The Dragon has Three Heads
Who are the Three Heads of the Dragon?
This is actually a fairly easy question to answer. All that is needed is a simple examination of the story's structure. You don't even need to know anything about the characters themselves. Four characters dominate the narrative: Jon, Daenerys, Arya, and Tyrion.
Now, your first impulse would be to assume that these are the primary characters, but in one case you would be mistaken. Tyrion actually serves more as a narrator than as a protagonist. Despite having the most point-of-view chapters than anyone, most of these involve his either presenting other people's actions or his reacting to them.Mostly his sister Cersei's.
He himself very rarely initiates any. The most notable being his murder of his father.
Tyrion story is therefore a conduit for Cersei's. It is probable that GRRM had intended this for some time. The fact his story largely peters out after he leaves Kings Landing and the focus on Kings Landing does not change is strong evidence that Tyrion was never the central figure of that storyline. Nor is it an accident that Cersei receives her first POV chapter as soon as he leaves.
This all makes perfect sense. What we have is not one storyline, but four - 3 heroes and 1 villain.
The story is structured thus:
1) The North, which focuses on Jon and includs Bran and Bloodraven.
2) Arya's Journey from Kings Landing, through the Riverlands, to Braavos, and back again.
3) Kings Landing, concentrating on Cersei and the war for the Iron Throne. Also includes Sansa's story line.
4) Daenery's Journey from Pentos, to Vaes Dothrak, down to Qarth and Slavers Bay, back to Vaes Dothrak, and ultimately a return to Westeros.
Note how only the Kings Landing plot line centers on the Iron Throne. And that it is the story line that centers on Cersei, the villain.
The logical conclusion is therefore that the Three Heads of the Dragon are: Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen.
But knowing who the Heads are doesn't answer a far more important question - Why?
This is not an easy question. For example: In Arthurian Legend, Le Morte d'Arthur, tells us that Arthur is the rightful king of England because his father Uther Pendragon was the rightful king. But why was Uther the rightful king? It never tells us. It is a fact which we are just forced to accept. Martin explains tropes at least as often as he contradicts them. It can be argued that a big part of the reason his story is so long is because he is showing why something is true and not just saying it.
So how do we answer this question?
Let's start with Jon.
When the story begins we are told that Jon is Ned's bastard. That his mother is unknown. It is later revealed that he is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and thus the rightful king. He was kept ignorant of his background to protect him. Standard fantasy trope.
Why did Martin include such an obvious cliche in his story? What is the significance of Jon's background to the point that Martin spends a tremendous amount of time on it?
Let's step back and re-examine his history first. His mother, Lyanna Stark, was supposed to have been abducted and raped by the crown prince, Rhaegar Targaryen. She then died giving birth to Jon. She made her brother, Eddard, or Ned, promise... something? It is implied the promise involved keeping Jon safe. Yet it is not actually stated explicitly in the text. What's more, it is also implied that Ned made more than one promise.
Unfortunately, the circumstances of why Ned came to be there are also muddled. How did he know where to go? Why did he fight the Kingsguard who were waiting at the Tower? Why did he destroy the Tower?
It takes some doing to untangle this. The most logical explanation is:
Ashara Dayne was a friend and confidant of both Rhaegar and his wife Ellia Martell. It is from her that Ned learned where Lyanna was being kept. Despite his efforts to negotiate, Ned and his companions were forced to fight the Kingsguards. This doesn't make sense to a lot of people because aren't Ned and Arthur Dayne both on the same side? The answer is no. Arthur was fighting to protect the crown prince and son of his best friend. Ned was trying to find his sister and bring her back to Winterfell. Dayne would never allow the crown prince to be carried off to Winterfell and Ned was equally determined that his sister not be held captive by anyone.
It must be remembered that Ned went to the Tower believing his sister was a captive and nothing has yet been presented to contradict this. Had Ned left the baby Jon with Arthur it is a certainty that Arthur would have raised Jon believing he was the rightful king and therefore had to get his throne back. This would inevitably lead to conflict, not just with Robert, but also his uncle Viserys. Ned was fighting to prevent another war as much as for his kin. He was even willing to send his beloved sister's son to the Nights Watch, a place he would manifestly not be safe. Ultimately, the peace of Westeros overrode even the love of his sister.
