What is a savior? If we take the example of Jesus, a savior is someone who defends the weak from the powerful. In other words, someone who defends people from other people.
But, in A Song of Ice & Fire, the long awaited savior will be fighting for ALL of humanity -- the oppressed and their oppressors -- the innocent and the guilty -- everyone.
And herein lies the confusion. Many people wrongly assume Dany to be the savior because she liberated the Slaver Cities. But, as opposed to the Roman world in which Jesus lived, tyrannical slavers are not the enemy. They're actually part of "humanity" that the savior must save.
Because, that's the thing about being the "savior of all humanity". You have to save them all -- good and bad. And, I get the impression, Dany wouldn't sacrifice a single silver hair on her head, let alone her precious dragons (read: weapons of mass destruction), to save the slavers. And, somehow, I can't imagine Jon Snow rescuing Ramsay Bolton from the apocalypse. Nor can I see Stannis fighting to protect someone like Joffrey (or anyone who's wronged him, or broken the law, for that matter).
But, before we get any deeper into that, I should probably backtrack a little. Because, if you've read my previous posts, you may have noticed that I don't think the Long Night went down quite like it's been described in the histories. In fact, I think the legend of Azor Ahai (as the Red Priests know it), is completely bunk -- a ruse put on by the Children of the Forest. Yet, for some odd reason, I still think Jaime Lannister is Azor Ahai. And, not only do I think that, but I think the prophecy has ALREADY been fulfilled. How can that be?
Firstly, if GRRM is indeed adhering to the Ragnarök mythology, then Jaime is the only possible candidate for "Azor Ahai". Why is that? Because he represents Tyr -- the one-handed god of war -- the champion of mankind, who in the earliest tellings of Ragnarök, was said to prevail over Fenrir in his role as "the Mighty One" (granted, we don't know for certain if Tyr is the "Mighty One" referred to in the earlier poems that have been passed down, but most scholars agree that he is). If you're a casual observer of Norse mythology, you probably think it strange that the two most well-known gods from the mythology -- Odin & Thor -- were later additions. In all likelihood, they were probably real kings who ruled in the earliest times, and were only deified and mythologized much later in history. Because, it is Tyr who stood at the head of the pantheon in the earliest times. His name even means "god" or "glory", and he is equivalent to Indo-European Dyeus -- the god from which Zeus and Jupiter evolved. And, given the early exits for both Aerys (Odin) and Robert Baratheon (Thor) from ASOIAF, I'm under the impression GRRM is sticking to these earlier tellings of Ragnarök, before Odin & Thor came into prominence.
Secondly, prophecies aren't always so straightforward in the series. We've seen prophecies that have been fulfilled (i.e. the Sea Comes to Winterfell), and prophecies that haven't been (i.e. the Stallion Who Mounts the World). Some prophecies are vague, (i.e. Patchface), whereas some are incredibly detailed (i.e. House of the Undying). But more importantly, some prophecies don't happen quite the way you expect them to. They are self-fulfilling. And this is the case with the Azor Ahai prophecy.
"When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt".
People who want to take that literally often try to connect Jon Snow, or Daenerys, or even Stannis to this prophecy. The red star is obviously the red comet, in their eyes, and smoke & salt are either related to the island of Dragonstone, or the storeroom in which Jon Snow is killed at the end of A Dance with Dragons. But they're looking at it the way GRRM wants them to -- the wrong way.
The "red star" is what throws most people off the trail, right from the get-go. It has to be the red comet that appears in the sky after Dany's dragons hatch. Right? Uh... no. Firstly, that's way too easy. Secondly, a comet is not a star. It's not even in the same ballpark. A star is a sun. Not a comet.
So, let's take a look at the House sigils. Who has the red star? If you answered House Martell, you are correct. House Martell of Sunspear: a red sun pierced by a golden spear. Bingo.
Ok. So, if the prophecy is talking about an actual person, then we need to find a Martell who "bleeds"... and there are several. Elia Martell met her demise at the hands of Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch during Robert's Rebellion. And Quentyn Martell recently got scorched by Dany's dragons. Not to mention, Doran Martell seems to have an especially nasty case of gout. Could the prophecy be referring to any of them? Possibly. But there is another Martell who "bleeds" in the books, and provides us with a much better match -- Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper.
But, how does his death affect the story? What's the significance? When Oberyn is killed in trial-by-combat by the Mountain, Tyrion (Jaime's half-brother) is condemned to death -- which leads Jaime to free him from prison and come clean to him about his "wife". Hurt by this revelation, Tyrion calls Jaime a cuckold in response (i.e. "[Cersei's] fucking Lancel, and Osmund Kettleblack, and probably Moon Boy too" --paraphrasing), before he murders Tywin & Shae. This is linked to the Lokasenna -- a story in which Loki crashes one of Odin's parties, and insults the guests (i.e. the gods), accusing Tyr of cuckoldry (even though we're not exactly sure who Tyr's wife was).
