Everyone calls the simpleminded giant who carries Bran around “Hodor”. But that’s not really his name. His real name is Wylas (or Walder in the books). Regardless, characters refer to him as Hodor because, like a human Pokemon, he only says that one word. Over and over and over. For decades, fans have been trying to figure out why Hodor says Hodor. What does it mean? Why does he always say it?
This post contains spoilers through the latest episode of Game of Thrones, “The Door.” We’ve updated this story to contain the latest information. If you haven’t seen “The Door” yet, watch it before reading on.
Here’s what you need to know.
Hodor Didn’t Always Say Hodor
Thanks to Season 6 episode 2 of Game of Thrones, TV viewers are now caught up with book readers in knowing that Hodor didn’t always say “Hodor.” There’s a lot more to this character than meets the eye.
According to “A Game of Thrones,” in the Bran IV chapter:
Theon Greyjoy had once commented that Hodor did not know much, but no one could doubt that he knew his name. Old Nan had cackled like a hen when Bran told her that, and confessed that Hodor’s real name was Walder. No one knew where ‘Hodor’ had come from, she said, but when he started saying it, they started calling him by it. It was the only word he had.”
In the books, we’re never told why Hodor says “Hodor”, but we know that he wasn’t always that way. In the quote above, Old Nan says “when he started saying it.” The TV show recently confirmed this in Bran’s flashback in episode 2. In the flashback, Hodor just seems like a normal kid:
The actor who plays Bran, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, said this about that scene,
It clearly shows us that something happened to Hodor, and something quite massive must have happened, whether it was a really bad head injury or a fall from a horse, who knows? But it clearly showed there’s more to Hodor than we know, and maybe he holds some kind of secrets that are now lost forever. I’m not sure. I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.”
If you want to dig into every detail we know about Hodor from the books, we recommend checking out our story, “What Do the Game of Thrones Books Say About Hodor?” If you’re looking for more information about why Hodor says Hodor, keep reading below.
Understanding What Episode 5 “The Door” Revealed About Hodor
Episode 5 was absolutely heart-wrenching. We finally learned why Hodor only says “Hodor,” and it tore us apart. Exactly what happened can be a little tough to track, so we’re going to go through how we interpreted it, step by step.
The White Walkers, accompanied by the Night King, were attacking. Bran was already warged back in time with Three Eyed Raven, watching a young Hodor and a younger version of his dad. At that point, he could hear Meera crying out to him from the present, telling him that he had to warg into Hodor so he could escape. But instead of waking up and doing so, he warged into present-day Hodor through past Hodor. In that way, he carried some of past Hodor’s essence into present Hodor.
Through Hodor, he carried himself out and to safety. Through Hodor, he barred the door so the white walkers couldn’t get through and kill himself and Meera. Meera yelled out “Hold the door!” to tell Hodor not to leave. Hodor needed to keep the door shut so they could have enough time to escape.
So Bran forced Hodor to stay there, barring the door. It seems that Bran forced Hodor to die. However, there’s an alternate theory that says Hodor did this on his own, because he was willing to sacrifice his life for those he loved. Which theory do you, as the fan, agree with?
This might explain why Hodor is so terrified of being warged into. This may explain why Hodor is so scared of tunnels (such as how scared he was of the crypts of Winterfell.) Hodor kept repeating his one order, “Hold the door,” over and over as he was killed by the white walkers.
His last thought must have been transmitted back to his past, younger self, through Bran’s warging. His younger self witnessed his own traumatic death. His brain got stuck on his last thought, “Hold the door.” We don’t believe he’s reliving his death as he gets older, since he doesn’t seem upset or traumatized. But all he can say, from now on, is the last thing he said as he was dying. It’s as if his present self got transferred into his past, younger self and they merged in some way.
Over and over, Hodor has repeated the last words that he is going to say before he dies.
Theories about Hodor
These are previous theories that fans had about Hodor.
One theory was that Hodor’s change was caused by some mundane head injury, like getting kicked by a stable horse.
