Note: This piece will draw on events/theories relating to both the HBO show and George R. R. Martin’s series of books. If you to stay completely spoiler-free, look away now!
In the book version of Daenerys’ vision in the House of the Undying, she sees a man readily identifiable as her older brother (and the all but confirmed father of Jon Snow), Rhaegar Targaryen, standing over his newborn son and cryptically proclaiming that, “The dragon has three heads”. But what does that mean? The Targaryen sigil depicts a three-headed dragon, leading many to conclude that it’s symbolic of the the three prevailing prophecies in ‘The Known World‘; ‘The Stallion who Mounts the World’, ‘The Prince who was Promised’ and ‘Azor Ahai’, all pointing to a single individual who will encapsulate all of these predictions and fight against the White Walkers in the War for the Dawn. Others, myself included, believe Rhaegar’s words actually represent three separate heroes who’ll be brought together to fight (amongst many other others) against the dark forces in the North and perhaps ride Daenerys’ dragons in the onslaught. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the possible, plausible candidates and will discuss their suitability accordingly.
That Daenerys is one of the ‘three heads’ is almost painfully obvious. She is, after all, the Mother of Dragons, and has already bonded enough with Drogon to successfully ride him into battle against The Masters of the main slaver cities in the East. Something that we might not be able to take for granted, however, is the much alluded to suggestion that she has to be ‘Azor Ahai‘. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of evidence to support her claim to the title. Her figurative rebirth in Drogo’s funeral pyre ‘amidst smoke and salt’ (smoke from the pyre and tears from the mourners), very firmly cements her as one of the strongest candidates, as does her Targaryen blood. The biggest question mark against this argument comes in the form of her connection to ‘Lightbringer‘, the legendary, flaming sword that is wielded by Azor Ahai. Whilst being ostensibly flame-proof is a huge bonus in relation to this, Dany isn’t a warrior in the strictest sense, nor has she ever physically fought with a sword before. Of course it can be argued that her dragons are the ‘flaming weapon’, Drogon specifically, but I’d like to believe the realisation of the prophecy is much more nuanced than that. Having already united each of the khalasars into one ‘Super-Khalasar’, it seems much more likely that ‘Daenerys the Conqueror’ will fulfil the dothraki prophecy pertaining to ‘The Stallion who Mounts the World‘, (the mantel previously awarded to her unborn son by a member of the Dosh Khaleen), with the breadth of her power as a ruler stretching from East to West.
After the confirmation of R+L=J (Rhaegar Targaryen + Lyanna Stark = Jon Snow) at the end of Season 6 and his earlier resurrection, it seems highly likely that Jon will be joining Daenerys as one of the triumvirate spearheading the fight against the Night King. But where does he fit in amongst the various prophesies? Even Melisandre seems to alternate between suggesting he’s Azor Ahai and The Prince that was Promised, underlining the amalgamation of the two in the world these characters inhabit. And yet, there’s little actual evidence to suggest they have to be one and the same person. I found it incredibly interesting that they felt it necessary to show Ser Arthur Dayne’s sword being placed at the end of the bed where Jon’s mother, Lyanna, lay dying after giving birth to him. Dawn, the ancestral sword of House Dayne, is said to be have been made from the ‘heart of a fallen star’, i.e. the metal from a meteorite that’s fallen to Earth. In the aftermath of Ned Stark’s duel with Dayne at the Tower of Joy, because he made his way up to his sister with that weapon in hand, it might not be unreasonable to propose that the bloodied sword was the ‘bleeding star’ that was prophesied to herald the birth of the awaited ‘Prince’ who, because of his Stark/Targaryen parentage, is also the living embodiment of the ‘Song of Ice and Fire‘.
