Welcome back! So I’ve been on hiatus waiting for the Winds of Winter, but it’s looking like that won’t be coming until after season 7. I don’t have much in the way of new theories, but I have a few theories I’ve never gotten around to really writing about. Since this one is a bit of an unpopular opinion, I wanted to first give my thoughts on the Lannister siblings and the mystery of the valonquar. Namely that it’s Tyrion.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
– Joseph Heller
Tyrion is the Valonqar!
One of the big questions of asoiaf is that of who will be Cersei’s ‘valonqar’, or, the little brother prophesized by Maggy the Frog who (after Cersei has lost everything to a younger more beautiful queen, and her children have all died) will come to choke the life out of her. Now for Cersei this isn’t really a question, as she has long been convinced that this prophesized murderer is Tyrion. Although many fans have speculated that the valonqar need not be Cersei’s little brother specifically, far and away the most common belief in the fandom is that this will instead be her lover and (technically younger) twin brother Jaime.
But is that really how it will play out?
Jaime being the valonqar tends to be seen as the most likely outcome on the grounds of symbolism, narrative symmetry, foreshadowing, and how it would subvert the relationship of the twins that was established at the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Though I will admit it’s not a bad theory by any means, I think that if we apply a bit more scrutiny to it, it may not be as strong a theory as it seems. And if we really look at the way the valonqar prophecy affects the narrative, and the way it affects the arcs of the Lannister siblings, it becomes apparent that all along the valonqar has been Tyrion.
“Tyrion slid a hand under his father’s chain, and twisted. The links tightened, digging into her neck. “For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm,” he said. He gave cold hands another twist as the warm ones beat away his tears.” – Tyrion XI, ASOS
One major piece of evidence for why it is expected that Jaime will be the valonqar is the lyric “For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm.” It has been theorized that this reoccurring song lyric from Tyrion’s chapters foreshadows Jaime’s golden hand choking the life from Cersei, much in the same way Tyrion used a golden chain to choke the life from Shae. Others believe that Jaime will use the golden chain of the hand, which after being used to strangle Shae is now in Cersei’s possession. In either case the symmetry that would be established by the two Lannister brothers both using gold to choke the life from their lovers is cited as strong evidence for the theory that Jaime is the valonqar.
Except… Tyrion killing his lover already puts him into a trio with Daenerys and Jon, all of whom had a hand in their lovers deaths (and all of whom killed their mothers in childbirth). Meanwhile Jaime already knows Cersei cheated on him, and has essentially already left Cersei to die. Though the show makes Jaime and Cersei find their way back to each other time and time again(likely because show Cersei is a much more complicated, much less evil character), the books have had a gradual distancing between Jaime and Cersei steadily building throughout the narrative. Cersei’s infidelity is a much more frequent and more significant issue in the books than it is on the show, and Jaime’s growing admiration for and attraction to Brienne seems to represent Jaime’s return to the idea of being an honorable man. With each step Jaime takes towards Brienne and chivalry, Jaime moves away from Cersei and selfishness. Essentially, the symmetry is off because Jaime is already falling for someone else, as his dreams (whether they are being sent to him or whether they are his subconscious), have Cersei abandoning him while Brienne comes to his aide more beautiful than ever before.
Which brings me to the next major part of the Jaime = Valonqar theory.
Burn Them All… Again
“Jaime knew the look in his sister’s eyes. … Even in the baleful glow, Cersei had been beautiful to look upon. She’d stood with one hand on her breast, her lips parted, her green eyes shining. She is crying, Jaime had realized, but whether it was from grief or ecstasy he could not have said.
