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Authors: Valerie Estelle Frankel

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BOOK: Winter is Coming: Symbols and Hidden Meanings in A Game of Thrones
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Jon resembles his father
and Lyanna.
(In the book, all of Ned and Catelyn’s children are red-haired like the Tullys except for Arya who resembles Ned. Lyanna is described as resembling Arya with the traditional Stark coloring.) This would also explain the Kingsguard’s presence guarding Lyanna instead of fighting beside their prince at the Ruby Ford—they are sworn to protect the king and his family, so why else would they be at the Tower of Joy? Three fight with Rhaegar on the Trident, one (Jaime Lannister) defends the king himself plus Rhaegar’s wife and children in the capitol. None guard the queen, Viserys, and unborn Daenerys. And three members of the Kingsguard, including the two most legendary, are guarding Rhaegar’s girlfriend?

Daenerys’s vision in the House of the Undying includes blue roses (Lyanna’s favorite) blooming from an ice wall, a likely allusion to Lyanna’s child at the Wall (II:515-516). It also parallels the book’s legend of Bael the Bard and the blue rose, in which a Stark daughter is stolen from the family, only to give the House a son by her lover.

The blue rose image certainly repeats in Ned’s memories, as Lyanna begs for his help. “He thought of the promises he made to Lyanna as she lay dying, and the price he’d paid to keep them”
(I:380). One promise is to bury her at Winterfell, but that wouldn’t have a heavy price. However, Catelyn’s and Jon’s lives have been made miserable because of the secret.

Another interesting parallel in Ned’s thoughts may be a clue:

He remembered Rhaegar’s infant son, the red ruin of his skull, and the way the king had turned away, as he had turned away in Darry’s audience hall not so long ago. He could still hear Sansa pleading, as Lyanna had pleaded once. (I:199)

Sansa pleaded for her pet’s life, and Robert ignored her just as he let the Targaryen children die without mercy. These in Ned’s mind are tied to Lyanna’s plea—to protect another innocent from Robert’s wrath. Robert had already sworn to eliminate the Targaryens, and smiled at the death of Rhaegar’s other children. Only total secrecy would guarantee Jon’s safety. Within a page of discussing Wylla with Robert, Ned’s thoughts turn to the young Targaryen children and Lyanna both dying in the war.

Ned thought,
If it came to that, the life of some child I did not know, against Robb and Sansa and Arya and Bran and Rickon, what would I do? Even more so, what would Catelyn do, if it were Jon’s life, against the children of her body.
He did not know. He prayed he never would. (I:486)

This quote has a few intriguing teases: Ned lists his children but leaves out Jon. Perhaps not his child? He also fears that Catelyn cannot be trusted with Jon’s life, because everyone has a price. This emphasizes why he’s told
no one—
not Catelyn, not Jon, not his trusted friends. When he and Jon part, the men who ordered all Targaryens dead still live, and King Robert is visiting. There’s still a need to keep the secret.

Likewise, Bran and Jon have intriguing dreams that there’s an important secret about Jon in the crypts, where Lyanna is buried (
see Jon’s Dreams
). Certainly, if he is their son, this would make him a child of ice and fire with Winterfell warg powers and dragon magic, the hero of prophecy. In his studies, did Rhaegar see prophecies pointing to such a child? If Jon is a Targaryen, he shares Daenerys’s ancient magic and her destiny: A child of the forest said that “the prince that was promised would be born of their line,” the line of Mad King Aerys and Rhaella (V:300-301).

Rhaegar believed in this destiny and insisted that he must have three children to mimic Aegon the Conqueror and his two sister-wives, that “there must be one more,” since “the dragon has three heads.” However, his wife was infertile afterward, and he may have tried to conceive a third child with Lyanna. This may have been rape, but naming it the “Tower of Joy” suggests love. Either way, he kept Lyanna close and they were indisputably lovers.

