It’s prophecy time on Game of Thrones. As the kings and queens of the Seven Kingdoms march towards their demise, the conversation evolves from questions of manpower to matters of fate. Who is the “Prince (or Princess) That was Promised," and how will he (or she) be revealed?
Missandei can correctly interpret the High Valyrian phrase, but she can’t answer the question. Even the leading surrogate for R’hllor, Melisandre, remains in the dark. She claims her fiery god has shown her a “glimpse of Azor Ahai” in the form of Jon Snow, but the last time she had such a vision it ended with Shireen on a stake and Stannis Baratheon speared. Needless to say, Melisandre’s credibility took a beating in season 5.
Game of Thrones has bluntly positioned Daenerys and Jon as the saviors of Westeros, but their seemingly inevitable coronation could well be a red herring. An outspoken enemy of plot-armor and phony predictions, George R. R. Martin wrote, “Prophecies are a double-edged sword. You have to handle them carefully. They can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy.”
Keeping Martin’s signature sadism firmly in mind, consider the dark-horse candidate for Azor Ahai (who by all accounts is synonymous with “The Prince That Was Promised”): Jorah Mormont. He’s covered in greyscale, currently useless in the wars to come, and a thousand miles away from his true love. And yet, despite his apparent obsolescence, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to give him precious screen time. Why?
Jorah the Andal, the disgraced member of House Mormont of Bear Island, is the wildcard of Westeros. He has been with Dany through almost every step of her ascent, and should he be cured of his scaly affliction, he will certainly return to her side. According to long-gestating speculation however, he won’t just return to her side, but through it - in violent fashion.
To determine a leading candidate for Azor Ahai, two questions must be asked: “Who best matches the prophecy as described in A Song of Ice and Fire?” and “what is the cruelest twist of fate the author could design?” The first answer bleeds into the second, and in both scenarios, Jorah Mormont plays a leading role.
In the show, as in the books, Jorah Mormont’s emotional arc is equally arduous to his physical journey. He lost his inheritance and home for selling poachers into slavery, and everyone (including Ned Stark) wanted to see him executed for his crimes. Though no one talks about it, Jorah only did this to satisfy the growing material wants of his wife, Lynesse Hightower (of Oldtown), who eventually left him for a far wealthier man. In escaping certain death and a disgraced reputation, Jorah wound up in the employ of spymaster Varys, relaying information about Daenerys back to King’s Landing.
Despite these reckless decisions and unsavory alliances, we know the truth (as does Daenerys): Jorah Mormont is a man of great character and honor. More importantly, he also meets the prophesied requirements for the return of Azor Ahai. As Ser Davos Seaworth proclaimed in A Clash of Kings:
"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."
As the legend goes, Azor Ahai was chosen by R’hllor to ward off the White Walkers and end The Long Night. To do this, he needed a weapon that measured up to the task, so he spent weeks fashioning a sword to satisfy his god. Despite tempering the steel in cool water and the blood of a lion, the blade inexplicably shattered both times. On his third attempt, Azor thrust the sword through his wife’s breast, killing her instantly, and channeling her soul into the precious metal that would thence forth be called Lightbringer. After sacrificing “Nissa Nissa’s” life, Azor Ahai used the cryptic weapon to battle the White Walkers and end The Long Night.
Though spring would return, the prophecy stated that winter would come again, the night would return, and a new Azor Ahai would be forced to come out of retirement. According to Melisandre, these are the requirements for Azor Ahai’s second coming: he (or she) will be born “when the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt.” Marwyn the Mage and Aemon Targaryen have also echoed this exact prophecy. Furthermore, Azor Ahai must have dragon blood.
How does Jorah match these requirements? Let’s break it down one by one.
Reborn amidst smoke: When Dany burns Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, Jorah is by her side, immersed in the billowing smoke. As Jorah tells Tyrion in season five, that was the moment he dedicated his life to protecting Dany.
Reborn amidst salt: During Jorah and Tyrion’s travels amid the ruins of Valyria, they are attacked by stone men. While sailing on a (salty) sea, Jorah contracts greyscale. For the first time since pledging fealty to Dany, his life changes yet again. Spiritually as well as physically, Jorah begins to undergo a new evolution.
When the stars bleed: While Jorah remains committed to Dany (even after she turns her back on him), Jorah remains faithful. Many of these events take place under the bleeding star of a passing comet.
Capturing a lion: Jorah might not have literally trapped and killed a feral beast (as Azor Ahai did), but he captured one in the form of Tyrion Lannister (whose house sigil is a lion).
Dragon blood: It’s true that Jorah is no Targaryen, but his proximity to Dany gives him access to plenty of dragon blood. This is the final part of the prophecy to be fulfilled.
(Bonus) Receiving a magnificent sword: In the books, Dany promises to give Jorah a sword made of Valyrian steel:
“I have no bride gift to give you, but I swear to you, one day you shall have from my hands a longsword like none the world has ever seen, dragon-forged and made of Valyrian steel.”
If Jorah Mormont truly is the second coming of Azor Ahai, he’ll have to close the loop in a way only George R.R. Martin could imagine. Like R’hllor’s emissary was compelled to do during The Long Night, Mormont will forge his Lightbringer by plunging it into the breast of the one he loves most: Daenerys Targaryen.
It’s a twist so hopeless that it actually makes sense in the universe Martin created. It fits with the perversity of the Red Wedding, but it eclipses it in a way fitting of a grand finale. While much of season 7 has yet to be revealed, it’s clear Jorah is on the path to healing and will soon return to the battlefield and Dany’s side.
Will he protect her side or pierce it? Only time will tell.