Tinfoil alert: The following theory is based on speculations and post hoc analysis, rather than actual building up on evidences.
‘The bleeding star’ is part of the Azor Ahai (AA) prophecy :
There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world.
“When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt ” – Melisandre
The bleeding star is also part of Prince that was Promised prophecy, heralding the arrival or the prince:
“A comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet.” – Aemon
There is no mention that comet Rhaegar saw was red. A comet looks like a star that bleeds (with light), this must be Rhaegar’s reasoning calling a comet (of any color) as a bleeding star.
In GOT and COK, an actual red comet is seen on the skies – almost all PoVs make a mention of it – Bran, Dany, Sansa, Arya, Catelyn, Cressen – and they all have their own interpretations. The most plausible interpretation is the one which relates the red comet to the birth of dragons. Red priests like Benerro starts to believe Dany is Azor Ahai reborn because bleeding star is part of the prophecy. In some ways, the red comet is similar to the star of Bethlehem.
One thing everyone agrees is that the red comet foretells something good. The few who doesn’t are:
“Blood and fire, boy, and nothing sweet.” – Osha
“That’s blood up there, child, smeared across the sky” – Blackfish
Osha’s words may have wisdom related to the Long Night, but Blackfish is merely warning Cat about the bloodshed to come with the wars. However, I find Blackfish’s description comparable to Ned’s fever dream:
A storm of rose-petals blew across the blood-streaked sky, blue as the eyes of death.
[Sidenote:The roses are blue (not the sky), the sky is blood-streaked. It could simply be the red of a Dornish sunset, or Ned’s memory of the bloodbath that happened in Tower of Joy, but a third option is that there was a red comet on the sky.]
In the new Aeron chapter from TWOW, Euron says to Aeron through a vision induced by Shade of Evening that
” The bleeding star bespoke the end”.
If you go back to look the bleeding star part of the prophecy, what immediately follows the bleeding star is darkness. It is only after the darkness gathers and Long Night comes to be that there is any mention the hero rising. Except of course the Prince that was Promised case, but we don’t know the exact wording of the TPTWP prophecy.
Here is the guess #1. The bleeding star is a harbinger of dark times – literally dark times – which means the return of Others and Long Night.
Now, clearly the Others have started to come south long before the red comet appeared. Mance Rayder and the wildlings have been fighting wights (and perhaps Others) and Craster has been sacrificing his sons to Others for several years before the events of AGOT. To explain this, let’s consider two things – maybe Rhaegar was partially right about the comet that appeared above King’s Landing, and the first prophecy says ” when stars bleed”, therefore there could be more than one bleeding star. If a prophetic bleeding star appeared above King’s Landing ~18-20 years ago, that gives sufficient time for Mance to fight Others and Craster to sacrifice sons after a bleeding star has appeared on the sky, after the darkness has been awoken.
One can ask “Exactly how do the Others just wake from sleep because a star appeared on the sky?” Other than the AA prophecy, there is nothing to suggest bleeding star foretells the Long Night (and dragons). But that does not matter. What matters is how Rhaegar interpreted the AA/TPTWP prophecy. Someone well-read as Rhaegar would have known about the AA prophecy, and there is a strong possibility that he, like Melisandre, understood them to be one and same prophecy. (Melisandre uses AA and TPTWP interchangeably).
For a while, Rhaegar had believed himself to be the Prince that was Promised. His decision to learn swordplay could also be related this. Barristan(?) says Rhaegar had read something in a book and decided he should become a fighter. If this was AA rebirth prophecy, then he must also have read about the bleeding star, and since there was not bleeding star the night Rhaegar was born, he must also have realized he was not AA reborn. All the same, Rhaegar could not find out easily if there was a comet the night he was born or conceived. He could even have interpreted the dead men of Summerhall to be the ‘bleeding stars’. Recall that Ser Duncan’s coat of arms has a shooting star, and Dunk died at Summerhall.
Sometime, somehow (probably due to his supposed interactions with the Ghost of High Heart), Rhaegar realized that it is not he who will be TPTWP, but his son. Rhaegar sees the bleeding star at Kings Landing, and when Aegon is born, relays his theories to Aemon at the Wall. He also tells Elia that
He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.