It should be noted that the Targaryens practiced bigamy. Though this was basically in the distant past, Rhaegar considered his children to be Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters reborn, so he might have wed Lyanna secretly, repeating the cycle of Aegon and his double marriage. Naming his son and daughter after Aegon the Conqueror and his sister Rhaenys emphasizes this and also suggests he was awaiting a third child to name Visenya, and complete the pattern. As a bastard, Jon is not technically in the succession (though he would still be heir to Targaryen dragon magic, destiny, and prophecy). If he is a trueborn son, Jon would be in line after his older half-brother Aegon, if he is alive, and before Daenerys, his aunt and later in the succession. (It should also be noted that since the civil war called the Dance of the Dragons, females are specifically barred from the throne. Her son would inherit in her place.)

If Jon’s parents were married, it once again seems unlikely Ned would let him go to the Wall if he knows Jon is the Targaryen heir. (On the other hand, Ned is loyal to Robert and wants peace in the realm, so he may be willing to sweep Jon’s nebulous claim under the rug. The Targaryens were conquered, after all.) It’s more likely Jon’s parents were not married. Ned would believe that as a bastard, Jon might as well find safety and honor at the Wall, since he’s not a trueborn heir.

Aegon the Conqueror reborn is certainly Daenerys, who with her three dragons will come from over the sea and conquer Westeros. To do this, she will likely need two male dragonriders as partners and (possibly) husbands. Bastard or no, if Jon is Rhaegar’s son, he, like young Aegon Targaryen, is prophesized to be Daenerys’s perfect mate. Martin comments only, “Jon’s parentage will be revealed eventually,” though we had little cause to doubt it.

Section II: Born Again Amidst Smoke and Salt: Exploring Prophecy

he book series offers several important prophecies that drive the narrative and point toward where the heroes are heading. In the House of the Undying on the show, Daenerys has an emotional meeting with her lost husband and son, but does not see the book’s visions of the future or hear the prophecies that will drive her life. The reason for this, as Martin pointed out at the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, is clear: The producers had no guarantee that the show would last until all the prophecies could be fulfilled, or for that matter, that minor threads, characters, and subplots wouldn’t be cut for time. As such, they didn’t wish to promise prophecies that might or might not be completed within the show. The book has more freedom, as Martin is certain of major events.

There are other sources of prophecy as well. Maegi appear to prophesize truly, although the Red Priestess has some embarrassing moments when she
correctly but interprets wrong. For instance, she sees a girl in grey and assumes it’s Arya Stark, but it isn’t—many brown-haired girls can wear grey after all. Likewise, she appears to be correct about the hero with a flaming sword, but there’s significant evidence that it won’t be her chosen king, Stannis. Thoros of Myr, who travels among the Brotherhood without Banners, is a red priest from the same order.

Several characters such as Bran, Daenerys, and occasionally Jon have prophetic dreams. These are given to them by their wolves or through the magical Targaryen birthright. (Jaime’s dreams, by contrast, appear to be products of guilt rather than omens of the future). Martin has commented that all the Stark children have the wolf powers—for instance, little Rickon also dreams of his father’s death and Arya slowly begins to communicate with her wolf. Sansa may have lost this potential with her own wolf’s death in season one.

In the second book (or episode 3.2), Jojen Reed arrives to be Bran’s friend and tutor. He too has true dreams. Many of these dream prophecies have already come true, and all of them indicate the events to come.

Of course, Martin notes that prophecies can still surprise people, warning that “Not all of them mean what they seem to mean…”

Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy… In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that.

Many of the presented prophecies have come true—five of the seven books have been released after all. The more important prophecies (without significant spoilers) are presented in this chapter for fans who would like to explore their text and discover the shape of what is to come.