What really happened between Rhaegar and Lyanna has been subject to much speculation. Here is mine:
Rhaegar and Lyanna first met at the tourney at Harrenhal. She had disguised herself as the Knight of the Laughing Tree in order to seek revenge for Howland Reed.
Rhaegar had been sent by his father, the Mad King Aerys, to discover the true identity of the Knight. Rhaegar claimed to have failed, but it seems certain he was lying. He found and fell in love with Lyanna. Or at the very least she fell in love with him. The events at Harrenhal are complicated enough to justify their own article. Suffice it to say, Lyanna chose to take Rhaegar into her confidence.
Lyanna let it be known to Rhaegar how unhappy she was with her engagement to Robert Baratheon. Rhaegar had his own reasons for wanting to be with Lyanna, which may or may not have involved love. Regardless of their individual reasons, the two decided to run off together.
Here we should examine at least some of what motivated Rhaegar. Rhaegar was obsessed with the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised. First he thought it was about himself. Then he thought it was about his son. In addition, he believed that 'the Dragon has Three Heads'. We don't know if he was the first to say this, but it is from him that we first learn of it in the story. It is probable that both Ashara and his wife Ellia knew of his beliefs, though we have no clue whether either agreed with him. I suspect they did. Because Ellia could no longer have children after the birth of their son Aegon, Rhaegar was in the market for a substitute.
Now none of this proves that Jon is either the Prince that was Promised or one of the Heads of the Dragon. The advantage that we the readers have over Jon is access to Dany's visions. These clearly do indicate that Jon is both. But what does this mean and why? What is it about Jon that makes him so special?
Repeatedly, most especially in Fire and Blood, we are told by Martin that there has to be a marriage, or at least a coupling, between the Starks and the Targaryens. But he does not explain why. As Gemma of Secrets of the Citadel has pointed out, the relationship between Rhaegar and Lyanna definitely fits this requirement. But again we don't know why.
One part might reasonably be guessed. Targaryens repeatedly refer to themselves as having the 'blood of the dragon'. Aside from alliteration what does this actually mean? I would suggest that it is because those of Valyrian descent possess magic in their blood. The Targaryens certainly think so. The fact they can bond with dragons supports this assumption. I go into greater detail in my article on Targaryen bloodlines.
This hints at the possibility that the other part of the equation also involves blood. Stark blood. What is special about Stark blood? There is only one thing that is identifiable and that is the Starks have produced a great many skinchangers. Their connection with direwolves is literally on their banners. How they acquired this power is unknown, though it has been speculated that they might have interbred with the Children of the Forest at some time in the past. Martin has confirmed that all the Stark children are skinchangers, including Sansa.
It is therefore reasonable to believe that the reason for why Jon specifically is the Prince that was Promised is due to this combining of two different magical bloodlines. But we still don't know why? What is it about the combination of these two bloodlines that makes them so important? There is the obvious. A person with magical blood could be expected to be able to do things ordinary people can't. But I think there is more to it than that.
Let us re-examine the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised. Who promised? What was he promised for? Who was he promised to? None of these questions are answered. To understand we have to take account of the true nature of the weirwoods. If the conjecture of the weirwood mind is true, then the meaning of the Prince that was Promised prophecy takes on an ominous meaning. It is more than possible that the visions upon which the prophecy is based, indeed the entire religion of the Lord of Light, is corrupted by the Ego.
That means that the Prince is intended, not to save the world from the Others, but to serve the interests of the weirwoods. Given that the objective of the weirwoods is to engage in the biggest genocide ever to fuel magic that would alter Westeros forever, the prince therefore serves two possible purposes.
1) To die. He is the proverbial cherry on top. His magical blood adds to the power that will return Westeros to its ancient state. It should be pointed out, however, that his blood isn't strictly speaking necessary. So much blood is going to be shed that the Prince's blood simply guarantees the outcome. This leads to -
2) To dispose of an unwanted burden. Once the sacrifice is made the Others will no longer be needed. In order to keep the Others the weirwoods have to tolerate extended winters. This is not beneficial to the weirwoods. In addition, the trees don't want to kill EVERYONE. A small number of survivors are needed to continue to supply the trees with blood. The weirwoods do not have the power to destroy the Others on their own. The Others are ruled by the Id. The Ego has no control of it, assuming it is even aware of it.
