What is The Long Night in 'Game of Thrones'?
You're about to start hearing the phrase "The Long Night" quite a bit around here.
This is because it's likely the title of the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel, and, even if it's not, the name refers to the era during which the upcoming spinoff takes place.
While we don't know much about the actual show, author George R.R. Martin has written extensively about the history of Westeros—particularly this era—which can give us a pretty solid idea about what we can expect in the prequel.
Let us begin by putting the timeline of events into perspective. The Long Night took place about 8,000 years before when the Targaryen family gained control of the Seven Kingdoms. The Targaryen Dynasty lasted for nearly 300 years until Robert's Rebellion when Robert and Ned Stark overthrew the Targaryen family just before the events of the Game of Thrones series. To compare that with the history of our real world planet, the events of the Long Night would take place before Ancient Egypt and around 6,000 BC during the Neolithic Revolution of Mesopotamia.
In other words, a long fucking time ago. During the present day world of Game of Thrones, the events of the Long Night are legends and ancient history—bedtime stories used to scare children rather than actual history.
So what is that history, exactly?
The Long Night was not a particularly good time in Westeros. It was during a winter that lasted for years and marked "a generation and laid waste through famine and terror," as the Game of Thrones wiki details. This was when the White Walkers (in the books called the Others) emerged in the north and brought an army of wights to fight the living.
The Children of the Forest (whom we've seen briefly in Game of Thrones) joined the First Men to fight the White Walkers and drive them back north. It was during this time that humans and the Children of the Forest used dragonglass to fight the White Walkers and Bran the Builder built The Wall to keep the White Walkers out. It was during this time too that the Night's Watch was established to keep watch over the northern border of Westeros should the White Walkers return (which, spoiler alert, they did and that's where we're at in Game of Thrones).
Essentially, this is all the ancient history we hear referred to often in Game of Thrones.
But, another important legend from this time is that of Azor Ahai. This is the flaming sword-wielding hero who, in the events of Game of Thrones, Melisandre believes will be reborn to defeat the White Walkers.
According to Melisandre, a great darkness descended upon the land, and a hero known as Azor Ahai wielded a flaming sword named Lightbringer in battle against the darkness to win back the dawn. The holy texts of the Lord of Light prophesy that there will come a time when the Long Night will return, and Azor Ahai will be reborn to lead the people of the world to victory once again. This specific legend is apparently widespread across the Further East of Essos, because Azor Ahai is also known as Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser, depending on the region in which the story is told.
Despite the more than 8,000-year time difference, these stories are closely related through prophecy. Essentially, the upcoming prequel will be telling the beginning of the story that ends with Game of Thrones.
This includes a number of characters whose names we've heard pretty often in Game of Thrones and might see in The Long Night. One of these ancient figures is Bran the Builder a.k.a Brandon Stark, the namesake of our little magic boi Bran from Game of Thrones.
Another of these First Men is Loreon Lannister, who was the first king of Casterly Rock for House Lannister. It's very likely that he or some of his immediate family members will appear in The Long Night, one of whom could be played by Naomi Watts, who will be a star of the show. What's interesting is how The Long Night plans to include the Targaryens, if at all.
During the events of the Long Night, the Targaryen family is a powerful house in Essos, and will not arrive in Westeros until the fall of Valyria nearly 8,000 years later. It's possible that the show might depict what's going on in Essos, but since the continents aren't yet intertwined, it wouldn't make a ton of sense.
The Long Night ends with the Battle for the Dawn, a legendary fight between the First Men alongside the Children of the Forest against the White Walkers. It's unclear in the history books, but this might have been the time that Azor Ahai, the prince that was promised, may have led the humans to victory over the undead. This was the battle during which "the first members of the Night's Watch rode against the Others and drove them back north."