The week of April 12, 2015

The dark, hidden prophecies that shape the world of ‘Game of Thrones’

By Liz Dircks

Three children are going to die. A young, beautiful queen will rise to power. A “little brother” will turn murderous. A prince will be reborn amid salt and smoke.

Season 5 of Game of Thrones is about to begin, and all we want to talk about are the lunatic prophecies that seem to lurk in the shadows of every scene, compelling Westeros’s most powerful to make truly god-awful decisions.

Fans have compared the prophecies in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series to Furbies: Practically everyone’s had one, they’re deeply unsettling, and they’re difficult to figure out until their relevancy has passed. Being witness to a prophecy in Game of Thrones is, with a few exceptions, bound to end badly. Prophecies drive story and motivate characters to confront fate and dare to alter it.

For years, fans have been discussing, cross-examining, and refining book details in a frenzy as beautifully psychotic as Cersei Lannister herself. Every season, after the finale cuts to black, the rabbit hole of online speculation picks up on Reddit. Without any new source material to work with, book readers are left to debate endlessly. It’d take you longer to read through every fan theory about Jon Snow’s parentage than it would to finish all 5,216 pages of A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF).

So here, finally, is the complete TV companion: every significant prophecy of the Game of Thrones universe for all the context you’ll need during season 5. (We’ve tried to separate book spoilers from knowledge you’ve already gleaned from the show, but be warned.)

Cersei Lannister

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Poor Cersei can never catch a break, and I mean that sincerely. Despite her polarizing nature, Cersei is a brilliantly screwed-up character, so unyielding in her bouts of directionless rage that they actually lead to self-sabotage. Where does it come from? We’ll find out in season 5. (Spoilers ahead.)

In a significant flashback, Cersei is a preteen when she and a childhood friend named Melara Hetherspoon wander into the den of Maggy the Frog, a blood witch (or maegi, as they’re known). The maegi tells Cersei substantial pieces of her future, namely that she will marry the king and have three children, but he will have 16. This, of course, alludes to Robert Baratheon’s many bastard children, and Cersei’s three, fathered by her brother Jaime. The witch then tells her she’ll be supplanted by a younger, more beautiful queen. Fast-forward, and Margaery Tyrell is muscling in on Cersei’s territory.

Every season, after the finale cuts to black, the rabbit hole of online speculation begins.

Maggy the Frog also foresees the deaths of all three of Cersei’s children. The sociopathic boy king Joffrey, Cersei and Jaime’s first child, has already been crowned and killed. Meanwhile, their daughter, Myrcella, is off in Dorne; son Tommen is sitting on the Iron Throne, married to the Tyrell girl.

But the icing on the cake: Maggy tells Cersei she’ll meet a gruesome end at the hands of “the valonquar,” Valyrian for “little brother.” This detail validates Cersei’s life-long bloodlust for Tyrion as the culprit. Could Tyrion be a red herring? Jaime, Cersei’s twin, was technically born second; he’s a little brother too. Or could both Lannister brothers be misdirections?

Jaime Lannister

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In the books, Cersei’s twin experiences an ominous dream shortly before returning to Harrenhal to save his companion Brienne of Tarth from a ravenous bear. The dream finds him naked and alone in a dark cavern beneath Casterly Rock, the Lannister seat. The dream versions of Cersei, Tywin, and Joffrey tell him this is “[his] place.” He begs for a sword to combat an invisible threat. He receives one, curiously aflame. Brienne appears in the cave bound in chains, and when Jaime frees her, she asks what threat they face; one is a bear.

Game of Thrones set photos from October strongly suggest Jaime will be paying a visit to Dorne this season, but in book 4, A Feast for Crows (AFFC), the Kingslayer is sent to Riverrun to end the standoff between Lannister-led forces and Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, Catelyn Stark’s uncle, who is holding the Tully seat in Robb Stark’s name. While there, he dreams of his mother, Joanna Lannister, who died giving birth to Tyrion. She mentions Tywin and how he wanted his son and daughter to be a great knight and a great queen, not laughingstocks of the Seven Kingdoms. When he tells his mom this is indeed true, she sheds a single tear. This is likely around the same time Cersei has been imprisoned by the High Sparrow and made to walk, naked and shaven, through King’s Landing as penance for her adultery.

