For book readers, the prospect of the return of The Prince That Was Promised, Azor Ahai, has been weighing over the Game of Thrones television adaptation from the very beginning, when members of the Night's Watch discover horrific dismembered remains beyond The Wall. For those who delved into The Known World thanks to HBO's exposure, the name will have sparked interest when referenced by Lord of the Light worshipper, Melisandre, who has made it her life's goal to identify the humanity-saving warrior.
Regardless of when you were first introduced to the name, the prophecy of a mystical, thousands-of-years-old salvation returning from the grave to conclude the ultimate A-game of #GameofThrones — the battle against the White Walkers and the prevention of a never-ending winter — is eagerly anticipated, now more than ever as the show edges closer to its climax.
Before we go down the slippery slope of the intricate details of the prophecy, its link to 'Beyond the Wall' and possible consequences for the TV show, I present you a comprehensive video breakdown which not only covers all the key points succinctly and meticulously, it saves me from outlining them out in great detail:
A Domino Effect That Changes Everything
Despite being referenced to for what seems like an eternity, there are still many aspects of the undead that remain unknown. They're surrounded by elements of intrigue, and their veil of secrecy only adds extra spice to the #AzoAhai prophecy. 'Beyond the Wall,' the latest episode of Game of Thrones, chipped away at some of the outer mystery and by doing so, may've thrown up the curviest of curveballs, the reddest of red herrings, in television history.
After trekking North of The Wall, the eclectic group assigned to the (admittedly questionable) mission of abducting a wight to take to Cersei Lannister, encounter a group of the undead. The battle that ensues depicts a first for Game of Thrones; Jon Snow thrusts his Valyrian sword into the heart of a White Walker and, as he dies, the wights surrounding him all turn to ash and vanish into thin air. What... the? Aside from looking pretty cool, this implies that wights are reanimated by their "mother" White Walker, and presumably, all wights are grouped into smaller "cells."
This begs the question: If wights die when their "mother" White Walker is killed, can the entirety of the White Walkers (and thus all of the undead) be defeated by killing the Night King, the mother of all mothers? If this is the case, does that mean the threat of a never-ending winter in its entirety and the hoards of zombies strolling toward The Wall, could zap into thin air if their blue-eyed ringleader is killed? And does that mean anyone who kills the Night King will prevent winter from arriving, period?
Funnelling this development into two categories, this either confirms the Azor Ahai prophecy (Option A), or makes it redundant (Option B). Let's first look at the prophecy in all its ambiguous and abstract glory, as recited by Melisandre in A Clash of Kings:
"There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him."
The key section is the forging of Lightbringer, Azor Ahai's sword, which needs to be tempered through the heart of the one he (or she) loves. But next up is a gray area: "The darkness shall flee before him" is about as vague as "they lived happily ever after." It suggests that the mere process of forging Lightbringer will cause the White Walkers to disappear. With the new information from 'Beyond The Wall,' perhaps this "darkness" is the Night King himself, who will "flee" knowing that if he is attacked by a Lightbringer-brandishing Azor Ahai, it'll be lights out. Or more appropriately, lights on.
Confirmation Of How The Prophecy Can Come True
On to "Option A" then — this confirms how the prophecy will unfold. As we approach the conclusion, this new information makes the prophecy seem much more feasible and more literal than I'd speculated last year (with an elaborate theory predicting the Game of Thrones ending, in which Lightbringer was a metaphor for Winterfell). Unlike a metaphorical explanation, it's also pragmatic for the purpose of portraying events succinctly on screen. Reveal the identity of Azor Ahai, forge Lightbringer, stab the Night King's cold, cold heart and boom, Ned's your Uncle.
For these events to occur, a character needs to be revealed as Azor Ahai, with a number of contenders in the running, including Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, The Hound, Jorah Mormont and, thanks to his flaming sword, Beric Dondarrion. Whoever it is will need to find their true identity in time to take control of the destiny of The Known World. Cue either Melisandre or Samwell Tarly to inform them. The former has been wrong before, but resurrecting Jon Snow will've gained her some points in the supernatural stakes. The latter has absconded from the Citadel and would be the most fitting character to uncover concrete evidence of how to enact the prophecy.
Here's the tricky part. Once Azor Ahai is aware of his or her purpose, they'll have to forge Lightbringer by binding it to the soul of their Nissa Nissa (most beloved). This is the part where Game of Thones can't avoid a heartbreaking moment, because no matter who Azor Ahai is, the consequence is tragic. Jon Snow may kill Daenerys, Daenerys may kill Jon Snow or Drogon, Jorah may kill Daenerys, Jaime may kill Cersei (not so tragic for some) The Hound may kill... well, that's anyone's guess but, hell, GET HYPED.
The Red Herring: Is Azor Ahai A Myth?
Now, "Option B." This is less likely, as it would take the title of reddest red herring as mentioned earlier. This is the option that 'Beyond The Wall' just exposed the Azor Ahai prophecy as a sham, a complete fabrication. Assuming that by killing a "supervisor" White Walker you also kill the chain of wights, it's logical to assume that killing the Night King will in turn kill all White Walkers, and thus all wights. If the Night King can be killed in the same manner as White Walkers — that is by Dragonglass or Valyrian steel — then anyone capable of reaching him could become Azor Ahai through the act itself, no set destiny, no chosen fate.
That can't be the case though, can it? Really? Surely there must be a "special" way to topple the Night King? The entirety of the Game of Thrones story is centered around this war, after all. That "special way" would require the forging of Lightbringer, the key aspect of the prophecy. Which leads me onto a final thread of speculation — Longclaw, the sword that Lord Commander Jeor Mormont gave to Jon Snow in Jorah's absence.
As swords go, this one is significant. It has been a part of House Mormont for five centuries, it's made of the finest Valyrian steel and, wait for it, was the sword Jon used to kill a White Walker in Game of Thrones Season 5, revealing that Dragonglass isn't the only way to shatter frozen zombies into oblivion. Make no mistake, its return to prominence is no coincidence; there's more to come from Longclaw.
'Beyond the Wall' placed emphasis on the sword in two key scenes. As the so-called Suicide Squad are bonding during their journey, Jon hands Jorah his father's sword, telling him "it's been in your family for centuries, it's not right for me to have it," to which Jorah responds: "I forfeited the right to claim this sword, it's yours" in a heartwarming moment. Later, following a climatic scene in the battle with the undead, Jon falls below the ice.
When he returns, gasping for air, the camera's focus is on Longclaw, left conspicuously on the side, in the right place for Jon to use it to pull him to safety. It doesn't take a Media Studies degree to notice the symbolism here. Jumping ahead and speculating wildly, is Longclaw actually Lightbringer from all those years ago? Will Jon need to bind Dany's soul to it to transform it to Lightbringer? Is a sword ever really just a sword in Game of Thrones?
Well, that depends on your view on Azor Ahai, the Lord of Light, prophecies and all that makes Game of Thrones mystical. Thanks to 'Beyond the Wall,' we're starting to see some of the tricks behind the magic, but there are still many questions that need to be answered.
Do you believe in the prophecy of Azor Ahai? Or is Melisandre wrong (again) and there is no chosen one?