So now we have an explanation for why Jon is the Prince that was Promised. But what about his being king? Is there significance to this? Yes. As Gandalf said 'There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.' The weirwoods are not all powerful or else they wouldn't need the Others in the first place. What other power exists besides the Old Gods is still a mystery. Yet it is reasonable to assume that there is some power to counterbalance that of the trees. Perhaps it is merely the collective force of all the people of Westeros. Who can say.
What we can say is that once the Wall crumbles and the Others flood south someone is going to have to unify the people of Westeros to fight them. The son of Rhaegar Targaryen fits the bill. Here I am reminded of something central to the question. In the books Jon has been murdered and has yet to be resurrected. But there is little doubt that is exactly what will happen. The Jesus inference is very intentional.
As for why is the question. Martin did not include this detail for no reason. Jon being resurrected serves a purpose in the story. Likely it links directly with the next point. But surely there is more to it than that. It is possible that the weirwoods, having engineered his birth, weren't finished with him yet. More likely it will be the sacrifice of Stannis's daughter Shireen which provides the fuel for the miracle. Her death is something already confirmed as book material. The circumstances will of course be different, but whether deliberate or not, her death will give Jon new life. "Only death can pay for life."
This tells us how it happens, but not why. The reason possibly involves his blood. In Game of Thrones Jon burns his hand saving Joer Mormont from a wight. Yet Targaryens are famously fire resistant. Even if we take account of Martin's statement that Daenerys isn't fire proof, she nonetheless has much greater resistance to heat than normal people. Martin has also said that death changes people and this is likely the answer. When Jon was killed and gets resurrected it will awaken some Valyrian element in his blood. This will allow him to survive Dany's test mentioned in the article on Dany's visions.
This is why I personally believe that the question of who sits the Iron Throne will actually be answered before the war against the Others is resolved. It is likely that this counter-force is where the 'The Dragon has Three Heads' comes from. Having three heroes increases the chance of victory. This leads directly to -
First, let's ask what should be a fairly obvious question - just who was it who said the Dragon had to have Three Heads? Is this just an assumption because Aegon had two sister-wives. Or is it a true prophecy that's been handed down for centuries? It has been speculated that the Three Heads prophecy may have motivated Aegon to conquer Westeros. But is it connected to the Prince that was Promised?
The answer to the second question is a definite 'no'. To the best of our knowledge the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised comes out of Asshai. The Three Heads of the Dragon, assuming it was spoken as prophecy at all, is likely to have originated with Daenys the Dreamer. Does it give any indication of who the three are supposed to be? Again, the answer is no. To the best of our knowledge 'the Dragon has Three Heads' is literally all there is to it.
This leaves a lot open. This is why Rhaegar was able to convince himself that his son Aegon and his siblings would be the Three Heads. Well, Rhaegar was right that 'a' son would be one of the three. He was just wrong about the other two.
Qauithe too takes liberties with the saying. She decides that because the three are not specified she is therefore able to choose who they were going to be. Make no mistake, Qauithe meddled freely with the lives of those she believed the prophecy applied to. Understandably, most people are going to be skeptical. What actual evidence is there of Quaithe's involvement? Precious little, but perhaps we can infer it.
Daenerys, during her first journey to Vaes Dothrak, suffered severe depression to the point where she even contemplated suicide. A dream of her transforming into a dragon is what gave her the confidence to face her Dothraki spouse on equal terms. Nor was it the only dream she had. Most peoples' first impulse is to assume such dreams, if they are artificially sent at all, was caused by Bloodraven because of course he did. The problem with this assumption is that Bloodraven shows no interest in Daenerys, or that he is even aware she exists. Qauithe proves she is very much aware of Dany's existence. Qauithe also possesses a glass candle as she demonstrates by openly invading Dany's dreams in Meereen.
Besides that, Daenerys, Arya, Jon, and Bran all hear whispers on the wind. These whispers are usually helpful except in Bran's case. Bran's experience is different in another way too. The others hear distinct words, whereas Bran does not. Once again people tend to chalk this up to Bloodraven. But the fact that Bran's experience is so much different than the others, and he is the only one Bloodraven shows any interest in, can be taken to show that he is the only one Bloodraven is trying to communicate with. As stated Quaithe has a glass candle. This makes it easy for her to communicate with whomever she wants. She also demonstrates that she is aware of the prophecies, while Bloodraven never mentions them.
