(One of various posts in which I track what is revealed about something or someone, in the order in which it is revealed. Yes, I know I could look this kind of thing up on Westeros or Tower of the Hand, but my purpose is to examine the organic process of absorbing information as it is revealed in the books.)
- The air turns cold in their presence.
- They resemble shadows (in one place, oxymoronically, a “white shadow”).
- They are tall and gaunt with hard, pale flesh.
- Their armor “seem[s] to change color as [they move]; here … white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees.” (Is this their armor, or part of their skin?)
- An Other’s sword is “a shard of crystal so thin that it seem[s] to vanish when seen edge-on” which shimmers with a faint blue light.
- They move silently — but Will later hears their “voices and laughter,” a strangely humanizing detail.
- One person they killed is reanimated with “burning” blue pupils and ice-cold flesh.
“My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” [Will] put in.
“My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,” Royce replied. “Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit.”
Paragraph seven, and already with the frank depiction of sexism (and the semi-naughty words!)
Stuff we learn about the social system here: Will, the commoner, had a mother who taught him about life; Royce, the lord’s son, had a wet nurse. (Maybe his mother would have taught him to respect women a bit more; he also expresses his contempt for Gared in sexist terms, by saying fear “unmans” him.) Royce is here to be our red shirt because he’s an “extra” son in a primogeniture-based aristocracy; Will because of a class system that makes wild animals the “property” of certain individuals and a legal system brutal enough to use amputation as punishment (see Race for the Iron Throne on historical precedents for this).
And finally, when Royce gives a bad order,
[T]here was nothing to be done for it. The order had been given, and honor bound them to obey.
Or, “[in] the supposedly meritocratic Night’s Watch, where ‘even a bastard may rise high’ … the class system of feudalism and serfdom is perpetuated.” Though it’s “hard to take orders from a man you laughed at in your cups,” Will repeatedly takes those orders anyway, breaking ranks only when the five additional Others appear and he chooses not to call attention to himself by warning Royce. (Gared, a man with enough ironic awareness of the social order to make fun of his officer and lord while drunk, presumably broke sooner, allowing him to escape.) Future episodes of “fragging” and social breakdown in the Night’s Watch will serve as a measure of the degree of terror inspired by the Others.