Melisandre thought Stannis Baratheon was The Prince That Was Promised, the hero prophesied to save mankind when the darkness comes. Rhaegar Targaryen thought it was his son with Elia Martell who was destined to be that savior. Maester Aemon believed his niece Daenerys would be the one to rescue the living from the dead.
Like most prophecies on Game of Thrones, that of the Prince That Was Promised is shrouded in mystery, this one spanning thousands of years and the whole world. Here’s what you need to know about the many forms of this foretold hero before Game of Thrones’ final season.
The Last Hero and the Long Night
Northern legends say that when the first Long Night descended on Westeros, it brought a generation of darkness, and the White Walkers (called the Others in the books) were finally stopped by a figure known as the Last Hero. After the rest of his men died on the journey to find them, the Last Hero asked the Children of the Forest to help him fight. They agreed, and alongside the newly formed Night’s Watch they defeated the White Walkers at the Battle for the Dawn (possibly at the spot where Winterfell stands), bringing the light back to the world.
But while the North claims the Last Hero as its own, there are stories from around the world that also speak of a savior who ended a long period of darkness. The World of Ice and Fire compendium says those from the Rhoynar talk of a hero who convinced the Mother Rhoyne’s children, lesser gods like the Crab King and the Old Man of the River, to put aside their differences “to sing a secret song that brought back the day.” In the far east of Essos in the empire of Yi Ti, they tell of a long ago period when “the sun hid its face from the Earth for a lifetime” out of shame, and “disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.”
Different civilizations throughout Essos speak of a great warrior wielding a sword of fire, who, just like the Last Hero of Westeros, is said to have led the living in a glorious victory over the darkness. He is known by many names: Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser. But in Asshai, the followers of the Lord of Light know him as Azor Ahai, and they say he will return one day to save mankind from the dark again.
Azor Ahai and Lightbringer
The famed sword Azor Ahai used was called Lightbringer, and its creation is an ominous tale. Knowing he needed a great weapon to fight the darkness, Azor Ahai worked for 30 days and 30 nights on a sword, only to see it shatter when he tempered it in water. He then worked for 50 days and nights on an even greater weapon, but it too shattered when he tempered it in the heart of a lion. Finally, Azor Ahai knew what must be done, and for 100 sad days and 100 sad nights he worked on the greatest sword the world had ever known. When he finished, he called for his wife Nissa Nissa and asked her to bare her chest. They say her soul combined with the Red Sword of Heroes when he tempered the blade in her heart. The great sacrifice worked, and Lightbringer, said to be a sword of living fire, helped Azor Ahai win back the day.
Ancient books of Asshai, dating back 5,000 years (when the Long Night might have ended in Westeros), say Azor Ahai will return someday. He’ll be sent by R’hllor when the great darkness comes after long summer, like the one Westeros just experienced. “When the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world,” this reborn warrior “shall draw from the fire a burning sword.” If this warrior fails in the fight against the Great Other, the god of the White Walkers, the world will fall into eternal darkness.
Melisandre thought Stannis was Azor Ahai reborn, but now she thinks it could be Jon Snow. It’s possible though she doesn’t even have the right gender of mankind’s savior; another prophecy about a great savior, The Prince That Was Promised, could actually be about a woman.
The Prince (or Princess) That Was Promised
Melisandre has never actually used the name “Azor Ahai” on the show, but she has spoken of The Prince That Was Promised many times. That title refers to the foretold hero of another prophecy. However, she does use “The Prince That Was Promised” interchangeably with “Azor Ahai” in the books, and that speaks to how similar the two are. They are likely the same prophecy.
It is said The Prince That Was Promised, the hero of mankind who will win the War for the Dawn when the living battle the dead, will be “born amidst salt and smoke, beneath a bleeding star.” This hero will also wake dragons from stone. Those parameters could be as specific as they sound (think the red comet that followed the birth of Daenerys’ dragons), or metaphorical (the salt of tears shed for a dead Jon Snow), or so vague as to be unknowable until after they happen. No matter what they mean, Melisandre believes those omens also herald Azor Ahai’s return because they are one and the same. However, when it comes to The Prince That Was Promised, it is also said “his is the song of ice and fire.”
Daenerys heard this mysterious phrase when she visited the House of the Undying in A Clash of Kings. One of the visions she saw there was of her late brother Rhaegar and his first wife Elia holding their newborn son. “He is the prince that was promised,” said Rhaegar, “And his is the song of ice and fire.” While a phrase like that seems to easily apply to Jon Snow—Rhaegar’s secret son with Lyanna, a child of ice (Stark) and fire (Targaryen)—like all prophecies it could mean anything. (And with George R.R. Martin, a healthy dose of skepticism over the most obvious answer being the correct one is more than warranted.)
Rhaegar did have another reason to believe one of his sons might be the promised hero though. His grandfather King Jaeherys II made his son and daughter, Aerys (the Mad King) and Rhaella, marry after a powerful woods witch told him The Prince That Was Promised would be born from their line. Rhaegar was their oldest child, followed by Viserys and Daenerys. Jon Snow (at least on the show) is the only living grandchild of Aerys and Rhaella’s line.
