Wight is a Middle English word, from Old English wiht, and used to describe a creature or living sentient being. It is akin to Old High German wiht, meaning a creature or thing. In its original usage the word wight described a living human being. More recently, the word has been used within the fantasy genre of literature to describe undead or wraith-like creatures: corpses with a part of their decayed soul still in residence, often draining life from their victims. The earliest example of this usage in English is in William Morris's translation of the Grettis Saga, where draug is translated as "barrow wight". Notable later examples include the undead Barrow-wights from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, the reanimated creatures killed by the White Walkers from the works of George R. R. Martin, and the level-draining wights of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game franchise.
In popular culture
- In the novel The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) by J.R.R. Tolkien, barrow wights are cruel, evil spirits of the dead men of the Northern Kingdom of Arnor and the realm of Cardolan who fell in battle against the Witch-king of Angmar.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game "white box" set (TSR, 1974), wights are described as being able to drain away energy levels on a touch.
- In the Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting (1983–2015), wights are deathless warriors from ancient times brought back to life by Dark Magic. This power not only revives them, but twists their armour and imbues them with fell power. Their weapons bear such potent enchantments that a single cut is enough to kill a living human.
- In the setting of the Warcraft online role-playing games (1994–present), Wights are creatures similar in appearance to traditional representations of Frankenstein's monster—large, hulking, pallid skinned monsters that were once human, but have been made mindlessly insane through the power of the Scourge.
- In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels (1996–present) by George R. R. Martin, wights are humans or animals killed by the Others (also known as the White Walkers) who reanimate as undead creatures with pallid skin, black hands and glowing blue eyes. Wights may be physically injured, but even dismembered parts remain animated, so they must be destroyed by fire. The humans who live in the north beyond The Wall—called "wildlings" by the inhabitants of Westeros—burn their dead so that they do not become wights. Wights are not vulnerable to obsidian and Valyrian steel, as the Others are.
- In the games Heroes of Might and Magic III (1999) and V (2006), wights are creature in the Necropolis faction.
- In the online role-playing game RuneScape (2001), the Mahjarrat Sliske is notorious for his collection of warrior wights.
Examples of the word used in classic English literature and poetry
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368-1372), The Reeve's Tale, line 4236, The Riverside Chaucer (3rd edition):
- "For [Aleyn] had swonken al the longe nyght, And seyde, 'Fare weel, Malyne, sweete wight!'"
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368–1372), The Monk's Tale, line 380:
- "She kept her maidenhood from every wight
- To no man deigned she for to be bond."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368–1372), The Book of the Duchess, line 579:
- "Worste of alle wightes."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368–1372), Prologue of The Knight, line 72-73:
- "Ne neuere yet no vileynye he sayde
- In al his lyf vnto no manere wight.
- He was a verray parfit gentil knyght."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1379-1380), The House of Fame, line 1830-1831:
- "We ben shrewes, every wight,
- And han delyt in wikkednes."
- Edmund Spenser (1590–1596), The Faerie Queene, I.i.6.8-9:
- "That every wight to shrowd it did constrain,
- And this fair couple eke to shroud themselues were fain."
- William Shakespeare (c. 1602), The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I, Sc. III:
- "O base Hungarian wight! wilt thou the spigot wield?
- William Shakespeare (c. 1603), Othello, Act II, Sc. I:
- "She was a wight, if ever such wight were"
- John Milton (1626), On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough, verse vi:
- "Oh say me true if thou wert mortal wight..."
- Church of Scotland (1650), Scots Metrical Psalter, Psalm 18 verse xxvi:
- "froward thou kythst unto the froward wight..."
- Washington Irving (1820), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
- "In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, "tarried," in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity."
- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1812-1816), Childe Harolds' Pilgrimage Canto 1, verse :
- Ah, me! in sooth he was a shamles wight ..." .
- Edwin Greenslade Murphy (1926), "Wot Won the Larst?", in Dryblower’s Verses:
- From weedy little wights whose cigarettes
- Recall a badly-disinfected drain
- Merriam-Webster, 1974.
- T. F. HOAD. "wight". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Retrieved May 19, 2010 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O27-wight.html
- Wight, in the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, 1974 edition.
- Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
- Martin, George R. R. (1996). "Prologue". A Game of Thrones. pp. 7–10. ISBN 978-0-553-89784-5.
- Martin. "Chapter 52: Jon". A Game of Thrones. pp. 533–536, 545–548.
- Martin, George R. R. (1998). "Chapter 13: Jon". A Clash of Kings. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-553-89785-2.
- Martin. "Chapter 46: Samwell". A Storm of Swords. p. 534–535.