And making the rounds a few weeks ago was a theory about Hodor losing his mind as a warg, possibly because he warged a horse for too long.
All of these ideas have merit. But our favorite theory before the truth was revealed tonight was that Hodor went “HODOR” after an encounter with the Great Other.
Hodor Might be the Name of The Great Other
Although this particularly theory has been disproven as of Episode 5, there could still be a secondary meaning to the name Hodor, which deserves giving this theory a read still.
According to the red priests, the Great Other is the counterbalance to Rhollor, the God of Light. We don’t know what his name is. Melisandre tells us that, like Voldemort, his name must not be said.
In “A Storm of Swords,” the Davos III chapter:
The war has been waged since time began, and before it is done, all men must choose where they will stand. On one side is R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. Against him stands the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror.”
Seeing as how he’s the “Soul of Ice” and the God of Night and Terror, it seems like a safe assumption that the Great Other affiliated with the Others.
But what does all this have to do with Hodor?
The word “Hodor” actually appears in Norse mythology. Hodor is the name for the god of winter, cold, and darkness.
In fact, there are a lot of parallels to Norse mythology hidden in Game of Thrones.
So maybe the name of the Great Other, the name that must not be spoken, is actually just “Hodor.”
Reddit contributor mach4potato took this idea and ran with it here.
Another Redditor, TheWaker, synthesized that theory and added a few ideas in a comment here.
To summarize their theories: maybe the Crypts of Winterfell hold more than just dead Starks. Maybe it’s also a prison for the Great Other.
Sounds crazy right? Is there actually any proof that the Crypts of Winterfell would be anything but…crypts? Well yes there is. And we explore that topic in depth in The Crypts of Winterfell: A Theory About the Great Other.
One final thought. If Hodor did encounter the Great Other, it’s possible the encounter went way beyond just scarring him for life. It’s possible that Hodor was possessed by the Great Other, just like Hodor was also possessed by Bran. We later learned this wasn’t the case, but it was a fascinating idea before Episode 5.
Remember how Bran accidentally warged into Hodor? That’s not really supposed to be able to happen. A talented skinchanger tells Jon this in “A Storm of Swords,” chapter Jon X:
The skinchanger was grey-faced, round-shouldered, and bald, a mouse of a man with a wolfling’s eyes. ‘Once a horse is broken to the saddle, any man can mount him,’ he said in a soft voice. ‘Once a beast’s been joined to a man, any skinchanger can slip inside and ride him. Orell was withering inside his feathers, so I took the eagle for my own. But the joining works both ways, warg. Orell lives inside me now, whispering how much he hates you. And I can soar above the Wall, and see with eagle eyes.'”
In the above quote, we’re told that the animal that is warged into must be “broken to the saddle first.” We’re also told that two wargs can inhabit the same animal. That is confirmed later when Bran wargs into a raven. He discovers another person is in there, in “A Dance with Dragons,” chapter Bran III:
Someone else was in the raven,’ he told Lord Brynden, once he had returned to his own skin. ‘Some girl. I felt her.’ ‘
A woman, of those who sing the song of earth,’ his teacher said. “Long dead, yet a part of her remains, just as a part of you would remain in Summer if your boy’s flesh were to die upon the morrow. A shadow on the soul. She will not harm you.'”
So we know that two people can simultaneously possess the mind of an animal at the same time. If that’s true, then why not a person? Remember, there’s a place that Hodor retreats to in his mind that Bran cannot access. This is described in “A Dance with Dragons,” Bran III:
Like a dog who has had all the fight whipped out of him, Hodor would curl up and hide whenever Bran reached out for him. His hiding place was somewhere deep within him, a pit where not even Bran could touch him.”
We were left to wonder if Wylas ie. Walder ie. Hodor carried more than just Bran with him into that cave. Maybe, we considered, he just unwittingly took the Great Other all the way back to home sweet home.
This wasn’t ultimately what happened. Ultimately, Hodor ended up being the most tragic and honorable hero in Game of Thrones.