Well then. It looks like Oberyn has led us to something here in regards to Jaime. So, let's go ahead and plug his name into the prophecy:
"When Oberyn Martell dies and the darkness gathers, Azor Azor shall be born again amidst smoke and salt".
Now, the next clue is "darkness gathers". Most everyone assumes this is referring to the Others/White Walkers, who seem to be amassing the forces of darkness on the other side of the Wall. But, since I think it's the Children who are driving the story, rather than the Others, that simply cannot be. Because, just as dragons represent fire in the Song of Ice & Fire, the Others represent ice -- not darkness. It's Bran who represents darkness, and Jaime the light.
These roles are hinted at in both A Dance with Dragons and A Game of Thrones:
From ADwD: "The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong" --Bloodraven to Bran.
Clearly, that is a pretty strong indication of what "the darkness gathers" is referring to (i.e. Bran finding the Three-Eyed Crow).
And, as for Jaime's role as light, I'll refer to Bran's vision from AGoT: "He saw his father pleading with the king, his face etched with grief. He saw Sansa crying herself to sleep at night, and he saw Arya watching in silence and holding her secrets hard in her heart. There were shadows all around them. One shadow was as dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood".
I believe it was Melisandre who said that shadows are a product of the light -- and the two shadows Bran sees are obviously the Hound & Jaime -- the Hound being the dark shadow, and Jaime being the one who was "golden and beautiful". We can be fairly certain the Hound now walks in the "light" of the Seven (assuming he's the monk Brienne sees on the Quiet Isle). And, given the fact that Jaime is "armored like the sun", that would imply he's the light's champion. He wasn't shining like the sun, or as bright as the sun -- he was a shadow (a product of the light) armored like the sun (dressed for war against the darkness). And since the giant who was looming over both Jaime and the Hound was in all likelihood Gregor, who represents Garmr -- Tyr's adversary in the latter tellings of Ragnarök -- that's more than likely an allusion to Jaime's role as Tyr (on a side note, I wonder if that's how GRRM plans on solving the "Odin-problem"? Give Garmr to the Hound, so Tyr can fight Fenrir?).
Another clue can be found in Jaime's dream (while sleeping on a weirwood tree) from A Storm of Swords. He's deep down in the bowels of Casterly Rock, and is accosted by his half-brother Rhaegar Targaryen, who accuses him of betrayal. Cersei also appears in the dream and calls out to Jaime, "The flames will burn so long as you live". And, given Cersei's role as Frigg, who has the power of prophecy, I'm going to go out on a limb and say she might be on to something there.
So, let's fill in the next part:
"When Oberyn Martell dies and Bran meets the Three-Eyed Crow, Azor Ahai will be born again amidst smoke and salt".
As for "Azor Ahai", I doubt the real person ever existed (perhaps he did, but that's not important). However, if humanity means to hold out against the Children, someone will have to lead them. And given the fact that Tyr was not only the primary god of the Norse pantheon for much of their history, but was also the god of war -- and the god of champions, no less -- the god of single combat -- I'm inclined to believe Jaime's going to play a major role in the upcoming battle. In ancient times, prior to the advent of Odin & Thor, the Roman writer Tacitus claimed the primary god worshipped by the Germanic tribes was Mars, who he named Mars Thringus -- or "Mars of the Thing" (FYI: a Thing was basically Norse parliament -- a governing assembly). Which goes to show that the Romans equated Tyr with Mars. And, consider, not only did Tyr & Mars symbolize war amongst mankind -- they symbolized war with the elements, and were said to "ward off hostile forces of nature" (like ice & fire, for example).
Which brings us to:
"When Oberyn Martell dies and Bran meets the Three-Eyed Crow, Jaime Lannister will be born again amidst smoke and salt".
Now, let's look at that bit about being "born again". I suppose that could be taken literally, especially since Red Priests seemingly have the ability to resurrect corpses, but, if we take it to be figurative, it essentially means "a second chance at life". And, when we look to Jaime's story, we find he was given exactly that by none other than Roose Bolton -- who spared him from execution, and freed him from imprisonment (not to mention, Jaime literally disappears from the story for the second book, and is "reborn" onto the pages for the third). So, if that's the event the prophecy is referring to, then "amidst smoke and salt" must have something to do with that scene.
What happens before Jaime is freed? He takes a steam bath with Brienne, in which he finally comes clean to her about why he killed Aerys (i.e. to save humanity). And, when he does, there is so much steam coming off the bath, he ends up passing out from the heat. Steam represents smoke. He is then invited to dinner with Roose Bolton (which, in Westerosi culture, is called "sharing the salt"), and given his life back.