The sight had filled him with disquiet, reminding him of Aerys Targaryen…” – Jaime II, AFFC
When Jaime chose saving the innocent people of King’s Landing and slaying the Mad King over upholding his vows, Jaime earned famously earned the name Kingslayer. The Mad Queen theory is the belief that Cersei (who herself has a fascination with fire and burning) is becoming mad just like King Aerys II, and will attempt to use the wildfire under King’s Landing as a last ditch effort to burn down the city rather than have it taken. This could be because of Danaerys, but more likely it’s Aegon who is coming first. And there are really several ways this could play out. Though Aegon seems set up to succeed in taking the city, it’s been stated by GRRM that the second Dance of the Dragons doesn’t necessarily have to be about Dany’s invasion, so there is an outside possibility that the books and the show are more similar than we think and that Cersei could successfully use wildfire to defeat Aegon leaving Cersei as Queen in King King’s Landing to face Dany’s invasion. I also think that it’s worth considering that the second Dance of the Dragons that GRRM has planned is not simply a battle between Daenerys and Aegon, but rather a war in which two or more factions have dragons.
But whether it’s Cersei who will burn down King’s Landing in the same way Aerys attempted to, or Daenerys who will set off the wildfire throughout King’s Landing inadvertently by using dragonfire to take the city, the possibility that Cersei will at least try to use wildfire is certainly there. Plus the foreshadowing for Cersei as a Mad Queen is very overt.
“His sister liked to think of herself as Lord Tywin with teats, but she was wrong. Their father had been as relentless and implacable as a glacier, where Cersei was all wildfire, especially when thwarted.” – Jaime II, AFFC
Though I will note that Aerys was completely mad and expected he would become a dragon, planning on burning down even the Red Keep. On the other hand Cersei’s claim over the Westerlands gives her lands to retreat to. While I could see Cersei killed in a Mad Queen moment as Aegon invades, I could also see Aegon succeeding in taking the city while Cersei flees to Casterly Rock, or I could see Cersei succeeding in repelling Aegon. Regardless of how this shakes out, it’s hard to ignore the potential power of Jaime perhaps realizing that Cersei herself is a monster just like King Aerys, and then having to kill his (former) lover for the greater good, becoming a Queenslayer. History repeats itself.
Except… now we’re getting our thematic wires crossed a bit. Jaime breaking his vows and killing the Mad King wasn’t about a broken personal relationship or about Jaime realizing that a King he looked up to was a monster. Jaime already knew Aerys was a monster. The Kingslayer moment was about Jaime’s vows being pushed to their breaking point and the complex moral decision to act for the greater utilitarian good rather than to uphold his own personal honor. Slaying Aerys wasn’t an emotional or personal act, but a moral one. Which calls into question just what Jaime killing Cersei would be, because while Jaime stabbed Aerys from behind the valonqar is supposed to strangle Cersei, which seems a much more personal means of killing someone.
Which brings me to a bit of a problem I have with this theory. If Jaime killing Cersei is primarily a moral act, then strangling doesn’t really fit, nor does the symmetry between Jaime and Tyrion hold up anymore because there was nothing heroic or honorable about Tyrion killing Shae. But if Jaime killing Cersei is also personal, then I’m not so sure that fits with Jaime’s arc.
Forgetting Cersei Lannister
“I cannot die while Cersei lives, he told himself. We will die together as we were born together.” – Jaime VI, ASOS
If we look at the trajectory of his character arc, Jaime Lannister’s narrative is largely about moving away from the influence of Cersei, his own arrogance, and the shame of having betrayed his King (which although it can be argued was the most moral course of action, is seen by Westerosi culture as terribly dishonorable), and towards Brienne, humility, and a rediscovery (or perhaps a reinvention) of what it means to be a truly honorable person. Away from being a man who values himself primarily on his ability to kill, to a man who values justice. Aside from the example of moving from Cersei to Brienne, it’s interestingly enough the loss of Jaime Lannister’s sword hand which jump-starts his development into a more just person, likely because the lack of his ability to fight has forced Jaime to seek out other means of conflict resolution. Where Jaime once valued himself in terms of his skill with the sword and thus his ability to kill, Jaime must now find another use for himself which doesn’t focus on the ability to fight. Essentially Jaime’s story is one of discovering a new (better) self through the loss of the things that once defined him.