“You’ll never walk again, but you will fly”: these words, spoken by the former Three-Eyed Raven to his young protege, Bran Stark, in the Season 4 finale have been the basis for many to argue that the young man will be one of the trio to become dragon riders; a theory buoyed by George R.R. Martin’s own admission that they don’t necessarily have to have Targaryen blood to hop aboard one of the beasts. Nevertheless, Bran’s paralysis proves proves a thorny issue in terms of it being physically possible. There are two ways to circumvent this problem. Way back in Season 1, Tyrion devised a saddle to help him ride a horse after he lost the use of his legs. That could well have been a hint that something on grander scale to help sit atop a much bigger animal may be possible. There’s also the non-literal interpretation of the Three-Eyed Raven’s words. Bran is, unquestionably, a very gifted warg and is therefore perhaps capable of controlling one of Dany’s dragons from the ground like a scaled, fire-breathing drone.
Personally, whilst I can readily subscribe to the possibility of Bran ‘taking the controls’ if one of the dragons become unwieldy, I’ve always believed that the last Three-Eyed Raven was presciently forecasting his own downfall and his pupil’s ascension to the role when he dashed the Stark boy’s hopes that he’ll one day be able to walk again during their first meeting. Ravens are obviously birds capable of flight and we’ve already seen that the job comes with a physical manifestation of the title, allowing Bran to keep an eye on all that’s happening in the kingdom, and also boosting the reach of his powers alongside his ability to see into the past and the future by utilising his ‘greensight‘. As an aside, it’s actually striking how much the youngest, remaining Stark child’s journey seems to echo that of the ‘The Last Hero‘, a legendary figure who went out to seek the Children of the Forest during the Long Night, fleeing from the ‘The Others’ and losing each of his fellow travellers one by one. It also seems a lot like foreshadowing that the tale of this individual was told to Bran in the books by Old Nan shortly after he was pushed from the tower at Winterfell by Jaime Lannister.
Tyrion Lannister has always been a fan favourite to fly one of the dragons. Admittedly, the thought of one of the most derided and put upon people in the Seven Kingdoms, mostly because of his small stature, literally rising above everybody else is a potent one. There is some evidence to bolster the theory as well. As with his brother and sister, there is a lot of speculation as to whether or not The Mad King Aerys is his real father (I’ll discuss this in greater detail with Jaime), which could potentially add weight to the argument. There’s also his life-long fascination with the creatures, which he admitted to being the case once again when he went down to release Rhaegal and Viserion from their chains beneath the Great Pyramid this season. Much has been read into the fact they didn’t instantly toast him like a marshmallow as soon as they saw him, but I believe he explained that away himself when he told Varys, Grey Worm and Missandei that dragons are intelligent beasts who know the difference between those who mean to harm them and those who mean to help them.
In actual fact, I think I’d be a little disappointed if Tyrion did turn out to be one of the dragon riders. The imp’s power resides in his ability to bend other people to his will with both his wit and charm. Talking Daenerys down from taking the nuclear option with The Masters in the Season 6 finale was a great example of that. In light of him having the ability to advise and be listened to by the likely future Queen of Westeros, it automatically makes him one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) person in the kingdom without ever having to lift a sword. It would also potentially diminish the awful irony and poetic beauty of Tyrion’s relationship with Tywin, in that he was very much his son, but his father was too blinkered by his disgust for his child’s physical appearance, and too busy blaming him for his wife’s death during childbirth to see that he’d inherited every bit of his own ability to rule Westeros from his position as Hand to the King/Queen, and even more besides.
For me, Jaime is perhaps the most interesting candidate, not least of all because he doesn’t fit the mould for a conventional hero. For obvious reasons. Delving into the conjecture regarding all of the Lannister children’s parentage, there is evidence that King Aerys ‘took liberties’ with Joanna Lannister, their mother, during the bedding ceremony after her marriage to Tywin. That, in itself, isn’t necessarily proof that he fathered any of them, but the twins’ incestuous relationship and Cersei’s apparent descent into madness, both being Targaryen traits, add fuel to the fire. In terms of the books, further weight is added to the argument when Jaime dreams of his Mother and she asks him if he ever truly knew his father, before shedding tears when her eldest son insists that Tywin got to see his children become a knight and a Queen respectively. If, indeed, Jaime is the son of the man he murdered to save the people of King’s Landing from fiery deaths, that also means he has ‘the blood of the dragon’ running through his veins.
