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Where did this Game of Thrones theory first originate?
June 11, 2014 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I've only watched the show, but I regularly read fan theories online about Game of Thrones.

The theory that I have really enjoyed is the theory that Jon Snow is the illegitimately conceived son of Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark's younger sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen. I'm interested in the history of this theory -- when did the theory first get postulated? Was there a particular internet community where fan theories like this one were originating, or was it something that was really obvious when a book came out? Any description of the history of fans' opinions on this would be great to read about.
posted by scunning to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't answer where it first originated, if not to say that I certainly came up with it independently of the internet and, therefore, so must have many many other people. It is definitely not an outlandish interpretation of the books and, in fact, I feel pretty certain that we are meant to infer that from the subtext.
posted by lydhre at 1:35 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


Is there a particular book/passage where the theory really starts to make sense?
posted by scunning at 1:38 PM on June 11


The Song of Ice and Fire Wiki has a brief summary of the evidence for this theory.
posted by switchsonic at 1:45 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


It probably came about right with the description of Jon Snow's physical appearance.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:45 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I also came up with it independently. The text makes it pretty obvious with the following clues:
1) Whenever King Robert talks to Ned about killing all the Targaryen children, Ned almost immediately thinks about his sister and the promise he made her.
2) Ned never calls Jon his son or answers anyone who asks who Jon's mother is. After being asked, Ned usually starts thinking about his sister's promise again.

There's also lots of other clues scattered around. Jon is described as resembling Arya, who is described as resembling Lyanna. Various prophecies mention a rose growing out of the Wall, and when Ned thinks about rescuing Lyanna she is always surrounded by rose petals, etc.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:47 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


There's an entire subforum, IIRC, devoted to the R+L=J theory, at asoiaf.org.

As for identifying a passage, I don't think there's just one. There are numerous references throughout the books, that sort of build on each other, and when you piece them together you come up with a pretty coherent narrative.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 1:52 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


There's also lots of talk about the Tourney at Harrenhal, in which Rhaegar crowns Lyanna as the Queen of Love and Beauty, even while he's married to someone else. The story is told at least twice in book 3, and at least once in book 4. That's what tipped me off to the theory, anyway.

(Also that Ned Stark seems like the least likely character in the books to commit adultery.)
posted by homodachi at 2:06 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


This has long been my theory, although I was under the impression that Rhaegar was weirdly obsessed with Lyanna and raped her while he had her sort of captive in the tower. When Ned et al went to get her, he saved her son, but couldn't save her. I thought part of the reason he refused to speak about Jon's parentage was to prevent his sister's name from being dishonored by her rape. It also conveniently makes Jon the third potential dragon rider. I have theories about who the second is, but probably shouldn't blab it here.

Maybe I just have a super dark reading of all this?
posted by chatongriffes at 2:06 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The events at the Tower of Joy are described in Chapter 39 of A Game of Thrones.

In the chapter, Ned dreams about the Tower of Joy, where he found his dying sister (and probably baby Jon Snow, although this isn't made explicit in the chapter). The main clue here is that Rhaegar left three Kingsguard at the tower, which would make no sense if there wasn't a member of the royal family hidden within.
posted by ejbenjamin at 2:24 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


My impression from reading the books and watching the show is that the show is hinting more that Jon is the son of Robert Baratheon (albeit this could be unintentional) - the coloring of the actor who plays Jon Snow is darker than the coloring of the actress who plays Arya's, much closer to the "dark hair bastards" of the Baratheons, and Lyanna has hardly been mentioned at all.

This has long been my theory, although I was under the impression that Rhaegar was weirdly obsessed with Lyanna and raped her while he had her sort of captive in the tower.

Obviously we haven't had this story from Lyanna's perspective, only from interested parties such as Robert Baratheon (who IIRC states that Lyanna was indeed kidnapped and raped). The idea that everyone is an unreliable narrator is one that GRRM explores quite deeply throughout the series.
posted by muddgirl at 2:38 PM on June 11


My first paragraph was meant to illuminate why the Targaryan/Stark parentage theory might seem more out-there or more of a reach to people who had only seen the show.
posted by muddgirl at 2:39 PM on June 11


I always thought that kidnap and rape was the Baratheon party line, because Robert was in love with Lyanna, but that the real twist is that Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love, and it was a consensual relationship. The Targaryens have had two wives in the past, so he may have even intended to marry her - once he took care of his crazy father which is also hinted at.