But the other significant symbolism of Jaime losing his right hand is that Jaime was born clutching onto Cersei’s left foot. Thus the loss of Jaime’s hand represents the beginning of the severance of the connection between the Lannister twins. In fact, there is reason to believe that Cersei will soon lose a foot due to it getting cut during her walk of shame in which she steps through all manner of infestations (which would put an interesting spin on the Lannister siblings, with one losing a nose, another a hand, and another a foot).
“An east wind blew through his tangled hair, as soft and fragrant as Cersei’s fingers.”
– the first line from Jaime I, ASOS
As Jaime has grown as a character the bond between him and his twin sister has become a rift, which leaves me to wonder why Jaime’s character arc would lead him towards strangling Cersei to death. Jaime’s arc is not about overcoming Cersei, it’s about untangling himself from her. I think it would be a mistake to assume that Jaime killing Cersei would represent Jaime finally being free of Cersei. Murdering an ex. lover doesn’t show that one is over them, it more often shows that one is still consumed by them. So to emotionally strangling Cersei would be a strange culmination of Jaime’s arc, and an even stranger place to take Jaime without it being the end of his story. If Jaime’s arc is truly moving away from Cersei, then the culmination of it is unlikely to come in TWOW during the Aegon invasion. I would be surprised if Jaime was not going to encounter Bran again in some form or another before his story is through, and ultimately I just can’t see Martin killing off Cersei (and Jaime) before Tyrion even makes it back to Westeros.
“She dreamt she sat the Iron Throne, high above them all.
The courtiers were brightly colored mice below. Great lords and proud ladies knelt before her. Bold young knights laid their swords at her feet and pleaded for her favors, and the queen smiled down at them. Until the dwarf appeared as if from nowhere, pointing at her and howling with laughter. The lords and ladies began to chuckle too, hiding their smiles behind their hands. Only then did the queen realize she was naked.” – Cersei I, AFFC
Alternatively, while Jaime emotionally distancing himself from Cersei is central to Jaime’s arc, we don’t really get the same thing on Cersei’s end. Though Cersei is in the story as early as Eddard I AGOT, her story truly begins just after Twin’s death with her POV in AFFC, as she obtains the power she always desired but was never afforded to her. So it’s fitting that Cersei’s POV begins with her dreaming she is seated gloriously on the Iron Throne, only to have that dream become a nightmare when Tyrion shows up. Essentially Cersei’s story is framed around her desperate paranoid struggle to keep her power by whatever means necessary, which contrasts Jaime’s first chapter (in ASOS) which begins with him longing to get back to Cersei and ends with him beginning to admire Brienne’s sense of duty.
“Come at once. Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.” – Cersei’s letter to Jaime
That’s not to say that Jaime isn’t falling out of Cersei’s favor as he changes into a different man both inside and out. But (in the books) it’s clear that Cersei manipulates Jaime and it’s unclear that Cersei ever truly loved Jaime in the first place, with her cheating on him with her cousin Lancel while he was captured, her continuing to be unfaithful to Jaime well after he had returned, and all of this seemingly without any guilt or hesitation. While Jaime boasts his lifelong faithfulness to his sister, for Cersei sex is about power, often boasting how she uses it as a tool to get what she wants, even trying to rape her informant Taena (she ends up not enjoying it because Taena is too willing for it to be rape).
Furthermore, while a young Jaime Lannister was so attached to Cersei that he joined the King’s Guard partially to stay unmarried and near her in King’s Landing, in Cersei’s POV we learn that as a girl she indeed desperately wanted to marry Rhaegar Targaryen, viewing him as superior to Jaime. Even in the current story she fantasizes about what her life would be like if she were Rhaegar’s Queen and had his children. So while Jaime falling completely out of love with Cersei and then killing her to save King’s Landing represents a shift from where Jaime began his character arc, Cersei’s relationship with Jaime doesn’t really define her.
