Melisandre worships Azor Ahai, the Lord of Light

At this point in Season 6 of GAME OF THRONES, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about “Azor Ahai.” Now more than ever after fan speculation about Jon Snow’s death and the implications of Daenerys Targaryen’s Dothraki fire scene. Maybe you’re aware of all the theories and developed your conclusions about the legendary hero? Perhaps you’re more confused after reading them? Is there a chance you’ve never heard of Azor Ahai and don’t understand why someone barely mentioned in GAME OF THRONES matters?

Whichever the case, I’m here to break it down for you, prophecy by prophecy. First, we need to answer one fundamental question:

Who is Azor Ahai?

In the religion of the Lord of Light, the ultimate war is against darkness and, more literally, the Others/White Walkers (Chapter 10, A CLASH OF KINGS). Eight thousand years before the current events of GAME OF THRONES (and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE), a legendary hero named Azor Ahai severely defeated the Others. Integral to his story and his victory, was his sword of fire, Lightbringer, which took three tries and a hundred days and nights to forge. To complete the creation of Lightbringer, Azor Ahai had to push his sword through the heart of his wife, Nissa Nissa, to combine her soul with his sword (Chapter 10, A CLASH OF KINGS).

Why do people care about Azor Ahai? Those who follow in the faith of R’hllor believe that Azor Ahai will be reborn. They believe Azor Ahai will once more stand against the Others in a time of need. In particular, Melisandre’s sole motivation in GAME OF THRONES is to find the reincarnated Azor Ahai. She wants to assist the human incarnation of her god in the fight against the Others. Many fans, myself included, take stock in this prophecy. We believe one of the main characters is Azor Ahai reborn. Whoever this character is will play a vital part in the final defeat of Others.

You may not have heard the name mentioned much on the show, but the book series provides various prophecies concerning Azor Ahai. Now that the show surpassed the timeline given in the books, fans discovered implicative scenes about the ultimate importance of Azor Ahai.

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I should mention that there is another legendary figure, the Prince That Was Promised. His characterization is similar to Azor Ahai — another hero prophesied to save the world from darkness. Melisandre refers to Azor Ahai and the Prince That Was Promised interchangeably. Perhaps they are the same person? On the other hand, there are some fans who believe they are two different people. The translation of the prophecies from gender-neutral High Valyrian to English mistakenly asserted there would be a Prince. Thus, the prophecy could just as easily refer to a Princess.

The argument that the Prince does not have to be male applies to Azor Ahai as well. Why? Both prophecies were in High Valyrian. For these reasons, and because Melisandre refers to them as one, I believe the prophecies are one and the same. Still, I admit there isn’t enough evidence to conclusively say which theory is correct. In this article, largely for the sake of coherency, I’ll refer to them as one overarching prophecy.

Let’s get into the question of the hour:

Will the Real Azor Ahai Please Stand Up?

Azor Ahai rises to importance in the context of Melisandre’s support for Stannis. I’m not sure if Melisandre convinced anyone of Stannis’s claim to be Azor Ahai reborn. His “forging” ceremony of Lightbringer was much more for theatrics than true prophetic substance: in the beginning of Season 2, he draws a sword from the heart of a burning statue of the Maiden, thus creating “Lightbringer.” Even Maester Aemon, when he heard news of Stannis’s Lightbringer, pointed out that the sword did not give off any heat and only glowed from Melisandre’s magic, and thus must be a false sword.

Melisandre believes Azor Ahai is her god in human form.

Stannis’s death in Season 5 leaves us with only two contenders who fit several of the Azor Ahai prophecies: Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. George RR Martin (GRRM) places a lot of significance behind each of prophecy and dream. Let’s break this down piece by piece to see which character fits better.

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Jon Snow versus Daenerys Targaryen: Let’s Breakdown the Prophecy!

Most of what we know about Azor Ahai comes from Melisandre in A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: “In ancient books of Asshai it is written that 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.”

The first half of this prophecy, referring to the “breath of darkness falling” doesn’t favor either character. It does explain the obsession of Melisandre (and many fans)  with finding out who Azor Ahai reborn will be. We’ve learned that it has been a long summer. We’ve also learned a longer winter is coming (I’m looking at you, Stark family). Lastly, “the cold breath of darkness”  likely refers to the emergence of the Others. The Others are gaining power and moving south toward the rest of the world.

The second part of this prophecy emphasizes that Lightbringer is integral to the legend of Azor Ahai. We know that Jon knows how to use a sword. We know he inherited one of Valyrian steel, which is made from dragonfire, from Lord Commander Mormont. In A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, Jon dreams he “was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall, he sent them down to die again.” In this dream, Jon is wielding the Red Sword of Heroes to defeat the Wildings. Of course, this is a dream, but GRRM has taught us to believe in some dreams (even more so because the Stark children are more closely connected with the magic and prophetic powers of the Children of the Forest).

On the other hand, Daenerys is never shown wielding a sword. Some think that her dragons are a metaphor for a burning sword. Since Jon actually owns a Valyrian steel sword used to fight White Walkers at Hardhome, this point goes to him.

We also learn from Melisandre in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS that “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.” This may only be one sentence, but there’s a lot of information in here.

Could Danaerys Targaryen be the reborn Azor Ahai?