At one point in his life, Rhaegar thought he might be the promised savior, before thinking his first son Aegon would be. It’s even possible his relationship with Lyanna was at least inspired by the idea their child, who would be the song of ice and fire, was the prophesied hero (or at least the third head of the dragon). But the prophesy itself was misunderstood by Rhaegar and everyone else, because it was never translated correctly.
As Maester Aemon said when he heard about his niece giving birth to dragons—and like Missandei said on Dragonstone—the translation of the prophecy from High Valyrian is incorrect. The word that “prince” derives from has no gender, so it’s really The Prince or Princess That Was Promised.
And wouldn’t that be a fitting solution to maybe the most important prophecy in the world. For years everyone has been looking for man to save the world, when the hero mankind seeks might be a woman.
Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams Hint At Characters’ Ends
We should be feeling very scared for Sansa and Arya
Over eight years, Game of Thrones actors have become very good at keeping secrets. No matter who’s asking — their mum, their postie — they need to keep their mouths shut.
On a recent press day, the shows’ stars were keeping any spoilers to the upcoming final season to themselves, under threat of death or, more likely, contract breaches.
But Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams — Sansa and Arya — may have let something slip. Well, it depends on how you read it.
Asked by news.com.au if they were personally satisfied with their characters’ fates, Turner and Williams both paused before uttering one or two “hmmms”.
Then, in a revealing comment, Williams said: “Of course. But I think it doesn’t matter which way it went, it would just make yourself feel sad if you were negative about what happened to you.
“It’s like tough luck, we filmed it now. That’s the end.”
Now, I don’t know about you but that’s ringing alarm bells for us. You don’t tend to “feel sad” or “negative” if your character gets a happy ending — riches, the throne, family dinners with brimming plates of turkey legs.
That doesn’t bode well for the younger Stark.
Then Turner jumped in and said: “I’m at peace with it. That’s a good way to say it. We’ll say it like that from now — I’m at peace with my ending.”
Peace + ending = death.
So now things aren’t looking good for the older Stark either.
Of course, Turner and Williams are great friends and seem to enjoy doing press days together, and they may very well be playing around and throwing out some red herrings for the fans to pick over.
But if there’s any truth in their answers, it’s a foreboding one.
And if you take that and add it to the Game of Thrones trailer released last week, which features an injured Arya running through the bowels of Winterfell with absolute fear in her eyes, we wouldn’t bet on the Starks making it out of season eight alive.
After a plot between the sisters in season seven to take down Littlefinger, at least now they’re allies instead of rivals. Williams and Turner have stressed that their characters are absolutely on the same side.
“I think they’re over that [mistrust] now,” Williams said. “And they’re both mature enough now to not ever go back.”
Turner added: “Instead of seeing each other’s differences as a threat, they appreciate it and they want to utilise it together to make them stronger.
“Particularly moving into this new season, I think they both start to see a lot more of the challenges one another faces and I think for both of them, they have the utmost respect for each other.”
The final season of the popular series returns on April 15 after a two year wait by fans for the conclusion of the epic story of power and survival.
With the end nigh, and season seven’s surprisingly low body count, many fan favourites are expected to be dispatched to the great beyond, probably violently, before the final curtain drops.
Who will survive the war with the White Walkers and the deadly battle for the Iron Throne will be revealed imminently.
Game of Thrones will return on April 15 on Fox Showcase at 11.30am, with an encore screening at 8.30pm.
Runtimes for the first two episodes of Game of Thrones season 8, revealed
There are only six episodes of Game of Thrones remaining. They’re going to spectacular episodes — the cast and crew spent more time and effort filming these six than they did any previous set, after all — but still, that’s an alarmingly small number.
Slowly but surely, we’re getting more details. For example, a while back, we got an estimate of the episode runtimes from Orange Cinéma Séries, a group of French TV channels. According to that information, the episodes were going to break down like this:
Episode 801: 60 minutes
Episode 802: 60 minutes
Episode 803: 80 minutes
Episode 804: 80 minutes
Episode 805: 80 minutes
Episode 806: 80 minutes
Now, those numbers are way too round to be entirely accurate, and we always expected HBO to release more specific runtimes as the episodes were edited into their final forms. Now, the network has updated its schedule to show us the runtimes for the first and second episodes of Game of Thrones season 8. Episode 801 will run 54 minutes…
So far as Game of Thrones episode lengths go, those are pretty standard, and more or less fit with the “60 minutes” we got from OCS. We can expect the final four to be a bit longer.
I know we like to savor every detail here at WiC, but honestly I wouldn’t put too much stock in episode lengths. It’s what in there that’s important. Exhibit A is an episode like “The Spoils of War,” which at 50 minutes is among the shortest episodes the show has produced, but also one of the best. Still, we’ll keep our ear to the ground for more information.