Chapter 3: The Coming of the Chosen One

ild book five spoilers of a new character and some revelations that may or may not be true]

In the ancient books it’s written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire, and that sword shall be Lightbringer. Stannis Baratheon, warrior of light, your sword awaits you. (2.1)

With these words, Melisandre the Red Priestess calls Stannis to be the Chosen One and prophesized king. Melisandre also warns that the seas will freeze and “the dead shall rise in the North” (2.1). The time has come for a champion to heal the world. In the books, Melisandre goes into more detail:

“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.”

“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.” (II:110)

However, there’s a dark side to the prophecy:

To fight the darkness, Azor Ahai needed to forge a hero’s sword. He labored for thirty days and thirty nights until it was done. However, when he went to temper it in water, the sword broke. He was not one to give up easily, so he started over. The second time he took fifty days and fifty nights to make the sword, even better than the first. To temper it this time, he captured a lion and drove the sword into its heart, but once more the steel shattered. The third time, with a heavy heart, for he knew beforehand what he must do to finish the blade, he worked for a hundred days and nights until it was finished. This time, he called for his wife, Nissa Nissa, and asked her to bare her breast. He drove his sword into her breast, her soul combining with the steel of the sword, creating Lightbringer. (II:115)

Azor Ahai clearly must sacrifice his great love to become his world’s champion. While characters like the Starks have lost loved ones, this was likely not a deliberate enough loss. Daenerys has more intentionally sacrificed her unborn child, but specifically to save her husband. The sacrifice brought forth the dragons, but also serves to show readers a great loss indeed is needed for great magic. The dragons may be Dany’s Lightbringer, but since dragons and a sword are both mentioned in the prophecies, a
sword of light
will likely be needed as well. Melisandre and Stannis’ schemes of burning unbelievers and royal captives is almost certainly not enough of a sacrifice, though Stannis does have an only child he might feel compelled to kill…

Waking dragons from stone is also interesting. Granted, Daenerys has hatched her dragons from stone eggs, but more may be coming. Many fans have wondered if the Targaryen home territory of Dragonstone with its stone dragon sculptures has actual dragons waiting to emerge. There are rumors of a dragon under the ice on the Wall. Bran (in a scene watched by his wolf Summer) may even have awoken a dragon as Winterfell burned. (
See Bran as Chosen One

Of course, the words are ambiguous. Targaryens are referred to as dragons, so a Targaryen might be resurrected or “brought forth from stone.” Jon’s Targaryen identity may have a clue waiting in Winterfell’s stone crypts. Those infected with greyscale, like Stannis’s daughter Shireen, are called “stonemen.” (If a Targaryen or Targaryen heir is infected with greyscale, the prophecy could come true in that sense.) Greyscale petrifies and is “unclean” according to the wildings, so Shireen’s sacrifice may be at hand.

Along with the prophecy of Azor Ahai, there’s also the Prince Who Was Promised, who may or may not be the same person: Prince Rhaegar, Daenerys’s older brother and heir to the throne before his death, named his son Aegon after Aegon the Conqueror and added, “What better name for a king?” In the House of the Undying vision, he said, “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire…The dragon must have three heads” (II.701). Though a three-headed dragon is the Targaryen crest, this last sentence is quoted later by Ser Jorah and Dany to suggest the dragonriding champion must have two partners… or even spouses. Daenerys’ three dragons support this theory, as she mentions her ancestors only ever rode a single dragon each. With three mounts, she needs three riders.

Based on Tyrion’s and Quentyn Martell of Dorne’s comments in the fifth book, a dragon is far more likely to accept a dragonrider with Targaryen blood. There’s been no mention of Starks, Tullys, or Lannisters having Targaryen ancestors, and it’s mentioned that great houses rarely intermarry, but it’s quite possible. Cersei thinks the Targaryens possess “the blood of Old Valyria, the blood of dragons and gods” (IV:360). It may be truer than she knows.