My version: L+R are in love, she gets knocked up, which totally screws up his plans to despose his father and take her as his second wife. He whisks her away to the Tower of Joy to cover the pregnancy, and that precipitates Robert's rebellion.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 2:42 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The events at the Tower of Joy are described in Chapter 39 of A Game of Thrones.

Yes, the Tower of Joy sequence is the most basic underpinning to the R+L=J theory. Everything else, while important, is secondary to this scene. Which doesn't even merit a mention in the HBO series! (wailing and gnashing of teeth intensifies!)
posted by Justinian at 2:53 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Obviously we haven't had this story from Lyanna's perspective, only from interested parties such as Robert Baratheon (who IIRC states that Lyanna was indeed kidnapped and raped). The idea that everyone is an unreliable narrator is one that GRRM explores quite deeply throughout the series.

When IIRC makes that claim, who is the point of view? No one living could actually have that information could they? It would not have been witnessed, in other words, no?
posted by scunning at 3:21 PM on June 11


Howland Reed, Lord of the crannogmen, who fought with Ned Stark, is still alive and might have something to say on the matter.
posted by muddgirl at 3:25 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


(There's a bunch of other book forshadowing regarding the relationship between Reed and the Starks, especially Lyanna, but it's getting a bit spoilery).
posted by muddgirl at 3:27 PM on June 11


Yep, Howland Reed is the only living person who knows the truth first-hand. He is the father of the two creepy kids with Bran.
posted by Justinian at 3:36 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


It would not have been witnessed, in other words, no?

I mean, if you want to get really nitty-gritty, probably the only person who could say with real confidence whether Lyanna was kidnapped or willingly ran away with Rhaegar is Lyanna herself, so until/unless she rises from the crypt of Winterfell as a wight, we're probably never going to know for sure.

What is explicated is this: Lyanna was being held at the mentioned Tower of Joy, guarded by the Kingsguard, Eddard led a siege on the tower and spoke to her before she died, at which point she made him promise something.

Another thing that a few people sort of brushed on and that also has been largely absent from the show is that among the many-prophesy-pile-up is that Rhaegar seems to have believed that he needed a third child ("the dragon must have three heads"). Princess Elia (Oberyn's sister, and Rhaegar's wife) was in frail health after their two children were born, which might have been a motivating factor in kidnapping Lyanna
posted by kagredon at 3:36 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


In the series, Eddard says that Jon is "of my blood" but doesn't refer to him as his son.

He made his sister an unspecified promise on her "bed of blood".

A traumatic childbirth would certainly explain her dying on a "bed of blood"
posted by Megafly at 3:53 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Anything from anybody except Reed is second-hand at best. Reed was there.
posted by Justinian at 8:14 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Another small (but, I think, telling) detail: when Meera Reed tells Bran the story of the tourney of Harrenhal, her brother is really, really surprised to hear that Ned Stark never told his children that story. He's sure Bran must have heard it "a hundred times" already.

It seems likely that this is where Rhaegar and Lyanna met, and where Rhaeger became infatuated with her (and maybe the other way around as well). The Reeds have heard this story over and over again, and it's a great story about their aunt Lyanna - why haven't the Stark children heard it? Maybe because that was the beginning of the relationship that resulted in Jon's birth, and Ned just wants to keep that whole topic under wraps.

Also, if Jon is Lyanna and Rhaegar's child, that goes a long way towards explaining why Ned won't tell anyone the truth about his mother, not even his wife. After all, Robert was pretty set on killing all potential Targaryen heirs.
posted by lunasol at 10:04 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Was there a particular internet community where fan theories like this one were originating?

There's a series of threads on westeros.org that begin in 2006, and the idea was old then. Here's the first one.They are now up to version 83 of the thread, each with 400 replies (God knows what they find to talk about....)

