benjen has revealed this as far as I'm aware)

Furthermore, if you think about it logically: if the wights cannot cross a magical barrier, what is the point of also creating a physical wall? If the magic itself stops them, the wall is pointless.


So let me list a few possibilities. These are of course all speculations, but they are possible and not yet disproven:

  • The wall itself is not what stops the wights, but rather some magical barrier contained within. The wall only serves as protection for this barrier. Crossing the wall dispels the magic that reanimates the wights. Wights are capable of being on either side of the wall, but they simply cannot cross the wall without being dispelled.
  • The wights can only go where it's cold. The wall is high enough to interfere with weather, and could possibly prevent the cold from spreading past the wall, thus making it unlikely for wights to make it further than the wall. This could be supported by the fact that we have seen wights resurrected beyond the wall (i.e. why all bodies in Castle Black get burned), but as far as I'm aware wights have only been resurrecting where it is cold (i.e. near the Wall).
  • There have been hints that the Long Night ended with some sort of peace treaty (I refer to Alt Shift X's video on the White Walkers, he is my main source). It's possible that such a peace treaty included the agreement that the Walkers and their wights can not (are not allowed to) pass beyond the Wall. Which may have been wrongly misinterpreted over time that they cannot (are unable to) pass it.
  • Benjen is a fallible human (though technically a wight, his behavior is still human). His understanding of how the wall can and cannot be crossed by wights may be misinterpreted or plain wrong.
  • At the beginning of the series they also state about lately not having built the wall up higher implying that it is the height of the wall that matters. I think Benjen reiterates this saying the wall was built with magic. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 21 '17 at 14:05
  • @TheLethalCoder: Good point, but it seems more likely that they did not build the wall higher because most people assume the Walkers to be myths when the show starts. Even Ned Stark, who continually repeats that Winter is coming doesn't believe the eye witness testimony of the man he executes. He doesn't immediately dismiss it, but he argues to Bran that they haven't been seen for a considerable time, and it's therefore more likely an excuse for desertion, not an eye witness testimony. It seems unlikely that anyone would feel the need to build the Wall higher than it is. – Flater Aug 21 '17 at 14:10
  • @Flater I thought it was stated that the main reason it wasn't built higher was because of a lack of men/resources to do so. Though that is probably a factor as well. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 21 '17 at 14:11
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    @TheLethalCoder: One could be a consequence of the other. Why send more men to build a wall (extension) to keep away something that you don't believe exists in the first place? The first season very much addressed that the Night's Watch tends to only get "prisoner" recruits, rather than voluntary recruits like Jon and Benjen; so it stands to reason that no one is funding the Wall anymore, it mostly exists as a way to dodge the death penalty. – Flater Aug 21 '17 at 14:16
  • Great answer! Where has it been stated that wights can only go where it is cold? I can see circumstantial evidence - but it could for example be White Walkers can only go where it is cold. – iandotkelly Aug 21 '17 at 14:46
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In both the cases that you cite the wight is carried by people through the wall, the wight doesn't voluntary make the journey.

The wight that attacks Lord Mormont and Jon was a body carried through the tunnel of Castle Black. The wight they captured in S7E6 is tied up and hooded, and carried by dragon presumably over the wall to Eastwatch.

The broader question about whether the dead can cross the wall is (as yet) unanswered. However the events so far do not contradict Benjen Stark's claim.

  • Jon snow also came back from dead. How could he pass the wall? – Nagabhushan S N Oct 13 '18 at 13:43
  • @NagabhushanSN ... still inconclusive, he came back from the dead. He isn't dead. – iandotkelly Oct 13 '18 at 14:01
  • Benjen Stark? He also came back from dead right? – Nagabhushan S N Oct 15 '18 at 3:25
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    @NagabhushanSN ... for someone who's not dead he looks pretty mouldy. I'm not sure its clear exactly what Benjen is - some sort of good wight or half-wight or something. Saved from becoming a wight through the magic of the children of the forest. I'm not sure we're meant to presume he is alive. The fact that he can't cross the wall is (in a bizarre way) confirmation of both the fact that he is dead and the wall does indeed stop the dead. – iandotkelly Oct 15 '18 at 4:00

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