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While the gathering of the darkness does not provide any new information, the bleeding red star, the smoke and salt, and the dragons awakened from stone all nicely wrapped up in the grand final scene of Season 1. Daenerys emerges from the fire of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with hatched dragons. While no salt explicitly exists in that scene (though it could have been in the earth or in unseen tears), Daenerys’s birth took place on Dragonstone during a raging storm. This means salt and the sea surrounded her.

You might think that Jon has no relation to red stars, smoke, or salt, but it starts to get interesting here. If you believe in the R+L=J theory, which you should because there is too much evidence supporting it. Jon’s birth took place in the Tower of Joy located in the Red Mountains of Dorne. A spear through a red sun, albeit not bleeding, signifies the sigil of the ruling house of Dorne — House Martell.

If we dig a little deeper, Arthur Dayne, known as the Sword of the Morning, died guarding the Tower of Joy with his greatsword Dawn in episode 3 of Season 6. Legends say the metal of a fallen star forged Dawn. Though no mention exists of red as the star’s characterization, Arthur Dayne’s death theoretically fulfills that aspect of the prophecy. After Jon’s death in the finale of Season 5, there were theories of his resurrection in true Azor Ahai fashion, with fire and smoke and salt. Alas, there was neither smoke nor salt when Melisandre revived him in episode 2 of Season 6. Jon also has yet to awaken any dragons from stone, so I think this one goes to Daenerys.

Reek is definitely not Azor Ahai reborn. Thankfully!

In another of Daenerys’ visions in the House of the Undying, she hears her brother Rhaegar say, “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” (Rhaegar is originally referencing his son, Aegon, who has died and is thus not a contender.) If we continue to follow R+L=J, Jon is truly born of ice and fire. Daenerys, on the other hand, come from a pure Targaryen lineage and thus is born of fire. Of course, the song of ice and fire may not even be about lineages. It could be about a harmony of opposites or something else entirely. It’s really quite unclear what this “song” is, but we’ll give the point to Jon for now.

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In A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, Daenerys learns that a woods witch (likely the Ghost of High Heart, a prophetic Child of the Forest) prophesied the Prince That Was Promised would be born from the line of Rhaella and Aerys II (her mother and father). However, this prophecy doesn’t actually help us, since Daenerys is the daughter of Rhaella and Aerys, and Jon is, supposedly, their grandson through Rhaegar.

The official prophecies of Azor Ahai/the Prince That Was Promised don’t strongly favor either character. Tallying it up, Jon only slightly edges out Daenerys.

Some fans also believe Azor Ahai reborn will be forced to sacrifice a loved one. This is what happened in the legend. Still, there is no official prophecy for this belief. Jon and Daenerys have both lost their lovers through indirect consequences of their own actions. This could be the sacrifice, or there might be another sacrifice down the road, or there might even not be any sacrifice at all.

Jon Snow may be Azor Ahai

As far as unofficial prophecies go, Melisandre has an interesting vision in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS: “Skulls. A thousand skulls, and the bastard boy again. Jon Snow… Yet now she could not even seem to find her king. I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor only shows me Snow.” I don’t think this needs too much explanation.

In the third episode of Season 6, Melisandre also says to Jon, “The Lord let you come back for a reason. Stannis was not the Prince Who Was Promised, but someone has to be,” implying that she strongly believes Jon to be Azor Ahai reborn.

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Some may question the trustworthiness of Melisandre’s prophecies, which is a valid doubt. She caused the deaths of Shireen (R.I.P.) and Stannis. However, she seems to suffer more from a misinterpretation of visions rather than false visions themselves. For example, in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, she sees a vision of a girl fleeing toward the Wall on a dying horse. Melisandre believes her to be Arya, though the girl reveals herself to be the daughter of Lord Karstark.

I’ll also point that Melisandre does have a history of accurate visions. In episode 8 of Season 3, she helps Stannis name three false kings, Balon Greyjoy, Robb Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. All of them die off one by one. In A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, she also warns Jon of traitors in his midst and daggers in the dark. This foreshadows his death at the hands of the Night’s Watch.

Since she has never actually had a false vision, there’s no reason to believe this vision is false. There might be room to doubt the interpretation, but I think visions of Snow while praying to see Azor Ahai is difficult to misinterpret. Of course, Melisandre is not the only Red Priest. An unnamed priest in Essos (and the wise Maester Aegon), declared Daenerys Azor Ahai reborn.

A Hero Reborn? Who Will It Be?

You might have guessed by now that my money is on Jon Snow. Jon fought White Walkers with Longclaw, even defeating one of them. He truly comprehends the direness of the situation. Knowing GRRM though, Azor Ahai could very well be both of them or neither of them.

As for the fandom, some people put more weight in certain prophecies and evidence over other ones. Thus, the debate between Daenerys and Jon continues. Perhaps Daenerys’ dragons will somehow become the Red Swords of Heroes? Maybe Jon’s birth at the tower of joy will be amidst smoke and salt (maybe he has another rebirth)? Or maybe we’ll find out something about the “song of ice and fire” that’ll change our minds entirely? Whatever happens, Westeros will very soon need a hero. We can only hope that Azor Ahai will be able to defeat the White Walkers once again.

Now that you’ve read a breakdown of all things Azor Ahai, which characters do you think will fulfill the prophecy!

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