Not convinced? That's where the TV show comes into play. In the scene in which Stannis and Renly parlay, many viewers were upset when Renly didn't give Stannis a peach, like he does in the books. But, if you know what to look for, the line he did utter was far more important to the overall story. When Melisandre declares that Stannis is Azor Ahai because he was reborn amidst smoke and salt, Renly asks incredulously, "What is he? A ham?"
Actually, yes he is. And, I remember thinking when he said that, "If Jaime is eating some kind of pork product at his dinner with Roose, then it's a done deal". And, lo and behold, what was Jaime eating at dinner with Roose Bolton? Yep. You guessed it. A ham (see it in there? To Brienne's left).
"When Oberyn Martell dies and Bran meets the Three-Eyed Crow, Jaime Lannister will be freed from prison after dinner and a bath".
Granted, that's pretty mundane compared to what most people think when they imagine Azor Ahai, but at the same time, it is very human. The point being -- Azor Ahai is not supernatural. He is a human savior for humankind, much the same as the Seven are human gods for humankind (what I mean by that is this -- if every human had the ability to warg, or shape shift, or raise people from the dead, the natural order would be thrown into chaos. Such sorcerous abilities as that run contrary to human nature).
But, at the same time, Jaime is far from mundane. He even says himself, "There are no men like me. Only me". He's a walking contradiction who is seemingly one of the most amoral characters in the books, while simultaneously being the most principled and rational. Consider how he got his nickname, "The Kingslayer". Whereas a guy like Ned Stark wouldn't have broken his oath -- even if it meant the death of thousands of people -- Jaime would have, and did, because he can see that culture for what it really is -- bullshit. For example, if you refer back to the Nuremberg Trials after WWII, "I was just following orders" was no excuse. It didn't matter if they swore an oath to their Führer. They were ultimately responsible for their actions. If you let others think for you -- like Ned Stark did -- and never question the orders you're given, you end up becoming something less than a man -- a drone -- a slave. And out of all the characters we've met, Jaime is seemingly the only one who has liberated himself from this medieval mentality. He doesn't repress intuition. He sees truth, and refuses to live within the confines that culture places upon him. He's his own man. But that's what so contradictory about him, because he's also totally ruthless -- which is what Azor Ahai must be -- a murderous savior -- a death-dealing Renaissance Man -- i.e. the walking contradiction that Jaime is. All that matters is the end game, and Jaime's willing to do whatever it takes to reach those ends -- even if it means murdering his own family members (which the TV show has really drummed up). He'll break his oath if it means saving thousands of people, but he'll also murder his cousin if it means escaping from prison. Sure sounds like Azor Ahai to me.
Which leads me back to Azor Ahai himself. Here we have a guy who supposedly murdered his beloved wife in order to save humanity -- and ALL of humanity at that. He didn't get to pick and choose who he wanted to save and who he didn't. He had to save everyone -- the slavers, the Joffreys, and even the Ramsay Boltons of the world. Now ask yourself, would you be willing to murder your family in order to save complete strangers? No? How about to save violent criminals? Even worse, you say? Well, Azor Ahai did exactly that (if the legend is to be believed). He sacrificed his beloved wife in order to save people he had no love for at all -- slavers & rapists included.
Which leads me to the issue of Jaime's parentage. The fact that he is Aerys' bastard has been foreshadowed countless times throughout the series (yet, most everyone is thrown off of his trail because of Jon Snow). He and Cersei are the products of the rape of Joanna Lannister. Barristan Selmy claims Aerys was infatuated with Tywin's wife, which is the real reason why Tywin resigned as Hand of the King, and ended up sacking King's Landing. That's also the reason why Ilyn Payne had his tongue cut out -- because he witnessed the event (which is also why he laughs when Jaime admits his love for Cersei to him). And, yet again, that's why Aerys went behind Tywin's back to recruit Jaime into his Kingsguard, and refused to marry Rhaegar to Cersei.
But that begs the question -- if the Targaryens married brother-to-sister, why wouldn't Aerys want Rhaegar to marry Cersei, assuming he knew Cersei was his bastard daughter? You'd have to refer back to the Dunk & Egg books for the answer. GRRM goes to great lengths to stress the point that the Targaryens were so leery of their bastard children, it almost reached the point of superstition (thanks in large part to Daemon Blackfyre). Even Egg, who is portrayed as fair-minded and enlightened, shares this irrational fear of Targ bastards (which might have something to do with why Bloodraven ended up at the Wall). And, more simply, in marrying Rhaegar to Cersei, Aerys would have had to publicly acknowledge Tywin as Cersei's father (which he knew he wasn't, I'm assuming).