Shortly after Aegon’s birth, the political situations and Aerys’s madness force Rhaegar to rebel against his father. With the help of Oswell Whent, he organizes the Tourney of Harrenhal to meet with all the great lords (or so it is assumed by maester Yandel). Tywin Lannister was not present, presumably because he was angry at Aerys for stealing Jaime to the Kingsguard. An alternate explanation is that Tywin knew/guessed what Rhaegar was planning, but chose not to cooperate. He wanted Rhaegar and Aerys to fight, and in the end make Viserys king with Cersei as his queen. Before the kidnapping of Lyanna, and deaths of Brandon and Rickard Stark, there was no strong reason for the North, Vale, Riverlands or Stormlands to war against Aerys. There was a chance for half the lords choosing Rhaegar and rest choosing Aerys, and Tywin could politically maneuver things (like he did with Red Wedding and Rains of Castamere) to get the lion’s share of victory (pun intended).
Once the tourney begins at Harrenhal, everything goes wrong. Rhaegar crowns Lyanna. They might even have felt mutual affection/respect when Rhaegar was send to look for the Knight of Laughing Tree (who is most certainly Lyanna in disguise). Two weeks later, Rhaegar kidnaps Lyanna. This did not serve his political cause – even if he could explain to the Starks that he and Lyanna were in love and Targaryens can take more than one wife, he still risked the wrath of Robert Baratheon. Rhaegar was the crown prince – he could easily have explained things to Robert and the Starks (I see a scope for a Citadel masterplan to undo the Targaryen dynasty by distorting messages here- but let’s ignore it now). Why all the hurry? What forced him to spring to action? Fans have been guessing all sort of things for twenty years, so I’ll add my bit of tinfoil:
Rhaegar learned about the Pact of Ice and Fire, and it’s true implications, at Harrenhal. Harrenhal has a lot of magic-related books (like the one Roose burns). Rhaegar could have learned an important part of the prophecy here- maybe the true meaning of ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ – such as the Hero must have both elements in his blood – Ice (from the Starks/First Men) and Fire (from the Targaryens/Valyria). [Sidenote – here is another tinfoil scope – Starks and Targaryens are specifically significant, as two families who have made pact with their enemies. Starks with the Others and Targaryens with the Facelessmen. But that is a tale for another day.] Back to Harrenhal – maybe Rhaegar learnt the what the bleeding star was a sign of – darkness and destruction. Having seen the star before Aegon’s birth, and ‘realizing’ that the realm is short of a promised hero, he makes a drastic move – to kidnap Lyanna and impregnate her.Rhaegar stays with Lyanna till she is with child, and leaves when Gerold Hightower finds him. Aerys’s action were not part of his plan, but he has to join the fight anyway. We all know what happened next. I know this still does not explain well why Rhaegar could not move diplomatically if he wanted to marry Lyanna. The crown prince and the daughter of Warden of the North – won’t people notice?
[Edit: One thing that could force Rhaegar to kidnap Lyanna could be related to Westerosi astrology (and astronomy). We already know Rhaegar considered the appearances of shooting stars and all seriously for the fulfillment of prophecies. So I propose that Rhaegar learnt that to get ‘best effects’ (read most powerful magical blessings), he had to marry Lyanna during a particular time. There is no example for highborn marriages taking place after consulting with star charts, but Ygritte tells Jon that
The best time to steal a maid is when the Thief (a planet/wanderer) is in the Moonmaid (a constellation)
This wildling belief is repeated in Jon’s thoughts in ADWD, like when he wonders what is the best time steal a giant.
It is possible that Rhaegar stole Lyanna because the timing of marriage was significant. Even the method of marriage – stealing the maid like the Wildling way could be significant. It could be the original way marriages were done in the days of First Men. Even the names Thief and Moonmaid can be directly connected to Rhaegar and Lyanna. South of the Wall, the Thief is called Red Wanderer. The sigil of House Targaryen is a red dragon and Rhaegar is known to have wandered in the ruins of Summerhall. Moonmaid – moon is related to cold and white, and Lyanna is a Northern maid. Being a Stark, her maiden’s cloak would have been white too. ]
Once the Hero was born, what was Rhaegar going to do? Train him in arms and teach him about prophecies and history?
(Wild) Guess #2: Rhaegar was going to make a blood sacrifice with his child born of Lyanna.
Very huge (il)logical leap, and in fact I came up with this from just a feeling, not real inspiration, but I’ll try to see if other things can be fit to this.