The question then is if true, which is admittedly a stretch, how did she decide who they were? For Dany the answer is easy - dragons.
How did Quaithe know Dany would hatch dragons? We don't know, though glass candles are said to allow at least limited precognition. This could also explain many other reasons for why Quaithe would choose her bearing in mind that Quaithe's objective is specifically helping Jon.
Daenerys becomes an experienced queen, even if people argue whether she is very good at it.
She demonstrates high level of military skill. Her entire campaign in Slavers Bay was planned by her.
As part of her birthing dragons, arguably as important as the dragons themselves, her blood means she is capable of birthing even more dragons. Since Quaithe looks upon Jon as a son, not just a savior, she is no doubt also thinking of his future. What happens to him AFTER he saves the world is part of her thinking. She could hardly miss what is implied by the whole Three Heads thing. Aegon and his sisters certainly got it. What she can give Jon after the fight is over ranks alongside her contribution to saving the world.
So now we reach the last Head - Arya.
Useful as her skills would no doubt be, what exactly does she give to the group?
Here we have to separate Quaithe's motivations from Daenerys'. Both women will have reasons for wanting Arya on the team. But their reasons are not the same. Dany will be thinking of her family and her legacy. Valuable as these things are to Qauithe, her needs are more immediate.
To begin, Quaithe, if she really has some idea of what the future holds, knows that Dany is going to need saving. See my article on Euron for more information. Quaithe knows that Arya is the only one who can save Dany. But what about after that?
Quaithe does appear to know about Dany's visions in the House of the Undying. Which means, given she has a glass candle, that she understands their meaning better than Dany does. Because of this she knows that Dany is going to need some help in getting Jon to join her. The fact that Jon and Arya are already close, and that they will be living their lives together, is another point in her favor.
Is there more? I have to believe so.There seems too little here to justify her inclusion. It is unlikely that she gets chosen solely because they needed another body. Quaithe arranges for Arya to be taken in by the Faceless Men. Is Euron the sole reason? It could be that Quaithe could only devote so much time to the youngest Stark daughter due to her own concentration on Daenerys.
What is more likely is that Quaithe foresaw that Arya would eventually become the greatest warrior Westeros had ever seen. Arya receives training from others besides the Faceless Men.
There is one last consideration that enters Quaithe's thinking I suspect. It goes back to the not messing with prophecy idea. Given that she knows so much, Quaithe has to worry that Jon and co will seek to use her to screw with destiny. We don't know what she knows of Bran or Bloodraven. What she does know is that once Jon realizes what she has in her head he's going to want to make use of it. This has to scare the s*! out of her. Although it is never said explicitly, I am sure that the Faceless Men have a rule that when a Faceless Man goes rogue they must be killed by another Faceless Man. Dark as this is to suggest, I suspect that Quaithe is counting on Arya to finish her off.
Of the three Heads Arya definitely comes last in Quaithe's thoughts. But there is one other possible reason for why Quaithe chooses Arya. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Valonqar prophecy and have had an intriguing thought. What if Valonqar was a title, not a description? The way in which it is used makes it sound as if it is.
Cersei: I will be queen, though?
Maggy: Aye. Queen you shall be... until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.
Cersei: Will the king and I have children?Maggy: Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. 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.
The question then is why?
First we need to look at who in the world of ASOIAF still speaks Valyrian? Only the Slaver Masters, and not a very accurate version either. From this we can assume that they are the ones who coin the term. But why? It has to be connected to Daenerys somehow.
The problem is Dany doesn’t have a little brother, or sibling if you prefer. And no I don’t subscribe to the theory that Jon has a twin. The way it is used also makes it sound derogatory; deprecating. If so that means we can extrapolate that it is a term they use to denigrate someone who is close to Dany. The question then is who. Although one might speculate on any number of people, there are only two likely possibilities in my opinion. A third maybe.
1: Tyrion Lannister. This is the most obvious choice. But this depends a lot on the show story line being similar to the novels. To date there is no indication of this. In the novels Barristan Selmy is Dany’s Hand. Now, after his death, it does seem likely that she will appoint Tyrion to be her Hand. But we have no idea when that will happen. If that also goes in the same path as the show it will be after Dany defeats the Masters, in which case why would they invent a nickname for Tyrion? This objection is not necessarily fatal. And if you have read my speculative synopsis for WOW you will know that someone is likely to be sent back to Essos to fight against the Masters return. This could well be Tyrion. Personally I think another is more likely.
