It’s quite telling that with Game of Thrones narrowing its scope for its final two seasons, a decent amount of attention is still being paid to the Hound. Not that Thrones shouldn’t take a little bit of time to let the Hound shade Thoros of Myr for his weak attempt at a man bun (the Hound would absolutely love Brooklyn). But with the Hound and his cohorts heading north to face the impending White Walker threat, it makes sense that there’s some speculation as to what their ultimate purpose will be.
Some fans see Beric Dondarrion, the oft-resurrected knight accompanying the Hound, as the legendary warrior Azor Ahai reborn, who will stop the White Walkers as he once did thousands of years ago. Dondarrion even has a flaming sword, which will make another appearance this season; that’s significant because Azor Ahai had a legendary sword called Lightbringer. (The identity of the reincarnated Azor Ahai is one of several theories we’re keeping an eye on this season, and many characters could potentially fulfill the prophecy, including Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister and Ser Davos.)
But could the series be setting up the Hound, of all people, as Azor Ahai? Some evidence from the season seven premiere could support this theory, along with George R.R. Martin’s penchant for twisted irony and narrative subversion.
What gave this idea some minor steam on Reddit was the character’s scene at a small cottage; the same one that Arya and the Hound visited in season four, in which he stole a father and daughter’s silver and pronounced them dead by winter. Well, he was right, as their skeletons lay inside the home huddled together. When the Hound is asked to stare into the fire his comrades started in the fireplace, he sees a terrifying vision for Westeros in the flames — and this is right after the Hound chastises Beric and Thoros for believing in the Lord of Light.
Ice, a wall of ice. The Wall, it’s where the Wall meets the sea. There’s a castle there. There’s a mountain, looks like an arrowhead. The dead are marching past, thousands of them.
It appears he’s referring to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, where Tormund and a group of Wildlings are headed to guard from the White Walkers — though from the sound of it, we might as well prepare an obituary for Tormund now. But perhaps lost in the Hound’s chilling vision: If he can see things in the flames as well, does this make him a red priest? It’s possible he’s had this gift his whole life, but his aversion to fire — stemming from an incident where his brother, the Mountain, pushed his face into a fireplace when they were kids, literally and figuratively scarring him — means he was never able to use it. Or, alternatively, fire has always scared the hell out of him because he saw things in the flames.
Either way, the Hound has a dark, intimate relationship with fire, and could even meet some of the qualifications on the Azor Ahai checklist. The warrior “shall be born again amidst smoke and salt,” which could apply to the Hound through a symbolic rebirth with his scarred face as a child, or when he’s brought back from death’s door by Ian McShane’s holy man, Brother Ray, after Arya left him to die in season four.
Granted, it’s not a lot to go off of — plus, Azor Ahai seems to have some link to dragons, which the Hound thus far does not — but it’s worth considering how on-brand it would be for Martin, who enjoys subverting the tropes and expectations of traditional fantasy stories. A long-teased warrior who wields a flaming sword ends up being the one person on the series who’s terrified of fire? That same warrior, who’s ostensibly believed to be the one who will save the realm, ends up being arguably the least chivalrous person on the show, who shouts obscenities about half the time?
The Hound complained about how shitty his luck is; that he’s stuck traveling north with a bunch of fire worshippers. But Beric’s response to his grousing might be right — It’s just part of the Hound’s destiny to join them. Maybe it’s also his destiny to save the realm.
Hopefully, he can also rid the Seven Kingdoms of man buns along the way.
We also would love to hear your theories! If you have any Game of Thrones theories you’d like to submit (so long as they’re not about Varys secretly being a merman), shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seventh season of Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.
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