Samwell Tarly: The Maesters don't believe in prophecy, with good reason. The Children of the Forest supposedly could see into the future, yet were surprised by the First Men who nearly ended their race and the Long Night which nearly ended us all. Some Maesters posit that the Children's magical sight was invented long after they vanished from Westeros by singers hoping to thrill peasant girls. Not that most Maesters have much experience in what does or doesn't do that.
When Aegon the Conqueror came to the Iron Islands, the Priest King Lodos claimed his divine father, the ironborn's Drowned God, had shown him krakens pulling Aegon's ships into the deep. No krakens ever arrived, and even if they had wouldn't have stopped Aegon and his dragons without wings of their own. Confused, Lodos filled his pockets with stones and walked into the sea to 'take counsel with his father'. Thousands followed him, but apparently the Drowned God didn't appreciate a crowd. Their corpses washed up on the Iron Islands for years.
According to legend, House Targaryen survived the Doom of Valyria thanks to Daenys the Dreamer, who foresaw the calamity and convinced her father to flee their homeland. It could be true. The Targaryens were always a bit...more. But as Maester Yandel points out, in the East the Targaryens were one of a thousand minor noble families, and in Westeros they became kings. Politics, not prophecy, could have drawn them to our shores.
Politics can also explain the prophecies of Daemon II Blackfyre, a Targaryen bastard rumored to possess the family gift. While posing as a hedge knight, he told a future Lord Commander of the Kingsguard that he dreamt of a dragon hatching at Whitewalls Castle and took it as a sign that he'd win the Iron Throne. Perhaps if he'd slept a bit longer, he'd have dreamt of the King's Hand putting down his rebellion a day later, before it even began.
Most Maesters dismiss all Targaryen claims of prophecy as mystic nonsense, a relic of their Eastern ancestry. To be fair, across the Narrow Sea there isn't a market without a Warlock from Qarth telling fortunes or a shadowbinder from Asshai reading fates in blood. Or so I hear...from the...Maesters.
But when I was a boy, I overheard the cook whispering to a maid about a woods witch camping outside Horn Hill who was called "Maggy the Frog". Now I realise it was probably a corruption of the Eastern word for wizards; Maegi. One day my father rode out hunting, though no game was in season, and whatever power she had likely didn't save her.
Even the wisest Maesters, however, have no answers for the Red Priests who prophesy about the return of the Long Night. For thousands of years, they've kept watch for the return of The Prince Who Was Promised, who will be born amid salt and smoke to drive off the darkness once again. Prince of what realm and promised by whom and to whom? The prophecy doesn't say, but at the very least it confirmed that not even Essos escaped the Long Night. I imagine the cataclysm must have confused the East. Unlike Westeros, they wouldn't have known of the Night King or the White Walkers or the war waged by the First Men and the Children of the Forest. They would have just seen a terrible winter descend and linger far too long until spring magically returned to the world. Yet somehow, maybe from passing merchants, maybe in their fires, the Red Priests saw the truth.
Now the truth is here again for anyone to see, but the Maesters refuse. They debate and question and doubt not to choose the wisest course, but because they're too used to doing nothing else. Most prophecies might be lies, but not all of them. The Long Night is coming. If we don't believe that, well, we won't need any prophecy to tell us our future.
- The detail given here that Randyll Tarly killed Maggy the Woods witch is an invention that doesn't happen in the novels. Maggy never even operated near Horn Hill, but in the outskirts of Casterly Rock. Nor have the novels revealed what ultimately happened to her.
- The extra information Samwell gives about Maggy is from the books: Cersei knew "Maggy" wasn't her real name, but some sort of nickname or title, as her real name was foreign and difficult to pronounce. Later she asked Qyburn, who speculated that it was a slurred Westerosi pronunciation of the Valyrian title "Maegi", someone who practices blood magic. In this case, "Maggy" probably wasn't just a common Woods witch (who are basically mere apothecaries who know a bit of herb-lore), but an actual magic practitioner. When Maggy made her live-action appearance in the Season 5 premiere, of course, no one actually called her "Maggy" on-screen.
