Updated: 20th April 2018

Who is Azor Ahai, the prophesied savior of ‘Game of Thrones’?

As much as Game of Thrones relishes in the Westeros-centric struggle for who will sit on the Iron Throne, theres always been a much bigger fight brewing on the horizon. And now that winter has finally arrived and the great war for Westeros is about to begin, a prophecy thousands of years in the making mayfinally come to pass.

Theories, visions, and prophecies have long been essential toGame of Thrones and theA Song of Ice and Firebook series.One recent Game of Thronesrevealthe satisfying confirmationthat Lyanna Stark is Jon Snows motherwas 20 years in the making. With that question out of the way until Jon (and possibly the rest of Westeros) learns about his parents, the final two seasons have time to explore even bigger mysteries. Who ends up on the Iron Throne is a big question,but as the White Walkers demonstrated, that throne of swords means nothing if the world is consumed by winter and the monsters that lurk in the cold. What might make the difference is the emergence of a great hero whocould save them all.

The idea of someone stepping up against the odds is a common one in the fantasy genre, but in Game of Thrones and ASOIAF its not just an idea, its the crux of one of the storys biggest prophecies: the rebirth of a legendary figure named Azor Ahai.

In the next two seasons, we might finally see it come to pass. And chances are if the reincarnation of Azor Ahai is in the show, weve already met him or her.

The legendand returnof Azor Ahai

Even in a world filled with White Walkers, wights, giants, children of the forest, and Daenerys Targaryens dragons, an ancient hero wielding a sword on fire still stands out. But prophecies and visions have long had their place in Game of Thrones. Bran can visit the past, present, and future through weirwood tree visions. Daenerys trip to the House of the Undying gave her visionsand in the books theyforetold multiple major events such as the Red Wedding. The prophecy Cersei Lannister heard from fortune teller Maggy the Frog has mostly already cometrue. (A book-only mention of the Valonqarlittle brotherwho will kill Cersei was omitted.)

So Azor Ahai, which is largely based on legend, is completely fair game. Plus, we knew that it would come upin season 7: The name is visible on a scroll Gilly is holding in a season 7 promotional photo, which contains a passage from the Jade Compendium.

Photo via Helen Sloan/HBO

Sam and Gilly study at the Citadel.

Fans first learn of this hero in the Game of Thrones season 2 episode The North Remembers and the bookA Clash of Kings. Melisandre, the red priestess of Rhllor, ralliesStannis Baratheons subjects into burning effigies of the Seven, the majority religion in Westeros. She proclaims that Stannis is Azor Ahai reborn. He then draws a flaming sword.

In the ancient books its written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire, Melisandre said. And that sword shall be Lightbringer.

Per the legend, Azor Ahai lived thousands of years ago and was picked to fight the darkness that had taken hold of the world. He obtained his famous sword through sacrifice: He stabbed his wife Nissa Nissa with a sword he forged after the first two swords he forged shattered. That sword became Lightbringer, a blade that could makeamonster burst into flames when stabbed.

Screengrab via Game of Thrones/HBO

Azor Ahai has some similarities to the last hero, a Northern legendary figure who helped bring an end to the Long Nighta Westeros winter that lasted a generation. The hero defeated the White Walkers with aid from the children of the forest. Its unclear if the last hero and Azor Ahai are the same person.

But thats ancient history and ancient legend. How does Azor Ahai tie in now?

According to an Asshai prophecy thats more than 5,000 years old, Azor Ahai will return again. That person, appointed by the Lord of Light, will be revealed after a long summer has passed and darkness has fallen on the world.

When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone, Melisandre told Jon Snow in A Dance With Dragons.

And if that person fails? Well, lets hope they dont.

Thoros of Myr, the red priest who has resurrected Beric Dondarrion on multiple occasions, also touches on the Azor Ahai prophecy in a season 3 DVD extra about the Lord of Light. (Fast forward to the 2:24 mark.)

Is The Prince That Was Promised the same person asAzor Ahai?

Yes and no. As The World of Ice and Fire, an official encyclopedia of George R.R. Martins world, points out, the legend of Azor Ahai isnt limited to followers of Rhllor; several other cultures have their own version of the Azor Ahai legend.

The Prince That Was Promised appears to be in thatvein. The Prince isnt a legendary hero being reborn and doesnt have a flaming sword, but some of the Princes key traitssalt, smoke, and a bleeding starappear to match up with the Azor Ahai prophecy. The Prince is more of a straight-up human savior than a religious Messiah returning after thousands of years.

