Game of Thrones Theories: Clues and Foreshadowing

The first episode of Season Eight of HBO’s Game of Thrones television series is just 19 days away. For those who are gearing up for the final season by reading up on theories about how it might end, I have a few. (In this post I assume that you have seen the TV series and therefore forgo a lot of explanation.)

Warning: Possible SPOILERS ahead.

Just so you know—my track record on predicting endings is pretty good. Before Book 7 of the Harry Potter series was published, I predicted that Harry was a horcrux, that Snape was loyal to Dumbledore, and that Harry would kill Voldemort and survive. Right on all counts. I also figured out the secret twist to The Sixth Sense before I had seen the movie and correctly guessed the identity of the assassin in the Left Behind series.

That being said, getting into the mind of George R. R. Martin has been a bit more challenging. The sheer scope of the series and the number of clues dropped into the text and show make the task of hypothesizing the ending a difficult task. What makes it even possible to hazard any guesses at all is that Martin is a master at foreshadowing. Despite the challenge, I do have some educated theories about what we might find out in the show next month.

Guess #1: Jon Snow is the Prince Who Was Promised/Azor Ahai. Or is it Daenerys Targaryen? Or both of them together?

One thing we know about Martin’s epic tale is that he doesn’t entirely discount legend, prophecy, or even the supernatural, but he does question it. Therefore, it’s likely that some of the hints that have been placed throughout the books and TV series will come to fruition, some will not, and some will come true in unexpected ways. (For example, predictions about the White Walkers have come true … they ride dead horses and bring the cold. Giants, direwolves, and greenseers are all real. But as of yet there are no “spiders big as hounds,” as Old Nan described. What that tells us is that in GOT, legends are based on truth, but they’ve also likely been embellished over thousands of years.)

There have been clues about the hero who will return to fight the White Walkers and the undead, and some of these have supported Jon Snow and some have supported Daenerys (Dany) Targaryen as the fulfillment. My guess is that both will play a huge role in the fight and that it will take them both along with the entire wolf and dragon packs to beat the Others. Here are some of those clues:

(Book 2, Melisandre, a clue supporting Jon): “In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”

(Book 3, Melisandre, supporting Dany): “It is written in prophecy … 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.”

(Book 5, Melisandre, supporting Jon): “What do you see [in the fire], my lady?” the boy asked … Skulls. A thousand skulls, and the bastard boy again. Jon Snow. … R’hllor spoke to his chosen ones through blessed fire … Melisandre had practiced her art for years beyond count … There was no one, even in her order, who had her skill … Yet now she could not even seem to find her king. I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow.

(Book 5, Xaro Xhoan Daxos to Dany, supporting Dany): “When your dragons were small they were a wonder. Grown, they are death and devastation, a flaming sword [emphasis mine] above the world.”

(Book 5, Jon Snow, supporting Jon): That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns … “Stand fast,” Jon Snow called. “Throw them back.” He stood atop the Wall, alone. “Flame,” he cried, “feed them flame,” but there was no one to pay heed. … “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again.

(Book 1, Ser Jorah to Dany, supporting Dany): “The stallion is the khal of khals promised in ancient prophecy, child. He will unite the Dothraki into a single khalasar and ride to the ends of the earth, or so it was promised. All the people of the world will be his herd.”

Also, let’s not forget other characters who have shown some signs of fulfilling the prophecy, such as Beric Dondarrion, who has a flaming sword, and who was brought back from the dead multiple times, maybe for—he has wondered—some greater purpose.

This theory is not new, but my true guess here is that we’ll see a team effort, although I think Jon has the slightly greater claim, since he is both ice (Stark) and fire (Targaryen), and the series is A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet, after all, as Eddard Stark often said, echoed at the end of last season by Sansa, “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” 

Guess # 2: Tyrion is a Targaryan by blood.

This also isn’t a new theory, which is based on several characters that indicate “the dragon has three heads” (the other two heads being Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryen), but lately this theory has been discounted by some due to the death of Dany’s dragon Viserion and his subsequent appropriation by the Night King, causing some theorists to surmise that this prophecy is no longer valid. Yet there have also been hints that Dany’s three dragon eggs may not be the last in the world, that some may actually be in the crypts at Winterfell (though I doubt that), and it’s clear from clues in the texts and from the show that it’s still a possibility. Even if there is no dragon for him to ride, Tyrion could still have Targaryen blood. Here’s why:

In the books, Tyrion has white-blonde hair, a Targaryen trait. It’s also made clear in The World of Ice and Fire (Martin’s GOT history) that there was at least an opportunity for King Aerys to have fathered a child with Tyrion’s mother, Joanna Lannister. Aerys was rumored to be a philanderer, and Joanna visited the Red Keep the year before Tyrion was born. Around that time there was a rift in the relationship between Aerys and Tywin Lannister, Joanna’s husband, who was at the time the Hand of the King.

Additionally, Tyrion has had a lifelong fascination with dragons, and in the TV series (not in the books), two of Dany’s very large dragons allowed him to unchain them. Would they have allowed that if Tyrion did not have Targaryen blood? And then there’s this exchange from Book 1:

(Jon Snow to Tyrion): “You are your mother’s trueborn son of Lannister.” “Am I?” the dwarf replied, sardonic. “Do tell my lord father. My mother died birthing me, and he’s never been sure.”

If this theory is valid, then Daenarys is Tyrion’s half sister, and Jon Snow is his nephew, and the dragon has three heads. (For the Night King to be the third head of the dragon, he would have to be a Targaryen, but that isn’t possible, since the Targaryens have only been in Westeros for about 300 years.)

I have run out of time and space this week, so I will conclude this discussion of theories based on clues and foreshadowing next week. Theories to be discussed include the identity of the Night King, what role the crypts of Winterfell may play in the War to Come, and what happens to Cersei Lannister.