Something else has started bugging me lately about Jaime too, specifically the purpose of him losing his hand within the narrative. Naturally, it was a means for the outward pride and arrogance of a character, whose reputation previously relied heavily on his excellence as a swordsmen, to be peeled away to reveal a flawed, yet somewhat empathetic man underneath. Not only does he loathe many of his past actions, but he also struggles with his reputation as the ‘Kingslayer’. Yet, what if it’s meant to serve another function in the future? Unlike his potential half sister, Daenerys, he’s not immune to heat or fire, in the same way that Jon isn’t (he’s burnt by the lantern he throws at the wight that entered Jeor Mormont’s chambers back in Season 1). Jaime even passes out from the heat of the bath he shares with Brienne after explaining to her why he killed Aerys. But what if his golden hand can be manipulated, either by magical or mechanical means, to wield a flaming sword like ‘Lightbringer’? As crazy as it seems to link him to the role of Azor Ahai, there is scope to do so.
Back at the start of Season 4, Joffrey mocks Jaime for his ‘lack of great deeds’ in the Book of Brothers, whilst his real father (a fact unknown to the now deceased King) hits back that he still has the opportunity to fill the empty pages next to his name. With regards to writing conventions, this particular example of a ‘Chekhov’s gun‘ is quietly waiting for its trigger to be pulled; a near certainty that’s intermittently reinforced by Brienne, who fully believes, and has seen, that he’s capable of acts of great bravery and honour. The prophecy regarding how ‘Lightbringer‘ comes into being may also dovetail into Jaime’s character arc quite neatly. In the stories related to its origins, Azor Ahai makes three attempts to forge a sword, spending increasing amounts of time and effort to perfect each weapon. In the first instance he tries to temper it in water, but it broke. The second time he captures a lion and thrusts the blade through its heart, but once again it shatters. On the final occasion, he reluctantly calls for his wife, Nissa Nissa, and plunges the final sword into her heart, her soul merging with the metal to create Lightbringer. I don’t think it’s too much of stretch to argue that the prophecy doesn’t have to be interpreted in the most literal sense. Indeed, regarding Jaime and swords, there’s already a precedent for them having underlying symbolism. There’s a great post here that delves into exactly that, specifically in relation to him and Brienne in the books, spotlighting the explicitly sexual suggestions that pepper their meetings, including the jaw-droppingly carnal subtext to their sword fight on the bridge. Futhermore, aside from the obvious Freudian undertones of a man giving his sword to a woman,’Oathkeeper’ has become emblematic of of the deeper feelings they now share for each other. In ‘No One’ Jaime refuses to take the weapon back from her after she attempts return it stating, “It’s yours. It will always be yours.” Even if neither of them are ready to consciously accept it yet, it appears absolutely blatant that he’s more than content with a symbol of both his masculinity and, dare I say it, his romantic interests residing with Brienne perpetually, in spite of his protestations to Edmure Tully that everything he does is for Cersei later in the episode. Likewise, the ‘Maid of Tarth’ is certainly prepared to keep hold of it.
So where exactly does this fit in with ‘Lightbringer’? Well, what if the tempering process in the prophecy doesn’t actually relate to a sword, but is rather a metaphor for an individual striving, and twice failing, to become a better, braver, more honourable person, who has all the attributes to lead people into the fight against the White Walkers, and who finally succeeds on the third attempt. That first tempering in water could well be represented in the aforementioned bath scene with Brienne when Jaime confesses why he was forced to slay his King. The second, the capture and stabbing through the heart of a lion, could also relate to a future event that’s linked to yet another prophecy; Cersei’s foretold demise at the hands of the ‘Valonqar‘ or ‘little brother’. For all of her disgust and readiness to end Tyrion’s life, we know that Jaime is also her younger sibling by a matter of minutes, and judging by the none too happy expression on his face as he witnessed her coronation at the end of Season 6, I think it’s safe to say he’s currently the prime candidate to take her life. That House Lannister is represented by a lion hardly seems to be a coincidence in this context. But what of the third tempering? If you take it at face value, and many people have, then it could be argued that in order to forge either his flaming sword or his own character, his ‘wife’ will be forced to give up her life for the sake of the greater good. If we can assume that Cersei is already dead at this point, then it seems fairly reasonable that Brienne will be that ‘wife’, either in the literal sense of the word or in a less traditional way. So will Jaime be forced to kill her? Not necessarily. The last sentence of this part of the prophecy in A Clash of Kings is pretty curious:
He drove his sword into her breast, her soul combining with the steel of the sword, creating Lightbringer, while her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon.
