Now that all the rampant speculation about one of Daenerys' dragons dying has finally borne fruit, fans can get back to what really matters: debating which Game Of Thrones character is the Prince That Was Promised. And, according to a new theory, Jon Snow may not be Azor Ahai at all… although he might still have a connection to the prophesied savior of Westeros. As years have gone by with no further input from George R.R. Martin himself, fans have gotten very creative in their theorizing, with some claiming that supporting characters like the Hound, Davos, or even Gendry are Azor Ahai. But if this new theory is true, then the Prince has already come and gone — and nobody even noticed.
Reddit user luxurysedan3030 posted the hypothesis, claiming that Azor Ahai was actually Rhaegar Targaryen, whom fans have often heard of but never seen — considering that he died about 17 years before the start of the series. But doesn't the Prince That Was Promised have to be, you know, alive? How will he defeat the Night King if he's dead? Well, according to this theory, he'll defeat the Night King the same way the original Azor Ahai did: with his fabled weapon, Lightbringer. Except in this case, Lightbringer isn't a sword, but rather a person named Jon Snow.
The evidence used to support this bonkers theory is actually quite compelling. In his youth, Rhaegar Targaryen himself actually believed that he was the prophesied Prince — and so did his great-great-uncle, Maester Aemon, before they both become convinced that the savior was actually Rhaegar's son Aegon, instead.
"Rhaegar, I thought… the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King's Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise!"
— A Feast For Crows, Chapter 35 (Samwell)
Rhaegar was born at the Targaryen summer palace, located in the Dornish marches, on the same day as an ambiguous disaster known as the Tragedy of Summerhall. Shortly after Rhaegar's birth, the palace was consumed by a great fire, which claimed the lives of the newborn's great-grandfather, King Aegon V (Maester Aemon's brother), the king's son and heir, and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. The tragedy is one of the more intriguing bits of backstory in A Song Of Ice And Fire, given its unexplained nature. Perhaps Martin has been withholding details until a timely twist that reveals how the Tragedy helps fulfill the prophecy of Azor Ahai — namely, that Dany's older brother was literally born amidst salt and smoke.
But the fact that Rhaegar became convinced his son was the Prince may not be far off, either.
"The man had her brother's hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. 'Aegon,' he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. 'What better name for a king?'
'Will you make a song for him?' the woman asked.
'He has a song,' the man replied. 'He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.'"
— A Clash Of Kings, Chapter 48 (Daenerys)
Of course, fans know that baby Aegon's life ended during the Sack of King's Landing, when the Mountain dashed his head against the wall, murdered his sister Rhaenys, and raped their mother Elia Martell, before killing her as well. But prophecies can be tricky, and while Rhaegar had the basics right, he was off in two key ways: He had the wrong son, and his son wasn't the Prince, but rather the weapon. (Ironically, it turns out that he was right the first time, and he himself was Azor Ahai all along.)
According to legend, Azor Ahai had to try three times before successfully forging his flaming sword, Lightbringer. On the third attempt, he realized he would have to sacrifice the thing he loved most in his world, and the successful creation of the weapon resulted in the death of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa, who was said to cry out in both anguish and ecstasy when Azor Ahai tempered the blade by driving it into her heart. Similarly, Jon Snow was Rhaegar's third child, and his creation resulted in the death of Rhaegar's beloved wife, Lyanna Stark, who could be heard by her brother Eddard crying out in anguish and ecstasy from inside the Tower of Joy as she gave birth to her secret son.
Furthering the analogy, Jon isn't just some metaphorical weapon that will be used to kill the Night King — he could literally be said to be a flaming sword, just like Lightbringer. As part of his Night's Watch oath, Jon vowed to be "the sword in the darkness." And ever since he was resurrected by the Lord of Light, you could say he has been filled with the fires of R'hllor. (Martin himself confirmed the latter fact when he recently revealed that he considers Jon Snow and Beric Dondarrion to be "fire wights" in the same way that the Night King's army are "ice wights.")
So, to summarize: Rhaegar was born amidst salt and smoke, he forged his ultimate weapon on his third attempt when he sacrificed his wife, and Jon has since become a literal sword of fire. It turns out that, while fans have been eagerly awaiting the revelation of Westeros' savior, that man's time has come and gone. Rhaegar fulfilled his destiny when he created the sword in the darkness — Lightbringer, Jon Snow.
After all the theorizing, it seems like this saga isn't about the Prince That Was Promised at all. Rather, this series is literally the "song of ice and fire": the melody that Rhaegar composed when he created his son, who would go on to become the weapon that killed the Night King and saved all of Westeros from eternal winter. Now that's poetic.