Since Jon Snow’s parentage now seems clear, the biggest remaining mysteries on Game of Thrones are who will end up on the Iron Throne (which is anybody’s guess) and who is Azor Ahai a.k.a. The Prince (or Princess) That Was Promised, a legendary figure* prophesied to be reborn and defeat the White Walkers while wielding his/her hero’s sword, Lightbringer. Here are the seven best Azor Ahai theories, combining thoughts posted by sharp-eyed fans and our own speculation:
Case For: The most obvious current candidate. In the novels, we’re told “a bleeding star” will herald the coming of Azor Ahai, who “shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” Dany was a princess who was “born again” when she emerged from the smoke and fire of Drogo’s funeral pyre at the end of season 1 and birthed her dragons. A red comet appeared in the sky afterward at the start of season 2. Her original birthplace is Dragonstone, a volcanic island of smoke and [sea] salt (some fans think the prophecy’s “smoke and salt” reference basically means Azor Ahai must be a Targaryen). She’s also fireproof and R’hllor is the god of light and fire. Also important: Legend has it Azor Ahai first tried to temper Lightbringer in water, which broke the sword (rather like how Dany’s fleet failed in a sea battle against Euron?), then tried to drive the sword into the heart of a lion (like her forces failed at the lion-sigiled home of Casterly Rock?), and then he finally succeeded by plunging the sword into the breast of his wife, killing her and fusing her soul with the weapon (… okay, so we got nothing for that one). There are a couple more prophecy details beyond these, but they tend to be even more tricky to quantify. Case Against: Melisadre declared Dany might be The Princess Who Was Promised in the seventh season premiere. This makes us immediately think she’s not because Melisandre’s track record is pretty lousy (just ask Stannis Baratheon) and it feels like a misdirect. Also, Dany has enough titles to wave around already, does she really need another honorary?
RELATED: Hear the latest from EW’s Game of Thrones Weekly podcast
Case For: Well, the man does have a flaming sword. And he’s been reborn — not once, but six times. He’s come right out and stated that R’hllor is keeping him around for something. So Beric clearly has a role to play, but is it the role of Azor Ahai? Case Against: Many other factors don’t seem to fit (at least in the show’s version of his character). And would the fabled Prince That Was Promised really be somebody we’ve only seen in about 10 episodes?
Case For: Another of Melisandre’s top candidates. The King in the North was literally born again, so that’s plus (and in George R.R. Martin’s novels, both salt in the form of tears and smoke in the form of steam are referenced in Snow’s death scene). He’s a warrior, and almost certainly a secret Targaryen, with a famous sword adept at killing White Walkers. There’s also this line from the books, when Melisandre says, “I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow” (yup, capitalized). In the Bran flashback to Snow’s birth, Ned placed the bloody Sword of the Morning with its hilt depicting a rising star at the foot of the bed in a very deliberate-looking shot (a “bleeding star,” see photo below). Case Against: There doesn’t seem to be any track being laid for the water/lion/lover sword tempering, at least not yet. (Ygritte died, sure, but that wasn’t his doing).
Case For: He’s faced smoke (his childhood scarring), salt (the Battle of the Blackwater) and was “reborn” (after Brienne nearly killed him and he was nursed back to health by a priest). He’s got some major fire issues that could come into play. Case Against: But the rest of the prophecy doesn’t seem to connect.
Case For: Water? Yup, Tyrion nearly drowned at the Battle of the Blackwater — which had both smoke (fire) and salt (ocean) Killed a lion? Indeed, Tyrion murdered his father. Plus his lover? Bingo, he killed Shae. And Dany’s dragons seem cool with him (Could he be a secret Targaryen like Jon Snow? There’s a decent case for Tyrion on the front, at least in the books) Case Against: Tyrion is more an intellectual than a sword-wielding warrior and other characters were reborn far more literally than him. Still, the man’s got a surprisingly strong case.
My personal favorite, if only because it would represent a great twist about a character who started as the show’s biggest villain. Case For: Jaime just survived a trial by water when he was plunged into the lake in “The Spoils of War,” failing to beat Dany. You could say he was then reborn as he gasped from the water amid the smoke. Could killing a fellow lion — such as Tyrion or Cersei — be next? Some argue he already did (when he released Tyrion, who killed Tywin). And if so, who is this love that he kills? The series clearly seems to be setting up a major conflict with Cersei, but we can’t rule out Brienne either. Bonus: There was an intriguing moment in season 4 when Jojen Reed was asked by Bran how we’ll know it’s “the end.” Watch the clip below. Perhaps Lightbringer is not a sword, but Jaime’s own golden hand set ablaze? Evidence against: No dragons or red stars, unless he’s a secret Targaryen — which some fans maintain (but I’d be shocked if GoT pulls that trick twice).
There are other theories about practically every member of the cast — such as Ser Jorah, Bran Stark, Ser Davos, Cersei Lannister, and even Hot Pie — though they all seem weaker than the above based on what we know now.
You know who would be cool? Melisandre. If only because it would be quite ironic if the only person in the series trying to figure out who is Azor Ahai is actually Azor Ahai.
Or, what if Jon and Daenerys coming together form Azor Ahai, like some kind of Wonder Targaryens activation? This is “A Song of Ice and Fire” after all. Or what if they eventually have a child who is revealed to be the one who’s promised? The two leading prophecy candidates would then have a prince or princess. Of course, Dany has insisted she will never have children ever since her child with Khal Drogo was stillborn and she gave birth to dragons instead. But does she really know? Of course, by the time they had a kid, the threat of winter will have come and gone, and defeating the White Walkers is the whole point…
And yet there is also another final possibility that we’re considering that tends to almost always get overlooked:
No One: So many characters seem to fit pieces of the prophecy. But Martin is a student of European medieval history and all the death and tragedy inspired by religion during those times. He always made it clear prophecies are not to be trusted. The number of suspected Azor Ahais extend back before the timeline of our show (a young Maester Aemon thought Prince Rhaegar was Azor Ahai too). So maybe we’ll discover there is no definitive Prince or Princess, that it’s just some perpetually recycled myth that gets hung on various leaders, and that Syrio Forel had it right all along: “There is only one God and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today.'”
* Yes we’re assuming they’re one and the same