While the fandom is largely focused on history repeating itself with Jaime having a second Mad King moment, there is another historical parallel to the relationship between Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion. Cersei’s political unpopularity and her obsessive, destructive desire to for power is very reminiscent of an infamous figure from the Dance of the Dragons: Rhaenyra Targaryen, The Half-Year. Like Cersei, Rhaenyra was proud, petulant, dressed extravagantly, was famed for her beauty, and evenended up gaining a notable amount of weight. She was given the nickname ‘The Whore of Dragonstone’ and is still reviled by history for the destruction she brought upon the realm. Though she was first married to another, Rhaenyra’s lover, second husband, and father of two of her children was her infamous uncle Daemon The Rogue Prince. And though Jaime isn’t a whole lot like Daemon Targaryen, the falling out between Rhaenyra and Daemon is actually quite a bit like the falling out between Cersei and Jaime. Daemon ends up falling in love with the Dragonrider Nettles, and upon receiving a letter that Rhaenyra wanted Nettles executed, Daemon ignores the letter and abandons his niece as her cause begins to crumble. But it’s not Daemon who ends up killing Rhaenyra, but rather the Queen’s death comes when she flees the Red Keep, is betrayed at Dragonstone, and is fed to the dragon Sunfyre by Aegon II, her (now deformed) little brother and nemesis.
I’m not arguing that the parallels to the Dance of the Dragons are necessarily proof of how the relationship between the Lannister siblings will play out. But it should at least serve as evidence that you can find symbolism and historical parallels that lead to all sorts of conclusions depending on which conflict you look to.
A snowflake landed on the letter. As it melted the ink began to blur. Jaime rolled the parchment up again, as tight as one hand would allow, and handed it to Peck. “No,” he said. “Put this in the fire.” – Jaime VII, AFFC
Ultimately while I see the symbolism and narrative symmetry of Jaime being the one to kill Cersei, I’m not sold on it because ultimately it’s not quite as tragic. It’s not like Jon and Yrgitte where Jon was giving up a chance at real love and happiness. In this case Jaime is actually better off without Cersei. It’s not the tragic end for two people who love each other because Jaime doesn’t really love Cersei anymore and it’s not clear that Cersei ever truly loved Jaime. If Cersei is really about to burn down King’s Landing, then Jaime’s actions in silencing her would be morally clear cut and outright heroic.
Which brings us to the case for Tyrion.
Making a Valonqar
“What do you plan to offer the dragon queen, little man?”
My hate, Tyrion wanted to say. Instead he spread his hands as far as the fetters would allow. “Whatever she would have of me. Sage counsel, savage wit, a bit of tumbling. My cock, if she desires it. My tongue, if she does not. I will lead her armies or rub her feet, as she desires. And the only reward I ask is I might be allowed to rape and kill my sister.” – Tyrion VII, ADWD
The show really obscures this by prolonging Jaime’s attachment to Cersei, while Tyrion seems to be a genuine humanitarian, but from a book perspective we don’t have to struggle to imagine Tyrion murdering his older sister. By the time we get to ADWD revenge is what fuels Tyrion. Murdering Cersei is basically Tyrion’s goal. In a sense Tyrion is already the valonqar. He is already actively plotting Cersei’s undoing. Combined with the fact that Cersei fully believes Tyrion to be the valonqar and scapegoats Tyrion for everything that goes wrong, the idea that Tyrion would end up as the valonqar feels almost too obvious. It almost seems like it would validate Cersei’s hatred.
“I have never liked you, Cersei, but you were my own sister, so I never did you harm. You’ve ended that. I will hurt you for this. I don’t know how yet, but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid.” – Tyrion XII, ACOK
Except it doesn’t. It’s Cersei’s hatred which validates Tyrion as the valonquar. The reasoning I hear most often disputing Tyrion being the valonqar is that it would only prove Cersei right, and Cersei needs to be shown that she is wrong about Tyrion.
But that’s just it. Cersei isn’t completely wrong about Tyrion. Tyrion literally does want to kill her, and he is willing to reign fire and blood down on the Seven Kingdoms in order to do it. The twist isn’t that Cersei is paranoid about the wrong brother, the twist is that Cersei’s paranoia invokes Tyrion’s malice.
