[NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Game of Thrones]
The wait is almost over for Season 7 of Game of Thrones, which is looking more and more like a season of shocking reveals, the culmination of book subplots and theories, and more showdowns with the villainous White Walkers. To show that Thrones won't be keeping the title forces of the novel apart much longer, a teaser image showed Ice and Fire at once - and now, the first Season 7 teaser trailer includes Jon Snow warning of a bigger threat on the way: The Great War.
Fans of the George R. R. Martin novels upon which Thrones is based know far more than the audience about the mysterious forces, the long-prophesied villains, and the most likely candidates to save the world of man from the Winter that has, for some time, been "coming." To make sure that TV fans are in the loop to the same extent, we're here to shed some light on the conflict being teased - quite possibly the one responsible for one of the biggest Game of Thrones cliffhangers yet.
It all starts with a simple question for Game of Thrones Season 7: What is The Great War?
The Battle For The Dawn - 8,000 Years Ago
When we say that the novels spell out, fairly clearly, the events on the way, we really do mean it. In the history quoted in the novels, it's a legend among most people, but chiefly those residing in the North that the current time of relative prosperity was only brought about after a period of terrible, perpetual winter and darkness known as The Long Night. It was in this night that all the key players now creeping into the world of Thrones first appeared - although some of the specifics were lost or embellished throughout the millennia.
Essentially, the Long Night saw terrible demons rise from the ground to march behind an evil leader known as The Great Other, a dark reflection of the gods or mythic figures of light and goodness (the literal opposite of The Great Other that Melisandre calls The Lord of Light). It was merely the latest cycle of a battle between good and evil that had raged since the beginning of time, but was finally brought to an end in the story of Westeros's First Men. And, more importantly, the Last Hero.
The Last Hero, as his name implies, is about as vague a figure as you can get in the shared culture and history of Thrones. In short, he fought back the Others and his forces with help from the Children of The Forest, Bran the Builder erected The Wall, and those soldiers made up the first Night's Watch, vowing never to allow the Others (the name given to his army) forces to breach into their lands once more, and bring about a new Long Night. While the identity of the Last Hero, or his fate isn't agreed upon, it's clear where Jon Snow is getting his prophecies and warnings from.
Because regardless of the details, the names, or the claims made by different people, he knows what's coming.
The War For The Dawn - Coming Soon
For those watching the show with an eye for detail, it should be obvious that the key players have returned once more. The Great Other may go by many names, and could be the revealed Night's King, or an even more powerful figure behind the scenes. But their demons and wights have returned risen from the dead and bearing blades of ice, marching South. The Night's Watch may have fallen into disrepair, and the world of men embroiled in petty squabbles over a throne, but a chosen Hero has been searched for since the show's first episodes. And he may have been found.
The prophecy we're building toward is known as The War for The Dawn, called such by Melisandre, and destined to be fought between the Great Other and R'hllor (The Lord of Light). Again, different names are used by different people - a New Hero, The Prince That Was Promised, Azor Ahai - but the prophecy states that the world of the living must unite behind a chosen leader, and defeat the Great Other to drive back the Long Night, and defend the existence of life itself. And the most popular theory suggests that Chosen One is Jon Snow.
That idea was driven home in "A Storm of Swords," when Stannis Baratheon explained to Davos Seaworth the vision that Melisandre had shown him of the war to come. A war that he, at the time, believed he was destined to win:
The ashes were white, rising in the updraft, yet all at once it seemed as if they were falling. Snow, I thought. Then the sparks in the air seemed to circle, to become a ring of torches, and I was looking through the fire down on some high hill in a forest. The cinders had become men in black behind the torches, and there were shapes moving through the snow. For all the heat of the fire, I felt a cold so terrible I shivered, and when I did the sight was gone, the fire but a fire once again. But what I saw was real, I’d stake my kingdom on it.
It's this same prophecy of Azor Ahai, servant of the Lord of Light, and The Prince That Was Promised that is pointed to as an explanation of Jon Snow's royal parentage (which Jon Snow lied about). The show has offered up all the evidence that readers were given, so Stannis thinking "Snow" when glimpsing the War for The Dawn makes sense.
The larger story includes far more than just Jon Snow, even if he is the main figure pushing for the world of man to unite for the coming battle against The Great Other. We've seen evidence that Daenerys and her dragons will return, bringing the fire in the aforementioned showdown between the heat of life and the cold of death. If Jon's parents are who they're believed to be, then he and Daenerys would be kin, and likely to join forces against the real threat to the Iron Throne. Either way, it's easy to see why people expect Season 7 of Thrones to be the most action-packed.
That massive battle, the beginning of the Great War, as the world of man either unites, or doesn't, beneath its chosen leader won't be coming too soon. But it's the battle that the entire series has been building towards... and the teaser for Season 7 shows that Jon Snow has realized that fact, too. Now he just needs to win it.
Game of Thrones season 7 debuts on HBO on July 16th, 2017.