Daenerys Targaryen

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If the number of prophecies about Daenerys are any indication, the Mother of Dragons will be one busy lady during the next two books and the seasons ahead.

Dany’s destiny begins to catch up to her in Qarth when she visits the House of the Undying. Thankfully, for a mysterious masked seer, Quaithe, the shadowbinder from Asshai, is pretty straightforward. In the books, she tells Dany that in order to go northwest to Westeros, she should first go southeast to Asshai-by-the-Shadow (Melisandre’s hometown). It could be a look into the future, or maybe it’s just friendly travel advice. In the show, Quaithe warns Jorah to keep the dragons close; news is spreading, and people will be lusting after them.

Daenerys’s future as it relates to her Westerosi homecoming appears when she demolishes the House of the Undying. In Game of Thrones, the future is clear: a ruined Red Keep and a peek beyond the Wall point to where her real enemies lie. Oh, and Drogo is in some weird purgatory tent with Rhaego.

Quaithe also predicts the disease that ravages Meereen and its would-be conquerors under Dany’s reign, as well as several key characters she’ll meet: “Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon.” They’re references to Victarion Greyjoy and Moqorro the Red Priest, Tyrion Lannister and Jon Connington, Quentyn Martell, and likely—book 5 spoilers ahead—Aegon VI Targaryen.

Aegon’s legitimacy is widely questioned by fans who believe him to be a Blackfyre, the long-gone branch of House Targaryen formed by one of King Aegon IV’s legitimized bastards over a century prior. The Blackfyres staged a series of nasty rebellions to claim the Iron Throne and may still have supporters, including a wealthy magister seeking a Targaryen ruler who isn’t Daenerys.

In book 2, A Clash of Kings, when Dany destroys the House of the Undying, she sees a vision meant to represent the War of the Five Kings, the dreaded Red Wedding, and the oft-mentioned prophecies of “three.”

“Three heads has the dragon … three fires must you light … one for life and one for death and one to love.”

“Three mounts must you ride … one to bed and one to dread and one to love.”

“Three treasons will you know … once for blood and once for gold and once for love.”

Which parts of the prophecy have already been fulfilled? No one knows! Dany herself believes the treason for blood was the stillbirth of her child at the hands of the maegi Mirri Maz Duur, but the treasons for gold and love are more ambiguous. Ser Jorah Mormont sold Dany’s secrets to King’s Landing long before confessing his love for her, and although Dany’s fling with the sellsword Daario Naharis is hot and heavy, the strain on their relationship in book 5, A Dance With Dragons, could lead to a future betrayal.

But “three heads has the dragon” is taken to mean there are two more living Targaryens who may not be aware of their lineage. Jon Snow, centerpiece of the popular R+L=J theory, could easily be one. Another theory posits that Tyrion is actually the son of Aerys II Targaryen, or Mad King Aerys, who allegedly took liberties with Joanna Lannister the night of her wedding to Tywin. Others say Jaime and Cersei were conceived that night—which would explain their propensity for incest and madness. If your tinfoil hat is secure enough, you might conclude all three Lannister siblings are Targaryens.

Azor Ahai

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Wait… who? What? Relax. You haven’t overlooked an active participant in the struggle for the Iron Throne. Azor Ahai is a legendary hero who lived during the Long Night, a dark period in the Known World where chaos reigned and the Others (known as White Walkers in the show) terrorized Westeros. Azor dispatched the Others once and for all with a fiery sword called Lightbringer. If the Red Priests are to be believed, he will be reborn to challenge the looming winter that threatens the known world.

Has he been reborn? Probably. Some serious shit is stirring in Westeros and beyond. But before we discuss the candidates, know that there’s some debate over whether Azor Ahai and another prophesied hero, the “Prince That Was Promised,” are the same person. This Prince is mentioned a few times in the narrative, sometimes interchangeably with Azor, as someone who will be “reborn amidst salt and smoke” and originate from the line of Aerys II Targaryen. Though it hasn’t been confirmed that these prophecies allude to a single entity, let’s just assume they do.

Is it Stannis?