In my opinion, once again, the imagery conjured up could be construed as overtly sexual. Particularly as the ‘cry of anguish and ecstasy’ might conceivably represent the moment a woman’s virginity is lost and not the instance of her death. Additionally, the ‘crack across the face of the moon’ may well foretell the point at which her hymen is broken through intercourse. In places throughout the books, there are examples of characters referring to menstruation as ‘moonblood’, so it’s not an allusion that has been plucked out of thin air. The case for this women being Brienne is made all the more compelling by the viewer/reader’s knowledge that she is indeed a virgin, and because her house sigil bears hymen-like, half moons. So why would consummating the ‘marriage’ be such a bittersweet endeavour for the would-be Azor Ahai if by this point the duo have accepted their mutual love and affection for one another? In short, Jaime values her purity and innocence in a way that was impossible with Cersei. He even lost his hand guarding it from would-be rapists back in Season 3, long before their connection was as deep as it is now. Just as his sister’s insatiable sexual appetite is linked to her voracious greed for power, so too is Brienne’s chastity linked to her honourable actions. Through modern eyes that is a problematic concept, but it makes sense in George R.R. Martin’s pseudo-medieval setting, where innocence is perceived as a future indicator of fidelity and a woman’s abilities to be a good mother; an important factor for someone whose house is on the brink of extinction. Now that Cersei has proven to be lacking in both areas, it stands to reason that her brother will finally cut the cord and look for what he needs in the arms of a woman who is her polar opposite.
The bottom line is Jaime wants to be heroic and to be publicly recognised as being so. This wish was visible in his interactions with the legendary fighter, The Blackfish, during the Siege of Riverrun and the obvious disappointment he felt when he found out the old man had been killed after he’d blackmailed Edmure Tully into handing the castle over. Likewise, in his disgust when Walder Frey, a man who’s never set foot on the battlefield, tried to compare himself to him. To do so, it’s likely he’ll have to betray his house after all.
Ok, Ok, so I’ve thrown Varys into the mix as the wildest of wildcards, but why? Because there is some convincing speculation about him having Targaryen blood that not only proposes he shaves his head to disguise the silver hair that’s the trademark of the family dynasty, but also highlights the similarities between the circumstances under which he was ‘cut’ by a sorcerer and his parts thrown into the fire, and Melisandre’s use of leeches on Gendry to help Stannis’ cause back in Season 3. The common denominator possibly being the King’s blood that runs through both their veins. It would also explain his eagerness to install a Targaryen on the throne. Nevertheless, I find it incredibly hard to imagine him being one of the three heads of the dragon, especially as he’s only a secondary character. It’s much more likely his role will continue to be to compliment both Daenerys and Tyrion in their fight against Cersei and then the White Walkers.
Daenerys has already bonded with the largest of the three dragons, Drogon, named after her late husband. It also seems apt that his black and red colouring reflect those of House Targaryen.
Out of the remaining two dragons, it’s seems likely that Jon will fly the one named after his recently revealed father, Rhaegar, doesn’t it? Again, his colouring could well be important as House Stark banners bear a green band across them.
Named after Viserys, the brother who threatened to have her raped and later murdered, it seems darkly comical that Dany named her golden coloured ‘child’ after her sibling who was killed having a cauldron of molten gold dumped over his head, thus proving him to be ‘no true dragon’. If my theorising regarding Jaime’s parentage and narrative arc is correct, then he could become the ‘true brother’ she never had. It’s also telling that Viserion’s colouring mirrors not only the golden armour he used to wear as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, but also the lion on the Lannister sigil.
So what do you think? Who can you see riding Daenerys’ dragons into battle? Let us know in the comments…