Most of Euron’s action in The Forsaken is related to bloodmagic.
Words are wind, but blood is power.
We see the power of bloodmagic throughout the series – Mirri Maz Duur, Thoros, Melisandre, Bran’s visions, Arya in Braavos, almost every form of real magic we see uses blood. Even the visions – the Shade of Evening could have blood as an ingredient. There is also this quote from Ygritte that I think is not discussed enough:
Jon: The Wall is made of ice.
Ygritte: You know nothing, Jon Snow. The Wall is made of blood.
Within the context, it could simply mean that the Wall is built upon the blood of men who fought in the wars – the wildlings, as well as those who fought in the long night. But the Wall is definitely more than just a huge ice structure – it has magic (Melisandre feels it) spells woven to it, and the Children (who helped Bran the Builder to build the Wall) uses blood magic (Bran’s vision about blood sacrifice done to the old gods).
The sacrifice seems contradictory with all we have read about the sword-wielding hero, but we don’t know what Rhaegar learnt, or who he met at Harrnehal. There are a number of magical elements in that area – The Green Men at the Isle of Faces, Howland Reed, Ghost of High Heart – isn’t the Riverlands wonderful? There is also Yoren, who gave a speech at Harrenhal to recruit more men for the Nights Watch. If WW sightings were beginning, there is a thin chance that Yoren informed Rhaegar of strange forces rising beyond the Wall – another motivation for Rhaegar to feel the need to fulfill the prophecy. Maybe Rhaegar thought his initial guess was right, that he was the prince that was promised (of Azor Ahai reborn), and Jon is his Nissa Nissa – by killing Jon (possibly using Dark Sister), he could get Lightbringer, the ultimate weapon to defeat the Others. From what we know of Egg and Aemon’s obsession with dragons, the TPTWP prophecy could also involve dragons – maybe Rhaegar thought that by sacrificing his son, he could wake dragons. He chose Lyanna because he knew her, knew her strength of character, and thought she would understand, that she would help him save the realm. It is hard for a mother to give up her firstborn to bloodmagic, but Lyanna is often compared to Arya in looks and character. Lyanna agreeing to sacrifice her child can be compared to Arya agreeing to give herself to the Many-Faced God. In fairness, Arya is ten and has no place to go. But Arya never dreams of becoming a mother – she dreams of becoming a warrior. Maybe Lyanna sought adventures too. We know she was enchanted by the dragon prince’s singing. Imagine a wild teenage girl with a crush on someone and a thirst for adventures. If her crush asked her to join a very risky adventure with him/her, what would she do? Jump in without thinking much about the consequences, or even the enormity of the sacrifice requested of her. I think this is what happened. Or maybe she was attracted to the prince and ran away thinking ‘Why is it acceptable for Robert to have a bastard before marriage but not for me?’ Just kidding.
If we accept guess #2, there are several possibilities regarding the effects of the sacrifice. Why Stark blood? Why dragon blood? The sacrifice could be to strengthen the Old Gods. We learn from Bran chapters they need blood sacrifice. Regarding the power of blood, right now I only have Euron’s experiments with holy blood. They have not even yielded any results yet. What we have seen done are Moqorro and Melisandre’s blood sacrifices that appeared to bring favorable winds. Melisandre’s sacrifice was to R’hllor (she burned infidel lords), but Moqorro’s sacrifice was (in effect) to the Drowned God – Victarion threw the maester Kerwin into the sea instead of burning him (it is not safe to burn a man in a ship anyway). I have doubted how much of these successes were due to sacrifice – Melisandre’s leech trick was definitely a trick. Since the Red priests have the ability to predict future, they could have simply done a weather forecast and used it to gain the trust of their leaders (Stannis and Victarion). But if it really was sacrifice that brought favorable winds, then this is a big thing about blood magic – that blood magic can change the weather. This is going to help or hurt during the Long Night, which is ultimately about weather. The gods who seem to respond to these blood sacrifices – the Storm God and the Drowned God are both First Men gods. Gods of the original First Men who spoke the Old Tongue (like giants still do), not the Old Gods worshiped by Children (who speak the True Tongue). Or maybe they are all part of Old Gods, who helped Stannis and Victarion like they helped the Children to break the arm of Dorne. Whichever Gods it may be, blood magic does look powerful, so a valuable sacrifice like a son of Rhaegar and Lyanna would have aided Rhaegar in the war for Dawn, or so Rhaegar expected. Maybe he was right. But Rhaegar died in the war, and his most trusted men – Dawn-wielding Arthur Dayne is a very good candidate to be Azor Ahai – also dead before carrying out Rhaegar’s plans, only Lyanna could have known what he planned with the baby. If Rhaegar’s instructions were to kill the child, it is strong reason why the Kingsguard fought Ned rather than explain things to him. Despite being a Northerner, Ned would have discarded Rhaegar’s ideas about prophecy and reluctant to sacrifice one more family member to ‘Targaryen madness’. The KG’s plan was probably (key word) to go to the Wall with the child, pass through Nightfort and find Bloodraven (who might also have been sending messages indirectly to Rhaegar), make a blood sacrifice to the weirwood tree.