Tyrion as the valonqar is the more fitting character arc for both Cersei and Tyrion, and speaks to what I believe is the central idea of A Song of Ice and Fire. Since Tyrion killed their mother in childbirth, Cersei has never stopped hating Tyrion. And when Maggy the Frog prophesized that Cersei would be killed by a little brother, Cersei assumed that it was the deformed little brother she hated. Ever since, Cersei has made an enemy of Tyrion. Cersei hates Tyrion because of what she believes he will do, and through that hatred she has inspired Tyrion’s hatred of her. In treating Tyrion like a monster, Cersei has created a monster. Cersei made her enemy.
Jaime killing Cersei gives us an idea of prophecy which is unexpected (not for the reader) but inevitable. An idea of prophecy where if a witch says a little brother will kill you, then it doesn’t matter what you say or do or who you protect yourself from; a little brother will kill you. If Jaime kills Cersei then the prophecy coming true doesn’t really matter. But Tyrion as the valonqar gives us a view of prophecy that is self fulfilling, where it’s Cersei’s actions in response to the prophecy which are her undoing.
While Jaime killing Cersei would fill her final thoughts with confusion (but likely not regret. Cersei would never change her mind about Tyrion), Tyrion killing Cersei would fill her with a false sense of validation as she lays dying. The tragedy of Cersei Lannister would be that she never understands or accepts responsibility for the way she treats people. She thinks she was right all along to hate Tyrion, but never realizes that her own hatred is what kills her. The tragedy of Tyrion Lannister would be that in killing Cersei he becomes the monster that she always treated him as.
“There is blood between Targaryen and Lannister. Why would you support the cause of Queen Daenerys?”
“For gold and glory,: the dwarf said cheerfully. “Oh and hate. If you had ever met my sister, you would understand.” – Tyrion III, ADWD
Though Tyrion’s relationship with his family was never anything that could be considered healthy, it undergoes a major transformation culminating in the latter half of ASOS. When we first meet Tyrion he views his relationship with his family as an asset. Though he hated Cersei and she hated him, he viewed the fact that his sister was Queen as something which made him untouchable. He viewed his older brother as someone he could count on to get him out of trouble. He viewed his status as the son of Tywin as a point of pride, even viewing himself as Tywin “writ small.” As a result, during his time as Hand of the King, Tyrion did his part not only to defend the city but also to maintain the rule of House Lannister. He craved acknowledgement from his father for his role in the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Somewhat like Jon Snow, on some level Tyrion always wanted to be accepted as a Lannister of Casterly Rock and hoped that he would eventually find his place in the family legacy. To an extent, (though he did have a highly paranoid and antagonistic relationship with Cersei as Hand of the King) despite everything the family had put him through, Tyrion still defended the family.
“That night Tyion Lannister dreamed of a battle that turned the hills of Westeros red as blood. He was in the midst of it, dealing with an axe as big as he was, fighting side by side with Barristan the Bold and Bittersteel,as dragons wheeled across the sky above them. In the dream he had two heads, both noseless. His father led the army, so he slew him once again. Then he killed his brother, Jaime, hacking at his face until it was red ruin, laughing every time he struck a blow. Only when the fighting was finished did he realize that his second head was weeping.” – Tyrion II, ADWD
But Cersei’s hatred has transformed Tyrion. For all the fan expectation of Tyrion as an Other-slaying, dragon-riding savior, it’s often glossed over that the Tyrion we encounter in Dance is fueled by revenge, dreams about killing Jaime with an axe, and openly talks about wanting to rape and murder Cersei. Where the family was once a toxic group of people Tyrion endured and reaped the advantages of, he now sees the rest of his family as an obstacle that needs to be eliminated. In a sense he is becoming more like Tywin, determined to utterly destroy all of those who have insulted him. And while trying to live up to their father’s legacy is a bit of a complex for all the Lannister children, its Tyrion who most fits the bill.