The name is often used interchangeably, even by Melisandre herself, who called Jon Snow The Prince That Was Promised after she successfully resurrected him in season 6. Many have presumed that Azor Ahai and The Prince That Was Promised are generally referring to the same prophecy, and for claritys sake well do the same here unless otherwise noted.

The Prince That Was Promised is alsoat least in the booksmore of a Targaryen-centric prophecy than Azor Ahai, which comes from Asshai, a city in far east Essos. In A Dance With Dragons, Ser Barristan Selmy revealed to Daenerys that a woods witch told her grandfather, King Jaehaerys II Targaryen (who was cut from Daenerys family tree in Game of Thrones to simplify things a bit), that the prince in the prophecy would be born from his children Aerys and Rhaellas line. This led Jaehaerys to make them marry each other. (It was not a happy marriage.)

And most importantly, according to Maester Aemon, the High Valyrian word used for prince in the name may be gender-neutral, so its entirely possible the prophecy could refer to a man or woman.


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So who could it be?

Throughout Game of Thrones and ASOIAF, many characters have emerged as potential candidates for Azor Ahai. One of them ceremoniously abandoned his own religion to accept the role. Another is an unlikely tinfoil-hat theory that could turn everything on its head. Two are complete non-entities in the show. Two candidates are serious contenders, depending on the day and episode that just aired. Some might work if Azor Ahai and The Prince That Was Promised are two different prophecies. And many contenders are dead.

The qualifications for each prophecy vary a bit. They both require that the person be bornor less literally “reborn”amidst smoke and salt, and a bleeding star must appear at their birth. After that, the two prophecies divulge a bit.

Photo via Helen Sloan/HBO

Azor Ahai will appear after a long summer whendarkness descends on the world, they’llwake dragons out of stone, and draw a burning sword from fire. The Prince That Was Promised will come from the family line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen (making them at least part Targaryen), and that savior will be the song of ice and fire.

Is it possible that we could see one Azor Ahai in the show and another in the books? Of course! Considering Martin has yet to publish the final two novels,The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, it might not play out in text exactly how well watch it on our screens. But the Game of Thrones showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have asked Martin how ASOIAF ends, so if the eventual identity of Azor Ahai is a major part of the story’s endgame, chances are the show will follow suit.

A deeper look at the characters who could fulfill the legends

Is Jon Snow Azor Ahai?

Photo via Helen Sloan/HBO

Pros: He was resurrected by Melisandre in the show, he is descended from Aerys and Rhaellas line, he has Melisandres approval, and he was born under a bleeding star.

Cons: Too predictable, Melisandre has been unreliable, and he’s the most likely red herring.

Jon is already something of a special character, even for Game of Thrones. Hes more or less functioned as one of the shows main heroes since Ned Stark died in season 1, especially after the Red Wedding. He wields a Valyrian steel sword, which can kill White Walkers. Hes a natural leader, even if his instincts arent always right. And in a world wherenames mean everything, the idea that a bastard with a common name might save the Seven Kingdoms would be quite a surprise to many of the people who live there.

Plus, theres that whole thing where Jondied and then came back.

The union of his parents houses could make for an embodiment of ice (Stark) and fire (Targaryen). And although Jons birth didnt appear to have a comet (if were to take the sunnyday depicted in Game of Thrones as canon), it did have a bleeding star of sorts.

As Ned burst into the Tower of Joy to find his sister Lyanna he carried Dawn, the Valyrian steel sword wielded by Kingsguard knight Ser Arthur Dayne, who stood watch there. The sword was covered in blood after Ned used it to kill Arthur Dayne, and if you look closely at the hilt you can see a star on it. Its unclear if this scene plays out the same way in the books, although some of the imagery around it seems to suggest a red comet.

Screengrab via Game of Thrones/HBO

Jons book death in A Dance With Dragons, which plays out similarly to how it does in the show without the finality the show gives it, also includes descriptions of saltthe tears of Bowen Marshand a smoking wound, leaving many to see his eventual resurrection as imminent.

In Game of Thrones, Melisandre became convinced that Jon was Azor Ahai after she resurrected him, but theres a double-edged sword. If you take her ability to resurrect Jonwhich she believes the Lord of Light gave to heras proof that he needs Jon to serve a greater purpose, he fits the bill. On the other hand, Melisandre once said that about Stannisand she was wrong.