Melisandre trumpets Stannis Baratheon as Azor, adding a fiery heart to his sigil and claiming he possesses Lightbringer to seal the deal. To be fair, Stannis does have some things going for him. His brother Robert named him Lord of Dragonstone, a volcanic island that easily satisfies the “salt and smoke” bit. By the end of book 3, Stannis and his forces are at the Wall, right in the path of the Others. Daenerys even sees a vision of him holding a red sword in the House of the Undying. It’s safe to guess, though, that perhaps Melisandre has been misguided in her visions and Stannis is adopting the moniker on the off chance it makes the bad guys quake in their boots. Aw, Stannis. You’re the mannis. But maybe Melisandre has plans for someone else…

Is it Daenerys?

Daenerys is a strong candidate for Azor Ahai reborn, and she’s hiding in plain sight. She was born on Dragonstone, the daughter of Mad King Aerys, and is linked to fire both figuratively and literally. She may not have a flaming sword, but she does have three dragons to stand in for Lightbringer. And there’s at least one person on her cheer squad back in Westeros: Maester Aemon, her not-too-distant relative.

Cersei’s childhood experience with a blood witch explains so much.

In A Feast for Crows (book 4), newly appointed Lord Commander Jon Snow bids Samwell Tarly take Aemon, the wildling Gilly, and Mance Rayder’s child to Oldtown to prevent Melisandre from sacrificing them for their “royal blood” (Aemon is a Targaryen, and Mance Rayder’s son is technically a prince, if only symbolically). Later in the book, during a stopover in Braavos, Aemon reveals he believes Dany is meant to save mankind and gives us the vital observation that “prince” in Valyrian is genderless, therefore making it possible for a princess to step into the role.

Is it Jon?

There’s ample textual evidence that Jon Snow could be Azor. If the R+L=J theory is true, then Jon is Mad King Aerys’s grandson, a Targaryen without knowledge of his family (and one of the three heads of the dragon, perhaps?). His stab wounds smoke when he’s attacked by the Night’s Watch in A Dance With Dragons (ADWD), while his mutinous steward Bowen Marsh cries salty tears. Jon also has a dream that his blade “burned red in his fist,” and whenever Melisandre seeks visions of Azor in her fires, she sees only Snow. If that’s not an elephant in the room, I don’t know what is.

Several supporting characters have also been put forward as Azor Ahai, but with less conclusive evidence. Some believe Brienne of Tarth already carries Lightbringer in the form of Oathkeeper, the sword reforged from Ned Stark’s sword Ice and given to her by Jaime. Others point to Ser Davos emerging from the salt and smoke of the Battle of the Blackwater, and even to the Hound and his bad encounter with a fire. A Wiki of Ice and Fire notes the possibility of the collective Night’s Watch fitting the bill. After all, the group was formed after the time where Azor was said to have lived, their vows contain some intriguing light imagery, and they appear to be the only dudes standing between the White Walkers and world domination.

Jojen Reed and Bran Stark

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These two peas in a greenseeing pod should be taken quite seriously. Bran, still a novice in cultivating his ability to see past, present, and future, does get flashes of previous goings-on in the south. (Book spoilers begin here.) In one vision, Bran sees his father Eddard (may the old gods give him peace) pleading with Robert Baratheon to halt an assassination plot against Daenerys.

More pressing, though, are Bran’s visions of his sisters Sansa and Arya, and three figures who hover over them: one “with the terrible face of a hound,” another with armor “like the sun, golden and beautiful,” and a third giant clad in stone armor, with nothing inside his visor save for “darkness and thick black blood.” The first figure is unequivocally Sandor Clegane, the second is believed to be Jaime, but the third? A popular fan theory suggests that Bran is seeing Ser Robert Strong, who many believe is the reanimated corpse of Gregor Clegane and soon to be Cersei’s champion in her trial by combat.

Jojen’s visions are similarly pivotal. The son of Howland Reed, a contemporary of Ned Stark and possibly the last surviving lord who knows what happened to Ned’s sister, Jojen has been honing his skills far longer than Bran.