Characters with Targaryen Blood

  • Daenerys of course
  • Baby Aegon, if he lives and is who he says
  • The Golden Company: After the
    Blackfyre Rebellion
    failed, King Aegon IV’s legitimized bastard Aegor Rivers, called “Bittersteel,” fled Westeros with the surviving sons of the king’s other bastard Daemon Blackfyre, and formed the greatest mercenary company in the world, out in the Free Cities.
  • The Martells: Doran, Lord of Dorne, his three children, his brother Oberyn and his many bastard daughters the Sand Snakes.
  • The Baratheons, their trueborn children (Shireen but not Joffrey), and Robert’s numerous bastards—his acknowledged son Edric Storm is in Lys at last report, while the few others who survived Joffrey’s purge are in Westeros.
  • Bloodraven
  • Maester Aemon
  • Possibly Jon Snow (depending on
    his parentage

Further, Melisandre is eager to sacrifice those with a king’s blood, as she pronounces: “The Lord of Light cherishes the innocent. There is no sacrifice more precious. From his king’s blood and his untainted fire, a dragon shall be born” (III:599). In this case, it’s almost easier to name characters who
have king’s blood: The Starks, Greyjoys, and most other great houses were kings before Aegon the Conqueror (some Houses died out and others were advanced in their places, so not every great house fits this description). There’s everyone who’s named themselves kings in recent years, including Mance Rayder. And all the bastards once again. Melisandre seems eager for innocents in particular, though it’s unclear which factors do in fact make the best sacrifice. Her insistence on sacrificing royal children echoes Azor Ahai’s sacrifice of a lion—powerful-looking, but not the required sacrifice of the heart. Once again, she seems misguided in her approach.

Here, Melisandre links the three concepts: Azor Ahai, the prince who was promised, and the war against the Others:

“Make no mistake, good sers and valiant brothers, the war we’ve come to fight is no petty squabble over lands and honors. Ours is a war for life itself, and should we fail the world dies with us.”

All of them seemed surprised to hear Maester Aemon murmur, “It is the war for the dawn you speak of, my lady. But where is the prince that was promised?”

“He stands before you,” Melisandre declared, “though you do not have the eyes to see it. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai come again, the warrior of fire.” (III.884)

Maester Aemon seems to have read of this lore (perhaps in the Citadel where he was trained) and calls it the war for the dawn. Since Old Nan’s description of the long winter included endless night, this makes sense. But who is this Chosen One meant to lead?

Stannis as Chosen One

Stannis fits somewhat. Melisandre the red priestess, of course, insists that it’s him, although her agenda could be anything in the world, including the downfall of Stannis or all of Westeros.
He’s sacrificed many, but the stone dragons in his castle at Dragonstone haven’t awakened.

Stannis has an impressive flaming sword, but there’s no evidence it’s the real Lightbringer. Maester Aemon is skeptical because it remains cold. Further, the red priest Thoros of Myr who uses flaming swords as a tournament trick emphasizes this sword’s likely illusion. Gendry reports: “He’d just dip some cheap sword in wildfire and set it alight. It was only an alchemist’s trick” (III:308). One critic notes:

To recreate Lightbringer, Stannis symbolically sacrifices idols of his old faith, the Seven, in a great bonfire, and then draws the blade out of the burning form of the Mother. However, Stannis does not seem to have given up enough to create a new blade: his first weapon is a charred ruin, the second blazes with light but no heat. (It is unclear if he made another attempt, or if Melisandre just put a glamor on the burned blade.) The myths of Azor Ahai say that he ruined two swords in the making.

Clearly his third attempt, with its great sacrifice, has not been made. When it is, he may surprise everyone.

Stannis has Targaryen blood, as his and Robert’s Targaryen grandmother gives Robert his claim to the throne. It’s very hard to see him as Daenerys’s fellow champion and dragonrider, however. Daenerys envisions him in the House of the Undying. “Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow… mother of dragons… slayer of lies…” (II.706). Stannis has blue eyes, and Melisandre creates shades of him out of shadows. He also wields a flaming sword. However, Daenerys, “slayer of lies” may be on a quest to disprove his destiny.