There would be nothing wrong with Jon being Azor Ahai, of course, but the amount of evidence on his side brings up a valid question of predictability in a show that boldly killed its main character only nine episodes in. Is it simply too obvious, or have fans been so good at spotting clues that it just feels all but inevitable?

Is Daenerys TargaryenAzor Ahai?

Photo via HBO

Pros: Full Targaryen as the daughter of Aerys and Rhaella, she was rebornin Khal Drogos funeral pyre, she hatched three dragons from stone in those flames, ailing Maester Aemon (a Targaryen) endorsed her, as did the red priestess Kinvara.

Cons: Possibility of Targaryen madness, shecould be more consumed with the Westerosi battle than the great war, she could be another red herring.

Daenerys claim to prophetic fame is that shes The Prince That Was Promised more so than Azor Ahai, but her qualifications could easily make her either one. Like Jon she fits the bill more than most, but her rebirth at the end of Game of Thrones first season offers one of the strongest pieces of evidence of anyone.

At night, Daenerys placed her three dragon eggs onto Khal Drogos funeral pyre and stepped into the flames. By morning, not only had she survived the flames unscathed, she emerged with three newly hatched dragons. It was unlike anything anyone had ever witnessed.

A red comet appeared around the time of her rebirth: Its visible before the pyre is lit in A Game of Thronesand taken as a sign to light the pyre. She was born on an island surrounded by salt water, whileher rebirth occurred in a smoking pyre.

Screengrab via Game of Thrones/HBO

Her rebirth even touched on the part of the prophecy that says to wake dragons from stone. She received three dragons eggs at her wedding from her guardian Illyrio Mopatis, who said of the eggs, The ages have turned them to stone. Although Targaryens tend to refer to themselves as dragons, this is very literal.

Nearing his death in A Feast for Crows, Maester Aemon became convinced that Daenerys is the Prince That Was Promised. Although he once believed Rhaegar Targaryen was the prince, news of Daenerys and her dragons sealed his change of heart. It was based on Aemons belief that Archmaester Marwyn, who will be played by Jim Broadbent in season 7, pledged topersonally seek out Daenerys in the books.

However, Daenerys is not yet aware of the threats that loom in the far north. Shes heading toward Westeros to take a kingdomshe believes is rightfully hers in the show, while she only just left Meereen in the books. Her mind is fully set on the Iron Throne, and in season 7 she may have to fight Cersei for it.

Will she step up to the plate? Although it appears that she and Jon might create an alliance with one another, its unclear if shell be as motivated to direct her dragons toward a more dauntinggoal. Considering her importance and near-invincibility for much of the series, she mightve been set up as a red herring the entire time, while someone else takes up the eventual mantle. On the other hand, it would be nice if the most important character of Game of Thronesturned out to be a women. And although Daenerys doesnt appear to have inherited the madness thats been part of her family thanks to centuries of Targaryen incest, shes not completely out of the clear yet.

Is Stannis BaratheonAzor Ahai?

Photo via Helen Sloan/HBO

Pros: Melisandre had confidence in Stannis, he pulled a flaming sword out of the fireafter burning effigies of the Seven, he sacrificed someone he loved for the cause.

Cons: He doesnt come from the right Targaryen line,he was never a true believer, Melisandre was wrong, his sacrifice was in vain, and now hes dead.

Our proper introduction to Stannis in Game of Thrones sets up the idea that Stannis is the true Azor Ahai, and despite all the hints otherwise, we assume that its Stannis for much of it. He had Melisandres blessing, he wielded a flaming sword, and Melisandres visions in the flames showed him victorious for much of the series.

GIF via Giphy

However, its his belief in Melisandre and his stubborn conviction that leads to his downfall. Melisandre told him if that he sacrificed his daughter Shireenroyal bloodto the flames, he would be victorious against the Bolton army at Winterfell. He does it, something that drew an avalanche of disdain from fans.Benioff and Weiss later revealed that Shireens death was one of the things Martin told them would happen in the books.

But it was all for naught. The first Battle of Winterfell was an utter massacre, and Stannis met his end at the hands of Brienne of Tarth, who finally fulfilled her oath to avenge her king, Renly Baratheon, who was killed by his brother Stannis viaMelisandre’s dark powers.

While Stannis has distant blood ties to the Targaryenswhich his older brother Robert used to legitimize his claim to the Iron Throneits not the right relativeneeded for him to become the Prince That Was Promised. Stannis grandmother is Rhaelle Targaryen, one of the daughters of Aegon V Targaryen, whereas it was her older brother Jaehaerys whose bloodline was foretold would eventually produce the Prince.

