An upcoming book featuring concept art from Game 0f Thrones has revealed that the Night King originally had a very different, more regal design. The Night King was a source of many fan theories following his introduction in the season 4 episode “Oathkeeper”, which gave Game Of Thrones fans their first glimpse at the inner-workings of the White Walkers, something that had never been explored in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels before.
Game of Thrones revealed that the White Walkers were a weapon created by the Children of the Forest to be used against humanity and that the Night King was the first of his kind. There is a different character called the Night King related to the White Walkers in the history of the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, but his connection to the novels, if any, remains unclear. The show’s version of the character proved to be a hit with many fans, and the Night King’s foreboding design was featured in countless memes.
Now, an upcoming book called The Art of Game of Thrones will reveal unused concept art from throughout the series. One of the authors of The Art of Game of Thrones is Deborah Riley, who worked as the Production Designer on Game of Thrones starting with season 4. The Art of Game of Thrones contains original concept art showing a very different design for the Night King, which was revealed to Vanity Fair. The original design of the Night King showed him with more pronounced horns and a set of robes with a spiderweb-like design instead of the armor he wears in the show. The Night King also had long hair and a beard, which more closely matched the White Walkers shown in earlier Game of Thrones concept art.
The designers were given more freedom than normal with the creation of the Night King, as he has no direct counterpart in the book and the series was running out of source material to adapt. As the characters and story went in new directions, the showrunners placed a greater focus on the White Walkers’ terrifying leader. Because the character is totally mute in the show, his intimidating presence is largely dependent on the impressive character design.
The White Walkers actually underwent several design changes over the course of Game of Thrones, with the creatures from the first episode bearing little resemblance to the ones that appeared in later seasons. Of course, it would have been very difficult for an actor dressed as the figure in the concept art to move around easily. The behind-the-scenes photos from Game of Thrones give a glimpse into how long the actors who portrayed the White Walkers had to stay in the makeup chair in order to apply prosthetics, which might be one major reason the design was simplified over time. Clearly, the massive crown of the original Night King design would have been a nightmare to move around in.