A looming prophecy is a powerful possibility. The fantasy trope guides heroes, teasing their destiny and how they can fulfill it, and sways villains, who often find themselves outrunning fate like it’s a Final Destination movie.
Game of Thrones has never been typical fantasy, and the forecasts woven in by George R.R. Martin often turn out to be false, or mislead characters, trapping them in paranoia. But there is one prophecy that stands out as one of the most central, and likely the most important, in all of Westerosi history: the return of Azor Ahai. As we descend into the final moments of the Thrones saga, the myth — or history — of Azor Ahai is likely to become more important than ever. So here’s what you need to know about the prophecy before the show’s final season.
WHO WAS AZOR AHAI?
Azor Ahai was a legendary hero who lived near the end of the Age of Heroes, during the Long Night. As the world grew darker, the people turned to Azor Ahai as their champion to save them from the Long Night, the generation-long winter when the First Men had to fight against the White Walkers.
According to the legend, which is mostly found in the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire’s five books, Azor Ahai knew he needed a special weapon to defeat the dead. Salladhor Saan explained, in the series’ second book A Clash of Kings, that it took Azor Ahai three tries to forge Lightbringer — his mythical flaming sword — since the first two times he tried to temper the steel, it “burst asunder.” Finally, to temper the third version of the sword, he drove it through the heart of his wife Nissa Nissa, and “her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel.” With Lightbringer in hand, Azor Ahai ventured north to defeat the Army of the Dead with a trusted band of heroes, and successfully ended the Long Night.
THE AZOR AHAI PROPHECY
Melisandre explains the prophecy throughout the course of the show, but mostly in season 2 when she’s convinced that Stannis Baratheon is the Prince That Was Promised. According to her, Azor Ahai is Lord of Light R’hllor’s chosen hero, and will return to the world in order to save it from some grave darkness. In this case, the darkness seems to be the Night King and his army.
This prophecy is linked to several others in the Game of Thrones lore. The tales of Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser are alternate names for Azor Ahai, but the Valyrian prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised is a little more complicated.
WHAT’S THE PRINCE THAT WAS PROMISED?
Each culture in Westeros seems to have its own version of the story about a hero that will save the world from doom. The Prince That Was Promised is Valyria’s specific version of the prophecy, but it’s linked to Azor Ahai. In the show, this is Melisandre’s preferred name for the Azor Ahai prophecy, and she seems to treat them interchangeably. Since she’s our primary source of prophecy info, we’ll take her word for it.
This version of the prophecy hints at a prince who is supposed to one day to save the world. But as Missandei points out in the second episode of season 7, the word “prince” in High Valyrian is actually gender-neutral. This means that the prophecy is more like the Prince or Princess That Was Promised. This prophecy also contains the bit about being born beneath a bleeding star, just like Azor Ahai. The birth of the prince also has more specifics than the other prophecies, as they are to be born “amidst salt and smoke,” and will wake dragons from stone.
Even though the Prince That Was Promised and Azor Ahai are likely two versions of the same prophecy, which character fits best depends most on which version of the prophecy you want to talk about. Either way, there are still only two characters that the prophecy could refer to.
THE CASE FOR DAENERYS AS THE PRINCE THAT WAS PROMISED
Daenerys Targaryen sounds most like The Prince That Was Promised. Her birth at Dragonstone, an island surrounded by rough seas, was, as the prophecy reads, “amidst salt.” Her rebirth on the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo (“amidst smoke”) woke three dragons from stone eggs, and the Red Comet flew overhead at that moment, which lines up with the bleeding stars portion of the prophecy. While the specifics of the Prince That Was Promised don’t often discuss the need for a magical sword, it’s possible that if the entire prophecy refers to Dany, the heart of one of her dragons could be what she stabs to forge Lightbringer as a stand in for Azor Ahai’s Nissa Nissa.
THE CASE FOR JON SNOW AS AZOR AHAI
If you want to look at Jon Snow’s prophetic claims, then you’re better off with the specifics of the Azor Ahai prophecy. Jon wielding a sword seems a lot more likely than Daenerys based on what we’ve seen so far; he even saw himself with a flaming sword in a dream in the series’ fifth book, A Dance with Dragons.
Perhaps the most convincing, if convoluted, evidence is the show’s depiction of Jon’s birth. When Jon is born, the sword of Ser Arthur Dayne, Dawn, is sitting next to his bed. Dawn is the ancestral sword of House Dayne, known to have been forged from a fallen star. Since the sword had been used in the fight only recently, it was covered in blood. So, Jon was born when the stars bled. If Jon is Azor Ahai reborn, then he would likely need a Nissa Nissa stand-in whose heart he can use to forge Lightbringer. If their romance progresses, this could be bad news for Daenerys.
WHAT THE REVELATION COULD MEAN
The big question for Game of Thrones’ final season is what the “return” of Azor Ahai could mean for the future of Westeros. If Jon is Azor Ahai, then we immediately have to wonder if that makes Dany Nissa Nissa — and what it might mean for her fate in the show. Perhaps one of them could break free from the confines of the prophecy and defeat the Night King without sacrificing the person they love. With the army of the dead on the way and Westeros facing its greatest threat since the Long Night, we’ll see how much this prophecy matters starting this Sunday, April 14.