Why Cersei's fate on 'Game of Thrones' might be even darker than you expect

A closeup of Cersei in Game of Thrones with short hair and a crown
Helen Sloan/HBO

Cersei's fate on Game of Thrones was sealed long before book readers and show watchers even met her. In the fourth book, A Feast For Crows, and in the fifth season of the HBO series, it's revealed that as a child, Cersei received a prophecy about her future that was nearly all bad news. The prophecy foretold of her eventual broken marriage, children's deaths, and loss of her crown, but the book's version of the message differed from the show's in one major way — it also foretold Cersei's death.

With just two episodes of Game of Thrones left, Cersei dying can't be ruled out, but it's probably best for fans to focus on the prophecy only as the show told it. Leaving out the death prediction must've been for a good reason, since the showrunners have said they put a lot of thought into the scene in which a young Cersei hears the prophecy. "We knew from very early on that the Cersei flashback was the way we wanted to begin Season 5," co-showrunner D.B. Weiss said in the "Inside the Episode" following the Season 5 premiere.

Nearly all parts of the show's version of the prophecy have come true, and Daenerys — or someone else — could help fulfill the "loss of the crown" element in the coming episodes. Before then, here's what you need to know about the prophecy on the show, as well as the missing piece that many book fans are still hoping to see come true.

The show's prophecy has three major components

In Season 5, Episode 1, a young Cersei visits Maggy the Frog in the woods and demands to know her future. The witch tells her that she won't like the truth, but agrees to answer three of her questions anyway. First up:

Cersei: "I've been promised to the prince. When will we marry?"
Maggy: "You will never wed the prince. You will wed the king."

As a child, Cersei believed she would marry Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Jon Snow's eventual dad), but she actually grew up to marry King Robert Baratheon, so that part of the prophecy has been fulfilled. Now, for the second question:

Cersei: "But I will be queen?"
Maggy: "Oh, yes. You'll be queen. For a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear."

Co-showrunner David Benioff said in the "Inside the Episode" installment that Cersei believed Margaery Tyrell was the queen who had come to cast her down. Margaery was queen for a while, but her eventual death helped put Cersei back on the throne. That's why many fans believe that Daenerys' quest for the throne will actually fulfill this part of the prophecy.

Finally, there's the third question:

Cersei: "Will the king and I have children?"
Maggy: "No. The king will have 20 children and you will have three ... Gold will be their crowns. Gold their shrouds."

Cersei did have three children, but her brother Jaime was their father — not Robert Baratheon (the king went on to have many bastard children, including Gendry). All three of Cersei's children died, like Maggy predicted when she mentioned their shrouds, aka garments used for burial, and they all had blonde — i.e. gold — hair.

It's this part of the prophecy that has many fans thinking that Cersei's Season 8 pregnancy will not make it to term. She's already had the three children that Maggy noted, so a fourth pregnancy is likely doomed.

The book's prophecy has one major difference

Helen Sloan/HBO

A Feast For Crows has the same prophecy components that the show has (except that instead of saying Robert will have 20 bastards, the book says he'll have 16), but there's one more component that the series ignores — Cersei's predicted death.

In the book, after Maggy tells Cersei that her three children will all die, she adds, "And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you." Cersei asks what a "valonqar" is, and she's told that it's High Valyrian for "little brother." And so...

Fans think Jaime or Tyrion will kill Cersei

Even though the valonqar segment of the prophecy doesn't appear in the show, Thrones fans have long clung to the idea anyway. Since Jaime is the younger twin to Cersei, many fans believe he's the little brother destined to kill his sister. But others have floated theories that it's actually Cersei's younger brother Tyrion who'll murder her. And because "little brother" can be widely interpreted, there are even theories that Cersei will die at the hands of The Hound (who is The Mountain's little brother), Arya wearing Jaime's face, or her fourth child — a son — who'll kill his mother in childbirth.

The show has many options for Cersei's fate

Helen Sloan/HBO

Because the series left out the valonqar part of the prophecy, TV Cersei isn't destined to share the same fate as the book version of her character might. She could be killed by someone who doesn't fit the "little brother" definition, or she could not die at all.

Most likely, the show chose to leave that part of the prophecy out in order to keep people guessing about Cersei's ending all the way to the series finale; Thrones' writers probably didn't want to give everything about Cersei's story away to viewers with three seasons still to go. Revealing early on in the show that Cersei was meant to die would've been unnecessary, anyhow. Back in Season 5, when the prophecy was revealed, Joffrey had already died and Myrcella was about to, while Margaery and Daenerys had both been introduced as possible "younger, more beautiful" queens to take Cersei's spot. With all those events having already occurred or close to happening, the show's version of the prophecy wasn't much of a spoiler.

Yet saying that Cersei was bound to die would've led to viewers analyzing her every interaction over the next few seasons, and so by leaving the valonqar prophecy on the cutting room floor, the writers gave themselves leeway to go in a different direction if they so chose.

The queen's true fate will be revealed in just two episodes, but don't be surprised if it takes a direction you didn't expect. Prophecy or not, Thrones will likely keep its fans guessing until the very final moments.