Updated: Nov 17, 2018
The Long Night and Azor Ahai
The prophecy of Azor Ahai has been repeated for centuries on end by the followers of R’hllor and the continent of Essos has a very rich history that, when studied, shows cities, countries, cultures and architectural features that are part of the story of the long night and the people who fought to bring back the dawn.
In Westeros, the readers are exposed to the knowledge of the Long Night mostly through the eyes of Old Nan, although, there is strong evidence that the return of the Long Night had been prophesied by the Targaryens even before the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall took place. As a matter of fact, King Aegon V Targaryen was the fourth son of the fourth son of the king. When those stories were written, the author used the same principle as he did when he built the universe of Ice and Fire, combining several other fantasy books as reference, primarily Lord of the Rings, but also Harry Potter, the Warlord Chronicles, the Dragonbone Chair, the Iron King, Marvel Comics and, often, the Bible – and it is from the Bible that he seems to take both the savior and the principle of the Long Night.
As a writer who seeks symbolism and hides details in plain sight, he wrote the stories with two elements from the same source, one, using the first biblical book – Genesis, and the other using the last – Revelation. Primarily, as Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Judah's fourth son, Peretz, is the patrilinear ancestor of the prophesied “Savior”, and then, from the book of Revelation, where the fourth horseman represented death and the book's message is of a "long night" of sorts. To complete the parallel. A Song of Ice and Fire was written starting with death and is likely going to end with the savior. The fourth son of the fourth son puts together the savior and the representation of death as a path to come. Egg, of course, was the fourth son of the fourth son and became king. If that wasn’t enough, Egg’s son Jaehaerys, was told by a wood’s witch that from the descendant of his son and daughter’s union would be born the Prince that Was Promised and from the Targaryen line, the savior was announced, making the savior, a royal, just as the biblical one was.
The savior, whom Melisandre of Asshai calls Azor Ahai, has several elements that require consideration – starting from being born amidst salt and smoke, being announced by a bleeding star, and having a sword that is tempered thrice, the third time, as a symbol of the loss and sacrifice it represents, it remains warm as Nissa Nissa. The sword is described in detail several times, indicating that it is a real sword and not a symbolical one, and although Melisandre says Azor Ahai will “wake dragons from stone”, that part cannot be found anywhere else, as well as it hasn’t been indicated as part of Azor Ahai’s past, so it may or may not be true. Again, the prophecy has its biblical references, as a prophesied savior is announced by a star and it dies to save all people.
Evidently, as the Red Woman thinks Azor Ahai is Stannis, he must be taken into consideration, but there is really no literary argument to justify that interpretation. A theory must follow the book. The book on its turn, is already written and cannot be changed to fit a theory. Maybe Stannis was born amidst salt and smoke when the icons were burned in Dragonstone. Evidently, that was done when the comet was red in the sky, so their time was precise, and he took a gleaming sword from the flames, which will come as a nice surprise to him when he realizes that the Others aren’t even tickled by it. The issue is that he was born while being alive. It didn’t come with any change of state, but death and loss are the essence of the books. Can a person be reborn just because they decided overnight that they are someone else? There is also the fact that Stannis is not a Targaryen, did not come from the line of the fourth son of the fourth son and he didn’t come from the union between King Jaehaerys’s children.
There is the argument that Daenerys is Azor Ahai. She walked into the flames as a very clear symbol of death and offering herself and Mirri Maz Duur as a sacrifice after learning that “only death may pay for life”, her rebirth was amidst salt and smoke and she even woke dragons from stone, whether that is or not necessary, it can be added as a bonus. Her missing element is the sword she lacks, alongside her capacity to fight with one and although there is a school of thought that the dragons are Lightbringer, they would have to be thrice sacrificed, then rebuilt each time as the sacrifice is paramount to its value. It was only with Nissa Nissa’s death that Lightbringer became the winning sword. There is also the fact that Daenerys is going towards the path of the “Stallion who will mount the world”, as she will likely ‘unite the khalasar under one khal’ to fulfill the prophecy, ‘riding (a dragon) swiftly as the wind with the khalasar behind her covering the earth’, ‘fierce as the storm’, as she is Daenerys Stormborn, and as per the prophecy, the Stallion will ‘burn cities and trample nations into dust’. Burning and trampling are actions of a dragon and not a horse. As Daenerys fulfills one prophecy, she leaves another behind.
Finally, there is Jon Snow. He truly fulfills the biblical sense of the story - his mother had a secret birth, he joined a brotherhood of underdogs and inspired followers who elected him their leader, then he showed his capacity to understand people who were different than his own kind and was murdered by his peers to save the living. The chapter of his death describes star, blood, smoke and tears (salt). He has the sword and once he returns, with the clear consequence of stone cold death upon him, which is a requirement for a valid rebirth, he will be waking the dragon within, fulfilling the prophecy not once, not twice, but thrice, which is the Targaryen sacred number. He owns a sword and as he spent the books being built up alongside his aunt and when their paths cross, there is every indication she will become his Nissa Nissa to ignite his sword and complete his value as the Song of Ice and Fire.