“I’ve got to admit I kind of like Tyrion Lannister. He’s the villain of course, but hey, there’s nothing like a good villain.” – GRRM, 1999
This quote is from 1999, so it’s not terribly recent, but not so early that it would be before Martin had a strong idea of where the story was going. While I this doesn’t imply that Tyrion is will team up with the White Walkers, I can’t emphasize enough how separate show!Tyrion is from book Tyrion. While season 5 Tyrion is too emotionally wounded to have sex with a prostitute who he charmed by complementing her intellect, book 5 Tyrion rapes a sobbing prostitute. I expect this disparity is largely a result of the showrunners wanting the mascot character to be funny and likable, but ultimately I think it distracts the fandom from what is going on with Tyrion in the books.
“What do I want, you ask? I’ll tell you what I want. I want what is mine by rights. I want Casterly Rock.” – Tyrion I, ASOS
“If it is useful occupation you require, useful occupation you shall have,” his father then said. So to mark his manhood, Tyrion was given charge of all the drains and cisterns within Casterly Rock. Perhaps he hoped I’d fall into one. But Tywin had been disappointed in that. The drains never drained half so well as when he had charge of them.” – Tyrion II, ADWD
Casterly Rock has been the object of Tyrion’s desires since the beginning of the story. Though Jaime’s ineligibility as a knight sworn to the King’s Guard entitled Tyrion to inherit his ancestral home, Tyrion now understands that his family are an obstacle to the acquisition of his birthright. There is foreshadowing that just as Lann the Clever found a secret way in and swindled Casterly Rock from the Casterlys, Tyrion may end up doing something similar to take the Rock back from his own family, as he is stated to have an intricate knowledge of the sewer systems of Casterly Rock from when he was placed in charge of them by his father. That he may make use of this knowledge when he returns to Westeros with Daenerys is actually quite likely, and would not be the first time in our story that something was taken through this strategy. If this comes to pass, will Tyrion find his childhood home empty, or will he come face to face with his wicked sister one last time?
A Game of Guesses
“It’s never the person who you most suspect. It’s also never the person you least suspect, since anyone with half a brain would suspect them the most. Therefore, I know the killer to be Phyllis… The person who I most medium suspect.” – Dwight K. Schrute
It can of course be argued that the prophecy doesn’t have to come true. Cersei could be killed by someone who is not a little brother. Or that the word ‘valonqar’ could be genderless. Or that it could be a little brother, but not Cersei’s little brother. It could be Aegon, or Bran, or the Hound, or Jon, or Tommen, or Euron, or even Loras. So long as it’s a little brother who kills her, the prophecy is fulfilled right?
But what would be the point of Martin that? Misdirection? Proof that the author knew where the story was headed? Evidence that the future is already written? What was the point of giving us the valonqar prophecy if the little brother ends up being Aegon? Or if it ends up being Tommen? Or even if it ends up being Jaime? If GRRM throws us a curveball and has Cersei killed by a little brother she never suspected, then how does the prophecy amount to anything more than a guessing game Martin set up himself?
“Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy… In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that.” – GRRM
Thus far in asoiaf, Martin uses prophecy in a couple of different ways (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive). Prophecy can influence or manipulate the characters receiving the prophecy, or it can serve as a clue to the reader about events in the story.
“The old gods stir and will not let me sleep. I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye. I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings. I dreamt of a roaring river and a woman that was a fish. Dead she drifted, with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, oh, I woke from terror. All this I dreamt, and more.” – Arya IV, ASOS
Typically when prophecy is acting as a clue for the reader, Martin gives us a puzzle that we can potentially decipher. For example when the Ghost of High Heart recites her dreams to the Brotherhood, or in the House of the Undying when Daenerys receives several prophecies about events which may come to pass. It’s important to note that those prophecies are never literal, but rather figurative. They serve as a riddle which the reader must seek out an answer to. This is why often times these dreams or visions show us events which have already come to pass alongside events that are yet to come. It’s about using events which the reader knows to establish a legend for how the prophecy is to be read. In these prophecies characters are usually presented using symbols based on house or artifacts of personal relevence. For example a cloth dragon is Aegon. A seaweed covered drowned crow is Euron. A dead woman who was a fish is Lady Stoneheart. A blue winter rose growing from a wall of ice is Jon Snow. A maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair is Sansa. And the savage giant could be an Umber, or it could be Littlefinger.
