Game of Thrones: Why might Benjen’s Return be so important?

Like almost every other Thrones fan, I was over the moon to see Benjen make a triumphant return in ‘Blood of my Blood’ wielding a flaming chain, as Meera slumped over Bran in a last ditch attempt to save him from the advancing wights after her legs finally gave out. Who wouldn’t be? The Starks haven’t exactly had much luck at the hands of Westerosi tyrants over the last 5 and a half seasons, and it was at least some comfort after the tragic deaths of Summer and Hodor at the end of ‘The Door’. The former First Ranger of the Night’s Watch is a changed man, however. Set upon by White Walkers as his ranging party were looking for them, he was mortally wounded with an ice spear and had begun changing into a wight when the Children of the Forest stopped the process by plunging dragonglass into his chest. Since then he’s been serving the Three-Eyed Raven North of the Wall. As we wander deep into the show’s underlying mythology that seems fair enough, right? But what if there was more to Benjen’s exchange with his nephew and Meera than meets the eye?

Benjen, The Night’s King and Azor Ahai

For the past few days Benjen’s explanation of how he managed to survive has stayed with me, yet I couldn’t explain why. And then it hit me. The way he was saved, a dragonglass dagger to the heart, mirrored almost exactly the way, generations earlier, the brave, now departed Leaf turned one of the First Men into the Night’s King, in retaliation for their attacks on their species and way of life, thus creating a race of blood-thirsty Ice Warriors. Could that really be a coincidence? Or could it possibly feed into the bigger picture?

Benjen Meera and Bran
Benjen (Joseph Mawle) tending to his nephew, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), as Meera (Ellie Kendrick) looks on. 

Taking a step back to examine the Azor Ahai prophecy, it’s foretold that a great hero who unsuccessfully attempts to forge a sword twice, first in water, the second time by plunging it into the heart of a lion, then successfully manages to do so by plunging a third sword, ‘Lightbringer’ through the bared chest of his Nissa Nissa, his beloved wife. Of course there’s been much talk in the show of how prophecies can be misinterpreted. It’s been mentioned that Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ older brother, thought he may have fulfilled the criteria in his youth, and Melisandre notoriously threw her weight behind Stannis’ claim for nearly all of the first five seasons, only to realise she’d wrongly divined what she saw in the flames a matter of hours before he faced down the Bolton army at Winterfell. Not only does this lead us to the possibility that there’s an allegorical, less clear way of interpreting who or what Azor Ahai is, or even that there could be multiple correct interpretations, but from the prophecy itself there’s also a blatant precedent of the action of plunging an object into something/someone’s heart to temper a weapon. Sound familiar? Leaf did essentially push dragonglass into the chest of one of the First Men in order to create a weapon against them, the weapon of course being the White Walkers. But where does that fit in with the prophecy? Well, there’s a perfectly plausible theory here that the Night’s King was originally a Lannister, and their House sigil happens to bear the image of a lion. To add a little more fuel to the fire, if you’ve ever been able to tear yourself away from the Night’s King’s piercing blue eyes, you might have noticed the clasp on his armour…

Night's king clasp

Is it just me, or does the thing in the middle look like a crude emblem of a dagger? Perhaps even the jagged edges of the dragonglass blade that was thrust into his chest all those years before? Indeed, the whole thing looks like a great big arrow announcing the spot on his body from where the transformation took place, and almost seems to incite his enemies to ‘come and get him’.

So all of this throws up two possibilities. Firstly that Azor Ahai isn’t just one person and, in fact, is an generational procession towards the fulfilment of the prophecy that probably spans thousands of years and, secondly, that the creation of the White Walkers was the second failed attempt to create ‘Lightbringer’. (It’s also possible that the Hammer of the Waters was the first ‘tempering’ that went wrong.) How the third, successful attempt will take place, as well as who Nissa Nissa will be, are ripe for debate?

Is the Dragonglass in The Night’s King’s Heart ‘Lightbringer’?

In other stories handed down from the people of Asshai, the place in the East where Melisandre hails from, it’s mentioned that Azor Ahai Reborn will pull a flaming sword out of the fire and will thus bring an end to the darkness. Now here’s where we require a leap of faith to join the dots together. Dragonglass is forged from the heat of a volcano, thus, at least figuratively, making it frozen fire. So picture this. At some point in the future Daenerys and Jon, the two most obvious candidates for the mantel of Westerosi saviour, have joined forces with every other human who’s still alive to meet the White Walkers on the battlefield. ‘The Mother of Dragons’ is naturally going to make use of her ‘children’ to dispatch the bulk of the wights the Night’s King deploys against the alliance, but the Walkers themselves remain because of their immunity to fire. Some can be despatched with Valyrian steel swords. Others with the dragonglass weapons they’ve hopefully mined from Dragonstone. Maybe even wildfire will come into play somewhere. But still their leader fights on. What if the only way he can be defeated is to reverse what the Children of the Forest did to him, and for the blade in his heart to be pulled from his chest in the midst of a burning battlefield by either Dany or Jon? As his army’s strength seems to derive entirely from his mystical powers, his demise would bring an end to the Night and so it follows that the blade removed from his body would be ‘Lightbringer’ in its most literal form.

Jon Dany collage
Can Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) be both Azor Ahai and Lightbringer? Or does the former title belong to someone else? 

But where does Nissa Nissa fit into this hypothesis, I hear you ask. Well, what if, as I’ve already discussed, the prophecies can be interpreted in a fluid manner that means ‘Lightbringer’ can concurrently be both an actual weapon and a person/people? It’s already been mentioned on the show that Azor Ahai doesn’t necessarily have to be a man, so why can’t the person the saviour sacrifices to forge the weapon also be a man and/or a woman? If this is true then it needs to be noted that both Dany and Jon have already sacrificed the ones they love at great personal cost; the former unwittingly killing Khal Drogo by agreeing to allow a witch to use blood magic on him back in Season 1, whilst for the latter it’s Olly, the boy he encouraged to pick up a crossbow during the battle with the Wildlings, that despatched Ygritte. In this less literal scenario, they are essentially ‘Lightbringers’ and their experiences over time have forged them into the individuals who are most capable of defeating the White Walkers and facing down the prospect of another ‘Long Night’. By following this train of thought to its natural conclusion, we could also surmise that it’s Bran and the previous incarnation of the Three-Eyed Raven, the ones who’ve helped and will presumably help to shape and ‘forge’ the lives and decisions of the players left in the game by means of their mystical greensight, who are the real embodiments of Azor Ahai.

So what do you think? Crackpot theory, or believable resolution to the conflict in the show? Let us know your own crazy theories in the comments…

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