Game Of Thrones' Azor Ahai Prophecy, Explained — Just In Time For Season 8

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones will feature some familiar faces from the Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen families, but it will also mention at least one pivotal character who's never made an onscreen appearance: The Prince That Was Promised aka Azor Ahai. This mysterious character dates back thousands of years and provides the basis for Game of Thrones' Azor Ahai prophecy, arguably one of the most important prophecies in the novels and in the series.
According to GoT's most esteemed prophetess, Melisandre, the prophecy reads as follows: "Darkness will fall heavy on the world. Stars will bleed. The cold breath of winter will freeze the seas, and the dead shall rise in the North. In the ancient books, it is written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire. And that sword will be the Lightbringer."
The Red Queen mentions Azor Ahai other times, including once when she called Stannis Baratheon (R.I.P.) "Azor Ahai," or The Prince That Was Promised (these terms seem to be used interchangeably in the show, and we're treating them as such here).
"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 in A Storm of Swords.
But who is Azor Ahai, and why is he relevant in season 8? Let's go all the back to the Long Night to find out.

What Is Azor Ahai's Long Night?

There's nothing pleasant about the infamous Long Night, which is said to have lasted for generations. This dark period began and ended thousands of years ago, and peoples from all over the Game of Thrones universe — stretching all the way from the outermost edges of Westeros to the ends of Essos — seem to have stories about the Long Night, Vulture reports. One such story surfaced in season 1, when Old Nan told Bran Stark a horrifying bedtime story.
"Fear is for the winter when the snow falls 100-feet deep. Fear is for the Long Night when the sun hides for years, and the children are born and live and die all in darkness," she warned. "That is the time for fear, my little Lord. When the White Walkers move through the woods. Thousands of years ago, there came a night that lasted a generation."
She continued to say that nearly everyone froze, including royalty, froze to death during this period. But the most terrifying element of the tale wasn't the death toll; it was the unsettling arrival of the undead.
"In that darkness, the White Walkers came for the first time," she added. "They swept through cities and kingdoms riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of white spiders, big as hounds."
Little did Bran — or the rest of us — know that the Long Night would repeat itself, this time threatening even more death and destruction as the Night King gathered his army of White Walkers.

How Did Azor Ahai End The Long Night?

The first documented Long Night took place during what many now refer to as the Age of Heroes. As the period suggests, there were a few standout figures who helped end the reign of terror and preserve peace, most notably a man named Azor Ahai.
Legend has it that Azor Ahai was personally chosen to end the darkness (some, like Melisandre, say by R'hllor, the Lord of Light), but to do so, he needed to craft a burning sword called the Lightbringer and make the ultimate sacrifice.
He created three blades. The first two were busts and took Azor Ahai 30 days and 30 nights and 50 days and 50 nights to craft, respectively. The third time around, our hero spent 100 days and 100 nights hard at work. Sadly, he knew he'd have to give up the one thing he loved most to test its abilities. So, he summoned over his wife, Nissa Nissa, and thrust the blade into her heart. Though she died, her soul combined with the sword and gave it the fire-burning properties it needed to help end the Long Night.

And So, Azor Ahai Is Definitely Coming Back?

Melisandre sure thinks so! And so do a lot of others, including Rhaegar Targaryen, who strongly believed The Prince That Was Promised would one day come again. And, as we learned from Missandei in season 7, the promised "prince" doesn't have to be a man.
As we've heard Melisandre mention, Azor Ahai's second coming will be contingent on the following factors:
1. He or she must be born of smoke and salt
2. He or she must wake dragons out of stone
3. He or she must be born under a bleeding red star
4. He or she must make a sacrifice
5. Darkness must fall upon the earth

Who Is Most Likely Azor Ahai Reincarnate?

There are quite a few theories floating around about who Azor Ahai could be, the most popular of which center on Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. The cases for each possible Azor Ahai candidate (in full here) are quite compelling.
Jon checks off a lot of boxes, though the evidence may not be as apparent as it is with Dany. For instance, some argue that Jon was reborn of smoke and salt after he was stabbed to death in the books (the "salt" being Bowen Marsh's tears and the "smoke" being the steam rising from his wounds). The "bleeding star" element is similarly lofty in Jon's case. Some believe that the sword Ned took with him when he visited Lyanna Stark (Jon's mother) on her deathbed was cast from a star. Though the sword didn't bleed, per se, it might have been covered in Lyanna's blood as she lay dying.
The argument in favor of Dany being Azor Ahai is even more convincing. She was first born near the ocean on Dragonstone, which is revered for its volcanic and fiery properties. Her "rebirth" — the time she emerged from Khal Drogo's pyre with her three dragons — was just as significant and checks off two more boxes: A red comet flew over the world, and her dragons hatched.
Additionally, Rhaegar Targaryen believed that The Prince That Was Promised descended from Aeyrs Targaryen II (the Mad King), which would make both Jon and Dany eligible contenders.
As for their sacrifices? Well, it's possible they haven't yet made them (though some argue taking the Night Watch oath or being reborn from your dead spouse's pyre count as viable options).
Still, there could be others worthy of becoming Azor Ahai. Some feel Bran Stark, Tyrion Lannister, or even Baratheon bastard Gendry could be the long-lost hero.
As we've learned from seven seasons of Game of Thrones, fans should never say never. There's always a chance that two or more people could join forces to fulfill the Azor Ahai prophecy. What if Jon, Dany, and Bran work together to end the darkness? Or, what if Tyrion's life was the ultimate sacrifice needed to forge the Lightbringer? (Actor Peter Dinklage has commented that his character "was given a very good conclusion.") Only time — and a lot of bloodshed — will tell.

More from TV

R29 Original Series