The point is most prophecies are meant to serve as puzzles for the reader, and thus are non-literal. Though Arya hears about a seaweed covered drowned crow in her POV, that prophecy doesn’t actually have anything to do with Arya or anything that Arya is directly involved in. Instead it’s intended for the reader to be clued in on something which is coming later in the story.
But in every case these kinds of prophecies contain actual clues. Yes the symbols can have various interpretations, but the interpretations aren’t so numerous that it’s random. So in hindsight the reader can see how the clues to solve the riddle were right there in the prophecy.
The old woman was not done with her, however. “Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds,” she said. “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” – Cersei VIII, AFFC
The valonqar prophecy is different. We don’t see the valonqar prophecy as a dream or a vision which is open to interpretation, (save for any trick in the use of high Valyrian) Cersei has the valonqar prophecy told to her in very clear terms. She is told she will be Queen. She is told she will lose everything to someone younger and more beautiful. She is told she will have 3 children. She is told her children will die. She is told that a little brother will strangle her to death. It’s important how direct this prophecy is because it’s not actually a puzzle and doesn’t really give the reader clues which need to be deciphered.
Martin tells us that Cersei is supposed to be killed by a little brother, and while there are technically multiple little brothers who could end up killing her, the prophecy doesn’t give us any more specific clues as to who it would be. It’s about as much of a puzzle as if I were to ask you to guess the number I’m thinking of between 1 and 20. Due to the feudal emphasis on producing multiple backup heirs, our story is filled with little brothers. In fact nearly all of our male POVs are younger brothers. Ned, Tyrion, Jaime, Jon, Bran, Theon, Quentyn, Aeron, Victarion, Arys, Areo…. then there is Benjen, Stannis, Euron, Aegon(?), Aemon, Loras, Garlan, Rickon, Sandor, Edmure, Trystane, Tommen, Kevan, Jojen, Bloodraven, probably most of the Others, Blackfish, Edric Storm, Osfryd, Osney Kettleblack, and Moonboy for all we know… “little brother” isn’t remotely specific, and to add to that Cersei makes enemies of almost everyone. It’s not really a riddle, and it doesn’t act as a riddle for Cersei either. Cersei never second guesses her first conclusion. The power of the Valonquar prophecy lies not in any puzzle it creates for the reader, but rather in the psychological effect that it has on Cersei.
The Gift of the Maggy
Since the beginning, Maggy the Frog’s prophecies have been manipulative and self-fulfilling. Just like Mirri Maz Duur, the other prominent maegi in our story, Maggy the Frog works through a mixture of blood magic and trickery. When Cersei’s companion Melara asks if she will marry Jaime, she is told that she will die that very day and that her death is so near she should be able to feel it’s breath. Sure enough that same day Cersei kills Melara by throwing her down a well. The catch here is that Cersei killed Melara specifically to prevent her from ever speaking the prophecy. It was the act of hearing Maggy’s prophecy which caused it to come true. But Maggy didn’t create hatred or the capacity to murder where It wasn’t already there. She didn’t force Cersei to be hateful, or envious, or vain. Maggy only manipulated those toxic self-destructive qualities where they already existed. With a few words Maggy the Frog was able to turn a spoiled girl’s hatred into fear. That’s not to say that Maggy necessarily doesn’t see the future, or that she doesn’t have some kind of magical power, but that the prophecy is deviously manipulative.
For example, take the part of the prophecy about the younger more beautiful queen:
“Aye Malice gleamed in Maggy’s yellow eyes. “Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” – Cersei VII, AFFC
This part of the prophecy is particularly noteworthy because it’s practically an inevitability. Not everyone is strangled by a younger brother, but everyone gets old, all beauty fades, and all Queens are eventually replaced. Due to the significance placed by feudalism on child bearing years, this replacement is almost always younger, and being younger is typically associated with beauty. So it’s not exactly an impressive prediction. Predicting a queen will be replaced by someone younger and more beautiful is like predicting that winter will turn to spring. It’s just the circle of life.
