- Warning: Spoilers ahead for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” season eight, episode five, “The Bells.”
- In the book series, Cersei Lannister is told by a woods’ witch that she will die at the hands of the “valonqar,” which means “little brother” in Valyrian.
- Though the show left out this deadly part of the prophecy on season five’s flashback scene, Sunday’s episode showed how Jaime (who’s technically Cersei’s other little brother) was still part of her death.
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Sunday’s penultimate episode of the HBO hit series brought more death and destruction to Westeros on “Game of Thrones,” and the iconic Lannister twins were one of the biggest casualties.
Fans had long assumed Cersei would never survive the series, and not because of her megalomaniac behaviour but because George R.R. Martin’s book series had directly prophesied it. “Game of Thrones” conspicuously never included the dialogue saying Cersei would die at the hands of her “little brother,” but this prophecy manifested anyways on Sunday’s episode.
During Daenerys’ sack of King’s Landing, Cersei tried to flee the Red Keep while Jaime was trying to find her so they could escape together. They wound up trapped deep in bowels of the castle, and the entire building collapsed in on them as they held each other one last time.
But many fans came into this final season thinking Jaime would actually kill Cersei, and it’s all thanks to a key prophecy the show omitted years ago.
The ‘valonqar’ prophecy was left out of the show on season 5
The fifth season premiere of “Game of Thrones” opened with a flashback to young Cersei seeking out a fortune teller named Maggy the Frog. In both the books and show, Cersei is told she can ask three questions of the witch.
The first question and answer were almost word for word from Martin’s fourth “A Song of Ice and Fire” book, “A Feast for Crows.” Cersei said she was promised to the prince (who happened to be Rhaegar Targaryen, Jon Snow’s father) and asked Maggy when they would marry.
“Never,” Maggy replied. “You will wed the king.”
“But I will be queen?” Cersei asked.
“Oh yes,” Maggy said. “You will be queen, for a time … until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”
Cersei would come to believe that “younger and more beautiful” person was Margaery Tyrell, the woman about to marry Tommen and become Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. But many fans believed this line of Maggy’s fortune was referring to Daenerys Targaryen (though Sansa Stark and even Brienne of Tarth were also theorised candidates).
Back in the flashback, young Cersei moved on from this disconcerting answer, and asks her second question: “Will the king and I have children?”
“The king will have twenty, you will have three,” Maggy said. Cersei tried to interrupt, clearly confused.
Readers and viewers alike now understand that she and the former king, Robert Baratheon, never conceived together; all of his children were bastards and all of hers were born from the incestuous relationship she has with her brother Jaime.
“Gold will be their crowns, and gold their shrouds,” Maggy said before devolving into hysterical laughter.
This line can be interpreted in a few different ways. The gold crowns could be literal crowns, since Joffrey and Tommen were both crowned king. Plus, in the books, there is a plot centered around women in Dorne crowning Myrcella queen. But it probably simply refers to their hair colour: blonde, like their parents.
“Gold their shrouds” was more direct. Maggy was warning that all of Cersei’s children would die before her, and indeed they did. Joffrey and Myrcella were both murdered, and each was shown in golden funeral garb. Tommen died by suicide while wearing a golden jacket.
Readers of Martin’s book series thought they knew exactly what Maggy was going to say next in that tent. Or so they thought. Instead, the scene quickly ended, cutting to present-day Cersei on her way to her father’s funeral.
The book text has a third, and crucial, line in Maggy’s answer.
“And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you,” Maggy says in Martin’s version of the scene.
Putting stock in this prophecy seemed like a sure bet, since all of the Maggy’s other predictions for Cersei’s life had come true. But how would it happen? Who was this “valonqar”?
Jaime was always a very likely candidate for Cersei’s undoing
Valonqar is the High Valyrian word for “little brother,” so Cersei spent most of her life assuming Tyrion Lannister, her youngest brother, would one day kill her. In the books, Cersei devolves into a terrifying state of paranoia following Tyrion’s murder of their father and escape from King’s Landing. She believes the prophecy foretold her death at the hands of Tyrion, and imagined him creeping up in the dead of night to strangle her.
Since Martin loves to subvert prophetic expectations, the very fact that Cersei believed Tyrion was the valonqar meant it was extremely unlikely he would be.
So who else was plausible? Some people believed Sandor “the Hound” Clegane was the little brother Maggy referred to. This ties into a separate theory, known as Cleganebowl, in which people thought Cersei would demand a trial-by-combat against the Faith of the Seven. Fans had reason to believe the Hound would possibly serve as the Faith’s fighter, and Cersei would of course pick the Mountain.
If the Hound beat the Mountain, and Cersei was executed as a result, then in a backwards way the “little” Clegane brother would be responsible for Cersei’s death.
But eventually the theory of Jaime being the real Valonqar caught on as one of the most popular options among fans, according to a 2015 survey. Jaime is also technically her little brother, since he was born just moments after Cersei.
In his last published book chapters, Jaime is extremely disillusioned with Cersei to the point where some fans could see him killing his twin sister and lover.
Especially with Cersei becoming the megalomaniac ruler we’ve seen on the show, Jaime killing his “Mad Queen” sister just as he once had to kill the Mad King could be a poetic ending for them both.
Even though the show seemingly cut Jaime’s direct role in her death, this episode did follow another key piece of foreshadowing
So. The “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seem to never have had an intention of Cersei dying at the hands of Jaime. But the fact that he was with her as she died, and died alongside her, might have been their way of following another set of clues Martin placed in the text.
Throughout Martin’s book series, Jaime and Cersei speak about how their bond as twins and lovers means neither of them can live without the other – literally.
“Jaime and I are more than brother and sister,” Cersei tells Ned Stark in the first book, when he confronts her about sleeping with her Jaime. “We are one person in two bodies. We shared a womb together. He came into this world holding my foot, our old maester said.”
The show adapted this line for the season one scene in which Ned and Cersei speak frankly about the secret of her bastard children. For all our other hints, we turn to Martin’s books.
“I cannot die while Cersei lives,” Jaime thinks to himself in the third book. “We will die together as we were born together.”
Then by the fourth book, Cersei says she and Jaime “will leave this world together, as we once came into it.”
Martin’s last-published book, “A Dance With Dragons,” ends with Cersei’s walk of atonement and Jaime still in the Riverlands, tangled up with Brienne of Tarth’s story line. But with two more planned books, many fans believe Martin will somehow bring Jaime and Cersei back together with devastating consequences.
The version of Jaime and Cersei’s death on ‘Game of Thrones’ is likely different than Martin’s plan
Cersei has lived far longer on “Game of Thrones” than most expect her to in Martin’s books. And who can blame showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for wanting to keep one of the show’s best actresses, Lena Headey, around for more phenomenal performances?
But this means the manner of both her and Jaime’s death on “Game of Thrones” is likely different from the path their characters are taking in Martin’s books. As we explored after the Night King was killed by Arya, Benioff and Weiss have been largely on their own when it comes to plotting the pathways towards the endpoint of “Game of Thrones.”
This might be why they left out the volanqar prophecy altogether – perhaps that’s not one of the plot points Martin was able to convey to them when they met to discuss the ending.
Fans of the books will need to wait for Martin’s versions of events to know who the valonqar really is, and how it ties into Cersei Lannister’s fate. But for now, Tyrion remains the last of their great house in Westeros.
For more insights like these, preorder “The Unofficial Guide to Game of Thrones” by Kim Renfro here.
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