- The "Maester Yandel" that Samwell refers to is the author of The World of Ice and Fire - in real life, it is a sourcebook published in 2014 by George R.R. Martin and his collaborators Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson, written as the in-universe history book. Maester Yandel is Elio and Linda's author avatar character (while Martin's author avatar is another maester named Gyldayn).
- Samwell says that back in the east, in the Valyrian Freehold, the Targaryens were "one of a thousand minor noble families", but in Westeros they became kings. This is broadly true but somewhat inaccurate: there were hundreds of free noble families who held land ("free holders"), and in theory each of them had a say in government, but in practice, Valyrian politics were dominated by the forty or so aristocratic families who owned and rode dragons. The Targaryens were one of these forty families of dragonlords - but it is explicitly said that they were far from the most powerful of them. This is directly comparable to how the real-life Roman Republic theoretically granted equal votes to all free citizens, but in practice, a handful of powerful patrician families formed power blocs that dominated the Senate. The general point from the video does stand, that in the overall political field of the Valyrian Freehold, the Targaryens were considered relatively unimportant.
- The "future Lord Commander of the Kingsguard" that Daemon II Blackfyre talks to about his prophetic dreams is of course the famous Ser Duncan the Tall, hero of the Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel novellas set 90 years before the main A Song of Ice and Fire novels. The events depicted in this video, of the failed "Second Blackfyre Rebellion", Dunk's involvement in it, and Daemon II's capture, are related in the third and most current novella, The Mystery Knight.
- Daemon II was captured alive because that way, it would be more difficult for Bittersteel to crown one of his younger brothers as the new Blackfyre king in exile. What ultimately happened to Daemon II is unknown, though by the Third rebellion his younger brother Haegon Blackfyre was crowned king in exile.
- Samwell ponders that other continents beyond Westeros must have been confused by the Long Night catastrophe, given that they had no way of knowing about the White Walkers and their horde of undead. Samwell notes that it must have just seemed like a winter that lasted a generation, then over the centuries distorted travelers' tales spread to Essos and got mixed up with their own myths. In the novels, there are legends about the Long Night in Essos, and they do give variations on the general story that a winter came that lasted a generation, but a lone hero rose to win back the dawn:
- Very common is the myth of Azor Ahai, who wielded a flaming sword called Lightbringer - and that he would be reborn again as The Prince That Was Promised to fight back a new long night when the darkness returned some day.
- Sometimes this figure's name is different: in the cities of the Bone Mountains, this hero is called "Hyrkoon" - from which the whole large region known as the Patrimony of Hyrkoon takes its name.
- In Yi Ti, legends say that it was caused when an empress was betrayed and usurped by her brother, at which the Lion of Night began the Long Night to punish mankind for its wickedness - their tales say it was a girl with a monkey tail who through a series of adventures won back the dawn and ended the Long Night.
- The Rhoynar, ancestors of the Dornishmen who lived in the region of the modern Free Cities, have credible tales that during the Long Night, the mighty Rhoyne River froze to ice as far south as the Selhoryu. The Rhoynar legends again say that it was a single hero who won back the dawn and ended the Long Night: they say by convincing all the minor deities of their goddess Mother Rhoyne to join in a secret, magical song.
- King Aegon the Conqueror (mentioned)
- Daenys the Dreamer
- Lord Aenar Targaryen (indirectly mentioned)
- Maester Yandel (mentioned)
- Daemon II Blackfyre
- Ser Duncan the Tall
- Brynden Rivers (indirectly mentioned)
- Maggy the Frog
- Lord Randyll Tarly
- The Prince That Was Promised
- Night King (mentioned)
- Prophecies, visions, and dreams
- Dawn Age
- Children of the Forest
- First Men
- White Walkers
- Drowned God
- Hedge knight
- Warlocks of Qarth
- Shadowbinder of Asshai
- Woods witch
- Red priest