Cersei Lannister’s Game of Thrones arc was incomplete, but Winds of Winter can fix it.
Cersei and her younger brother Tyrion have long had a contentious relationship. She blames him for their mother, Joanna, dying in childbirth. He resents her for a lifetime of unveiled contempt. Ostensibly, no matter what Tyrion does, her hatred remains. Their sibling rivalry and disdain for one another is well-documented on Game of Thrones. However, there’s another major reason why Cersei regards Tyrion with suspicion in George R.R. Martin’s book series, and it stems from the valonqar prophecy that predicted her death at the hands of a “little brother.”
Game of Thrones omits the valonqar prophecy altogether, but The Winds of Winter — Martin’s sixth and highly-anticipated installment in A Song of Ice and Fire series — may finally resolve Cersei’s arc by answering one pertinent question about her death.
After her mother died, when she was forced to marry Robert Baratheon: throughout her life, Cersei has been consumed by the desire for vengeance. Anyone who stands in the way of that usually winds up dead. Protective only of the three children she has with twin brother-lover Jaime — Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen — Cersei’s increasing instability stem from her need for control, and later out fear of losing the Iron Throne. Cersei's adolescent visit to the fortune-teller Maggy the Frog truly kicked her scheming ways into overdrive, and the encounter haunts the flaxen-haired queen throughout her life.
The prophecy in question is revealed in a flashback during the Season 5 premiere of Game of Thrones. On the show, Cersei gets three questions to ask, but receives only two responses. Maggy confirms that Cersei will be queen, but only until another “younger and more beautiful” ruler comes along, presumably to usurp her position.
In Season 6, Cersei laments the loss of her daughter Myrcella, the last of her children to die. By this point, Cersei recites Maggy the Frog’s prophecy to Jaime, insisting that the witch “promised me they’d die.” Her suspicion has given way to a full-fledged belief that the prophecy is true and everything Maggy predicted had already come to pass.
What the Valonqar prophecy foretold
An important piece of Maggy’s prophecy wasn't included Game of Thrones, and it might suggest a very different outcome for Cersei in Martin's novels. In A Feast for Crows, Maggy predicts a mysterious “valonqar” – a High Valyrian word meaning “little brother” – will kill Cersei. The Winds of Winter may finally reveal the identity of the valonqar in a way that alters Cersei’s death from what we saw in the show.
“And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” —Maggy, A Feast for Crows
In Game of Thrones Season 8, Cersei dies in Jamie's arms as the Red Keep collapses, after Daenerys and Drogon lay waste to King's Landing. His hands are around her neck, but it isn’t in a chokehold. The moment is clearly meant to imply Cersei's prophecy came to pass in a roundabout way, but it's an unsatisfying cop-out. Fans have speculated that the valonqar could be any "younger brother" in the story – Sandor Clegane, Jaime, and even Tommen – all of them have had reasons to want Cersei dead.
Still, Winds of Winter's most likely valonqar candidate is Tyrion. He has the motive, opportunity, and gall to kill his sister. In the books, Tyrion is more jaded, angry, and vengeful than his endearing Game of Thrones counterpart.
Winds of Winter may reveal the true valonqar
A Feast for Crows sees Cersei and Tyrion are at the height of their mutual disdain. Tyrion sets Tommen up with Margaery Tyrell, so Cersei attempts to send her son away. Tyrion prevents Tommen’s escape and drugs Cersei to keep her away from the Small Council. Naturally, Cersei retaliates by kidnapping the woman she believes to be Shae, the prostitute Tyrion is in love with. Tyrion threatens his sister, promising that his revenge will come the moment she leasts expects it. Game of Thrones repurposes this line during Tyrion's trial for Joffrey's death, but in the context of the book, there's even more acidity to his words.
“I will hurt you for this. I don't know how yet, but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you'll know the debt is paid.” --Tyrion Lannister, A Clash of Kings
Tyrion never follows through with his threat on the show, but Winds of Winter may finally see him deliver on that deadly promise. A Lannister always pays his debts, right? There are plenty of reasons to think that Tyrion will go through with murdering his own sister. There’s only so much humiliation, hurt, and resentment one man can take.
The prophecy adds another layer to Cersei’s simmering hatred for her brother. Her encounter with Maggy happened just three years after Tyrion was born, and the grief for her mother was likely still raw. Tyrion does kill his own father, so it’s not a stretch to believe that he could be pushed to the brink again and take his older sister's life.
Whether or not the valonqar is Tyrion remains to be seen, but we're bound to learn more about the deeper meaning of the prophecy eventually.Winds of Winter can offer clarity and closure on the manner of Cersei’s death and finally put debates about Maggy's mysterious words to rest.
The Winds of Winter does not yet have a release date.