Some people point to the Onion Knight, who is reborn amidst the smoke and salt of the Battle of Blackwater, and rises from near-death to rejoin Stannis. Certainly, it would be ironic if he is Melisandre’s chosen one, not Stannis. However, Davos acts steadily as Stannis’s advisor, making little effort for world-changing heroism.

Jon as Chosen One

Jon dreams of fighting with a blade that “burned red in his fist,” (V:769) and Melisandre, staring into her flames, thinks, “I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only [Jon] Snow” (V:408), suggesting he may be the one. Burned by fire, he discovers how to kill a wight and is rewarded with the hero sword Longclaw, though the salt is less clear in that scene. The stone dragons (on Dragonstone? With the
Horn of Winter
?) are more intriguing. His
Night’s Watch oath
holds him to be the sword in the darkness, which could literally come true as Azor Ahai.

Jon has also killed Quoron Halfhand for duty, and is no stranger to sacrificing those he loves. However, a larger sacrifice in the future is probably waiting.

Jon 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. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared. (V:769)

This is Jon’s dream, but in it, Jon kills Ygritte and his sword burns red, like Azor Ahai after killing the woman he loves. In the scene he’s a warrior of ice and fire joined, defending the Wall.

If he’s a Targaryen
, he’s also heir to the prophecy of the Prince who was Promised, who would be born of the line of Rhaegar and Daenerys’s parents—possibly his own grandparents.

In the fifth book, Jon is severely wounded and ends the story on a cliffhanger moment (leaving fans to squabble for years about his eventual fate). Several people have noticed that Jon is being splashed with tears from the giant standing over him, Jon’s wound is “smoking” like a dragon’s spilled blood, and above him, a dead knight’s starry sigil is covered in blood—salt and smoke, a bloody star—here are the Azor Ahai conditions. Even if he dies, he could be revived through many possibilities, from Ghost to Melisandre, and return stronger than before as the destined hero. Some fans suggest he will be put in the cells under the Wall among the
rooms for stored meat, and he may wake the rumored ice dragon sleeping under the ice there, or emerge himself with new magic.

Daenerys as Chosen One

Daenerys was born on Dragonstone, a saltwater-enclosed isle, and then reborn as the Mother of Dragons on a tear-stained smoky funeral pyre. This second birth “woke dragons from stone,” and on that morning, the “bleeding star,” the Red Comet, appeared. She fits the prophecy better than Stannis or even Jon does. Some readers believe the fiery dragons, born from sacrifice, represent Lightbringer, but the prophecies speak specifically about both dragons and sword, suggesting she’ll need one of the
magical swords described earlier

The hero’s and heroine’s classic journey involves a death-rebirth sequence, bringing the champion back stronger than before.

These journeys into darkness represent death—only by completely surrendering to the unknown can the heroine transcend her existence, and learn the wisdom and magic of mortality. In ancient matriarchal mythology, this descent was a desirable initiation made by female seekers of knowledge… The power of the ancient feminine would guide a woman down to the world of the unconscious, with untold wisdom as a reward.

Though Dany’s mentor is a treacherous and wicked sorceress, she leads her charge through the initiation all heroes must make. This scene in which Daenerys births the dragons is such a moment, emphasizing in epic fantasy style that she is the Chosen One of prophecy and magic. Of course, she will likely have a more devastating death-rebirth sequence further along—in most fantasy epics, the first book and the series as a whole both represent perfect hero’s or heroine’s journeys.

Further, Maester Aemon tells Sam that Daenerys is the child of the prophecy in
A Feast for Crows:
A child of the forest said that “the prince that was promised would be born of their line,” the line of Aerys and Rhaella, Daenerys’s parents (V:300-301). Maester Aemon notes:

BOOK: Winter is Coming: Symbols and Hidden Meanings in A Game of Thrones
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