The Long Night is how the Westerosi refer to a period when a terrible darkness fell across the known world. It occurred during the Age of Heroes approximately eight thousand years before Aegon's Conquest, in the midst of a great winter that lasted for years. The Long Night lasted a generation and laid waste through famine and terror.
According to Westerosi legends, in the midst of this darkness a race of apparent demons, called the Others, emerged from the uttermost north of Westeros, the polar regions of the Lands of Always Winter. They wielded razor-thin swords of ice and raised wights to fight the living. The children of the forest and their allies, the First Men, fought valiantly against them, but were driven southwards by their advance.
The Others were eventually checked when it was discovered that weapons made of dragonglass could kill them. Legends from the north claim that the last hero made contact with the children. The first members of the Night's Watch drove the Others back in the Battle for the Dawn.
Steps were taken to ensure that the people would never be caught off guard by an invasion from the north again. Bran the Builder supposedly raised the Wall, an imposing structure of solid ice and magic, stretching one hundred leagues from the Gorge in the west to the Shivering Sea in the east, cutting off the Lands of Always Winter from the remainder of Westeros. The Night's Watch guarded the Wall and protected the people from threats beyond the Wall.
The Rhoynar tell of a darkness that made the Rhoyne of Essos dwindle and disappear, her waters frozen as far south as the joining of the Selhoru, until a hero convinced the many children of Mother Rhoyne, such as the Crab King and the Old Man of the River, to put aside their bickering and join in a secret song that brought back the day. Lomas Longstrider, in his Wonders Made by Man, describes meeting descendants of the Rhoynar in the ruins of the festival city of Chroyane who recounted this tale to him.
Other legends from the Further East, including Yi Ti, state the Blood Betrayal began the Long Night. The Lion of Night was unleashed upon the world after the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back on it.
According to a legend from Yi Ti, during the Long Night the sun hid its face for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and disaster was only averted by the deeds of a woman with a monkey's tail.
A great hero, known in different cultures as Azor Ahai, Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser, wielded the flaming sword Lightbringer and led humanity to victory. Some say the Five Forts were built by the Pearl Emperor to guard against the Lion of Night and his demons.
The legend of Azor Ahai spread from Asshai and is especially prevalent among the followers of R'hllor. According to prophecy, Azor Ahai is to be reborn again as a champion sent by R'hllor. This will occur after a long summer when an evil, cold darkness descends upon the world. There is also a similar prophecy about the prince that was promised.
A Game of Thrones
A Storm of Swords
Old Nan: Oh, my sweet summer child, what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.
Bran Stark: You mean the Others.
The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Long Night.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran III.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Kings of Winter.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond: Yi Ti.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 63, Davos VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 78, Samwell V.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.