The community also debates many other theories - here's a link to a list of them if you're interested. (Obvious spoiler warning if you haven't read all the books). There are many other fan sites, that's just the one I'm most familiar with.
posted by Pink Frost at 10:07 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Another thing that lends support to the L+R=J theory is Catelyn's attitude towards Jon Snow. A bastard child seems actually common enough -it was her attitude that was uncommon. But if she knew - and it seemed that Ned was honest and level with her in every way - that Jon was actually a Targeryan, she would also recognize that any revelation of that heritage would spell her children's, her family's, downfall. Because house Stark was partner in Robert's rebellion, which resulted in the death of all Targeryans. If one were alive, all Starks would burn. That knowledge is what Catelyn hated - her family's fate in Jon's hands.
posted by Dashy at 10:10 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I disagree with that interpretation; I think it's practically a certainty that Ned never told Catelyn Jon's true parentage.
posted by Justinian at 10:52 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


That is the party line, but what if it weren't true?

While we're theorizing and all ...
posted by Dashy at 11:18 PM on June 11


This particular fan theory is so old that it was probably originally published on a long-lost Geocities page.

Also, many many people have come up with the same theory independently, so it's difficult to point to one origin.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:22 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Has Ned ever spoken in a critical way of Rhaegar Targaryen? How often and in what context if so?

Oberyn Martell, for instance, is consumed with his sister's death his entire life, and by comparison, Ned seems much less so. He still mourns her and seems to love and cherish her, and maybe since the alleged rapist is deceased, that would explain the lack of a vengeance obsession (compared to the Oberyn). They also have different temperaments, so it could mean nothing, but I was just wondering if Ned has made statements that might indicate what he believes about Rhaegar?

Also, what was Rhaegar's reputation? Was he the sort of person (limited information that is known that is) that would rape a woman, kidnap a woman, become obsessed with a woman? The Mad King sorts of creates a shadow effect around his children, and given the history is told by the winners, I wasn't quite sure what we did and didn't actually know about the Targaryens and Rahaegar in particular, but maybe there are some clues?
posted by scunning at 7:02 AM on June 12


Has Ned ever spoken in a critical way of Rhaegar Targaryen? How often and in what context if so?

I'm not 100% sure, but I don't believe he has. His brother was the hothead that rode to King's Landing to get Lyanna back.

by comparison, Ned seems much less so.

In the books, he is quite haunted by her death: he thinks of her death scene often, and he insisted that she be buried in the crypts of Winterfell with the previous Lords/Kings of Winterfell.

Also, what was Rhaegar's reputation? Was he the sort of person (limited information that is known that is) that would rape a woman, kidnap a woman, become obsessed with a woman?

This is the thing that made me start to question the claim that Rhaegar had kidnapped/raped Lyanna - he was fairly universally beloved as kind, just, noble, etc etc. Of course, that's not to say that someone who is beloved couldn't do something like that, but Robert - his romantic competition - was pretty much the only one who claims that he did. Everyone else loved him.

Based on all this, I'm fairly certain that Lyanna ran away with him willingly.
posted by lunasol at 8:11 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


The sentence on the wiki reads:

Eddard Stark, Robert's friend and Lyanna's brother, remembers Rhaegar in a neutral manner.[4][5]

where footnotes 4 and 5 are chapters 33 and 35 of GoT. I looked at chapter 33, and it's the chapter where Ned resigns as the Hand as Robert and his counselors debate assassinating Daenerys. Ned's particularly disgusted by the talk or murdering children. The mention of Rhaegar is brief and is completely neutral.

In chapter 35, it's "For the first time in years, he found himself remembering Rhaegar Targaryen. He wondered if Rhaegar had frequented brothels; somehow he thought not."

If a man raped my sister, and was the indirect cause of her death at best, I would find it easy and rational even to suspect he frequented brothels.
posted by scunning at 8:29 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Rhaegar's reputation was quite good - remember that one of the things that really turned the tide of Robert's Rebellion was the fact that Rhaegar died. Men might fight for a kingship that would eventually lead to Rhaegar, but not to one without it. Barristan Selmy also speaks highly of him, and it's what makes him seek out Dany.
posted by corb at 8:43 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I just now checked my LiveJournal (HA!) and found my first post guessing this theory in late 2005. A Feast for Crows had just come out and a lot of people were doing rereads of the whole series at the time. I thought I was sooooo clever, only to find it was a fairly well known theory.
posted by lovecrafty at 10:46 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


If I remember correctly there are multiple instances of Catelyn explaining her disgust for Jon in terms of how his existence threw Ned's infidelity in her face.
posted by cobain_angel at 2:13 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


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