Whatever they planned, they all died, and Ned found Lyanna on the brink of death. He made her promises, which have always caused him sadness to remember. Maybe he did not keep the promise. Maybe he promised to go North of the Wall and sacrifice the child, but only to console her seemingly mad ramblings. He did have no reason to believe any of it. Howland might have supported the sacrifice, being the more magically inclined person, and this might even be the cause of a rift between Ned and Howland – for a dear friend who saved Ned’s life, Howland never visited Winterfell (at least after Robert’s Rebellion). He sends his children to swear an oath of fealty after Ned was dead.
Meera and Jojen: To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater. Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.
Jojen: I swear it by earth and water.
Meera: I swear it by bronze and iron.
Meera and Jojen: We swear it by ice and fire
The oath was not specific to King in the North – so it need not be really about Robb’s coronation. Maybe there was a falling out between Ned and Howland that made it necessary for the Reeds to swear their oaths properly to Bran? Or maybe it was just Howland asserting their loyalty in the time of war.
I mentioned Ned’s blood-streaked sky before. If it was a bleeding star instead of a red sky, we have three bleeding stars mentioned in the books. Also, Jon would really be born under under a bleeding star. But no one else mentions a bleeding star seen during or after Robert’s rebellion – since this was shortly after Robert won the war, a comet sighting will be noted down and remembered as a herald of good times to come. (Unless it was a very local comet.)
Whethe Lyanna knew Rhaegar’s intentions or not, and whether Ned kept his promises to Lyanna or not (he could have promised her to keep him safe), by stabbing Jon, NW has inadvertently started a bloodmagic ritual. I am not sure if it can be called a sacrifice, because they killed him as part of a mutiny. Since some of the mutineers had tears in their eyes, it could be a sacrifice, maybe. NW stabbing Jon is a much lesser sacrifice(if at all) than Rhaegar stabbing his son or Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa. There is blood spilled, and what will happen as result? Will the two bodies Jon kept in the ice cells be reawakened? Since Melisandre is at the Wall to help, will Jon himself be reawakened, as a different man, or as a dragon (like how Egg was the dragon that Daemon’s dreams) ? Whatever sacrifice related to Jon’s death – is it going to help humans or Others in any way? If Jon was some sort of Nissa Nissa, the by killing Jon, Night’s Watch has become the Lightbringer – the sword in the darkness that stabbed at the heart of Nissa Nissa. After Azor Ahai’s sacrifice, the Lightbringer was as warm as Nissa Nissa’s heart was warm and the sword got a magical protection which helped it kill Others (or forces of darkness from whichever legends). But will Night’s Watch killing Jon make them more powerful? I think, and like almost everything else here this is a guess, that it will undo the protection on the Wall. Nissa Nissa was warm, but Jon’s last thoughts were of cold. It is bloody cold on the Wall, but Jon’s last thoughts, ‘only the cold’ may have a deeper meaning. The reverse effect of Lightbringer will happen to the wall, basically the NW has become Nightbringer instead of Lightbringer by assassinating Jon. [Wall has to come down some how]. And who initiated all of this? Rhaegar, by fathering Jon. Yet another example of prophecy as a treacherous woman.
How does Bran and Bloodraven and all others fit into this? If I get crazy brainwaves, I’ll update. If anyone did the trouble of reading so far, thank you, and sorry – I hate logical fallacies, but this is fun to write while we wait for the next book. Maybe there will be a grain of truth in all these. Comments and criticisms are welcome.