If you’re like me, you were probably surprised when Arya Stark came flying through the air to kill the Night King in the episode “The Long Night”. After all, a lot of attention had been paid to the entire “prince (or princess) who was promised” prophecy that Melisandre had been spouting from season 2. Most people put their bets on Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, or some combination of both.
But, if you look back closely enough, there are clues that Arya was this prophecied character; they were just more subtle and metaphorical.
The prophecy, in simplified terms, is about an ancient warrior who will be reborn, grab a flaming sword, and put an end to the night. The prophecy specifically stated in the show is by Melisandre in the first episode of season 2 is as follows:
After the long summer, darkness will fall heavy on the world. Stars will bleed. The cold breath of winter will freeze the seas, and the dead shall rise in the North.
The “bleeding” star was a constant visual in that episode, with it being seen in multiple locations. In the larger Game of Thrones lore, it is supposed to symbolize the arrival of the prophecied warrior. Osha tells Bran what different people think it means, but finally says she thinks it means the appearance of dragons. And dragons have certainly shown up. But an interesting thing about that episode is that Arya isn’t in it until the very end. There’s only a shot of her being helped up into a wagon by Gendry as they head North with the Night’s Watch. This is the first of many roles Arya played throughout the series and could be seen as a metaphorical rebirth.
The Prince or Princess Who Was Promised
In the second episode of season 7, when Melisandre visits Daenerys on Dragonstone another part of the prophecy is spoken in High Valyrian and translated via the captions into:
Only the prince who was promised can bring the dawn
But after Daenerys flippantly says she’s not a prince, Missandei points out that the translation isn’t accurate because the word for “prince” is genderless when spoken in High Valyrian. The fact that this distinction was called out is an important one. It fueled the theory that Daenerys was, in fact, the reincarnation of the mythical hero.
But Arya isn’t a princess, right? Well, that depends. The Starks served as kings in the North for thousands of years before swearing fealty to Aegon Targaryen, so it’s not that far of a stretch to say Arya is actually a princess in person if not in name. If Aegon Targaryen hadn’t shown up with his dragons and threatened to kill everyone, the Starks would likely have remained rulers in the North, making Arya a true princess. Arya probably wouldn’t like that moniker, but it fits.
Now onto the “reborn” aspect of the prophecy. Again, the common theory still fell on Jon or Daenerys. Jon was literally resurrected, and Daenerys’s continued surviving of massive fires could be seen as rebirth as well.
As mentioned before Arya took on many different roles throughout the series: The orphaned Night’s Watch recruit, the daughter of a mason who taught her to read, the daughter of The Hound, Lana the oyster seller, Mercy, the girl who lurked about the theater, and No One. But I think her real rebirth happened when she reclaimed her identity as Arya Stark after killing the Waif.
So, we’ve got Arya Stark metaphorically labeled as a reborn princess. The final element of the prophecy refers to a sword. Again, from Melisandre in season 2:
In the ancient books is written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire and that sword shall be Lightbringer.
Arya has a sword, Needle, but it’s not flaming and it’s not particularly special beyond the fact that it was a present from Jon. But she acquires a very special weapon in season 7 — the Valyrian steel dagger that belonged to Littlefinger. This dagger was important in the show. It was used in the attempt on Bran’s life, which set an avalanche of events in motion and it appears in one of the old books Sam reads in the Citadel. When it makes its way back to Bran he gives it to Arya.
But it’s not a sword, it’s not flaming and it’s not called Lightbringer, right? The word “sword” is used as a metaphor for any use of force. Ever hear that saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword?” Pretty sure it doesn’t refer to an actual sword.
Pulling something from the fire is another adage that can be used in a metaphorical rather than a literal context. But if you want to look at it literally, the hilt of the dagger is made of dragon bone. Pretty sure some fire was involved there. But if we take a more metaphorical interpretation, Littlefinger and his plans could be seen as a fire. At one point earlier on in the show, Varys says of Littlefinger:
He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.
So what about the name Lightbringer? Another interesting fact is that the dagger doesn’t have any name. This is interesting because every single other Valyrian steel weapon in the show does have a name. So the fact that this dagger is the legendary Lightbringer is plausible.
So to recap, Arya Stark is a princess who has been reborn and has taken a weapon, that could plausibly be called Lightbringer, from a fire of some sort. And in the end, she did “bring the dawn.”