George RR Martin is a genius at foreshadowing, in the most tricksy way ever.
As his book editor, Anne Groell, said in 2014: “Now I’ve realised his threefold revelation strategy, I see it in play almost every time. The first, subtle hint for the really astute readers, followed later by the more blatant hint for the less attentive, followed by just spelling it out for everyone else.”
So, you can bet George has already clearly foreshadowed the ending of Game of Thrones, hiding it in plain sight, to reward readers who’ll go back to revisit the whole series again once it’s finished.
Based on this premise, here’s a bunch of book-clues that reveal how Game of Thrones could end.
1. The ‘Tyrion and Sansa’ ending
We’ve already talked a little bit about the theory that Tyrion and Sansa will end up together by the end of the series, and providing a historical basis for our speculation.
It might seem weird, but the book has totally foreshadowed Tyrion and Sansa ruling Westeros.
Look at this, from the first book’s introduction to Tyrion: “When he opened the door, the light from within drew his shadow clear across the yard, and for just a moment Tyrion Lannister stood tall as a king.”
And this, from Sansa’s first POV chapter: “She was a Stark of Winterfell, a noble lady, and someday she would be a queen.”
Seems pretty blatant, no?
2. The ‘Wizard Of Oz’ ending
A popular post-season 7 theory posits that Bran’s still in a coma and has imagined everything that’s happened on the show since. He’s basically putting all of his family / acquaintances into the plot of Old Nan’s stories, and the ending of the show will be Bran waking up in bed, surrounded by all the Starks who’ve died – Catelyn, Ned and Robb – as well as the surviving members of his family. Whether he’ll shout ‘There’s no place like Winterfell!’ is as yet unconfirmed.
This twist is technically possible, mainly because Old Nan has foreshadowed so much of what’s happened on the show – whether it’s general (ice dragons), specific (the Night King) or really specific (she seemed to predict exactly how Arya would kill Walder Frey: “It was not for murder that the gods cursed him, nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”)
It’s an interesting theory, but we can’t imagine narrative genius George RR Martin resorting to the ‘It was basically all a dream’ ending so derided by writers and audiences alike.
3. The ‘Princess Bride’ ending
Another take on Old Nan’s predilection for prophecy has the ending of Game of Thrones influenced by a different fantasy book / movie – The Princess Bride.
In that film, an old man reads a young boy a story, and we see the events of that story play out. Some fans believe that’s the real explanation for Old Nan’s insane foreshadowing – she’s actually in charge of the story itself. And those bits where Bran does his three-eyed raven trick to look at events from the past? That’s young Bran asking Old Nan for backstory info.
By this logic, the show will end with Old Nan coming to the end of her story, and young Bran sitting up in bed asking to be read another. There’s a very slim chance this scene could’ve been filmed during the first season – we certainly hope so as Bran has changed a LOT since then – but we’d say this probably isn’t how it’s actually going to end. Or at least we hope not. It would be inconceivable!
4. The ‘All-Bran’ ending
Some fans still believe the end of Thrones will contain the major reveal that Bran has been responsible for pretty much everything in the series – building the wall, influencing the Mad King, and even being the Night King – and there is evidence for it in the books. Look at this section, which is from Bran’s POV.
“Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite. Maybe one of the other Brandons had liked that story.
Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were her Brandon, the baby she had nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.”
We used to think this could happen, but it’s a pretty big concept to build into the last six episodes of the show. It might have been foreshadowed in the books, but it really hasn’t in the series.
5. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ ending
The Lord of the Rings will play a part in the way Game of Thrones will end, and it’s been heavily foreshadowed.
There’s a load of parallels between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and Game of Thrones, with some fan theorists going as far as to suggest they’re set in the same world (Middle-earth) with Thrones being an unofficial sequel to LOTR.
We know Martin’s a fan of Tolkien’s series, and we can see at least one way the endings of the two properties will basically be the same.
This theory involves the Crypt of Winterfell, which has been alluded to as being a place full of ghosts so many times. Whether it’s Jon telling Sam that he has dreams about the crypts, and that he’s afraid of what will awaken within them when they become too dark, or Ned feeling like he’s being watched by the Kings of Winter’s eyes of ice, George has taken plenty of time to prepare us for the stone Starks under Winterfell coming back to life.
Quick quiz, is this a prophecy from LOTR or GoT?
“Over the land there lies a long shadow, westward-reaching wings of darkness. The Tower trembles; to the tomb of kings doom approaches. The Dead awaken; for the hour is come for the Oathbreakers: at the Stone of Erech, they shall stand again and hear there a horn in the hills ringing. Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them from the grey twilight, the forgotten people? The heir of him to whom the oath they swore. From the North shall he come, need shall drive him: he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead.”
If you said ‘Game of Thrones’ you’d essentially be right (even if it is actually from Lord of the Rings), mainly because the terminology is so similar (horns, oath-breakers, doors, being from the North) but it’s actually a description of LOTR’s Army of the Dead, a bunch of ghost warriors who come to save the day in Return of the King.
We predict Winterfell will have its own spooky army, of Starks (including Ned – this will definitely happen) who’ll come and fight the Night King’s army.
Look, trust us on this.
6. The ‘Night’s Watch is Lightbringer’ ending
This isn’t so much blatant foreshadowing as dedicated fans being really clever. Basically, Game of Thrones geeks have noticed the parallels between the Azor Ahai prophecy about a ‘Prince who was promised’ who will wield a sword of light / fire to destroy the Others, and the Night’s Watch vow: “I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn.”
So, will the ending of Game of Thrones reveal that the Night’s Watch is the sword that will destroy the Night King? Maybe!
7. The ‘Prince-That-Was-Promised’ ending
We’re going to keep this one short and sweet, because we’ve banged on about Azor Ahai over, and over, and over again. But here’s one thing we hadn’t considered until just now…
We’ve long assumed that the ‘Prince Who Was Promised’ title comes from the fact the prophecy promises a prince will return. But what if it’s cleverer than that? What if it involves a prince who was involved in a promise? Something like Lyanna’s pleas re: young Jon. “Promise me, Ned.”
8. The ‘George’s letter to his publisher’ ending
We’ve gone into pretty intense detail on George RR Martin’s pitch for the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which is different enough from what the series actually ended up being (unless we’ve totally missed the Jon and Arya romantic subplot on the show) to not count as a spoiler – but there is stuff here we can analyse, especially in terms of who Martin’s said will make it to the end.
In the original pitch Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya and Bran are the five main folks who make it to the end of the story. Notice anyone missing? Yep, Sansa – which kind of negates the first theory on this list.
Let’s hope that this one doesn’t count as foreshadowing, and was more just spitballing – on the assumption no-one outside his publisher’s office would ever read it.