Jojen predicts the sacking of Winterfell by the ironborn, characterizing them as “black waves” crashing against the battlements of the ancestral Stark seat. Jojen also sees Theon Greyjoy’s charade of murdering Bran and Rickon, and somehow he knows Ramsay Snow has given Theon the name Reek.

In sunnier news, though, Jojen’s last meaty prophecy before he fades from the narrative is this: “The wolves will come again.” Rough translation: Can we get some Starks back up in here, please?

Tyrion Lannister

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Is there a branch of prophets somewhere on the Lannister family tree? During his travels through Essos, escaping accusations of regicide and a wrathful Cersei, Tyrion gets walloped with the dream of a battle turning the hills of Westeros red with blood while dragons fly high above him. He fights alongside Ser Barristan Selmy and Bittersteel, a long-dead Targaryen bastard and founder of the Golden Company, a band of sellswords operating out of the Free Cities. These elements alone suggest that Dany will soon take Westeros with the help of the Company—that is, if she ever catches up to them. By the end of A Dance With Dragons (book spoilers here) they’ve already invaded Westeros, tired of empty promises from the enigmatic Illyrio Mopatis, and have thrown their support behind the alleged Targaryen heir Aegon VI.

The dream finds him naked and alone.

In his dreams, Tyrion has two heads; kills his father, Tywin, a second time; and cuts down Jaime. One head laughs as he does this while the other cries. Is this his subconscious guilt-tripping him, or is House Lannister on the fast track to extinction?

Tyrion’s role in the grand scheme of things also appears to be confirmed by the Red Priest Moqorro, who is traveling with Victarion Greyjoy to see Daenerys. Moqorro warns of “dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark,” with Tyrion as “a small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all.”

All the standalone prophecies

A fairly inconspicuous passage of companion book The World of Ice and Fire asserts that Valyrian priests believe the “Doom of Man” will originate in Westeros. It’s easy to breeze over, and even the narrator dismisses its validity. But we’re wise to you, GRRM.

A maegi known as the Ghost of High Heart rears her head every so often, predicting the deaths of Renly Baratheon, Balon Greyjoy, and Catelyn Stark’s death and—book spoilers here—resurrection as Lady Stoneheart. She similarly foresees Sansa’s role in the Purple Wedding and, most interestingly, Sansa “slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.” Hold up: Wasn’t Sansa building snow castles at the Eyrie?

We should have seen the Red Wedding coming from a mile away; a clown did. On the long list of those who foresaw it was Patchface, Stannis Baratheon’s fool, who often sings in riddles and is clearly sharper than he looks.

In A Game of Thrones (book 1), Arya has a sobering dream that suggests she may not have felt at home in Winterfell, perhaps foretelling her eventual journey to the House of Black and White in Braavos, where she fits right in. In the dream, she faces an empty and constantly shifting castle where blood drips from the walls in some rooms.

Mirri Maz Duur claims Khal Drogo will return to her after a series of perversions of natural order. This may very well be code for “when pigs fly,” but some believe there is evidence that this prophecy is coming true.

Melisandre may be mistaken about the whole Stannis-as-Azor thing, but that doesn’t mean she’s always wrong. The Red Priestess correctly predicts Bran finding the Three-Eyed Crow, the arrival of a fleeing Karstark lady at Castle Black, and the men of the Night’s Watch turning on Jon Snow. She also sees Patchface surrounded by skulls, implying that a fear of clowns may not be entirely irrational in that universe.

Thoros of Myr recounts a vision of the post–Red Wedding siege of Riverrun to Arya, noting “an island in a sea of fire,” and flames that took the shape of “leaping lions with long crimson claws.” As we know, Arya arrives at Riverrun a little too late to prevent this siege from happening.

When Dany visit Vaes Dothrak in AGOT, the dosh khaleen share with her the prophecy of the Stallion Who Mounts the World, believing her unborn son Rhaego to fit the bill, and specifically use the word “prince.” Rhaego may not have been this Stallion, but what if it’s Dany? And could the Stallion prophecy have any common history with the Prince That Was Promised or Azor Ahai?

Hell, it wouldn’t be the weirdest prediction in the Seven Kingdoms.

Photos via Game of Thrones/HBO | Remix by Max Fleishman