This Game of Thrones article contains spoilers.
Game of Thrones is now over. The small council has been set and the direwolf has been pet. Still, just because Game of Thrones Season 8 and the saga of Ice and Fire is now finished, doesn’t mean that we aren’t left with some lingering questions.
Chief among them: what was the deal with that whole Azor Ahai prophecy anyway? Prophecies are the Chekov’s gun of fantasy stories. If you introduce them in the first act, they’d better pay off in the final act. At first glance, the Azor Ahai prophecy appears to have been left on the King’s Landing map room floor in this final season.
For a quick reminder of what the Azor Ahai prophecy entails, it’s basically your standard “and a hero will rise up to defeat evil” kind of thing. The story of Azor Ahai comes from the Shadowlands of Asshai, though similar myths exist all over the world only with the names changed. For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll just recap the Asshai version.
Millennia ago, darkness ruled the world in the era that has now come to be known as “The Long Night.” A hero named Azor Ahai stepped forward to end the darkness and knew he must forge a powerful sword named Lightbringer to do so. First he attempted to temper his sword in water, but it broke. Then after working on the sword for another fifty days, he tried to temper the sword in a lion’s heart but it broke again. Finally, he plunged his new sword into the heart of his wife Nissa Nissa and the sword survived, becoming Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes. Azor Ahai slew the monster of the night and ended an age of darkness.
Legends and prophecy say that when the Long Night falls again, Azor Ahai or “the prince who was promised” will return and wield Lightbringer to save the world once more. As the books say, “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.”
Cool stuff! Melisandre built her life around the Azor Ahai prophecy, coming to Westeros from Asshai to help guide who she thought was destined to be Azor Ahai. Her first candidate for Azor Ahai reborn, Stannis Baratheon, didn’t fare so well. Then she turned her attention to Jon. That seemed to be a better fit. But as we all know now, Arya Stark was actually the individual who defeated The Night King and therefore stopped The Long Night Part Two in its tracks in season 8 episode 3 “The Long Night.”
So case closed, right? Arya was Azor Ahai or the concept of prophecies was silly in the first place and any trained assassin with a healthy hatred for death could take down the monster of the night. That all seemed like a perfectly fine explanation…and then Jon had to go and stab Daenerys Targaryen in the heart in Game of Thrones season 8 episode 6 “The Iron Throne.”
Jon killing Dany in the manner that he does can’t help but make one recall the details of the Azor Ahai prophecy. After all, the most important (and most metal) part of the Azor Ahai creation myth is what the ancient hero does to create Lightbringer. Azor Ahai plunged his sword into the heart of the woman he loves, Nissa Nissa. And now Jon Snow has done the very same. Even if The Night King is gone and the Long Night is avoided, this very specific manner of murder deserves a closer look…particularly since Jon Snow was one of our most important Azor Ahai reborn candidates for so long.
Over on the A Song of Ice and Fire subreddit, user isaac777777 has a pretty fascinating theory for how Jon Snow can still be the story’s prince who was promised even with the Night King vanished. He or she points out that Azor Ahai’s attempts to temper Lightbringer in water, a lion, and Nissa Nissa roughly correspond to some decisions that Jon has had to make. isaac writes:
(Water): Jon wanted to save the world from the dead. First, he united mankind against the White Walkers – Wildlings, the North, and Dany’s army. He plunged his army into the white walkers (ice a.k.a. water). But the Long Night was not over. The world was not saved; a great threat still held the world in its clutches. So at the head of his new army, he drove South.
(Lion): Cersei, the lion. Jon drove the new army he had united straight into the heart of the lion, but the world was not saved, for the peace shattered as Dany prepared to usher in a new age of war and conquest. The Long Night was just beginning.
(Nissa Nissa): Devastated, Jon knew what he had to do. He drew close his lover and asked her to bear her heart to him, her love. Then in despair, he stabbed his sword into her breast. Dany inspired thousands. Through all the inspiration that her blood, soul, strength and courage had poured into her conquest, her dream to break the wheel, he forged Lightbringer, the New Era of peace in the kingdom, freeing the world from the Long Night of war, death, and destruction.
isaac777777 postulates that perhaps the Iron Throne itself was really the manifestation of the mythical monster this whole time. And Jon as Azor Ahai was always destined to destroy it, and not the Night King. That’s a strong, fascinating theory. Of course, it suggests that Drogon might be every bit the legendary hero that Jon is, and honestly, I’m cool with that.
Perhaps the Iron Throne wasn’t necessarily the great monster but rather Dany was. Daenerys wanted to build a new world. And the process of creating a new world means that the old one has to die…as do many people along with it. It seems possible that the real Long Night was the reign of terror that the Dragon Queen would unleash upon the known world in her campaign to “fix it.” In this theory, Nissa Nissa and the “monster” would be one and the same, which feels pretty on point for Westerosi and Essosian culture’s depiction of women.
Regardless of whether Jon Snow is a literal Azor Ahai reborn ranging North of the Wall in search of more monsters to kill or just some sad chump, the truth of the matter is that the prophecy was never truly about the future. It was always about the present, the past, and the knowledge that every true victory comes with an equal and opposite measure of tragedy. Call it Martin’s Third Law of Westeros.