Is Ser Davos SeaworthAzor Ahai?

Photo via Helen Sloan/HBO

Pros: His reappearance after Blackwater is described as a rebirth; he was found amidst salt and smoke after the battle; he’d turn Westeros on its head by saving the world as a common man instead of a ruling family.

Cons: Not a Targaryen, he doesnt handle Lightbringer in the books, he lacks a substantial amount of supportive evidence.

Davos Seaworths Azor Ahai theories aremore recentthan most, though one has reemerged as a plausible theory. The crux of it has two parts: Davos picking up Lightbringer after Stannis in season 2 (an event that doesnt happen in A Clash of Kings), and his unlikely survival of the Battle of Blackwater. It also relies on hints dropped by Davos portrayer, Liam Cunningham, to Conan OBrien in a 2016 interview.

MakingDavos, a lowborn character, the ultimate savior would be one of the more surprising things Game of Thrones has done in some time, and itd be a welcome change of pace. But his heritagesorry, not everyone is a secret Targaryenas well as the much more substantialsupport for characters like Jon and Daenerys, make this one rather unlikely. He might be a trusted advisor to Azor Ahai, but probably wont end up as Azor himself.

Is Rhaegar Targaryen and his son, Aegon,Azor Ahai?

Screengrab via Geektube Central/YouTube

Illustration of Rhaegar Targaryen.

Pros: Rhaegar was born amidst salt and smoke, and he once had Maester Aemons confidence. Rhaegar believed Aegon was the prince, and referred to the child as “the song of ice and fire.” Theyre both Targaryens descended from Aerys and Rhaellas line.

Cons: Rhaegar became convinced it wasnt himself. Aegons alleged book reappearance has never happened in the show. Theyre both dead.

As Rhaegar grew up, he believed that he was the prince due to the circumstances behind his birth. He was born at Summerhall, a Dornish residence where a great fire took place thatkilled his great-grandfather King Aegon V Targaryen, Aegons eldest son Duncan, and a member of his Kingsguard, Ser Duncan the Tall. The people there mourned their loss with heavy tears. For a time, Maester Aemon also believed Rhaegar to be the prince.

Years later, Rhaegar believed that his infant son, Aegon, was the true prince after spotting a red comet in Kings Landing the night Aegon was conceived. Upon Aegons birth on Dragonstoneproviding salt and smoke like it did for DaenerysRhaegar referred to him as the song of ice and fire, and told his wife Elia that the dragon must have three heads.

Both points are now moot. Rhaegar and Aegon are dead, famously killed in the revolt that put Robert Baratheon on the throne. A book subplot that introduces a young man who claims to be Rhaegars son Aegon was never introduced in the show.

Is Victarion Greyjoy Azor Ahai?

Photo via Helen Sloan/HBO

Yara and Theon Greyjoy in ‘Game of Thrones.’

Pros: His hand was healed at sea and later there’s a scene where it smokes, hehad the red priest Moqorros confidence, he would disprove the idea that Azor Ahai is inherently good, and he killed his own wife, echoing Nissa Nissa.

Cons: Not a Targaryen, he has yet to appear in the show and he probably never will.

Theons uncle Victarion, who doesnt appear in the show at all, is not a good man. He’s cruel and has a list of dead men and women at his feet, but unlike his sadistic older brother Euron, he hasnt committed the sin of kinslaying. And he has a rebirth of sorts at sea, thanks to some magic performed by Moqorro.

However, his exclusion from Game of Thronesseason 6 makes his emergence as Azor Ahai highly unlikely, if it’s the same person in the books and the show. Also, the lack of Targaryen blood is a strike against him.

So what happens next?

While each of these characters have legitimate cases, only two of them are really serious contenders: Jon, Daenerys, and if you believe Game of Thrones will throw a curveball, maybe Davos. With only 13 episodes left until the end, we will likely see the true reveal play out as Azor Ahai either saves Westeros or helps lead it to its doom.

Both Jon and Daenerys will likely factor into the shows endgame in a major way, and they each have something to offer: Jon returned from the dead and has a sword capable of killing White Walkers, while Daenerys had her own kind of death and rebirth, and she wields dragons. But dont count Cersei completely out of the picture as she strives to keep her Iron Throne at all costs. It wont be so easy to defeat the darkness when the person on the Iron Throne will stopany threat to her ruleeven one that could save all of humanity.

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