The first official pictures for Game of Thrones season 7 arrived last night, and among all the excitement (Jon looking all Kingly! Brimund! Jaime’s Valyrian steel sword!) there was one image that particularly caught our eye.
The picture in question doesn’t seem that exciting at first – it’s just John Bradley’s Sam and Hannah Murray’s Gilly reading some books – but if you look closer at what Gilly’s reading, the text has some huge ramifications for the series as a whole.
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Can’t make out what it’s saying? Well, luckily for you some diligent maesters (aka Game of Thrones fans on the internet) have deciphered the text, which you can read more clearly below:
It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire.
This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.
Yep – it’s more stuff about Azhor Ahai, aka The Prince that was Promised, aka the chosen one who will be reborn to save all of Westeros from “darkness” (most probably represented by the forces of the White Walkers). Apparently it’s an exact copy of text from real-world Westeros history book A World of Ice and Fire which also has an in-universe equivalent. God bless worldbuilding.
Anyway, for those not in the know this prophecy (which goes back thousands of years in the fictional Game of Thrones universe) is a big part of both the TV series and George RR Martin’s source novels, with various candidates from among the cast suggested to be the rebirth of this towering figure.
While the likes of former High Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, his son Aegon and wannabe King Stannis Baratheon have all been suggested to be this Azhor Ahai reborn, most fans believe that it’s either Jon Snow (Kit Harington) or Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) who will turn out to be Westeros’ prophesied saviour.
Crucially, both were born in the right circumstances as laid out by Carice van Houten’s Melisandre, who suggested in the books that the Prince that was Promised will be reborn in VERY specific circumstances.
“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,” she says, with fans since pointing out that Daenerys’ birth on the coastal island of Dragonstone (salt) under a red comet (bleeding star) fits this description, with her time on the funeral pyre of her husband Khal Drogo in book/series one (after which she was reborn as the Mother of Dragons) providing the smoke. The new series will also see her return to her Dragonstone birthplace, perhaps providing the final part of the prophecy.
Meanwhile both the series and the books have hinted that it could instead be Jon Snow who is the prophesied hero, with book-Jon dreaming of fighting with a red sword (which matches the description of Azhor Ahai’s traditional weapon Lightbringer) and being murdered under a blood-spattered sigil of stars while his wounds smoke and one man cries salt tears.
In the HBO series his death is carried out slightly differently, but in the flashback that confirms his real parentage (that’s Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, fact fans) the scene takes pains to show that Jon was born under the blood-spattered sword of Arthur Dayne (below), which was famously made from a fallen star (in other words, a meteorite). ANOTHER bleeding star birth, then.
For now it’s not clear which (if either) of these two characters will turn out to be Azhor Ahai, but the inclusion of the prophecy in Gilly’s reading suggests that it will play a bigger role in the upcoming series, perhaps with Sam revealing its possibility to a wider group of people and the true chosen one finally revealed.
That, or we’ll just see Gilly start to read it, get bored and look for some more exciting dragon stories instead. Don’t judge – it’s what we’re all thinking during certain scenes as well.
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres exclusively on 17th July on Sky Atlantic and online streaming service NOW TV at 2am, repeated at 9pm on the same day.