It has also been argued that this segment refers to Brienne and her inner beauty, which isn’t an invalid prediction at all but only speaks to just how vague and open to interpretation the prophecy can be.
But what is most significant about this portion of Maggy’s prophecy is how it warps Cersei by manipulating her own narcissism and jealousy. Maggy has diabolically taken the basic structural reality that Cersei would eventually need to be replaced, and framed her inevitable replacement as a usurper. As an enemy come to destroy her. So in her unwillingness to accept the end of her reign, Cersei tries to use the faith militant on Margary Tyrell, which only has the effect of worsening her situation. It almost doesn’t matter who the more beautiful Queen is because whether Sansa, Margaery, Arianne, or Daenerys, it has to be someone, Cersei is paranoid about every potential replacement, and her paranoia is what leads her to ruin.
“He is in the walls. He killed Father as he killed Mother, as he killed Joff. The dwarf would come for her as well, the queen knew, just as the old woman had promised her in the dimness of that tent. I laughed in her face, but she had powers. I saw my future in a drop of blood. My doom. Her legs were weak as water. Ser Boros tried to take her by the arm, but the queen recoiled from his touch. For all she knew he might be one of Tyrion’s creatures. “Get away from me,” she said. “Get away!” She staggered to a settle.” – Cersei I, AFFC
Hence why I believe that the valonqar is in fact Tyrion Lannister. Neither Jaime nor Tyrion would actually be unexpected to the reader, but the whole prophecy mainly just exists in Cersei’s mind, and in her mind it has little to do with her relationship with Jaime but everything to do with her relationship to Tyrion. In her utter determination to hold onto power Cersei Lannister’s narcissism and paranoia has created an enemy of anyone and everyone she comes across. As much as I love the character of show!Cersei (and I do love show Cersei, I think he’s by far the best written character on the show), it’s important to recognize how much more evil and selfish she is in the books. It’s clear from reading her POVs that she doesn’t genuinely love anyone, and views everyone around her as either a threat to her status or an object to be used to maintain or elevate her status. Her affection for people like Jaime, Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen really only exist insofar as these people serve as reflections of herself, and we have seen with Jaime that this affection can fade if they cease serving as reflections of herself.
Given her relentless addiction to power and her complete lack of love or empathy, it will be no surprise when someone finally puts an end to Cersei Lannister. But among all of Cersei’s failed and broken relationships, and among all of her well-deserved enemies, Tyrion stands alone. It’s her deep unbridled hatred and paranoia of Tyrion which has been the most obsessive, the most enduring, and the most destructive; for Cersei, for House Lannister, and for the Seven Kingdoms.
“I choose violence”
- The bond between Jaime and Cersei has already fallen apart.
- Killing a Mad King/Queen to stop them from burning innocent people is a moral act, but it’s more likely that the strangling of Cersei will be personal.
- The loss of Jaime’s hand also represents the severing of his connection to Cersei. Getting Cersei out of his head is central to Jaime’s arc, and killong Cersei is not the best way for him to do that.
- Cersei is a complete narcissist who doesn’t really love Jaime. Her arc is framed around the desperate struggle to keep power, and moving away from Jaime isn’t central to her arc at all.
- The falling out between Cersei and Jaime Lannister mirrors the falling out between Quen Rhaenyra and Daemon the Rogue Prince.
- Cersei’s lifelong hatred of Tyrion has changed him from a misanthropic imp to a revenge fueled monster bent on her destruction.
- While most prophecies in ASOIAF are riddles which use symbols that the reader must decipher, the valonqar prophecy is extremely straightforward and thus wreaks utter havoc on Cersei’s psyche.
- Maggy the Frog used prophecy to manipulate an arrogant, selfish, and jealous Cersei Lannister into destroying her own life by antagonizing the people around her, first and foremost her hated little brother Tyrion; the valonqar.