The battle of Winterfell ended with one stab of Arya Stark and the Night King, the White Walkers, the army of the dead, the Great War – and years of theorising over who is -the chosen one- on Game of Thrones ended. There were many fans who understandably got upset. There have been several hints that Jon and/or Dany would be The One, a.k.a. Azor Ahai, a.k.a the prince (or princess) that was promised.
Out of the many, many theories about who it would be, Arya never really rated a mention. To unpack this and discover what it all really means, let’s take a look back at the original forecast:
Basically, Azor Ahai was a hero who lived thousands of years ago, according to followers of the Lord of Light. To fight “the darkness” (usually interpreted as the White Walkers), Azor Ahai forged a sword, Lightbringer. He first tried to temper it with water and then with the heart of the lion, and in both instances the sword broke.
Finally, he laboured on the sword again and tempered it by plunging it into the heart of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa. Her soul combined with the sword to create Lightbringer.
A prophecy the red priests and priestesses believe in is that Azor Ahai will be reborn again as the prince that was promised. In the books, different characters have mentioned bits and pieces of the prophecy that collectively add up to a set of conditions most fans believe need to be fulfilled to signal the return of Azor Ahai:
• Born amidst smoke and salt.
• Born beneath a bleeding star.
• Will wake dragons out of stone.
• Will draw Lightbringer from the flames.
• Will have to make a sacrifice.
• Theirs is the song of ice and fire.
• They are the blood of the dragon (and more specifically, a descendant of Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen).
Both Jon and Daenerys fit this criteria in some way, and it’s the reason why fans have long believed one or both of them would be the key to defeating the Night King – with numerous leaning towards Jon in particular, because of the way his storyline has been so caught up in the fight against the darkness.
Even within the show – although the prophecy has never been fully detailed as it has in the books – Melisandre has stated repeatedly that Jon Snow is the prince that was promised.
In the meantime, red priests and priestesses in Essos suggested it was Daenerys.
And yet, in Season 8, Episode 3, Arya yeets herself right into the Night King, smashing everyone’s theories in the process.
But here’s the thing – Melisandre’s whole arc has been about how prophecy and visions aren’t specific, and that she’s human and imperfect (as are the other red priests and priestesses).
She’s made mistakes. For seasons she thought Stannis was the prince that was promised, and look how that turned out.
Melisandre herself, by the time she meets Dany and talks about the idea that she could be the prince/princess that was promised, says how “dangerous” prophecies are, and is cautious to state that Dany and Jon each have a role to play – nothing more than that.
So does that mean Arya is Azor Ahai?
Well, she doesn’t really satisfy most of prophesied criteria, even in symbolic ways – and yet the Hound and Ser Beric were kept alive to keep her alive. She is the Lord of Light’s chosen warrior, whatever that means. That kind of makes her Azor Ahai by default, if you believe the prediction was simply about killing the Night King.
It’s likely more complicated than that, though. All the symbolism around Jon and Dany can’t be for nothing, right? Melisandre very purposely brought them together.
Maybe their purpose – the way they brought the dawn – was to unite and bring together their armies and their people so that they stood a fighting chance against the army of the dead. So that Arya was in the right place at the right time in order to kill the Night King.
Arya only went to Winterfell in the first place after hearing Jon was there, remember.
But perhaps the prophecy wasn’t just about killing the Night King – possibly banishing the darkness and ushering in a new era of light is about what happens after the war, too. It could be an indication they’ll actually rule together – and be good leaders, at that.
Although if this is the case, it does raise the question of why the Lord of Light, whose religion is basically non-existent in Westeros, would give a damn about the politics or people there.
Then again, perhaps it all comes down to the fact that the prophecy is incorrect and eventually pointless.
As George R. R. Martin himself wrote in A Dance With Dragons, “prophecy is like a half-trained mule. It looks as though it might be useful, but the moment you trust in it, it kicks you in the head.”
It would be unsatisfying if we don’t get more resolution around this plot-point by the end of the series. But Game of Thrones does love challenging our expectations – for better or worse.