Warning: This post contains spoilers from every season of HBO’s Game of Thrones and all of George R. R. Martin’s books.
The Game of Thrones hype machine is in full force already and we’re here to add fuel to the wildfire.
With speculation running rampant over whether Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen will turn out to be reborn savior of the world Azor Ahai (aka “the prince that was promised”), we think there’s another dark horse contender we should keep our eyes on.
Stick with us, here.
Since the moment three dragons hatched out of stone eggs there’s been a niggling math question: Who will ride them? Three dragons = three riders, is how the story goes. And if the riders all have to be Targaryens, who are they?
Years of fan theories and recent show confirmation have two of them all but nailed down – Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. The Targ lineage for the first has never been in question, and the heritage of the latter is basically common knowledge at this point.
But who’s the third?
Our answer is probably not who you were expecting, and if we’re right, it’s also got massive implications for the identity of the hero that was prophesied elsewhere in the series – Azor Ahai.
All in the family
Key to this theory is the idea that “the prince who was promised” is widely assumed to be of the Targaryen bloodline, which has led fans directly to Dany and Jon. It has also pointed obliquely to Tyrion — since there’s speculation that Tyrion isn’t Tywin’s son, but instead the child of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen.
There’s evidence that Aerys was obsessed with Joanna, Tywin’s wife, and may have raped her. But what if the pregnancy that resulted didn’t produce Tyrion, but rather Cersei and Jaime?
We’ve assumed Tywin hated Tyrion because he wasn’t his own son, but it could just have easily been because he was. Tywin sees his wife assaulted and subsequently impregnated with their firstborn children, whom he has to publicly claim as his own or risk the wrath of the king.
Then, when he finally does have a true-born heir, his wife — who he loved dearly by all accounts in the books — dies while giving birth. He transmutes the grief into a hatred of Tyrion and his dwarfism.
When you think about it, the twins’ incest and Cersei’s madness may be frowned upon by the rest of Westeros, but they’re actually hallmarks of the Targaryen family — as is Cersei’s obsession with wildfire and their golden hair.
It may have even been an open secret among the nobles of Tywin’s generation. Genna Lannister in A Feast for Crows told Jaime that Tyrion was Tywin’s true son, which upset him at the time. Readers assumed she was simply pointing out that Tyrion is more like his father than any of them think, but is it possible that she was trying to tell Jaime the truth about his identity, cloaked in an innocuous observation?
This could also explain why Tywin tried to split up Jaime and Cersei as teenagers (beyond, you know, not wanting his kids to bone). He could have been on the lookout for the attraction between the siblings because he knew it was likely, given their true parentage. But what about his equally incesty plan to marry Cersei off to Rhaegar Targaryen, you may ask? Necessary, in order to tie the powerful houses of Lannister and Targaryen inextricably together, because we know Tywin always prioritized power above propriety. Besides, marrying one’s half-brother would’ve been well within the bounds of accepted Targaryen incest, even if Tywin couldn’t accept “his own” children indulging in it right under his nose.
Look back to go forward
One recurring theme in the books and show is the idea that things are put in motion by past decisions, which subsequently affect future generations in unforeseen and devastating ways.
Robert’s rebellion and all the bloodshed and unrest that followed can be traced back to the Tournament at Harrenhal and the actions of then-young Ned, Robert, Rhaegar, Lyanna, Cersei and Jaime, while they themselves were also pawns of the their parents, who were the ruling powers at the time. A potent reminder that teenage actions can have grave consequences, and that your parents are probably keeping huge secrets from you.
The evidence for Jaime Lannister’s Targaryen bloodline is speculative, but admittedly compelling. But here’s where it gets really interesting. Jaime Lannister is also an excellent candidate for Azor Ahai.
“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.”
“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.”
One thing to note in the second example: Azor Ahai will be “born again amidst smoke and salt,” which suggests that those details matter for his transformation into a hero, not necessarily his original birth. Signs point to a lot of smoke and tears in King’s Landing right now — and Jaime is mourning the death of his son as the smoke clears from Cersei’s destruction of the Sept of Baelor.
Azor Ahai is called “the prince that was promised” in some quarters, and for a time Rhaegar Targaryen believed that the prophecy referred to him. But if Jaime is also Aerys’ son, that makes him a prince as well and also part of Rhaegar Targaryen’s bloodline, where it’s believed Azor Ahai will come from.
A potent weapon
Key to the legend of Azor Ahai is his sword, Lightbringer, which is forged in fire and tempered with the blood of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa.
So it follows that the reborn Azor Ahai must sacrifice someone he loves to create a sword that brings heat and light. In the original legend, Azor Ahai forged the sword three times, killing Nissa Nissa in the third round and killing a lion in the second. As Reddit user Bulldog312 suggests, perhaps our reborn hero will combine those two events, killing his beloved, who is a lion (at least in name). Jaime may turn Widow’s Wail, the shiny new sword he’s conspicuously wearing in the new Season 7 promo photos HBO just graced us with, into Lightbringer, through the death of everyone’s favorite villain — his beloved Cersei Lannister.
But Cersei’s death was foretold by Maggy in her prophecy, right? That pesky little valonqar that Cersei always assumed was Tyrion? Well technically, by mere minutes, Jaime is also Cersei’s “little brother.” Perhaps Jaime will choke the life out of his sister with the golden hand that she gave him.
The sword, Widow’s Wail, has itself been forged twice so far. It was originally Ned Stark’s sword, Ice, that was broken down into two. It’s also made of Valyrian steel, which was originally forged in magic fires and conveniently, as Jon Snow recently discovered, kills White Walkers. Valyrian steel and obsidian, a.k.a. dragonglass (another fire reference) are the only weapons humanity has against the Others, besides dragons and flames themselves. Though we wouldn’t rule out wildfire being a potent resource in that conflict.
A not-so-unlikely hero
As the books have unfolded, we’ve gotten more insight into Jaime’s psyche and we learn that he has a strong, if sometimes flawed, moral compass. He killed Aerys to stop a slaughter and Cersei is the only woman he’s ever loved. He supports Brienne in her quest to find Ned Stark’s children. Murders and throwing Bran out the window aside, he’s a somewhat solid guy and certainly sympathetic in the show’s later seasons.
This again calls into question the show’s judgment call on the sex scene between Jaime and his sister after Joffrey’s death. What, in the books, was meant to be reluctant but consensual was widely interpreted in the show to have been rape. Such a transgression for a character that in the end we’ll likely need to root for makes that scene even more unforgivable in hindsight.
One problem, though: If Jaime Lannister is indeed secretly a Targaryen, we’ll need to find out about it somehow, and there are a dwindling number of people who would have been alive at the time to confirm it.
Melisandre thinks Jon Snow will be Azor Ahai reborn (her second choice after Stannis, so she clearly has a terrible track record) and other red priestesses think it’s Daenerys. But since Azor Ahai will be “reborn” through transformation, there’s probably going to be a bit of a process here.
GRRM has said in interviews that you can’t always trust a prophecy, and that’s going to get hammered home even among the characters in the book as we head into the final stretch of the story.
If multiple religious devotees place their prophetical bets on opposing people, someone’s got to be wrong. Rhaegar was wrong about himself. Maester Aemon could be wrong about Daenerys. Melisandre could be wrong again about Jon. We could all be wrong about Tyrion.
Or, hell, they could all be right and Azor Ahai is three separate people – three heads of one dragon. But we’re pretty convinced that one of those heads is Jaime Lannister. Now we just need one of Bran’s handy visions to let us know for sure.