And, by inducting Jaime into the Kingsguard, Aerys was not only forcing an oath out of him and keeping him close (i.e. keep your friends close, and your enemies closer), but was essentially disinheriting him, neutralizing whatever future threat he may have posed to the Iron Throne, with Targaryen blood coursing through his veins, and a Lannister army at his back.
I could dedicate an entire post to Jaime & Cersei's Targ connections, but just bear with me here for argument's sake. If Jaime really is Aerys' son, that means he didn't just murder his king to save King's Landing -- he murdered his father -- which is symmetry, given the fact that Tyrion murdered his father as well (Jaime may not have known Aerys was his father, and Tyrion may not have saved King's Landing by killing Tywin, but, at the very least, here we have a case of two half-brothers who both committed patricide). And, much like the legend of Azor Ahai, Jaime has already sacrificed family members for the "greater good". So, perhaps the forging of Lightbringer is figurative? Jaime forged Lightbringer (i.e. his indomitable will to save humanity, and courage to face those who would ridicule him for doing so) after sacrificing his own father to protect the masses.
Then again, Lightbringer could be Ice (on a side note, I've always wondered if Ice is what they called Lightbringer when the light went out -- i.e. to "ice" Lightbringer), which Jaime will use to kill Cersei or Brienne with (which could play in to Cersei's "valonqar" prophecy as well). But, I'm pretty sure the Azor Ahai prophecy has already come to pass (in a self-fulfilling kind of way), and Tyrion really is the "valonqar" (this could play into Cersei's role as Frigg as well, being that Frigg has the power of prophecy, and Cersei has always been convinced Tyrion is her "valonqar" -- not Jaime).
And, it only makes sense that Jaime & Bran will square off again in the end, given the fact that it was their conflict that set the whole story in motion (on a side note, if GRRM is mixing in other stories from the mythology as well, like he did in the case of Robert Baratheon -- i.e. Robert represents both Thor & Hoenir -- it's possible Jaime also represents the legendary hero Sigurd, in addition to Tyr. And Sigurd was famous for slaying dragons -- Fafnir in particular -- who is represented by Tyrion in ASOIAF. So, perhaps the Kingslayer will become the Dragonslayer as well?). Which leads me to the Prince Who Was Promised -- Tommen Baratheon -- the second coming of Egg (his life mirrors Aegon V's in many ways, just as Tyrion's runs parallel to Bloodraven's). When it comes down to it, the series is not about the Stark kids, or Dany's dragons. It is the story of the rise of King Tommen "the Great". Because it is King Tommen -- enlightened as he is -- who will usher in a new golden age upon the completion of Ragnarök. This has been foreshadowed on numerous occasions as well, not least of all in the "Blackwater" episode during the TV show's second season (which GRRM wrote himself, by the way). Cersei thinks the battle is lost, so she spirits Tommen away to the throne room, intent on poisoning him, to keep him out of Stannis' clutches. Tommen sits on her lap, on the Iron Throne, as Cersei readies the vial. In an attempt to calm his nerves, she tells him a story. And, in my opinion, this is what the entire story is centered on.
She first tells him that no one is going to hurt him, before claiming that stags are evil (fyi: in Norse mythology, stags eat away at and rot the World Tree Yggdrasil). She then goes on to say:
"You are a lion, my son, you mustn't be afraid. For, one day, all the beasts will bow to you. You'll be king. All the stags will bow, all the wolves will bow; the bears in the North, and the foxes of the south; all the birds in the sky, and the beasts in the sea. They will all come to you little lion, to rest a crown upon your head. The cub said, 'will I be strong and fierce like my father?'. Yes, said his mother. You'll be strong and fierce, just like your father".
This is an allusion to Tommen's role as Vidarr -- Vengeance -- the Slayer of Fenrir (which is foreshadowed in A Game of Thrones, when Tommen and Bran spar with each other on the training grounds at Winterfell). In addition to being an incarnation of Aegon V (Egg), he is a combination of Tyr, Thor and Odin all rolled into one. Tyr (Jaime) is his father. Thor (Robert Baratheon) is his namesake. And Odin (Aerys) is his grandfather. Which leads me to believe he'll survive the Last Battle (even if his father does not), since the children of the gods, and Vidarr in particular, are foretold to inherit the earth after Ragnarök. And, since Tommen is the embodiment of an enlightened ruler -- even at such a young age -- it stands to reason that he represents the dawning of a new era.
Tommen: Is Joffrey going to kill Sansa's brother?
Cersei: He might. Would you like that?
Tommen: (pauses to weigh the question) No. I don't think so.
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