2: Arya Stark. I know most fans refuse to see it, but as I have already outlined in my WOW synopsis, Arya is almost certainly going to be saving Dany from Euron. She will join team Dany and is also probably going to marry Jon along with Dany. When the three split up responsibilities, Jon goes north, Dany runs the kingdom, and Arya is going to be sent back to Essos with whatever is left. Because she is the one fighting the Masters, and she keeps telling everyone that she is Dany’s sister, this is what is going to lead to the Masters derisively referring to her as the Valonqar - the Little Sister. Arya adopts the title with glee. This fits in well with my previous inferences regarding the prophecy. I have come to believe that the prophecy refers to only one person, not two. This makes the likelyhood that it is Arya to near certainty.
The possible #3 is: Jon Snow. This really does depend on personal opinion. A lot of people have a problem describing men as beautiful, though Jon is repeatedly called pretty. His looks come from his dad. No one would call him a queen. But the prophecy doesn't actually say the person who takes everything from Cersei is a queen or even female. The fact he is technically Dany's nephew certainly fits the 'little brother' insult. The problem with this is who would call him that. The chance that Jon will encounter the Masters is minimal. And no one in Westeros speaks Valyrian. It's also very unlikely that anyone aside from Cersei would want to insult Jon. So how would he acquire such a title? The biggest obstacle to this answer is that Jon doesn't seem like the kind of man who would strangle anyone. It goes against his character. Besides, he is totally obsessed with the Others and cares nothing about Cersei.
Some might then ask why Maggie the Frog makes no mention of it. That assumes Maggie knows what the prophecy means. We don’t actually know what the mechanics are of prophecies in ASOIAF. If, like in most fantasy, the oracle or whatever soothsayer is totally ignorant as to the meaning of their prophecies, it is likely that Maggie merely relayed the words that came to her. This would also explain why she gives such detailed answers to questions Cersei doesn’t even ask.
Quaithe shows no sign of caring about Cersei. But given her interest in Jon's future she is unlikely to object to anyone disposing of her.
There is one final point that has to be made and this one does not involve Quaithe. What is the purpose of Lady Stoneheart?
Within the narrative she represents the ultimate obsession with revenge. ASOIAF has many themes. One of the most important is revenge, or more specifically the consequences of being consumed by revenge. The Others are in a very real sense the result of the Children's desire to get revenge on the First Men. And it destroyed them.
Arya's story line is all about revenge and this has led a great many to the conclusion that she was in for a bad end. Nothing could be further from the truth. In any good story focused on revenge there needs to be someone who rejected it, someone who turned away before it could consume them. What better choice than the very character who's story line is defined by revenge.
How this will go down is something I'm still not clear on. In my initial speculative summery for Winds of Winter I surmised that Arya would die fighting the Freys and then be resurrected. This does not fit Martin's writing style. What is far more likely is that Arya will be captured by the Brotherhood after she returns to Westeros. Her mother will not recognize her and she will be hanged. Only then will Stoneheart come alive and realize what she has done, but it will be too late. Only by making a sacrifice will Stoneheart be able to undo her actions. Arya will be resurrected and become the new leader of the Brotherhood. This real death experience will change Arya. She will no longer be so enthusiastic about killing people or seeking revenge. That won't stop her from trying to kill Cersei however.
All told Arya's main value to Quaithe is in helping Dany. Both assist Jon in facing the Others and saving Westeros. When all is over they join him in rebuilding the kingdom. No doubt some will object to the idea of Jon shacking up with two women at the same time. But this is easily one of the most foreshadowed events in the books. The one character mentioned more often than any other who is not in the story is Aegon the Conquerer. And his greatest distinguishing trait is that he married both of his sisters. Also, as Ideas of Ice and Fire has pointed out, ASOIAF takes a lot of inspiration from Dune. Paul Atreides married one woman, Irulan, but he slept with another, his concubine Chani.
Both Bloodraven and Quaithe have an objective in common. Bloodraven concentrates his efforts on Bran and in the end he is proved right. But his ultimate goal is to have someone take control of the weirwood net. Quaithe's is less long-term. She is thinking only of the immediate future of Westeros.