Every time Game of Thrones closes one set of fan theories, it opens another. We finally learned the truth about Jon Snow’s trueborn parentage in the show’s season-seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” so now it’s time to consider another line of questioning: Who is Azor Ahai? Who is the Prince That Was Promised? And will they be the same person?
As a quick refresher, Azor Ahai is a legendary warrior who ended the Long Night the first time it came around, and followers of the Lord of Light believe he will return to save the world from darkness again. The Prince That (or Who) Was Promised is also a messianic figure, whom people in Essos believe will similarly save the day. Both figures have been the subject of a bunch of prophecies about how they’ll reappear, and fans have spent hours debating which character will turn out to embody these mythical heroes. Here’s everything you need to know about all the major candidates.
Note: We’re using the details laid out in George R.R. Martin’s books since they’re slightly more comprehensive, and thus more fun to talk about.
• According to prophecy, Azor Ahai will appear “when the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers.” The first bit is likely a reference to the comet that appeared in A Clash of Kings (though there are other interpretations) and the second seems to be a reference to the Long Night.
• Azor Ahai will be born or reborn “amid smoke and salt,” as you may recall from this scene.
• He or she will “wake dragons out of stone.”
• Finally, the new Azor Ahai will reforge the great flaming sword Lightbringer, which the original Azor Ahai made by plunging the blade into the heart of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa. It’s safe to assume the new sword will require a similar sacrifice.
The Prince That Was Promised
• According to a woods witch, the Prince That Was Promised will descend from the Mad King Aerys II and his sister-wife Rhaella Targaryen.
• In one of Daenerys Targaryen’s visions, her brother Rhaegar says that the song of the Prince That Was Promised will be “the song of ice and fire.” Hey, that’s the name of the books!
• Since the word prince has no gender in ancient Valyrian, the Prince That Was Promised doesn’t have to be a man.
• Appeared when the red star bleeds? In both books and show, shortly after the dragons were born, a red comet appeared in the sky.
• Born amid smoke and salt? She was born on an island in the middle of a powerful storm, so there’s the salt. She was reborn as the Mother of Dragons on Drogo’s funeral pyre, so there’s the smoke.
• Woke dragons out of stone? Yup! Her dragon eggs were thought to be mere baubles, until she, you know, hatched dragons out of them.
• Sacrificed a loved one to create a powerful weapon? She euthanized Drogo, then stepped into his funeral pyre with the dragon eggs. Now she has three fire-breathing dragons. I’d say that counts.
• Descended from Aerys II? Yes, she’s his trueborn daughter.
• Connected to ice and fire? Fire is the obvious one, and now that the Night King controls Viserion, we’ve got an ice connection.
• Appeared when the red star bleeds? In the books, Jon’s assassination is spurred by the death of one of Stannis’s knights. Ser Patrick’s sigil is a blue star, but it does get pretty bloody.
• Born amid smoke and salt? In the books, Jon’s wounds steam when he is stabbed in Castle Black. Also, one of his assassins is crying.
• Woke dragons out of stone? Not yet. Although if you consider the fact that he’s a secret Targaryen, Jon himself could be the dragon.
• Sacrificed a loved one to create a powerful weapon? He saw Ygritte die, but he didn’t kill her himself.
• Descended from Aerys II? He’s the legitimate son of Aerys’s son, Rhaegar.
• Connected to ice and fire? Jon’s parents are Rhaegar Targaryen (fire) and Lyanna Stark (ice). That’s the closest anyone is going to get.
• Appeared when the red star bleeds? The red comet appeared around the same time that Tyrion started as Hand of the King and came into his own. This could also refer to Oberyn’s death at Tyrion’s trial: The sigil of House Martell is a red sun and Oberyn certainly bled.
• Born amid smoke and salt? There was plenty of salt and smoke at the Battle of the Blackwater, where Tyrion almost died.
• Woke dragons out of stone? In the books, Tyrion is the one who figures out that a character named “Young Griff” is actually supposed to be Aegon Targaryen, the long-thought-dead son of Rhaegar.
• Sacrificed a loved one to create a powerful weapon? He killed Shae, but that was less of a sacrifice and more a crime of passion.
• Descended from Aerys II? A lot of fans disagree about this, but let’s just say that some believe Tyrion is secretly the Mad King’s son.
• Connected to ice and fire? Not really, but he’s a crucial bridge between Jon (ice) and Dany (fire).
Sandor “the Hound” Clegane
• Appeared when the red star bleeds? In the books, he’s nursed back to health by a septon of the Faith of the Seven, which is represented by a seven-pointed star. But that’s a stretch.
• Born amid smoke and salt? The Hound fits this part in a few different ways. As a child, his brother thrusted him into a burning brazier, which probably made him cry. He chose to walk away from the Lannisters at the Battle of the Blackwater, which was full of smoke and salt. And in the books, he abandons his old identity to work as a gravedigger at a monastery near the town of Saltpans, which is brutally sacked by a man wearing his helmet.
• Woke dragons out of stone? Nope.
• Sacrificed a loved one to create a powerful weapon? Not yet, but if we want to interpret this part of the prophecy more literally, he’s traveling with Beric Dondarrion, a guy who wields a flaming sword in the show. He could easily handle it himself.
• Descended from Aerys II? No, he’s descended from Mr. and Mrs. Clegane.
• Connected to ice and fire? Not particularly, though he has a very strong connection to fire and he just fought the White Walkers.
The Long Shot
• Appeared when the red star bleeds? He was introduced to the show around the same time as the comet, but that’s it.
• Been born amid smoke and salt? He almost died at the Blackwater, and then he washed up on a very salty island.
• Woke dragons out of stone? Nope, but he did live at Dragonstone.
• Sacrificed a loved one to create a powerful weapon? He loved his son and Shireen, both of whom died. And if we want to go literal again with the Lightbringer bit, this Redditor points out that Davos picked up Stannis’s burning sword in season two.
• Descended from Aerys II? Definitely not.
• Connected to ice and fire? Not really.
So, what have we learned? For starters, Azor Ahai/the Prince That Was Promised will probably be Daenerys, Jon, or Daenerys and Jon together. But meanwhile, there are plenty of other characters who have connections to bits and pieces of each prophecy. (In the books, Euron’s brother Victarion Greyjoy fits many of the qualifications, which is hilarious because he’s a terrible person.) I don’t think it’s right to call them “red herrings,” exactly: It’s more a sign that we might never receive answers to every huge question about Azor Ahai. The heroes are going to do what they do, and it’ll be up to us to argue about what that means.